Pain, Medications And Mood Swings
By David J. Stewart | June 2019
I suffered a horrible rear-end bus collision in 1992. I was driving a full-sized Sunday school bus, hit from behind by another full-sized 72 passenger bus. The accident was severe enough to break my seat off its hinges. I instantly sustained whiplash, which felt like a stiff iron rod in my neck for the next week. I was taken to the hospital after the accident and told that X-rays showed nothing was broken in my neck, but that was the limit of the testing done at the time.
I forgot about the accident over the years, but in hindsight many years later, I wondered why I continually felt tension in my neck, even while relaxed. Little did I realize that I had indeed sustained a permanent neck injury that would escalate over time, resulting in Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease. Twelve years later in 2004 my neck gave way, and an MRI revealed that I had protruding disks at C3-C4-C5-C6 and C7, and also bone spurs (calcium deposits) compressing my spinal cord. At the time I was not a candidate for surgery, since I didn't have radiculitis at the time (radiating pain in limbs).
In 2005 I fell at work, which worsened my injury and caused radiculitis, now qualifying me for surgery. I was a single parent at the time and declined the surgery as long as I could, but in 2009 I couldn't bear the pain anymore and underwent Anterior Cervical Discectomy And Fusion (ACDF) surgery, and then again in 2010 to correct a botched surgery at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles (which I do not recommend to anyone for various reasons). The first surgery didn't help me much. Unfortunately, the second surgery worsened my condition intensely, leaving both arms feeling like they were inflated with air and doubled in size. I went into a lasting depression for a couple years until the neurological discomfort became the “new norm” in my life.
I began taking a high dosage of prescription pain medications in 2007, which I still continue to this day in 2019. From 2007 until my second surgery in 2010, I was taking eight prescription Percocet 10/325 pills per day. Since my second surgery, until today in 2019, I have been taking 80 mg per day of prescription Oxycontin, and two Percocet 10/325's. I have never taken illegal drugs, nor have I abused my prescription drugs. I have suffered mood swings and depression frequently since my neck injury began in 1992. At first it was simple irritation caused by the constant tension in my neck. This is before I even realized that I had a permanent injury. It took 12 years before my condition worsened significantly in 2004.
In 2005, I met with a chiropractor, who was the first doctor to properly identify my ailment, which is known as “Reverse Cervical Curve.” Normally, the human neck is curved, but after sustaining severe whiplash, a common injury leaves the victim with a straightened neck alignment, which puts abnormal pressure on the cervical/thorax junction in the lower neck (C5-C6-C7), causing the disks to shift and eventually herniated 10-20 years down the road. That is exactly what happened to me. The hospital technicians who initially took the X-rays in 1992 after the bus accident weren't trained what to look for. They were only looking for something broken, not misaligned. When I learned in 2005 about the misalignment of my neck (which a simple X-ray showed), I then realized why I had felt unexplainable constant tension for the past 13.
I had never heard of opiate drugs until 2007, which were a big help to me, allowing me to cope with my chronic neck pain. The tightness in my neck worsened significantly in 2004, feeling like a big wound rubber-band. For several years, in my ignorance, I allowed multiple doctors to prescribe four different muscle relaxant drugs (Skelaxan, Robaxin, Flexeril and Soma), just to find out (at my own request in 2011) that an EMG test reveled no involuntary muscle contractions anywhere in my arms, neck or shoulders. I had been taking all those prescription drugs for nothing! Please do your own research on the drugs you are being prescribed, to determine on your own if you really need them, or if your doctor is merely prescribing you drugs that you don't need (or may further injure or even kill you). Don't be afraid to be objective and ask questions. The neurologist who performed the EMG test on me in 2011, said that a pinched spinal cord was causing my neck tension, and not my muscles. Since I had already undergone two major neck surgeries, and the insurance company were reluctant to pay for any further surgeries, and three doctors determined that further surgery wouldn't help me, I had to face and accept the sad realization that my afflictions are permanent, and I won't be getting any better.
I've said all that to get to the purpose of this article, which is to address the mood swings that I frequently go through because of all the aforementioned things. I am in constant toothache-like, agonizing, throbbing, bone-gnawing, type pain in the bony area of the back of my neck. I have met with EIGHT neurosurgeons, who all couldn't help put me back together again, like the children's story Humpty-Dumpty. Two of the neurosurgeons diagnosed me with osteoarthritis and said there is no cure. One surgeon wanted to do surgery in 2006, but I couldn't at the time. Two of the surgeons performed surgery (2009 and 2010), to no avail. The other surgeons didn't know, and a couple didn't care at all, merely taking the money. I have met some really rotten doctors, nurses and hospital staff over the years, and some kind ones as well. I cannot put into words the misery that I go through on a regular basis because of my chronic neck pain, constant ripping neck tension, and the burning of my nerves from Stenosis and Radiculitis.
My family doesn't understand. My wife sadly divorced me in 2006, against my will. Thirteen years later in 2019 she still doesn't understand how my pain and prescription medications affect me. Nor do my adult children understand. I have kindly tried to explain my situation to them over the years, but they cannot grasp what it is like to live with chronic pain and the need for prescription medications. I love them all and do not blame them, because it is not their pain. Albeit, it makes life more difficult for me. I am on trial continually with my former wife, held accountable for every word that comes out of my mouth. She doesn't understand that my pain irritates me, and my prescription medications causes heightening emotions and sensitivity, and I sometimes use sharp words that I mean at the time, but don't really mean. She gets upset at me, telling me off, talking over my words on the phone, showing no understanding or compassion for my medical condition. It is a burden for me.
I have sadly learned that living alone works best for me, having less contact with others, including family and everybody else as well. Humans are all sinners, and it is difficult to convince somebody (especially strangers) that you need them to grant your more room for error, space to say hurtful things at times, and be expressive in your emotions at times. I don't plan or intend to say those things, it just happens. It is like the children's story of the mouse and the elephant. The elephant was irritable all the time, until the mouse kindly pulled the thorn from his foot. Unfortunately, none of the eight neurosurgeons whom I've met with over the years, have been able to remove the painful thorn in my flesh (my neck). Living a life of chronic pain, radiculitis and stenosis is not pleasant—it is lonely and depressing, because you feel constant burning in your nervous system, burning pain in my neck throughout the day, shooting pain in my limbs during the night, withdrawal symptoms from the medications (which are inevitable) and mood swings. I have never been violent and that is not a problem with me. I am completely loving and harmless. My Christian faith keeps my heart right with God, and toward people. Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
Albeit, the pain and related medications make me emotionally sensitive, more expressive in my words, and so I have to be careful. For that reason I like to stay home most of the time, where I am safe. I love people and animals, and wouldn't want to needlessly intentionally hurt any living creature that God created. But it is a burden to live in a world of pain and pain medications. I am take 10 mg of Ambien each night, which tremendously helps me sleep well. I've read horror stories about Ambien online, but it has never been a problem for me, and I prefer that particular drug over any Over The Counter (OTC) remedies that are readily available. OTC sleep aids cause me hallucinations. Since the neck pain and tension are close to my head, it irritates me more, than if it were a leg or arm. No one knows your pain. I cannot compare myself to you, nor you to me. We are all different. It is a horrible thing for someone to give another person a hard time who is in pain.
So if you are reading this, you probably found it in a web search for people suffering in pain, who take prescription medications, and have mood swings. I wrote this primarily for the loved ones of such people, to let you know that they really need your help and understanding. It is wrong, unrealistic and cruel to ignore someone's pain and suffering, expecting them to function normally like a healthy person. They simply cannot. It is hard to be “normal” when you are afflicted in pain and suffering all the time. When I am in public, I look normal outwardly, but I feel pain and burning in my nerves inwardly, and that makes me very lonely. Millions of Americans suffer in “chronic pain” (pain that lasts more than 6 months). I have had this horrible neck pain now for 15 miserable years! I need to watch videos like this to encourage myself, and be reminded of how good I actually have it in comparison. I thank God that I can still walk, see, hear, talk, eat, and function normally despite not having perfect health. God is a good God, and I am grateful for all His abundant blessings in life.
So if you are suffering in awful life-ruining pain, I am in the same boat, and I understand. The burning pain in my neck is more than I can bear sometimes, and I have nowhere to turn for relief. A steamroom would help tremendously, but there are none where I live on Guam. A simple hot bathtub would also help, but I only have a shower. God willing, I hope to have such conveniences in the future. It is no fun being in pain, but it is much worse when family and friends don't understand us, and show little patience, and others withdraw and avoid us. I know the hurt of soul from people hiding from me, avoiding me because they don't want to associate with someone who has problems. Most people are selfish, only thinking about themselves, lacking God's unconditional love for others. I hope something in my article has been helpful to you dear reader. If you are not in constant pain, you are very blessed. If you are in pain, count the blessings that you still have. Pain is a part of life. I don't like pain, at all, but it is part of living in a fallen sinful world (Romans 5:12). As a friend, I want to share with you the greatest comfort and hope that I have in my pain, which is the free gift of eternal life, and God's promise someday of a new perfect body (Philippians 3:21), by simply believing 'THE GOSPEL.'