Marijuana and Mormonism: the Morality of Mary Jane

To best way to prevent oneself from falling into temptation, is for the moral person to make a decision on the morality of a thing before they have the temptation placed before them. Because of this, I made my mind up to keep myself sexually pure long before anyone found me sexually desirable. I may have gone overboard, as Julie was the first  (and only) girl that I ever kissed. Many people in my generation believe that the question to the legalization of marijuana is only a matter of when, and not if. It is therefor important for us to work out the moral ramifications of marijuana before it becomes fully legal. Currently, despite some states legalizing the substance alternatively for medicinal and recreational use, it is still illegal in the United States at a federal level. I will attempt to compile my mental gymnastics coherently over the next several paragraphs. I intend to address the legal status of marijuana at both federal and state levels, but then (perhaps more importantly) form a well though out argument concerning its morality. As a member of the Church of Jess Christ of Latter-day Saints, my argument will be from that position, though will hopefully be morally compelling to all).  I’ll leave my conclusions until the end, because I want you to read the whole thing!

First we discuss the federal legality. Having found no constitutionally compelling argument for the restriction of marijuana, I must conclude that the federal government should have no part in the restriction of marijuana either medicinally nor recreationally. The above comment will, no doubt, upset many… Including in my own family. One could read deeply into that statement and (rightly) ascertain my opinion on the whole of federal drug law. Particularly in regard to marijuana, the reason for the absolute ban can largely be traced to influence purchased by the tobacco lobby (seeing a competitor) and is not based on sound science. However, I am open to new and impressive constitutional arguments on the subject.

Next we approach state level restriction.  Marijuana’s use as an effective treatment for a number of disorders, diseases, and side effects is generally well known, though not honestly. Anyone who says that  marijuana is any more dangerous than any number of (currently legal) drugs is kidding themselves. Anyone who says that the science clearly and definitively shows its effectiveness is likewise kidding themselves. The current medical research is insufficient because of a number of factors. Many of the research begins with an end in mind: either to show that it is or is not effective. These studies, in my opinion, should be summarily dismissed, as we cannot trust science that doesn’t follow the scientific method.  Most of the research happens at too small of a scale. There is a simply pragmatic reason for this: the very participation in  he studies makes one a criminal. I think this does a significant disservice to the medical community. Some of these studies show promising results, but others (one had only 24 participants)  show little more than anecdotal evidence. These studies should not be dismissed, but should be understood for what they are. Finally, many studies are inconclusive. Inconclusive studies need only show that more research needs to be done. However, anecdotally, the drug is proving to be effective where no others are. This is particularly true of nerve pain disorders, including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and (the pain part of) Diabetes. Marijuana also has relatively few side effect (in adults over 25: under 25 there is ample evidence that shows long term damage to the brain, this is simply because the brain is not fully developed until about the age of 25. Studies of MJ users who start after 25 show no significant lasting effect).
Does a state have the right to ban outright  marijuana? That depends on the state’s constitution. Being generally libertarian, I think that states should leave medications legal, so that doctors and sufferers can find any effective alternatives to suffering.
I find no compelling argument for the legal restriction of medical marijuana in individuals over 25 at the state level. I will detail the extent of my conclusion at the end.

As for the legal justification of the restriction of recreational marijuana? The libertarian in me says that the drug should be legal. I’ll discuss moral ramifications later, but each state should be able to decide for themselves.

Now we discuss the morality of marijuana. For those who are not aware, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a health code, defined in the book The Doctrine and Covenants, section 89. The section outlines both healthful and detrimental health principles, and is called the Word of Wisdom. While generally a selection of recommendations, there are certain restrictions to which obedience is requisite to hold good standing in the Church. Specifically, these include the abstination from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco. Most Mormons use the Word of Wisdom as a guideline for their dietary foundations. Some are more exact than others, and that’s okay: the Church neither wants not expects zombies, but rather individuals who think for themselves.

So, I too will use the Word of Wisdom as a foundation for my decision on the morality of marijuana. Because there has been no revelatory codification of the morality of marijuana, we must use the principles otherwise outlined to make our decision. I’ll break down 3 aspects concerning the morality of marijuana. First is the morality of Doctor proscribed medical marijuana.  Second is the morality of personally proscribed medical marijuana (over the counter). And finally the morality of recreational marijuana. I will base my arguments by using current medical understanding as well as by comparing to other drugs, for which the Church has taken official stances.

First, Doctor proscribed medical marijuana. The Word of Wisdom, the average member of the Church, as well as most other Christians that I know hold no moral reservations to Doctor proscribed drugs, including much more dangerous drugs like amphetamines. I see no reason to differentiate here either. I have no moral objection to Doctor proscribed marijuana.

Second is over the counter medical marijuana. Some similar examples would be aspirin, alcohol, and caffeine. I’ll show the similarities first: aspirin has significant long term medical risk, but has very little short term risk (to the average person); marijuana is the same. Alcohol, while generally a relational drug is used in many cough and sleep aids. It is certainly mind altering, though in medicinal doses has little to no lasting short term effects (once it has worn off).  Marijuana is the same. Finally, caffeine is similarly addictive as  marijuana, though with a slightly lower mind alteration effect. Now, most members of the Church and most other Christians I know have no problem with the medicinal uses of those 3, and the use of alcohol on this form would not restrict a person’s good standing in the Church (though a shot of whiskey to help one sleep would). Consequently, I must conclude that marijuana, like the others, has no moral reason to be restricted as an over the counter drug. I must say, however, that an age restriction (25 and younger) would be appropriate, just as I believe an age restriction for other OTCs could be appropriate. 

Finally the morality of recreational marijuana use. I’ll use the example of tobacco (used in much the same method as marijuana), alcohol (similar, though greater, mind alteration and long term medical impact as marijuana) and caffeine (slightly lower, though similar, mind alteration and addictive properties to  marijuana). Many of the Christians that I know have open restrictions on the first two, and (as shown) those 2 are specifically restricted in order to maintain good standing in the Church. But I include caffeine because, while many members of the Church hold personal restrictions to it, the Church has said that caffeine is not restricted by the Word of Wisdom.

So what are the principles that define why we, as moral people, would restrict some drugs, and not others?

Addiction: as followers of Christ, we must not forfeit our agency. Addiction does just that: it takes our ability to choose. Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and marijuana all are (or can be) physically addicting. The difference between a physical addiction and physiological addiction can be simply described as the difference between a physical need and a strong habit. Few argue the addictive properties of alcohol and tobacco. Significant organizations are set up to help individuals overcome those addictions. But many argue that caffeine and marijuana are not physically addictive. Caffeine can replace adrenaline in the body and even hamper the body’s ability to produce adrenaline. Those individuals cannot function without their daily dose of caffeine. Marijuana, it is argued, isn’t addictive. This was true in the 60’s and 70’s, when THC levels (the addicting chemical in cannabis) was between 3% and 5%. Cannabis has been genetically altered to include THC levels as high as 40%. The argument that it is not addictive because it wasn’t in the past no longer holds scientific weight. However, like any addictive substance, some have greater propensity to addictive behavior than others. this means that while a person may drink alcohol every day, they may be able to stop indefinitely with no impact, while another may drink only every couple of days, but physically unable to stop without help. The nature of addiction, then, is that it is very individual and personal.

 Physical harm: as followers of Christ, we must protect the temples He has given us. There are studies that show that there are some healthful benefits to drinking a glass of wine daily, though few dispute that the abuse of alcohol is detrimental. Smoking tobacco causes significant and irreparable damage. Consuming tobacco by other methods also damages the body. Caffeine, on the other hand, has few long term effects on the body. Smoking marijuana does similar damage as smoking tobacco, though consuming it in other ways, like caffeine, has few or less long term ill effects to the body (except in people under 25). Drugs, we see, aren’t inherently damaging to the body.

Mind alteration: when we alter the state of our mind deliberately, we reduce the strength our moral compass, increasing the likelihood to give in to temptation, and reducing our ability to feel the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, thus separating ourselves from God.

Again, we hear no credible argument that alcohol is not a mind altering substance. The alteration of the mind by tobacco is well documented, the many smokers will swear that there is no alteration to their mind. The same can be true of caffeine users, however one must simply ask someone who’s just drink and espresso whether their mind is altered, and you will hear them describe in great detail and it rapid speed without taking a breath how they have had no effect on their mind.  The mind and judgment alteration effects of cannabis is, like tobacco, well documented. However The ability of any drug to alter the mind is reduced with increased use of that drug. For this reason those seeking an high must constantly increase the dose of the drug that they are taking.

My conclusion is this: that drugs are not inherently evil but that an individual should ensure that they are following Christ. If one were to be addicted to caffeine, they should not take it recreationally. The same is true of marijuana. People under the age of 25 should not take marijuana because of the damage to their minds and bodies, though I do not believe that this is impactful for those over 25.  And finally, it is my belief that taking a drug for the purpose of altering one state of mind is contrary to the will of God. I see no advantageous reason to consume marijuana for recreational purposes than to alter one’s state of mind. This could be true of caffeine as well, though many who drink caffeinated beverages do so because they like the taste. My personal favorite is diet Dr Pepper, which is caffeinated.

So to break it down: I believe that medical marijuana should be legal on both the prescribed and over-the-counter levels. It is up to each individual to ensure that they are not abusing those drugs, in order to ensure that they are in line with the doctrines of Christ. It is not inherently immoral to use marijuana as a medicinal drug. However having no realistic recreational use besides getting high, I have come to the conclusion that, for me, recreational marijuana is morally wrong.

Further, this discussion for me is purely academic. Well I am one of those individuals who would benefit most from the legalization of the drug, my doctors have informed me, and my research backs it up, that the combination of the drug with some of the medications that I am on can be very dangerous. Because of this, even if this drug were legal I would not use it.

Getting High and Making Dumplings

You know, some days I feel better than others. I’ve been reading some different treatments for Cluster Headaches. The other day, I found that caffeine may be an effective treatment, if taken just as the headache starts. So… I bought some caffeine pills. They have had some positive effects for the headaches, which is lovely… They’ve also given me TONS of energy, and for a little while, I feel great (comparatively speaking, of course)!  Now, the downside is that I’ve totally overdone it. This little project that I started a week ago… well, let’s just say that I have a bowl of dumpling filling going sour in the fridge. I ran out of strength mid-project… I haven’t recovered yet (Yay, the joys of fibromyalgia!) It can take some time to recover from overdoing it.

Anyway, here are some pictures and descriptions of my recent venturing back into the world of cooking. Hopefully the website won’t freak out with as many as I’m posting….

Cutting up some boiled chicken breast
Cutting up some boiled chicken breast
Shredding said chicken breast
Shredding said chicken breast
Cutting up some cabbage
Cutting up some cabbage
Equal parts shredded cabbage and chicken breast
Equal parts shredded cabbage and chicken breast

I like my dumplings with very finely shredded filling, some people like to taste the ingredients separately… not me.

Equal parts ginger and garlic
Equal parts ginger and garlic
Mixing all of the ingredients together into one homogeneous... thing
Mixing all of the ingredients together into one homogeneous… thing

 That’s chicken broth in the bowl behind the salt.

Nicely mixed
Nicely mixed
I used pre-made wraps... 'cause I'm lazy
I used pre-made wraps… ’cause I’m lazy
Filling the dumplings
Filling the dumplings
Starting the process off!
Starting the process off!
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once.
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once.
Put a bunch on a cookie sheet with wax paper, but make sure they don't touch!
Put a bunch on a cookie sheet with wax paper, but make sure they don’t touch!

Once the cookie sheet is full, I freeze them. Once they’re frozen, I can take them and put them in a freezer bag.

Nice, hot, wok
These freeze nicely, so I do a bunch at once
Gently wok fry. I like them crispy.
Finished and ready for eating!
Finished and ready for eating!

Okay, so there are some dumplings I made. They taste good, so long as the cabbage hasn’t had time to get strong. Then they taste cabbage-y. Some people like them with strong cabbage… I’m not one of those people.  I made a bunch, and then got sooooooo worn out I couldn’t finish. I refrigerated the filling to “finish them tomorrow.”That was about a week ago. The fridge smells like cabbage. The filling needs to go… I still hurt so bad I can barely move, so I haven’t even been able to cook and enjoy these things! Fortunately the finished dumplings are frozen and will be good for a while now.

Hope you like this post, it’s part of a new section called “broken dad cooks” – if you like it, share it with your friends. post it on facebook! Tweet it on twitter! link it in your blog!

Thanks from

Happiness, Weepiness and Cluster Headaches

I don’t drink. But sometimes I wish I could drown myself in a tankard of something (that’s the ‘hip’ terminology, right?). Problem is, I’d become an alcoholic pretty quickly. I’ve got enough addictions, thank you very much. To add onto that, I’d be a mean drunk. No… like, alienate everyone who ever loved me mean…

Cluster headaches are a frustrating thing. For some people, they are so severe that they cause the victim to do whatever it takes to end the pain. I’ll leave that to your imagination. Requisite to point out: I’m not there. The last several days, I’ve enjoyed a significant bout of the cluster headaches. I’ve spend my evenings trapped in a dark room, and my nights and days wishing for anything to solve the problems. I’ve wondered about self medication. I’ve considered (though not too seriously) the drink. Truth is, the only over-the-counter solution that I’ve found is caffeine. So I drink a lot of Diet Dr Pepper, and pop caffeine pills. Problem is: Caffeine can also cause cluster headaches. I’ve got another term that starts with cluster for that circular dilemma…

These things are funny, too, because they really add to my fibro-fog. This morning, I cooked some eggs and toast, plated them and put them on the table. I walked away to get a glass of water, or something, and 15 minutes later, having started and forgotten a dozen other tasks, I realized that I had eggs (now cool) and toast (now dry) sitting at the table for me! I was halfway through eating when Nathaniel called me into the other room to get him something or another… I forgot them again!

The men of my family are notoriously emotional. We comfortably share and express emotion… But with these darn headaches, I just look like a crazy person. For example, I’m feeling pretty happy today, overall. Nathaniel’s being cute, and Ezra’s enjoying school. Other than everything, things are going pretty well for me. The problem is, every time I smile or laugh, the headaches are so intense that I cry. It’s not as if I laugh until I cry… If I even crack a smile, my eyes weep and I sob a little.,, immediately. The end result is a laughing weeping person. and not like somebody who’s sad that has something to laugh at, nor like a sad person who’s laughing to the point of tears… no, more like smile/sob-stop. More like I’m some crazy person that should be avoided. Maybe nobody notices. Certainly, Julie is pretty understanding, and the boys are unconditional in their love… but thinking about how crazy I must look makes me smile a bit… and then weep.

Guilt, Frustration and Who I Am

An interesting thing occurs when one is reliant upon others for silly little things: one realized their own insignificance.

The other day I started the day feeling really pretty well. I took Ezra to school and came home to feed Nathaniel some toast. I even got the dishwasher loaded (though not started) – a huge accomplishment for me, espessially first thing in the morning (it usually takes all day to do that without killing myself). At 10:00 I had physical therapy. Nathaniel and packed his backpack with a couple of diapers and some toy cars (so he’d have something to do), and headed out. I did pretty well going into the doctors office. I only had to stifle one panic attack being in the busy lobby. We went back and Nathaniel contentedly played with his car and fire truck while the physical therapist checked me out.

It was my first appointment here, and he needed to see what was going on with me. Apparently my pelvis cants so bad to the right that my right leg is almost 2 inches longer than the left. At any rate, he had me do 3 or 4 “exercises” (read: pitiful stretches that any normal human would not even consider stretches). After we were done with the therapy session, we gathered up Nathanael’s things, and made to leave. As we left the room, exhausted from the effort of the session, my body gave out and I collapsed. Little Nathaniel, in a reactive and protective action, reached up and grabbed my hand to try to keep me from hitting the ground (like mommy does). The therapist asked if my falls were usually that graceful (I almost got to lower myself down with my cane). The answer is sadly “no,” as I usually hit the ground with much more force.

The thing that stood out was the 2 year old trying to act as a physical support to the 30 year old (rather than the opposite). If I’d have fallen on him, it would have really hurt him, and yet he rushed forward to help.

I spend a lot of time dwelling on the things I cannot do. It’s not that I’m brooding, per se: more that I realize the things that I can’t find solutions to. For example: the boys love their LEGO and have them spread around the house. I’d love to not step on them, but I can’t pick them up (because I can’t bend or squat). This means that, we’re it not for others, this task could not be completed.

Oh, LEGO are the boy’s responsibility anyway, but the laundry, garbage, sweeping, mopping, toe nail clipping, toilet cleaning, etc. are my responsibility. I can’t really do any of them. I joke (less out of humor and more out of desperation) that anything that falls below knee level is as good as lost.

The result of my incapacity is that Julie has much more housework than she can handle (espessially with very long hours she’s been subjected to lately). The boys are left  with much less playtime than little boys should have.

The end result is a significant amount of guilt for me. Being the broken dad makes me feel bad for my wife and kids. It leads me to feel that they would be better off with a whole dad or husband. Then I get frustrated with myself, because these are things out of my control: this is who I am. I have to accept me. And my kids don’t need a perfect dad, they need THEIR dad. My wife doesn’t want another husband who is more whole, she wants me (though she would love for me to be whole).

At the risk of being preachy, I take some relief knowing that these trials are temporary. Oh, I’ve no doubt that I will deal with most, all, or more than I currently deal with, for the rest of my life; but it won’t always be like this. I have a Savior that has cleared the path for my resurrection to a perfect body. He’s made it possible for me to be with my family forever: and we’ll be whole and complete; free of these mortal trials. That will be nice.

Late Night Productivity – Insomnia and Caffeine – Current update

I’m going to ramble a bit. Well, maybe not ramble, maybe it’s more of a rant. Maybe it’s just a silly post. I guess we’ll see the outcome at the end.

It seems like I really only get things done in the middle of the night.

By “get things done” I really mean, “not getting things done with more efficiency than normal.” The thing is, I don’t sleep, but in the middle of the night, when everyone else is sleeping, I get the ‘deepest’ thinking done. Sometimes I get my grocery shopping done (much to the chagrin of my landlords, I’m sure), and a lot of my writing happens at night.

Tonight is no exception. I was sleepy at around 10, but I also was experiencing an excruciating headache. I have to make a choice: try to sleep with my head trying to pop, or take headache medicine (which is loaded with caffeine), and not sleep. Tonight (or last night, I guess, as it’s now early morning) I chose to have my head stop hurting, a bit.

A bit after I took the medicine, I had a lovely panic attack. So I sat, holding Bruce, hyperventilating and weeping to myself, waiting for the panic to stop. There was no cause. Well, maybe there was, I was hurting pretty bad. The headache was ebbing, but my arms and legs felt like they were about to burst (that’s the fibromyalgia). Maybe that caused it, but the anxiety is pretty new to me, so it’s difficult to identify the triggers. Anyway, after that passed, the caffeine kicked in. So here I am, wide awake. I’ve gone to the store (we needed cotton balls and light bulbs). I’ve planned out some learning tools for Ezra. I’ve figured out a fix for a problem with my trike. I’ve killed a spider (shudders). I’ve learned to cook stroganoff (our next dinner). I’ve listened to some podcasts. I’ve explored the deep places of the mind that are usually only tapped by the stoned. I’ve gotten a lot done… The problem is, that I have a lot to do tomorrow, but I will have no sleep. Ezra will be up in the next hour or so to get ready for school.

I started with a new pain specialist last week. With high co-pays, I’ve put a lot down. I started with the initial evaluation last week. I was excited to get a hopeful update. There are apparently some treatments that can help remove some of the pain in my back. Then I’d just be dealing with the headaches, the fibromyalgia, the stomach pains. The back pains would be significantly reduced, if the treatments are effective. I just about cried. Seriously, to have a little hope in terms of my pain is a big deal. It’s been a while.

I started this week with a physiological evaluation (necessary before any pain medicines can be prescribed). That was a couple of hours on Monday. Tuesday, I had a a couple of hours training class with a few other new patients to learn about the uses, effects, and dangers of certain drugs. I get tomorrow, er, today… today off, and tomorrow. I have physical therapy on Friday. Next week, I’ll go in for some tests on my back to see if the treatments will work, followed by a follow-up at the end of the week.

These guys aren’t kidding around! All of these appointments are with a team of doctors that work together in their independent specialties and communicate about their patients to create pain management plans that are more significant than “take this and call me in a week.”

They did start me on Lyrica. I’m a bit worried about that, because one of the side effects is ‘significant weight gain,’ which would be… bad… as I’m already 65 pounds overweight. Oh, wait! 55 pounds! I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last month! I’ve had to go hungry, a bit (which is hard for me. I like food… a lot…)

So I guess that’s the basic update. No great topic, no great story. Just a bit of a rundown.  If you’re still reading, thanks! I hope it was somewhat enjoyable.

Bruce: The Smelly Helper – Why He’s an Emotional Support Animal

Bruce is pretty calm. We got him as a pound rescue a couple of years ago. He was 9 or 10 at the time, and a full bred miniature schnauzer! The only problem with him was that the pound workers knew him by name, and had known his previous 2 owners. You see, Bruce is a runner. He will dart away at any given chance. He likes to explore. He likes to take long walks on the beach… or, I imagine he would if we lived near a beach. The previous owners gave up on coming to the pound to get him. Each, in turn, decided he wasn’t worth it.

That’s sad, but that means that we got him, and that’s happy.

Being an older dog, Bruce mostly just lays around, he’ll come and put his front paws on someone’s lap if he’s hungry or need’s to go outside. He jumps and howls like a hound dog when he’s excited, but mostly, he sleeps… that is, until he senses something is wrong.

Dog’s have an uncanny ability to detect when something is wrong or even different. Our previous Miniature Schnauzer followed Julie everywhere during her pregnancies. It was at about month 7 that she realized the reason he wouldn’t even let her go to the bathroom alone was because he was protecting her. He could smell that she was pregnant, (or at least that something was different) and he was making sure she was safe.

Bruce can tell when one of two things is happening. I imagine that he knows the difference, but his response is this:

You won’t be able to tell from the picture, but he’s jumped up on my lap, climbed onto my chest (bypassing the computer that is usually on my lap)  and stuck his nose right into my business. I imagine him saying something along these lines: “You’re not okay, but I am here for you.”

Bruce can tell when I’m having panic attacks (all too frequent since the anxiety started a couple of years ago), and he can also tell when my hands and arms are seizing up from the fibro-pain.  The thing is, I can’t always tell when one of those two things is happening (at least not until it’s WELL into the process). Julie laughs a bit at my ignorance (in good humor). I always hurt, I’m always in pain, and I can’t always tell what hurts, or what’s in pain, because it’s always there. Bruce knows, however. And then he stays on my lap and holds me. He just will snuggle onto my lap and let me pet him. (When it’s hot, he’s determined to pant in my face, just to ensure that I know how much he loves me). I don’t understand how it works, but petting him helps keep the panic attacks from really taking over. Petting him will usually keep my hands from completely locking up in pain, though I have noticed no significant reduction in the pain.

Because he’s so helpful, I’m often question why I don’t certify him as a service animal, so that I can take him anywhere. The answer is a bit varied and complex, but I’ll give the basics if I can. Service animals, as defined by the ADA, are DOGS that perform work or tasks for a disabled person. Because service animals are considered a medical device, they are allowed, by law, into any public area (with a few, nuanced exceptions). However, the owner is still responsible for the dog’s behavior, and therefore the dog must ALSO (along with performing work or tasks) be well behaved.

While Bruce “alerts” to my attacks and mini-flares, he’s not actually performing any work or task, he’s just being a dog. A good dog? Yes. A smart dog? Yes. But a medical device? No. Further, Bruce, as proved by his history in the clink, doesn’t have good citizenship. He like’s to jump on people. He likes to bark when he’s excited. He likes to run, and pull, and tug on his leash. He, therefore, falls into a second category of medical animal: an Emotional Support Animal, or ESA. Because he does help me medically, (primarily emotionally, though the fibromyalgia mini-flares are, by the majority of accounts, not emotional, but physiological), he does gain some rights under the ADA, primarily, an apartment complex that doesn’t normally allow pets cannot turn him away. Other animals besides dogs can qualify as ESA’s, though most common besides dogs are cats. Some people use pigs, miniature horses or any other pet. It is this category that is most often abuses by people who just want to keep their pet.

While I almost always take Bruce with me when I leave the house, because he isn’t a Service Animal, I cannot demand his acceptance into any building. I’m at the mercy of the store or shop or place as to whether or not I can bring him in.

If you didn’t know that before: NOW YOU KNOW. If you happen to find Bruce wandering your neighborhood: please call me, I’m probably looking for him.

Falling and the Misdiagnosis… Kind Of

Around Christmas of 2011, I was hanging decorations in my restaurant. It was probably 2:30 in the morning, as we had just opened, and I was working long hours (9:30 AM to 2:30 AM Monday through Sunday for… 10 weeks? Yeah, I think 10 weeks before I got a full day off). I slipped off the ladder… and landed on the retaining wall in the restaurant on my back… and was promptly folded in half backwards. That felt nice. My pride was bruised, and so was my back. I went home, and let my employees finish up.

Starting in about February of 2012, I was hurting a lot. I went into the doctor. Looking at my symptoms, he diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I don’t often name this when speaking to people, because of the common belief that fibromyalgia is psychosomatic, It is not. If you still believe that it is, go do some more research. After that research, if you are still convinced that it is psychosomatic, go stuff yourself. I don’t want to discuss it with you.

We based my treatments (insufficient at best) off of this diagnosis until really last year. But the problem was, this wasn’t the problem. It was a mis-diagnosis… kind of.

In the fall of 2013, I went to a rheumatologist to get an official diagnosis, as a GP’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia doesn’t generally hold much weight. He thought that I likely had Ankylosing spondylitis, which is nasty. Fortunately, I don’t have that. He neither confirmed nor denied my fibromyalgia diagnosis, because we needed to rule everything else out. He discovered spinal damage. He sent me to a neurosurgeon… Over the next year, we discovered that my lower back is… bad… I have 1 ruptured disc, which protrudes into my already small spinal column. Now, normally a ruptured disk can also be described as herniated. Mine is not herniated so much as… exploded… and it likes to push on my spinal cord. I have 3 compressed disks in my middle back.

So, If you see me with my cane, it’s because I can no longer walk more than a few feet without it. If you see me fall… that happens. It’s embarrassing. It hurts. There’s nothing to be done at this point. If you see me wince, it’s probably not something you said, it’s probably pain. I try to hide it. I try not to wine, but… I fail…

Most recently, we discovered that my upper back is fine! That’s great news, but it also confirms the diagnosis of fibromyalgia… which sucks…

So basically it goes like this: My back feels like I’ve been kicked by a large horse… twice… and it always feels like that. It doesn’t really feel better… ever… “get better” feels more like a slap than anything else, because I can’t. Surgery isn’t really an option, according to my neurosurgeon (well, it’s elective with a %50 chance of making it a little better and a %50 chance of making it a lot worse. I don’t like those odds).

If you see my hands twisted against my chest, that’s the fibromyalgia. That’s just my body’s reaction to nervous system pain in the arms and hands. If you see me weep a little, that happens too. I don’t like that. It’s embarrassing, and I try to hide inside during those times.

So, for me the back injury and fibromyalgia are tied together, not because of any level of cause and effect, but because they started about the same time, at least, they were discovered about the same time (looking back, I’ve probably had the fibromyalgia since about puberty, but at least since my crash in high school)