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Maxed out on Cymbalta, still in pain...and work sucks =(

LonelygirlLLonelygirl Posts: 29
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:58 AM in Chronic Pain
In Oct 2010 I had a L4-S1 PLIF. Ever since then I've fought through bouts of pain in my legs and in my lumbar area. I've done my best to not let the pain run my life but I have to admit it seems to be getting more and more difficult to pretend nothing is wrong.

The PM has tried me on Neurontin...then Lyrica...then by summer I was on 2 x 30mg Cymbalta daily. The PM told me the Cymbalta might also help the localized pain I was having in my back. Once it built up in my system I felt great and my legs hurt so much less. I could sleep through the night most times and felt pretty good in general. But like all good things, that came to an end maybe 1.5-2 months later. By September my leg pain had shot up again. I went from taking break-through meds (Norco 10mg most times) a few times a month to regularly taking them now 3 or more times a week...some weeks much more. I rarely sleep well, and I often lay awake contemplating whether or not I should take something).

Having said this, the Cymbalta clearly helps me. When I forget to take it I do feel it in the morning. So I am not really willing to stop taking it. What bums me out is that this med is making me forgetful and “spacey.” I am ok with this trade-off because it is helping my leg pain. But I am in the military and that “excuse” doesn’t bode well with my co-workers and boss(es). I drove home yesterday in tears because I was overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and frustration. I sit in meetings and instead of being engaged in conversation, I am either “out to lunch” and/or am consumed by my pain. It took me months to realize I had to accept this forgetfulness if I wanted to feel better. But now I’m dealing with the realization that the military will never accept it. I am awaiting a medical evaluation board (MEB) and the doc tells me there is a good chance I will be medically retired. But until then I just don’t know what to do. I want to contribute to my unit, but whenever I volunteer to head something up I end up having to ask for help…or worse, having to hand it off to another person. I can see the disappointment in my superiors’ eyes. They don’t even greet me in the hallway…talk about feeling like you don’t matter!

I know there is no way to convey to a non-spiney what it feels like to be in constant pain and discomfort. I just wish I could escape this place, but instead I have been waiting months and have yet to even have my preliminary board meeting.

I'm sorry this is kind of disjointed. I know there are many people in more pain than myself. But I'm scared, confused and frustrated. I'm "only" 35 and am 12 years in to a successful military career. I have watched myself, once a proud, motivated military officer; now not much more than an empty shell.

Thank you for letting me vent. This is the only place where people listen and understand what I’m talking about. Please respond if you have had similar experiences, or think you know how I can help combat these feelings. I think we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves…I just need a good shove.


  • I'm awake once again. Pain meds do that...but hurting a little less, too. I'm afraid I've stumped you guys...then again, a lot of u are probably wondering what I'm expecting u to say. I guess I expect nothing but for u to listen...something this community excels at :-) I'm always afraid of alienating myself when I post here...I read into stuff too much. Maybe today I will finally hear from the med evaluation board office.
  • I can relate when you say you feel "scared, confused and frustrated". I did a 360 L4-S1 on 1-20-2010. I am 40 years old. I have 15 years in at my job. I catch myself spacing out too. Sadly, if I want to be able to work, or for that matter keep going I will continue to be on meds. I guess like you I am willing to accept the trade off. Try to get through one day at a time. I am sorry I cannot offer any better advice. Sometimes it's good to know that you are not the only one. Don't be afraid to post. This is the one place that you can admit and vent. I know for me the longer I deal with this the less I am comfortable talking to normal folks about my pain.

    I wish you the best.
  • I am right with you there I hate the spacey forgetfulness I get from the medication, but try and take it away and I will bite your arm off. I hate the pain meds can not being able to sleep and that sucks. I am currently not working and I hate that to lol... I seem to hate everything, but I have learned that everything is a process have to go through the processes and find what works. Many here have not found a process that works so they remain in pain with us, then some have and they give us hope.
    I love this site and am here if you need to talk. I know how you feel and I know you think work stinks right now, but I am envious of you that you at least get that.
  • Lonely Girl:

    I have been where you are, with some differences. I was an officer in the Infantry and anyone in the Infantry with physical disabilities was no longer competitive for assignments or promotion. It hurt my male and professional pride when my "bad" back began to prevent me from achieving. I, too, almost had to appear before an MEB. What I did was influence/coerce the doctor to change my profile from a 3 down to a 2. Short term thinking on my part that contributed to a worsening of my physical condition.

    Fast forward to the present. I retired with 20 years service. The VA said (1993) that there was no evidence that my back condition was a result of miliary service. Since then it has significantly deteriorated. I had a two level PLIF early this year and have yet to fully recover (my surgeon and I are hoping for a positive outcome, albeit very slow). The quality of my life at 60 years of age is not anyway close to normal.

    If I had it all to do over again (don't we all wish for that) then I would have exchanged my short range thinking for long range thinking when I was in the miliary. I would have set aside my male pride, my ego and my "gung ho" attitude and replaced it with one of rational, clear-headed logic, an outlook on life that encompassed at least 8 decades, and one that took into consideration the health aspects of that life span instead of short term thinking about getting promoted.

    You are experiencing a common physical ailment, but the occupation in which you are functioning does not tolerate it well. There are provisions for your medical separation from the miliary. Accept them and go with it, but do not entertain the idea that your service or even your value as an individual have been degraded by your health. There is so much of life awaiting you outside the military.
  • Don't think because you're in the military you're any different than anyone else with chronic pain. Coworkers have no tolerance for people who don't get it done. Military or civilian. It's human nature. They don't want to carry your load. It's not fair to you or them. Catch-22.

    The spacey feeling from Cymbalta, Lyrica, Neurontin, etc.. goes with the drug. Just like being lethargic on pain killers. Some can't even tell anymore. They've been on them too long. As much as I would love to take Lyrica again for the nerve pain days and Hydrocodone for the back pain. I can't because I can't function properly at work. There is no tolerance for that.

    I'm a civilian but am also prior service. I don't have a physical job, so it's not even that. It really doesn't matter what type of job you have. If you don't function at a reasonable capacity people get tired of hearing your excuse. I don't even talk about my back/hip/leg pain anymore with more than a couple of people. They all think my surgery went perfect and I'm all better. I'm much better than before. But I have bad days and so-so days that I would love to not deal with or take pain killers to get by. It won't work, so I don't. It really sucks sometimes. Most days I just tolerate it.

    You need to find a way to adapt. Wish I had an answer for you but I don't.
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