Tom Shakespeare

I have had nearly fifty years of having restricted growth, and I’ve been paralysed since 2008, and I think I know all about being disabled. But to my horror, impairment left me in disarray again recently. Let me explain.

Since I became paralysed, I have been taking a daily dose of pills to tackle my neuropathic pain. The problem is caused by nerve cells in my confused spinal cord, which can’t understand why the messages are not getting through. The nerve cells fire at random, sending electric jolts through my ankles, toes or soles. I take a low dose of an anti-epileptic drug to dampen it down. But after six years, the pills are not working so well, which is why my doctor suggesting switching to another prescription. The medical evidence recommended an overnight change. So I did.

But by the third day, I was feeling really bad. Not only were my feet hurting, but now I was aching all over, feeling depressed, and increasingly unwell. I wondered whether I was suffering an adverse reaction to the new pills. Then my girlfriend suggested I might be suffering withdrawal from the old drug. Surprised, I checked it out online, and found many first-person reports of bad withdrawal experiences. I decided to revert to the previous medication, and slowly began to feel better. After all, I had work to do.

I will eventually change drugs, but I’m going to have to wean myself off gradually. I had thought that “cold turkey” was something reserved for heroin addicts. But now I realize that I am just as addicted to my drugs as any junkie. Also, I feel new sympathy for depressives and schizophrenics on permanent medication. I don’t want to feel dependent. I want to have control over my life and my body. Paralysis causes pain causes addiction, and I’m not happy about that.