That's kinda how I feel about my body -- broken but still good. Or at least that's how I want to feel about my body.
In June 2007, I attended a lecture called "Battling Back Pain" at The George Washington University Hospital given by Dr. Warren Yu. I swear, I was the only one there under 60. The most disturbing part was that at the time (at my very worst), I had so much in common with these older folks. The majority of us all walked the same--leaning forward to alleviate the pressure on our compressed nerves (as we're all walking with grocery carts in front of us and we're leaning over it). We all had the same fears of having back surgery (that it might not solve our problems, or worse, it might cause more/different problems). We all had the same desire to be active in our lives.
I was so upset after attending this session not only because I had the back of a senior citizen, but that after months of being in pain, I was finally among a group of people who understood what it was like to be in that specific pain. I didn't need to explain myself.
It is with great humility that I admit two things:
- my mom had back issues too (the chiro said 3 herniated discs in her cervical spine and 3 in her lumbar spine), and as a child I just didn't understand why mom would spend hours in bed, couldn't do things like other moms or why she'd drink rum in the morning. I understand now. And more than understand, I can now empathize.
- While I can sympathize, I can only venture a guess at how it feels to have more serious diseases (MS, CF, Crohn's, Fibromyalgia, cancer, lupus, etc.) that are similar in that they can't be completely healed, only managed. (See Spoon Theory for a great read on what it's like to have a chronic illness.)
1-10 pain spectrum; 1 being the least pain and 10 being the most painI can throw my back out doing simple things like washing dishes, shaving my legs, tying my shoe laces, getting out of bed, picking up a cat, etc. The nerves that are compressed control a variety of other functions. So if I sneeze, I have to be really careful (1) not to throw my back out and (2) not to pee all over myself. And since we're being honest here -- or at least I'm being honest and am expecting you to return the trust -- I'm absolutely petrified of being in intimate situations and getting injured. How mortifying is that and what man wants a broken woman?
1-2 is pretty standard [0 would be no pain...]
3-4 will make me ease up on physical things [like going to the gym or playing sports]
5-6 means I'll use pain meds (valium [muscle relaxant] and vicodin [for pain]) because lying down hurts, as well as ice my back 5-6 times a day
7-8 is when it is hard for me to sit; also has me shuffling to the doctor to talk about (1) if I've done further injury (2) steroids (3) future treatment
9-10 has me laid up in bed, unable to move, mad at the world.
I spent 3 months at 7-10, and went to work 90% of the time (wasn't able to go during 9-10 days)
My point to all of this is that sometimes I come off as unsympathetic when friends pull a muscle, strain an ankle, break a nail, have to be on crutches, or sit out a ski season. It's not that I don't feel bad for them. I do. I know how much it sucks to have an imperfect body. Trust me. What people see as unsympathetic is me wishing that I had their injury and not my own. I wish my injury had an end in sight, a heal-by date, a remedy.
It's ironic when you're in limbo and yet the thought of bending backwards is absolutely out of the question.