I'll be honest: I get very jealous when I see pictures of you all running races with each other. I know I'll never be able to do that because of my back. Heck, my back couldn't even handle today's two hours of walking around DC (which is relatively flat) in sneakers. I came home in oodles of pain and cried myself to sleep. I wasn't crying because of the back pain. I cried because of the isolation it brings.
Well let me take a step back and say that I know I'm a bit of a hermit without figuring all of the back stuff into things. It really goes back to my childhood and a few pivotal moments such as my dad telling me that I shouldn't be argumentative with friends because I'll end up alone (1. I only argued with him because he was usually wrong; and 2. if someone is truly your friend, you can survive disagreements); my father's profession (he saw the worst of humanity and assumed it followed him home to the quaint village I grew up in); my mom's agorophobia (which limited not only my being able to go over to friends' houses, but other after-school events, because I didn't have transportation); and my mom being very paranoid/controlling and not allowing me to go off the block (there was only one other girl on my block, and we had nothing in common. The boys wouldn't always let me play with them.).
The end result was that by the time my mom died (I was 13), I didn't have many friends and the friends I did have at the time were more like acquaintances. To put it in the perspective of a newly-minted teenager: I didn't get invited to many birthday parties and few kids showed up to mine. After mom died, I was a latch-key kid, with fewer after-school invitations, and only my grandmother able to help out with rides (which were usually saved for my weekly vocal lessons and trips to the doctor). Otherwise I had to arrange everything myself. I got tired of asking people to help because of our "situation." I also felt like my dad should have done more to help with that. However, he worked an hour and a half outside the city and knew none of the other parents in my grade (unlike my mother who was very well connected and very involved). I walked home a lot from school (not far from middle school, but about 3 miles from HS). An already-introverted childhood made it all the easier to become a hermit whose only connection with the world was the internet (IRC and AOL).
I don't want it to seem like I had no friends -- but I will be very clear that the friends I did have after my mom died were heroes in my book. Take an already unhappy child and throw some more trauma in her life and what you get is a very bad friend. There was little joy in my life and whole lot of adult-type seriousness (there still is). My true friends from that time in my life never shied away from the pain I was in but did their best to make me feel loved and wanted. For that, I will always have a place in my heart for them.
But there was lingering damage from my past -- mainly the feeling that I was imposing on or a burden to people. Even now I am very peculiar. I am very uncomfortable outside of my comfort zone. I will often be invited to people's homes or to places I don't know but feel paralyzed with fear (not the agorophobia issue of my mom's, but something else I can't quite put my finger on). For me to travel outside of my comfort zone requires a lot of trust in those people (especially now that I don't have a car and a trip to someone's house is often a logistical nightmare). I feel much more comfortable on my home turf, but it's hard to entertain friends when you live in a studio apartment with two cats.
I also have a hard time telling people that I need them or their help. I know it's very one-sided of me to want to help people when they come calling and not allow them the ability to do the same -- but it's that same old problem of feeling like I am a burden. When I first hurt my back in 2007, I should have relied on friends and family more. Few people saw just how much pain I was in. My dad didn't even realize that I spent three months hunched over when I walked. And yet, I would go to the grocery store myself and carry things home in a backpack (including 28lb boxes of cat litter). People would offer to help, but I think my canned response was "have a new back?" I tried to use humor to deflect how much physical pain I was in. However, I rarely let people help me.
It was a huge thing for me to ask for help when I needed to get epidural steroid shots to help with my back. The first time my ex boyfriend/friend took me. The second time my brother took me. If I had been given the choice to go myself, I would have (not because I'm independent, but again, I hate feeling like a burden) but the hospital wouldn't let me go home alone. ((funny story about the time I got my wisdom teeth taken out -- I was so thankful my friend Jeff came with me. They put me under for the procedure because my teeth were impacted. When I woke up I vomited on the nurse and fell asleep every chance I could as we were going home. When the anesthesia had finally worn off he had the milk I had deliriously asked for.))
When I had the epidural shots done, they had some serious side effects. On top of the Valium and Vicodin, it was just a really good idea to stop drinking for a while. I think when people knew I wasn't drinking, there were fewer invites to happy hours. I can appreciate that they didn't want to tempt me, but I'm perfectly happy drinking seltzer at a bar. I just felt further isolated. I think that also once people realized that it was more than just a pulled muscle, they didn't know how to handle me. It's okay. I'm not blaming them. Again, it was some serious shit to deal with.
When many of my "real life" friends were signing up for 10ks and half marathons, I was struggling to take showers, put on my underwear, and go about my life. I was so proud of them for being able to do these feats of strength and endurance, but at the same time it made me so sad. I wanted to belong to that herd. I wanted to feel what it was like to run with people. I didn't want to be hindered by my past, or my back.
I still feel that way. I hate having to turn down invitations to go to a dance club because the fear of someone pushing or pulling me in a crowd is too much. For example, a woman today wasn't looking where she was going and ran into me in a crosswalk. She hit me just right so that the pain took my breath away. It's Saturday night and I am at home, in my pajamas, with my cats, alone, because my back hurts from walking today.
I'm 29 years old. I should be having the time of my life. I should be out there meeting people and laughing with my friends. I should be dating. Instead I am at home feeling sorry for myself because all I see is a broken person (inside and out). And who would want to be around that?
A large part of my LCJ has been overcoming the idea of that I am a burden to people. It has dredged up some unfortunate memories and feelings and I think I'm ready to talk about one of those things. I always say that I started to gain weight after my Nana died, but the truth is that I was pretty pudgy before then. I don't know know if I started to gain weight after she had her stroke, or if it was something entirely different.
You see, right mixed in the timeline of my Nana's having a stroke, being paralyzed, and then dying was another series of tragedies: my mother had three miscarriages in a row. I remember sitting with her on our back patio after her last miscarriage. With cigarette in hand, she told me that she might've been able to keep the last baby, if only I had helped her more around the house.
So not only was my mother jealous of my body (something that my father verified that she talked about to him), but she was willing to blame me for her own failings (dad was unaware that she had said this to me). She would also make comments of what her life could be like if she didn't have kids.
And well, that's just fucked up.
Now you know why I feel like a burden sometimes.
At the end of all of this, all I really want is to feel like my body is my own. I want the people in my life to love me as I am (imperfect, serious, broken). I want to let them love me without the burden of my past preventing them from getting close.