Janet Honour, from Bishop Auckland in County Durham, was a 40-year-old PA to a headteacher at her local secondary school. Married with two teenage kids (at the time), she had a successful career, where she was a valued member of staff and enjoyed a happy social life.
“I stopped going out. It was easier to stay in”
“Following the salsa class, I still wasn’t right after a couple of days, so I visited my GP who prescribed ibuprofen and paracetamol.”
The pain continued to get worse, and over the next 6-8 months it was so excruciating I was left unable to walk. I had an MRI and physiotherapy during those early months and discovered the fluid had disappeared between some of the discs in my back.
There was only one option: pain medication.
“Over the ensuing years, I found my body simply ‘got used’ to the medication I was taking.”
The dosage and strength of the medication increased. Tramadol. Gabapentin. Pregabalin. Amitriptyline. And then… Morphine.
I would hallucinate and have such vivid nightmares that I would wake up screaming. It was so severe my husband thought there must have been a burglar in our room.
I would sleep for 14 hours, and not get up until midday. I couldn’t ‘get going’ I just felt exhausted and couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was utterly sluggish.
I was completely devastated, but not surprised when I eventually lost my job. I had simply taken too much sick leave and when I was there, I wasn’t even functioning to 50% of my capability. I was in a mental fog, wading through treacle. In a PA role it’s essential you’re completely on the ball and capable of spinning lots of plates simultaneously. I simply couldn’t cope.
The amount of pain medication I was taking meant drinking alcohol was a no-no. I found in social situations lots of people pressuring me to have a drink, and again it just got too much. So, I stopped going out. It was easier to stay in.
At this point many of my friends fell by the wayside. I found myself spiralling into depression and would become increasingly anxious at the thought of leaving the house, needing someone with me much of the time.
I didn’t recognise this person anymore. I was sad and I was lonely.
Still trying to ‘fix’ the problem in my back, I had facet joint injections, radio frequency lesioning to kill the nerves around the affected area and eventually I was asked to consider a hysterectomy, to prevent unnecessary fluid retention causing additional pain. I did that. But the pain remained!
Then in 2016, my husband underwent life saving heart surgery. It planted the seed of change. I just realised that this was no life, I couldn’t carry on like this!
I’d booked my husband on a meditation course to help his recovery and went along to offer moral support. I was really surprised to find it helped me. My pain reduced. I made the decision to drop the Morphine and try to control my pain without it.
Working with my GP, I then gradually reduced my dose of Pregabalin by half a dose a week. The drugs I was taking were really strong, so it was essential I weaned myself from them slowly. I knew it was a long road, but bit by bit I could feel myself getting back to ‘normal’.
I now take no pain medication on a regular basis. A little bit of pain is better than being flat out on a cocktail of drugs.
Drug free and managing my own pain, it feels great to be back in control.
I meditate, do yoga and use a pacing technique I learnt on a pain management course eight years ago to manage my physical activity, so I don’t overdo it. I feel like a different person. I’m back!”
In January 2019 I went back to work part time as an exam invigilator and now work as teaching assistant.
If you’re worried that you or someone you know could be dependent on pain medication, visit our support page.