Sand in the Tank

I feel like hell.

I swear, I think I have been bone-tired for 10 years.

Part of it is, of course, the 5 years of crazily bad health combined with “yes you STILL have mono” in the mid- to late aughts. Not good for a body to go through. But another part of it is emotional, because even when my body was (is?) a wreck, I was able to do a lot more than I do now.

It’s often frustrating – nay, almost infurating – when the articles and thinkpieces and memes on self-care and self-nurturance float through my screen. It’s frustrating because I’ve been struggling with how to refill my waaay depleted well of creative and emotional energy, and I swear I have tried everything that anyone has ever suggested that I had access to. More often than not they backfire on me. I’m left worse off: drained, or hurting, or feeling like something is sorely amiss, or at the worst…some memory resurrected in a really bad way. Even the ones that don’t backfire don’t do anything. Like, nothing.

It has gotten to the point where I really, truly believe there is the equivalent of sand in my mental and emotional gas tank. I don’t know what exactly the “sand” is, but dammit I am GOING to get to the bottom of this.

Uh. Pun not intended.

So I apologize for any weirdness. Chalk it up to the fact that my pistons are skipping.

The Adventure of the Dual Ear Infection

The entirety of last week both Jon and I were fighting a flu.

Late on Friday, I started feeling intense pain in my left ear. Like someone was pushing needles through my ear canal. To the point where I was screaming in pain.

Jon said I should go to the doctor. I didn’t want to move – omg the idea of being in a moving car made me want to puke just thinking about it – but agreed that if it was still bad after sleeping, we would go.

On Saturday the pain had subsided in my left ear but started up in my right. We went to a Walgreen’s clinic to get diagnosed and, hopefully, treated.

Otitis media.
Otitis externa.

We waited for our prescriptions to be filled right there.

Neomycin drops.

(Jon got amoxycillin too, and Tesselon pearls.)

So here I am on Wednesday and I cannot hear worth a damn via my right ear. My tinnitus in that ear is LOUD. When I walk, every step of my right leg causes a rather loud noise inside my head. On my left side I can hear better, but it’s only half as good as it was before this. The tinnitus on that side is mild. And when I shake my head, I hear one tone at the right and one on the left – almost an octave apart. The tones are higher in the daytime, lower in the nighttime.

Don’t get me started on the auditory hallucinations this has caused.

This is all brand spanking new for me because I cannot recall ever having an ear infection, ever. While the experience was initially a painful experience I never want to repeat, and it is currently really fucking irritating, it’s also very *interesting.* I mean, the tones alone are kind of neat, experiencing how the eardrum is affected by the movement of my head and the fluid within. It’s also intriguing to note how my brain has been interpreting different pressure on different locations around and in my ear. While I would never want to repeat the painful ones, and some of the non-painful ones are truly disconcerting (like the one that sounded like cell phone interference in music), the fact that I can hear my vertebrae moving much more clearly, and sometimes feel my heartbeat, well… I hafta admit it’s kinda cool.

Of course, the fact that listening to NIN hurts? Not so cool. (It’s just Ghosts, ffs.)

If it’s still a problem tomorrow, I’m supposed to call the clinic. Eek.

Will our intrepid adventurer beat the wild bacteria swarm? Stay tuned!

This Is A Post About Pain

Consider the title the content warning. It’s all about pain.

Feel warned enough?

Okay. *deep breath; squares shoulders*

Yesterday I experienced a terrifying moment where simply attempting to stand up from a crouch hurt so badly I was momentarily blinded. It was in the backyard of our apartment building, and Jon and I were taking Kizu for her midday morning walk. I was literally just crouching to pick up after the pup – attempting to stand back up initiated a whoosh of pain so severe I couldn’t breathe for a millisecond. When the pain increased as I tried to return to the crouch, rather than subsiding, I cried out for help from Jon. He was about 10 yards away, and I had to repeat myself because it hurt too badly for me to even think of raising my voice.

Yeah. That bad.

And I keep on thinking about that. That there was a level of, or kind of, pain where my brain was so shut down, I could not scream.

That’s scary, you know?

I remember the first time I herniated a disc. That feeling of being stabbed in the back. I ended up kneeling in the tub, repeating “Oh my god, stop, stop, oh my god, stop.” But my voice was loud and strong at the beginning, only tapering as the pain continued at the same level. Therefore I knew that if someone had been close by from whom I could request help, I could have called out. Also, I wasn’t blinded by the pain. I could see where to place my hand to give myself support.

In the park I needed desperately to lean on something and had no idea where to go. Jon heard me at the second “help” and came to support me, but for that split second I was freaking out.

I honestly never knew there was a state of pain where one’s senses turned off, but you retained consciousness.  I am hoping that I’ll be able to forget it.


It took me until around 9 pm to return to my standard “I’m in constant low-level pain” state. Even with taking double the amount of pain medication I normally took. And it was absurd to feel such a huge surge of gratitude when the label said 1-2 pills every 6 hrs instead of 1 pill every 6.

It’s been interesting, this past week, to be off my fish oil and valerian regimen and to see exactly how much pain that was covering up.  I figured there would be a little masking, but this much?

It has me REALLY looking forward to my surgery on Thursday.


And If One Is Interested, A Bit of Back History

(Nyuk nyuk. Get it? *Back* History?)

((Also, this is the point at which tl;dr folks should scroll past. This post is LOOOONG. *snore*))

I love that moment when you discover that a bunch of the things you’re struggling with turn out to all be one specific wound. There’s SUCH a relief knowing if you heal the wound, all these other things will go away.

That’s been true of my mental health and of my creative health – now it’s true of my physical health as well.

I’ve had back problems from my teens, and have been given a grand assortment of possible reasons why. My hips simply didn’t like the whole “standing around” thing, and after a certain age riding a bicycle hurt like hell. I’ve had orthotics since I was 12. Had debilitating headaches when I was 17/18. From age 23 on, every so often my hip and right leg would hurt like hell. I started getting migraines at 25, which were attributed to TMJ when I was 28.

Yadda yadda yadda, my list of illnesses and conditions and diagnoses (both correct and incorrect) goes on for paragraphs. My primary care physician always gave me painkillers and sent me to physical therapy, but it never “took.” The only solution I ever found to the pain was with this one amazing chiropractor – Avery Ferentz – who always used to say “If I can’t fix you in 3 visits then I can’t fix you.” I would literally be put up on blocks to change the angle of my hips and/or shoulders, and after two visits I’d be pain free and on my way.

But Avery Ferentz unexpectedly died in 2002, at age 49. The last time I saw him was late 1999. Which meant things went downhill from there.

I had my first herniated disc in November 2004. (While cleaning the tub, of all things. Nothing like feeling like someone is stabbing you in the back while you’ve got rubber gloves on and a noseful of cleaning product fumes.) I kind of attribute it to not seeing Ferentz for 5 years. And of course, when I asked my PCP to send me to a chiro, she said no and sent me to physical therapy. And let me just take a moment to kiss the sky for the existence of Cynthia Gormenzano – she’s the one who told my PCP to send me for an MRI. I had my first back surgery in 2005 and it was a success.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2013.
(I can hear you breathing a sigh of relief – but there’s still more!)

Now that I am look back, I think I herniated one of the discs while dancing during a wedding. While that intense pain went away within two months, that WAS when I started getting what I called The Swell – around noon every day I’d start to feel any clothing I was wearing close to the skin tightening on me. At first I thought it was bloating, but now I believe it was inflammation increasing as I moved through my day.

So fast forward again to early 2014.
It started with my feet. While poor Amelia was dying. I was having a tough time putting pressure on my feet when I got up in the morning.

I thought it was because the orthotics I got in 2004 had bad worn patches in the padding and I’d been wearing a pair of sandals with too-low arch support.

I had the orthotics replaced, but that made it worse. Plus I started gaining more weight because I couldn’t move around as much.

Ended up having to move out of our huge Bronx apartment into a smaller (but better for us) one while in extreme pain. Yeah, that was fun.

Diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in 2015.
Hydrocortisone shot didn’t do a damn thing. Plus I got a scar from the freezing spray.
This guy tried orthotics but the pain just got worse. And traveled up my legs. Ended up having to move out of NYC entirely while in extreme pain. I believe I herniated the second disc at that point.

But I am SO grateful I ended up in Houston for my next go-round with doctors, because the health care culture in Houston is a thousand times better than in New York City (albeit still fat-phobic and gender-restrictive). I got xrays in positions I was never asked to do before and it made the spondylolisthesis quite obvious. The MRI was actually nice. I’ve been given estimates on cost the whole time. Given that I’ve had terrible luck with doctors my entire life, I’m feeling really positive now.

And that, my dear readers, is truly the tl;dr – changed my place, changed my luck.

Upcoming Back Surgery

Yet again, it’s been a while.

I have a reason, though.

It turns out I’ve had two herniated disks in my lumbar region for about, enh, 2 years and change. Along with a VERY compressed spinal nerve on the right.

As well as this ickers thing called spondylolisthesis, which is when a vertebrae slips forward from the line of the other vertebrae. In my case this includes grinding of the vertebral bones against one another. (Ew.)

As well as this OTHER ickers thing called modic bone change, which is when a person starts to develop blood vessels within the marrow of the bone (type 1) which causes inflammation, or when the red cellular bone marrow starts to be replaced by fatty marrow (type 2). I mostly have type 1, though there’s a miniscule amount of type 2. This condition is associated with constant low-level pain.

So! I’m getting a spinal fusion and a lumbar laminoforaminotomy. (How’s that for a mouthful? I kinda want to write a song around it.) After the surgery I’ll have to wear a back brace for 2 months and can’t lift more than 10 lbs for 4 to 6 weeks.

Please pity me. I will not be able to lift and cuddle any of my roos for over a month. *sadface*

But at the same time, if you feel like it, please cheer for me for possibly being pain-free for the first time in years! WOOOO!