Friday, January 02, 2015

very bad boots: a cautionary tale

So one of my oft-repeated resolutions is to blog more, and usually that gets steamrolled right about the time I head back to work and immerse myself in studio doings and blogging becomes pretty much the lowest (or maybe highest and unreachable) rung on the priority ladder, and falls away much like going to the beach more or cooking my own meals more.  Above (or below) it fall all of the other more pressing fires and obligations (the library with its semesterly reserve chaos, books to layout and release, orders and author copies to process, wicked alice business) and lastly my own creative work, which sometimes also gets subsumed in the waves. If it comes down to write a blog entry or write a poem, the poem usually wins unless I'm in super avoidance-of-my-own -writing mode, which happens sometimes.  So the blog becomes this occasional catch up thing, when really I like it best as a way to work out my thoughts, to use it as a writing tool, and as such, I suppose a more in the minute sort of documentation more than a bi-weekly round up.

So I find myself here again, at the beginning of another year.  Same goal, same channel.

I've mostly been resting up the past couple of days.  My back/leg has receded to an ache when I stand too long or bend over suddenly, so it's better, but I'm still moving about in the world gingerly for the next few weeks.  In the greater realm of things, as big as an interruption as it was in my groove and as painful as it was, I can't help but think there are always worse things  (my mother turned 40 for example and was diagnosed with colon cancer. ) I am aware that as one gets older, these become more commonplace--more aches, more pains, more ways in which your body fails you. I've always felt like I was pretty in tune with my body..I guess it's half ass biofeedback, but I could sometimes make a headache or hiccups go away just my focusing.  I've been blessed *knock on wood* by a relatively trauma free life--only a broken finger when I was a child, no major ailments or sicknesses beyond the occasional cold/flu. I had a trick knee that would sometimes do scary popping things when I as a teenager, but I could still soldier on and refused to let it keep me from doing things like limping around amusement parks and dancing in musicals.  Walking alot in the city  seemed to strengthen the tendons and cure it. When I was 26 I had some lower back spasms that were def more stress-related than physical ( I was still mobile, and it really only hurt when I first stood up,  but they oddly went away as soon as I found my first post grad school job).  I had a bad bout of mono about 8 years ago, but I recovered despite several other recurrent colds/infections that year.  In the intervening years, I've had some fevers, a rather nasty burn from boiling water on my midriff (otherwise known as the ramen accident), last summer's incident with the food poisoning (the raspberry incident) , but nothing that actually landed me in a doctors office.

In fact, the past few years, in which I've lost quite a bit a weight, exercise more regularly,  and am eating better, have felt the healthiest, the strongest I've ever been.  My philosophy is usually that what doesn't kill me makes me more invincible.  All it took was a faulty pair of stylish boots and a few hours of altered gait (made worse by not resting or correcting it immediately until I could hardly walk,) to take me out of commission for nearly three weeks. Apparently, a pinched nerve and attendant muscle issues are beyond my bio-feedback skills and it made me sort of frustrated and angry that my body was not cooperating like I thought it should. The irony is I consider myself a very careful person who makes an effort to be extra super careful.  No running down stairs without holding on.  No crossing against the light.  My eyes always on the ground for uneven sidewalks and slippery patches.  No heels above 2 inches.   Of course it would be vanity in the form of chocolate leather riding boots that would take me out.

I'd gotten them and worn them once in October and had, the next couple of days, a rather unpleasant tingling feeling in my back/thigh.  I didn't think too much about it and it was gone by the end of the week and I sort of forgot about it.  I had bought them as a replacement for an older dark brown pair that always rubbed the ball of my foot after too much walking since the heel was closer to 2".   These were flatter and pretty and had rather lovely little buckles.  I was smitten and actually bought two more pairs in other shades since they were reasonably affordable and I was in a shoe-buying frenzy at the beginning of fall.(black and reddish brown) -neither of which caused me any pain whatsoever, so I'm convinced it's a manufacturing error on that single right boot.)  The second time I wore them, in mid November, I was good for a few hours but that sensation came back.  By the end of the night, I was good as long as I stayed sitting down, but as soon as I stood, the right leg was rather painful and making a zinging sensation (and of course, I was at the library and unable to change them out til I got home.)  I finally blamed the boots, threw them in a bag of clothes to be tossed out  and figured like the last time, it would go away. Except it didn't.  In fact it got worse. For two weeks,  I continued on doing all the things I normally do -riding the bus, working on the studio, but spent most of my time sitting or hobbling around and even the walk between the Fine Arts and the library was getting really painful.  I was always rushing to sit down, which in itself was slowly becoming less comfortable  Lying down was good.  Certain chairs where I could sort of fold my legs underneath crossed at the ankle worked.  I took to wearing only my flattest shoes (which actually I think was the worst thing I could of done because ballet flats have absolutely no support whatsoever and were not doing anything to correct the problem.  I was in survival mode, moving my body painfully place to place, from bed to bus to studio to library, back to bus, to home, to bed, repeat) but not really all that present or attentive or even productive.  I did a reading at the Poetry Center standing on one leg behind the podium to avoid putting weight on the bad one. I relied on delivery and peapod for food and groceries.  I was just trying to get through til the break.

Of course, like anyone who gets super anxiety when it comes to doctors, I turned first to google and web md.  I suspected the problem was very likely my sciatic nerve which had afflicted a number of people around me at various times.  i suspected maybe I was irritating it from sitting on it, especially since it seemed to get worse after I sat in my chair at work all day (the rub was that it hurt at about a 5 when I walked and a 7 when I stood,so all I could really comfrtably DO was sit).  My desk chair at the studio was fine, but trimming books was harder since I always leverage the weight of my body against the blade, especially for thicker books. In hindsight, it wasn't the sitting I think that was the problem, more the more I walked and stood throughout the day worsened it (especially since it would be rather painless when I first got up in the morning, but sometimes would start hurting as I walked to the bus.)  Judging that the pain seemed to radiate rather deeply in my butt (I kept laughing it off as a royal pain in the ass ), I did some research on the piriformis muscle, and judging by the relief I got from actually rotating my thigh outward (why sitting indian style  or with my legs crossed at the ankle felt good), I suspected it was the culprit and source of the pain.  I took everything I could, large amounts of ibuprofen, aleve, tylenol, excedrin, and they really didn't help much.  I was convinced that I just needed to make it through to Thanksgiving where I would have a few days off, be able to rest a bit and return cured.  The problem was that by the time I landed in Rockford I definitely couldn't walk and could barely sit upright.  I spent the holiday span mostly in my childhood room or on the couch or at best, parked in a chair in the dining room during the festivities downing as much cranberry whiskey punch as I could muster, which dulled the pain a little, at least until I was slightly drunk and drowsy and uncomfortable enough that I had to go back to bed. It was a weird week, which involved a frustrating trip to the immediate care clinic where the doctors best advice (though I'm not convinced he was really understanding me when I explained the pain) was to get rid of the boots and take more advil, but finally did give me some anti-inflammatory shots in my thigh.  I still was in pretty bad shape.  It seemed to get a little better, and I could get up and move around, but it all still hurt, just a little less sharply.  I came back to the city, intending to go back to work and found that the pain and tingling in my leg was still very much there (I think it had subsided mostly because I'd been staying off my feet for a week and a half so didn't hurt til I actually spent some time on it.)  I spent more time in bed in my apartment and nearly lost it at one point (many points) where it hurt so bad I was convinced it would never go away.  All I can say is thank god for me never taking sick days at the library, so I had plenty saved up. And also *eyeing the statement I recieved the other day* health insurance.

One night while laying there on my back, at the reverse end of my bed, feet up on the wall doing some stretches I though might help , I was staring at my foot and noticed that not only was I having weird dull cramps on in my ankle area, but my foot just looked. ..well, wrong.  Like I was walking more on the side of it than usual. I tend to wear out my shoes this way anyway on both feet, but this was even more noticeable.  I spent the next day or so trying to correct it.  To make myself walk more on my inner foot (slightly higher heels helped around the apartment, a few trips up and down the hallway in shoes with  more structure that placed my weight to the ball of my foot.) By the end of the day that pain that surged down my leg was pretty much gone and I could put weight on it.  I still get the occasional muscle cramp even now, but of course,and  I learned that of you spend two weeks mostly lying down, your body does all sort of weird things, atrophies in weird ways.  It took me three days to be able to stand upright without other parts of my back hurting.  The first week back to walking, it felt like my calves were going to snap.  Two weeks later I still had muscle pains in my back if I walked too much beyond short distances. Before Christmas I spent a week and half hobbling back and forth from the library to the studio and having to rest 2 or 3 times in two block because legs or my rear end hurt when walking.  Luckily I was a little better every day (am still getting better every day) but it's frustrating. There is lots of stretching still and I'm definitely able to move around in the world more. I m almost walking like a normal 40 year old and less like an 80 year old.

Looking back, I'm guessing what I thought was that muscle pinching that sciatic nerve was actually more like my off gait pinching the nerve, which then irritated that muscle.  The actual reverse of what I thought was happening.  That muscle in my rear end,  it's still temperamental, and twinges when I bend down or lie on that side for too long (which of course is my preferred sleeping side, so it's been an adjustment.) I'm still slower, and have to sit down more.  I'm still going step by step on stairs and mostly avoiding large bunches of them.  The difference between nerve and muscle pain, as well, is that Advil and such does help at this point.   I have been back in the studio this week, and of course, attempting to catch up on a million things and am making progress.  This weekend will be devoted to a final couple of days of resting up before heading back to the library monday, and hiding from the world (also battling what seems to be a developing cold, which seems rather trivial but entirely expected at this point...the last month has been hard, my immune system is probably all out of whack.)   I am going to eat chicken soup and drink tea and watch my new larger television that is much more 21st century than the previous one. Til Monday...

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