60-year-old Stephen has been suffering from chronic pain for almost 20 years.
I suffer from fibromyalgia and various types of arthritis, which affects quite a lot of my joints and I also have osteoarthritis in my left leg, left hip and in my spine, along with several disks that are bulging and causing problems. All that started in 2000 when I was working full time as a technology teacher at a secondary school.
I was prescribed medication straight away. I think it was because the arthritis was painful and the fibromyalgia alters your perception of pain considerably so everything is a lot worse. The slightest knock feels as though you have really bashed it – it’s not a gentle knock, there’s no such thing as gentle pain, everything is exaggerated.
I was originally prescribed tramadol but that made me ill. It was great at reducing the pain but after a couple of hours the pain was back and I felt like I had a massive hangover as though I’d been on the beer all night.
Trying to teach in this state was really difficult so I was then put on slow release tramadol, which seemed to work for a while – I didn’t get the massive hangover effects when I took them on time, but that wasn’t always easy. I was on gabapentin first, for two or three years, then they switched me to pregabalin and I’ve been on that for five years now. You’re supposed to take it twice a day but I can’t manage twice a day because it just knocks me out. I’m on 300mg twice a day – if I take it in the morning I just can’t wake up.
Some days I would just like to throw the whole lot in the bin and start again.
In 2013 I developed fibromyalgia that ultimately ended my work cycle. I taught technology so it was quite heavy, you needed a lot of focus. You need eyes in the back of your head when you have 20 kids in a workshop using sharp tools and stuff – you have to be on the ball, you can’t be dosed up on medication. I was trying to work in pain because the medication was stopping me from focusing. I just couldn’t focus in the classroom, I couldn’t do anything.
I was addicted. I couldn’t do without it, if I missed a dose I’d know straight away.
Now I go to the pain management clinic at the hospital. I’ve been taking amitriptyline and they worked at night but then they took me off them because I had a chest problem. It didn’t cure the chest problem, so I tried to go back on them, but they just made me ill – there’s no equal balance.
My GP is very good, he’s quite supportive. I see him every couple of months, he keeps reviewing how things are going, he just doesn’t want to keep repeating everything. I also see the consultant at the pain management clinic every six months. That’s normally for an injection in my spine – it gives us some relief for around three or four weeks.
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