20, 21, 22…. ah, there it is. Phew, I got an aisle seat after all. I completely forgot to ask for the aisle when I checked in and got my boarding pass. I guess I lucked out this time. You see, this is the one time when I really need to sit in the aisle, because I suspect that I’ll be getting up frequently during the flight to walk around. Sitting comfortably has become quite a luxury for me… or rather, I should say, a rarity. Ok, a unicorn.
It’s been just about two and a half months now since I’ve had more than 4 hours cumulative sleep in a night. Working on the farm for the summer, spending hours crouched over with my hands in the dirt had triggered what I thought was an old back injury. I had this injury last year, and I thought it was just a muscular issue that was causing my sciatic symptoms. Turns out, at least this time around, I have not one, but two herniated discs in my lower back (L4/L5 and L5/S1, for my more medically knowledgeable friends). I’ve had many injuries over my years, including 3 knee surgeries, but never have I had one that has debilitated me as much as these damn little discs have. Normally when the doctor asks me my pain level out of 10, I usually respond somewhere around 5-6 (this includes the several fractures and tears that I’ve had). This time, however, I was pretty quick to say it’s a 10. I’ve never had a 10 before, and I was pretty confident that I never would say that I’m at a 10, but here I am. This is a different animal.
The two offending discs in my lower back have herniated out to the point where they are putting severe pressure on my sciatic nerve at multiple levels, which causes a pretty excruciating nerve pain running from my low back all the way down my left leg to the bottom of my foot. The worst part of this pain was that it just wouldn’t go away. It’s there 24/7. It’s damn annoying. Aside from the physical pain itself, it becomes really mentally exhausting. That pain, with you every second of the day, not giving you a chance to breathe, not giving a chance to recharge for the next bout of pain…. nope, it’s just there ALL. THE. TIME.
When it was at its worst, it was like there was a small knife lodged into a specific spot on my lower back (around the glute med on the left side), just stuck in there permanently. So that level of pain is there always… and then several times a day that knife would be twisted and turned, causing a level 8 to become a level 10.
The real kicker is that it’s at its worst when I try to rest. Sitting was next to impossible, and lying down to sleep, which was much needed, would result in me waking up 1/2 hr to and hour later, with that 10.0 earthquake in my lower back and radiated down my leg. So, I’d get up and walk around…. Ice my back. Put heat on my back, try to stretch (when it was at all possible even). Soak in a tub (when I was able to take sitting in the tub), More often than not, take a 15-20 minute long hot shower. The combination of me standing in the hot water seemed to be the only thing that really helped. And then I’d be awake for about another hour, sometimes two. Pass out asleep again, wake up another hour later and repeat. When I would wake up and see that it was about 5:30 or 6am, I’d just say screw it and stay awake for the rest of the day.
This has been my routine since the beginning of July. I probably spent about 2 weeks too long working at the farm, dealing with 2 weeks of this while trying to work, but I’m stubborn and I wanted to try to stick it out. In the end, it beat me, and I had to come home to attempt to heal. So, I’ve been at home, unable to work and make money…. or pretty do anything, for 2 and a half months now. Anyone who knows me, knows how that, in itself is difficult for me, the physical pain aside. I’ve always kept busy, always been working, always active, always hustling. This f#*ing sucked.
As you can probably imagine, over 2 months of this routine of fighting pain and fatigue can really take a toll, both physically and mentally. It’s amazing what exhaustion can do to a person. No wonder sleep deprivation is used as a torture method. It’s pretty much rendered me a useless human being for way longer than my ego can deal with. Even when I had my 3rd knee surgery, i walked out of that hospital straight to a potluck event, and was working 2 days later (as a personal trainer, where I was required to do physical activity. Nope. Not this time. I was useless.
Anyhow, 2.5 months later, a couple of ineffective pain prescriptions including a failed corticosteroid, a couple thousand dollars of physical therapy and desperation medical purchases, as well as spinal injections (which are horrible by the way), and here I am. Sitting on a plane that I thought I’d never make it to. Sitting was impossible for me a few weeks ago, and now I’ve got to try to do it for 7 hours in a cramped seat, then after landing, hop on a train to sit for another couple hours.
It’s worth it though. This trip has been planned for a long time and nothing is going to stop me. It’s business. It’s a successful future for my wife and I. It’s the beginning of a new venture for not only myself, but also for the others who have come on board to support this project of starting up a new restaurant. I completely wasted my summer being a useless blob, and I’m not about to let everyone down by missing this trip. It’s everything. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my years in sports, you don’t quit. You don’t let injuries stop you from going forward. If you can move even just an inch, you move. Just go.
And so I’m going.