Tag Archives: slipped disc

Back Set Back [A poem]

Oh, there you are again
That old chestnut, that niggle, that pain.
I just thought I’d do some shopping, get my haircut-
Like normal folk do, –
Of course… I forgot – That would remind me:
I’m stuck in a rut.
Even dreams and ambitions now cut…
By you.

Despite precautions, carefully planning how to manage the day;
Pacing myself to keep you at bay,
You’ve sneaked in again, uninvited, literally through the back door,
Which I left unguarded today,
Since painkillers have their flaws, and rest becomes a bore.
Today, all I wanted was to walk home from work.
The sun was shining, birds going berserk.
A gentle half hour’s stroll, not too much to ask…
But after 10 minutes you assailed me.
You sent bees to sting my lower spine;
You pressed your claws into my muscles, already tight and confined.
I defended myself with deep breathes, musical relief on my headphones.
But you struck again! Jarring joints, buckling bones;
Pelvis now misaligned;
And so I resigned,
Myself, as you rugby-tackled me onto my back, and lay on a park bench to rest,
Even though I must have looked like a tramp making a nest,
In her Sunday best.

Enough?

Oh, there you are again!
I guess I should try to makes friends;
Since you persist in hanging around, since we’re so intimate now.
Try to accept you; Not fear you but face you,
Not numb you with ice but try to embrace you.
But your unpredictability doesn’t make it easy.

When you cling to me, even small tasks make me feel frail;
Short distances appear to be of Himalayan scale;
Even the pub is an ordeal – No simple pint of ale;
For I am distracted from the conversation by your incessant WAIL!
You’re like a nagging wife, reminding me not to sit there too long;
Well I’m tired of fighting back with drugs;
I don’t feel so strong.
And then, when you’ve got me vulnerable, you chisel at my confidence;
Make it hard for me to belong.

Ah, it’s you again:
Restricting my body, grey-tainting my brain.
It’s been over 2 years now, that you’ve been haunting my life;
Like a gloomy spectre intent on turning my fun into strife.
If I so much as think of advancing in life;
Of planning new ventures or channelling energy in some fruitful direction…
You slap me hard.
You make my body feel beyond correction,
Unleashing inflammation like an incurable infection,
Immobilising me with your vertebral dissection.

Ouch!

Oh, so you’ve returned… Yet again.
What else can you take from me?
There’s nothing left to drain!

You took my career and prospects, my sources of joy, my groove –
Once-upon-a-time, I could really dance –
My travel bug, my fitness, my chance,
Of romantic bliss; Urges to bear children gone amiss;
Plus my energy, my future plans,
And
My
Freedom.

Pain, oh omnipresent pain!
I know, some people have it worse, I should not complain;
But let me keep my sanity;
I’m begging you for 2 months’ break,
I cradle my dear old brain.

But I’m too young to have a slipped disc? Making sense and being content.

A cluster of lanterns was visible from my window, drifting gently upwards in the night sky with no direction. They must have been propelled by the joyful energy of the people below, the will of their eager launch parties, and the magic of Loy Kratong festival itself, for there was  barely any breeze on this stifling tropical night. Raising myself up delicately to look out of the window, I gazed longingly at the beautiful spectacle of orange constellations ascending gradually like lost, sedated fire flies. I was alone and house-bound, trapped by disability on the first-floor of our town house and unable to join my friends out on the streets.

Launching a lantern from my balcony.
Launching a lantern from my balcony.

Loy Kratong was due to be one of the highlights of my time in Thailand; I had planned to travel with friends to enjoy the festival in one of its best manifestations (at Sukothai) and drink in the wonder of a skies and rivers full of light. But then, at age 28, while absorbed in the fascinating complexities of life on the Thai-Burma border and involved in gaining career-advancing experience, I had found myself in great pain resulting from a prolapsed disc (commonly known as a ‘slipped disc’)  in my lower back. The day I realised something was seriously wrong was not long after a trip to Laos to renew a visa, during which a cycle ride down long gravel paths had caused me to experience severe shooting pains and jolting sensations in my back; As I sat in a meeting at the UN refugee agency listening to discussions on displaced populations, I found myself distracted by the feeling of something being displaced in my own body! I had been ignoring the grating sensations in my right lumbar area for a few weeks, caught up in the bigger issue of the 7,000 Karen refugees living in temporary self-built camps along the border whose rice rations would soon be depleted. But now, even trying to walk or sit felt completely… wrong. Perhaps that’s not a helpful description. But it wasn’t just painful, but simply wrong, out of place, disjointed.

A 'krathong' (made from banana leaves and coconut) soon to be lit and floated on a body of water.
A ‘krathong’ (made from banana leaves and coconut) soon to be lit and floated on a body of water.

I did not receive the best advice from the doctors in that small, frontier town. Instead of keeping mobile, which is the current mantra for back pain sufferers, I was told to take bed rest for 4 – 6 weeks and remain as straight as a plank. This advice generated a cautiousness  in my movement, frightened of making a wrong move which might impede healing. But amidst the obvious frustrations of being house-bound for a whole month, and the uncomfortable dependency on friends and my boyfriend of the time to bring me food and water each day, a niggling question kept arising: WHY and HOW did this happen?

Thoughts:

 – I am only 28! Isn’t it only older people who get degenerative discs?           – Slipped discs are also caused by accidents, but I’ve never had one! A bumpy cycle ride isn’t brutal enough in impact.                                               – What is wrong with my skeleton? My bones must be deficient in something?                                                  – I must have had horrendous posture all my life? (unlikely, I had an athletic, active youth).

Continue reading But I’m too young to have a slipped disc? Making sense and being content.