Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Endorphin highs and lows

"I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory."

Years ago, during my year-long dark night of the would, a doctor I consulted for med management suggested the diagnostic label of Cyclothymia. He described that as "Bipolar in lower-case letters.

It made perfect sense to me. My highs were not as high as true mania and my lows were not as low as true unipolar depression. In fact, the very fact that I could and did feel quite good at times was incontrovertible evidence that the label of clinical depression did not fit me.

I don't like labels anyway. I especially dislike labels such as mental illness. Mood disorder sounds only slightly better. If I had to label what I suffered from, I'd call it neurotransmitter deficiency syndrome. NTDS makes a reasonably impressive acronym.

Earlier this week, I was chatting on Facebook with one of my oldest friends, by which I mean a childhood friend, since she's younger than me and I'm sure as hell not old yet. She asked me how I was doing, and I said, cycling a bit. She said, cool, I need to look into that. No, you don't - lol! was my answer.

Our talk turned to working out, and endorphin highs, which neither of us has ever experienced. I still walk 3 miles on the treadmill most days, and while I know it's good for me and I'm in better physical shape than I was at the time I started this regime two years ago, mostly how it makes me feel is tired. And achy.

The achinless no doubt is related to my bead-making regime, which includes more hours on the computer than at the torch. I limit torch time to 2 to 3 hours at a stretch. The days of marathon lampworking sessions are over. I moved my mouse to the left side of my keyboard and I do most of my photo-editing and mouse-clicking with my left hand. I baby my right hand as much as I can, because it takes the most abuse when it comes to winding glass onto a mandrel and shaping a bead, and there's no way around that, at least none that I've been able to conjure up thus far.

I've done many things to combat the pain, ergonomic tweaks, sleeping in a wrist brace, chiropracty, acupuncture, steroid shots, epsom salt soaks, deep tissue massage. Massage has been the most therapeutic. After my masseuse works out the knots in my neck and shoulder I have more range of motion and feel looser and better, but alas, these effects last only days, not weeks.

After living on ibuprofen for a year, my doctor gave my a scrip for Mexilopram. At first it felt like a miracle drug, now it feels like a placebo. I'm opposed to the idea of narcotic intervention which is fortunate, since my body thinks Hydrocodone and its ilk are toxic substances, making my head feel like chemical soup.

My childhood friend has had a rough go of life. In her college years she sang in a rock band, married its junkie leader, started shooting up herself, and spent the next few years on the rehab-relapse roller coaster. She finally quit the habit, and him, but methadone replaced smack permanently for her. Among other crosses she has had to bear was a mother addicted to prescription pain medication and a father who assumed the role of enabler and supplier.

Innocents like me marvel that there are enough corrupt pharmacists who can be bribed over a long course of years to sustain a never ending supply of Vicodan and Percocet, and at least one person who knew how to distinguish between those who could be bought and those who'd be much happier to facilitate a trip to the slammer for the ersatz buyer.

But this story is about my friend, who had pulled her life together and become a social worker and had made a new if lonely life, continuing to manage her recovery from addiction. And then she lost her job and eventually had to move back into her parent's home, where she got sucked into care-giving for a seriously addicted mother.

One damnable day, in a doped-up state, my friend's mom fell in the bathroom, hit her head and knocked herself out cold. While trying to pick up her mother, dead weight, from the bathroom floor, my friend felt something snap in her groin. She thought she'd pulled a muscle, but after a month of pain she found out she'd fractured her pelvis. Ordered bed rest, my friend had to put her plans to move into her own apartment on hold.

Weeks went by, but her pelvis failed to mend. Turned out she had a "non-union fracture" and required surgery. Surgery went awry, she was given the wrong discharge instructions, and within 24 hours had broken the new srainless steel plate in her pelvis and was back in the OR. Months of pain and incapacity followed. My friend applied for and was granted social security disability.

Three years later, still in pain, still unable to walk without a cane, my friend had a third surgery. Mistakes were made, but home in her own apartment at last, my friend was starting to see progress at last when an overly enthusiastic physical therapist damaged her pelvis again. Now her spine is compromised from years of putting all her weight on one side, using a cane. And as she puts it, this is as good as it's going to get.

So my friend, who also suffers from depression, sees a pain management specialist, and a psychotherapist, and rides on the med merry-go-round. She's made peace with the past, for the most part. She lives with her two cats, buys beads from me, goes to lots of rock concerts and grows a small crop of weed in her apartment.

Our last conversation turned to medical marijuana therapy for pain and I found myself wondering if there was a salve for me in hemp. Of course, Texas will be the last state to legalize pot. And I never was much of a pothead. While my college friends were getting high and having a good laugh, pot just made me feel sleepy and stupid. So I started passing the joint without taking a toke. At first I'd hold it to my lips, but no one was paying attention, so pretty soon I'd just take it and pass it.

I consider myself pretty straight arrow. I did all my drug dabbling by the time I turned 21. It was another 19 years before I gave up alcohol, and another score of years has passed since. But sometimes my arm and shoulder hurt so much that I think I'd flaut both the law and my own principles for some relief.

Of course, I'm clueless about how to engineer any such plan. My friend has a source in California who mails her "product" for a price. That happens to be $200 an ounce. We've come a long way from $20 lids. I wondered about the logistics. I mean, you obviously don't want to use PayPal. My friend sends cash and even offered to be the middleman for me. She'd probably let me pay her in beads to boot. But I don't think I've ever rolled a joint in my life. My friend sent me a link to a vaporizer that she uses. Oops, there goes another $200.

It's not the money that stops me. It's not morality. It's two things. Fear is one. Fear of drug-sniffing dogs and jail mostly. The other is Neil. I don't need his permission but I can't bear his disapproval. And I can't deceive him. I could possibly reason with him, but first I have to overcome my own ambivalence.

Turns out I have a source closer to home. My hairdresser said she could score me what I want, assuming I can figure out what exactly that is. Do I want to vape? And if I do, is there a YouTube video to teach me how? I don't want to get high. Can I achieve pain relief without getting buzzed?

My childhood friend said that in California you can buy Marijuana gummy bears. I'll be in California next month, but I'm pretty sure they don't stock them at the local grocery store. Plus as Neil commented, do you really want a sugar fix to ingest something that gives you the munchies?

I had another though, which was cannabis oil. I did a little research and hemp oil appears to be legal, inexpensive and free of the hallucinogenic components of marijuana. You can consume it or use it on your skin. I didn't see any claims of pain relieving properties, but it's worth a try I think. Hey look, I can get it on Amazon. With free Prime shipping and a Smile donation to Beads of Courage.

I'm on it!

Circling back to my Cyclothymia, because that's how I roll (or circle, or cycle, or swing) I'm definitely on a roll. Down for no reason one day, up for no reason the next. Today was a good day. Yesterday too. I'm happy with my beads. I knocked over a tray of silver glass and I took it in stride and fused the broken rods and made silver glass beads. I'm selling enough beads to feel happy. Note that if I was feeling down I'd find something in there to feel bummed about.

Neil and I finished reading The Lord of the Rings. I'm amazed how quickly we got through it. It seemed daunting when we tackled it. We also re-watched all three films. Now we've jumped into Harry Potter, which is Neil's payback for my choice of Tolkein, even though he enjoyed it. He'd never read it. I read it at least three times, but all half a lifetime ago.

I'm already pondering what I'll choose next. I've threatened him with Gone with the Wind, but right now I'm leaning toward the Chronicles of Narnia, in keeping with our to-date favored genre.

I've got some time to decide, since Harry is still on the train to Hogwarts for his first semester.

"I'm not a leader, I'm not a left-wing rhetoric mobilizing force of one
But there was a time way back, many years ago, in college, don't laugh
When I thought I was a radical, I ran the hemp liberation group with my boyfriend
It was true love with a common cause, and besides that he was a Sagittarius

We used to say that our love was like hemp rope
Three times as strong as the rope that you buy domestically
And we would bond in the face of oppression from big business and the deans
But I knew there was a problem, every time the group would meet, everyone would light up
That made it difficult to discuss glaucoma and human rights
Not to mention chemotherapy

Well sometimes, life gives us lessons sent in ridiculous packaging
And so I found him in the arms of a student against the treacherous use of fur
And he gave no apology, he just turned to me, stoned out to the edge of oblivion
He didn't pull up the sheets and I think he even smiled as he said to me
Well, I guess our dreams went up in smoke
And I said, no, our dreams went up in dreams, you stupid pothead

And another thing, what kind of a name is students against the treacherous use of fur
Fur is already dead, and besides a name like that doesn't make a good acronym

I am older now, I know the rise and gradual fall of a daily victory
And I still write to my senators saying they should legalize cannabis
And I should know, 'cause I am a horticulturist
I have a husband and two children out in Lexington, Mass.
And my ex-boyfriend can't tell me I've sold out
Because he's in a cult, and he's not allowed to talk to me."

(Dar Williams)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz