The underlying difficulty

There’s something I have to get off my chest, so bear with me, because it’s a thing that people fail to understand when one has chronic issues but is taking medication for said issues… Here goes:

If I have a chronic malady and I’m taking medicine for it, medicine in no way cures the underlying illness.


Me, this past year…

See, a chronic illness is, by its very definition, persistent. Most of them are anyway. The ones I have will last my lifetime. Even though I’m taking medication for two of my illnesses, the underlying illness is still there. Let’s take my bipolar for example.  I take two medications for my bipolar so that I can function in normal society and do day to day chores without being overwhelmed by my emotions. But I still have bipolar disorder.  I will always have bipolar. It’s not going away because I pop two pills every night.  For the most part, it’s smooth sailing and I’m steady as she goes. But there are occasions when I will still have mood swings — they just aren’t as bad as they would be without the medication.  In other words, I won’t go manic nor will I become suicidally depressed (no one wants that). But upon occasion, my moods will still “swing” without warning or rhyme and reason.  The meds don’t change that. The difference is that when these breakthroughs happen, the moods are generally manageable because of the meds. I think I’ve had about two true breakthroughs (extreme mood swings) since I started taking the meds… but mostly I become annoyed now rather than enraged, or I get into periods of low grade hypomania and depression which aren’t as debilitating as a full blown mania and/or depression (thank god for that!). This last cycle of depression I fully blame on the Cymbalta.  I don’t care what the studies say, ever since I went off this stupid drug, I’ve felt 100% better (after the withdrawal symptoms went away that is). Anyway, what I’m saying is the meds help with the symptoms, they don’t erase the bipolar completely.

It-never-occurred-to-meAnd that’s another thing…  speaking of Cymbalta. It’s the same for taking meds for Fibromyalgia and Hypothyroidism, I still have both of those disorders/syndromes or whatever they’re called. They aren’t going away. The meds only help with the symptoms, they do not cure the problem. If the meds cured the problem, it would be “take one and done”, but it’s not. People who have chronic illnesses have to take these meds for the rest of their life.  Or not, it’s their choice.  I don’t take anything for my Fibromyalgia because most of the stuff is either painkillers (which don’t really work for me) or antidepressants (like Cymbalta), and you can see how well those worked.  But even if the Cymbalta was everything it’s cracked up to be, I’d still have Fibromyalgia. The underlying problem would still be there. Yeah, some of the symptoms would be helped by the medication, but it’s not a magic bullet that cures the disease.  Even with a medication that “works”, there will often be times where I’m too fatigued to do anything, or times when my body is just too sore for words. This is something that people need to understand.  The meds don’t cure the disease. They’re only a crutch that helps us navigate the world a little easier. And sometimes, that crutch breaks, doesn’t work at all, or we simply cannot use it because it’s too dangerous.

Our bodies are weird, and we as a species have no idea how they function as a whole. Even the most brilliant of doctors is basically making an educated guess about a lot of things. Medically speaking, what works for me won’t work for someone else. The two medications that I take for my bipolar flat out won’t work for my twin sister’s bipolar — and we’re clones (identical twins).  You’d think that our chemistry would be identical, but nope. Yeah, we both have bipolar, but environmental factors — what we did and didn’t put into our bodies over the years — change that chemistry.  So doctors can’t just throw the same meds at the two of us and know they’ll work.  It’s just not happening.

two asprinWhen I was younger, I could take ibuprofen with impunity. I took mega-doses (800mg) of it for my migraines and just about anything else that hurt too much to bear. That was standard issue for most military hospitals in the 1980’s (I was a Navy Brat and then a Navy Wife). Something hurts? Here’s 800mg of ibuprofen, call me in the morning. So I took it for just about everything. And it worked for just about everything. That is, until about 2004 (? I’m bad with years) when I got into my car accident. Suddenly, ibuprofen didn’t work the same anymore. Oh, it still dulled the pain, but it also started having some… interesting side effects.  Suddenly taking ibuprofen made me loopy and dulled not only the pain but my cognitive thinking. Actually, all NSAIDs do this to me now. I didn’t even connect the two until I was prescribed an NSAID for my Fibromyalgia in college and shortly after I failed an Astronomy exam.  Failed. Astronomy. Seriously.  I knew then that something was amiss. Since the NSAID was the only new thing, I stopped taking it immediately, talked to my instructor and retook the exam (passed of course). Then I made the connection and some things in my past made complete sense. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I can still take an NSAID if I want to to ease the pain, but I’ll be dumb as a box of rocks for a while. And the pain will come back eventually, because, yeah, chronic.

scare childrenWhich is another thing that some people don’t get — “chronic” means that this doesn’t go away. It’s not fatal, terminal, or (generally) degenerative, but it is persistent — like a mosquito in my ear on a lazy summer evening. An indestructible mosquito. Shoo it away and it’ll keep coming back, distracting — yes, annoying — definitely, but not deadly. I have about 8 of those bloodsuckers buzzing around me at all times and they’re wearing me down. I can spray my medicine at them and keep a few at bay, but they’re always there… buzzing. Like the ringing in my ears. >_<  I wish there was a cure for that! Ha! I’d even take a pill if there was one that makes it go away *poof* for a few hours a day.  Ah… blessed silence. ^_^ Anyway, what I was trying to say before I distracted myself is that even if I take a pill that helps me appear normal for a few hours, all of the pain and fatigue and other loveliness that is my chronic soup will come crashing back sooner or later because (as I mentioned before)  the meds don’t cure the disease. They only mask it so I can come out and play without doing myself damage.  I guess I just wanted to get that off my chest because it seems to be something that people don’t really understand when they’re interacting with people who have chronic issues — both mental and physical.

3 thoughts on “The underlying difficulty

  1. Marilyn Armstrong

    I’m surprised you can take NSAIDs at all. I can’t take any or aspirin. NSAIDs do bad things to your stomach and intestines … and THAT is how I got such lethal ulcers. Not all ulcers, bleed, by the way. Mine just made it impossible to eat or digest any food.

    Most fixes are at best semi-permanent. I got my heart “fixed,” but in 20 years, I’ll need new valves. In 10, I’ll need a new pacemaker. So fixes are at best “semi” permanent. The ulcers got fixed, though — as long as I don’t do anything to make them come back and I take the medication.

    Maybe its age-related, but in my world, nothing is permanently fixed. I’m happy if I’ve even got a temporary patch. It beats out the alternative.



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