Some of my best friends are pharmaceuticals.

abuse, endometriosis, major depression, medication, rapid-cycle bipolar disorder

I look at the clock. Seven hours left. I count my pills again. Today is the ninth, which means that I have another eighteen days until I can get a refill.

I have 18 oxycodone left and another flare-up is just getting started. This leaves me with one pill per day; unfortunately, I often end up taking two, the maximum dose I’m currently allowed. One pill lasts only a few hours and then the symptoms–the overwhelming, uncontrollable tightness in my lower abdomen, the stabbing pain, the feeling that my ovaries have literally been set aflame–begin to fade back in until they’ve become a deafening roar, preventing me from concentrating and leaving me barely able to move. I cannot focus on conversation when I’m in this state; everything is too loud and I want to scream at everyone to shut up and leave me alone to die in a heap on the floor.

Eighteen days.

I will admit that in the past, I’ve taken opiates for less-than-severe pain flares because my mental state needed a serious boost, and if there’s a drug that’s great for doing that in the short term, it’s oxy. With the pain gone, I become gregarious and upbeat, able to focus and get my work done, to handle–and even enjoy–the company of others. Please note that I am not advocating opiate abuse–it’s ridiculously dangerous and it’s way too easy to build up a tolerance. Also, the damned things are so difficult to get even with a legitimate prescription that it’s hardly worth blowing through your supply in the interest of having a good time.

Since the introduction of lorazepam into my medication stash, I haven’t abused my oxy in the name of keeping my sanity. The benzos flood my system and fill me with a lovely tangible warmth. My lower belly finally relaxes. My hands stop shaking. There are no more tears and the world appears to slow down. My head becomes quiet and I can once again focus without wanting to burst into hysterical crying over a misworded email or the memory of some shameful thing that happened to me fifteen years ago and happened to surface as a matter of coincidence.

In moments of extreme pain when there is no one around to distract me, I sometimes drink heavily. There are other substances too, of course–there always are when you’re self-medicating, an endless stream of chemical friends to fill the long lonely hours. I cannot remember the last 24-hour period where I hadn’t taken anything, but I am still holding down a job, maintaining relationships…I figure I’m okay. It’s a temporary fix, I tell myself, just enough to get me through until the real problem (my chemical imbalance) can be corrected.

These drugs, they keep me safe from myself. They take me from “She’s all messed up” to “This girl is fucked in the head, but she’s still fun to be around, at least.”

I’m switching to a new doctor this month and am somewhat horrified at the prospect that I may not be able to continue my painkillers–until they find a cure, or at least better treatments, for endometriosis, I’m stuck battling this horrible disease with opiates. It’s not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, but it is my only option for now. Two years after my diagnosis, I’ve reached the end of the line. No more options except another surgery, which will help me for another year at most before things return to how they are now. In fact, surgery could actually make things worse.

I know a lot of people think of medication–whether it’s antidepressants or the long-term use of painkillers–as a crutch, as if “mind over matter” could cure all of our ailments. They’re entitled to their opinions, certainly, but for my part, I’m just grateful for modern medicine and the fact that there is something, anything, that can take the pain away, if only for a short while.

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Insensitivity.

endometriosis, stigma

There’s been a recent influx in the amount of ignorant and downright insensitive comments made to me about my endometriosis, and I’m not quite sure how to deal with them.

They range from the hopeless (“You know, at some point they won’t be able to do anything more for you and you’ll have to learn to live with the pain flares”) to the uninformed and offensive (“At age 30 or 35, they’ll probably tell you it’s time for a hysterectomy”), and all carry the assumption that I am being irresponsible for not being able to work and unreasonable for wanting more than living life at a daily pain level of 7+.

Even when I try to educate or simply shut the person down by sharing actual facts about this horrible disease, I’m treated like I’m just making excuses or don’t know what the hell I’m talking about because I am young (24). And to be honest, I’m running out of energy to deal with these people, which is unfortunate because 90% of the comments come from relatives. I used to be able to come up with snappy comments to shut the person down before things got out of hand or affected me too deeply, but now all I seem to be able to do is internalize it and watch helplessly as I self-destruct.

What do you do when people just plain don’t want to learn about your affliction and prefer their own misinformation to the hard facts?

It’s true that there may not be a lasting solution for this illness that will allow me to return to work and live pain-free, but I feel that actually saying those things to me is cruel, amirite?

D. finally snapped tonight after watching me struggle to explain the disease for the umpteenth time and said, quite bluntly, “Think of it as cancer without the cancer.” Endometriosis is terribly invasive; it feeds on estrogen and burrows deep into the pelvic organs. It has even been known to grow on other organs, such as the kidneys, lungs, and brain in more severe (and admittedly, rarer) cases. It is incredibly painful, and the level of pain experienced by the sufferer is not always proportional to the disease’s stage. And while the growths are benign, the disease causes a host of other health problems along the way in addition to wreaking emotional havoc on the sufferer and her* loved ones.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot worse physically and very hopeless. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve said, “I don’t want to live this way anymore.” All I can do is hope for a better tomorrow, that I’ll be able to see a pain specialist soon and that he or she will be able to help me come up with a long-term solution for managing the symptoms. My ob/gyn is against operating because my first surgery (a diagnostic laparoscopy performed in March 2011) only gave me about a year and a half pain-free. As it stands, I’m at pre-op levels of pain; I’m just better at functioning while I’m in severe pain because my body has had time to adjust.

It’s frustrating that despite my best efforts to educate, to frankly discuss my personal experiences with a very sensitive, personal illness, people still continue to assume and make hurtful comments. It’s not that I’m thin-skinned; it’s that this disease has exhausted me to the point that I can’t help but take the rudeness and insensitivity to heart.

People exhaust me.