How Two Toddlers Saved My Life

By Crystal Lindell, Columnist

I wish I could say it’s been a rough couple months for me, but that’s not exactly true. It’s actually been more like a rough couple years.

I spent three years battling debilitating rib pain that nobody seemed to be able to cure. And then, when I discovered that my obscenely low vitamin D levels were likely to blame and I started to feel better, I faced an entirely new version of hell — opioid withdrawal.

I had been on morphine for three years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I honestly thought that when the rib pain subsided I could just endure 72 hours of physical hell and move on with my life.

But morphine is like an abusive boyfriend, it lingers. It hurts you and then offers you the cure, and then it hurts you again. And you always pay for the highs with desperate lows.

Studies have shown that it can take two years for your brain to adjust after withdrawing from opioids. And it turns out it doesn’t much matter if you were buying them off the street or getting them via a legitimate prescription from a legitimate doctor. Your brain doesn’t care.

And yes, I know, there are people out there who have an easy breezy time with it. They just decide to stop and then they stop.

I am not one of those people. I hate those people.

I have spent the last few months suffering from a potent mix of suicidal thoughts and anxiety attacks. And navigating the whole mess is especially hard because for some reason people think that if you are just a strong enough person, you’ll be fine. Let me tell you the truth, opioids don’t care if you are Wonder Woman herself, they will ravage you.

In the midst of all this, my best friend since childhood was pregnant with her third child. She and I are like sisters, having both endured crazy families, growing up poor and our 20’s together.

And so when she was put on strict bed rest about 27 weeks in, I said I would come stay with her during weekdays to help with her other two kids, who are both just toddlers themselves at 1 and 3 years old.

I work from home, so I have the luxury of volunteering for such things. And I confess I was pretty pleased with myself at the thought of playing a small role in making sure the newest member of their family was born healthy.

But if we’re being honest, she could have said no. She could have said that she didn’t want an opioid addict around her kids. She could have easily pointed to my debilitating anxiety attacks and said I was unfit to supervise toddlers.

Maybe she was too desperate to say anything like that to me. But I honestly don’t think she ever even thought it.

So, in late May, I basically moved in with her, her husband and two toddlers. I went from the cool chick who comes over and plays bubbles to the cool chick who has to give the kids baths, feed them, change diapers, clean up spit up, watch Sesame Street on repeat for 16 hours a day, AND play bubbles.

And somewhere along the way, I forgot that I was having a really rough couple of years.

Kids have a way of forcing you to be in the present. There’s no time to anxiously contemplate the meaning of life and whether or not you’ll ever find true love, when the meaning of life and true love are staring up at you calling you “Bistol” because the C sound is hard, and asking for another pack of gummy bears.

And I don’t care who you are, watching a child literally learn to do the most fundamental of human movements, walking, over a period of about three weeks is breathtaking and jaw dropping and mid-afternoon Taylor Swift dance party worthy.

And so, that is how one of the worst times in my life was transformed by two toddlers. Two boys who had no idea they were helping me navigate opioid withdrawal when they were screaming for teddy bears at 1 a.m., and spitting up all over the carpet, and eating rocks, and begging for ketchup, and laughing and crying and cuddling and loving.

Because that’s actually how it works, isn’t it? You think you’re saving someone, but then you realize that this whole time they were saving you.

Crystal Lindell is a journalist who lives in Illinois. She loves Taco Bell, watching "Burn Notice" episodes on Netflix and Snicker's Bites. She has had intercostal neuralgia since February 2013.

Crystal writes about it on her blog, “The Only Certainty is Bad Grammar.”

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.