I am typing lying flat in my bed, below a cut out cardboard box that keeps the laptop edge from cutting my stomach. If it slides down, it threatens to chop through my throat. At times over the last three weeks, this seemed not such a bad thing. It would make the pain stop.
This is Part 1. I need to write.
In writing, there is coping. In coping, there is hope.
On December 25th I was in my driveway, pushing my R6 back into its parking chock after doing minor repair and maintenance in preparation for a holiday trip. Usually, I turn on the engine, rev the throttle, and the bike goes in. For some reason, I decided to push the bike. It rolled, hit resistance, and 400 pounds of stopping hit my lower back. I felt things move, and a slight sting, like a minor pulled muscle.
It wasn’t worse than the kinds of back aches I’ve lived with for over forty years. I was born with with a bent, crooked back and acquired several herniated disks in college, doing mundane things. Looking at some crazy stuff I’ve done, the most pain always came from ordinary activities — lifting a child, typing at a computer, bending to pick up a dog turd.
So, I rode my bike from the Bay Area to Carpinteria, ached, did my stretches in the morning, and had a wonderful time visiting my friend Pam, who has Lupus, more complications from Lupus than you can count on your fingers, and has lived in pain every moment of her days and nights for thirty years. She is my hero.
For New Years Eve I went to Bethel Island, stayed quite sober, watched the fireworks, and woke up the next morning in Agony. My back was one big spasm on fire. I screamed. I stretched because that always helped in the past, I showered with scalding water, I moaned continuously, and then went outside to dig a trench, yelling, “F**ck it, f**ck it,” inside, and the hard work helped loosen up the muscles a little. Yes, that was stupid. It also made me feel like I was still able, not broken. Not yet. I rode back to the Bay Area where I had a roller and a TENS Unit and drugs. However, I spent the rest of the weekend mostly in bed, flat, drifting, and enveloped in pain. I saw my chiropractor all the following week, did heat and cold and electricity, and rest and exercises, and improved enough that I could work from home, slowly walk the dog, and gain a sense of hope. I can live with a cane.
From there, things are blurry because my sense of time collapsed. I think what feels like weeks may just have been days. I try to count it out on the calendar, and from my work log, but it remains fuzzy. I remember coughing on a Friday afternoon around 4 p.m., while completing a work task. A few hours later, pain hit like I’ve never felt before.
I remember digging through the drug cabinet, pulling out old meds and meds from my kids’ wisdom teeth surgeries. I remember lying in bed in a sea of pain. The narcotics acted like a porous lid between my conscious and my subconscious. I was partially cut off from the pain, dazed away, but the pain itself was no less. I remember, and have no idea how I managed to do it, dragging a flat board into my bed because the irritation from the sheet was more than I could bear. I remember singing to myself, singing with the pain, building a resonance that created some mitigation. And a socially acceptable way of vocalizing agony.
But most of all I remember a deepening chasm of darkness. I realized that without me, the world kept moving on just fine. I looked for and found no passion I needed to live for, no work that unfinished would leave anyone off worse. I knew, unlike Pam, that I could not live like this and find joy. I was no hero. I needed the pain to stop.
At some points, the drugs made me so nauseous, I threw up. Which removed the option of a drug-induced exit. I talked to a friend about my thoughts. Talking gave me a bit of distance. I can always quit. Maybe I can stick it out a little longer. Maybe it will get better. I have gotten better before. Things change. One more night.
Then came a short stretch of less pain. Later, another. It was not much, but I quit the useless drugs and instead had two stiff drinks to put me to sleep for a few hours. My head cleared and I could think at times. I scheduled and managed to get an MRI with help from a friend. The pain has become manageable. I am waiting for the MRI report and the verdict it contains.
Being of absolutely no importance, I have absolute freedom. Without my illusion of relevance, ahead is a huge blank expanse.
Eventually, I’ll have to take a step.