something’s gotta give

Well, although I’ve sleeping through the night consistently for almost two weeks now, my back is still giving me hell. After 6 months of focused work, my doc, physical therapist, and massage therapist have got my hips pretty well aligned and stable. They haven’t been giving me any trouble, thank the gods. But now we have to tackle my midback which is all frozen up–so much so that it makes it hard to breathe. My MT noticed that, when I breathe, my back ribs don’t expand outward like would be normal. And instead my upper ribs slide upwards to compensate.

It’s the worst first thing in the morning when I wake up. Tuesday morning, I was standing in the shower, trying to breathe and relax and get those muscles to let go when I started seeing stars and had to turn off the water and get on the ground and hang my head between my knees. This is so frickin’ frustrating. Wednesday, I was hurting so much through my midback that I couldn’t even stand to the feeling of a bra strap back there. So, I put on a big, floppy sweater and took a half of a valium straight away and then kind of stumbled around the house like a drunk driver. (Funny how some days that stuff really affects me and other days I can hardly feel it at all.) My back muscles started to relax and I started to breathe better and so instead I was just sleepy and sore, rather than tight and oxygen deprived. I got a massage yesterday and we decided to switch tactics: since we’ve got things working from the bottom up, we are going to work from the top down and go after my neck and shoulders and get that opened up and aligned and see if we can get my midback to TAKE a FRICKIN CLUE.

I’m so sick of this. I whined to my new manager (yes, I got re-orged a few weeks ago) about this yesterday and confessed how demoralizing this all is. He seemed sympathetic and mentioned anecdotally a few folks that have chosen to take leave of absences to deal with illness and family related matters. I may look into that.

I’ve been on a leave of absence from school for the last year because I can’t sit at a computer all day for my job and then come home and sit at a computer all night for school. Maybe it’s time to turn the tables. I’ve only 11 months left to have that thesis finished, edited, approved, and on the shelf in the school library. I don’t know if an LOA is even a possibility as far as work goes. But something has GOT to give or my muscles and fascia won’t.

Update

I’ve been sleeping well most of last weekend and this week. Finally. Phew. I went to my D.O. yesterday and I can’t even tell you the number of cracks and snaps she got out of me. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My massage therapist is still working away at loosening up all of the crunchy crap in my midback. But rib #11 is still twisted out of joint on the left side, and that makes for irritation.

In the weather news, we had a delightful Indian summer day yesterday–it was in the 60’s– and then this morning I woke up to quiet, heavy snow coming down. Yummmmmmmmmm. It was still warm enough and still enough that I didn’t need a jacket to go outside and walk the dog. (But I put on my glamorous faux fur to go to work, because–really–any excuse to wear that item is a good one.) The ground is still warm, so the snow is turning to slush as soon as it hits. So, driving through Boulder is pretty much like driving through a bowl of soup. God, I love the variety of weather here. Except that the snow plow thoroughly BEANED Bubbles on the way to work today–I mean, I might as well have been in a car wash for the lack of visibility and all of the noise and rocking it caused. She was covered from head to toe, front to back. And I had even crept her way over the edge of the road and stopped and cowered in the gutter in order to avoid it.

More whining

Well, last night was rough again. At least I got 3 hrs and 45 minutes of sleep before I woke up rather than just 3 hrs. I laid there for a good hour and a half trying to find a comfortable position and then getting up and stretching and then trying to find a comfortable position again. I was determined to not do any drugs because I really don’t want to get addicted to them or take them so often that I get inured to them and require higher and higher dosages. Finally, I was pushed into doing what I probably should have been doing already: just resigning myself to the decent probability possibility that I wouldn’t fall back asleep and instead laying on my back, relaxing the back of my tongue, letting my eyes fall to the back of the sockets, and simply paying attention to the remaining pain and feeling it fully.

In short, it sucked. It was intense. It was crazy making. It made me want to jump out of my skin. And somewhere in there, I fell asleep.

But, today, I feel exhausted. I feel kinda weak and sore. Like I’ve been beat up in a back alley. I’m so tired of this.

Update on the pain

I took the day off and spent most of it moving slowly to get showered and dressed (because I felt so toxic and nauseous at first), then laid on the floor and did all sorts of stretches and exercises to try to get my muscles opened up. I made a little progress, but as soon as they let go, they were damn sore.

I went over to my physical therapist this afternoon and she did some work on me and found that my diaphragm had tightened around the aorta and twisted it. Yeeeesh. No wonder I felt crappy and toxic. After I while, I practically fell asleep on the table and am feeling a bit better now, although I still feel like just doing nothing for the rest of the evening.

Last night just sucked. I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in almost a week, except for Monday night and, that night, I had a nightmare instead. I’ve been waking up fairly regularly about 3 hours into my sleep and I just can’t get comfortable. The muscles all around my diaphragm are tight. Which makes it hard to breathe. Which only contributes to whatever unconscious anxiety I already have from other things in my life.

I even took 5 mg of Valium before bed, hoping to head it off, but then finally around 4 AM, after 3 hours of laying awake and trying to sleep and then getting up and stretching and then trying to sleep, I took another 5 mg. I slept, but I woke up at 9 feeling a little dizzy and nauseous. Kind of like I had been oxygen deprived.

I’m not going to work today. This is just crazy making. I suppose I could rack it up to working 3 days in a row for the first time in 6 months, but I’m not sure that’s it. Or maybe I underestimate the freedom to move about during the day once a work week.

I’m really sick of this.

Slowly but surely

After all of the leaning and scrubbing of aforementioned canine bowel disaster, my back was killing me by Sunday night. I could barely help Hermes with cooking Sunday’s dinner since anything involving standing in one place or sitting upright (much less elevating my arms to use a kinfe) just pulled all of my attention to the dull pain. And since I don’t really like cooking but once a year, I was a bear to be around.

Once dinner was ready, Hermes looked at me lovingly and said, “Don’t ever cook with me again.” 🙂 Cooking is one of his passions and it’s a real disappointment for him that I don’t share it. That it, in fact, makes me cranky. But I try to pitch in because I feel guilty that he’s doing all the work. But then he sees me get tired and cranky and he feels guilty like he’s making me do something that’s hurting me. So, we cut a deal. He’ll cook. I’ll clean. My only stipulation is that he start with a clean kitchen so that I’m not cleaning like *multiple meals* worth of kitchen mess.

Monday was tough in terms of pain but the weather was great and I rode my bike for 4 2-3 mile stretches. Boy, am I out of shape. But it was all good. Bicycling really helps me locate the core muscles I need to lengthen and strengthen. I biked over to see my back doc at the end of the day and when I hopped on the table, I could feel that my lower back almost touched it! She noticed it right away too and said that I’ve already dropped about an inch back. (It used to be that I couldn’t flatten my back to the wall if my life depended on it.)

I’ve been checking it out today and that back position seems to be holding pretty well without me doing any muscling of it. Hooray! It feels much nicer than what I used to have.

Also in the good news department, my new bed arrived today. If you recall, back in August, when I got back from India, I was commenting how comfortably and easily I slept, on my back no less, when I was just sleeping on foam padding on a board over there. At the time, I decided to get a new bed, but never got a round tuit. Well, I got one this weekend. Hermes and I cruised the bed stores on Saturday and tried all different sorts, and shor nuf, dense latex foam was the thing that gave my back great support all along the length without feeling like a board or swallowing me up. And, even better, the mattress company promises they’ll rebuild it to customize it for me if after 3 weeks it’s not working for me. And, just to take the edge off of forking out yet again this month a sizeable chunk of change, the mattress company carted off my old mattress and donated it to FEMA. Sleep tight, Brownie.

Updates

I haven’t posted for days, but the news is basically good. I saw my doctor. She wrote me a prescription for valium and for making my company limit my work week to 32 hours. She sees it as only a temporary measure, just enough to break the pattern of my muscles getting locked up until I can establish a new, healthier pattern with all my physical therapy and cranial-sacral adjustments.

I start next week working the new schedule. As for the chemical assistance, most people think of valium as an anti-anxietal, but it actualy started as a muscle relaxant. Doc says to take only half a pill at night and then the other half if the pain wakes me up in the middle of the night. And I’m to keep this to every other night so as to not get addicted. I’m cool with that.

So, I took it Tuesday night, and Wednesday I woke up a new woman. Or, actually, it was like the old pedalinfaith was back. My god, I had forgotten that I’m actually a pretty darn fun person to be around. My back muscles were all loose and I could feel them going, “Oh, yeah, I remember now what being open and relaxed used to feel like.” I was all giggles and jokes and full of energy on Wednesday. It was just so striking to me to realize just how much of my energy was being slowly siphoned off by the distracting back pain. So, all I can say, is hallelujah.

My manager started making some more noise at work about my special chair, sending emails to everyone that counted with included pictures of me working from the floor of my office propped up on pillows, and explaining that I had had an ergo evaluation like 6 or 7 weeks ago and still had no chair and so things had continued to get worse and so I was now going on partial disability hours. Well, you can guess what happened next. The corporation is now ordering this super expensive chair and paying like $500 to fed ex to me by Monday. OK, I needed some sort of forward movement on the request, but overblown panic is usually not necessary. Typical corporate craziness.

In other news, Hermes has asked to go to an introductory tango class tonight. So, of course, I’m jumping on the opportunity!

Weekend Redux

Well, the weekend had some nice spots in it but the bulk of it was for attending to my back. I left work early on Friday to go get a massage and I got there and they had recently repainted and I couldn’t take the fumes. I was already having trouble breathing deeply since my back muscles were so locked, I didn’t think it’d be such a great idea to get them open and then breathe fumes deeply instead. Plus, I could already feel my chemical sensitivities kick in and I was getting a histamine reaction. Bodies are such a pain sometimes. The massage people apologized up and down and promised me a discount on the next massage.

So, no massage on Friday. Instead, I got a quick nap, and then Hermes and I went out with our friends for appetizers and wine and had a great time. (I highly recommend the Village Cork Wine Bistro in Denver if you ever get the chance.) And then we went over to the Tattoo Convention to ogle and appreciate, but the turn out was low and the show was a dud, and I was already running on two nights of compromised sleep and starting to feel nauseous from being so tired. So, we called it a night.

I wasn’t taking any chances on sleep Friday. I couldn’t handle another night awake. So, I took a half a sleeping pill. I only woke up to stretch once, but my mind didn’t get busy, so I went back to sleep pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I felt kinda toxic and drugged all day Saturday. (Unisom does that to me. It’s the price of a guaranteed night’s sleep.) And my back was STILL bugging me. So, I went to a 2 hour restorative yoga class and got a little chair massage afterwards. And–hallelujah–my back was all loose and open and it was heaven … for about 2 hours. Then it started to tighten back up again.

By dinner time, I was so frustrated that I was in tears. Thank God Hermes is so patient and caring. I don’t understand why my back has gotten to be SUCH a problem lately. I really don’t. I know I’m doing some new body work and there is always a period of deconstruction and chaos before a new (hopefully healthier) pattern can take hold. But this is still a bit scary.

Saturday night, I slept pretty well. I was awake for a while around 4 AM, but I didn’t worry about it and that makes a big difference in my mood. Sunday ended up being a weird day of disconnects. Lots of driving from restaurant to restaurant because nothing was open for brunch. Weird. Finally found that the one sandwich deli I dislike was open and I settled for a simple grilled cheese (which they managed to screw up anyway). Then I drove down to Denver for a talk I was looking forward to, but no one was there. Seems it was cancelled but hard to tell since there were no signs or anything. It was annoying.

Hermes, , and I took in “V for Vendetta” on Sunday night, which was FABULOUS. Top drawer, as they would say across the pond. There were great tie-ins with Bush/recent events and it showed thoughtful character development. Overall, poignant and powerful.

Sunday night, I was awake most of the night trying to get comfortable. Then I had to haul my ass out of bed early for a meeting that, in the end, was cancelled due to lack of attendance. Truly irritating. The people who didn’t show were the people my team was supposed to be presenting to. And the VP had the nerve to ask us to take care of rescheduling and getting everybody there when it was his people that didn’t show and we were all there and had already put in a lot of time preparing for the occasion.

Oh, yeah. And I have another cold and have been sniffling, sneezing, and coughing for a week. (I’m pretty sure that I caught it from the phlegmy girl sitting behind us on the plane back from Chicago.)

grumble grumble

So, my back is still giving me problems. I function more or less OK during the day at work, but then as soon as I try to do anything else, I find that all the sitting has made my muscles freeze up. My D.O. says that my spine is slowly integrating the cranial-sacral work she is doing but it is integrating it and to not worry because we are trying to undo a 37 year old pattern. My P.T. person says she is really impressed with my ability to identify and isolate muscles and I’m learning the exercises really quickly compared to most but it will just take time for those muscles to strengthen. (They stil tremble when I do the exercises).

In the meantime, my back feels good on the weekends (’cause I’m moving around so much). Pretty good on Monday and Tuesday as well. (And really great after P.T.) But by Wednesday, it starts to lock down. Then my back muscle pain wakes me up Wednesday night at 2 AM for a couple hours. Same deal on Thursday night. By Friday, I’m strung out and I just want to lay prone and get a massage. Unfortunately, as good as laying flat feels on my back, it’s too much stretch for my chronically short hip flexors and so I don’t fall asleep. And yet, if I sleep on my side or my stomach, whatever muscle isn’t being stretched (usually, the up side) locks back down and wakes me up again.

It’s torture. And so then I go to work on less sleep than needed and feel toxic and crappy all day and am not productive and have shitty attention for Hermes and my pets. About the only thing that perks up my mood again is riding my bike or dancing (if my muscles aren’t too locked up to do it). I just can’t find enough time in the day to do my exercises, and stretch enough, and work, and make meals, and do all of the necessary activities of daily living. It’s making me absofuckinglutely anxious. Which of course doesn’t help me get back to sleep when I’m laying there in the middle of the night thinking how overwhelmed I am. Life was so much more manageable when I only worked 4 days a week (ah, that beautiful year after classes were over and I kept my 32 hr/wk work schedule which letmetellyou is not easy to fanagle out of my company.)

My work still hasn’t gotten me the ergonomic barcalounger they promised me (and the doc recommended). Corporate heel dragging. I was whining about all this to my boss today. And he pointed out that if my doc says I should only work 4 days a week (with Wednesdays off so that my back can reset), my company will have to give it to me. It could be a temporary thing until my back is ready for a more full-time schedule. I’m going to talk to the doc about it on Monday.

Mood Thermometer

My mood is improving. The sun is out, the snow is melting, I had a good cry after the Doo Dog post, Hermes wants to come over tonight and take care of me, and frankly I’m having an excellent hair day. If my eyes weren’t puffy from crying, I’d have my picture taken for a replacement employee badge.

I decided it was stupid for me to be sitting at work when I could be at home and give my hips and my heart a better rest. So, now, I’ve got Doo laying on my left leg, P’Sheesh (my cat) laying on my right, and I’m reviewing documentation.

As for my ongoing laundry list of complaints …

10. The state of the world sucks. Especially this country. I’m embarrassed by our behavior. What makes our country exceptional is not its ability to produce wealth. It is our defense of civil rights and the wide range of possibilities for an individual life. And that’s being sold out by institutions we trust and we’re going along with it because of some skewed sense that we need it for our safety and security. And there’s no end in sight. We are in the midst of age of rigidity and righteousness. We are locked down. People are turning on each other. It scares and angers me. I think about this kind of stuff a lot lately. It makes it hard to sleep easily.

9. My relationship to my job is still a problem. I’m good at what I do. But I don’t feel I belong there any more. I don’t have a clear enough, hopeful enough image of what my life could look like without the career I’ve had all my adult life. And, probably more importantly, I get down on myself for being such an impotent wuss about bellying up to the bar of change.

Lest we forget about complaints 8 through 1 …