I got to practice and experience my new coping skills in real time this past Tuesday. Because of my back issues (I have a whole litany of them, and that is a complete post in itself: how pain hurts and affects depression), I was finally able to get into the best spine center in town. This was no easy feat and I don’t think I would have been able to get in had I not thrown a fit in summer camp. I basically begged each nurse and every doctor to get me help. I’m so grateful I’m finally admitted to the spinal center and that I can work on getting my pain under control. Part of my depression is the doubt that I will be able to carry a baby when we get pregnant, let alone carry the child when it needs to be soothed and toted around. I have a problematic enough time with the housework I have now, adding a child is terrifying. As I sit here now, I don’t know how I’d do it. I’m desperate to fix my back, more so than I’ve ever been before. After 15 years, I’m completely over the pain and finding ways to work around it. It is almost fascinating how you adjust things and how you move and act in order to prevent flare ups and pain. Simple things like resting on your forearms as you’re doing dishes.
I have had many trigger point injections, steroids, nerve blocks and eventually an ablation (radiofrequency “burning” of my nerve) in my lower back. It all hurt intensely, but nothing I couldn’t handle. This ended up NOT being the case when I went in on Tuesday for a steroid injection in the epidural space of my neck to help get rid of swelling in my multiple bulging discs. I’ve not done anything in my neck yet, as this is a relatively newer development, only getting bad in the past few years. I have kyphosis (think scoliosis but bent forward) in my neck, which hasn’t helped the bulging of the discs.
I’m of course nervous, as I can imagine that anything to do with my neck will hurt more than my lower back. The nerves are closer together and there is less “gush” to really protect me. Less muscles, less fat, all of it. I am okay at first and not panicking however, which is a big deal. I get to the back and they start shooting my neck up with Lidocaine. Okay, really ouch, but I can breathe through this. Then comes the steroid. OH.MY.GOOD.FREAKING.FLYING.SPAGHETTI.MONSTER. That was the most intense, painful and strangest feeling I’ve ever had. Imagine the static feeling you get when your feet fall asleep and multiply it by 10. Then imagine it radiating all down your entire body, including down your right arm which is usually pretty numb. INTENSE PAIN. I jumped, and my legs flew up, so of course the doctor scolded me. I couldn’t help it, it was instinct and not something I did intentionally. It freaking hurt. I had to suffer through maybe 3 or 4 more of the “shocks” so he could get all the medicine in. It was the worst injection feeling I’ve had, and perhaps the worst pain. My ablation hurt less, and that was beyond terrible. Because I was tensing SO HARD, the rest of my back decided it was NOT happy with me either, and so started firing up in intense pain too. Almost like it didn’t want me to forget that it was there and wanted attention. After the doctor left and the nurse was cleaning me up, I started to have a major panic attack. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. Maybe because I knew I’d have to do this a few more times. Maybe it was just the pain, or relief it was over? I don’t know, but I started hyperventilating and blubbering crying. I couldn’t help it. They had to take me out of the surgical room and back to my room in a stretcher as I was trying to get my breath under control and crying fairly hard. Once in my room again, I asked for a cold washcloth and some alone time to focus on breathing. I was able to calm myself down in about 20 minutes, which is pretty quick for a panic attack. I was proud of myself.
I asked for a cold cloth, because it’s something I’ve learned in group that helps me calm down. For some reason, cold keeps me calmer, and I’ve been using this technique a lot recently. I’m extremely anxious when I’m driving now, and so I’ll roll my window down for the cold air. I’ve also got 2 of those cold compresses that you pop the innards and it turns cold on you in my console of the truck. You know, the ones that are usually in a first aid kit for bruises. I had to use one of them that day, but because of the pain, not any anxiety.
Later that day, I was so excited to be able to go and see my niece and nephew and help my little sister out with babysitting. I love those two little biscuits so much and so I had crafts ready and we were going to do a volcano (my niece called it a “cano” and I about died of cuteness. She was telling me how they create islands and I was STUNNED. She’s 4!). Anyway, on the way home from her house, I was driving down a really large mountain hill in the dark. I was going about 65 (I always turn on my cruise control, I used to have a lead foot and have gotten a LOT of tickets) and I see a buck JUST in my headlight. I knew I couldn’t swerve or stop or try any evasive maneuvers. I gripped my wheel and just said to myself, “okay, here we go” and plowed through him. I think his head explodedas that’s all I hit. I know he was a big buck, maybe 6 points, but I didn’t have time to count. At the time, I didn’t panic. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t have much of a reaction except “are you effing kidding me? Of COURSE I hit a deer when I’m already anxious about driving”. I was somewhat proud of myself. I pulled over to make sure my truck was still drive-able. There was a good ol’ boy that pulled up behind me in a giant truck to make sure I was okay (I guess he saw me eviscerate the deer). He was very kind. I told him that he could go get the deer and that it was a big buck. Explaining where it was to him, you could tell he was anxious to go, so I got back in my truck, took a few deep breaths and pulled out to drive.
I didn’t panic, get angry or have any bad emotions on the way home. The only thing I did was sigh and say things like “mother effer. Good grief this summer blows” as well as some choice cusswords. I’ve had this truck for TWO MONTHS. And I’ve only ever hit 2 deer before. I’m anxious and hyper vigilant when driving now, and OF COURSE I hit a damn deer. Stupid buck. The point of these stories are that through practice and working with the group and my one on one therapist, I am sometimes able to deal with these potentially panicky (well, I failed on one, but got myself together quickly) situations without any major issues. That’s a big win for me, and one that helps me know that I can do this. I can get through this anxiety, depression, and bipolar and potentially thrive after a while.