Pardon the long lag between posts. A visitor arrived at my house several weeks ago and has not left yet, making it hard to concentrate on writing or much of anything else.
It showed up unexpectedly and settled, uninvited, in my low back and hip. From that position of power, it began making demands. The only break I get from it is in the first few hours after I get up. Apparently, back spasms like to sleep in. But shortly after breakfast, as I’m sipping my second cup of tea, it starts complaining.
“These chairs are too hard. Why are you still sitting here anyway? I want to lie down. Put something under your knees. Where’s the heating pad? You know I like it warm.”
I try to do a few of my own activities, but it insists on having my full attention and doesn’t want to do most of the things I enjoy. It yells at me if I work at the computer for more than half an hour. It doesn’t like sewing, either. “Fine,” I say, “we’ll go into the kitchen and cook something. Wouldn’t you like a nice meal?”
“No,” it says, “no standing either.”
I do all the exercises that are supposed to make backs happy, but they have no effect. Unlike everyone else’s back pain, this one doesn’t even like swimming. It complains after I get out of the shower. If I take it shopping for necessities like food, it yells at me all afternoon. The grandchildren came for a visit last month, but it wouldn’t let me pick up the 2-year old. I guess it doesn’t like kids.
It hates all but one of the chairs in our house, and that’s the only place it will sit quietly. It whines about every other seat it encounters, from waiting rooms to restaurants to movie theaters. It’s like trying to go somewhere with a colicky baby — there’s almost no chance of getting through the entire event without having to get up and pace.
Until last week, it also hated the seat in my new car. I bought it a very pricey cushion and it seems to like that, so now there are exactly two places in the universe where it will allow me to sit.
When I realized that this visitor had no intention of leaving on its own, I went to my physical therapist for an exorcism. The P.T. straightened out all the structural disorder that had generated the spasm to begin with, but by then, the thing had unpacked its bags and would not budge. Now the muscle spasm is impinging on the nerves, causing the muscles to tighten even more, and the unhappy cycle is tough to break. Over several visits, we’ve offered it a whole menu of treatments including ultrasound and electrical stimulation. It gives a brief nod to our attempts and then ignores them.
It really can’t be appeased by much except heat, massage, and lying down. Oh, and this really strong Chinese liniment that smells like locker room. It does like that. Like that weird guy who corners you at a party, it talks incessantly, making it hard to concentrate on other things, like writing. All day long, I hear the same refrain over and over. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Nag, nag, nag. It is the most boring guest I’ve ever had.
By now, you’re wondering why I don’t try to banish it with medications. I’d love to, but then I’d be hearing from my stomach lining instead. I’ve jokingly said that my only hope may be medical marijuana, but as the weeks wear on, the joke isn’t quite as funny.
Yesterday, I took my nervy, spasm-y back to meet the acupuncturist and she spent nearly an hour on it. Today it didn’t start yelling until almost noon and it let me write this post. I am cautiously optimistic, enough to make a second appointment.
I was talking to a friend the other day, and she was telling me about someone in her family who was always dissatisfied. No matter what she tried to do for this person, he either didn’t respond or found something to complain about.
“Have you ever known anyone like that?” she asked. “Someone who just couldn’t be made happy no matter what you did?”
Yes, I assured her, I knew exactly how that felt.