Sunday, April 19, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

About a week ago, I was standing somewhere public, dreaming my small dreams, when I happened to catch a glimpse of myself in a mirrored building. In seconds, my brain was flooded with questions:

How long has my hair been doing that?

Where in the hell did my lipstick go?

Why did I think these pants could still be seen in public?

What is up with my posture?

The last one was the most provocative, because I was standing in a singular way. My head was over here, my shoulders were way up here, only not symmetrically, and my hip was way over there. I thought, “I’ll just stand up strAAAAAUGH!”

Yes, it’s a word. It’s what “Straight” evolves into when you try to align your back and a thousand invisible elves with anger-management issues and white-hot carving knives attack you. My spine, from cranium to sacrum, made their feelings known (The coccyx remained neutral). Instantaneously, I went back to my old position, but I had awakened the beast.

I knew exactly what this was; I didn’t wail “WHY?????” and shake my fist at the Fates, at least partially because I couldn’t raise my arm above my hip. I was in five serious car accidents between fifteen and twenty-nine, and while I never broke a single bone, the EMT guys usually ended up tying me to a board and whisking me off to the nearest ER where I would be diagnosed with soft-tissue damage. Soft-tissue damage is like a very bad bruise which takes forever to heal and holds a grudge. Have five of those and that’s a lot of grudges. My spine and I would make a great episode of “Dr. Phil.”

[You are now thinking “Five car accidents? How badly do you drive, Quinn?” I was at fault exactly once. Three times, I was a passenger. My karma is mythically weird.]

So that answers “Why me?” and here’s the answer to “Why me, now?” At the start of the year, we put Daughter back in school and were rewarded with a book list only slightly shorter than the Britannica. The first day she went beetling off with her rolling backpack crammed full, and she came home with even more material. I was confused; why wasn’t some of this stuff staying at school? After a week, I wrote an email to the teacher, who wrote back saying there was no storage space for the kids. I suggested this was insane; she agreed and begged me to write to the principal and beg for bookshelves. I wrote, I begged. I got an email back from the principal letting me know the teacher had plenty of storage space for the kids, if she just organized her room correctly. I went around with them two more times and discovered that there was plenty of shelves or none at all, depending on which reality you chose to adopt.

One of the few nice things about being over forty is that I now see pointless turf battles much earlier than before and don’t try to engage, but it did mean the backpack never got smaller. By December, Daughter weighed fifty-four pounds and the backpack weighed forty five. She could pull it on its wheels, but there was no way for her to get the thing in and out of the car every day, so I did that. Every day, four times a day, I would grab something heavy and poorly balanced and twist it in and out of a confined space. A couple of times a week, I’d think “Ooh, I bet my spine isn’t enjoying this” and then I’d think “But nothing has happened yet, so I don’t have soft-tissue damage anymore! There will be no consequences for me!” This is the same part of my brain that thinks if a light on the car dashboard stops blinking, it means the car fixed itself. And every day, my posture got a little stranger, the backpack got heavier and I grew a little more helixed, until last week when I tried to stand my full 5’3” once more and got bitch-slapped, spinally.

When you have intermittent back problems, you learn certain skills, like driving yourself home even though you kind of resemble a grimacing ironing board. I inched into the house and fell face-first on to the couch. Consort and Daughter came out and stared at me curiously.

“Do you need help?” Consort asked politely. I said something into the couch, because turning my head wasn’t an option. Daughter tried to pet my back but stopped when the sensation of her hand moving the shirt-fabric closer to my back caused me to scream. By putting his ear next to the couch-cushion, Consort gleaned that I wanted one of the Vicodin my ER doctor had given me for the cat-bite. I knew it would make me seasick and nauseated, but I hoped it might addle the knife-wielding invisible elves. Considerately, he got the pills and some water. Sweetly, he turned my head and drugged me. Deftly, he peeled me from the couch and arranged me on my back, squinting painfully at the ceiling.

“We’re going to let you rest now,” he said, shooing our offspring and the pets away from me, all of whom found me unbearably desirable now that I was the Tin Man before the oil can. I hissed to grab his attention. He leaned over. I whispered, “If I die, you can start dating after Thanksgiving. If I’m still here on Wednesday, kill me.”

“Got it,” he said astutely, and walked out of my line of sight. I stared at the ceiling and lay very still and longed to once more be the Quinn whose biggest problem was bad hair and missing lipstick.


Blogger OHN said...

The last time I was face planted onto a flat surface it was because something happened to "the back" while I was doing the treacherous activity of brushing my teeth.

I feel your pain.

3:09 PM  
Blogger bethany actually said...

Ouch! I hope your back is feeling better soon.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Char said...

Oh no....back pain is horrendous. I hope you're better soon.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Claire said...

Oh, I hope you're better soon. Consort appears to be a wise man. Mine is, too; a remark like that would provoke no reaction other than "OK, hon".

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

I had an accident when I was sixteen or seventeen. It was *all* my fault. I was only lucky in that I merely cracked my neck instead of breaking it. I feel your pain, and sometimes quite literally, at that.

6:35 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I have the exact same car karma, though curiously it began only after I finished $15k worth of massage therapy school and the fitness of my muscles became important. So after 3 accidents in 2 years, my career as a CMT ended shortly after it began, because while I'm well enough to not be in pain, I no longer have the stamina to perform 5 massages a day, every day, which is not entirely different from spending 5 hours a day working out at the gym.

So based on this, I feel I can claim enough knowledge to lecture strangers on the internet. So: Anyone who just calls it soft tissue damage without offering anything helpful in the way of rehabilitation is immediately suspect. Most doctors don't really know much about soft tissue or how to treat it. The exception to this is the Physiatrist, who should be the one you see regarding soft tissue rehabilitation. Obviously each situation is different, but I got to be pain free with a combination of physical therapy, acupuncture, really regular yoga, cranial sacral unwinding (which is seriously miraculous, despite how improbable it seems), and myofascial release. Most of that was covered by insurance, but it's still sort of like a part time job in reverse (about 16 hours a week, but you pay, rather than get paid). But the upside is that you don't wind up on your back hoping someone will remove the cat from your face before you suffocate.

This stuff can also get your out of the spasms you're currently in. I hope you feel better before Wednesday - I don't think any of us could find another you by Thanksgiving.

Hope that wasn't too preachy, just wishing I could help.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I wondered on Friday if something was wrong when I didn't see you tweet the new word of the day. I threw my back out twice in January. I guess the first time was soooo much fun that I had to do it again. Never have I been in such pain. I give you alot of credit for driving because I drove myself once and I was furiously writing (in my head) letters to the city for having so many fricken pot holes.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

Owwwww! I truly hope you are feeling better now.

By the way, I have the same theory you do about car dashboard lights. :D

1:06 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

The thing that bugs me about intermittent back pain is that it's usually (for me anyway) the slightest of actions that brings it on and leaves me unable to function properly; reaching for something on a shelf, sneezing, shooing a fly away. The cat... She just wonders why it is you're not petting her and rubbing that sweet spot behind her ears.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

Hope you're feeling all better soon. :( I'm feeling empathy pains upon reading this.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Trust me; there is NEVER enough storage space. The Head imagines there is because one of the perks of being Senior Management is teaching about 3 lessons a week... not that I'm bitter!

10:58 AM  
Blogger Surely said...

Ooh, sorry that you're hurting!
Try a chiropractor...I stood crooked as well and he fixed me up. I still have terrible posture though so there you go.

And I'm a little in love with Consort. Don't worry, it'll pass. (:-D

While I'm sad to hear you're prone, the biggest part I gleaned was: You put Daughter back into school!?!?!

10:29 AM  
Blogger laura linger said...

Your blog makes me laugh out loud. It's a nice treat with a hot cup of coffee.

Agree totally with your insight as to choosing your battles and being a certain age. I myself am 38 and am almost willing to accept a saggy ass and crow's feet for the near-cosmic wisdom I seem to have acquired in the past two years or so. My litmus test: will this matter in five minutes? Five hours? Five days? Five years? If the answer is "no" to any of these, it isn't worth arguing over, and I move on. A real departure for me, believe me. My Dad is up in Heaven playing checkers with Jimi Hendrix and still saying, "you can't tell me my Laura Beth wasn't born to be a lawyer. She can argue about anything, and she always wins." Sorry, Dad.

Vicodin is the devil's drug. Pain relief, but I find that the side effects are almost worse than the pain.

Feel better.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Doug Brooks said...

I can just hear consort saying "got it" as he retreated.

One assumes you got up before Wednesday and hopes are you are feeling better each day.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't remember if I've told you before, but I love your blog.

RE: vicodin. How are you with tylenol? Acetaminiphen makes a small % of people nauseous (I know because I'm one of them), and there's a heavy dose of it in vicodin. In any case, there are alternatives to vicodin out there--ask the dr. for one next time, there's no need to suffer through the nausea, which can be nearly as bad as pain.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Ooohh, no. Chiropractor: maintenance care. Accupuncture: might help. Water exercise?

I'd say I feel your pain, but I have plenty of my own, so you have major league sympathy from me. God bless our chemical neighbors.

2:40 PM  

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