*Warning: this post may contain triggers for self-harm and graphic images and material which may be upsetting. Please stay safe and steer clear of this post if you have these triggers.
It’s important to have a friend.
And I don’t just mean a friend you can watch movies with and laugh with and go shopping with and hang out with. All those things are indeed important.
But do you have a friend who will save your life?
I do. In fact, I have two.
My husband is obviously the first one. We made a pact early on in my depression that if I felt the urge to hurt myself, I would call him at work on his work phone so he could talk me down. I’ll be the first to admit that at times it didn’t work. Sometimes I already had my mind made up that I was going to hurt myself, no matter what anyone told me.
I kept it secret for a long time. It was easy because it was winter and I had no need to roll up my sleeves. No one saw the words I had carved into my arm with a box cutter. LOSER. FAILURE. BROKEN.
I had been doing really well. Not to say that the urge hadn’t been there sometimes with everything I was going through, but it was less and less of an issue as the antidepressant finally kicked in. But then April arrived and everything went to hell in a hand basket.
As a chronic pain patient, you depend on your pain meds in order to function. It’s not an addiction, it’s just a fact. The only thing that was controlling the pain from my newly diagnosed brain tumor and what was eventually found out in July as being a hernia causing intermittent ovarian torsion were opioids. (Check that story out here at Always A Zebra.) Not going to lie about it. I was put on a pain regimen fully supported by my primary care physician. I was taking my medications as instructed, not causing any red flags.
Then there was a week in April when everything got messed up. For reasons that I still don’t know, (likely a glitch in the computer system) my doctor never got the message that I needed a refill on my medication. So when I had allowed several days to pass and then called the office, expecting to be told the paper prescription was ready for me to pick up, the office staff had no idea what I was talking about. It took two more days and speaking to three more people to get the message to my physician that I was by this point completely out of pain medication (and I had put the request in early to prevent this). My pain had skyrocketed almost to the point of requiring a visit to the emergency room. Upon talking to a nurse practitioner about the problem, she said that the refill may have been rejected by my physician because pain meds can only be filled every 30 days. *clears throat, throws on white lab coat* Listen lady, if you’re going to make up something, don’t make it up to a practicing pharmacist who knows drug laws better than you do, because that “law” you just told me about does not exist. A fill of a controlled prescription is based on not being permitted to write more than a 30 day supply, so you should be able to do the math and see that my prescription is for a 15 day supply and it has actually been 20 days since my last fill. Get it right. Then, when she realized I had called her out on lying, she said, “Well, some physicians might deny refills to patients displaying addictive behaviors.”
Excuse. Me. I had no choice but to hang up the phone then because it was after hours and nothing more could be done until the following day, but how dare she accuse me of such a thing. You can lie to me all you want about laws that don’t exist, but don’t you dare accuse me, a good patient, a law-abiding pharmacist, of displaying addictive behaviors because I was calling the office to find out why it had been 3 business days and my prescription wasn’t ready to be picked up yet. Mentally, I took a nose dive.
April 5, 2016: “So after all this I had a complete psychotic meltdown…I was sobbing so hard I was dry-heaving and gagging. Because I am in pain. I am out of pain medication, which I tried to call in early so I wouldn’t run out…I took 2 Klonopin so I’m starting to calm down now. The worst thing about all of this is that I gave in and cut myself. I carved the word ADDICT into my left forearm, because I feel like that’s what people think I am. And I don’t care that I did it. I really don’t. It hurt less than the other pain I was experiencing anyway. But I had been doing so well. I think it’s been since the last week of January. It sucks that I gave in, but I don’t know…I just don’t think I’m strong enough to deal with this anymore.”
It was later that week that an astute friend made some connections.
April 9, 2016: “Then she asked me how I was doing and I couldn’t lie to her (she knows when I’m lying.) I said it had been a rough week. Then she asked me if I had hurt myself and I said yes…we had a long text conversation after midnight…she asked how she can help me and if I had any goals about managing my pain in a safe way that she could help keep me accountable and encourage me. I thought that was really great. I know I can trust her and text her or something if I’m feeling bad.”
My friend has helped keep me accountable to this day. If I’m upset about something, and I’ve been through a lot of somethings in the past few months, she will text me “Are you safe?” And I’m not allowed to lie.
This entry is a little rough around the edges; I just woke up during a thunderstorm this morning and started writing it and punched it out in an hour. I know it deviates from my usual subject matter, but I hope it can be helpful to somebody out there, whether now or if someone stumbles across it weeks, months, or years from now.
Stay strong. And just find that one person to keep you accountable. They could save your life.