About two months ago, my chronic pain reached new heights of terribleness and I spent almost a month trying not to lose my mind. I’m one of the lucky chronic pain patients who, although something hurts all the time, I have a lot of days that don’t involve narcotics, heating pads, lying very still, or deciding if throwing up or crying is a better option. When I DO have several of those dark days where my jaw never unclenches and the pain never lets up, the fabric of who I am starts to tatter around the edges.
Since I’ve grown fond of not being nuts, I recently took my tattered self to my chronic pain doctor to reassess where I am in regards to medication balances.
As an aside, I DO NOT DISCUSS MY MEDICATION. EVER. So, if you are hoping I’m going to tell you the fun kinds of things I’m on, you can forget it.
My doctor and I decided that the dose of my non-narcotic drug that keeps the dark days to a minimum, needed to be raised. Over the next few weeks, I slowly tripled my dose.
It helped. A lot.
One of the fun things about chronic pain is that I always have to choose what I want more of: pain or side effects. Right now I get less pain, but lots of side effects.
One of the side effects not listed in happy little words on the side of my orange bottles is that more of this particular kind of medication leads to what I’ve begun to call “Barbie Brain”. I have become airheaded, vague and could star in the mommy version of Legally Blonde.
At first, I thought that the “Did that just happen?” instances would taper off and I could go back to being my usual on top of it with a side helping of slightly forgetful self. As the following stories will attest, over the last two months life has become increasingly complicated, but ever so hilarious.
Early on in the raising of doses days, Jake wasn’t feeling well and I let him curl up on the couch with the iPad to rest a bit. He asked me for a snack. I was happy to oblige, so I went into the kitchen to get him some. I saw the glass on the counter, put it in the dishwasher, checked off the “I’m in the kitchen to do something” box in my brain and went back out to sit with Jake. Jake held out his hands for the snack that I had forgotten and I said, “Oh! Right! I forgot your snack.” It wouldn’t be bad if that only happened one time. Guess how many times that happened? Five times! Each time I was just as surprised that I hadn’t gotten his snack for him.
The next day, I went to pay a fine (for forgetting to turn in a book) at the library and was told that I sadly couldn’t check out my new book until I paid my fine. Since I forgot my cash, the nice man told me I could go to one of the computers and log on and pay my fine. I sadly picked up all my stuff to go home and get on my laptop and pay my fine. The poor guy had to tell me three times that I could use one of the library computers. Oh! You mean I can use one of those computers you have been pointing at for the last two minutes. Right!
The first time I went grocery shopping after my brain went on vacation, I had my usual fruits, veggies, milk, as well as a bag of sugar for the baking I was going to do that weekend. Normally, my sugar goes in my pantry, but since I was going to use it right away, I put it on the counter. Later that day, I went to the fridge to get out my fruit and it was gone. I looked everywhere. Twice. No fruit. The counters were empty, my trunk had nothing in it. I finally started opening every cupboard I could find and when I finally opened my pantry, there it was, along with most of my refrigerated items. When I wasn’t paying attention, my brain decided that since I didn’t put the sugar in the pantry, that something needed to go in there and just put all the fruit inside. Thanks a lot, brain.
One of the things that has gotten not as funny is that my words are gone. Especially nouns. My sister and my roommate and I all became able to communicate with each other using very few nouns. “Thing” became an acceptable and easily translatable substitute for almost anything including shoes, doorknob, pens, my mid-term paper and in one very funny situation, a handheld eggbeater. My brain has blissfully gone back to those times and has decided I no longer need nouns. The downside is that nobody in my life currently speaks “Thing” and I have started to struggle to make myself understood. A few days ago, Greg waited patiently while I fought my lazy brain to come up with the word for “sandals”. I have been tempted to speak in a French accent so my struggle to find words can be blamed on something besides my own brain trying to sabotage me.
Mostly, I tend to trail off in the middle of a sentence, leave the person listening hanging for a few seconds and then ask them what we were talking about.
The funny thing is that over the last few weeks, I’ve been writing down a phrase or two in my notebook of hilarious things that have happened as a result of having Barbie Brain, but when I went back to look at my notes, do you think I can remember what I was talking about? Of course not!
Another strange thing is that my brain sometimes just doesn’t talk to me. Apparently, the inability to get ones brain to shut up isn’t as common as I’d once thought. Because my brain is rarely still, I frequently go running or watch a movie just so I can have some peace and quiet. Now, there are whole chunks of time that I have found myself sitting and just staring off into space in utter silence. I would like to say that I like it, but it’s really weird. It’s almost as if a friend who always hang out and chatters to me has gone on vacation and left me suddenly alone.
My emotions are also a little out of whack. If you are a sci-fi fan, or have been alive in the last 50 years, you will know that a Vulcan from the Star Trek universe has total logic and no emotion. I’ve become slightly more Vulcan-esque lately. Not that I don’t care about things, but things that would normally bother me, just don’t. I have been able to feel and think through things much more reasonably without my brain whining at me that I should probably be upset about something. This has honestly been a nice thing and I’ve taken to lovingly call this new part of me “Vulcan Barbie”. I don’t see any toy makers rushing out to make that particular plaything, but I love her anyway.
Vulcan Barbie doesn’t get irrationally angry at my sewing machine, so my sewing skills have taken a huge step upward.
She does think that working out is dumb, so I’ve had to be pretty careful to force myself into my running shoes and get outside.
Other than Vulcan Barbie appearing, who I adore, this isn’t the most fun way to spend my days. Interesting, yes. I think I have found every strange way to store food, have learned my keys HAVE to go in my key box, I have gotten up at wrong hours of the morning, forgotten to brush my teeth, and trailed off in the middle of sentences. I’m not sure I can get any sillier and still be allowed to operate a car. Or any electric appliances.
I’m hoping I can taper off my meds soon.
In the meantime…um…so…what were we talking about?