A couple hours ago, Shannon helped me apply my first Butrans patch. Last night, we read the info about the Butrans & it was full of dire warnings about calling Poison Control & going to the Emergency Room & such. Shannon kept reading bits of it out loud, and it was reminding me of Happy Fun Ball:
(Note: This video sucks, but it was the best I could find online, given that the sketch originally appeared on SNL in 1991, before the age of the now-ubiquitous digital video. 23 years ago. Good god, I'm old.)
Do not taunt the Butrans patch.
Shannon questioned why in the world the doctors (the neurologist and the pain doc) would want to put me on this potentially lethal medication, and I explained that it's apparently the least traumatic transition from codeine habituation. Or, at least, it can be. The pain doc warned me that "we" can't predict how this medication will affect me. I couldn't seem to get him to be more precise than this. I tried to elicit more information by offering possibilities. I prompted, "So, it could make my headaches worse?" He nodded. "It could make my headaches better?" He nodded. Then I sat there, trying to think of other potential things that could be covered by "not being able to predict how this medication will affect me" and just couldn't come up with anything non-ludicrous to suggest ("It could make my head explode?"), and he just sat there, watching me with the gently serene expression unique to people who have no need for potentially lethal pain medication.
Well, apparently Butrans's terrifying potential side effects are extremely rare, but they have to warn you, just in case. CYA. Regardless of how unlikely the side effects may be, I decided not to apply the patch before going to bed last night & waited until this morning, when Shannon and I can both be awake & watch for death-inducing breathing problems and/or heart palpitations.
I'm also supposed to watch for severe sweating and trembling, which are the first symptoms of dangerous withdrawal, which indicate I should phone my doc immediately.
I've been 24 hours with no codeine & 2 hours on the Butrans patch, and I'm not dead yet. Of course, the headache isn't any better, either. But that might take a while. The pain doc told me that if the headache had not improved within 2 days I should apply another patch, because he prescribed me the smallest possible dosage to start with, so that we could increase it if necessary. (My patch is 5 mg/hour, and the patches are available in dosages up to 20 mg/hour.)
The prospect of 2 days with this headache not relenting at all is frankly horrifying, but—when the pain doc asked me about this—I insisted that I'm totally willing to go through short term MAJOR suckage in order to get off these fucking opioids. This is primarily just because saying (or thinking) that I'm taking opioids makes me feel like a junkie & I'm all judgmental about that (despite trying not to be) ... so I guess I'm putting myself through physical pain to avoid ... what? "Looking bad"? Being judged by society? I'm totally buying into the same kind of stigma that bugs the shit out of me when it comes to mental health issues.
The end goal of all this pain medication mucking about, of course, is to get to the point where I can go back to the neurologist & we can return to working on the occipital neuralgia without our data being clouded by the rollercoaster codeine withdrawal symptoms. According to the neurologist, my being on this Butrans patch might make that possible, even before I've gotten off the opioids entirely, because we'll eliminate the rollercoaster effect & be able to see what impacts the headaches that began this whole fucking thing. That will only happen, though, if the patch works for me & we find the right dosage & such. But it's a goal I'm willing to suffer for.
Nobody told me, when they first started giving me Tylenol #3, or when they increased it up to Tylenol #4, or when they kept refilling the prescriptions, that all this crap could happen. They just kept giving me the pills, and I kept taking them, because my head hurt so badly. It doesn't really feel worth it at this point ... but I'm not sure what else we should have done.
Whatever. I can't think very well right now, with my head hurting like this, but I have lots of other things I'd like to write about, like our lovely weekend in Placerville for my sister-in-law's wedding. I was lucky that I was still taking Tylenol #4 then, because my headaches weren't too bad, except in the evenings (as usual). Also, the periodontist surgeon guy has given me the "All Clear" to eat normally again, which has been terribly exciting. I'm hoping that the Butrans patch won't kill me before Shannon & I can go to Chevy's tomorrow night to celebrate with some crunchy foods.
Things I want to write about but may never have the time/energy/brain to do so, and therefore will just copy & paste the notes I've been taking over the past several days:
1. The Art/Craft thing, which I've realized isn't actually worth debating as an intellectual argument but is more—for me—about why someone would feel it necessary (or, more to the point, desirable) to insist over and over again that what I do isn't "Art." Why would you do that? Why would you continually tell someone that what they do is not what they think it is? Why would you insist that what I do is not "taught at the university level" like Real Art is—blatantly implying that it isn't as worthy or great or valuable or socially respected or whatever—when you're talking to someone you supposedly care about? I've been fretting about this a lot, and trying not to fret about it, and chasing my emotional tail, and it's frustrating. My therapist speculates that I'm better at working through this sort of thing when my brain is not fried by headaches & pain meds, and I think she's right.
2. The wedding in Placerville, where I got to hang out with my a great many of my phenomenally fantastic in-laws, including quite a few new ones acquired as a result of the aforementioned wedding. I'm hoping I will eventually have enough brain to write about this in more detail, but for right now I'm going to just stop putting it on my To Do list every single day & feeling frustrated each time I cut and paste it to the next day because I still haven't done it. Why flog myself unnecessarily? (Is it ever necessary? Probably not. Possibly not even useful. Enjoyable for some people, though. Possibly even useful for them. Not me.)
3. The fact that Shannon described me as his "lovely" wife when he posted a photo of me on Facebook. He doesn't give a lot of compliments of this sort, and so I've been hugging it to me & sort of turning it over and over in my mind, enjoying it more than he probably ever expected. (I don't know how to link to a specific Facebook post, or if it's even possible, so I'll just link to his Facebook page.)
4. We've adjusted my Neurontin dosage, because 600 mg/day was causing me uncomfortable side effects (even worse brainlessness/sedation + weird agitation + sleep disturbances), so I'm now on 500 mg/day, which may or may not be helping with the headaches. The pain doc told me to keep the dosage where it is (500 mg/day) for now, while we muck with the Butrans patch, and we'll discuss it again when I see him in 2 weeks. Now that I've seen the Neurontin side effects magnified at 600 mg, I can identify them at 500 mg, but they are not as uncomfortable. They make it hard for me to think, but it's nothing like when I took 600 mg, which I only did for a day or two before deciding it was intolerable.
Okay. I've been working on this journal entry since I woke up this morning, something like 3 hours ago, because my brain doesn't work very well right now (as I believe I previously mentioned once or twice), so I should go eat something now. I mean, I should have eaten something 3 hours ago, but my appetite isn't so good (ironic, since I can now eat whatever I like).