Shocking! Nerve Pain, MS and Me
Last night, I found myself in a familiar place: Shock Treatment. Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment? A great song, to be sure...but not a great facet of the MonSter.
"Shock Treatment" is how I refer to a common and very aggrivating symptom of multiple sclerosis: nerve pain. Mine is always centered on the right side of my body. This is not unusual; many (if not most) people with MS have a "problem side," where the vast majority of their symptoms reside. Mine has, from the beginning, been my right side. My trigeminal neuralgia is on the right side of my face. My leg spasms are almost always in my right leg; that's also the leg that has lost a great deal of nerve sensation, a sort of mini-paralysis. I use a cane because of my right leg. When I have optic neuritis, it's my right eye I can't see out of. When I get kidney stones, they are invariably coming from the right kidney. See a pattern?
Oddly enough, when I was 12 it was discovered that I am nearly deaf in one ear. You guessed it! My right one.
So it's no surprise that when I suffer from Shock Treatment, it's my right leg, arm, hand, foot and the right side of my ribs & lower back that gets the honors.
Shock Treatment feels pretty much the way it sounds: sharp, unexpected electrical shocks. They generally last only a second or so apiece, but they tend to occur in clusters, shocking me over & over & over. Sometimes, the shocks are mild and little more than annoying. At other times, they are so bad my body jerks uncontrollably and I cry out.
The worst nerve pain, of course, is the bane of my existance: trigeminal neuralgia. It is the great-grandaddy of all Shocks. Relentless, debilitating pain in the face. There is a reason why it is considered the worst chronic pain condition known to man. It is the heavyweight champion, more than willing to defend its title against all comers.
Back to last night...Jonathan and I were spending some much-needed time together. May through September is the busy season for his work, and it's not uncommon for him to work 14-16 hour days, 6-7 days a week, during these months. To make matters worse, the house we rented was, without any warning to us whatsoever, foreclosed. Through the grace of God we found a new home almost immediately, only three blocks away. While it was great to find this place (which is just amazing) so quickly and so nearby, moving is naturally stressful and time-consuming. Thanks to the still-too-warm temperatures the past month, I have not been of any great help moving. As a result of all this...my husband and I haven't spent a lot of time with one another. Now that the move is practically done, the busy season is winding down and the weather is cooling off, we're trying to make up for lost time.
The MonSter, however, does not respect romantic inclinations. Shortly after we put the girls to bed, Shock Treatment began to rear its ugly head. The Shocks began just above my right ankle, a tender area for this particular activity. As the night wore on, the Shocks became more unpleasant, more frequent and worse: they were migrating North for winter. By the time my upper arm was being bombarded, I began to worry about what might lie ahead: another painful bout of trigeminal neuralgia.
Now I was in a pickle. It was late. Did I eat and take a pain pill in hopes of warding off the TN? That tactic has no gaurentee of success. It also runs the risk of the nausea becoming so bad, I end up vomitting and causing the TN on my own. There was even the very distinct possibility that the act of eating in and of itself would make the TN appear. What to do, what to do.
I waited another hour. Still Shocks, but no TN. They had climbed back down to my upper leg & hip, and seemed very content to be there. I decided not to take a pill.
If my life was a game show, that would be the moment when the door I chose opened up to reveal a donkey. Or a goose. Or anything, except the prize I was hoping for.
The Shocks did in fact reach my face, a few hours later. And they did so out of the blue, and at full force. I choked down some food, which naturally made the pain worse, and took a pill.
Now comes The Waiting. As in, Waiting For the Pill To Kick In Oh Please Let It Kick In Soon. I spend a lot of my life Waiting.
The pill kicked in. And it wasn't enough. I take another. More Waiting, please. Boy, do I love to get seconds.
An hour later, and the pain had not subsided. If I take another pill, I will most definately be sick. And I'm in so much pain, if I get sick, I will end up in the hospital.
So I Wait some more.
By 5 AM, I was so exhausted I fell into a fitful sleep. Five hours later, I was wide awake. The Shocks were back, and so was the TN. It was very much as if they too had taken a short respite, and now that they were refreshed, they could attack me with renewed vigor and purpose.
I ate. I took a pill. I started The Waiting all over again.
Rinse and repeat. This is how I spent all of yesterday. And it's how I am spending the night. As I write this, it is 2:35 AM. The Shocks, for the moment, are gone. Perhaps they watched the TN torture me today and scurried off, knowing their better when they see it. Bow to your sensei, Shock Treatment.
And so I Wait. Will I be able to break the pain, or will I have to go to the ER? Will I be able to hold on until the doctor's office opens? Can I avoid throwing up, and what should I/can I eat to accomplish that goal? And if I do eat, how much worse will that make it? Why is it that I must eat to take pills to kill the pain, but if I eat to take pills to kill the pain the act of eating will make the pain worse?
And the most pressing question: will I ruin my husband's birthday today?