Tag Archives: Xyrem

Management of Pain While Healing

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Manage. This is what I did for myself in the beginning. I managed.  Once I realized that this is what I was doing, a whole world of options opened up to me.  As I researched managing pain I found a wealth of information from hospice workers.  The most helpful came from reading Buddhist Teacher, Zen Priest, Medical Anthropologist, and Author Joan Halifax.  At first reading about pain was scary, but quickly it was quieting. Comforting.  I started learning about meditative management of pain.  No, it wasn’t easy.  Often I didn’t get it.  I didn’t understand words, ideas, faiths.  I didn’t want to sit, I couldn’t focus, I had no patience, and was easily bored, but I did it.  My life became about this.  I eliminated all  non essential things in my life that interfered with this new focus.  Yes, this included unsupportive family and friends.  This was a matter of life and death.  Death being the life swallowing symptoms I was working against.

I knew nothing of Buddhism.  I knew little about what meditation really was.  I just moved forward.  I focused.  I bought a Buddhist magazine called Shambhala Sun, I read, and read, and read.  As I did this I started to learn that I could quiet my body’s reaction to pain, to stress, to fear and especially to outside factors like loud children, traffic noise, phone calls.  I started to become aware of myself and my body in a way that had seemed dangerous all of those years before.  I had spent half a life time learning to ignore what I was feeling so that I could survive.  Now I was focusing on it.  Everything started to slow down. Slooooow down.  Feelings and pain and stress and fear stopped flying at me and floated around instead.  I started feeling separate of these things.  A big shift from feeling like I was made of them.

The pain still rose up, but it wasn’t having the same effect on me.  It wasn’t so sharp, so unbearable.  I started to understand this ‘Brain-fog’ thing because I could see it more clearly.  I wasn’t fogged.  I wasn’t confused.  I didn’t have memory troubles.  I was tired.  My brain was tired.  Sometimes more than others.  From this tired brain place it was easy to go on auto pilot and react to the world as it happened to me.  As I slowed down and became more aware of all that was happening in my body I was able to slow down the world around me too.  When previously I could not find time for sleep, or accomplish it, I was now able to open up space for this in my life.  Even when I meant bringing the kids into the bedroom with me, setting the up with something and napping between them.  Bit by bit the life inside our home changed to accomodate what I needed.  I did not make a list and demand that it adopted by my family so that they could tell me why this could not happen.  I moved life myself.  I changed and it affected change.

Remaining calm and peaceful became a high priority.  When my family realized how much more functional and healthy I could be in a calm environment they started to prioritize this too.  It wasn’t over night.  We didn’t know what was happening as it was happening.  It just shifted, imperceptibly, as I shifted.  As we realized that I was getting better, even in the presence of devestating regressions, it became easier to allow me the things that I needed to get better.  When we began to believe (together) that I would get well, it became simple to make sure that we were protecting that progress by letting other priorities go for a while.  Life shifted.  It became about healing.  Living was put aside.  Chores, expectations, commitments, these things were placed below all things that led to healing.

It was like starting to finally see a hint of that light that was supposed to be at the end of the lightless tunnel I had started traveling.  It was the breath of life, the ray of sun, that was rewarded after all the promiseless trials.  And there were many, many promiseless trials.  There were more coming too.  It didn’t really matter though.  This healing thing had taken a life of it’s own and I was being carried through it, pushed through it, pulled through it and sometimes crawling through it of sheer will.

I had no idea how long this tunnel was.  I had no idea how far I may or may not have come.  There came a point when it didn’t matter anymore.  I wasn’t focused on the light at the end.  I was learning to focus on the best here and now that could be achieved.  I was learning to experience each moment in the best way possible, pain or no, fatigue or no, strain or percieved failure or not.  Each thing was going to be experienced in the best way that it could be.

It was an astounding lack of judgment.  It took me a while to realize that shift, but when I did it opened up yet another stash of tools for the process.

I read more.  I perused the book ads and reviews in Shamala sun and found two books that would become very important to me.  Two books that would act like security blankets and start to carry me back into every day life.  They were The Four Agreements and The Power of Now.  If someone had told me that these two books would have anything to do with healing I would never have picked them up.  I wouldn’t have believed such a thing and thus would have chosen to not waste my time.  But no one told me that and they intrigued me, so I was able to pick them both up and simply read.

I read them ever, ever so slowly.  Trying to understand every single sentence.  To follow every single paradigm shift, and to take a break when I couldn’t follow anymore.

I was truly astounded to discover that these two books helped me manage the pain.  It went against everything I had ever been taught, told or previously believed, but it was very real.

I was getting better and it was time to refine my practice… discover what was truly working and give it more.  Learn more.  Heal more.

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Accupuncture, Herbs, and Kooks

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When I first began I knew nothing about so called “natural health”.  I ate a mostly organic diet, I believed, but this is as far as my understanding went.  Many years earlier, with the use of a book called Reversing Fibromyalgia, I had my only experience with ‘natural health’ and it included hundreds of dollars of vitamin and mineral supplements with unpronounceable names and throat gagging pills, powders and tablets.  I failed.  Even in Dallas 1999 did not provide a useable selection of organic foods and food allergy substitutes. The idea of going down this road again, even with access to many huge, well supplied Organic Natural Food stores like Whole Foods, was unpleasant.  But down it I went, taking my family with me.  Though my father, who lived with us at the time, did not choose to join us and continued to stock the house with his usual foods, the kids and husband were along for the ride.

I started by calling around town (Austin, TX) to find an acupuncture clinic that I could afford since my insurance did not cover such things.  It was days of tears and defeat as I called office after office to find that treatements averaged $75 per visit, and that they weren’t as likely to help unless I went at least every week, if not twice every week.  It was again a friend who told me about ‘group acupuncture’.  In a seedy part of town I found a low cost clinic that provided acupuncture to multiple patients during the same appointment.  We each arrived 15 minutes apart and were placed in cushy recliners behind japanese style screens in a large, perfectly tempered, zen inspired room.  Spa like music played quietly, everyone whispered, and the earthy smell of herbs floated around the darkened space.  There was nothing familiar about this experience.  I was afraid of the needles, afraid of the herbs, afraid of having a flare up during treatments, afraid that I would suffer for the rest of my life.  It took everything I had to go into this new world, but very quickly it became my world… my new comfort.  I was not alone anymore.  I could now give all of my fears to a person who did not share them, and believed, fully, in my ability to be free of this disease, even when I could not.

The treatments were working, but the improvements were short lived.  Sometimes hours, sometimes days, but they worked none the less.  Very quickly my acupuncturist discovered that I did much better with a very simple ‘opening’ treatment.  Complicated, symptom specific treatments were too much for me.  They overwhelmed me with sensations, energy, and sometimes flare ups, so we backed off of that and stuck with what worked.  I even began learning to meditate with the use of a favored guided meditation by Jan Bennett Collier.

With a taste of what could be possible and a growing belief that I may actually find a life of complete health I started moving forward with great intention.  I began trying every single thing that was suggested to me.  Faith healing? Sure!  Body Talk?  Why not! Chinese medicine?  Okay!  And why the hell not?  I no longer cared how kooky it seemed.  In fact I couldn’t care less whether or not I could believe in it.  I did it all anyway.  I did it all with complete commitment. The things that seemed to work got more of my time/money/effort, those that didn’t moved to the back burner and fit in where they could.

I started learning about sleep, the process, the theories, even the new agey stuff.  I started trying to pinpoint the place where sleep was going wrong for me.  I was consumed with discovering the answer to the deeper question… the question beyond the label of Fibromyalgia… What is wrong with me?  Then the real question, How do I fix what is wrong with me?

All the while I had to continue to tackle the now lessened, but still present, symptoms.  I started researching western herbalists and what herbs I could take to help me with the still flaring symptoms.  Susun Weed’s philosophy spoke to me, and I picked three herbs (in tincture form) that seemed right in doses that she recommended: Skullcap 3-6 drops, St. John’s Wort 25 drops, and California Poppy 15-25 drops.  I learned things about these plants, what they did, how they worked, what elements of them were being used to create bastardized and adulterated forms in prescriptions.  St. John’s Wort turned out to be much more that a mood lifter.  It was a powerful anti-inflammatory and treated nerve pain.  The Skullcap, also a nervine, eased the fear and stress present in every day life as well as in living with this disease, but it also treated nerve pain!  California Poppy?  Powerful, good stuff.  The more I took them the more I could start to see how they effected me, when my body needed them, and how I could use them best.  There was no road map, but in taking responsibility for my body, owning my own self, I started to trust, bit by bit.  Gradually I realized that my body was communicating with me in more subtle tones than just pain and tired.  There were are myriad of smaller, more specific symptoms that had blended into a huge noise that I called Pain and Fatigue.  Smaller, more specific symptoms that I could manage.

 

The Role of Sleep and the Successful (Banned) Prescription

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Hi Everyone,

I always mean to write more, but as the years go on I wind up writing less and less.  I have a bit of a pile-up of emails and commented questions, so I want to try to answer some of those questions.  WhileI can’t tell you what to do, and ust tell you to always check with a trusted health care provide, I can tell you what I do, have done, experienced, and have learned.

I get a lot of questions about the prescription that is on a split ban in the US, so lets start there, because it is my sincere hope that you may be able to learn something helpful from my struggle.  The drug is called Xyrem as a prescription.  It is a chemical drug called GHB (Gamma Hydroxybuteric Acid/Sodium Oxybate) and is both a Schedule I and Schedule III drug here in the US, so it must be prescribed by a doctor who is certified to prescribe it (a process they must go through) and will arrive via Next Day FedEx directly to the patient’s door from the one central pharmacy with the license to make it.  Currently it’s only on-label use is “excessive daytime sleepiness” as experienced by people with Narcolepsy.  There was a trial (I believe by Orphan Medical) to make Fibromyalgia an on-label use, but as far as I know this bid was denied by the FDA.

Let’s touch on why I wanted to take this drug first.  In my years of research I found some mentions of a failure to achieve the deep restorative sleep, previously called Delta Wave or Stage IV Sleep, by Fibromyalgia sufferers.  In tests research subjects who’s delta waves were repeatedly disrupted developed widespread pain and fatigue.  One study suggested that the FMS pressure points became activated as well.  Essentially, delta wave disruption seemed to be causing FMS in previously healthy patients, but when the subjects were no longer interupted by teh researchers they returned to normal sleep patterns and the symptoms disappeared.  This was a big flag to me as a person with lifelong sleep disruption and insomnia.  I had been through may years of sleep inducing and assisting prescriptions as well.  As I began researching this idea further…  how to achieve this elusive stage IV sleep… I came across a number of works that suggested that nearly all, if not all, sleep related drugs were disruptive to the sleep patterns, blocking or interrupting the all important delta waves.  This spoke worlds of truth to my tired body that had been so long drugged with sleep assisting pills and was yet, thoroughly exhausted, never refreshed.   It was my father that called me one day to tell me that he had heard a short story on PBS radio about a drug that was being tested to treat delta wave disruption and included a quick note about Fibromyalgia.  It was years later that I finally found the right string of words in my Google searches that gave me Xyrem.

Once I knew the name I was able to take it to my doctor and begin the pleading process.  He did a bit of looking and returned to me with the news that it was roughly $500 per month and that even if he did write it on-label there was a good chance that my insurance company would not pay for it, but after a long discussion we went for it anyway.  A couple of weeks later I finally had the prescription in my hands, but alas, there were no instructions for use.  No dosing information.  Nothing.  It was going to be a stabbing in the dark process with a drug that I had been repeatedly warned could easily kill me.  Fun times, y’all.

It was brutal to put it shortly.  It was months before I found a dose that did not make me vomit, wet the bed, or live in a constant state of nausea and dizziness.  The headaches were long lasting as well.  It was frightening and miserable, but it did eventually work.  The pain slipped away under my distraction with the extreme exhaustion and ever present symptoms.  I lost 60 pounds during the first 3 months, dropping to 105 pounds, and living in a blur of sleep and half sleep.  Ultimately it was a friend of a friend of a friend, who had experience with recreational use of GHB, that suggested that Cannabis/Marijuana might aleviate the dizziness, nausea, and food aversion, enhance the sleep time, and be a safer drug combination than another prescription.  I had talked with my doctor already about an additional prescription, but with so little known in the medical community about GHB, no one wanted to combine anything with it.  I had to turn to the recreational users who had a wealth of information on dosing and combining.

To say that I was terrified would be an epic understatement, but I had a gut feeling and I followed it to success.  My doctor could not comment on what I was doing, and only reminded me that he had nothing to go on that could allow him to advise for or against my choices.  He simply asked me how I was feeling.  Very well.  Like a real person, I told him.  And I did.  Once I found the right combination, a much lower dose of GHB and a much higher dose of Medical grade Marijuana, I had a life.  I was skeletal, no muscle and no fat left, but I had a place to start and learned to jog and start to build strength.  I lived in this way for 11 months until I became pregnant with my second child.  Then the gig was up.  I couldn’t take it while pregnant or nursing, so I was quite suddenly facing years without access to what had finally allowed me to escape this miserable disease.

The video, Healing Fibromyalgia, was filmed just before and after my daughter’s first birthday, when the drug was still unavailable to me, but I could not take the return of the pain or other symptoms.  They were worse than ever before.  This is where the alternative healing treatments entered my life.  Unwilling to wean my daughter to take drugs again my doctor suggested that it was in my best interest to walk away from Western Medical and try something else.  He suggested Acupuncture.  After a few days of crying about the utter unfairness of it all, this is where I began.

Healing Fibromyalgia

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I thought I would post a link to the mini documentary that I was the subject of a few years ago.

It began when I was contacted by a graduate student from the University of Texas who was wanting to make a documentary.  The premise was telling the story of surviving life in America as a family dealing with chronic, debilitating illness.  We did not know that during the course of the filming I would discover the secret and finally cure myself of said disease.

Perhaps it was putting a spot light on what we were dealing with, perhaps it was serendipity, I don’t know.  I’m just so very glad that it turned out to be called Healing Fibromyalgia rather than Living with Disease in America.  Oy.  I never watch it.  I haven’t watched it since the first time.  I think I have always been afraid of jinxing myself.  I think I have always been afraid, unwilling to look back for this reason.  This is why I could not write about healing from Fibro until I was in the deepest throws of it again.

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason.  I have wanted to make this site for three years and I am finally doing it.  I am grateful to be making a journal of what it’s like to go through this, of what I have to do and what is hard to do.

Anyhow, here’s the video: