I’m unbalanced because my head’s not screwed on right. My BFF says she’s always known this but she didn’t expect it to show up on x-ray. No, really, it’s both a joke and why I’ve been so startlingly silent for so long.
Every intake or new patient form I’ve ever filled out included complaints about headaches, back and neck pain, and dizziness. And not one doctor ever paid any attention. As long as I can remember random bits of vertigo have been part of my life.
For several years I’ve had moments driving made me feel so dizzy I’d pull over, get out and walk and stretch and be fine again. These moments were rare enough I attributed them to fatigue, stress, low blood pressure or sugar. And they passed so quickly I never could really explain them. And then a few months ago it was suddenly debilitating to the point that I couldn’t even get my kid to school or myself to the student health clinic. Anything involving sitting made me feel like I was falling backwards or the ground was coming up to hit me in the face.
I couldn’t sit down to read. Or check email. Or even eat.
I don’t even know how to start the story of this miserable adventure.
I saw doctors. I saw an eye specialist. And it just kept getting worse. But I got stubborn about insisting that I can’t live like this and there really is something wrong with me.
Finally a doctor really listened and really started checking things. And… my spine in my neck is kinda messed up to the point that it causes neurological problems.
So now I’m attempting to fight it with physical therapy. Success is slow and mixed. Some days I’m mostly functional. Some days just holding my head up is so hard I can’t manage basic life. I’m enough better that I’m basically back on my feet. For the first really acute month it was so awful I had my mom and best friend come to stay with me in turns and when they weren’t here relied on friends, classmates, acquaintances to keep the kids and I alive. So there is real improvement. But I’m still not spending much time on anything non-essential.
I managing to not take any pain medication but I did use muscle relaxers for a few weeks at the worst of it. Pretty much everything hurts all the time.
PT referred me to acupuncture so I checked that out this last week. I’m not so sure the needle thing helped but he told me to eat cinnamon and veggies and that’s always good advice. It’s at least as sound as the first doc I saw who gave me the usual grad-student hysterical-woman treatment and dismissed it as stress and said to drink less coffee.
I’ve been really lucky so many great people have (and still are) showing up and helping me out. Friends and family, women from church, classmates have all helped haul my ass around town and gotten my kids where they needed to go. My department’s been generally patient and supportive. I’m surviving because all these awesome people have kept me alive.
I can’t say that I’ve found some deep spiritual meaning in all of this. I probably won’t ever be really cured. It’s more aiming for improvement and coping strategies. I now have a standing desk and a rolling back-pack. I spend nearly 2 hours a day on stretches and exercises. I’m logging everything I eat to check for inflammatory reactions. I did cut my coffee intake in half. One friend donated a new mattress. I make sleep a top priority. Newborn babies have my sympathy: when holding your head up is more than you can manage, naps and crying make a lot of sense.
So I don’t have any kind of meaning to make out of my misery. It’s not exactly an inspirational story. But I did realize that if I had to pick between being perfectly healthy and never experiencing helplessness or the everyday miracle that is having so many great people show up for me, I’d take the later. I’m not pretending this shit doesn’t suck or that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not an idiot: serious spinal problems aren’t exactly things that just go away. Even with excellent treatment it’s probably always going to be an issue. So the whole “get well soon thing” or “hope you feel better thing” sort of rubs me the wrong way. Positive thinking isn’t exactly my thing. I’d rather deal with reality.
Reality is where the real miracles happen. Reality is being incredibly grateful that I have decent health insurance and great community. Reality is living one day at a time, accepting how powerless and helpless our soft little human bodies are, trusting that God will provide what (usually who!) I need when I need it.
In the middle of all this my poor old car broke down. And guess what? People were there for me through that, too. I kinda fell apart for a moment there, feeling like not only was I broken (literally) but so was half my life. And… people still showed up. So that’s all I can offer you today. People still showed up. Not because I was fun and life was good. People showed up because I was wrecked and life sucked. That’s the miracle to remember.