Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Heebie- Geebies


Three years ago I was hit by a hay bailer and had a full body whiplash and a blown out knee.  I got sick of limping and decided to go bionic with a new knee.
I was told that the surgery is only successful if you are aggressive with the physiotherapy.  Every day you build up scar tissue and every day you have to break it down so you don’t get a stiff leg.  It is very painful and you must take these small pink pills for the pain called morphine.
  One guy in our physio class had a history of addictions so he couldn’t take the morphine for the bending and stretching so he regularly screamed and passed out from pain.  As the rest of us walked around him while he lay splayed out cold on the floor, we thanked God that we could take our tiny pink pills.
Being an over achiever in small and unimportant situations, I made really quick progress, so I decided to cut back on the painkillers.  I woke up pre dawn huddled in a corner of my bedroom with severe nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, sweating and uncontrollable weeping. (The last time I wept was twenty-one years ago when I mistakenly erased my contact list.) This crying was because I felt like every synapse in my brain was on fire. If I tried to think of even the most mundane thing, flames leapt out of that thought and singed whatever idea resided next to it.
 I went back to my surgeon and told him what hell I was going through.  He said casually, “Sounds like the hebbie-jeebies to me.” “What?” I asked. He said, “Don’t you know the signs of morphine withdrawal?”  I said “Who do I look like, Billie Holiday?”  He said, “Who’s he?” 
It is not often an “addiction” to morphine drops in your lap so I gave it careful scrutiny. I, unlike a lot of scientific researchers, had a chance to study the whole phenomenon from the inside out.
 I am a gregarious person. I love meeting new people and getting together with friends.  Yet under the morphine, I had no desire to talk to anyone.  I lost the to and fro of conversation. But more than that, I didn’t care about people at all. People who were my best friends seemed like mere acquaintances. It was as though I was at a cocktail party stuck in a boring conversation and had no way to extricate myself.
Another change was time slowed down. Spontaneity had left through the back door and didn’t carry me through conversations. Now I could see myself at the table with other people and hear all the inane things I said. Socializing for an hour was as much work as being in a one-hour play performance and I would come home and sleep of two hours after any interactions.
Morphine kills your appetite. I read there are no fat morphine addicts. I could munch on a prune, which seemed as big as a turkey to me, for two days before I finished it. I lost 22 pounds over two months. (When I complained to my friend about all I’d been through she said, “You lost 20 pounds and you’re complaining? Shut up!”)
I never worried about the future.  I didn’t even think about my book tour coming up in a month. When I got emails about author events, I thought everyone was being obsessive (a month translated to ten years) and pressed delete.
So morphine had done several things to me. It took away all desire to be with others and I never planned for the future. These were previously two of my most enjoyable activities. I was now in a medically induced solitary confinement. 
I now totally understand why some people would crave Morphine. They may have had toxic parents and then gone on to have unsatisfactory adult relationships. These relationships hurt but we are social animals so they keep going back for more pain.
  On Morphine you are not a social animal.  You really don’t need anyone.  So all the people who used to hurt you are no longer important.  Morphine slammed your social needs door shut and you don’t have to let them hurt you anymore. The best part is you are not lonely.  Suddenly all the pain stops.  
The future for this kind of person, who has troubled relationships, is often limited. They are faced with futures yawning in front of them that are filled with all kinds of woes. Morphine takes care of the problem because there is only the present.
 The two things that tortured them, relationships and the future, are gone. And the divine part of it all is that you don’t miss any of it.
I have no desire to stay on this drug now that the pain in my knee has subsided.  I look forward to wanting to be with people again and getting back to planning my future. It is not that I am not an “addictive personality”; it is that I don’t need or even want the few qualities that morphine offers me. It was a bad fit.
One person’s high is another person’s downer depending on need. If they had a pill that would trim my troubles I’d be the first addict lined up to mainline it.


  1. I loved the part where you asked your doctor "Who do I look like, Billie Halliday?" Which was so funny but his response was even funnier!

  2. Hip surgery is not as complicated and difficult as knee surgery but after two hip replacements I too was given morphine in the hospital and pills for the pain when I got home. Within a couple of days I realized I hated myself on dope. The pills made me sleepy, weepy and stupid. So I stopped taking them immediately, toughed it out and fortunately did not have to suffer the consequences you experienced. Welcome back.

  3. Stay away from the hay baler! You should know better. :-) /born in '48