On back pain... It's such a fine line. Such a brief nothingness that separates us from something else. We are such frail and fragile creatures and our life is so remarkably, so indescribably vulnerable.
I was coming off a few week period of great productivity. Of happiness for the success at the end of each day and excitement for things to come with the next one. I don't think I cold have asked for anything more yet in an instance... a flash in time everything crashed down around me.
My back literally snapped and I went from happy-go-lucky and careless to being in impossible pain that was so all consuming that nothing else mattered. I went from standing and active and to huddled on the floor in the fetal position and barely able to take even the tiniest of breaths. Spasms overtook the muscles on both sides of my spine and they came so rapid fire one after another that I was sucking short milliseconds of air in between searing waves of pain that prevented me from moving, talking, breathing, or even thinking.
Jen must have surely thought I'd been shot by an errant bullet. Or suffering a massive heart attack or seizure. I can only imaging that her brain was as terrified or more as mine was when I sank to the floor in front of her.
The good news is that I'm fine. It's almost two weeks later... but I can now say that I feel (mostly) human once again. That I'm returning to normal. The bad news is that the indescribable back pain kept me huddled in a ball for more than 4 days. No amount of drugs or stretching could relieve it or lessen it and I don't like the places that my brain went during. The fatigue, the giving up, the fear. For long spans of time my brain went to a place where I thought it would never end...where I thought I would never be normal again. It was maddening and horrible.
I laid for hours at a time afraid to take more than the shallowest of breaths. Terrified to make even the slightest movement of a hand, a leg, twitching a finger... much less rolling over or turning my head. Even the slightest hint of movement would set the muscles off and make my entire gut clench, locked in spasm for what seemed like hours. It's like my body had turned against me. Was fighting to protect me from a danger that wasn't even there and was killing me in the process.
I can't possibly imagine worse pain. I can only imagine this is what it must be like to have contractions and give birth without medication. I will obviously never know, but have such immense respect for women who have endured such if it's even anywhere close to the pain they experience. Several years ago I sat through almost 7 hours of straight tattooing when I got my sleeve done and would have at any moment happily traded another 20hours straight with the needle for a reprieve from the spasms.
The seemingly never ending onslaught of pain left me a broken mess of tears on the floor and their day after day return left me without sleep and with hope, with fear taking over all emotions.
My wife and partner is so sweet and so tender. She was willing to do absolutely anything despite there being nothing to be done. I love her to no end and I could barely take seeing the fear and sadness in her eyes as she looked into mine. These are days that I will actually choose to not remember. Days I hope quickly fall from my memory and do not return.
I can't say that often in my past as I believe that almost everything in my history (while I wouldn't choose it or want to relive most of it) probably played some role in who I am today... even if it often felt like a pretty rough road to get here... But these days, I would love to erase from the memory banks. To never think of or be reminded of again and certainly to never have to experience again.
What caused it you ask? Im not sure. Likely something I did in the shop while lifting all-too heavy items or reaching out over the van to set them into place. Acting anything but my age and not asking for help where I probably should have.
I also have a history of back pain. Years ago in college I took an architecture trip to Italy and one of the chaperones (a very, very...very large woman) fell on me while walking down a narrow sidewalk. She fell forward and grabbed my shoulders and when I collapsed to my knees with her full weight upon my shoulders my back snapped. I was young and thought it would heal. Laughed it off as I spent the next few months leaning against walls to stand because I couldn't hold my own weight. Years later, with the addition of a hugely stressful job, lots of travel with a briefcase and hunching over a computer my back pain was constant and I would have to "self-adjust" chiropractic style even just to get out of bed each morning.
Worse even than the pain was that I began to believe that I couldn't be well. I gave up hope and began to think that it was permanent and that I had no choice but to live in that pain for the rest of my days. I remember Jen's grandfather talking about getting a permanent epidural in his nineties and I went home to research if I could get one despite the fact I was in my early thirties. I was actually excited about the possibility. I could easily give up feeling my legs I thought...as long as everything else still worked and my back no longer hurt.
Luckily...that pain is no longer with me, and it wasn't from an epidural. With the help of several very talented healers in a combination of acupuncture, chiropractic and massage; I began to first believe I could be well, and then with their help (and by making major lifestyle changes that came with far less stress, anxiety and sitting at a desk) my back pain finally subsided. It was in check and I have felt great most days ever since. There have only been two of these "flare ups" that I can recall and the first only lasted a few hours.
Maybe we all need occasional "glimpses" of how fragile life is or to remind us that we are far from invincible. I personally would far prefer a handwritten note or an email. I'm not even sure what to take away from this event other than appreciation that its no longer here and that its not permanent.
I have such a huge outpouring of emotion and empathy for those who deal with chronic massive pain or physical limitations on a daily basis. The rest of us are simply going through life thinking that our daily decisions are difficult and striving for more or for different or for happiness...and truly can't imagine how hard it is to be in their shoes. To have no choice but to focus on such intense pain and limitation that you cant imagine even having the opportunity to be "normal".
It's a reminder to me how short and fragile our life and our health really is. Another reminder why it's so very important to live each day fully. To strive for happiness and live out your dreams to the fullest now rather than waiting until later for some day or phase that may never come, or that may find yourself physically unable to take full advantage of. It seems so ridiculous to me that we are expected and conditioned to slave away at jobs during the decades of our life that we are young and vibrant and able...and that we willingly submit to "waiting" to enjoy ourselves and experience the world upon retirement, when we are likely too old or frail to enjoy it as we could throughout our youth.
Take it from the guy that just literally "lost" a week of my life huddled into a mess on the floor... Life may throw a lot of things at us, but most of us are still lucky enough to be blessed with health, and a body that can at least function well enough to take us where we need to be. At least for me...you won't hear me complaining about any lesser evils than that for a long time. Instead, I'm choosing to be thankful for the health I have while I have it, to not squander a single day of this chance at life we've been given; and would like to suggest that you all do the same.
Life is short, and fragile and delicate...so we might as well all be out there living each day as though It's the last one we have. In reality... it might just be.