Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Physical pain relieved, spiritual pain increases

Surgery left me with more pain than I was expecting and I ended up on a high dose of narcotics for a month or so. Stopping the pain pills was a challenge of its own. Thanks be to God, I never developed a psychological addiction to the medication but I did develop a physical dependence on it. When I stopped taking it- despite my efforts to gradually reduce the dose- I developed withdrawal symptoms. I barley slept for 7-10 days, I had a racing heart, restless legs- essentially I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack for over a week. I did some research on the neurochemistry of narcotic withdrawals and it seems the symptoms are caused by an excess of norepinephrine, which plays a key role in the body's fight or flight response. This would explain my panicky feelings. The week spent getting through the withdrawal was hell. As a mental health professional, I like to think I have empathy for those struggling with addiction, but this experience undoubtedly gave me a new perspective. I realized I am very guilty of taking the struggles of those dealing with addiction for granted. I've been quick to blame addiction on a moral failing or a lack of will power. Though addiction is a complex problem, the physical component is very real and very powerful. The severity of withdrawal symptoms is related to the length of time the substance was used, and the time I was on narcotics was relatively short. I cannot imagine dealing with more intense symptoms than what I experienced. I found myself thinking, "I completely understand why people take their own lives." It was that bad. And I know it is a million times worse for so many others. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I wanted the terrible feeling of my heart and mind racing to stop and there was little to nothing I could do about it. My doctor did agree to prescribe Clonidine- a medication commonly used to curb the anxiety caused by opioid withdrawal- but lucky me, the medication only increased my symptoms. I am finally feeling better and very grateful for it, but I'm struggling with feeling as though I've come unglued. Throughout the struggles of the past month, I've neglected my prayer life. I feel guilty and overwhelmed by the degree to which I've failed. I know God brought me through this struggle but I don't understand why God is allowing me to feel so spiritually discouraged right now...


  1. I don't know either, but I'm praying for you! At some of my lowest points, I could barely pray, so I just did what I could, which was show up to Mass (even when it felt completely pointless- and it did for months). And that was almost all I could manage.

    1. Thank you for your prayers:-). It is comforting to know you've been here too.