I go through funny little stages where I get hella personal on this blog, and I always get an awesome response when I do, but then the nerves / fears / desire to be cool calm and collected sets in and I steer away from ‘real stuff’ again.
To me authenticity is the most beautiful, refreshing thing online, and I’d love to hold up that ideal with a regular series that I’m calling ‘That Time…’. I’ll scratch the surface of some real life stuff, and delve in as deep as I can on occasion, too. I’m going to write it like I’d tell it, because I love a good story (a true yarn spinner, as my Grandpa would say), and I hope that to some of you, it’s interesting or insightful or useful and you dig it x
So, in the middle of last year my body stopped working. Okay, that’s a little bit dramatic, but basically also true.
It started around the time I got the Mirena- an intrauterine device- put in. The next day, the prescribed cramping had chilled out and I decided to drive to a friend’s house in Strathalbyn.
For those who don’t know the area, it’s a loooong, windy drive. I noticed that my back was twinging on the way there and thought I must have sat a bit funny, it was back to normal as Ryley and I hung out and then the twinge turned into an ache as I drove home.
The next day it was still sore- again, I figured it must have been something I’d done. I also noticed a funny pins-and-needles sensation in my bum / upper leg from time to time, but having no medical issues and being generally healthy (with a side of too many hot chips), I really didn’t think anything much of it.
Over the next two weeks the pain got worse. I started to read up on the Mirena and was worried with what I found, so I went into the doctor and got it taken out. My GP seemed pretty convinced that my pain had nothing to do with the device but at that point I’d read so many horror stories that I was convinced it was poisoning me from inside somehow (#illuminati) and just wanted it out of me!
A few days later I was seeing no signs of improvement. The twinge and ache had got so bad that I couldn’t sleep on my right side, I couldn’t stand still for long periods of time and I couldn’t sit down. Uni was a nightmare because staying put in a lecture-theater seat was too much for more than about four or five minutes at a time and I found myself yelping in pain when I adjusted the way I was sitting in tutorials.
I could define the pain now, at least- it was like a shooting, and it felt like an electric shock zapping down the veins in my leg from my lower back to my toes. It felt like someone was pouring molten metal down my bones, and it was affecting everything. My doctor suggested I just give my body a bit more time in case it was a reaction to the Mirena (noooooow she comes around!), and so while I gave it time I found myself having to leave work after an hour of my shift to lie flat on my back in bed, call in sick to uni to lie flat on my back in bed, listen to the world go by and stress about my slipping business to lie flat on my back in bed- it sound ridiculous but it was the only position my body could stand, and so my routine was take some prescribed endone, do the lie-flat thing and feel really, really frustrated that I didn’t understand what was going on.
I remember crying to Patrick one afternoon- would I end up in a wheelchair? Would this just keep getting worse? Was this my life now? I’d worked so hard my whole life, worked up to five jobs at a time, owning two businesses, doing a full course-load at uni, bought a house, finally started writing and adventuring and living and for what? To be completely immobilized for hours at a time with no idea why?
I was trying everything- hot baths, cold baths, swimming, running, standing still, lying down to work, walking on a treadmill while I worked, balms, lotions, diet changes, exercises, pilates, medicine, and far too much google for one girl to handle.
One Monday I felt a little better, so I went to chat business with a wonderful friend of mine. Up until recently Kristin had been my yoga teacher, and a brilliant one at that, but the idea of doing yoga with a leg that didn’t work and a pretty broken spirit seemed like a joke. If you live in Adelaide, I cannot recommend her highly enough- you can find her website here. Anyway, when I got to her place I gave her a brief run-down of what was going on and she gave me an abundance of advice and sympathy in return.
The whole meeting I acted like a complete wierdo- I was trying to sit on a stool, but the pain would get so bad that my face would scrunch up and I’d have to quickly stand to stop myself from yelling. Then the shooting fire-molten-lava situation would start there, and I’d sit down again. I think I thought I was being really casual, but I definitely wasn’t haha- in the end I was trying not to cry and asked if she’d mind if we caught up another time. She made sure I was okay to drive (‘of coooourse! No worries! I’ll be fiiiiine’) but on the way home from Sellicks Beach I took another turn.
Because I drive a manual, I was constantly turning my hips, just a little bit, as I drove. Each turn felt like it was crunching my bones together, and within a couple of minutes I was literally screaming in pain as I drove. I didn’t know what to do- I couldn’t pull over, then I’d just be screaming in pain on the side of the road- so I did what any useless millennial would do and called my mum.
I probably sounded like I was in labour (she’d seen me a few days earlier so hopefully knew that I wasn’t!), and asked her in between cries what to do. I think I was asking if she had any good painkillers (living in mclaren vale she was just down the road), but she could hear from my voice the agony and distress I was in and told me to drive straight to the hospital.
Roger that, mum!
I was admitted by triage remarkably quickly- I’ve waited for hours upon hours at the Noarlunga ED before- which was a relief because in my effort not to cause a sobbing-yelling-i-am-a-mess kinda scene in the waiting area I’d somehow managed to lie down on three chairs. ‘What a feral’, I’m almost certain everyone thought, but there was no way around it. Even with the quick admittance my body had gone into shock from the pain by the time I was seen, I was shaking uncontrollably like it was freezing and vomited up the pain medication I was given.
And finally, answers.
The nurse told me she thought I had sciatica- a condition that was usually acute (not such a big deal) and occasionally chronic (what I’d been experiencing for the last few months). I’m not a doctor so I won’t go into detail (you can find that here), but what she told me made sense- a sharp, radiating pain, weakness to the point of not being able to use the affected limb, other bad things. Tears welled in my eyes when she told me I might need spinal surgery, and that because of the way the spine sits, surgery might also make it worse. She booked me in with a different GP, gave me the good drugs and sent me home for the night.
The next couple of weeks were a lot- lots of x-rays, lots of appointments, lots of blood tests and scans, but finally the results came back and it was sciatica. Mine was a bad case- my doctor said the worst she’d seen. A lower Intervertebral disc (like a little pillow-like cushion between vertebrae) in my spin had been completely worn away- like, to nothing, and the pain came from two of the bones in my spine grinding up against one another- think grinding rocks together- and pinching my spinal nerve between them when they did so. No wonder I was in pain!
The cause and solution, after all of the chaos, was so simple it was ridiculous. When I read, and I read a lot, I used to swing my legs up next to me on one side. Because of the way that this tilted my spinal vertebrae so that they were almost touching, every time it’d work away at that little cushion bit a little more and a little more until it was gone. The solution was to go somewhere warm to give my bones a little breathing space (luckily I was headed to Bali in a couple of weeks!), and to sit like a normal person.
That was it.
It took a while, but now I’m fine as fine can be! It really made me appreciate how often my body does work, how often I can do whatever I wanna, physically, with no effort at all.
Also, the Mirena? Nothing to do with it- just the freakiest deakiest coincidence ever. I actually got another one put in a couple of months ago and it’s the best form of birth control (for me) ever.
So that’s that! The first in my ‘that time..’ series, and hopefully the first of many to come! If there was a moral to this one, it’d be to listen to your body. Always. If I’d trusted my gut (and my bum / back / leg), and gone to a different GP for a second opinion, I’d have saved a whole lot of distraught and wondering why my body hated me and when it’d start working again.
Allllll of my love,