Serenity, Strength, and Wisdom

I remember a few months ago, staring at a message written upon my grandfather’s wall, a knitted cloth of some sort, with a message well known and a powerful one at that – “God, Grant me the serenity to accept that things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Although being an Atheist, means I’d replace one specific word in this quotation to reflect the idea that one gives themselves these powers as opposed to an external source, it doesn’t take away from how invigoratingly powerful the message is.

To simply put it, the last week of my life has been the most physically painful time of my entire existence. For those who don’t want to put themselves in my kind of situation, don’t get addicted to drugs. Don’t touch them. Think it’s worth it? Think it will ease your suffering? It won’t. It will mask it, maybe for a week, or even a month or two, but it won’t last. Doomsday will creep up on you, and when it comes, you will spend every waking moment with just two thoughts on your mind. “Why did I do this to myself” and “Please, make it stop, please.”.

As you can imagine, I never had the intention of becoming addicted to codeine. For over 8 months now I’ve had chronic back pain. It sucks, massively. I feel hard done by, to put it blatantly it feels like I’m suffering from something that someone who’s 85 should be going through. I’m 23, i’m relatively fit and healthy. Throughout those 8 months I’ve been running on and off, and I played Football (soccer) for a season. I tried a chiropractor, physiotherapist, massaging, normal painkillers, yoga, exercise, relaxation techniques, nutrient pills, you name it, I tried it. The only thing that could ease my pain was opiates – Panadeine as it’s called. I only discovered the other day through a chemist that despite what seems like millions of products are available in the chemists, there are only actually 3 families of painkillers. – Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Codeine. Panadeine is an over the counter medicine, normally combined with either Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. This is I would assume done in attempt to prevent people from using codeine as a recreational drug. Unfortunately, google very easily brings up a solution for this wall and before you know it you’re taking much higher dosages than your meant to. The worst part of it is, I didn’t even do it to feel high, or for recreational purposes, it was just simply the pain is so bad and that I felt like I had little choice but to do what I had to relief myself from the pain. The path of increasing intake of opiates is a dangerous and self destructive path. Your tolerance to the drug rises astronomically quickly. Before I knew it, It was costing me $40 a day just to get enough to get by. I’d have to visit 3 different chemists each day because they’ll only sell you one pack at a time. 2 days before I decided to quit my addiction…again, I was taking up to 2200mg of codeine per day. The average lethal dose of codeine to a person who has not used it or had very little use of it is about 400-600mg. Scary to think that I was taking 4.5~ times the lethal dose to a non experienced user.

It’s day 8 now without codeine. Most of the withdrawal symptoms peak around 48-72 hours after your last intake, but this is entirely dependent on how much you were taking. The amount I was taking was unbelievably high. Probably life threateningly high to be honest, and I’m starting to wonder if I am lucky to even still be here. There’s a very fine line between a high dose and a lethal dose that puts you into respiratory depression, followed by a coma or death. The withdrawal symptoms are awful, absolutely awful. You think a hang over is bad? Imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had in your life, now imagine it lasts 3-5 days, now imagine it also comes with extreme aches, cold sweats, “the runs”, racing thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic fatigue, mood swings, increased depression (if you already suffer from it). And it can last up to 2 weeks, depending on how long you’ve used and much you’ve used.

It sucks. It really sucks. No seriously I mean you actually have no fucking idea how much it sucks. Withdrawing from opiates is by far the worst pain and experience I’ve ever had to endure in my life. I’d rather go through my lung collapsing again where they stick a 1.5″ plastic tube between your rip cage into the deflated lung while you’re conscious.

Then you finally get through most of the physical withdrawal symptoms. but its not over. Unfortunately the way opiates work on pain relief is they take over the pain receptors in your body and sort of protect them if you will. They mask them, the pain gets reduced and bang you feel better and the connection is made that the opiate is releasing the pain. The problem with this is unlike paracetamol of ibuprofen, your body adapts to codeine overtime if you take it for too long. Then when you stop, you suddenly get hit with a wave of pain that you’re not used too and the pain comes across as even stronger than it should do. In other words, when you stop taking opiates, your pain receptors become far more overly sensitive. I’ve had chronic back pain for over 8 months now, which is what I’ve been taking the codeine for in the first place, now that I’ve made the decision to quit, the pain has amplified by I’d say 30 times. It is the definition of unbearable. I can’t move, I can’t walk around, I can’t think, I can’t do anything. No position makes the pain easier, no action or exercise helps. I am living breathing energy of pain and suffering and there have been many a time in the past week where I would have more than gladly put a bullet through my brain. But giving up isn’t the answer, and this is where the quote comes in from the start of this blog. I need to have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. I cannot change the state of pain that I am in right now. I cannot change the position I have put myself in to get here. I cannot change what has already occurred, I cannot change the path already walked. I have the strength to change the things I can. I can change where I go and what I do from here. I can decide not to take codeine. I can decide to not ignore the pain, but embrace it. I will not be defeated by something that I cannot control. I can only control how I respond. Lastly, the wisdom to know the difference. By this mean I can always change how I react to how I’m feeling, and I can always change what I’m doing to try and help better myself, but I have the wisdom to know that this is battle that very well may not end. I can always change how I react and how I live, but I cannot control how my depression, my anxiety, and my burdens turn on me, attack me, overwhelm me. I simply have to brave the future the best I can, and hope that one day, the ocean is calm, the water is still and that the only sounds heard are the tears of happiness as I know that finally I can live my life free of constant pain, suffering, and terror.

Anyone who’s read my blogs will know I’ve had a challenging year to say the least. I don’t write these blogs to fish for sympathy, I write them so that others can understand what it’s like to live when you irrationally think you don’t want to. When everything is boring, and nothing is interesting. Look around you, statistics show that 1 in 6 people in Australia suffer from anxiety, depression, or both. That means that most people will know someone with it, but the problem is most people won’t recognize it. Depression is an isolating disease. You curl up, you hide, you mentally lock yourself away. It’s a mental prison, you hold the key but it’s so hard to believe it. Others can help, it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is to reach out to people who are suffering. Think you know someone with depression? Go talk to them, expect them to deny it. Expect them to push you away. That’s what depression does. It takes a hold of you and makes you feel isolated, scared, lonely, and lost. Yet deep down you want nothing more than someone to see through your mask and just give you a hug, tell you things will get better. It lets you feel like you’re not alone. Like people care.

Most people with depression will try to keep it hidden – depression often takes a huge toll on that persons self worth. They won’t say anything or ask for help because they don’t think they deserve it, or they don’t think anyone will care.

So please, if you know someone with depression, if you see a friend who seems to be withdrawing from your group of friends, becoming less chatty and isolated. Help him / her, ask them if they are ok, sit with them, you don’t even have to talk. Having someone just sit next to you has a far bigger impact that you can possibly imagine. You won’t know it, but you’re absorbing some of the pain and misery they are going through. They might not thank you for it, in fact most likely they won’t say anything, but trust me it helps. It’s better to be sad with company than sad alone. It shows you care, it shows you’re aware. It show’s you’re still interested in their life with ultimately means you believe they still have one. They need this. One of the hardest things about depression is to have any chance of getting better you truly have to believe that you will.

The last point I really want to stress is exercise. For the love of “insert alternative to religious power here” RUN. It. Fucking. Works. Counter argument “I feel too shit too run, I cant be bothered”. That’s what I said to myself everyday, then I one day I thought to myself “Hang on, I mean I feel so fucking bad anyway, how can going for a run make it anyworse, I might as well just go”. So I did. And I did the day after as well, and the day after that. It helps, it really does. Not straight away, almost nothing in this world helps instantly, but give it a few days and you will feel the difference. It’s not helping my back pain, my god I still want someone to actually drop a 1 tonne anchor on my back because I feel like that might legitimately be less painful than what I’ve been feeling for the past 4 days non stop. If you read my articles, and you suffer like I have, suffer like many others have or suffer like many will come to, then I encourage you, with every inch of my soul and from the bottom of my hearth, you have to believe you can get better. Depression is an illness and it WILL pass, but you have to believe it and you have to earn it. It’s a challenge, embrace it. You’ll come out a stronger, happier person because you’ve beaten something a lot of people simply couldn’t handle. Go for a run, eat well, talk to people, even if you don’t want to, just go sit next to them and don’t say anything. Even that helps. Cry. Seriously cry, feel like crying? Do it, find someone you trust and just cry your eyes out. It helps, a lot. Why? I have no idea, but it does. When you cry, it’s like accepting things as they are. Crying does not make you weak, it makes you human. It’s you accepting your pain and hardships. It’s embracing it and respecting it. Unfortunately our society has created a stereotype, particularly for men that crying is weak and pathetic, but in fact it is the exact opposite. Real men cry. Throwing a punch at someone and acting all alpha male does not make you a strong person (In fact it makes you a dick), allowing yourself to be vulnerable, open, and emotional is what a real person is made of. All of the above is part of recovering from something as serious as depression. You have to accept it, embrace it, challenge it and understand that it is part of who you are. Only then can you finally start to overcome it and believe me you can. You just have to believe it and you just have to do it.

Thyself, Grant me the serenity to accept that things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Darker Times Lead to Brighter Days

Right now my world is a sad, grey blur. The days go by slowly without meaning. I feel nothing. I wake up feeling nothing, I go to sleep…feeling nothing. The world seems so dark I feel like I can barely see at all. How is one supposed to cope with the illusion of such a dull despairing life. Sometimes it’s hard to keep believing that I’m going to get out of this. Everyday is a struggle and when you feel nothing at all, with the exception of complete and utter despair and sadness, you start to question whether life is really worth living. I try hard to keep myself together, but it’s a task not easily done. A simple task such as getting groceries from the shops feels like an insurmountable obstacle. When you have no motivation, how are you supposed to get better. For me, that is the question I have to ask myself right now. What would I be doing if I was living a happy, functional life. I’d probably go for a run, stream a bit, play hearthstone. I’d probably get on Teamspeak with my friends and talk to them, possibly go out, maybe even skate and go back to work. I know these are the things I should be doing, but how do I do it. Right now it feels so difficult, like an impossible task. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and hide from the world. I don’t want to speak to anyone, I don’t want help, yet I need help. I don’t want to go out, yet I need to go out. The cruellest part about my depression is that I know that I’m actually quite happy with my life. A lot of good things have happened in the past year, and I feel I have grown tremendously as a person. There are many things that I should be looking forward too, and many things that I should be enjoying right now, yet…I just can’t feel that way. I can’t feel happy, I can’t feel excited, I just can’t feel.

I have to believe it will get better, and I’m trying to hold onto that thought with every inch of willpower I have. I will try harder to move myself back into doing the things I used to do, and maybe, it’ll start to help. So today, I will put on my shoes, and go for a run. I won’t think about it, because otherwise I will persuade myself not to go, but I will go. I will simply just do it. Then I’ll do it again tomorrow, and the day after that. Hopefully some routine will help me to dig my way out of the pit of sorrow that I’m currently drowning in. I hope so, because the longer I stay here the harder it is to get out.

Right now I’m really struggling. This year has been one of the hardest of my life, and this month has been one of the most difficult of this year. It feels like I’ve gone backwards, but I know that’s not true. I’m at one of the lowest parts of the cycle. It sucks, but it will get better. It has to get better.

I have to get better.