…Back Again

I was looking forward to my Body Attack class for Tuesday evening, right up until Marayong on the train. I pick up my laptop backpack and have a telltale twinge in my back that I’ve come to respect as a sign to straighten up and pray it’s not too late to avert certain doom.

Although the evening takes a different course from the one I had planned, I don’t think anything more of it. Two episodes of House, M.D. – “It’s not Lupus”, and a failed attempt at doing some work (dev environment in some inconsistent state I couldn’t figure out right then), and feeling very weary by 9:30pm. I go to bed early.

I spend an hour doing that thing where you have audio playing that you think you’re actually listening intently to, staving off sleep… but then you startle awake and realise you’ve missed the first two questions-and-answers of the Writing Excuses podcast, and you just cannot bring yourself to fiddle with the controls to reset it to the start. I take it as a sign I should actually sleep and turn the audio off altogether.

At 3am, I know I am going to be in trouble. I wake up flat on my back, and my back has seized up completely. I have a 15 minute internal dialogue with myself about what to do next. I consider staying flat, but my back is feeling very uncomfortable. I consider rolling over but am dreading the feeling of using my shoulders to push myself around. I consider getting up to go to the toilet; damn, bladder full as well, just what I need.

No matter the circumstances, I almost never forget to think ahead.

I swing my legs over the side of the bed, and somehow manage to swivel myself into a sitting position with minimal use of my back or shoulders. First, I switch off the alarm on my phone, because I doubt I’ll wake up at 6:30am this morning, and even if I do, I know I’m not going to be nimble enough to dive for the alarm in a timely fashion when it eventually rings. Then, I go to the toilet and seriously consider whether I can sleep upright to limit the tension in my back. Clearly 3am is not a time for reasoned arguments.

For the remainder of the night, I alternate rolling onto my left and right sides with long stretches on my back. Each time waiting until the discomfort grows to a level where it overcomes my fear of the twinges that’ll run through my back when I go for a roll. Adding to that, putting my top arm in front or behind my body is immediately punished with stabs along my arm and shoulder blade, and it makes for an interesting night of careful balance in a half-sleep-state.

I don’t even consider going to work when I finally get up at about 7:15. I leave a message to my team-lead and start working out what I can do to speed my recovery up.

Luckily, it turns out the place I get my massages has a free slot at 10am still, so I book that in first, and then head to the doctors’ office down the road after a shower that takes me to their opening hours.

I bring my Kindle to try and read, but holding it up hurts my shoulder, and balancing it on my knee hurts my neck. I uncomfortably read half a chapter by holding it resting on the top of my knee with my neck slightly tilted and my eyes rolled down. I’m sure I look like a bad version of the Mona Lisa. It feels odd. It still feels uncomfortable.

Luckily the waiting room is practically empty. I try to look at the people in the waiting room with me, but my head doesn’t want to turn further than 45 degrees either side. I stare at the morning shows on the television. I stare through the inane dialogue.

I get a prescription for rest and some Panadeine Forte.

I head out to my massage and arrive 30 minutes early, so I read uncomfortably some more, after taking 2 tablets. Three-quarters through the chapter my head feels swimmy and it feels like reality is my imagination. Deep breath. I fail to read further and listen to a podcast instead.

Getting a massage with Codeine in my system proves an interesting experience. I can feel all the knots, but none of the pain. It is surreal, but far from unpleasant.

I feel relaxed and less sore right now, still a little detached, and absolutely determined to take carrying my backpack properly more seriously. It occurs to me that all those times I traveled to Melbourne and had back aches afterwards probably had little to do with the hotel beds, but everything with the fact I carry my luggage on my right shoulder only. It doesn’t feel heavy to my brain, but clearly my muscles privately have a different opinion. I’ll listen to them more from now on.

Day 245 – Play Music

A tale of slowly lessening misery.

I thought my stiff neck and back would benefit from a good nights’ sleep. Instead I spent a night mostly flat on my back, because rolling over was just too painful to be worthwhile. I woke up worse than when I fell asleep.

Luckily I had decided despite my best hopes to book a session for my back this morning. But it quickly became clear that my hope to make it to the office by 10am was a slightly over-optimistic fantasy. And although I knew it was inevitable, it took me till about noon before I wistfully cancelled my gym class for the evening. Telling myself it’s for the best is cold comfort when between a Melbourne trip and this back I have done maybe 2-3 classes in the last two weeks.

So instead, I spent my day with heat packs, sitting as upright as I could in front of my laptop, letting the heat seep in and carefully stretching the range of the mobility in my neck. I can now do from almost over my left shoulder (with some pulling) to almost over my right (with some more pulling), and down almost touching my chin to my sternum. I should at least be able to sleep normally.

And I made myself “useful” by moving the last vestiges of important data around so that this laptop can feel like home.
And I moved all my tracks from Spotify into Google Music, and then changed over my subscriptions.

I really like the Google Music UI. It feels more useful for discovering stuff than Spotify ever was. And as a bonus I spent most of the day with music in my ears, which is a great way to forget about how useless I am right now.

Though for some reason, it has decided that my “I’m feeling lucky” radio station consists of classical music. I may have to re-train it a bit after I cleared out my previously uploaded tracks. Clearly the sheer volume has given it slightly the wrong impression of what best to surprise me with. Oh, wow… look at that… “Refresh Station” fixed it in one go. On to New Adventures!

Day 244 – Locked Up

It wasn’t too bad this morning. A little sore, but that’s not inconceivable when a massage has just gotten major knots out of my back/neck/shoulders. I joked a bit about feeling worse than before the massage and how backwards this progress felt to me.

I guess I knew I had to cancel my gym class during the departmental presentation by the CIO. I was sitting with my head swivelled to the right to watch the monitor for the video-conference… and I was resting it on my left arm. When I decided to have a look at the clock I felt twangs of pain as I gingerly moved my neck back to facing front on.

Okay. Like that is it?

I spent the rest of the working day being very careful not to put too much pressure on anything and to try and not tense up unduly. I bailed on the 5pm gym class. I went home and got Physiocreme’d, which was burning ice and a wonderful distraction. The rest of the evening has featured a lot of Poirot and heat packs around my neck. I don’t recall ever having had anything like this.

I wonder if a brief massage would do more good or harm at this stage. I may wait out the morning to decide though.

Day 242 – Requirements

Not much thinking today either.

My gym routine this morning was a bit shorter than it usually is. My first class in the morning made it abundantly clear that I shouldn’t attempt the second class, and the instructor insisted on the same fairly forcefully. Somewhere along the way on my trip to Melbourne I have done something that knotted some muscles in my left hip.

So I just walked out 30 minutes on the treadmills to cool down a bit before my gym-shower.

As a result of cutting one class I got to my massage appointment a good 40 minutes too early so I reclined the car seat and listened to an episode of Nerdist while I waited for time to pass.

The massage was very helpful. Apparently it was not just my hip, but also my left leg, my lower back and my neck that were in equally bad shape. The work on the leg was too intense to relax through, but even the painful pressure felt good in its own way. The back and neck however were sufficiently soothing that I threatened to fall asleep (again? I think I actually may have snored briefly once).

The rest of the day was spent not achieving much around the house.

And I’m glad I wasn’t tempted to go to Wet’n’Wild, because the storm that rolled through around 4pm would have been a serious spoiler to any fun I might have hoped to have had.

Instead I watched some TV and pondered bulk data storage, personal data privacy, backups and life journalling. I may draw some sketches over a movie tonight; I have some ideas I’d like to develop out to see where the tricky parts are. I more and more just want to own my own information, thankyouverymuch. So first, requirements.

Day 181 – Ginger

I followed through on my massage this morning. It wasn’t as excruciating as I was fearing; not at all actually. I disclosed the state of my shoulders right up-front, and other than a little extra care with the wet towels there proved to be no need to worry.

Remarkably, with the massage oil, even very firm pressure didn’t hurt (other than where there were knots in my muscles). So that was good.

For the rest of the day I had been banished from sunshine though. I had been told in no uncertain terms that I was not to let the sun touch me. Which was easy enough in the morning (overcast) when I went out to my massage, but by the time I returned the sun was poking out from behind the clouds. It’s remarkably how much a few rays can sting (Sting-Rays?) even when exposed only for a few seconds.

I was scuttling from shade-to-shade for the rest of the day.

Most of my time was spent inside arranging pictures for the eBaying of the redundant pieces of technology. Perhaps using a DSLR for eBay pics is a bit of overkill, but I was enjoying myself, so there! 😉

I had a brief trip outside to Rouse Hill for some shopping.

And then I got lathered up with Aloe again before heading out to the gym. It’s a really odd sensation when it dries caked on. Every time I moved, it felt like my surface was cracking under the strain. It’s a very unsettling skin-pulling-sensation. 10 minutes into a Cardio class I stopped paying attention though; being out of breath has this way of making everything else in the world seem trivial.

Getting through my plans is proving slower than anticipated. But so long as there’s forward momentum I’m not going to complain. Relaxing is more important than achieving right now.

And on that note; I think some sleep is called for now.

Day 62 – A Day Without Strain

Last week, I decided to make this a long weekend to allow me to use my birthday gift voucher for Face Of Man in the city.

But first, a visit to my masseuse.

It’s amazing how much my back tightens up after a visit to Melbourne. It could just be the general strain of my classes at the gym, but I’m sure the uneven load in the form of a messenger bag and a backpack that I use to travel is probably not doing my back any favours either.

Still, an hour with nothing else on my mind but to relax while my knots get prodded forcefully fixes that very quickly.

If Only It Were Always This Quiet
If Only It Were Always This Quiet

And then after quickly grabbing a coffee it was time to catch a train into the city. I can heartily recommend travelling in the early afternoon. None of this congestion that I always hear so much about.

The sky had been looking gloomy all morning (it looks like the weather can be relied on to be cold and wet when I take a day off), and as I was halfway to Sydney it started raining down very heavily.

I have no umbrella.

I Should Have Brought an Umbrella
I Should Have Brought an Umbrella

One look out of the Queen Victoria Building made me realise I’d be better off first covering the distance inside the building out of the rain. Only to discover at the other end that a true downpour had developed in the three minutes it took me to cover the distance.

Luckily I had some time up my sleeve to wait out the worst of it, but I really need some different footwear. My Nike Frees are more permeable than I would have liked… the price I pay for the most comfortable 3.0 model. Basically, as I start walking my feet pick up just enough water on the soles that it sloshed in through the mesh fabric where it then slowly soaks into my socks. And I wasn’t even on my way home yet! 🙁

And It Was Pouring...
And It Was Pouring…

I got to my appointment in time though, and I opted for lasers. I have very sensitive skin on my neck, and it really doesn’t like shaving much. Removing the hair permanently stings badly, but in the long run it’s less painful than scraping off the skin with a razor on a semi-regular basis.

They adjust the strength of the laser based on skin type and hair colour. Luckily I’m very white, and my hair is still very dark. That’s the best combination, because the point is to expose the hair itself to so much intense heat that the follicle burns out without burning the skin. Even so, I wasn’t supposed to expose my skin to sunlight right after (hah! I guess the rain was good for something after all!)

It may need another couple of treatments after this to sort the problem permanently, but with each lasering it should be thinner and easier to shave.

Day 38 – Long Weekend

Today is the first day of the rest of my long weekend. I’d been meaning to take a few days off, but my work calendar just kept filling up. So when I saw a relatively clear Friday and Monday appear, I decided to book a 4 day weekend without any planning for what I was going to do.

So, I’m making it up as I go along.

I started today with a massage at 11. My back keeps knotting up apparently, unbeknownst to my brain. It may have something to do with not getting to the gym often enough. Which may have something to do with all the initiatives I’m trying to juggle at work, so maybe I need to take it a little easier with that as well when I get back on Tuesday.

Anyway, 45 minutes later, I am standing tall and loose and strolling to Michel’s for a coffee. It’s strange how gravity feels lighter after letting go of the weight. It’s obviously largely psychological, but no less effective for it.

You can see my next challenge in the header image.

Next, I shall be focusing considerable time and attention on my strawberry-jam scone, my coffee, and a few episodes of Breaking Bad.

Day 17 – Massage

I have to start by clarifying; the picture above is not where I had my massage. Regrettably. It’s just a good picture Google found for me to illustrate the high-point of my day. (Side-note: Google had one particularly horrifying suggestion as well)

Having said that, once I close my eyes it really doesn’t matter where the massage table actually is. In future I will imagine myself on the beach above; maybe I can even request some soothing surf-and-gull sound effects to go with it.

If Patient Looks Like This: Call Hospital
If Patient Looks Like This: Call Hospital

I made an appointment for today before work, because my back has been somewhat unhappy with me. I blame the fact that I have missed too many Pilates classes in the recent past. I can feel that my mobility is suffering from it.

And the knots!

I can half-convince myself that maybe I don’t need a massage until it starts. Every knot rolling under the fingers of the masseuse makes me jump a little as it slips and twitches in my back. The involuntary twitching is embarrassing, but I’m sure it’s quite common.

But then, as the session progresses and it happens less and less, it’s good to know that I will be all better.

Right after the session I felt extremely good; I felt taller for my drive into work. Now, at the end of my day, I feel the after effects of the massage itself. Where before there were knots, now there are aches. I console myself with the thought that tomorrow that will be gone too and I should be all happy-and-healthy.