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Spinning my wheels

I guess this is the best place to put this... I dunno.

I'm a veteran with not quite 15 years of active duty service... have had 2 ACDF surgeries. Divorced, don't see my kids but once or twice a year (they live 3000 miles away). I deal with chronic pain, acute social anxiety... PTSD maybe, that's what my shrink says. I got out of the military in '07 and have been trying to find direction for the last 7 years.

My military skill-set doesn't really translate to any civilian job (no one really needs their guided missile launcher or artillery piece repaired in the civilian sector HA). I've tried manual labor jobs, but my back just can't handle it. I got a welding certification, but standing on my feet for 10 hours burning rod absolutely murders me - while I was working as a welder my life consisted of work and bed, that's it. I did nothing else but work, and then medicate myself to deal with the pain from work. I did that for a year, then quit.

Thankfully I've got an 80% disability rating from the VA, which gives me enough income to get by - barely. I've started going back to school (trying for BS in Civil/Environmental Engineering) using my GI bill and other vet benefits, but in 2 years I've only finished 3 semesters because of my pain issues. I get migraines - the cause of which the doc's can't determine. My theory is it's from either a botched epidural cortisone injection I had 5 or 6 years ago, or the Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) I had done in '06. They're horrible headaches which put me in bed for usually 2-3 days. I have Imitrex injections and I take Topiramate as a prophylactic, but they still come about once a month. I've had to drop my classes twice do to increased frequency of the migraines... for a 6 month period I was getting them almost once a week. I'm still holding a 4.0 grade average because I dropped my classes in time... but I don't feel like a 4.0 student anymore.

I smoke (cigarettes) WAY too much, but they've become an integral coping mechanism for dealing with my pain. I comfort eat a LOT, and since getting out of the military my weight has sky rocketed - then dropped - then sky rocketed again. My cholesterol is ridiculous even though I take 3 different meds for it and have reasonably healthy diet - even my comfort foods are usually low-fat/low cholesterol (I just eat a LOT of them).

I actually had a heart attack back in '12 (at 37 years old!!), and had a stent put in... that was a frickin' reality check to be sure. My only thoughts during that whole ordeal was that I hadn't seen my 4 daughters in like 8 months at the time, and hadn't got to tell them I love them in several weeks. My oldest graduates high school next year, and I REALLY want to be there for that.

All this hangs like a 10 ton weight on my conscience... my mortality, my kids, my pain, my career (or lack of one), bills, my pain... and oh did I mention my pain? The VA (my primary care provider now) is horrible at pain management. They have a pain clinic - which I've been waiting to get referred to for 3 years now. I just got my referral finally, but honestly I'm not hopeful. All they really provide is epidural and trigger point steroid injections. Their medication management is crap. My regular primary care doc (who's been managing my opioid therapy for the last 4 years) doesn't "believe" in break-through pain medications... so I don't get any. I was on MS- Contin, 90mg a day... but I'd been at the same dose for 3 years, and had obviously built up a physiological tolerance. It wasn't controlling the pain, but he refused to increase my dosage and made me feel like a drug-seeking junkie for asking. I just got assigned a new primary care doc, and he's a bit more sympathetic, but not much. he too doesn't prescribe anything for break-through. He switched me to the Fentanyl patch, first at 25mcg, then 50mcg, and now finally at 75mcg/hr. The pain is tolerable, but I'm having skin reactions to the adhesive in the patch. He also put me on 1200mg of Gabapentin three times daily (3.6g a day!), which makes my head swim and the thought of enrolling for fall term is pretty much out of the question. Try taking MAT131 (Calculus II) with a head full of dope... not so much.

I joined the military when I was 18, and planned all along to retire from it. THAT was my calling. I was good at it, enjoyed it, and I really miss it. I feel useless... bored... helpless at times... angry - at myself, at my ex, at the military for letting me go... IDK what to do at times. I get bored. I try to stay busy around the house... which is pointless. Did I mention I feel useless?

I've got a long-term girlfriend of 3 years who is awesome... which helps some... a LOT really. GOD I'm thankful for her... she's a vet too, and is SUPER tolerant of my ridiculous mood swings due to pain/frustration/whatever. Not sure what I'd do without her...

I don't know if it's PTSD... my shrink says so... he also says acute social anxiety and bipolar disorder, which I agree with. I take an anti-psychotic (Risperidone), an SNRI anti-depressant (Venlaxafine) and a sedative/tranquilizer (Trazadone) in addition to the vast pharmacopeia I take for everything else... I'm not even sure they help. The Effexor makes me twitchy as hell, and the Risperdal dries my sinuses out horribly so I snore like a frickin grizzly bear. The Trazadone just puts me in a coma...lol. At least I sleep then.

I haven't bee able to work in over 2 years, I hurt... and not just my back. I hurt inside my head... I've got a million thoughts that are dying to get out, but with all the meds I'm on I feel like there's moths flying around in there. School is getting harder and harder to deal with. The first 2 years worth (4 semesters took me 3 and a half years) were easy... I was on cruise control. Now it's getting REAL, but of course when I need my IQ the most, it feels like it's all slipping away.

This has become really long and rambling so I'll stop. I just needed to say all this to someone... just get it out of me. I've hurt for a long time, and I don't want to anymore.



  • sandisandi Posts: 6,343
    edited 08/06/2014 - 5:03 AM
    I'm sorry for all of the struggles you have and are going through. I do have a couple of suggestions for you.........since the gabepentin gives you brain fog, it might be worthwhile talking to your psych doctor about what other medications can be used to treat both the bipolar issues, and nerve pain. Luckily enough, there are several medications that are commonly used to treat both depression and nerve pain. It may take some experimenting, but with some luck, you may find that a different medication helps treat both conditions and allows you to clear some of the brain fog from the gabapentin.
    There are many pm doctors who don't believe in using breakthrough medications, and this can be both a blessing for some patients and a curse for others. If the correct dosage of extended release medications are reached, in some patients, they don't find they need breakthrough prescription medications and can get by with using aleve or advil for flare ups. The key to using those is not to use them regularly and at the start of what seems to be a flare, combined with rest or easing off the activity that is causing the flare. Once you get into the pain clinic , talk to the doctor about adjusting the medication ( patch) and then adding a prescription strength anti inflammatory medication to see if it helps some.
    Get help for the PTSD, I know that you said that you are, but we all have things emotionally that we need to deal with, and there are some great resources out there for the treatment of PTSD.......and social anxiety disorders. The treatments overlap in some areas, and can be really beneficial for processing the stuff you need to process. Work hard at getting your life back..........you have a lot of reasons to. Your children, your goals, your education and your girlfriend. They are all worth fighting to keep.
    I have yet another suggestion, work with some of the veteran organizations out there........find something that makes you feel good about yourself. There are lots of soldiers , like you, who need and want someone who understands what they have gone through, and are going through, and you migth be surprised at how much you can give them as well as how much you will get from doing it........
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