March 24, 2011 § 21 Comments
Something’s wrong! My brain shouts me awake. Something’s wrong! it insists again.
I’m lying in bed at two in the morning, it’s the middle of Spring Break, and my hip…no, my gluts…no, my knee…no, definitely my shin…is painful. It’s just my hip, I tell my brain. From last Monday, ten days ago, when I hyperextended it in personal training.
Several moments go by. I’m breathing in for six, out for eight. I’m soon asleep.
No! Something’s wrong! Again, my brain’s insistent claim jolts me awake.
As do the pain signals now radiating…radiating?…shooting?…squeezing?…throbbing?…from my hip to my shin. The pain is indescribable, but I recognize it. Shit.
I roll over, prop my left leg on top of my right leg which is now crooked in such an odd way one would wonder how I manage to find comfort in the position at all. I fall asleep, imagining someone expressing shock at my ability to resume REM as quickly as I do. Try writing a dissertation, I might respond. It works wonders on insomnia. Also causes it. It’s a mysterious beast.
Pay attention!! Something’s really wrong!! My brain is now really starting to piss me off.
It’s 2 a.m. Nothing to be done about it now. Shut the fuck up, I bite back. And it does.
For the next few days, the pain in my leg comes and goes. It can’t be that, then…when that happened, the pain never went away. I’m afraid to say the words, even in my mind. I don’t want to revisit that—please, not that.
By Sunday, my left leg feels as though it is in its own private torture device. Radiating pain in the hip. Rolls down to tightness in the gluts. Rolls down to tightening in the calf. Rolls around to burning in the shin. Rolls down to squeezing in the heel. The pain isn’t as bad as it was back then, but I do find myself sitting down more often than not. Sitting hurts. Walking hurts. Standing hurts. Laying down hurts.
Please!! Am I shouting at the Heavens? Not THAT again!!
I flow through V’s yin yoga session. Everything’s fine. I know the modifications; my body naturally flows to them in order to protect my left leg. It’s time for savasana. Corpse pose. My favorite. V instructs us to roll down gently onto our backs. I tuck my legs in and begin the roll; I’ve done this a thousand times. I struggle. I collapse, but I don’t think I was really loud enough to disturb others’ descent into their restful meditation. I slowly slide my feet to the end of my mat and reach up with my arms. Something’s wrong. I ignore it. Breathe in for six, out for eight. Practice your ujjayi breath, your ocean-sound breath. V tells us to tense up all our muscles on our inhale, and release everything all at once on our exhale. Twice. Three times. There, I reprimand my brain. See? Nothing’s wrong. I settle into my savasana, my breathing slows. My brain begins to relax.
No! Something’s wrong! Now I feel it. Now I feel a tweak. I’m on my back, on the floor, and I feel it. V encourages us to find rest in any pose that is comfortable to us, recommending us to try supta baddha konasana, reclining bound angle pose, mostly because it feels good on the lower back…and because she likes saying its Sanskrit name. I slide my feet back toward my rear-end and, keeping my feet together, allow my knees to fall to either side. My hands rest beside me, palm-side up in order to receive peace; I feel my fingers just brush the inside of my hands.
I can’t feel that any more. I float away, listening to my friends practice their ujjayi breath, wondering what they’re meditating about. I meditate on them. On my joy to have such friends. On my gratefulness to V for being who she is. On my love for Robert and the tiny two-person family we’ve created. For a minute, I am still.
On Monday, I work out with my personal trainer. I tell her, hesitatingly, reluctantly, not yet wanting to say the words, on the verge of tears…about how I feel like something’s wrong. We regard one another. Is she reading my face to see if I’m just trying to get out of it? No, surely not. That’s just my own insecurity. She chirps (yes, chirps at freaking 7 a.m.), “Not a problem! We’ll do arms and legs today!” I watch her write in all capitals “NO BACK EXERCISES,” on my training chart. She underscores it twice.
Something’s really, really wrong! It’s almost 5 a.m. today. I’m dreaming about Dr. Cuddy…from House, M.D. She’s in pain, too. To alleviate her pain, she is resting on a pool table with her legs and arms hanging off the sides. House berates her. She ignores him, or cannot hear him, because all she can think is something’s wrong. Why is she on a pool table? Is the hardness of the table even helping? Or could the gravity pulling on her legs be making the something’s wrong worse?
Robert wakes me up. For a minute, I don’t want to move. I’m Dr. Cuddy resting on the pool table. Except my bed isn’t as firm. I slowly roll over to my side, suddenly sad.
“Something’s wrong,” I mutter to myself.
Many of my friends are probably sick of hearing about this, but it might have reared its ugly head again. For those who are gloriously not in the know…sorry, but I’m about to tell you about it. You won’t be not-in-the-know for much longer.
In 2008, my L5/S1 disk herniated (bottom of the lumbar, top of the sacrum–located essentially where the spinal column begins to meet the hips). I treated friends to pictures of my MRI scan, showing off (in my pain killer haze) how that little pillow disk looked like a thought bubble protruding from my spinal column, pushing against the sciatic nerve, which sent pain signals shooting down my leg. From February to May 2008, I was on pain killers because there is no such thing as “paid medical leave” for graduate teaching assistants. I had two choices: take a “medical withdrawal” from the university, receive no pay, and be behind one full semester in my trajectory in order to have surgery; OR float around doped-out for three months, feeling the pain but not giving a rat’s ass about it, teach and get paid, and stay on track to finish my coursework. I chose the latter option. I like money. I need money. Money makes the world go round and keeps the lights on. Money’s gooooood. On May 6, 2008, my disk was removed. I was put on more pain killers, but I took the first half of the summer off. I begged my surgeon to release me to work in July (so I could be paid for summer teaching), and he reluctantly agreed, with several admonitions of being careful. I was careful.
Until I received my medical release to exercise. Once I was released from recovery and could reignite my smoldering desire to lose weight, I hit the gym. I felt amazing. No pain, no restrictions. I was loosey-goosey. I could walk! I could stand! I was thrilled that now I faced a future where I would march down the aisle with my father holding onto my elbow for pictures and not for stability. I wouldn’t have to get a wheelchair wedding dress. I was awesome!!
And now? Now, three years later, something’s wrong. I don’t want to speak the words yet, but I’ve made an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Surgeon (he’ll be called), for next Wednesday to just…see.
I’m trying not to jump to conclusions. I’m struggling even more not to destroy myself for possibly causing this. (I gained so much weight, you see.) I feel terrible, both emotionally and physically.
And still…if it comes to surgery, it will just have to wait. Dissertation and graduation come first above all else.
Even if something’s wrong.