I’m lying on my couch with my pal Marti’s laptop and a homemade, deliciously mysterious polenta-eggplant concoction that, true to Marti’s particular style of cooking, looks like – well, polenta – but tastes like a slice of Hippie Heaven.
The tasty dish and donated notebook were thoughtfully brought to aid in my struggle to keep up a sense of humor and patience through a rather staggering wall of low back pain and associated isolation. The backstory is (ha ha! See my sense of mudderfucking humor?) that when I was 15 or so I was diagnosed with scoliosis, and the orthopedist told me I’d need a metal rod rammed down my spine some day. With that in mind, and those days acting as my own [ill-informed] parent, I went to see a chiropractor who, 3 times a week for many, many weeks, violently cracked every vertebral joint I owned (before having me lie on that embarrassing machine that makes you feel like you’re humping the air). I have since come to understand, and this is controversial, that there is bad chiropractics, the kind that encourages your body to become dependent on habitual joint-cracking in order to feel ok, and there’s good chiropractics, where through gentle manipulations and a serious home exercise program your body is allowed to follow a more natural pathway back to health and alignment, with the end goal being no more chiropractics.
In many a professional opinion, the former method can cause ligament sprains, scar tissue and even microscopic fracture of the vertebrae. All of which, at some point, doctors have told me I have, since those dark days of air-humping chiropractic visits. As a result, 2-3 times a year I strain or sprain my back, and am laid out for several days. Just so you know, a strain happens to muscle, and a sprain happens to ligaments, the dense tissues that help keep our bones in place. Once a ligament is sprained, it never goes back to its natural state, and is likely to become reinjured – in my case, many, many times in 19 years. Dear god, I’m aging.
This time it’s different, though. Instead of getting better after a few days, it got worse. I don’t feel the usual sciatica and burn. I feel like there are a handful of vices clamping down on various muscles in my low back and pelvis, causing shooting pains down both legs, shooting pains in my stomach, and weakness and pain when I try to walk. It’s a bad case of muscle spasm, and it hasn’t let up since Thursday. I have a doctor’s appointment, yada yada blah blah blah.
Since I was a hypochondriac for so many years, I always have the deep belief that I’m making this shit up. I mean, didn’t I just break my foot? I’ve been off crutches for what, 4 months? Or that somehow I’m making this stuff happen to me. I could list the list of body crap I’ve had to deal with in my life, but I won’t, because it’s an embarassingly long list.
Rukan took it all off my shoulders the other day, with a simple yet heretofore unspoken statement: “You just weren’t dealt the best hand with your body.” The clouds parted and the sunlight-rays beamed down on her angellic visage, as I gazed up at her adoringly between squinting grunts of pain. “You think that’s what it is?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. “You just got a bad bargain, physically. You make up for it by being brilliant and funny.” I made that last part up.
Another long-held image of myself, refreshingly washed away. I’m not the super-strong, super-healthy dancer-athlete father’s-daughter I’ve always struggled to be. I have scoliosis, crooked knees, weak eyesight, chronic muscle tension, migraines, a skin allergy, flabby dimpled thighs and three fake teeth.
What a fucking relief.
So as soon as this weird back-thing goes away or I recover from herniated-disc surgery, I’m going to take a new track towards long-term health. Gentle strenthening and conditioning, kindness to my body, a continued effort to find the right way to head this back thing off at the pass before I’m laid out, but an awareness that this was the card I was dealt, so I don’t have to fight it and end up feeling guilty when the pain wins.
Mom pointed out that problems in the pelvic area can be seen as related to a sense of ungroundedness. Of course, we all know that’s true about me. I also wonder if the back problem and broken foot, and numbness in my hands, and nearsightedness, and migraines, are due to chronic stress and anxiety. I guess not the fake teeth. Think about it. Someone with a lifetime of constant worry is going to grow up physically tense. Chronic tension of that sort would distort your very structure, according to the tensegrity theory (that bones, much like tent poles, are held in place by the “fabric” of your soft tissues). I wonder if chronic tension and holding patterns in the muscles attached to the spine could pull the growing spine into the c-curve with accompanying leeward twist that I sport. I know that anxiety-induced tension in the shoulder girdle can cause the muscles to entrap nerves, causing numbness and tingling in the hands. Before my foot was broken, I had noticed that the soles of my feet were starting to feel tight, and I had promised myself that I’d start using the foot roller on them. The doctor actually said that when my pinky caught the edge of the bed, the tendons actually tore part of the periosteum away from the bone. Sound like pretty tight tendons to me. I don’t know much about the musculature of the eye, but if there are muscles back in there, they are surely subject to the same anxiety, maybe causing the distortion of the vision? There’s a research project for me.
Speaking of research projects, my previous tensegrity theory approach to scoliosis was that left-handed masturbation caused it. Applying a right-handed approach, I’m still working on a cure.