One of the things that Mister Tea and I have had to weather in our relationship is the harsh and brutal reality of the word ‘degenerative.’
When we first met I was relatively capable physically. We used to take long rambling walks around the city, discovering new things, perusing thrift stores, and doing a lot of window shopping and people watching. Sometimes we’d distract ourselves so much with the world that it would be well past dark by the time we found home again.
He used to jest that if someone tried to mug us he would either hold my coat or step into the situation explaining that he would be nicer about the ensuing violence than I.1
Even at the time I had issues. We knew that. We had no idea what those issues were, but we knew they were there.
Finding out about EDS was half a decade or more off, we just knew that I had a ridiculous tendency for joints to not work quite right and that pain was as much a part of my physical lexicon as breathing.
For most of the first decade we were together I had no health insurance. (There is a long and involved story for the reason why – involving bureaucracy and my ever-present bad luck with it, but it boils down to “paperwork can be near impossible to manage.”)
This meant the only option for us, as far as my health was concerned, was the ER that would take all comers – insured or not.
I have nothing but respect for those who work in various EDs. Especially the ones like our one option at the time. They are generally overworked, underpaid, and exist in a fine balance between adrenaline-fueled and burnout.
So I do understand why sometimes patients can slip through the cracks in the system.
Emergency Rooms are not designed to handle chronic illness patients, but for many of us, we don’t have a choice but to cross our fingers and hope that we get some sort of answer this time.
Often my visits went something like this:
“Okay. I’m in lots of pain and there are some bits that aren’t working right. I don’t want pain meds. I’d like to try to figure out WHY there’s so much pain.”
“Drug Seeker!” Which after some poking and prodding and conversation would turn into, “Here’s some meds, go away.”
If you come in speaking of pain there’s always the worry – and sometimes the direct assumption – that you are seeking pain medications for reasons having nothing to do with pain management. Even before the current “opiod crisis” 2 there was an understandable amount of wariness regarding pain medication.
I will say I found it terribly frustrating to start out being labeled as a drug seeker, and then, inevitably, get sent home with prescriptions I wasn’t going to fill.3
Because standard pain meds don’t do much for me. For the most part all they seem to do is fill my brain with a lethargic goo that makes it difficult to think and makes me very tired.
Without doing much for the pain.
I tried. I really did. During one blessed timeframe where I was able to have insurance through Mister Tea’s work and found a GP who listened and who managed to gain my trust – we ran through a list of medications and dosages.
We even actively flirted with serotonin syndrome (it’s a terrible experience, I really do not advise it) to try to get a muscle relaxant he had hopes for approved by the insurance company. (They did not approve it. Even though we had exhausted all other options.) As it was close to a grand a month without that approval – the risk was potentially worth it.
In and around the edges of all this, the seeds for what became Desert Sage Natural had been planted, and the seedlings were doing pretty well.
Even though some of the sentients in my household at the time had one form of insurance or another, it isn’t always enough. None of us were working for that polka-dotted unicorn – the living wage – and if you barely have enough funds available to manage rent, bills, and food – medication and specialists fall into the category of laughable dream.
Eventually I decided to experiment with herbs for pain relief.
Granted, the initial experimentation was not for myself. It was because I had interacted with so many people with chronic pain that I wanted to see if I could come up with an option to help them. Mister Tea had been trying to direct me towards the idea for years, but it hadn’t been a registered priority in my head to create a pain tea for myself. Because I’m brilliant like that.
The first result of this was our ‘Something for the Pain.’ Which was lovely, and it did help, but depending on the day and on the timing of drinking it, it also made me devastatingly tired.
Now, there’s a level on which one has to expect this, when you are dealing with pain constantly. The levels may vary, but any level of it requires energy. And it isn’t like being in pain makes sleeping easier.
There’s a good chance you are running at a constant deficit. Lax the tension and ease things down enough that you have the capacity to do more than force yourself to exist through the pain… and you are going to be more likely to recognize tired.
It took me too long to figure out that that was part of the problem. And that sometimes feeling deadly tired actually does just mean you really need sleep.
However, being someone who hates being stationary, and has a distinct lack of desire to feel even the ghost of a sense of uselessness, I wanted another option.
I wanted something that would help me with the pain AND would help me stay awake through the weird shock of being in less pain.
And given the number of chronic pain patients I have known who are similarly driven to find something resembling a normal life, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only person who would be interested in it.
So I started with my (at the time) favourite black tea4 added in some of the herbs for mitigating pain that had worked so well in Something for the Pain, and ran a test.
Something that really should have occurred to me was that the combination of the relaxing herbs and the caffeine might need something to ease the conflicting effects.
I ended up adding hawthorn to the blend, and that eased the stress of the combination.
Achievement Unlocked: Still Standing is not intended for consistent use. It is a tea to pull out on the days you really need it – and then make sure to give yourself recovery time after.5
For a number of years, I kept myself semi-functional with our two pain teas.
However… we come back to the concept of ‘degenerative.’
As time has passed, things with my body have gotten steadily worse. The baseline for pain has shifted steadily upward, and there is ever a new discovery waiting around the corner.
Those rambling walks are long a thing of the past – I can’t really trust that my legs will decide to ‘leg’ for that long – and these days we have to carefully gauge whether or not it is worth it to put me in a car. (Engine vibration and road damage can cause some truly exquisite pain experiences.)
I was starting to look into more potent herbs for pain mitigation – ones that I would not likely have felt comfortable utilizing in teas for DSN, due to the care that would need to be taken with dosing. With the additional issue of sourcing. Most of them are relatively hard to find, and are in the category where internet sourcing can be problematic. (The herb and supplement industry has issues too, like most ‘industries’ do. It’s one of the reasons we are cautious in choosing our suppliers, and also one of the reasons we use organic ingredients whenever we can.)
Around this time Mister Tea and a few people with a variety of chronic illnesses started talking to me about a new option that I hadn’t tried. Medical Cannabis. I was wary and bothered and uncertain … but eventually I decided it was worth a shot. Worst case it didn’t work. Best case I would be able to drink teas based on what I wanted to drink again, rather than just the ones I needed.
I won’t go into depth on my experiences with it here – that would need to be its own post – which I will write, if there is interest. However, I will say that after much experimentation, with some fairly unpleasant experiences strewn through, it has been very helpful for me.
I also still access our pain teas from time to time, as depending on the day you will need different levels of pain management… and there are also always the financial considerations.
So, while I do not use them consistently anymore, which I felt I needed to be up-front about in this rewrite 6 – there were several years of my life that would have been quite different if it were not for Achievement Unlocked: Still Standing, Something for the Pain, and Return to Dexterity.
And now for the basics:
Organic Ingredients: Russian Caravan, California Poppy, Hawthorn Berries, Rosehips, Passionflower
Batch Size: 2.4 ounces (approximately 25-30 cups of tea)
Options: Loose Tea (Sample, Bag, Tin, *Latch-Tin), Teabags (Single, Sample, Bag, *Latch-Tin)
*For Achievement Unlocked: Still Standing, our Latch-Top Tin holds 7.2 ounces, 75-90 servings of tea)
- When you are small and female-shaped and “uppity” – it helps to have knowledge of how to defend yourself.
- I have a lot of thoughts and feelings on this issue, but speaking to them would turn this post into a novella, and it is probably going to be bad enough as is.
- I had collected such a stack at one point that a friend jested I should go into business because I could pay rent for our entire circle.
- If I remade this today it would probably be based in a strict Lapsang, or one of our smokier blends. I am considering offering the option to choose the foundation your pain tea is built on, for both this one and Something for the Pain.
- That thing that most of us do – borrowing spoons from tomorrow, the day after, and maybe into next week? Achievement essentially makes that easier. And borrowing spoons from the future has a price. And sadly, the tea doesn’t pay it for you.
- It was due. It’s been over four years since we released the tea, and it had been in use for quite some time before that.