Monday, September 24, 2012

Name, Date of Birth, Diagnosis...

I recently had to go the ER for back spasms.  It's not a fun thing to experience and even less fun when the focus lands on all my other "problems" instead of the pain I am currently in.  I was experiencing what is known as breakthrough pain.  Though I have had several courses of epidurals for my back problems, sometimes the pain breaks through and is worse than you can imagine.  Sometimes it can be managed by prescriptions at home and sometimes it's so vast that an ER trip is needed.

As a plethora of people attempt to sign me in, take an EKG, and ask way too many questions for me to handle at once, I hear the most dread question of all, "what medications are you currently taking?"  Although I know this is needed to consider medication interaction and to see if my pain could be cause by any other ailment I have, I loathe this question.  Instead of asking "what are you on XYZ for?" doctors and nurses like to pretend they know everything and insist on guess.  "Oh, so you have heart problems and are bipolar?"  Nothing makes me angrier.  As a client I should have the right to not be judged by every professional who thinks they know what every medication is for.  My only victory is when I get to tell them that, no, I have no heart problems, I have Sphincter of Oddi  Dysfunction and I get blank stares because it's not a very common ailment.

I am not saying that every doctor or nurse I have ever had does this; I am just pointing out  how irritating it is when they do do it.  Assumptions and judgments based on medical history have the power to make a patient feel defeated.  They then become afraid to disclose anything else.  For example: I know that morphine does not work for me (nor for my sister or mother; it's called "morphine tolerance"), but I fear telling doctors this because they often assume I am drug seeking.  My pain management doctor has me on percocets as needed (I take less than one a month) for bad back pain, extra strength tylenol for mild or every-day pain, and dilaudid for breakthrough pain.  However, dilaudid, being more potent than morphine, sends red flags to doctors and nurses alike who assume a young woman in her late twenties should not be on such a potent drug.  Immediately I am flagged as a drug addict, often because they have already decided my every-day medications are for a disorder often associated with drug use.

Thankfully, this last ER trip turned out well, with the Doctor listening to me and my wife and the nurses becoming very understanding.  The interaction between patient and medical staff is vital to correct diagnosis and treatment.  Unfortunately, a some professionals do not understand this.  They still have a "I'm the Professional" attitude, which leads to mistrust and fear in patients.

As with any profession, the only way for professionals and clients to each get what they want is to work together and listen to each other.  I know that the professionals working with me were great once they realized their mistake in assuming they new what my medications were for.  I hope that all clients learn to use their voices and let professionals know that making assumptions is never okay.  And I hope that all professionals learn to put down their guard a little and listen to what their clients have to say.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Recovery Month

September is National Recovery Month, an important month that many overlook.  Mental health specialists spend their days working for the good of others.  They attempt to prevent, treat, and transition into recovery those with addictions.  As a person currently in recovery for a self injury addiction, I find this to be a very important month.  In addition to National Recovery Month, it is also National Suicide Prevention Month.

With the many suicide prevention resources available, it's imperative for those who can to take action.  I find that many people will make a donation, join a walk, or wear a bracelet, but a lot of those same people won't take a moment to pass along important information.  It takes only a few seconds to Tweet or place a status on Facebook, but how many of your friends do you see doing this?  The more attention I pay to this, the more I notice that it is only a small percent of my Facebook friends and Twitter follows ever post about ways to help others.

One of the online movements that is near and dear to me is the Butterfly Project.  It encourages those who self injure to draw a butterfly on themselves (or use a rub-on tattoo) and put the name of a loved one who supports them under it.  The idea is to use this as a reminder that you are not alone.  Anyone who is a supporter can fake-tattoo a butterfly too to show their support.  Also, drawing the butterfly when you feel an urge to self harm is a great way to keep yourself occupied.  If butterflies aren't your thing then you can check out Recover Your Life which has many resources and a live chat to help anyone suffering from an addiction through the lonely moments when urges overcome them.

It warms my heart to see help groups reaching out to one another.  OneMillionScars is a website that offers information on self harm addiction, recovery, and support.  Most importantly this site is attempting to connect self harm support groups across the country so that everyone who needs it can find help in their area.

It only takes a few seconds of your time to reach out to others.  You may not even know who you are reaching out to.  One small Tweet, one quick Facebook status and you could touch someone's life who needs it.  Kindness goes a long way.

Smiles: Not Just a "Shot Girls" Bar Anymore

This morning I came across yet another story on a new synthetic drug that is very scary. 2C-I, or Smiles, is a synthetic street drug that does not come up when drug tested and has very severe side effects.  Two teenagers have reportedly died from the drug and many more have posted their experiences on YouTube. It is scary to see the plethora of designer drugs that plague our high schools and general communities.  It is even scarier to think that many are designed purely to circumvent discovery.  Hopefully parents are starting to take note and realize that a small swab-strip packet claiming to test for "hundreds" of drugs will not test positive for everyone.  Even one experience can be too many.  Don't believe me?  Ask the parents of children who were taken way too early from this life after just one "experiment."