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What I Learned From Missing One Dose of My Pain Medication

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Every day when I wake up, I have to take a slow, deep breath and feel. Before I even sit up in the morning, I have to do a complete analysis of myself: pain level, pain location, fatigue level, symptom check, etc. etc. Yesterday morning, I woke to what I thought was only a tension headache. Within moments of sitting up, I realized it had probably started out that way, but had become a full-blown migraine. I don’t have them very often anymore, but I recognize the beast.

I got out of bed and slowly made my way to the living room. I made a cup of coffee and took my medication. I rubbed salve with lavender on my neck, which was as hard as a rock. I recognized that my torticollis was a contributing factor almost immediately. I realized that my allergies were acting up due to the 11.3 pollen count that day and took my allergy medications. I took my diazepam to help combat my torticollis and sat down on the couch. I was absolutely desperate for relief and relaxing was not an option right then. My head was throbbing so hard that I was lurching forward ever so slightly with every throb. My body was in full migraine combat mode. Suddenly, the full fatigue of the migraine hit me.

My husband was up at this point and asked what I needed. I initially refused an ice pack (my go-to weapon of choice) because I thought that my medication might be enough. I was, of course, wrong. About 30 minutes after I’d taken my medications, I finally caved and asked my husband to grab the ice pack and my pillow from our room. I couldn’t stand without the rush of heightened pain. I put the ice pack over my forehead above my left eye (it was one of the fun wrap-around headaches) and pushed my pillow into my neck while I curled up on the couch under a blanket. I asked my husband to please turn out the light closest to me. It seemed that, almost immediately, the fatigue from the pain got the better of me and I fell asleep. The pain was bad enough to incorporate into my dreams.

At some point, I migrated into a position on the couch where I was laying down on my side. The ice pack was moved away from me and I slept. I slept for six hours straight before waking up. When I did, it wasn’t because of the migraine. Though it was still present, the pain that woke me was from the pressure of my own body on my hip. My fibro was flaring and so was my spinal pain. After about 10 minutes of being awake, I realized I had not taken my morning pain medications. I remember wondering why and realized it was because I wasn’t even concerned at that point. I know that my pain medication doesn’t help my migraines and can make them worse.

Very quickly, the amount of pain from my fibro and my spinal conditions was enough to draw tears. I couldn’t believe how intense it was! It took about five minutes to dawn on me that my pain medications are helping control much more pain than I initially thought.

It was eye-opening. I knew my pain had gone up over the past year, but I had no clue it had gotten this bad. I keep a schedule for my medications and this pain almost never has a chance to come out in all of its full glory. I felt silly for not thinking about it that morning. I knew why I hadn’t and I knew that taking those medications could have easily made my migraine worse. It was bad enough that I’d had to take a second dose of medication. The shame I felt, though, at letting my pain get that bad was remarkable.

It was then that I realized how absolutely crucial my pain medication truly was to me on a day-to-day basis. I knew it had already made a massive difference in my quality of life, but this let me know how bad it had truly gotten. The thought of walking right then was enough to make me cry. I couldn’t have made it two feet. I would have collapsed.

This happening gave me an even better insight into why we, as chronic pain and chronically ill patients, need to be considered in the opioid discussion. I know there are so many people who have far worse pain than I do. I can’t imagine living in that kind of pain on a daily basis. As it stands, I’m not sure if I should talk to my primary about upping my dose. I don’t feel that I necessarily need it, but I also haven’t been in that much pain in a long time because of that schedule I keep. It helped me to realize even more how absolutely necessary it is that our government and our physicians hear us. It’s something I’d already known deep down, but was now feeling on a very close-up level and to a far greater extent.

I’m hoping all of us will begin to reach out more frequently to our local media, our local representatives, our state representatives and even to the big hitters like the American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control. They need to hear us. We must raise our voices collectively and loudly. For some people, pain medication is the only option. For some, medical marijuana is available and works. There are still people, however, who require both to get through their day. We must speak for ourselves and for those who cannot.

Within 45 minutes of taking my pain medications, my back pain dropped down to a six, its normal with-medication level as of late. One little pill made all the difference in the world and I, though exhausted from the migraine, didn’t feel like someone was running an ice pick into my lower spine and down through my leg bones.

It only took one pill to make me still more aware of what we are facing. I hope we are loud enough for them.

Getty Image by seb_ra

Originally published: March 30, 2018
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