(Written 3/23. Ability to post hindered by inability to move properly.)
You have no idea what I went through to write this entry.
This morning, I got up, made coffee, and threw my back out. Just like that. I was supposed to be throwing the coffee filter out. That missed the mark. But my back? My back is gone.
Usually, I know when my back is threatening to end me. It gives me warning signs, twinges. And I can usually work around it and stay functional, as long as I have a bottle of Advil with me at all times.
Today, though, no warnings. Just absolute fire-breathing leg-buckling vision-altering muscle spasmy goodness. Where “goodness”=hell.
When it first happened, I managed to straighten up and walk around. That’s usually a good sign, because being able to stand up straight and walk around means you can slowly and gently stretch things a little. Sadly, this was very short-lived. I decided to test the sitting thing, since I was going to be sitting in the car for an hour on the way to work, and then sitting at work for eight hours, and then sitting in the car for an hour on the way home.
The sitting went okay. Not great, but okay. The problem was, when I got up from the sitting, I could no longer do the standing. I could do the leaning-at-a-30-degree-angle-and-resting-my-weight-on-my-hands-on-the-table thing. That was really pretty comfortable. But no more with the standing. When I tried, the second time, to straighten up and take a step, I found myself on my knees instead.
Well, this is a bit of a Situation. So I crawled on my hands and knees into my bedroom, in search of my phone. I pulled it down from the nightstand and called my supervisor at work to give him a heads-up that I may or may not be permanently crippled. And then I crawled back out into the living room to try a few old-school remedies. I laid on the floor with my legs up on my coffee table, which happens to be exactly the right height for this particular thing. After a few minutes of just laying there to let the muscles relax a little, I started slowly trying to pull my knees toward my chest. You can’t do this with your stomach muscles, though. You have to actually use your arms. But that went okay.
Okay! That’s good!
In slow-motion, I rolled onto my side and sort of jiggered myself into a position where I could get my knees under me, and then pushed myself up so I was kneeling, with my butt on my heels. Huff. Good. Now, let’s try standing.
Back on my knees.
Drugs. Must have drugs.
I crawled into the kitchen, pulled the fridge open with the hand towel, and spent five minutes trying to get the yogurt off the shelf. It was the reaching, see. I had to slide it, using other things on the shelf as buffers and bumpers, to eventually bring the yogurt close enough to grab. Swell. Ate the yogurt. I ate the yogurt so that I would have a nice gastrointestinal coating so I could eat a handful of ibuprofen – which was the strongest thing I had in the house, apart from vodka. Which seemed to be a bad idea, considering I was trying to get to work.
Maybe I shouldn’t go to work, I thought. I might not be able to get there. I could call Jack and ask him to go get me some heat wraps and bring them over. He’s the only person who can do that in the middle of the day. It’ll screw up his workout routine, but if I tell him I need help, he’ll help. But I’m running low on sick days and what would I do here? Lay on the floor, unable to eat, drink, pee, or watch television at a comfortable neck angle.
Write! I thought. I could write. Then: No, genius, you can’t write laying down. Absent a NASA-designed pen or a computer that can be suspended in front of your face, you’re not going to write.
Work it is, then.
Alright, ibuprofen should kick in in about 45 minutes… let’s try a hot shower.
Made it into the bathroom, where I was faced with the towering obstacle of the side of the tub. I spent the first 15 minutes of the shower on my hands and knees before the hot water loosened things up enough to let me move just to my knees. And then I slowly sort of leveraged my way up the wall with my hands to a pseudo-standing position. An hour, I spent in the shower. Thank God my building has seemingly unending hot water.
Plus, I had to shave, because I hadn’t done it in days, and if someone needed to come and pick my naked ass up off the floor because I couldn’t move, the hairiness was going to be really embarrassing.
Super-clean, smooth-legged and feeling slightly more limber, I was able to step out of the tub and walk into my bedroom. Now. Dressing.
Leg up… and down. Leg up… and down. Leg u–aaaaaooooooowwwww!
So I sat on the bed, which was really a make or break move, because a couple of degrees in the wrong direction and it’s curtains for me. But the bed proved a help instead of a hindrance, and I got my pants on. Very exciting. Maybe I won’t have to call anyone to help me, after all. The bra, tank top and cardigan were relatively painless. I dried my hair without benefit of anti-gravity styling techniques and tested out the sitting again when I put on my makeup. It is beginning to look like I might actually get to work.
If I can get down the steps. And in the car.
I only yelped out loud once in that process. Call it a win. And then I was on my way to the drug store to get those heat wraps you can put on for eight glorious hours of pain relief. Please. It’s eight hours of warmth, and that’s nice, but who are we kidding? But I went anyway.
When I got out of the car (ow ow ow OWWW) at the drug store, a woman glanced over her shoulder at me, and then looked again as I shuffle-stepped my way across the parking lot and up to the door. Yes, I thought. I am aware of how I appear. I am 34. What gray hair I have is hidden by highlights. I’m a good 30 pounds less than the maximum weight allowed on body mass index graphs for my height. I am the picture of health, but for the fact that I’m walking like an octogenarian with a hitch in her giddyup. But my goal here is to not drop to my knees, so walk on by, lady.
You see, when you’re living on your own and presently boyfriendless, in your mid-thirties, you get really militantly independent. I’ve always been militantly independent anyway. Like, if I reeeeally have to go to the hospital because I’m bleeding internally, I’ll drive myself, thank you. (Done it.) Because I don’t want to be a bother, and all my friends have jobs with normal hours and kids and stuff, and they really don’t have the time or energy to be picking me up off the floor. So I take myself to the drug store and I shuffle-step my way in there, dammit.
Fortified with two boxes of heat wraps and the courage of my convictions, I got back in the car and managed to wrap one of those suckers on. And then I prayed that an hour in the car would not render me unable to get out again when I arrived at work. I had visions of just sitting there in the car in the parking lot for half the day, waving at coworkers. “Hi. I’m just going to stay here. Thanks. Hi.”
I did almost fall to my knees at least four times in the course of the day, but I made it through and got home without too much drama and without needing anyone to wheel me into meetings in my chair. Once I was home, I could lay on the floor and give these muscles a chance to unlock a little. I’ll find something in the kitchen that I can eat (tortilla chip crumbs and some cheddar cheese), dose up on another 800 mg of ibuprofen, and lie there.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
This has me flabbergasted, because usually this is the sure thing. This is what everybody will tell you to do: lay on the floor with your back flat against it and your legs up. Well, I don’t know what is going on in the L4 – S-whatever range of my spine, but it was having none of it. Lying there was one thing. But when I got up, holy God, I was worse off than I’d been all day. Not tired, and anything but comfortable, I decided to go back to the position I had been in for most of the day: sitting in a chair. I’ll write, after all, I thought. I crawled over to the laptop’s perch, intending to move it to the kitchen table, and then realized I couldn’t carry it. Instead, I put it on the floor and slid it along in front of me while I crawled over to the table.
And now, having conquered the day despite agony and a stubborn refusal to make anyone help me, having done my job and endured mockery and what-is-wrong-with-her glances, having climbed up the steps in my building looking, I swear to God, exactly like my grandmother used to, I’m sitting here. Writing.
This entry has been this long mostly because I don’t know how I’m going to get to bed.