I visited the doctor this morning for a flu shot and to check in with my progress, it being almost 5 months since I first became ill, and a month since I stepped down from my busy job. She seemed a little concerned when I said I felt I was coping better but that I wasn’t getting better. I reeled off the list of ailments as I could remember them: constant fatigue, pins and needles, numbness in the tips of my fingers, headaches, muscle aches and the strange stinging sensation in my elbows and knees that is very difficult to describe to anyone.
When she asked straight out if I felt bad about any of this, I had to say yes, but also that I try not to think about it too often. I told her about not wanting to turn down the offer of a visit to the zoo on sunny Friday with a good friend and our daughters, but that afterwards I felt the ‘cement veins’ return and was extremely tired. And about having to work a full day at work on the Saturday and how hard that had been to get through and how 2 days later I was still feeling the need to sleep for a week. I described how when I lie down at night, although I am dead tired, my mind often races from topic to topic unhelpfully and it’s often the only time the worry finds me with ‘what if this doesn’t go away?’ She questioned if I was finding any real enjoyment in life and I said yes – I am able to spend a lot more time with my daughter, and luckily she is at an age where she also feels quite tired after a morning at the zoo, so we can rest together.
Then she began to talk about a tablet that had been indicated in relieving symptoms of fibromyalgia (which I don’t seem to completely have) to neuropathic pain (which I do, that’s the pins and needles) and was supposedly fast acting. She said she could write me a prescription and the low-dosage could very likely counteract and stop the pain quickly and help me feel energised and brighter about all things. I began to wonder what this amazing tablet was and why I hadn’t heard of it before.
As she typed out the prescriptions I realised: oh, anti-depressants.
A stigma on top of a stigma.
I immediately rejected the idea in my mind. Over the years, some friends have shared only bad experiences with these, finding them to bring their own side affects and issues to deal with on top of the original problem. I don’t know anyone who has been helped by taking them.
This one is called Cymbalta (Duloxetine is it’s chemical name) and after looking it up online (of course) it IS recommended in the treatment of fibromyalgia, pain and fatigue. My doctor’s backing in recommending it came with ‘we don’t know why, but sometimes the body gets itself into difficulty once a virus has been and gone, and this treatment can break the cycle’. When I remarked that PVF seems to be a wide and not well-understood field, she agreed and mentioned that the best doctor in Adelaide in this field has a 2-3 YEAR waiting list to get an appointment.
Ironically, I left with the prescription in hand, feeling more despondent than I had going in. The doctor warned me that if we tried the Cymbalta that we would need to trial for at least 6 months and that you could not withdraw the treatment without an exit plan and while I would dearly love to take a tablet or powder or potion that makes all these symptoms disappear, I feel quite frightened at the thought of embarking on another pathway that feels strange and unusual and might be a long term commitment to health that could bring it’s own dangers with it.
I have an appointment with my rheumatologist next week, so I have decided to think about this until after I speak to him and get a second opinion essentially. I don’t expect him to have any other cures but I wonder if he would have an opinion on this link between the mind and the pain that Cymbalta seems to counteract, he being a blood and bone type of doctor.
I don’t know if it’s what I’ve been conditioned to expect – finding a cure for an illness – or that this illness is so bamboozling to the medical world that bothers me. I don’t like to take a tablet that comes with a ‘we don’t know why’ and I think I want to explore alternatives first, although the promise of being ‘cured’ and having my life back to normal is enticing…