It has been a crappy few days at Casa Snort. We’ve all been sick at one time or another. Footlong brought home his second cold of the year last week. Last weekend 6-inch started getting snotty and coughy, but he was lucky to not get croupy again. J started getting sick Wednesday morning, and he took Thursday off. And me? I started getting sick Monday, but very slowly. It started with post-nasal drip, sneezing, sinusy (I know that’s not a word) stuff. The next day the coughing started. Wednesday brought aches, deeper and hacking coughs, and nasty tasting sputum. By late Thursday I was running a pretty decent fever, I had swollen lymph nodes in my neck, my sputum had gone from white to yellow (color change isn’t good), it hurt to breathe, and I was coughing so hard and frequently that, in addition to peeing on myself, I had pulled a muscle in my abdomen/rib cage area. I went to urgent care, was made to wear a mask in the lobby, took a few photos of myself for posterity, and got a chest x-ray. I have a very small area of pneumonia in the base of my right lung, or, as I like to call it, pneumonia-lite. I was also diagnosed with RSV. I got a breathing treatment, a loading dose of steroids, an antibiotic, and prescriptions for cough syrup, an inhaler, more steroids, and something to help me sleep/counteract the itchiness from the narcotic cough syrup.
I have taken all of my medications as prescribed, and I have discovered two things: 1) Albuterol (in the inhaler) makes me seriously jittery and 2) me and steroids are mortal enemies. I knew that steroids increase blood sugars, increase hunger and thirst, and can suppress your immune system. I did not realize that in some people they cause terrible insomnia and digestive upset (namely diarrhea), and I have had the pure, unadulterated joy of discovering that I am one of those “some people.” I woke up Thursday morning and did not fall asleep until 3:00 am early Saturday morning: I was up for about 40 hours give or take.
To get where I am going with this I need to back up a couple of weeks. As my surgery is (hopefully) getting closer I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety which totally sucks because I have had my anxiety under control for the last two years. In nursing school I nearly fainted during the first surgery I ever observed. I hated watching C-sections; you would not believe how violent they look. I hated having epidurals in labor because I, even though pain-free, could not move–not having control over my body scared me, and I had panic attacks when I couldn’t move. I have been put under general anesthesia once in my life. I was eight years old, and the anesthesiologist told me I was going to breathe some “special air” and go to sleep. I was ok with that. He asked if I wanted to smell strawberry air or orange air; I chose orange. He put a thick, rubber mask on my face that covered me from the eyes down, and I felt claustrophobic. I felt like I was being suffocated. I remember trying to get the mask off and him tightening his grip on the mask. I screamed and cried and tried with both hands to pull that mask off of me; I remember nurses grabbing my shoulders and pinning me down. I finally took in a few gasps of his “special air” and mercifully remember nothing else. Thinking about going under anesthesia again makes me panicky. I know that a medication (likely propofol [insert Michael Jackson reference here]) will be put in my IV, and I won’t even feel myself drift off. The logical nurse part of me knows this and knows what will happen afterward: I will be intubated, my eyes taped shut, my heart and vital signs monitored, I will be given muscle paralyzers, receive pain medication and a constant stream of anesthetic gas mixed with oxygen, and the incisions will be made. The emotional part of me is scared shitless of giving up control of my body and trusting that these people will do their jobs properly and not kill me– much like the patient mentioned last week in the news who died during surgery while his anesthesiologist was on a lunch break. I have had two panic attacks in the last month, and I went to see my beloved doctor who is just as much my friend as she is my doctor. She has known me for years, and I used to work with her (now ex) husband. She knows my history of drug abuse, depression, and anxiety, and we are on a first-name basis. She has supported and encouraged me to have gastric bypass surgery. After much discussion, crying on my part, hugging on her part, and a good chat she wrote me a prescription for Xanax to use as needed for the weeks leading up to surgery. It is a relatively small dose, and I can take one pill 3 times a day if I need to; I was to be dispensed 30 pills at one time, and I was given 4 refills. I have needed to take one pill 3 times a day, more so in the wake of all the shit that has gone down between the insurance company, mention of having the wrong procedure, and the surgeon’s office coordinator who seems to be giving me the brush off. I have been on Xanax before for anxiety and am somewhat tolerant; this is a small-to-medium size dose, and while some people may be zonked for 8 hours I just feel like the edge has been taken off. I don’t even get sleepy, and while I won’t drive a car after taking it, it doesn’t impair my ability to care for the boys.
Friday night about 11:00 pm I called my pharmacy to refill the Xanax; since I was taking one pill 3 times a day my supply of 30 pills was lasting 10 days. I was told that the insurance company wouldn’t approve the refill until after midnight, since that would be the allowed time. I called back at 12:30 am, and it was ready. Thank heavens! I knew that my sick, sick body was not going to heal without sleep, and I knew that the Xanax would relax me enough so that I, hopefully, could sleep. J went to pick it up along with a few other things: honey cough syrup for 6-inch, one of his own prescriptions, and some frozen alcoholic slushy-type drinks that we have developed a taste for. J came home from the pharmacy and stood in the doorway to our bedroom watching me as I typed on the computer. I looked over at him, and his body language–chest puffed out and hands on his hips–told me he was upset about something.
“What? Are you mad about something?”
“How many of these Xanax are you taking?”
“One pill three times a day if I need to, like the prescription said. Why?”
“The pharmacist says that the prescription should last you an entire month, and you’ve emptied the bottle in ten days.”
“Honey, do the math. Three pills a day, (if I do take that many) divided into 30 pills equals a 10 day supply. That is how the prescription was written. The insurance company would not approve it otherwise because they don’t let you fill controlled substances early.”
“He said that he thought you were taking too many. He thought they should last you 30 days, and you need to talk to your doctor. And he also rang up our frozen daiquiri slushies. He asked me if you were drinking with the Xanax. Are you?”
At that point right there I lost it. There are two major things that former drug users or addicts have to deal with for the rest of their lives, and those are JUDGEMENT and SHAME. Being a former drug user is part of my medical history. I was up front with my OB when I got pregnant with 6-inch after being clean for 5 months. I’ve talked in-depth with my psychiatrist. My bariatric surgeon is aware of it. I go to the same urgent care center when I’m sick, so my history is in their records. Even though I am a former narcotic abuser I still feel pain. When I was in labor with 6-inch before I got the epidural, I had a standing order for IV pain medication every 1-2 hours. I asked for it too because labor fucking hurts. My nurse made snide remarks like, “You don’t seem to be hurting that bad.” Or she would roll her eyes when I’d ask for another dose. Granted, after working in the ER, I know many doctors and nurses like this because we are trained to spot drug seeking behavior. Even though I am in legitimate pain I feel like I am being judged like they automatically think, “She just wants to get stoned.” I had a C-section and was given a prescription for Percocet hesitantly by my OB. I had just had a human being cut out of my belly, was sleep-deprived, breastfeeding constantly, and she was looking at me out of the side of her eyes as she wrote the prescription—like I was going to just go home, put 6-inch somewhere, and get blissfully high. I am allergic to dextromethorphan which is the active cough-suppressing ingredient in cough syrups (Robitussin, Ny-Quil, etc.). It gives me hives pretty badly. At urgent care Thursday night the PA said, “Man, I have to give you something for that cough!” I said “That would be wonderful, but please remember that I’m allergic to dextromethorphan.” He stopped writing and looked at me. I know that look, and I know it well. It is the look I have seen on many doctor’s (and nurse’s) faces when someone says they are allergic to one thing in hopes of getting the thing they really want. Like, “I’m allergic to morphine, but Dilaudid works great!” That type of thing. He looked at me as if to say, “Well isn’t this convenient. She’s a former drug addict who is conveniently allergic to Robitussin. I’m guessing she wants the hydrocodone cough syrup or phenergan with codeine.” He half-heartedly asked me, “Ok, so what do you want for the cough?” And I said, “I don’t care. Whatever you think is best. Given my history if you don’t want to give me narcs that is cool, and I’ll just deal with it.” He wrote me a script for the hydrocodone cough syrup, and I have taken it just as prescribed.
But when John confronted me about Xanax and what that particular pharmacist thought I just lost it. I am sick of being judged. I am sick of worrying that if I ask for pain medication I’ll be labeled as a “drug-seeker” or they will purposefully give me a smaller dose because I used to abuse narcotics. I’m worried that my pain won’t be taken seriously, and I’m fucking worried that I won’t be taken seriously. That is the shame that comes with addiction. A big part of healing and recovery is being up front and honest with folks. I am ashamed of my past actions. I am ashamed that my friends and family and strangers know what I did. I am flat-out ashamed of myself for getting to that point and making the decision to use. I’m worried about meeting and talking to the anesthesiologist prior to surgery. I want to (and will) tell him not to give me morphine or dilaudid because they were my drugs of choice when I used. I will ask him to use other drugs. I will tell him that I have a high narcotic tolerance and pray that he believes me and doesn’t think I’m just looking to get spun out. With John I started sobbing then went to full-out crying. I had told him I was having panic attacks and had been to both urgent care and to see my doctor, but now I unloaded because I was madder than a fucking cobra because I felt accused of using the Xanax recreationally instead out of necessity. I screamed and cried about my fears of the insurance company fucking things up, going under anesthesia, being confronted with my own mortality and fear of death, hating how I look and feel now, resenting being labelled a drug-seeker, and fucking sick of doctors (and now that pharmacist) think I’m faking my symptoms just so I can get high. He looked stunned. He had no idea I had been hiding all of these feelings from him. I called Julie (my doctor) at home, because she is a good friend, and explained everything briefly and that I had been awake for about 40 hours. She told me to take 3 tablets (still a safe dose) and go to bed. I slept for 6 hours.
I didn’t write those paragraphs above for sympathy, attention, or to get positive comments from those of you who read here. The reason I wrote what I wrote is to show that even though I am clean and I have surrendered my nursing license, what I did will follow me for the rest of my life. It is in my medical records. It is in the back of my head. It is a matter of public record. I will be judged, and I will be shamed. I have, however, decided to make lemonade out of my lemons and have been in contact with two nursing schools in Tucson volunteering my services as a guest lecturer on the topic of nurses with substance abuse issues. Wish me luck!
On a much happier note, 6-inch has taken his very first steps! He has been walking around for months holding to things, but the other night he let go, and looking like a drunk baby, took three wobbly and crooked steps before collapsing on his tush. We were so excited! I was napping yesterday when Footlong burst in the room and shouted, “Mama, he just took 8 steps!” We tried more last night, but he didn’t feel like walking anymore. It was bittersweet; I’m happy for him, don’t get me wrong, but this is my last baby taking his first steps. It kinda made my heart hurt.
I can’t ignore Footlong since I talked about 6-inch, so let mention that we got his first progress report, and it was OUTSTANDING. The teacher basically said that his reading, comprehension, and logic skills were above first-grade level; she also says that he gets distracted by small things and needs to work on staying focused on the task at hand. I am so proud of my big boy!
And lastly, it just would not be very Snort of me to not try to get a laugh out of you. Like these pants from Dino Direct:
“”Go to work will be more modern if you try the casual pants. The male pants have the short style and the tight design will show your good taste. The short casual pants use the best cotton to make you feel good and comfortable. The male pants have the pocket design in the waist to make you sexy. The casual pants are your best friends.” (Are you fucking kidding me? Look at these things! I don’t think the short style and tight design will show your good taste. If anything these pants scream, “I don’t know how to do laundry, and my pants shrunk!” And I seriously doubt that women will flock to you, the pant-wearer, and moan, “Oooooooooh, baby, those pockets in the waist make you sooooo sexy!” Showing 8 inches of hairy calf and shoes sans socks is just weird. Bad choice all around. If any of you order your husband a pair and take a photo of him wearing them at work, in front of real people, I will send you $50.)
These beauties aren’t any better:
“I don’t know what universe you’ve been living in, but it must be radiantly remarkable! This pair of trousers is the best gift for you in this season. This kind of men trousers are of perfect design to show your figure. Make every moment enchanting with the memorable magic of this pair of trousers. Solve the mystery of what to wear to this season with this pair of trousers.” (You don’t know what universe I’ve been living in? Why, I live in the universe where man only needs one crotch in his pants, not seven. Look at these fucking things! “These men trousers are perfect design to show your figure!” What figure? Your skinny chicken legs and 100 pound scrotum? All I can think when I look at those pants is, “BALLS!”)
This has been more than enough for one day, and I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming already in progress. ♥