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Depression during fusion recovery

Started by Lynn1974 on 06/22/2012 5:36pm

I'm one month out from an ALIF at L5-S1. I'm still having quite a bit of pain but decided not to refill my pain meds due to addiction issues in my family. They weren't helping much anyway. The last 2 weeks I've been struggling with severe depression. I think part of it is that I'm spending 10 hours a day home alone while my husband is at work and my 13 year old son is enjoying his summer. I go for my walks every day but the isolation is getting to me. My friends all work during the day and haven't shown much interest in coming by anyway. I think it wouldn't be as bad if I could stay distracted but there is only so much you can do when you can't stand or sit for longer than a few minutes at a time. I'm also not sleeping more than 3 hours or so a night in spite of the meds I'm prescribed for that. I'll be out of work for another 4 weeks at least & I honestly can't bear the thought of another month of loneliness & boredom. It's to the point where I'm crying every day now. Does anyone have any suggestions? Please. I'm at my wits end.

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Lynn-- I know exactly what you are going through. I had the same level fused 25 months ago. It was a good year and a half before I could say I felt better than before the surgery. The important thing now is to be patient and walk, walk, walk. Then walk some more. I know it hurts. After the bone in the fusion sets, most of the pain is likely from all the scar tissue and lack of blood flow in the muscles. Once you get the OK from your surgeon, work on your core muscles with strengening and flexibility exercises. 18 months after the surgery, my new pain specialist gave me a series of trigger point injections which calmed the muscles down enough so I could hit the gym/pool and go off the vicodan. After a few weeks of core/leg/arm strength training I did not need the trigger point injections. Now I spend 45 minutes a day on the elliptical trainer, run and do strength training. I spend at least an hour a day icing my back. Get a good mattress. A high quality memory foam. This time 6 months ago I could not even walk the dog, sit or drive. I gained so much weight my husband left me. I could not work and only looked forward to a life of loneliness and poverty. This week I started my dream job and the weight is coming off. Being overweight and smoking are the worst things you can do to your back. Believe me, Sweetie, I know how much your life sucks right now--but you have to work through it. My biggest regret in life (besides wasting 20 years with such a shallow husband) was never running in a marathon. But now, at 51, I really think I can do it. Be patient.

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One more thing--I admire your reluctance to avoid painkillers, but the constant, severe pain is probably wearing on you. Just because you have a family history of addiction does not mean you do. I felt the same as you, because I have an addictive personality. Quitting smoking prior to surgery was no easy feat initially, pain killers can make you feel well enough to get out and walk, just be careful that you are not so numb to pain that you over do it. Spend your alone time learning something new. I put up bird feeders outside my window and took up bird watching. I watched documentaries on Netfix and learned all sorts of new things. Now I am an avid bird watcher and astronomy buff. If you have an iPad (which is perfect for you since it is so light) you can watch lectures from some of the best universities in the world. Stephan Hawkins is one of the most gifted astronomers in the world, and completely paralyzed. He lives in his mind. Think twice about going back to work so soon, that greatly delayed my healing. I should have taken at least six months to a year to recuperate, but then I am a lot older than you. Read. If you are too tired to read, get books on tape. Think of this an an opportunity to expand your mind and don't worry about your fair weather friends not visiting. It will all work out in the end, but right now you need to focus on the fact that you will get better eventually just stick with an exercise program and give your body a chance to heal. Make sure you are taking calcium and d vitamins.

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Thank you so much for the reply. I'm so sorry that things were so difficult for you. I can't even post what I think about your husband. That's horrible. I think the most important part of getting through this is a g.ood support system. The fact that you were able to succeed without one says volumes about your atrength & determination. My husband & son have been great but I feel guilty about the added stress I'm causing them, even though they never complain. I wish I could take more time off work to recover but we just can't afford it. Even being off this long has created a huge financial hardship. I have a very long commute to work and I'm very concerned about the effect that will have when I go back but I don't have a choice. I'll definitely reconsider the pain meds and will look into your suggestions. I read constantly & always have but even that is getting old, something I never thought I'd say. I went to a movie today & as painful as it was to sit through, it did so much for my state of mind to get out of the house. I was so exhausted aftet that I fell asleep as soon as I got home but it was worth it. It's so nice to hear from someone who has been through it and came out of it ok. I can't thank you enough for that.

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I forgot to mention that I'm already on calcium and 50,000 units of vitamin D once a week. I found out a few months before the surgery that I have a severe vitamin D deficiency. The pills have brought me back up, thankfully. This ALIF has been brutal but if it even helps the pain I've had for 4 years it will have been worth it. I tried the gamut, pt, chiropractic, decompression machine, the cortisone shots, etc. None of it helped even a little. So this just has to work and the fear that it may not is probably adding to my anxiety. I didn't walk much the first few weeks because the pain from the large incision in my stomach made it impossible. But I'm determined to keep at it now. The one thing I really wish would go away is the electric shock of pain that hits my spine hard enough to arch my back & actually makes me yell. I hear that's temporary & I hope so. I was on oxycontin, percocet & flexeril but it didn't seem to help so I stopped. Now I'm on valium at bedtime so my back will loosen up enough to sleep but that doesn't work either. I think once I can sleep longer than a few hours I'll feel better mentally & physically. I hope it's soon! Sorry for the typos, stupid virtual keyboard on my phone.

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I forgot to mention that I'm already on calcium and 50,000 units of vitamin D once a week. I found out a few months before the surgery that I have a severe vitamin D deficiency. The pills have brought me back up, thankfully. This ALIF has been brutal but if it even helps the pain I've had for 4 years it will have been worth it. I tried the gamut, pt, chiropractic, decompression machine, the cortisone shots, etc. None of it helped even a little. So this just has to work and the fear that it may not is probably adding to my anxiety. I didn't walk much the first few weeks because the pain from the large incision in my stomach made it impossible. But I'm determined to keep at it now. The one thing I really wish would go away is the electric shock of pain that hits my spine hard enough to arch my back & actually makes me yell. I hear that's temporary & I hope so. I was on oxycontin, percocet & flexeril but it didn't seem to help so I stopped. Now I'm on valium at bedtime so my back will loosen up enough to sleep but that doesn't work either. I think once I can sleep longer than a few hours I'll feel better mentally & physically. I hope it's soon! Sorry for the typos, stupid virtual keyboard on my phone.

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Hang in there and try to stay positive. It's tough none of our spouses know the hell we have to deal with on an emotional and physical level. Just make sure you rest and try to build your core back up as best you can.

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Thank you! I'm trying. Some days it's easier than others. :)

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