Archive for March, 2009

My friend ‘Soma’

March 27, 2009

Okay so my last post didn’t exactly explain how I ended up in physical therapy. It did bring the reader up to New Years Day, the day of my first blog entry. You will see from that entry that I was successful in completing a couple of stretches (recommended by the doc the day before as a way to ease my pain) in an effort to jump start my “New and Improved New Year’s Resolution’s Healthier and More Physically Fit Living Plan.”

Well, I have to say, the cortisone shot on Dec 31st worked like a charm to alleviate my back and buttock pain … um … for about five days, at which time it apparently dissolved completely out of my system and all the pain rushed back in like liquid lightening. Great… to which I then resorted to lifting nothing, no housework beyond dusting or wiping the kitchen table, I couldn’t bring in the milk, lift the trash or laundry basket, or change the cat litter, couldn’t bring in the groceries, couldn’t vacuum, pull the wet clothes out of the washer, or lift a skillet to make dinner … and was only able to function at all because of ingesting strategically timed doses of my new best (muscle relaxant) pill-friend, ‘Soma.’

But then after a few days into my relationship with ‘Soma’ I realized something was awry. My back and buttock pain had lessened but my brain kept thinking Soma thoughts, like, “it has been four hours since your last dose, you could go take another pill and see how you feel…”

Then I had a moment. I had exited our upstairs bedroom, and was nonchalantly descending the stairs toward the kitchen, and on about the fifth stair down a thought jumped into my head. I paused to consider this thought … or minor epiphany if you will, that I, Jody Caraher, had never been relaxed, not one single moment of my life, had never known a ‘relaxed’ state until I took this pill, which had now become my new best buddy, ‘Soma.’

Well wasn’t that spoken like a true addict! My goodness! That chemical had wormed it’s way into my brain and suddenly I was an incomplete person without it – deprived of the ability to achieve true relaxation in my natural state. Okay so I fidget constantly. My hands and my head are busy busy busy. I sit with my feet in a jiggle. I chew on my lower lip, especially when I’m not looking. But I don’t need this Soma to fix myself! I’m okay, albeit, a little high strung (okay, strung like a high-note piano wire). Nonetheless, thanks to my Soma moments, I do know what relaxed feels like. I can pause in the midst of my day, take in a couple of deep breaths, let myself go to my happy Soma place (this exercise might work best when standing next to the medicine cabinet) and relax. I can truly relax! Well, I’m not sure. But I can try.

I quit taking the Soma after some pondering over that little epiphany and hot footed it back to the doctor. He referred me for physical therapy two to three times per week. All told I had about 14 physical therapy sessions and my back is much better now. It keeps reminding me to exercise, like, right when I get up in the morning all achy and stiff. My butt pain creeps in too, like right now with me sitting at the computer.

My little friend Soma is on call (calling?) behind the mirrored door of our bathroom medicine cabinet. Just in case I … uh … play a rough game of ping pong or something.

And now that spring is here (yeah, spring in Idaho, where we awoke this morning to two fresh inches of snow with an expected ‘high’ of 34 degrees) I may have to forewarn my husband that, concerning summer and ‘yard work’, I may not able to rake, edge, lift the wheelbarrow, pull stubborn weeds, till, collect yard waste, transport soil, plants, or grass clippings, pull long hoses, or push the infamous lawn mower. Hey, as they say, hard work never hurt anyone but why take the chance?

Well, then again, I do have my little friend, Soma, stowed a mere arm’s reach away in the medicine cabinet …

Ping Pong vs. The Lawnmower

March 22, 2009

I guess I could go back to how I ended up in physical therapy for my back. Hmm … Well, it was on a Wednesday morning, Dec 31st, the morning of the last day of last year, and I was in the doctor’s office…

“So you were playing ping ball …” The nurse said flatly, scribbling notes across my chart. ‘NO!’ I protested. “I was playing Ping PONG!” (Although ping ball sounds like a game I could invent.) “So,” the nurse continued …”you were playing ping pong and …” I interjected, “And the next morning my right hip was killing me. Then the pain moved to my right buttock and leg, this all started 5 days ago and now the pain is so bad I can’t sleep.” Which was true.

The doctor arrived in the examination room and had me performing right leg lifts in all directions (thank goodness for jeans with built-in stretch-lycra) followed by x-rays of my lower back and right hip joint. The x-rays came back ‘fine.’ Oh great, I thought intuitively, this pain is all in my head…

“There must have been an injury to your lower back which is impeding on a nerve,” continued the doctor. “What you are experiencing is sciatic nerve pain. It can be hard to treat. What were you doing that could have caused this?”

Okay, so my younger sister (otherwise known as “Twitch”) and I had decided to play ping pong the previous Sat. night. We were at a party and they had a ping pong table in the basement. We remembered how we had played ping pong as kids. We were both terrible then, so we figured we’d be evenly matched now, which, sure enough, we were. Although, in retrospect, and I could be wrong about this because I am really bad at ping pong, but, I don’t think I sent her in as many divergent directions after my balls, and as often, as she sent me. Gees! I was proud of myself for the way I tailed her balls with such gusto … first, a ball with a hard bounce on her side, that soared high in the air through the hallway on my right, with me in hot pursuit. Then, the next ball ricocheting off the wall behind me and coming to rest after several haphazard bounces underneath the ping pong table, with me under the table in hot pursuit. I was frantically chasing, bending, crawling, and leaping after balls. Plus, my sister is nearly eight years younger than me.

Well anyway, I ended up in pretty good spirits to ring in the New Year after that doctor’s visit on Dec 31st. I arrived home with a cortisone shot in my right buttock, a 6-day prescription dose of prednisone, and 60-count prescription bottles of Soma (muscle relaxant) and Hydrocodone (pain reliever) with instructions on each bottle to take up to two pills every four hours as needed for relief. I had asked the doc if I could ingest full doses of both drugs together and he said yes. I then inquired, “Can I combine full doses of both drugs with alcohol?” (it being New Year’s Eve and all, and me having such a big pain) … to which he paused, threw me a surprised full-body glance, and said, “You don’t have to worry.” So, I didn’t (worry). I doused myself in muscle relaxants and pain killers and toasted the evening away into the New Year, awash in a level of joy and relaxation the likes of which I had never hitherto experienced. 2009 arrived very, very happily.

However, getting back to … uh … where was I? My back! Which, well, it’s entirely possible that I may have hurt it two weeks prior to my ping pong game, helping my husband pull the lawn mower up a flight of stairs to get it out of the basement. Yep. There he was in the basement at the bottom of the stairs, engine side, barking out orders,¬† pushing the engine upward, channeling Hercules, his head bursting with blood – while I was positioned on the stairs above the mower, my hands wrapped around the handle, pulling with all my feathery might- with my arms, my back, my legs, my knees, my ankles, my armpits, my eyeballs… The mower clunked, heaved, and dragged like a house up one excruciating step, and then, quite miraculously, another, until we managed to get the thing up all thirteen stairs. I didn’t hear a ‘pop’ or anything coming from my back at the time, but it sure did hurt like the dickens after I was done, and the rest of that day, and the next day too.

All I can say is, the next time my husband decides to repair outdoor machinery during an Idaho December deep-freeze, I’m going to suggest he install a mammoth furnace in the garage. Because I pretty much think pulling the lawnmower up those thirteen stairs¬† out of the basement might be what hurt my back.

And the next time my younger sister and I are at a party where they have a ping pong table, we’d better not play, or at least, I’d better have lots of muscle relaxants and pain killers on hand in my medicine cabinet for the morning after I chase down all those wayward balls.

The Cream Puff Pom Pom Exerciser

March 16, 2009

I should be writing about my exercising since that is what I am supposed to be doing every day for my back. It’s not much, just about a fifteen-minute routine of press-ups, pelvic curls, crunches, Russian twists, leg lifts, wall squats, a veritable smorgasbord. Stretches of all sorts are good too, deep fried and then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Not to forget to mention the “I-HATE-you” exercise where you start out face down, stomach on the ball, feet pressed against a wall. On “I” you lift your chest and head upward until your torso feels like it might snap off at your waist, that’s the cue to yell “HATE,” and then back down again on ‘you.’ Repeat “I HATE you” twenty times to your therapist or anyone within earshot (except not at your husband when it’s before dinner and he’s trying to watch ‘Jeopardy’ or the news, I found out) until you feel really great that you survived the whole thing without snapping in half.

Okay so I am not an exercise buff. Although I have exercised enough to graduate from physical therapy, on account of I showed up for 14 therapy sessions over a period of about eight weeks. I promised my physical therapist upon my relapse, er … release, that I would do my exercises regularly. Luckily she doesn’t live with me, albeit she is haunting me in my sleep.

I do actually exercise, especially if my back or butt is killing me or I feel too stiff to get out of my chair, or if I just happen to be on my back on the carpet in front of the flat-screen T.V. and I think to do some pelvic lifts while I’m there.

I day dream a lot about exercising, like when I’m driving in my car toward the mall and I think, “Oh, when I get home after shopping and errands, if it’s not too late, I will exercise before I get started making dinner.” My ‘virtual’ exercise plan is quite a good one, way imaginative and ambitious, I swear I can nearly stretch my head and extremities up to the ceiling.

If I could only figure out how to make myself exercise in my sleep dreams I’d wake up feeling athletic and a habitual exerciser, I’m pretty sure, and I would, as a matter of extension, just keep on exercising throughout my day. Not a bad plan! I mean …uh… too bad for this plan, since my subconscious mind seems hellbent to conjure up mental garbage in my sleep, utterly worthless in regards to enhancing my conscious life. Darn it! Because I think exercising in my sleep could be a real boon.

And if I had been in sports as a kid, that might have been a help too. Well, I probably would have hated it then, but maybe it would be better for me now. I did go out for cheerleader and got on the squad for, um, a year in High School. I bragged about that to my husband trying to impress him with my athleticism in response to his telling me he did ‘track.’ He informed me quite matter-of-factly that cheerleading is not a ‘sport.’ Well, I gleefully corrected him on that a few weeks ago with the appearance of this news article in the press: … about cheerleading being declared a contact sport in Wisconsin, to which he responded, “Not you – forty years ago.” Okay so I admit, back then we did jumps and cartwheels and a lot of yelling and stuff – I guess cheerleading has evolved some in four decades. One thing I can say, though, I’m still a pretty good yeller, having maintained this skill throughout my 28 years as a wife and mother (just kidding).

And I’m still pretty much a cream puff pom pom exerciser. But, yeah, I’m gonna exercise, at least, that’s my plan.

The Gothic Teenage Wannabe Actress

March 10, 2009

There is a Gothic teenage wannabe actress inside me who doesn’t want to clean closets, but, nonetheless, I’m pretty certain she is trying to get out. This I know because of a recent dream I had, the night before last, to be exact. I dreamed that I entered a completely strange hair salon and climbed into the chair of a male hairdresser. He draped a black nylon cape over my shoulders and proceeded to transform my 55-yr-old, short, fine, nearly white, moussed-upward-at-the-roots-hair into … hair that belonged on a 15-yr-old female Goth’s head, jet black, cropped and spiked, with straight black bangs and black fork-tongued swirls of hair licking my face. Not bad, the fifteen-yr-old-inside-me-wanting-out thought to herself, as I exited the salon, except I looked in my planner and saw that I had an appointment that same day with my hairdresser for my 55-yr old hair, whom I’d been going to for the past seven years. Oh no! She couldn’t know what I had done! Could I just stand her up? What about next month? … Then I woke up.

The night before that I dreamed I was in a play. I was a western female character who appeared in the second half. All during the first half I was sitting on a set of bleachers in broad daylight watching the show with a batch of ex-co-workers (specific ones I knew from my ex-job who formed a tight clique). Some were members of the cast (in larger roles) and some were there to support the others.

So there I was hanging off the far right corner of the bottom bleacher assessing myself and coming up way short – my home-made ‘western’ costume with my corny ill-fitting skirt and droopy blouse that wouldn’t stay tucked in, my long mottled neck sticking up through the collar like an aged telephone pole. Damn! I should have brought a red kerchief or something to tie around my scrawny neck! Oh why hadn’t I spent more time on my costume? Because now I am embarrassed to show myself.

I tucked my chin to hide my face under the brim of my straw (not even western-looking!) hat and peered out from under it just enough to witness my ex co-workers three bleachers above me, sharing jokes, laughing uproariously (at who or what I couldn’t guess), looking right in their element, being soooo cool.

But, oh my, do I even remember my lines? Where’s the script? Wow, I can’t remember where I put the script! Can my character be up there on stage holding the script, reading her lines?

By now the first half of the play was over and it was intermission. A stage hand or someone came running up to me to tell me I had been cut from the play and replaced by … ‘Bill?’ … and she pointed to a lanky, white-faced boy standing by the stage who looked to be all of 17, and who also, I guess, liked playing female characters in plays.

Then I woke up. What was I supposed to do with that dream to jump start myself into my day? Enroll in acting classes? Whatever. I wish just once in my life I could fly in my dreams or even do exercise routines in my dreams, that would be a boon. Something to add positive and useful energy to my day. How about dream that I cooked a fabulous meal, or grew an incredibly awesome flower garden?

Unless I discover at age 55 that all I really wanna do is become a Gothic 15-yr-old wannabe actress.

Fear of Flying (?)

March 9, 2009

The stuff that dreams are made of … sleep-dreams, that is. Some people dream in color; some fall to sleep and then dream they are flying, or so I’ve heard. Wow! Well, I don’t recall ever having one dream in color or flying in my sleep. Unless I only fly during dreams I’ll never remember because I only recall dreams I have as I am waking up.

This morning I was dreaming that as part of my ‘back recovery’ program my physical therapist made a home visit to examine my closet and dressers. She swiped her ant-detecting device around the surface of my antique highboy dresser and the device ‘beeped.’ Sure enough, there was a stream of ants marching up the back of the dresser and then disappearing into a large crack. She wrestled a cock-eyed middle drawer open and I grabbed her arm to restrain her, exclaiming, “Hey, I don’t open these drawers!” Out of the drawer she jerked an over-sized dark-blue faded sweatshirt with a burn hole in the shoulder and tossed it on my lap. “Shouldn’t you get rid of this?” she hissed, as she began tossing clothes onto my lap that I hadn’t seen in years.

Then I woke up. The thought plagued me for the first hour of my day…”Okay, so I need to clean out my closets!” Which I do … I have a butt-load of old stuff (and some of it is new stuff) I don’t wear. And the stuff gets in the way, like a bunch of hanging corpses, when I’m sorting through the hangers in my closet trying to find something I do wear.

If I can dream that my physical therapist is making home visits, why can’t I also dream that she is exercising with me rigorously right as I’m waking up? Or even that I am exercising rigorously all by myself? Then I might possibly wake up feeling fit and ready to roll with EXERCISE! on my mind, instead of with my overstuffed, disorganized, cobwebby closets on my mind (as well as all the numerous other storage places in our house crammed to the gills, cobwebby, and quite possibly infested with ants).

Wouldn’t it be nice to fall asleep and fly through the blue air, gazing over the wondrous landscape as I rise to rest on pink cottony clouds. Then soar through warm purple mists that caress my face before finding my way back again. I would awaken with my head nestled gently on my pillow, ready to begin my day, my body kissed by the universe.

Not in my dreams! I must have a fear of flying in my sleep state. Well, I do know that in my awake state I have a fear of cleaning out storage areas – there are just so many of them in our house, so crammed with stuff that to start the project could launch me into a black hole out of which I might never return.

Yesterday Was A Day

March 4, 2009

I had a day yesterday. Of course I had a day yesterday since, obviously because I’m making a blog entry today, I was still alive yesterday, but what I mean is, it really was a day.

I haven’t gotten to the subject of my health issues on my blog yet. (What self-preserving reader wants to hear it, anyway?) But to sum it up, I have back pain (lower back and neck) with corresponding sciatica (which is a real pain in the butt, my right buttock to be precise), tendonitis in my left elbow, slight tingling in both legs, and joint pain (knees and hips mainly). I am currently getting physical therapy for my back. I wake up most every day with all these symptoms at various levels of severity, none of them severe, but all of them together rather … eh … tiresome, distracting, annoying, and at times, unnerving.

But not yesterday. Yesterday I awoke with no pain whatsoever in my back, buttocks, joints, no tingling in my legs. I remained free from the usual symptoms (which I’ve had about a year and a half) as the day progressed. It would have been fabulous and marvelously encouraging except for the resounding MIGRANE in my head, accompanied by its annoying little sidekick, nausea. Both ailments stubbornly persisted all day in spite of my ingesting huge amounts of ibuprofen. What the heck? I guess all my body pain was now in my head?

Which begs the question, “Are my symptoms psychosomatic?” Do I, on some unconscious level, dig pain and illness because of all the attention I garner in my passionate malingering to friends and loved ones and my earnest efforts to heal?

My symptoms draw my focus like a pestiferous ant draws sunbeams through a hand-held magnifying glass. Which, one could argue, that kind of focus is a vast improvement over, say, a scatterbrained and ditsy focus.

Directing my mind and efforts on assuaging my symptoms might be a good thing. It keeps me more alert and in the present, as in, “Shit, that knife stab in my right buttock hurts like holy hell right now!”… (Rub, rub). My butt aside, all of this direct focusing over time might make my brain more Alzheimer’s resistant.

Okay, so this is a crock and it doesn’t matter anyway because today I’m back to my old symptom-fruitful self. Yep, my body must have sucked the pain back out of my head ’cause there it is yelling out of my lower back and butt again. And the leg-tinglies are baaack too (“Hello!”). Oh joy.

However, not to worry! I’m focused on it. Later today I’ll be off to my 1-1/2 hour – session of physical therapy to strengthen my back. Yeah! I’ll just try not to let my head know what I’m doing, in case all my frenetic exercising and individualized hands-on conditioning from the therapists raises the hair on those ravenous attention-craving crevasses of my mind.

And, Oh! My stomach is growling now … poor, neglected, hungry stomach!