Last week’s Girl Warrior post was about pain in all of its manifestations – physical, spiritual, emotional. Feeling it. Dealing with it. Surviving it. And ultimately, moving on. Over the past five years of writing and speaking to this remarkable Tribe, I’m more often than not, writing about life lessons that I also need to learn. Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a small book I read and reread in the seventies said, ‘We teach best what we most need to learn.” He’s right.
Since January of this year I’ve been hurting. Physically. But because human beings aren’t unconnected fragments, bits and pieces, shards and shavings that have nothing to do with each other, the physical pain has also become emotional and psychological suffering as well. There have been times, far too many truthfully, where life has lost its color. Times when everything was murky dimly lit and shrouded in grey hopeless despair. No joy at all. And it hasn’t been pretty.
The kind of pain I’m talking about is fucking ugly actually. And for me, it has literally been a pain in the ass. My sciatic nerve is being pinched or squeezed and the result is chronic relentless pain running from my butt down the right leg to my ankle. Thank God it stops there. But it’s debilitating. During my darkest hour, my worst days and fearful nights, it has taken every ounce of strength, grit, iron will and determination just to stand and walk. Even sitting for any length of time has been exhausting. There has been no relief. No relief for months.
I don’t know with certainty what brought this on, although I have theories, or why it still persists all these months later. I’ve been on a medical odyssey that included numerous visits to our sweet and kind leprechaun-like family doctor, who prescribed two different types of drugs to help manage the pain: one to stop the messages from the pain in my ass to my brain and the other to help curb the inflammation. The pain-brain pill I took once. Not only was it unable to block the chatter between my two body parts, it made me feel like puking. The other medication I took for a few weeks but I grew suspicious when I realized that they were the first thing I reached for when I woke up and the last thing I took before I went to sleep. This dependency was disconcerting to say the least so I did some online research. I quit those suckers cold turkey. They were useless anyway.
I went to my Chiropractor every Thursday night for two months. He did what Chiropractors do best – manipulate, twist, pull, bend and crack. This was a lot of fun. At first it seemed to help, then it didn’t. He recommended I also try deep tissue massage to supplement “the work” he was doing. This actually felt pretty wonderful during the 45-minute session where the Therapist kneaded my ass like it was a lump of bread dough. I thought ‘whoa, I want more of this.’ I left the clinic with this big dopey euphoric grin on my face but by the time I got home I swear to God I was crippled. I couldn’t move for 24 hours. I went back, however, for another session because it felt so damn good while he was doing all that pummeling and rubbing and stroking. Plus the clinic smelled divine. Like lavender and mint tea. But again, by the time I got home I was crying like a snot-nosed baby. It was pathetic and kind of funny if it wasn’t happening to me. That was the end of that treatment.
Two sessions with a Chinatown Acupuncturist did absolutely nothing. Well not exactly nothing. In the middle of the second session, the beautiful Asian doctor paused and said “I think your husband doesn’t love you enough.” Perhaps something was lost in translation, or perhaps it was the side-affects of having my ass used as a human pincushion, but that’s what I heard. I milked this for all it was worth. Afterwards, I told E what she said and this got me several weeks worth of loving kindness, if you know what I mean. It was good while it lasted. But everyone has limits, even E.
I did all kinds of online research on Sciatica, SI joint injury and Piriformis syndrome. All the “experts” agreed that these three were the culprits. The source of my worst nightmare, the cause of my grief and agony, the reason I was down on my knees praying for an end to this fucking misery. So I culled the best of all their wisdom and advice, and tried things. There was a common theme to the exercises promoted online for the type of injury I had. They involved a lot of pulling and stretching of the ass muscles in awkward uncomfortable positions. Kind of like yoga on steroids. While I was doing the exercises I got some relief but as soon as I got off the floor and made any attempt at getting on with my day, much less my life, I was in agonizing hell. More rubber-faced Claire Danes type crying ensued.
I was miserable. I was angry and frustrated by my body’s betrayal. I was depressed. And consequently depressing to be around. I felt alone and isolated. Like no one truly understood the depth of my suffering. During the day, I put on my happy “work face” and soldiered through. On a good night, if I was lucky, I found a position that was comfortable, which was usually sitting with my back completely straight and upright, my feet flat on the floor. I would sit like this for hours and not move, fearful that if I did I would trigger those delightful pain messages. This became the new normal for me.
Sometimes I screamed bloody murder. So loud and hard that the blood vessels in my neck vibrated. I scared the shit out of E and Mel. They did their best to console and comfort me. But it was pointless. Life was pointless. Hopeless. I was an embarrassing useless burden. There were no words that could make this better. No words.
Then at the beginning of June, upon the recommendation of a colleague, I went to see an Osteopath. I had no clue what an Osteopath was but I was willing to give it try. I met with the doctor on a sunny Saturday morning. She was an intense, direct, straight shooter who listened with her ears, eyes and heart. She didn’t just see me as patient, she recognized me as a human being who was suffering. And then she went to work.
For the first time in months I can see a glimmer of light that maybe, just maybe, I might get better. Session by session, I am seeing small steady improvements as Dr. D works her magic. I don’t know what she’s doing. I don’t care. I only know I’m on the journey back. I have faith in her ability to heal. I have hope again. I stopped screaming.
They say everything happens for a reason. I’ve yet to figure out the “why” of it all, and I guess it doesn’t really matter. But if I was to add a silver lining to this, it would be that my heart has been opened wide, wider than I could have ever imagined, to those who suffer. My compassion muscle has expanded and grown exponentially. My empathy is on high alert and fully engaged. For example, in the past I have often been impatient, annoyed and horribly judgmental of people who took their ‘sweet time’ crossing the street, and kept me waiting. I’d mutter irritated “for God’s sake hurry up and get across the road already.” But now I think, “what is your story, Dear One? Are you suffering?”
My heart aches. I feel your pain. I understand.