9:48 AM, 24 February 2014
It is Monday, not usually my favorite day of the week but always a day for renewed intention, a day to get back to the grind and reset my goals. For now I can simply duplicate my goals from last week. I lost last week. I gave it over to pain.
Now I stand in the center of my kitchen, taking advantage of the just-above-waistline height of the raised counter-top. Sitting at my desk became agony last week. I tried and tried and finally gave in to taking painkillers and doing whatever I could do on my feet or, alternatively, lying on the floor. I cried. I sobbed. I revisited depression. I am 58 years old. Is this it? Is this my decline, my slide into oblivion? I am to live with pain until I am no more? It is so distracting and, when it is acute, so controlling. When I experience stabbing knives down my lower back twanging some tight nauseating cord attached to the back of my leg, I can’t concentrate on pronouns and verbs, I can’t work on awkward sentences or craft my thoughts into paragraphs and essays. I spend my time thinking about and seeking relief, complaining, gasping, and wriggling around trying to find the one position, the perfect posture to release me from torture.
Right now I am considering an ice pack for the back of my neck. They tell me again and again: my arm and shoulder pain derives from the multitude of problems in my neck vertebra. I find it difficult to accept since the pain in my shoulder is very immediate. It doesn't feel like it is “from” anywhere else. It blooms quite intensely and radiates out from behind my shoulder blade to the outside of my shoulder and on down the back of my arm, sometimes tingling as if asleep, and sometimes burning white hot and relentless, stealing my breath. I am not educated in the human nervous system, only in the education my personal nervous system is providing. I've tolerated neck pain for years. It is the lasting legacy of six years at a desk with a phone squeezed between ear and shoulder. The pre-headset days are the gift that keeps on giving. Now they tell me my neck trouble is spreading, traveling about my body so I won’t forget those years spent as an office manager trying to keep my family together, jamming a phone against my ear and affecting my saccharin charm to all those wealthy investors.
I must muscle through this. There is too much I need to achieve before I curl up. I've barely begun. Funny how pain can be a mind game. It is so attention grabbing, so all-consuming. Pain is not reading my to-do list. If it is, it is laughing hysterically and maniacally and rubbing its hands together. The to-do list is hovering about in my dreams of late, following me around like a faithful dog. It isn't leaving me. Deadlines loom before me, some self-imposed, others gently requested by people relying on me.
I embrace drugs. This was an emotional decision that felt like a moral failure last week. I want my brain to be clear and firing on all cylinders. But, the meds take the edge off. They permit movement and a degree of relief. They collect a toll as well. My mind is fuzzy and imprecise. The to-do list feels more suggestion than rule. I don’t care as much. My writing work is hesitant and less directed. After I go to the surgeon tomorrow I will try to cut the amount down and keep to a low-but-steady dose. I understand in theory this will address the undesirable roller-coaster, the peaks and valleys of chronic agony. I am reluctant. I’d rather settle into something endurable, a life where I've got all my faculties working to their fullest, not cushioned under the pillow-y softness of drug-induced narcotic reprieve.
I managed to write this today though, huh? I will draw satisfaction from this, already a victory over the lost time of last week.