I had gotten back from an awesome but hectic vacation from Hong Kong, so much that I really wanted a vacation from my vacation (a post for another day).
On the penultimate day of my trip, the day that I had planned a visit to Disney Land, I remember massaging my lower back, and wincing in pain. I was mulling if I should rest at the hotel instead, but this was to be my first "Disneyland" visit and the lure of seeing my favorite characters was too much to ignore.
Well, I survived the day with my pain patches and left to India the next day. Along with me, came my unwelcome companion - PAIN - with every intention of staying on permanently.
I could not walk/sit/sleep/function without pain. Many of the things I had taken for granted, were suddenly out of reach:
- I could not wear jeans or anything around my waist that could potentially rub against my lower back and increase inflammation
- I could not bend as normal humans do (I had to bend my knees and pick up stuff off the ground, like little children do)
- I could not lift anything heavy (I had friends and family picking me up from work, who would carry my backpack until I reached home)
- I switched to wearing sneakers, and chucked all my heels to a corner
- I could not drive the car
- I could not sleep on my side, or back or stomach without pain
- I got rid of my bad habit of sitting without a back rest (I used to sit on the edge of chairs, cots and always hunched on my laptop)
They say pain makes you stronger. It may be true, but before you reach that point, you have to deal with all the negativity it exposes you to.
I became severely depressed, when the time came to wean of the pain killers after the initial 2 weeks, and instead of making an exit, my pain came back with a fury.
I switched doctors, went to a spine surgeon who told me my spine was fine - and that I had suffered a lumbar sprain. He prescribed 6 pills to take daily for 90 days - that included pain killers, calcium supplements, vitamin d supplements and nerve re-generators.
For a control freak like me, it was the toughest time when I had to relinquish all control to drugs. Some of the pain killers I was taking were expected to have severe side effects (blurry vision, significant weight gain, muscle twitches, dryness in the mouth, restlessness) and I was experiencing them all. It was one of my low moments - I was terrified there was no cure and I would live with my debilitating pain and symptoms for life - and broke down. But the doctor assured me that all of these symptoms would disappear once the pain medication was stopped.
There were times, when self-pity kicked in. But I learned very soon (thankfully) that self-pity was useless, and does nothing to get you back on your feet. If left unattended, it can really mess with your head.
To the world, it was a simple case of back pain and they didn't understand the fuss and I didn't care to explain after a while. If anyone started to talk about my back (even out of care), I shut them all out or I made self-deprecating jokes about it.
For a long time, I allowed PAIN to own me, takeover control of me and dictate terms in my life. One day I had enough. I decided to take control back. I read up medical articles on the diagnosis and how others overcame it in time and made peace with my recovery period - I believe that is when I truly started to heal.
Patience is a tough master. It is not just having the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.
Its been 3 months now - I am 90% recovered. I continue to take the vitamin supplements, but have stopped the pain killers. The side effects are receding, and I am on my way to losing the weight I had gained.
Pain and I play hide and seek these days. Many days I win, some days it wins. On the days of my victory, when I feel free, unshackled and not controlled by that beast, I make the most of my day. I furtively work on finding all the activities that could potentially bring it back to the fore - and add them to my "not to do" list.
Till date, I don't know what caused the pain because I was an avid fitness person. Exercise is supposed to stretch your muscles, thereby strengthening you and also preventing unnecessary tears. I will never know. But I listen to my body a lot more these days. Now I know, what the doctor meant when he said - make your pain your best friend. It makes sense now, it never did when he told me during our first meeting.
It is not an easy road to recovery, but with friends and family by your side for emotional support, it gets easier to stay positive and hope for better times.