This morning I had an unusual experience. I went downstairs at 7:30 to put on a load of laundry, my head full of all the things the kids and I were going to do on this last weekday of Easter Break. I bent over to pick up a laundry basket, and fell on the floor screaming in pain.I felt like I had been stabbed in the lower back. I have occasionally suffered mild twinges of lower back pain that made me feel slight discomfort for a day or two — in fact, I felt just such a twinge when I got up this morning. But pain like this was entirely out of my life experience. I had no idea how to react.I reacted by lying on the basement floor yelling for someone to come help. Christopher went to get Jason, who got me as far as sitting on the basement stairs, and for quite awhile I literally could not get any further than that, because it hurt too much to move at all.
Life’s funny. At 7:30 I had a bunch of things on my to-do list: start a freelance writing project, go to Blue Cross and get an insurance reimbursement, clean out the toy closet, take the kids to a playground if it was warm enough, maybe get a coffee at Chapters. At 7:45 my to-do list was reduced to one item: get out of the basement.
I did, eventually, though it took awhile and a lot of help and some screaming. I have had a lot of pain in my back and seriously reduced mobility all day, with heavy dependence on my wonderful husband who stayed home from work to help me. A trip to the doctor’s office revealed that I have either a) pulled a muscle in my back, or b) injured a disc. A) is good news because it will heal fairly soon with rest and the proper meds. With b), I still get rest and the same meds, but not the quick healing part. So I am praying for this to be muscular and not discular. The plan is that I lay low all weekend, skip work Monday, and go back to the doctor to see if I’m getting any better or not.
Would you believe that the only time I cried during this whole horrible day was when the doctor said I had to take at least two days off work? I mean, I like my work a lot, but I don’t think I was crying about missing it, exactly. I think I was crying because my self-esteem is so bound up in being efficient, energetic, the Girl Who Gets Things Done. The one others rely on, not the one who has to ask for help and get days off work. I have effortlessly and shamelessly enjoyed the benefits of a body that works perfectly for 41 years, and I have never (except for the odd cold or flu day, and of course you know that’s going to be over soon after it begins) had to accept physical limitations or realize that there are things I “can’t” do.
What scares me about having something go wrong with my back is that it might put an end to that kind of easy, thoughtless life of energy and accomplishment. I said to the doctor, “I hope it’s not a slipped disc because I know so many people who’ve injured a disc and have ….” I paused and went on, “had back troubles the rest of their lives.” She nodded sympathetically.
But that wasn’t what I meant to say. What I wanted to say was, “…and have become whiny losers who gave up on their lives.” Please understand, I don’t think everyone with a bad back is a whiny loser, although I suppose like a lot of healthy people I have had an unstated assumption that chronic pain could probably be improved if people would just put their minds to it — something I have completely had to rethink over the last twelve hours. But I do know a few people who have let their bad backs define their entire lives and I guess that’s my worst fear.
Of course the alternative would be to let pain turn you into an arrogant, sarcastic jerk like my TV boyfriend, Dr. House. This seems only slightly more attractive (and looks cooler on a man than on a woman, I’ve noticed). I do have the loan of a nice cane from the doctor’s office (better suited to me than the one I was using around the house all day, which belonged to Jason’s late grandmother, a woman a full foot shorter than I am). Perhaps I’ll spend the weekend practicing cane tricks and snappy comebacks.