Let’s face it: I’ve become a bad blogger. Not just have I stopped posting very often myself, but I’ve abandoned my friends as well, checking their blogs only once a week, discovering important events too late, offering lame advice after the critical moment has passed.
The truth is, I’m exhausted and depressed and trying to escape myself, my life. And while part of this funk is due to my perpetually childless state, a lot of it is due to my chronic pain. So far, I’ve avoided writing about it, because for some reason it embarrasses me. I feel like I’m supposed to be this interesting, vibrant person, full of energy and vitality and activity. For some reason, talking about my “bad back” (is there really no better phrase for it?) makes me feel like a hypochondriac whiner who can’t get off her ass and get her shit together. It makes me feel old, unsexy, unlikeable.
Anyway, here’s the scoop: My lower back hurts. Pretty much all the time. It’s been hurting on and off for most of my life. When I was younger (high school, college, even law school) the pain wasn’t constant. I would occasionally throw out my back and be stuck flat on a heating pad for a week. As I got older, the pain became more frequent. During phases when I was feeling better, I would try to build up my strength by exercising, doing yoga, lifting weights, stretching, whatever seemed smartest. This would work for a little while, but then one day something would go wrong, and I would overdo it, and there I would be, flat on my back on a heating pad again, planning how much more careful I would be with my exercise next time. It was a desperate cycle, and in retrospect, a really sad lifestyle.
A few years ago I saw a chiropractor—someone partially covered by my HMO. He told me the problem was my feet (I pronate) and he prescribed me soft orthotics. I’ll be honest with you: I cried when he told me that I would never wear heels again. I had to replace all my shoes, because none of them fit with the orthotics. Soon I found that I could only wear running shoes. So I would wear running shoes to work every day, and leave them on all day unless I was seeing clients or going to court.
But soon the soft orthotics stopped working and I had to go for rigid ones. So I switched to a podiatrist, then replaced all my shoes again because the rigid orthotics fit differently. Again, the orthotics helped for awhile, then stopped working. Over and over again, I found myself just starting to get into shape when I would hurt myself again, and have to completely stop, sometimes for months at a time.
This November, I finally went to see the chiropractor my podiatrist recommended. He seemed really good, but wasn’t covered by my HMO. Then again, the guy covered by my HMO had sucked, and I was desperate. This guy, the infamous Dr. K of my previous post, thinks he can actually fix the structure of my spine. He showed me an x-ray of my neck; I’ve almost lost the curve of my spine there. This means my head is being held several inches too far in front of my body, which is putting strain on my whole spine. He thinks this structural problem (called “anterior head syndrome”) is the source of my lower back pain as well as my shoulder pain.
So I shelled out more than two thousand dollars for a flat-rate plan to fix the structure of my spine. The idea is to do traction 3 times a week for 3 ½ months, reshaping my cervical spine so that my spine isn’t getting pulled out by my enormous, heavy head (that’s how it feels once I’m aware of it). But less than a month into this treatment my lower back completely freaked out. I guess I was too aggressive with the traction, and my body is just so damn sensitive about everything. I remember a day about a month ago where I couldn’t even put my own socks on. That really did me in.
Since then we’ve been trying to get my body back to the point where I can start the traction again. I have a DDS Belt, which is essentially a lower-back traction device. I wrap it around my waist really tight, then I pump it full of air and it expands vertically, separating my discs. So now not only can I wear no pretty shoes, I am having to try to hide this belt under my clothes, even though it squeezes my fat out above and below it. As long as I wear bunchy clothes or sweaters, you can’t really see it, but I feel like a circus freak. I wear the belt at least half a day every day. I thought it was only going to be for a few days, but my recovery has been ridiculously slow.
And that leads to the depression/escapist angle. Because my recovery has been so slow, and I’m so desperate to feel good again. I’ll feel a little bit better for a day or two (as long as I use the DDS belt), tender and sore but not in serious pain, but then I’ll slide back into joint-throbbing pain where I have to take percocet and lay on an ice pack and just pray that it gets better soon.
Dr. K has been a godsend. He’s basically extending my treatment plan so that when we start doing traction again (which we have to do sometime) I can still finish the plan without paying more. He also basically gave me the DDS belt, which is expensive. And he still believes that I can be healed. I wonder whether we’re both delusional.
I’m exhausted and discouraged and after awhile the pain has just worn me down. I’ve been seeing a doctor three nights a week for three months, and I haven’t even really started my structural treatment program. I feel like this never is going to end.
The strange thing is that this has so neatly replaced my IF treatment. Here I am, spending a lot of money, seeing a doctor so often I’m on a first-name basis with him and his entire staff. I’m in a lot of pain, and all I can do is hope that in the end I’m going to get something worthwhile out of it.
And like my IF treatment, I still have hope. Maybe I won’t be crippled or addicted to painkillers (or both) before I’m 40. Maybe I really will be healthy enough to do my own housework, garden, and have sex. (That’s right, I can’t even have sex.) Maybe I really will be able to handle a pregnancy and a baby someday.
Also like IF, I have fear. Because maybe not. And the thought of what I might become is terrifying.