As I sit here in bed with my laptop thinking about the many things I shall NOT be doing tomorrow thanks to my stupid operation on my stupid back at this stupid time of the year with nothing but recuperation to look forward to, it occurs to me that I may be a little miserable.
It’s definitely not that I don’t know how lucky I am because I do. I really, really do. Not everyone would have the support network of friends and family that I have around to text, phone, talk to as and when I want. Nor would they have the darling parents I am blessed with who have rearranged their lives to nurse me back to health and have done so in the best possible way; by leaving me to my own devices with the occasional much needed warning of ‘don’t overdo it’.
I also know that in operation terms I have been incredibly lucky in getting out of the hospital before Christmas day and getting to spend the majority of the last 2 weeks at home, as well as the fact that my operation went as planned and now seems to be healing on schedule, if not faster.
No, what’s made me peeved is a silly little message I got early on Sunday evening from an old friend asking if I was back in work on Monday. Now, had this question been concerning anyone else, I would have told them not to be so bloody stupid, spinal fusion surgery will take more than 13 days to heal and as such whenever they wanted to kick that tin can run by an apparently off duty hamster they call a brain into gear we would all consider it a real favour. But instead, I replied with what I consider to be a slightly whiny ‘I should be off for up to 3 months so, no.’
I should be? I should be?! What am I doing? Trying to placate the silly arse who asked me the ridiculous question or convince the world in general that I’m not putting it on, I really do have a reason to not be in work and that according to my surgeon, the internet and people I have spoken to who have had this, that 2-3 months is considered normal for recovery. Or perhaps I’m still trying to convince myself…
For the last two years I have had an unseen, unnoticed injury and, not to put too fine a point on it, I’ve moaned very little about it. I have told the people who genuinely care about the response what is wrong with me and to all the other polite enquiries I’ve given a brief description and little else. I do not see the point in foisting the information on people who have not asked for it, but then again I also don’t like the fact that people who do not have the full information are also those inclined to contribute my pain to ‘a bit of back ache’. Or as one girl thought was a reasonable conclusion to draw, my weight loss from ‘using Class A drugs’. As far as I’m aware, Tramadol has many weird and wonderful side effects but I don’t think its reached Class A yet…
The problem is I am as bad as everyone else in that I understand injuries you can see or ones that have immediate results like a broken leg or appendicitis, but chronic pain was something that I had only ever attributed to hypochondriacs or old ladies talking about their rheumatism before. Acute pain seemed to be the youthful version; the short sharp stab of a bone breaking, or the deep seated fire of a torn ligament or tendon, eminently preferable to the dull, draining throb of the continuous wearing chronic pain. And ever since I have been told what is wrong with me, I’ve felt like a fraud, passing off the obligatory ‘back pain’ everyone has had as something more serious. Towards the end of December I was starting to worry that I had passed it off as more than it was to the doctors as well and that was the only reason I was having the surgery!
Now, it has been two weeks and I’m slowly beginning to start doing things I used to take for granted, like being able to reach things that are below waist height and sitting down for the length of a film. This is the point I think when I most feel like a fraud, because I can spend the day talking, moving about, on the phone, on the internet, yet still off work and that small but extremely noisy part of my subconscious keeps prodding me in the metaphorical injury and shrieking that there is nothing wrong that a couple of weeks in the office couldn’t cure. Even procuring the doctors note signing me off until the end of February at least has not placated this unending tirade of back-related doubts.
It is silly because pain really is subjective as I have said before but in my mind that works against me. People who claim to have a high pain threshold; how can they possibly know? If pain is individual to the person who experiences it then how on earth could one person have a higher pain threshold than someone else?? And yet still there is this inbuilt quality in me that desires not to share my pain with anyone else around me and keep any knowledge of it to myself. Except I don’t think I’ve even been doing that. I seem to think that if I forget what the pain was like over two weeks ago through a combination of stubbornly choosing to disregard the realities of how I was and being too afraid to remember how incapacitated I was, how much it overshadowed my every action, it won’t truly be real.
You would think that the fact I was choosing to live through the nausea, dizziness and irritation of eight Tramadol a day because it was the only way I could get up, sleep, or for want of a better word, function would be a good enough reminder of why I should have needed this surgery. But instead I have found myself on occasion wondering if the doctors made a mistake and this was something that in another, stronger person would have been something they could slung back two paracetemols once a week and carried on with their job of carrying round scaffolding poles all day.
I know, even reading this back through, it comes across at best as silly and at worst as self-pitying tripe, but the problem is that until the moment I put it down on paper so to speak I didn’t even really think about what I was thinking. And it is harmful rubbish but its been whizzing round my brain for months. So this evening I made a decision. The next person to ask me a ridiculous question about my recovery, I shall not get angry at them or myself, I shall come back and read this passage I have just written and then either explain the situation calmly and confidently, giving them the basic details of the operation the recovery and my expected recoupment time. Or I shall scream.
I’ve always thought a good scream is soothing to the soul.