Sunday, January 20, 2019

Back from "The Land of No Frontal Lobe!"

Greetings, Friends and Family out there in Internet Land!

It appears I am again operational, after some number of days in what I wryly refer to as "Zombie Man" mode. It happens when I am sleep deprived. I may LOOK normal, but I can't think coherently, my coordination is WAY off, I have little (if any) short-term memory, and I may experience auditory or visual hallucinations.

That used to be a regular thing, back when they were treating my chronic pain condition with morphine or fentayl,  from 2005 until 2012. The fentanyl gave me horridly vivid, repetitive nightmares, and the morphine kept me from going to sleep at all, for up to three nights in a row.  That's what lead to my forced retirement in 2007; I was no longer capable of doing my job as a school counselor. At the very end of my time employed, I arranged with the campus police officer to give me a field sobriety test, if there was any question about my fitness for work. And, a couple of times, I failed that test, and had to make arrangements for someone to take me home.

Seven months after marrying my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, I realized that the side effects of the pain-killers were keeping me from being the kind of husband and father I wanted to be, and I withdrew cold turkey, from 165 mg of morphine per day to zero. The physical consequences to my body were unpleasant, but were limited to MASSIVE sweating, and restless leg syndrome:  I had absolutely no mental or emotional craving.

A consult with the orthopedic surgeon who had done a cervical fusion for me years before gave me a prescription for meloxicam, a powerful non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug.  The pain clinic had given me a script for hydrocodone, in case I hit pain I couldn't manage. I averaged  1/2 pill (5 mg) of hydrocodone per week, and the Zombie Man attacks ceased instantly.

Unfortunately, after about 9 months, the NSAIDS started to make my gut bleed,  and I had to discontinue it. That meant I had to look at conventional return to pain meds again, but this time, they suggested the Butrans patch. Its' active agent is a rather bizarre opioid that appears to block pain without intoxicating the brain, and is missing some of the other bad side effects as well, such as constipation. I've been using it for about six years now, and haven't needed to increase the dosage.

It's very rare for Zombie Man to appear these days. He did show up last summer; my daughter noticed that my comments to her on Messenger were incoherent, so either she or I called my first-born son, who has had some experience with people with various types of neurological problems. At issue was whether this was a sleep deprivation-induced Zombie-Man experience, or whether I had suffered a stroke, seizures, or some other biological event. He came over to my house to check me out, and was prepared to take me to the hospital if needed.

That guy is SO cool! He ran a quick evaluation on me, without me even knowing he was doing it! I guess I have retained the idea that I know more medical stuff than him, because I was an army medic and he was a cannon-cocker. I tend to forget that he has spent huge chunks of the past five years of his life being poked, prodded, and otherwise invaded by brain docs, ever since he had a Real Bad Day in Afghanistan, involving a 155 mm rocket and a concrete wall. He also spent a lot of time with me back in the bad old days, when Zombie Man was a frequent visitor, so he knew what that looked like. He put me to bed, made sure I stayed there until I was asleep, and stayed with me until Vanessa got home.

This time, I'm not sure when the sleep deficit started. It must have started before Thursday, but I WAS able to do some things on Friday, and remember them; they DID take a lot longer to accomplish than they should have. I've got nothing on Saturday, but it was apparent that I wasn't tracking by then. So, Vanessa made me go to bed, and at some point I went to sleep. I slept though the 'get-up-for-church' alarm, and became functional shortly after noon  today.

I've checked my phone, emails, and Facebook page, and it doesn't appear that I insulted anyone, enlisted in the Army again, or made indecent proposals to the grocer.  And, I'm processing well enough to have written this. So, I have many reasons to give thanks. Actually, that's true enough on every day, but especially true after a crisis.

Thanks to the many, many friends who checked up on me, and your expressions of concern. If I have left anyone in doubt (I THINK I replied to all private messages), I apologize. And with that, I'm BACK!

Peace be on your household.

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