It’s All Gonna Be Okay

It’s with some trepidation I go back to work tomorrow. Not because the work is hard or boring or awful as it’s none of those things, it’s just that I’m convinced that my workplace and my sciatica are inextricably linked.

I’ve made some changes to my work station to try and get a better deal for my back but I need to do more. I need a new chair and soon but how to do that when I can’t drive to work? The place where they have chairs is in another town, not just another suburb, and miles from the nearest train station. I also need to get an adjustable monitor stand or monitor and a foot stool.

That’s just for my desk. Then I have to stop sitting at all the other desks in the place, looking for emails and trying to find forgotten files, as none of them are set right for me. I have to stop just adjusting the chairs and tables and learn instead to let others do it. I have to take more breaks that I need to take for my back health and minimise the interruptions that needn’t happen so that when I’m in ‘the zone’ the work gets done.

When I get back there are two grants to finish spending, more grants to apply for, other projects to get organised, papers to check and getting ready for the new term (school holiday program to organise as well).

I have to remember to take it all a bit slowly. Don’t push, don’t stress, take my meds, eat regularly, drink water and just let it happen.

Then there’s study. You’d think that with three weeks off work I’d be way ahead but, of course, I’m not. I’m behind, floundering, but deciding to go ahead anyway (could have withdrawn up until today) finding that I know, intrinsically, what it’s about, and it’s just the reading and writing that I need to get my head around. Now that I don’t have to take as many painkillers I might even be able to concentrate on understanding the readings so I can do the writing.

It’s all gonna be okay.


The Pre-menstrual Blues – 24/03/2014

Today I pretty much wanted to cry all day.

Luckily for those involved in the making of today I only did it once, in front of my acupuncturist.

I nearly cried when my talented, hard-working wife was rejected, yet again, from a job she could easily and efficiently do.

I nearly cried when my daughter rang me to ask if she was reading too much into the fact that her boyfriend keeps avoiding spending time with her on weekends.

I nearly cried when the receptionist at my acupuncturist’s gently reminded me to ask him to discount my treatment again.

I nearly cried when I saw a be-suited man patting a dog that was sitting beside another man who was homeless, and the man in the suit was speaking to the other man gently and with compassion.

I nearly cried when the tram driver tried to shut the doors on me as I was getting on because he couldn’t see me and so all the good work that the acupuncturist had done could have been undone.

I nearly cried when I was filling out my special consideration form for university because this pain has made it impossible to study properly.

I nearly cried when I got to the station and realised that the next train was stopping all stations.

I nearly cried when I read all the facebook posts that glibly told my wife how to “get a job” knowing that she’s done all that and more.

I nearly cried when my phone died mid text.

It’s days like this that can really drain you or they can reaffirm your life for you.

For me I can proudly say that I didn’t cry at all those things, that I didn’t let the melancholy overtake me, that I sought joy in the very things that almost made me cry.

My daughter trusts me and talks to me about her worries and fears and triumphs and joys.

The receptionist (and acupuncturist) care that I don’t end up juggling non-negotiable bills to pay for their bill.

My talented wife has friends who want to help in whatever way they can.

Strangers can surprise and delight you with their care and compassion.

The jolt from the tram door doesn’t seem to have caused any damage.

The long train journey will mean that I’ll write this out by hand and hone it before subjecting you all to it on my blog.

The dead phone also contributes to the former and it means I must say “I love you” to my wife, on our anniversary of the first, um, time that we, um, fell asleep together holding hands, in person, when she gets home from her interim job that is paying her money and keeping the wolf from the door.

Filling out the special consideration form means I can see how much this pain has interfered with my study and I have made sure to put in an extension form too, thanks to the school administration officer who sent it through and was looking out for me.

Life is good, I have a caring family, good friends, a considerate work place, and, although life sends curve balls, it often sends homers.

This was written as stated, on the train home, and, although I said I’d hone it, I’ve not done much to take away the rawness.

I had plans on turning it into song lyrics, or building a more poetic cadence around it, but I decided to leave this. I might revisit it. I’m open to suggestions.

On The Existence Or Otherwise Of Miracles

Oh ghod I’m so frustrated! Yes, I know, there’s a spare ‘h’ in a word back there. That’s because I don’t want any ghod botherers bothering me about ghod. I don’t actually believe in ghod, thirteen years of catholic education and drudgery in church did not make me believe in ghod so, ghod botherers beware, your ghod bothering ways will not convince me.

Anyway, I didn’t want to talk about the existence or otherwise of ghod, it was just an expression, you know, like ‘holy pistachios Batman’, but less corny and more direct, and, I think, more forceful. I am frustrated because, being a poor person (not destitute but certainly living on the edge of the abyss), I am currently using the public health system to try to address my sciatica and pain issues and my recovery. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good public health system. Citizens of the USA take note, in Australia even poor people can get healthcare, they can see a doctor and their visit is subsidised, they can receive treatments, surgery, medications and their pockets may only be emptied a small amount. They will not have to sell a kidney to afford a treatment regime of chemotherapy. Here we do, actually, have a pretty good system BUT allied healthcare is often left off the list.

What do I mean by allied healthcare, oh you know, physiotherapy, osteopathy, speech pathology, ophthalmology, dentistry and the like. Admittedly there are usually public hospital provided services for these allied professions but they are so few and far between, so stretched, that getting in to see one of them in a timely fashion is almost impossible.

So, what am I moaning about? Well, it seems I was damn lucky to get in to see a physiotherapist last week to help treat my back and sciatica. Now the same physiotherapist has cancelled my appointment this week (no reason given, her life and right) and I cannot get in to see her for another two weeks. So it will be three weeks between visits and I’ve seen only mild improvement in my condition. I can’t afford to go to a physiotherapist outside of the hospital system because NONE OF THE BILL THAT THEY CHARGE YOU IS RECLAIMABLE VIA MEDICARE. NONE! And, being poor, I can’t afford to pay.

So now I am in limbo. I’m about to go and see my doctor again and we will discuss whether I can go back to work. I want to work but not if it means my health suffers. I may not have much sick leave left, on a part-time job your sick leave is pro rata, so I may be quickly diminishing my reserves and we haven’t even hit the flu season yet (I’m not into flu vaccines but it might be useful this year). This means that I’ll either have to start using my time off in lieu (TOIL) or my annual leave, neither of which is a joyous prospect. I much prefer to use holiday leave to have a holiday. I haven’t had a holiday (one where you actually go away) since December 2012 and my mental health is feeling the strain. Using my holiday leave to be sick is not going to improve things. I already did that in Dec/Jan just gone, it sucked then and it will suck now.

If I had broader access to allied treatment services at affordable prices then I might be better now, instead I’m at its mercy, dulling my nerves with a cocktail of pills and hoping that I’ll get better by myself or doing those painful exercises the physio gave me. I need a miracle, I bemoan, but then I remember that I am alive and that my ailment is not a death sentence.

I received news earlier this week that a friend of mine has been moved off active treatment and into a palliative care regime. She’s 42. She has two young children and a loving partner and no amount of love or hope is going to change the fact that she will die one day in the not too distant future from a cancer that the doctors cannot treat nor can they explain. Now, if there is a ghod, that’s where the miracle needs to happen. So, any ghod botherers out there reading this – pray for a miracle for her and leave me alone.

This Picture Has Nothing To Do With This Post


I’ve been banished to the bed and the gentle recovery for another week. I’m on more drugs for pain relief and relaxation than I have ever taken in my whole life before. It’s a funny thing, I’m not usually one for pills, preferring to use other methods to seek relief from pain, pressure points, meditation, sleep – none of which worked with this particular bout of sciatica.

Anyway, it means that I have had a chance to look at some readings for university, but not many and not for long periods. concentrating while your leg feels like it is one fire can be somewhat problematic. It also meant that I could get over to see my pup and her new house. That’s right, I said new house! There has been not only a move out from my place but also a move from the hell house to a much nicer house for her and her housemates.

It’s in a nice part of ‘the rat’ as Ballarat is affectionately known by its inhabitants. It’s certainly within walking distance of the main city centre, not out in the sticks, and surrounded by a number of small businesses that can supply the desire for alcohol, fast-food and automobile repairs. The house is a post-federation Edwardian place that has been bastardised through a number of decades, most recently the 70s. Nonetheless it is a sound, quaint and perfectly liveable house and it was lovely to go over there and see her so lively, excited and busy planning her future.

We had a lovely lunch out and on the way back to the car she bumped into an old school friend, a serendipitous occurrence. I had a daughter who spoke to me without rancour, didn’t argue all the time and seemed genuinely pleased to see me. Ah, absence must indeed make the heart grow fonder.


Into the darkness she rides,
Lance before her,
Lighting the way,
Becalming the turmoil that night brings.

Moonlight glistens off the metal,
Armour clanks
As horses plod,
Their legs quiver with the journey.

The battle seems insurmountable,
Surely she will fail,
She cannot think that,
Faith must guide her.

She raises her shield high,
A blow is deflected,
Her sword is plunged,
Toward the assailant’s weakness.

Is this victory?
The darkness engulfs her,
A mind is set free,
Dreams are once more a reality.

In Bed Only Your Lover Can Hear You Moan

It’s been a rough night. My little sciatica relapse has morphed into a full-blown attack of the jangled nerves. Last night’s sleep was brought to me by strong drugs and a soothing back stroke. The sleep lasted for about six hours in total but was punctuated with hours between of painful wakefulness.

This post is dedicated to my patient, caring and equally tired lover (wife), who, although she doesn’t believe in them, is a saint. The very powerful but it-only-works-for-four-hours drug I took at nearly midnight meant that I suddenly woke up at 3.45am with no barrier between me and the pain. I roll over, searching for some relief from the fiery, incessant throb pulsing down my left leg. This movement makes things worse, so I roll again, and the noise that leaves my mouth is alien to me and wakes my sleeping wife.
“Shhhh”, she soothes,
“shhhh”, and proceeds to stroke my back, gently, starting at the shoulders and moving down to the mid section. The night is dark, silent, punctuated by my little sobs and her calming croon.

I’ve awoken into a frenzy of pain. My memory is of dreaming that there was a way to isolate the pain, a right position to be in, some form of mitigation, but the wakefulness does not live up to the dream. It takes a while to bring me back down from the shock of feeling this much pain. She patiently strokes my back some more. Her hand stops, she is asleep again. I try and wiggle away a bit, bury my head in my pillow and whimper again, trying to stifle the sound, not wanting to wake her.

The sound penetrates her early sleep and she switches the light on so that she can see me. We agree that I have to try some different drugs and she goes off to get them. This time, when she gets back in bed, she props herself up a bit, so she can’t sleep accidentally, and I try to relax into the gentle massage of her hand trailing down my back. I shift position, prop my good leg with a pillow so it’s not leaning on my bad leg and I finally feel myself drift toward sleep.

The next time I awake it is light and the rooster is loudly proclaiming his right to be free to roam. The hens are forming a chorus of protest, like backing vocals. My wife is gently snoring next to me. Her beatific smile curving her lips even as she sleeps. This time the pain is bearable and I remain silent, watching her and marvelling at her generous, loving gift of being there with me, not leaving me to fight this pain alone.

On The Public Examination Of Private Fears

Oh, I’ve let my daily write go a bit. I think it’s because I’ve had a relapse with the sciatica and I feel like I’m back to square one. Shooting pains, tingling leg and toes, rigid back, all stuff you’ve seen me moan about before.

I thought things were getting better. I thought that I was improving but one week where I’ve had to drive a lot to places rather than train it and having to sit for a long time in averagely comfortable chairs and I’m back to my post dog/chicken angst and pain levels. I’m trying stretches, gentle walking (when I can stand upright), immobility, anti-inflammatories, you name it, the arsenal is there.

I have been obsessing about this, ‘catastrophising’ my psychologist says. It’s hard not to. This is becoming a daily grind again. I am feeling myself slip back, lose control, become weak and I seem to be able to do nothing to prevent it. I can’t change jobs. I can’t reduce my driving. I can’t get myself well enough to build resilience in my body. It feels like a catastrophe to me.

Here we are, four paragraphs in and I’m back to the whinge. I’ve not asked you how you are, or if I have I’ve barely listened. I’m poking around my own head again, pulling out my fears and worries and examining them in public. I think this is why I’ve not been writing much this week, as I didn’t want to bore you all with my spiral. Ah well, it’s done now. Maybe tomorrow I can write about something else.