She opened the journal and instantly knew which one it was. Only once in her lifetime had she ever used time stamps. This journal had meticulous times and was written in an odd magenta pen that looks pretty at first but angry as her writing disintegrates.
This story actually starts 13 years prior. An injury left her with bone spurs in her shoulder’s AC joint, so every time she moved it the bone spur caused a burning sensation. The burn was constant. At first the doctors gave her Vicodin that she used occasionally during the month. But at one point she recalls thinking maybe she could take a little more pain and a little less pain medication. She was persistent in seeking help but the shoulder was more persistent in progressing. She saw a plethora of specialists, Physical Therapists, Pain Management and had every sort of test. But right up front she saw a surgeon who turned her away determining these bone spurs were not serious enough to warrant surgery. Her descent was slow but constant.
In the end she took 30mg of OxyContin twice a day with Darvocet for breakthrough pain. There was always breakthrough pain. Then they took Darvocet off the market due to causing liver problems. She was already having difficulty functioning and she was sleeping away her life. When Darvocet went off the market they switched it out for Vicodin. She could barely stay awake on her drive to work. She lived 25 miles away and was terrified she would kill someone. She fell asleep at every red light. Every single one!
She went back to that surgeon. He didn’t see her; he sent in his assistant again. His assistant told her to try acupuncture which wasn’t even covered under her insurance. She just lost it! She told the assistant about her drive to work and falling asleep. She told him they were going to be just as responsible for whomever she ended up killing. She said her family would follow through because her family also thought they were culpable. She was scheduled for surgery in just a little over two weeks later. People at work thought she didn’t like her new position. They had no idea the true story. She told them she’d been waiting for surgery a long time. She could tell they didn’t believe her. She didn’t care. She wasn’t sharing more, except with her manager; he was amazingly supportive through the whole ordeal.
She woke up from surgery and the burn was gone! Completely gone! 13 years of pain and it was gone. She still struggles to forgive the surgeon that made her wait so long. She managed to get off the Vicodin on her own but stepping down off the Oxy was a whole knew ball game.
If you’ve never taken Oxy, you won’t understand. You have to pick up this prescription at your doctors office, every month, in person and hand deliver it to your pharmacist. If anything is wrong on that prescription, you take a drive back to your doctors office to get a new prescription. If you were unlucky enough to have picked up that prescription at the end of the day, you will wait until morning; the on-call Doctor is not fixing that prescription for you. If you picked it up on a Friday or a Thursday, or if your doctor doesn’t work on Fridays, you will be waiting until Monday. You can go to an Emergency Room and beg for exactly how much of that prescription you need to make it to Monday. No more. No one goes through the annoyance of an Oxy prescription that doesn’t have to. Her doctor had made several of these mistakes over the years. She found it frustrating and demeaning.
As she was trying to step down her doctor forgot to fill out the prescription altogether! The woman was a little ahead on her prescription and it was a Thursday. Her doctor didn’t work on Fridays.
She called her husband and told him she didn’t get her prescription and she was planning on going cold turkey off the pain meds. She let her boss know.
In pink pen that journal tells how she stopped off and picked up two bottles of wine and a big bottle of aspirin. She wasn’t much of a drinker. It didn’t much matter. Within 24 hours none of that was staying down anyway. The doctors office called later the next day, apologizing profusely. They were willing to write the prescription even though her doctor wasn’t in. They had not realized she was out. She told them she had just been through the worst night she could imagine. She certainly wasn’t doing that again. That’s because she couldn’t imagine much. Oxy is a time released medication and it wasn’t even out of her system yet. She really hadn’t started her battle at that point. You can’t really imagine, even if you have seen it on TV. The reality of it is beyond what you can imagine. Her husband asked her if she wanted him to pick up the prescription just in case. She told him that he better not or she would give in. That ended up being a wise choice.
Her daughter stayed with her through the night while others had to sleep. One son who lived across the country texted silly random jokes to distract her because she could not sleep at all. Her body lost the ability to regulate temperature. It could not keep anything down or anything in, not that food was appealing. She could barely sip water. Her limbs shook uncontrollably and ached beyond imagine. She had actual rug burns on them from them moving involuntarily against the sheets. Her daughter would try to get her to make it through just one more song on KLOVE. But by the end of the third day they were afraid she was going to have a heart attack and they took her to the Emergency Room.
The ER doctor asked if she wanted to go back on Oxy. She refused. They gave her something to stop the vomiting and to keep her from having that heart attack. She might have actually had one if she had stayed home. They put her on a second drug that she also had to wean off of. She was diligent about doing so. Four weeks later as fragile as a butterfly she was clean for the first time in 13 years. She was also totally out of sick time that had just accrued for the year just a few weeks before, but she was fine with that.
Her journal talks about the fog being lifted at about day two. She recalls this experience feeling as if she had always heard people talk about the sun and the moon, and she knew what they looked like; she could see them. But she lived in a heavily smoggy polluted city. Without knowing that her experience was polluted, she really could barely see them. She could see the idea of them but she could not see them.
As she left this metaphorical city, she felt, more than she saw, that the fog was being lifted. At the end of her journey she was on the mountain top. The skies were clear and clean, no smog, no pollution. You could see clearly the sun and the moon and now … there were stars! Thousands and thousands of beautiful gorgeous stars! Overwhelmingly beautiful clear skies and fresh clean air. How did she ever live in the city?
She had no idea that what she saw was so different from what others saw. That what she breathed was so filthy and unclean because her descent into the city had been so slow.
But now that she’s back on the mountain, she wants everyone to know! There is a mountain! There is a mountain! The air is clean and fresh and the skies are beautiful. And there are stars! So many stars! If you don’t live on the mountain, come to the mountain!
Perhaps her path is not yours. But she needed to fight to get to that mountaintop so that she would never think of leaving. Talk to her, there are programs, she will help you find the mountain.
Four years and six months ago today, I made it to the mountain top. Six months ago I found that journal in the pretty pink pen. While my mind has softened some of the edges of those weeks, I don’t need a journal to remind me. I won’t ever forget the agony that I went through those weeks. I won’t ever forget the fog. I won’t ever leave the mountain!
Because there is a mountain! The mountain is real! And the mountain, the mountain is beautiful!