I’ve been suffering for a while now with ‘acute’ sciatica. It’s something I used to get on and off if I drove too much (which was often when I commuted from country to city) but I’d not really had it for a while. When it came it was painful but usually short lived. Acupuncture was its panacea and I would go down and visit my TCM guy who would ‘make me better quick’.
Then I changed jobs, a smaller commute but still a drive, and it started coming back, mainly just around my period, to remind me and only in my right leg.
Well about 4 months ago (maybe longer) it started in my left leg and it’s never really gone away. I’m terrified that it could become chronic, a permanent fixture in my life, an unwanted impediment to enjoyment and life’s spontaneity. It’s constant, this niggling, tingling, hot, heavy, dull, throbbing, stabbing, jangling pain – for 4 months it has not stopped. No painkillers really touch it. Nerve pain is like that, it doesn’t respond to most analgesic remedies.
I’ve been to the doctor on numerous occasions; did you know that physiotherapy is not covered by Medicare? On one visit I asked for a referral to one, I’m getting frightened and desperate, and when I rang I was told that it would be $80 a visit. Is any of that reclaimable, I asked. I was informed that none of it was.
I rang my mother, in tears, I hate asking for favours from her. I feel that I should be able to look after myself but my current part-time wage just covers the basics of mortgage, bills and food. I asked for money so I could see my acupuncturist, a man I’ve seen many times in the last 15 years and who has always restored my health.
He tut-tutted when he saw me, told me I should have seen him sooner. I tearfully told him he was out of my price range. He stabbed me with his little needles, three in my back and one in my neck (yes, you read that), and I could feel the difference, the improvement, already. Dispatched with a discount I was ordered to come again next week. And so I did, three more times. I could feel things working, but then…
I tried too much, I walked too far, I drove too many kilometres and it started to hurt again and more often. Closed for Christmas I turned to massage. This also helped and I felt things improve again. Slow and steady. Do as little as possible. I survived Christmas lunch at my house, with my partner doing much but me also contributing. I triumphed over jam making Saturday, an unexpected bonus of apricots and peaches that needed to be transformed before ruin. I felt hopeful. I felt that I could, with small steps and good rests, start to do the normal things I’d previously taken for granted.
Then disaster – a chicken induced apocalypse – or dog induced. Whatever. Lifting 40 kgs of dog off a pullet it was squashing (tasting, sniffing, killing) did it. It sent me back to the start. I’m prone, in bed, unable to walk upright, bent like a crone, old before my time; cautious, hesitant, cantankerous, mithering, terrified.
I cry sometimes, at night, as I try to sleep and the dull ache will not let me settle. I cry with pain. I cry with fear. I cry with self-pity. I cry for my lost mobility, my missing spring, my healthy body.
I cry because I’m terrified that this will never go away, that I will have to bear this pain every day for the rest of my life. I cry because I have plans for me, plans that don’t include being fucked up on a cocktail of drugs just to get you through the day (and then the night, the deep and lonely night). I cry because I cannot be the partner, lover, friend, mother, employee, employer that I wish to be when all my energy is focused on getting through the day with this pain. I cry because I don’t want to be a person with a disability, someone that others can dismiss because they aren’t whole and hearty and healthy.
I hope that I can turn this around still. I hope that this is just a setback, that I will be okay again. The hope doesn’t stop the fear though.
I try to do stretches and gentle strengthening movements. I follow the advice of the doctor, lay on my stomach, lengthen my spine, reduce the protrusion of the disc into the nerves. I want to be better. I want to be whole again. I know there is surgery but that seems so drastic (and not necessarily successful) and I want to trust that I and my body can heal this together.
I can’t lift things, open jars, bend to put on my socks or shoes, reach around to scratch an itch, move suddenly in my seat or bed without a sharp pain reminding me that I’m not okay. I have to modify everything I do right now, I can’t drive myself places, I can’t walk places, ride to places, sit for too long, stand for too long; it could be there forever, that it might never go away.