The Dark Place by L.F. Young

In Dec. 2013, I promoted Lockard Young on my Reading Recommendations blog. Since that time, Lockie has become an online friend and we are mutually supportive of each others writing and publishing efforts. During this past year I became aware that Lockie was not in the best of health, yet he continued with a very positive attitude, always joking and posting to Facebook with a smile on his face – or so I imagined. He recently posted to his own blog about having had to deal with chronic pain, for a very long time. I know a number of other friends who are also struggling with this and thought Lockie’s eloquent writing about his own experience might help them cope a little better. So I received Lockie’s permission to post his essay on my blog. Please share this with anyone else who you think it may help.

September 29/2014

Seven hundred and fifty-nine days, give or take. That’s two years and twenty nine days that I have been in pain. This isn’t about sympathy. I’ve had lots and lots of sympathy since September of 2012. I was in pain before that, and worked through it, but it got to the point that it affected my job performance. My dream job is now a distant memory, warped and miss-shaped, the edges of that memory dulled by the drugs.

I’ve learned so many things since that day, when I lost my dream job. I’ve learned new words like Peripheral Arterial Disease and Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia, also known as H.I.T. Large words with medical definitions so complicated they would astound a man of lesser education. I also discovered all about the consequences of another word. Amputation. The mere mention of such a word sends chills down the backs of the queasy. That word was very frightening to me at first, but the pain was much greater than my fear, and I reluctantly agreed to the consequences of that word, if it would stop the pain. It didn’t, at least not completely. It is true that the bad parts had to be removed. My right foot, starved of blood from a clogged artery and therefore starved of oxygen, essentially died and was affecting the rest of the leg it was attached to, and so the simple solution was to detach the offending appendage. Was this just a simple solution to a medical problem? Maybe the surgeon, well practiced in this type of operation may have considered it routine, due to the sheer number of amputations he has had to perform over the course of his learned career. My guess, after having talked at great length with the man, was that every operation was hard for him, not in the actual performance of the deed, but rather in the consequences he knew to be true for his patients.

I really don’t want to sound whiny. The pain I now have in both legs is certainly a lot less than the severity of 13 Months ago. The so called Phantom pain, the pain felt in the foot that was no longer there, has lessened to the point that it is mostly Phantom Sensation now. Yes, I can still feel my foot, more than a year after it was removed along, with my ankle and the part of my leg that is no longer there beneath my knee. It is most unsettling to reach down to scratch what is no longer there. As to my other leg and foot, well that is another story.

After the first operation to replace a section of artery in my right leg, the surgeon ordered Heparin, a blood thinner, a very common drug that is used in a wide variety of medical treatments. In my case, it was used as a sort of cleaner, a thinner of blood, allowing the fast and free flowing liquid to wash away any remaining bits and small particles of the Plaque that was on my arterial walls. For some unknown and unexplainable medical reason my body’s defences sensed the drug as a foreign invader, and I developed the condition known medically as H.I.T. The consequence of this was opposite to what the doctors were trying to achieve. Instead of thinning my blood as expected, my blood volume coagulated to such an extent that blood flow was lost to both legs. The nerves in my good leg died, along with the tissue and some bone mass. Luckily, I was in hospital at the time of this new crisis, and the doctors, and there were three of them, worked together for over five hours removing clots to save my legs, and my life. I am alive today, and typing this as a direct result of their combined years of experience and skill as surgeons. I am and always will be grateful to these amazingly gifted men. That doesn’t change the fact that I now have nerve pain in my once good leg and foot, parts of me that were fine before February of 2013.

So, how do I cope with the constant pain, you may ask? It at times seems a daunting task to be sure. The ‘nerve’ drugs, I have found out, don’t actually take the pain away, but rather bathes the nerve endings in something to stop the rapid firing, and otherwise overly heightened sensations they are communicating to the brain. The pain killers work too, but are so powerful they sometimes leave you in a zombie state and then you don’t know which end is up. That’s no way to live. The doctors all say the ‘discomfort’ will go away with time. Oh yes they all say that, but not one of them will say how much time. I guess they don’t want to appear uneducated by saying they don’t know how much time. A couple of them went out on a limb, and qualified their answer by saying the very vague statement, “It is different for everyone.” Thank you for reassuring me that someday, maybe, I will be free of this heavy wet woollen blanket of despair, this discomfort.

The solution is to take drugs. Drugs with side effects like, weight gain, blotchy skin, a feeling of tiredness all the time, perhaps depression at times, and oh yes, let’s not forget constipation. Not to worry, there’s a pill for that too. At times it is too much to bear. Last night was one of those times, and that indeed prompted this writing. The blanket was so heavy last night that it bore me down into The Dark Place. The pain was no more intense than it had been the night before or the month before that. It was the never-ending-ness of it. It was the weight of the knowing that there was no end date to this. That was the heaviness that weighted me down into The Dark Place. The fact that I lay there weeping, my tears rolling down my face and falling onto my pillow, only seemed to make matters worse. Growing up in a time when it was not manly to cry, not something my father would tolerate from any of his sons, seemed to weigh on me even more than the pins and needles of my misery.

The Dark Place; The Dark Place is not a scary horror scene from a film or novel. It is not a place of excitement. It is a place of utter desolation and despair. For many, The Dark Place is the last stop here on earth, before the final leap, before the final cut, that last gunshot to the temple. It is the last place a person goes who has lost all hope of being able to live in a world that doesn’t understand what they are going through. I know this place well, for I have been there more than once. I have been to the darkness, and I can write about it now. I have learned how to find the stairs up and out of that desolate place. Each time after I have visited that kind of depression, I say never again. Never again will I let myself go down there. I am learning that one has no choice in the matter. The only choice, for those still in control, is whether to stay down there or not. I chose not to stay there. I chose not to give in to the demon, not to let it win. Even as I write this now, I refuse to capitalise its name, for I have won this time.

Today is better, and tomorrow will be better still. I will try and continue to fight this seemingly never ending battle. I will try to understand and to be more understanding of people whose pain I do not know. People who seem normal and bright and unaffected on the outside, but who are deep into battle on the inside, these people I will try and understand, because now, I too am one of them.

1450088_785019491544384_2294254842064449408_nLockie Young – Canada

I am a newly published author under the name of L.F.Young. My book is called Ryan’s Legend, an adventure/fantasy story for middle grade readers, or children of all ages. It is available through Morning Rain Publishing.
Lockie’s Lectern

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5 responses

  1. On TV it always looks so easy for doctors to repair – to heal. Those who haven’t experienced serious medical issue assume that’s the way it is. Reality is much different – many docs suffer along with their patients, rail against frailties and limits of humans, and struggle with the demons on a daily basis.
    While they say “I never promised you a rose garden..” – why, you have to wonder so many thorns. The human body is difficult: mess with one thing, then the balance is gone and trying to convince the body to adapt is to a new normal is delicate. Not much I can do but say, your writing is moving and important. Hang in there. The world is not ready to let go of you yet. Not much I can do but send warm healing thoughts and hopes that you will find encouragement.

    1. Thank you very much Philosophermouseofthehedge. Wow! Say that name five times fast. I never fault the doctors in fact the person signing the forms should have complete trust in their surgeon. Mine had grey hair so I was comfortable he knew what he was doing. I just fell through the slots. 5% of patients do not have a successful operation of the kind I had. Up to a possible 5% of the population will be allergic to Heparin. I rang the bell on both counts, but those three men, who happen to be surgeons, saved my life. That was no small feat, but they did it. Thank you for your well wishes.

      1. I could tell by your writing you respected your medical team and together ya’ll struggled.
        Sounds like you are one of those people who just responds to procedures/treatment/meds differently…I’m in that camp,too. Makes things interesting, right?
        You writer guys always insist on responding differently and being unpredictable with everything. (Insert compassionate giggles here).
        Onward through the fog (hope they find something that helps without making you almost comatose…biofeedback? Adaptive yoga? (Have a niece that works with patients with that) any hope of swimming? Water and weightless can be healing to some. And sunshine. Find a pool of it somewhere and “bake out the misery” (as one elderly relative claimed was her secret – not any easy life at all, but a very very long one).
        And write. Coloring outside the lines is always fun. Warm thoughts sent

      2. You must write as well, by your prose. I think the word you were looking for is stubborn. I just wasn’t going to give in just yet. I also got mad. Anger can be a great motivator, to get you out of the muck. I am going to pursue swimming at the YMCA. Positive thoughts and energy to you as well. Remember, we are all connected.

  2. Thank you so much, Susan, for posting my essay to your Blog. I also hope it may help somebody someplace who reads this to know that there are others who have climbed the stairs out of dark place. I appreciate you, and thank you for sharing my story.

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