Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pain in the Neck

Three weeks ago, I threw out my back.  This morning, I lost my proverbial shit.

I wrote almost five hundred words about how the last three weeks have been awful because I threw out my back, but I cut them because really here’s all you need to know: back pain is similar to early labor, except you don’t get a baby at the end of your efforts.  My mom flew out to help for the first week (better than angels from heaven).  And then, Monday evening, encouraged by some improvement, I decided to wean myself from the massive amounts of horse pills pain medication I had been taking at night to sleep.

Friends, the next time that I am put in charge of making decisions about my personal health, please save me from myself.  Tuesday was awful.  As I suspected, the night time meds were lingering in the morning, allowing me to be comfortable until around 3:00 most days.  I would take my first dose of meds around 6:00 each night when Scott got home from work, so it was only three hours a day that were pretty miserable.

Without that night time cushion, I was bitchy by about 10:00 on Tuesday morning.  I couldn’t lift my arm without wincing.  It hurt to walk.  It hurt to drive.  It hurt to load a plate into the dishwasher.  Don’t even get me started on moving a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.  By Wednesday evening, I was sure that I had made no improvement--forgetting all the okay days I’d been having--and now, I had pains in other places from my body trying to overcompensate for the original pain.

I slept for one hour last night.  One hour.  I cried off and on for five hours, (spitefully accidentally kicking my husband to wake him with no success).  And then I got out of bed because my kids needed breakfast, and I needed to take Will to school.  Ben started crying when I told him we had cereal but had run out of milk.  Through genuine tears, he sobbed, “I just want pancakes or eggs!”

Over the course of the last three weeks, my kids have had more Ramen and cereal than they’ve had in the rest of their short lives combined.  The thought of flipping eggs in a skillet made me start to cry, too.  And there was no way I was going to be able to stir pancake mix.  I have avoided going to the store because 1) it hurts to drive, 2) the thought of carrying groceries up the twenty-one stairs into our house makes me want to vomit.

So, I cried through making eggs, and I cried in the shower, and I cried while I couldn’t dry my hair all the way, and I cried when Ben started crying because the velcro on the only pair of shoes he has/will wear broke, and I cried as I drove Will to school.  More than the pain, I was so discouraged, and although logically I knew that this wasn’t as bad as it had been in the beginning (when I had zero mobility in my neck, constant muscle spasms, and paralysis in my right arm and hand), I felt so defeated.  How much longer was this going to last?  I had an appointment with the chiropractor at 9:00, so I cried while I drove to the chiropractor.

I have basically given up wearing real pants at this point (except the fattest of my fat jeans because they are the only ones that don’t hurt to pull up), so I rolled into his office in my best yoga pants, smeared make-up, and (made worse by the rain) hair.  I basically looked like this (except with darker circles under the eyes):

This, friends, is where the losing my shit part happened.

“So, how are we doing today?”

We?  How are we doing today?  Well, let’s see.  If you are referring to “we” as the three people in this room--you seem to be quite chipper.  Ben is eating crackers he pilfered from your waiting room because his mother hasn’t fed him anything but Asian noodles and Cinnamon Toast Crunch for the last two weeks, and me--well, look at me.  This is not how people should look in public.  Unless “public” is the bus station--correction, the bus station bathroom.

And then I cried some more, telling him Ijustwanttofeelbetter <heave> thisistakingsolong <heave> IamgoingtoturnintoapilladdictifIkeeptakingallthesepills <heave> Isleptonehourlastnight.  And then he told me it was going to be okay, and maybe I shouldn’t have quit the pain meds cold turkey, and if I could, could I please get on the table?  So, I did.  And he did the adjustment and went back over my treatment plan.

I left feeling a smidge better and drove to my Bible study that meets every other Thursday morning.  Why?  Because there is childcare, and I wanted someone else to listen to Ben cry about his Lightning McQueen shoes for 45 minutes instead of me.

And when I got there, I was welcomed into a room of women, whom I have known for a few months and whom I was now going to lose my shit in front of for the second time in one day.  Our leader, Becky, said, “Hey!  We all just finished sharing our highs and lows.”

This is what we do.  We share our highs and lows, ruminate on some Scriptures, and do other generally life-affirming and friend-making things.  And so, I launched into my low--how my back was not any better than it was the last time we met two weeks ago, and now the only things that have changed are that my house looks like a tornado and a bomb had a baby, my children are malnourished, and my husband is floundering for ways to be helpful and failing.  I also blabbered a lot about how I can’t imagine how people who live with chronic pain do it.

And you know what they said?  They said it sounded like I needed a meal tree started, and it was like a lightning bolt from heaven came down and struck me with this novel idea--oh, you mean, like asking for help?  Huh.

These are God’s people, friends.  Not because I meet with them twice a month in the high school classroom of our church, but because they understood me through my slobbery snot and started a freaking meal tree.

Encouraged and completely out of tears, I left the church and went to Target to find Ben some new shoes.  Scott and I have been on a spending freeze since the beginning of the year (for reasons that belong in an entirely different blog), which has meant staying away from Target unless absolutely necessary. I have been there (count ‘em) two times in the calendar year 2013, and the only unnecessary items I have brought out of the store were bags of half-priced Valentine’s candy.  Other than that, it’s been toothpaste and mouthwash and other equally exciting things.

But, after we grabbed some new light-up Lightning McQueen shoes, we headed to the food section to get milk.  While there, I lost all sense of our self-imposed rules.

Phineas and Ferb mac and cheese?  Yes.

Angry Birds graham crackers?  Yes.

Mario Bros. Fruit snacks?  Yes.

If it came in a box and had a cartoon character on it, we bought it.  And you know what else I bought?  Three new silicone spatulas!  Not the cheap nylon ones.  The ones that cost three dollars more and don’t turn into melted bits that gunk up your eggs and make you cry.

Over the last few years, we’ve really tried to limit the processed food that enters our pantry (another story that deserves a post of its own), but I bought a mountain of  disgusting processed boxed snacks and three damn spatulas.  And it felt good.

I also bought some milk because even though we will probably have some old lady casseroles for dinner in the next few nights, we will still probably need to stick with cereal in the mornings.

As I walked toward the milk, in the frozen food case, I saw a little red tag on the Steamfresh vegetables.  These have been my go-to item in this moment of mom-misery, and we were down to a couple bags of green beans.  And there it was, a red tag from God reading 5/$5.00.  This is a deal, friends!  A really good deal!  I covered all the processed boxed snacks with bags and bags and bags and bags of vegetables that are ready to eat with no preparation and four minutes in the microwave.

After Target, Ben and I stopped by our favorite local market for some fruit, and bolstered by my rebellious trip to Target, I carried him through the muddy parking lot (we were NOT going to get those new shoes dirty!) despite the fact that it felt like my right arm was being electrocuted.  So what, pain!  I have friends who are going to bring me casseroles.  And I have new spatulas.

We grabbed some quick sushi that I didn’t make on plates that I don’t have to wash (in your face, spending freeze) at a restaurant next to Ben’s school, and I headed home for my two uninterrupted hours at home without children.

I lugged the ten bags of groceries up all twenty-one stairs, yelling a string of obscenities all the way.  On my last trip, the bag of Pink Lady apples fell out of my arms and tumbled





the twenty-one stairs.  Ben had chosen them (since our beloved Honey Crisps are dwindling and out of season now) because they “are just like you, Mom--you’re a Pink Lady!”  And now, his funny little joke was so apropos because the simple act of carrying my groceries to my kitchen left me feeling just like that--like a bag of apples that had been dropped down two flights of stairs.

Once the frozen veggies were put away, I left the boxed stuff on the floor and collapsed on the bed.  I am not one to complain generally (at least not in such a public forum), but friends, the last few weeks have been excruciating hellish one giant clusterfuck challenging.

So, let’s wrap this up with a nice moral to the story: TODAY, I was a nightmare at my worst, and my friends loved me anyway.  I spent time with my children.  I bought new shoes without thinking about where to get the money.  My kids and I will eat tonight.  I live in a house with twenty-one carpeted stairs leading to three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three TVs.  I spent two hours today writing a story about back pain.  I am typing this on my functioning computer while my kids participate in a free Lego club at the public library ten minutes from our house.  My husband just texted me, saying he’s on his way home--an hour and a half earlier than I normally get that text.  I still have medicine, so I can sleep tonight.

Today was a good day.