It's been a rough few months over here at Chalet Manderley. My back got … broken? … or something. I don't know precisely what happened. When friends ask if there was an episode that brought it on, my only answer is, yah, I turned 40 and shit started falling to pieces.
It started like any spinal grumble, and escalated to a dull howl, and none of this is new, but then the part where the pain ebbs away and my (once-young-not-so-much-now) body fixes itself never presented itself. A dwindling supply of Vicodin and British codeine pills kept me functioning, though the constant throb of pain naturally wore down my demeanor and I became extra-super-depressed and crankypants.
After six weeks or so when I realized it wasn't going to fix itself this time, I went to a friend's chiropractor. Hadn't been to one of them since the late 90s in Philly. I always think of chiropractors as a last, violent resort when the offending condition just won't listen to reason, massage, epsom baths or vituperations.
He snapped me, and I felt great for three whole days. Got a lot of climb'y stuff done — took down the Mardi Gras décor, cleaned the gutters on the roof, did a lot of stuff that my mean ole spine wouldn't let me do weeks before.
Then a sciatic nerve got pinched in my left leg, which made the previous pain seem like an afternoon in a candy shop. Driving was difficult as my left leg hated the range of motion the clutch requires. I was hesitant to go back to the chiropractor because, while I think they're good for last resort solutions, I don't really like being snapped and cracked too often. I have no scientific basis for this hesitation; it just creeps me out.
A week or so of that sunk me even lower into the maelstrom of despair. The Husband was concerned, and we both have been complaining about our old mattress not being of sufficient quality for 40-somethings. So we went out and blew the cats' college funds on a Tempurpedic mattress, which is twice as much as any "normal" mattress, and worth far more than even that.
The sciatic nerve worked itself out, and I give credit to the new bed, and I had a good six hours of (relatively) pain-free living when my lower right muscles started spasming and charlie horsing and convulsing and basically carrying on like one of those trashy, nonsensical Jersey Shore people I've read about. "Why are you doing that? You're stupid, muscles/Jersey Shore people!"
This was the worst pain yet, and bade me make an appointment at the musicians' clinic at LSU (because the one M.D. my crappy insurance will cover is a man I really don't ever want to see again).
This time I was literally bed-ridden. Sitting up, standing, turning, twisting, or moving in any way caused the muscles in the lower right quadrant of my back to seize and scream and twist and gnash.
I was popping so many opioids that I was getting concerned about nurturing a habit, so I imposed an every-other-day rule upon myself, which meant that one day I would be horribly miserable, but at least a little fuzzy around the edges, and the next drugless day would be something only Dante could properly describe.
Wednesday I started calling coworkers to see if someone could cover me at The Saint. If getting out of bed to pee was an Herculean task, bartending was right out of the question.
"I can get through this weekend. I can get to Tuesday and my LSU appointment. I will survive this." I had lots of gritted-teeth mantras last week.
Ben flew to Vegas last week. I drove him to MSY, and as I approached the car in my hobbling gait, I looked at the door and thought, can I even get in there? And once I'm in, can I use my legs on the pedals? It was a weird awakening moment, and I began, sadly, to appreciate the daily struggles that chronic pain sufferers cope, or don't cope with. The choices they have to make. The spoon theory, in short.
I am sympathetic and empathetic by nature, but there's some stuff you can only understand when it happens to you. That moment of can I do this? as I approached the car was just such an event. I'd prefer to remain empathetic, but effectively ignorant of such knowledge next time, thanks very much.
I knew driving Ben to the æreoporte meant that I would be down for the count for the rest of the day, and probably most of the next, and even though it was an odd-numbered day which meant I couldn't take pills, I was already planning on breaking my rule.
The drive was like a scene out of the film HOSTEL. Except all the mutilation and pain and cruelty was internal, and centered in my lower right back. When I got home (after literally screaming in my car from pain and rage at douchey suburban drivers forcing me to shift gears on the highway), it took me five minutes to figure out how to get out of the car! I couldn't bend my neck through the doorway. I couldn't extend my leg. I couldn't lean to the right and slide out the door on the left. I sat there, parked in front of my house, seeing my cat through the window watching me, so close, but a hundred miles away. Flashes from S. King's book GERALD'S GAME replayed in my head.
Somehow I escaped my Toyota prison — I kinda blacked out and don't remember how — and spent the next 24 hours in bed, frustrated, angry, sad, depressed, and lots of other negative-type emotions my only fuel.
Friday I woke up and winced prematurely, knowing that to sit up and get out of bed was going to cost a lot of spoons. But when I sat up, there was nothing but a dull, annoying throb in my back. I twisted to the left. I twisted to the right. Stiff and achey and awful, but functional, by gum!
I ended up working The Saint on Friday, and while I've had more pleasant times bartending, it was doable.
Saturday I drove (!!!) to Biloxi and back — 4 hours — plus sat in a chair (!!!) in a casino for another six hours. Grumbling back pains, but I did it!
Today is manageable as well. The fact that I've sat at my desk long enough to write this is testimony. I would love to swallow a dear, generous friend's oxycontin right now, but I don't have to, so I'm not going to.
Another generous, lovely friend gave me a scrip of Skelaxin (love that word!) last night, claiming it's a muscle relaxer "just for the big muscles." She's a chronic back pain sufferer and calls this her 'miracle drug'. So I'm giving that a try now, and I'd have to agree with her. Plus there's a nice buzz and I'm losing track of time and perhaps overcompensating for my 140 character limit on Twatter by filling up the entire internet with a story that cannot possibly be a) interesting, b) entertaining, c) original, d) insightful to anyone but me. But damn, it feels good to be able to sit at my desk and write to you, dear, nearly-abandoned LJ chums o' mine, just like a big boy!
I'm still going to my appointment at LSU on Tuesday as I want this looked at properly, but at least I know that I can drive myself Uptown then. Also, going to call a friend's acupuncturist. I've never tried acupuncture, and while I'm usually wary of hippie remedies, 7,000 years of Chinese medicine can't be complete rubbish, so I'm curious.
Paul flies back from London tonight. Three days ago, I'd happily text him from the confines of my bed, and that would be the extent of our cavorting. Now, for the first time in months, I'm actually looking forward to going out and seeing friends tonight.
Just like a big boy!