Welp, Maybe Not


Today was therapy day. I say “was” because, well, the appointment started four minutes ago. You’ll note that I’m apparently not in my therapist’s office. There’s a reason for that.

Long story short, my back went out this morning trying to get out of bed. I’ve been on the heating pad ever since, and only moving around the apartment when absolutely necessary.

We’ve rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll have stuff to report then.

In the meantime, I’m going to write something kinda brief about how days like today (this has happened before and will almost certainly happen again) affect my daily activities.

The Four Agreements is a best-selling self-help book by Don Miguel Ruiz (has it really been 20 years since this book came out?), and it’s a good read. I recommend it if you haven’t read it before, it goes quickly and it has some gems in it. The fourth Agreement is to “always do your best.” This is further described as follows:

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick.

So the bottom line is, I’m going to do my best, but that won’t be the same as what it would be if I wasn’t in a lot of pain.

It’s not a big change from what I normally do, but my exercise is radically altered. I’ve recently traded in laps of the apartment complex for trips down and back up the stairs outside. Three round trips of the stairs have me huffing and puffing far more than a leisurely stroll around the block, as it were, plus I feel it in my legs FAR more than I do while walking. One of these days, soon I hope, I’m going to shoot for five, but my legs are getting wobbly after just three trips and I always wonder if I can make four, so I stop there. On a day like today where I have persistent back pain, that gets reduced to two or even one trip up and down the stairs. It’s not much – it’s honestly barely anything at all – but it gets me out moving and doing something strenuous, for as long as my body will let me.

My to-do list is also cut down to size, and done in short bursts of activity in order to minimize the time I’m away from the heating pad. Where I’d normally be deep cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash, cycling through our refrigerated water jugs as they need to be refilled, cycling the dishwasher from clean to dirty dishes, dusting, and straightening up the living room (as an example) today I’m likely going to just cycle the water jugs and clean the litter box and call it a day. (Fortunately much of that exemplar list has been done recently, so my list is thankfully pretty small today. If new things arise, however, I’ll likely delegate those things off to my wife or just hold off on them until tomorrow.)

Fortunately there are a lot of things on my checklist that can be done sitting right here on my heating pad, so there’s not a lot that needs to be altered. But things were bad enough this morning that I needed the heating pad for a good half hour before I felt okay enough to stand on my feet long enough to do my dental hygiene this morning.

The important thing is that a day like this, while a real nuisance and a very painful experience, isn’t enough to keep me from accomplishing full marks on my checklist. It would take me being bedridden at this point for me to break this streak, and fortunately I’m not quite to the point that I need to stay in bed. (Lying down actually exacerbates the problem, so I’m doing what’s best for my body by sitting on the couch with the heating pad on my back, waiting for the next round of Aleve to kick in.)

Tomorrow will be better. I have spoken.

Anachronistic Socialization


Today was the local SCA group’s winter event, and my wife and I dressed up like good little Norse people and went. It was very good to see a lot of my friends there, and to get hugs from them, and to be told that we’re both missed. I attended a class on a piece of local SCA history, and my wife taught a class on beginning lucet (in simplistic terms, it’s cordweaving, but actually a bit more complex than that). There was bardic, which is my area of expertise in the SCA, and for once I was a spectator rather than a competitor or judge. It felt good, until it didn’t feel so good anymore. I was standing on a concrete floor with very little cushion in my shoes, and by the time the second round of competition was over and done with, my back was screaming at me and my legs had gone numb, so I beelined to my chair in the hall and sat for the rest of the time that we were at the event. I wish we’d have been able to stay longer, but the hall was beginning to set up for the evening’s feast and my back really needed the heating pad, so we started saying our farewells and left for the day.

The socialization was a good thing, and something that we both should be doing more often. There’s a regular standing event on Tuesday nights that we could attend, but that would mean some creative planning for dinner that night in order to get us fed sooner rather than later, but it is doable. I think I want to try for more evenings at fighter practice/populace in the park.

We’re home now and looking forward to a relatively quiet evening. I did a fair amount of exercise for the day and completed my reading and learning before going to the event, so it will be easy for me to make today day 19 of full marks in my checklist.

An Unwelcome Development


This morning I awoke, had to have help getting dressed, and immediately sat on the couch with heating pads on my lower back and across my shoulders. The pain in my back eventually faded to the point of tolerance, but the pain in my shoulders and neck remains.

I’m used to pain in my left shoulder. If I overuse it, it can hurt for days or even weeks afterward. But the tightness in my right shoulder is new. Turning my head is a slow process; tilting my head from side to side is even worse.

I’ve been in bed most of the day sleeping my way through a muscle relaxer, and now that I’m awake the pain in my shoulder is still there. I’m not sure if I slept through its efficacy or it just bounced right off without effect, but either way I’m back to putting the heating pad across my shoulders.

This started yesterday morning, and I didn’t think much about it, chalking it up to that old favorite, “sleeping on it wrong.” (What does that even mean, anyway? Does that mean that I’m going to have points taken off my grade for sleeping when I die? When are midterms? It would be nice to know when the final is, at least. Anyway …) But it was worse this morning so under the heating pad I went. Tylenol isn’t doing it much good either.

The end result is that I’m basically useless around the house today, which I dislike. I normally can’t do a LOT of stuff, but at least I keep house well, and today I can’t really even do that.

Maybe this should be chalked up to the mileage I’ve put on this body. I’m not a young man, by any stretch. But then again, neither am I old, although I think sometimes I’m closer to old than young. I haven’t really taken very good care of myself and I’ve come up with every excuse under the sun to avoid devoting the time to self-care that I should.

So I think later tonight there might be a walk around the complex to try and loosen up these stiff old bones. Besides, there’s Pokémon out there, and I’m not old yet.

Is This The End of Zombieland?


Once again, I am guilty of not writing (for over a month this time).

Once again, I’ve been internalizing what I’m experiencing instead of venting.

So here goes.

Mentally, I’ve been okay. Not good, not bad, just kind of here, you know? Physically, however, things have not been good.

I have had a problem for the past several months where it’s painful to get out of bed in the morning. Some mornings, it’s not so bad. Others, well … I need help getting out of the bed.

They had me on meloxicam, which is an NSAID like ibuprofen, and that did a fairly good job of making the pain go away. But they switched my doctor out (my former doctor left the practice) and my new doctor said that the meloxicam was contributing to my high blood pressure, so she took me off of it, put me on muscle relaxers, and scheduled an MRI to look at my back.

The result is that I’m still in a fair amount of pain throughout the day, and I’m sleeping it off. I’ve been averaging about 16 hours of sleep a day over the last few weeks, and it’s frustrating as all hell.

The results of the MRI came back this afternoon. Herniated disc between L3 and L4. I have a follow-up Monday morning to discuss the situation further and look at options.

It’s unfortunate that it’s a herniated disc causing all this trouble; fixing that tends to be expensive and invasive. But the good thing is that I can come off the cyclobenzaprine and maybe get a normal night’s sleep.


NaBloPoMo Day 16: Flat on My Back, Being Boring


I went to bed last night determined to make today a fresh beginning on getting my checklists done, as well as on working on a couple of projects that I have lined up to do. I wanted so badly to make today an awesome day.

Instead, I’m sitting upright only with the help of a heating pad and lots of painkillers.

My back went out overnight somehow, and while it didn’t render me almost incapable of getting out of bed – it’s done that plenty of times in the past, before I started taking a regular NSAID for it – there is nothing that I can do today without complaint.

I can get up and move around and do things, on a very limited basis, before I’m back on the heating pad. (I’ve tried ice on my back in the past when it does this, and all the ice does is succeed in seizing it up further, not to mention making me cold, so I skip the ice nowadays.) So I plan on doing the best that I can with what I have, which isn’t much.

Take, for instance, cycling the dishwasher. In our house, this involves pulling the ceramic, glass, and metal items out first and putting them away; going back into the dishwasher for the plastics, shaking them off thoroughly in the sink, and putting then in a drying rack to finish the job; loading the dirty dishes that have piled up in the dishwasher; then finally putting away the plastics once they’ve completely dried. This morning I managed to get the very few items that fell under step one done, then had to sit and rest my back for a while. I finally asked my wife to take care of steps two and three today while I sat on the couch. Step four will happen once I’m ready to get up again; I was just recently up and am once again resting my back.

This brings me to a point that I wish to make and apologize for regarding the content you read in this blog. I don’t get out of the house much, we don’t have money for a ton of hobbies, and that means that very often I’m writing about the minutiae of my very boring day. (As Exhibit A, may I present the preceding paragraph.) I wish there were something that I could do to make this a more interesting and less monotonous read, but right now, there’s very little I can do, and I apologize for that. People read blogs to learn things or for entertainment, and this is really not a very educational or entertaining blog. It’s just me bloviating about nothing at all. It helps me to get this stuff down on paper, but I put it in blog form because I’m under the impression that people like reading what I have to say. After a year of this, I’m really starting to wonder why. I’m second guessing myself about everything, and I know it’s because I’m in pain, but I can’t help but do it and try and make it through the self-doubt.

So that’s what’s going on in my boring life today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more exciting things to share and hopefully less sarcasm about my situation.

A Slight Improvement


I’m up early this morning.

I have something that I want to accomplish with today, and that accomplishment deals with computer gaming, so I’m up two hours before my alarm goes off to get all the stuff that I need to do (reading, learning, my daily to-do list, etc.) checked off my checklist. Besides, the groundskeepers are already outside with weed whackers and have been for the past 45 minutes, so it’s not like anyone can sleep through their racket. (I appreciate that it gets hot in Austin in June, but 7:30 is an awfully early time to start in on tending the grounds.)

So far, I’ve gotten my reading done, I’ve learned my modules in both Duolingo and Elevate for the day, and I’ve started in on my to-do list (calling doctors and cleaning the kitchen).

This is all thanks to the new anti-inflammatory that my doctor put me on for my back. I slept throughout the night, which usually means I need help getting out of bed in the morning, but today I was able to get up and start my day without even stopping off at the heating pad. My back still hurts, and hurt quite a bit when first getting up, but it wasn’t the intolerable amount of stiffness and ache that I’ve been dealing with recently. I got up in one smooth motion, winced, got dressed (slowly), came out of the bedroom, and started my day.

I have an X-ray series scheduled for Friday, and then maybe we’ll have some idea of what’s happening back there.

I like mornings like this. I like getting up early and starting my day soon after waking. It gives me a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t easily go away as the day progresses. (I’d tack on my cardio workout but I use a YouTube channel on the television and the TV is up against the bedroom wall, so I don’t want to do anything to wake my wife yet. Exercise can wait, a small sacrifice in the interest of marital bliss. Besides, I still have half my coffee left.)

I’ll likely write again later today, as it is early for a blog post, but I wanted to get down the bit about my back. It’s promising, but we’ll see how it works out in the long term.

Progress is Progressing


I saw my therapist today.

We had a good session. I mentioned that I completed last session’s homework and that it worked well, and we agreed that the next step is for the tool in question to be self-implemented, and done so earlier than my wife implemented it over the previous week.

We discussed my back problems, my relationship with Mom, my relationship with my daughter (okay, so, it was more like ten solid minutes of me openly and unashamedly bragging about her, but still, she was a topic of discussion), and my relationship with my new fitness log, the one my therapist turned me onto two sessions ago.

With the change in schedule, I’m finding that it’s becoming easier and easier to justify a fourth meal late at night, and that’s been blowing my caloric intake every day since the change. I’ve gained a couple pounds back, and so this week’s homework is to find a way to get that caloric intake back on track. I’m noticing that while I can easily skip items on my checklist and not have it affect me greatly, missing that calorie target really gets me down, and subsequent days I miss the mark exacerbate that situation.

We also set our first goal for therapy, which is related. My goal is to lose 15 pounds by Labor Day weekend. That’s a little over a pound a week, which I think is doable.

I also shared this blog with my therapist, so everyone behave and look busy. I have appearances to keep up now. (So kidding. I’m not going to start editing things now, though I won’t be going into a lot of detail about my therapy sessions as a general rule, only when the details are important for me to remember as time goes on. You might notice the new category for therapy posts as well. The Beatles theme continues.)

Back to Chronic Pain


I am convinced my back is in bad shape.

I’m used to chronic pain, to some extent. For a period of about two years, I had a headache more often than I didn’t, and multiple MRIs and CT scans could uncover no physiological reason why I was getting them. I still get headaches now and again, and they can sometimes be severe, but nothing like I was experiencing about five years ago.

One time at about 6:30 in the morning, I awakened my wife by screaming. My headache had gone full cluster, and by the time the pain had subsided I could give you a full inventory of everything in the apartment that was potentially lethal. I could also tell you that I dismissed every one of them for being too slow. Fortunately I’ve not had anything that bad since, but there are times, rare though they are, that I come close.

Head pain I can deal with. I know what movements aggravate the pain and what movements I can do without making things worse.

But this chronic back pain is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.

Back in something like 2002 or 2003 I was involved in a car accident. My wife was driving down a hill on a three-lane one-way road in the rain, and a dump truck pulled out into the center lane in front of us. We had the choice of sideswiping the car to our immediate left, sideswiping the car to our immediate right, or ramming into the back of the truck. My wife figured that the truck would be the least likely to be uninsured, so we slammed on the brakes and hoped for the best. The collision broke three of the engine mounts and pushed everything forward of the firewall back about three inches. The bumper of the dump truck, which was what we hit, showed no damage whatsoever.

The end result of that accident was that it totaled the Chevy S10 we were driving, tore the disc between L5 and S1 in my wife’s back, and herniated the same disc in me.

And now, I fear that the herniation has progressed over time to something much worse.

I can sit for hours at a time. Moving around isn’t a problem for me at all. But lying down for more than about 45 minutes at a time causes my lower back to begin to seize up. If I’m in bed the entire night, I have to have help getting out of bed the following morning, so I generally wake sometime in the middle of the night and go sit with a heating pad on the area. (I haven’t iced it since I don’t have an easy way of icing my back on my own in the middle of the night; it also doesn’t help that our icemaker is lethargic and coughs up a fresh batch of ice about once every four hours or so, and we’re chronically low on ice. Besides, the heat helps every time, so there’s that.) Tonight I’m going to try and sleep sitting up in our rocking chair with my feet propped up and see if spending the entire night upright will help.

Fortunately, I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning to get this looked at, as well as my blood pressure medications. It’s just a matter of surviving until then.

Here’s hoping there’s a better fix than replacing the mattress. That’s going to be an expensive and very unwieldy remedy.