That’s Life

Yesterday was one of those days on which everything I tried to do seemed destined to be a failure and made me cry.

Indulge me; this is going to come across as another post of complaints. I write it because I’m sure some of you can relate, and that makes it a little better for all of us, yes?

For the last several months, I’ve been dealing with significant lower back issues. It started when I threw it out in March, not for the first time, but definitely the worst time.  I have no love for chiropractors, but it seems I will have to go see one. Art the Indistinguishably Asian Massage Therapist said to me on my last visit, “You don’t trust a doctor, but you trust someone like me?”

Not a comfort to hear from a guy whose hands have been all over your naked body for the last 90 minutes.

Point is, the back issue is making it harder and harder for me to do anything productive, or, you know, not. Lay on the couch and watch a movie? Nope. Sit on the couch and watch a movie? Nah. Sit in a chair? No. Drive to work and back? Not without pain. Get out of the car? Oh, fun visual for anyone who happens to see it. Get out of bed? It’s a process. Put pants on? We’re damned lucky I’ve been clothed for the last 10 months.

Anyway, it’s better if I’m moving, and I had stuff to do at home yesterday so I figured I’d make it work. But a couple of things wound up making it harder. For instance: the cat peed on the guest room floor, for reasons she still has not explained, and got the bed’s dust ruffle, too. So the dust ruffle had to come off to be washed.

You know how hard it is to flip a mattress by yourself?

There was no way I was going to be able to get the mattress off the bed. I’ve done it before, but it wasn’t going to happen this time. So I had to settle for attempting to lift the mattress just enough here and there to pull the dust ruffle out from under it. It sounds like a perfectly feasible plan, but it wasn’t working.  After several minutes of trying to nudge the mattress up and pull, I was about 15% done and the dust ruffle was stuck. A few more attempts yielded no result. I tried a different approach to little effect. My back wasn’t making it easier, and on top of that, the bending and lifting wasn’t helping the acid reflux I’ve battled of late.

At one point, squatting next to the bed, I really did put my head on it and cry.

I wasn’t crying from pain. It was frustration and fear. I wonder how many people, at the age of 34, feared for their future because of their present. Maybe a lot, I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it lately. I am, indeed, too damned young and too damned healthy to have to eat boring, bland food and do stretches every hour just to get my body to function. I don’t understand why it’s happening, but frankly, it scares me. What will I do if things continue on this track?  If I just keep getting worse? Will I be one of those sad old women who can’t do anything, stuck in her house all the time? Will that happen sooner than later?

And of course, I’ll be broke, because there will be no social security and I will have been trapped in a career that paid well enough to handle the bills and food but not well enough to buy real estate on my own that would (allegedly) earn me some money for later. The market has done very little to increase my IRA or 401(k) since 2008 – what if that continues, too? I will have spent too many years getting older in a windowless basement, nights and weekends, never able to retire, only forced to stop working by disability. Living somewhere that’s filthy because I’m physically unable to clean it and financially unable to hire someone. With no one to take care of me.

Yup. That’s where all this went in my head. What started as an additional load of laundry ended up an existential debate about my life.

Don’t you love it when that happens?

I never hear anybody talk about this stuff. It happens to people, but nobody talks about being afraid it will happen to them. I suppose that’s either because I’m a crazy neurotic freak and nobody else goes down these roads, or it’s because everyone figures the same thing I ultimately figure when I do: that’s life. Independence is a great thing when your body allows you to be independent, but when it doesn’t, you start to realize: this is why people got married back in the day, and had lots of kids. It wasn’t for love. It was so someone else was around to help with the hard stuff.

And back then, you died at 50. I’m starting to see why.

Thank God my brain works in circles, because just as I started feeling very Grapes of Wrath about the whole thing, that thought led me to this one: okay, so you’re falling apart, and you’ve got this other person around, but they’re falling apart, same as you. Fat lot of good that does you both. Now neither of you can get the dust ruffle off the bed, at least one of you is laid out on the floor and the other can’t do anything to help, and you wind up getting rid of the cat because it’s the easier solution.

Not better. Just a misery loves company situation.

I am, before you laugh at me (or after), very well aware that the reflux might yet go away (six more days of the OTC stuff, and then, I promise, I’ll go to the doctor if it’s not gone) and a chiropractor might be able to help me with the stupid problems I’ve had for nearly 20 years. I am very well aware that I do not suffer nearly as mightily as many others. I am aware that I am mostly able-bodied despite having a back that cries for massive doses of ibuprofen and a gut that won’t allow it. But I’m also aware that I’ve got a ways to go (quite possibly) and it’s a scary thought sometimes.

Yesterday, though, after I cried with my head on the bed for about fifteen seconds, I just got really mad and got the damned dust ruffle off. And then I spent a while in the icy chill of high winter winds trying to get the Christmas tree that’s been lying out on the balcony for a week out of the stand that it had apparently grown fond of, over the balcony railing and down a block to its rightful post-Christmas place. Despite the challenges, I got stuff done. Because that’s life.

But I can’t say when that dust ruffle will be back on that bed.

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28 thoughts on “That’s Life

  1. Okay, I both laughed and cried. “…Now neither of you can get the dust ruffle off the bed, at least one of you is laid out on the floor and the other can’t do anything to help, and you wind up getting rid of the cat because it’s the easier solution…” This is priceless. I pray you will find some relief. As someone who has ruined their stomach lining with massive doses of pain relievers I sympathize. Screw the dust ruffle.

      • Yes, it is. I also worry about my future health (I fall down A LOT and I already have osteopenia, but can’t take the bone enriching medications because of the stomach lining that I ruined taking all those pain killers). See, these things tend to cycle round and round. Anyway, I know I will fall and break a hip (probably sooner rather than later) and languish in a nursing home that I inspected when I did that for a living, and the workers there will remember me and torture the hell out of me…

  2. I can imagine how low you must be feeling about your health. It is discouraging. I am also suffering from some digestive problems, had a CAT scan this week, and just received the results yesterday. The upshot is yes, there is something wrong in several areas, but we don’t know how it all fits together. My sister, an RN, told me, “Oh, they’ll probably have to do exploratory surgery.” Great! I hope your cat’s “accident” is only a one time thing. I love my kitties. They are a lot of comfort.

    • I’m feeling better about it today. I have my pity parties, and my fears are real, but in the end, you go on. Just like you do with what you’re going through. I hope your sister is wrong. And I hope they find what they need to know to begin getting you back to something closer to normal!

  3. I used to roll my eyes when people said that getting old sucks. Now I understand what they meant – my body is falling apart in ways I wasn’t expecting for another 10-20 years, if at all. Also: that crap about gaining weight more easily and losing it with increasing difficulty after 35? It’s totally true. Kind of makes me wish dudes’ balls fell off when they turned 40. That’s my idea of fair.

    • Oh, thank God. You’re hip and fit – you do yoga, for crying out loud. Thank God I’m not the only one. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not celebrating your frailties at all. I’m just relieved. And thanks for giving me something to look forward to when I hit 35. I’ve always known the warnings, but my metabolism inexplicably improved when I hit 30 so I thought maybe I’d escape that particular fate until 40 or later.

      But I like older men. So maybe let them keep their balls a little longer? They do lose their hair…

  4. I know lots of people who are inclined to think that way. In my 12-step meetings we call it projection or catastrophizing. My sponsor advises me that there’s absolutely no reason to think things will work out according to my worst imaginings … and even if it does, worrying about it now won’t help anything. Easier said than done … and I’m the one on the meds. It does help to talk or write about it.

    Thanks for letting me keep my family jewels….

    • It’s embarrassing to admit when I do start thinking that way. It was hard for me to publish that post. I felt like such a whiny brat. But I thought the overall feeling of fear was important to explore and one that people just don’t talk about. What I usually tell myself is exactly what you said: there is no reason to think things will work out according to my worst imaginings. But on “down” days, I think there’s no reason to believe they won’t. Bummer of a circle. But – tomorrow I’m calling a chiropractor. “Fix me!”

  5. I hope this post was supposed to be as rich as it is. I can’t sympathize with you as I prefer to live in denial of anything relevant to the ills of aging. Whenever I buy a new ‘bed in a bag’ I cut the dust ruffle up into rags so I can dust the furniture with it. Rich.

  6. I have come to accept that our bodies betray us. Everyone has their own form of decay to deal with, no matter the age. Take it from someone with 10 years on you, we all have these worries. Some of us just write about it, laugh, take a pill, laugh, cry, take more pills and laugh. And you’ve got the writing and laughing part down pat!

    P.S. I’m a quitter. I gave up on dust ruffles and all forms of bed making years ago.

    • Thank you for assuring me that I’m not crazy for worrying. I do wish I could take some ibuprofen! Calling the chiropractor tomorrow… gee, hope they’re good… recommendations have all been out-of-network (this is my shocked face. 😐 ) Seriously, thanks for the encouragement!

  7. dustruffles: unnecessary evil. I’m sure your bed will be fine without it 🙂
    hope you’re feeling better – and if you don’t go to a chiropractor, go to a physiotherapist, because they might be able to help you wiht exercises you can do at home to keep the pain away.

    • I’m stubborn. I am hell bent on covering that bottom mattress with a dust ruffle. And yes, thanks for the suggestion. I am already doing some stretches (which may or may not be helping) and will actually do the ones I’m prescribed this time. Really. I mean it.

  8. I too, have had lower back problems – since a sledding accident at 13 yrs (I’m almost 53 now). Massage has helped a lot, but what has probably saved me the most was some sleeping tips from a 23 yr old massage therapist. He told me to be sure to have a good sized pillow under my knees if I slept on my back, a body pillow between my legs if I sleep on my side, and always a pillow under the head and neck that keeps the head about the same level as the stomach (horizontally). Not saying I’m pain-free, but these tips have helped tremendously.

    The other thing that has really helped is really good arch supports. I sound geriatric, oh my gosh! 🙂 I’d best stop.

    • Yep. I’ve been doing the pillow under/between the knees for years now. And you can’t underestimate the value of a good arch support. Or denture cream. 😉 I’m finding stretches specifically targeted at the iliopsoas to be most helpful. Appointment Friday.

  9. I understand perfectly where you are coming from. I have multiple medical issues and for the last 10 years it seems like every couple of years there was a new one. When I think on it too hard it can cause a massive pity party. What’s going to happen to me? Will I be financially ok, when I can no longer work? Who will take care of me?

    It’s a dark pit, that is sometimes difficult to get out of.

    But for the most part, I am an upbeat positive person. My goal for 2012 is to take the best possible care of me that I can. This will include trying some holistic approaches and working more closely with my doctors.

    I hope that you are feeling betters soon.

    • Thank you! My back is feeling a bit better thanks to some stretches I’ve been doing, and I’ve scheduled an appointment with a holistic chiropractor. (Who knew such a thing existed?) The reflux, well… jury’s still out. But working on it!

  10. That is life, isn’t it? And is stinks that, so often, it seems to stink.

    I think part of the problem with us modern folk is, we think we’re supposed to be happy all the time and when we’re not, we get depressed because life isn’t turning out the way we were led to believe it would. Our grandparents, and those before them, knew that life was a hard struggle for the most part, and the most you could hope for were happy moments. I had a talk with my 19-year-old the other day about this and at the end of it she said “Thanks, Mom. Now I’m gonna go shoot myself.”

    I’m 52 and I have been blessed with excellent health. I don’t have any major health issues, no major pains, don’t take meds, no nothing. Please don’t think I’m bragging or being insensitive. It’s just that I don’t understand why that is, when people I love struggle with such serious illnesses. The pessimist in me is convinced I’m going to die of a massive aneurism or some other non-detectible, non-preventable thing quite suddenly and soon in payment for my pain-free life.

    Anyhoo, sorry to go on and on. I’m sorry you’re having such problems and really hope the new treatment helps..

    • Yes, I think you’re right about expectations. I’ve said to friends recently that we’ve figured out how to live past 45 but not how to live without pain or chornic health concerns. And I don’t think you’re bragging or insensitive at all! I think you’re blessed! My hope is that the treatments I’ll get will help me get into a better place physically so I won’t have to deal with as much pain in the future. On my father’s side of the family, everyone has a bad back, so in my case it’s heredity to some degree… but I probably could have done a better job staying focused on keeping it healthy.

  11. I can relate to your back pain issues. I’ve had near constant pain for the last 20 years or so. Of course, there are good days and there are bad days, but sometimes it really just gets to you! It sucks to not be able to do things. I realize – especially when reading about the things that other people go through – that having a hard time picking things up off the floor because that requires bending over, well, that’s not the worst thing that could happen to me. But it’s still an almost daily frustration. One of the worst things for me is the negative anticipation, the knowing that you’ll have to face 10 situations every day that make you uncomfortable or put you in pain, or that you simply can’t do.

    I’m glad the stretching is helping. I too do the body pillow thing and that helps a lot. I hope the chiropractor visit helped, too!

    • That’s really what it is – that it gets to you sometimes. The daily things you have to modify or suffer pain for. I’m sorry you deal with it, too. Chiropractor visit in two days… fingers crossed!

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