Time to Paint the Ceiling

For those who do not follow me on twitter or see my statusi in their many locations, I […]

For those who do not follow me on twitter or see my statusi in their many locations, I hurt my back.

It’s a long story, beginning with a fall almost ten years ago, and another fall almost five years ago and then years of Yoga holding back pain at arms length. But I’ve been working two-three jobs (Linkedin, Boxes and Arrows, Cucina Media) and I skipped a couple yoga practices and one weekend I found myself taking care of Amelie while Philippe worked (we are both workaholics) and noticing I had a dull annoying pain in my back. And then I lifted our tiny elf (only 25 pounds!) out of a shopping cart and knew with a dark certainly something was wrong.

But I have rallied many times in the past from the “something is wrong” moment. I did what I always do– ibuprofen, ice, careful stretches and slept with the wedge. The wedge is a good friend to me in times of pain. It’s a triangle shaped pillow I bought at the physical therapist’s the second time I was hurt. It goes under the knees, and keeps your body in the correct neutral position while you sleep. So I did my magic and went to bed, certain I’d wake up better. But I didn’t. I was still in pain. I went to the doctor, got medicine, got steadily better and then I went to SXSW. I was on two panels! How could I not go!?!

Well, SXSW was amazing, and I had a terrific time, although my back continually troubled me. The pain shot down into my foot, rendering it weak and forcing me to limp around and almost never sit. But I was okay, not too much pain. I was funny and informative at my panels, and I even got the courage to stand up at fray cafe and tell the story of the time I reached enlightenment (a good story for another time!) I got on the plane home feeling proud of myself for conquering a number of fears. I nearly canceled my Guy Kawasaki panel because I was convinced I had nothing to say of interest. I bless Rashmi who insisted I join, because by the time the panel ended, Guy was turning to me at each question asking if I had a “christina-ism” for the audience. I felt like a superhero, the feeling you get when you do something you were convinced you couldn’t do. At the airport I was preening as I hobbled through security.

I lifted a suitcase full of swag –including heavy magazines– into the overhead bin, out of the overhead bin, into my car, out of my car. I went to bed with the wedge, and woke up broken. Iwas in light pain when I laid still, in horrid screaming (literally) pain when I moved. I called up the recommended specialist and found her practice was full, but I could see her partner. Dr SooHoo is a Asian woman of utterly indeterminate age — she could be 26 or 46 — whose defining characteristic is million mile eyes. Each time she looked at me, I felt she was in the next room or maybe the next county. I cringed as I walked for her, unable to do so normally. I found out I couldn’t walk at all on my right heel, I had no strength in my right foot or big toes, and found the getting on, rolling over and getting off the table resulted in me crying in pain. I told her that I had numbness along my leg and I had known about pain and pins and needles feeling, I didn’t know my leg was dysfunctional.

It is a bizarre feeling to look at your toe, know that you are trying hard to press it up against the doctor’s hand and see with your eyes it isn’t going anywhere. Your mind says you are moving the toe; your eyes see nothing happening. I went home with a stockpile of medicines, and looked them all up. A steroid, a opiate-acetaminophen blend (vicodin) and “mellow yellow” a muscle relaxant. Wikipedia entires were amusing: the one on my muscle relaxant wondered aloud why it wasn’t abused more often. Hopeful, I downed them immediately. The next day agony was worse, and I called up the doctor begging to supplement them with something– aspirin, ipuprofen, tylenol, something. I was told that “I was on a lot of drugs” and not to take anything else. I’ll admit I was mostly1 obedient, using ice and heat but not ingesting anything else. The next day the pain has receded slightly so that as long as I lay still i didn’t have much pain. And the weekend went on like that. I never got high on my amazing selection of drugs. I don’t know if pain makes you sober, or if she just didn’t give me anything fun, or if my metabolism is unwilling to let me have a good time. I watched two seasons of Dexter, a season of Dead Like Me, a season of House, and I’m moving through Friday Night Lights (I hate football, yet I’m enjoying it.) TV (from Netflix ondemand) turned out to be the single best drug to distract me. The alternative was watching the ceiling. When I could focus, I read:

  • Dreaming in Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software
  • Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity,
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
  • and now Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

    A weak later the doctor, realizing nothing was improving, changed the drug prescription to one that worked on nerve trouble, and finally I start to feel some relief. I have a MRI first thing Monday morning, which I’m excited about (remember, I watched a season of House!) and then we’ll know. Or rather, I hope we’ll know. Surgery may be in my future. I’m walking with a cane like a 70 year old woman who didn’t drink her milk. I want this to be done. It’s been three weeks next Monday. I’m pretty done with this.

    1. “Mostly” means a large scotch around 4 p.m. when the pain meds had worn off but it wasn’t time for the next dose. God will forgive me, but will my liver?