Bad Back Pain Day.

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Yesterday was a Bad Back Pain Day and that means I didn’t write the post planned about how red wine can help back pain.

As R helped me into the shower while I yelped loudly as my back muscles spasmed, pretty much carried out of the shower I thought going to work was a good idea. I had deadlines to meet and my colleagues would be pissed at me if I didn’t go in.

I had to fire Summer Girl as my dressing assistant when she got distracted by a lego toy on the floor, while I was standing with one leg half in the trousers she was meant to be helping me into. R suggested that if I couldn’t get my trousers past my hips and down again, then going to the toilet would be interesting at work. But still I ploughed on through the crippling pain.

I hired 5 year old Winter Boy to pick up the hairdryer from the floordrobe, turn it on at the plug and help dry my hair standing on chair while my back muscle spasmed and my back locked up was causing me to yelp from time to time. Turning around was robotically done to avoid inducing further spasms. But, work would be fine once my medication kicked wouldn’t it?

After threatening to hide my car keys, R finally succumbed to my stubbornness, drove me to work (no way was I able to drive the car), on the condition I got my reports done then came straight home, and I slowly, slowly, pigeon stepped my way to my desk, breathing sharply every time I opened a door, or when the lift jolted.

By 1:15pm, after cancelling all my appointments, having coffee made by colleagues, being helped to the toilet by colleagues (they didn’t help me with my trousers and it took all my effort not to yell as I pulled my too tight trousers up again), my boss was walked with me out of the building as me legs lost their strength and my back pain was so immense I could barely walk. But not before giving me a stern me off for persevering in such pain and immobility.

By the time Ross picked me up and drove me home, I was in tears; my back pain and back lock was so severe I couldn’t lift my feet up a single stair to get to bed, screamed in agony as I tried to get onto the sofa and screamed in sheer pain when anyone touched me. R considered calling an ambulance as I Could Not Move.

Instead, I necked maximum doses of all the painkillers I had in my armoury, (avoiding red wine, shame) and lay in an awkward but still painful position on my side with legs bent at an angle, praying through tears that the pain would subside, before finally passing out through pain and medication. Goodness knows what would have happened if I needed the loo before my meds kicked in as I would have hit anyone trying to move me.

Today I can walk, slowly, as long as it’s not far. I can’t lift anything heavier than a coffee cup, and going to the toilet remains interesting and any movement is careful and considered. I am not in work, instead I am watching The Lego Movie for the millionth time with Winter Boy while R has taken Summer Girl to by some school things.

It might have been a stupid idea to go to work with acute back pain, but at least I got my reports done by their deadline.

If you find yourself having sudden unbearable lower back pain, it can be very frightening. You need to keep as still as you can, in the most comfortable position available. If you have already had this before, you should have an emergency medicine box (if not, get one now), with Diazepam and Ibruprofen or similar NSAID medication in (if you can take NSAIDS) as your minimum medication. And don’t forget trusted paracetamol.  Take these as soon as you can, and apply heat to your back. If you don’t have anything stronger/opiate based, call your GP or other primary care provider immediately who will provide stronger medication to cope with the pain (normally codeine or similar if you can take those). You will likely be woozy with the medication so you won’t be able to do driving, chores etc (not that you can with that much pain) so try to get someone to be around to help you.

Don’t be afraid to call your local Out of Hours care providers if your GP is not available, or even 999 if your pain is unmanageable at home with maximum painkillers doses that you can safely take at home, as unmanageable pain is a medical emergency in itself.

The chances are, the cause of your lower back pain is a muscle spasm and will subside in a day or two (hopefully to more bearable levels within a couple of hours).  If however, you have red flag symptoms, specifically, but not exclusive those of Cauda Equina Syndrome, you MUST call 999 immediately, as this is a medical emergency. If you are unsure about the symptoms, don’t take any chances and call 999. The hospital will do the necessary checks to rule it out/in.

Most of all, try not to panic, as that can tense your muscles even more and increase the pain. Easier said than done I know. 

Having a Disability at Work. I Refuse to Give In.

It was a very cold crisp day, a Wednesday, at Dartmouth Zoo. As R dropped me off in the disabled parking area, I was met with the sound of African Beats. It was very early for such loud music but welcomed the entrancing sounds as I shuffled into the visitors area and stood in the long queue waiting for coffee.

I felt out of place. I felt like I didn’t know anyone, felt exposed and my (what I am now recognising as a) disability advertised as if I was shouting it out through a megaphone, people glancing in my direction as I stood in discomfort for what seemed like hours.

This was my work conference. I had been back at work for two days after a 6 week absence. I already felt alienated as I had been off so long, but I had been determined to return. 6 weeks is too long and the lack of enthusiasm, excitement or pleasure to see me demonstrated that my relationship with colleagues had shifted from me being an equal member of the team to a resource burden. And, as I stood there sandwiched between two managers and the Big Boss from out of area, I felt more alien to the group of people than I had ever felt.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to ask R to come back and take me home. I knew then that I was not ready to be back at work. Every step I took continued to shout out that I was in pain and I was met with looks of pity and sympathy, but very little actual words. People have stopped knowing what to say.

I stupidly didn’t take my crutch and regretted that almost immediately. I am not sure I know fully know why yet, but it is more than a physical crutch. It gives me a silent explanation of the pain pain on my face, it makes my hobbling and ginger steps less obvious.

Later, as I sat to eat a hastily warmed through chilli as my colleagues didn’t expect me to turn up so didn’t book me any lunch, a colleague who was sat at the front of the conference noted that he saw me walking very carefully and painfully to the toilet halfway through the conference, and what that told me was – if he saw, then everyone else saw – and not for the first time I felt like crying.

As the conference ended, I found myself walking downhill towards the work bus that would be taking me back home, my lift from the morning not available. I found myself walking slowly, alone down that hill as people rushed past me, in twos or threes. I moved to one side as more than one car full of my colleagues drove past me down the long uneven walk, not stopping to offer me a lift to the bus. And I realised that things won’t ever be the same at work again. I sat next to a colleague in silence on the way home for 20 minutes as for the final time that day I held back tears realising yet again that Equality Acts cannot make people treat others fairly.

I didn’t go to work this week. Following that horrendous experience of pain, ignorance, alienation and hostility as the Resource Burden, I realised that I simply cannot cope with being in that much pain and yet still show I am worth the wage I am being paid. I realised I cannot work while my pain is so obvious people literally cross the road from me at work.

It was with trepidation that I made the call to the GP to ask for my Drop In The Ocean dose of pregabalin, which I started weeks ago but have been to afraid to increase, be raised from 25mg to 50mg. I have kicked against the ‘zombie drug’ for such a long time as I cannot bear the feeling of sleepiness, of tongue tie and head clouds, of my eyes drooping, my appetite dropping and my energy being zapped.

But, nor can I work under the circumstances that I found myself in last week, where I felt embarrassed every time I stood up and had to walk, where my role has been pretty much decimated. Quitting work is not an option, not least because I need the money, but also because I have worked so hard to have a career which has already been thwarted and slowed down by becoming a mother. I am not prepared to allow the ignorance and resentments of others to stop me from doing my job. So I have to make sure I can do my job as well as I possibly can, and be at work for as much as I possibly can.

And that means losing a little bit of me to medication.

Disability Living Allowance – Biting the Bullet

I have avoided applying for Disability Living Allowance for a while, despite many people saying that as my lumbar disc problem is so debilitating I should do it. There are a few reasons – I have felt a lot like a fraud, as although a lot of the time I am in so much pain I can’t function, I also have lots of days where I can. There are people in a worse position than me. I have also felt I would probably not get it, as so many people worse than me struggle to be awarded it. I have been aware of the negative press that people who receive benefits get, and know some people around me who might scorn at me claiming financial help from the government they might not perceive I need, as well, I have a job don’t I? The form is long and I have been worried I will get it wrong, not be taken seriously, and now, with the new changes next year wondered if it was even worth it, I am nervous about having a medical, as it will typically be on a day I can walk fine. The biggest deterrent for me has probably been, if I am honest, the continued refusal to accept this as a disability, and continued thinking it will go away soon.

But, it is clear now that it won’t go away, certainly not any time soon. It is clear that I am entitled to it, that I need it now and that I may actually be awarded something. Financially we manage ok. We are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we have no savings, but we can survive on our income ok. However, my disability has started incurring financial costs, and there are many things that we can do/get paid for that would make our lives so much less of a struggle when I am debilitated like I am right now. And if we actually have to face the worst case scenario, my husband’s job could be at risk if he continues having to take time off work to care for and the children. Oddly, his employment is more at risk than mine right now.

So, how will Disability Living Allowance help me? It will pay for a cleaner to come in twice a week when I am unable to do anything, such as this week, when R is at work.  It will pay for take-aways or meals in a cafe, which I did on Tuesday as I could not cook or clean up afterwards, and for the children’s school meals when there is no time for R to make packed lunches and I can’t do it. It will pay for taxi’s to do the school run when R works and I can’t drive and for after-school club costs when I can’t collect them. It will pay for our laundry when I cannot use the washing machine. It will pay for some additional therapy for me such as the Alexander Technique, Bowen Therapy. Apart from these last two ‘luxuries’ we are now having to do, or should be doing all of those other things as well as paying for my gym membership which I have to keep going to keep moving in the swimming pool (some people might see that as luxury, but without out, I would probably not be walking at all now). I could actually also do with putting a handrail up the stairs and a chair/rail in the bath (can you buy tasteful ones?!) It is taking it’s toll financially now, not hugely, but enough to notice.

I had a good chat with the School Liaison Officer yesterday about Bella, my fears of how this affects her, what support is, or could be available and she talked at length with me about applying for DLA. She said I absolutely must apply and that I must not talk about how I am on good days, but put my worst days down. I said I would be happy with just the basic level and she thinks I might actually get a higher level than that because on my bad days I can’t even get to the toilet on my own, and that this is a real disability, and this is now really seriously impacting on our lives, to the point it is now affecting R’s job.

I really don’t know what I’ll be entitled to, if anything – care element? mobility element? who knows, but, what I do know now, is, I have to give it a try, as it is there to help people who are feeling the financial burden of disability.If anyone has any advice on how to complete the form, please let me know! key words to use, things to remember to include, what is not important, and any websites that can guide me, that would be so gratefully appreciated.

Simply. My Daughter.

I was going to write down boring thoughts about my first day into my second week back at work, about my new £800 orthopaedic chair that arrived with a little blood pressure type thing at the back to adjust my lumbar pressure, about how spun out I was on my medication that I struggled to focus on conversations with colleagues and just hope they did not notice thanks to my fab think rimmed glasses (I knew there was a reason for this style of glasses).

I did not feel particularly inspired about it all. So I asked my 6 year old daughter what I should write about. ‘ME!’ she gushed and then bounced over to sit with me so she could see what magical words I was going to type. ‘what shall I say about you?’ ‘you can tell them I am beautiful and clever!’ she grinned. Well, I can, and I will. She is both beautiful and clever.

So this post is for Bella. She is the most adorable girl in the world.  She oozes fun and character. She beams her smile everywhere she goes, her hearty wild laughter and bold confident character reels people in and they fall in love with her. She is not big on tantrums although we have seen more of those in her 6th year than in any other year so far, she is great at arguing her point, questions and knows almost everything, but not as much as her teachers.

She loves fairies and all things princess, she loves pink things and fluffy things, angel wings and sparkles. Sometimes she loves nothing better than quiet time on her own with some of her small dollies and her dolls house, making up stories. She loves dancing and ballet. She also loves gold and silver which are her favourite colours, loves climbing up slides the wrong way, climbing trees in her favourite dress, riding her bike down hills as fast as she can go, even though she is still learning. Her favourite ‘celebrities’ are Tom Daley as she wants to be an Olympic diver, and Moe Farah because she thinks he is handsome.

She is a risk-taker – she broke her arm aged 5 trying to climb ‘big boy’ monkey bars, snapped both bones in her wrist, luckily straightforward to fix without surgery. Admittedly she shed some rare tears then, but not for very long. After the initial shock of the fall,  being brave when they pushed the bone back in place, only using gas & air to help with the pain, she was more upset about not getting a pink cast and not going to sleep for an operation and it did not slow her down. She loves adrenalin rushes, fast things, high things, crazy things. She gets very excited very easily and sometimes has to be asked to slow down as she wants it done now. not tomorrow. not next week. now.

Bella is a bookworm. We have read to her from the moment she was born. R loves books too and reading bedtime stories was something he was able to do during the first few months of newborn breastfeeding and Mummy Hogging The Baby. She reads everything now ‘the switch has clicked’ she reads signs, graffiti, magazines, books and I now have to hide newspapers from her, so she does not see the whole “JS” business, or guns,or photos and stories stories of death and violence. Although I am not sure how much longer I can keep things in the news from her as she pays a whole lot of attention to things around her and takes more in that I realise.

Today was the first day of her half term and while I spent it at work checking out my new fancy gadgets on the Expensive Chair, she went horse-riding, with one of her best friends, her best friend’s daddy, R and Roo. Her best friend’s nanny lives on a farm and owns two horses and she gave them both a ‘lesson’. She got soaked and muddy and had the ‘best day ever’. This evening she had the biggest bubbliest bath that even I envied, although it was short lived because her two-almost-three year old brother shared it with her and inevitably ended in tears. After her bath she snuggled with her mama for a story , a lovely story about a mermaid from a beautifully illustrated book – ‘Magical Fairy Tales’.

But not before she brushed my hair and massaged my head for much longer than she wanted. That was The Deal. I write about her and she massages my hair. Not a Bad Way to end my day.

No Driving!

You know what? I can’t actually write what I think today. Well I can, but it is exceptionally dull. Not witty, or informative. I have tried to write something 3 times. I even posted one of them. Shocking.

There are bigger problems in the world than me not being able to drive the car for a while because of medication side effects. At least I have a car and have a partner who can drive it.

There are bigger problems in the world than numb patches and pins and needles in my leg and being told by my GP that this might now be permanent. And bigger problems as fighting to get my GP to re-refer me to the Spinal Pathway because ‘many people make a decision to accept numb patches, pins and needles over spinal surgey’. At least I am not in horrendous pain any more thanks to being pumped full of drugs. At least I can walk.

There are bigger problems in the world than my boss being a bit shitty with me when I said I was returning on reduced hours, not today, but tomorrow and her making it clear not to expect any Welcome Back banners . At least I have a job. At least I have enough money to pay the bills and take the family on holiday this year.

At least I am alive and relatively well. And my family are well and with me.

Yet somehow, that does not cheer me up.

Something is Worrying Me.

Well, I never intended this blog to be so dam miserable. I do apologise. R said I should be careful not to be so bloody miserable people or else people will stop reading. I agree. But seeing as this is also a cathartic process for me. I need to get it all out. R is at work/buries his head in the sand when it comes to talking of the future. No-one in my entire world can probably bear to listen to me bang on about my back pain, and anyway ‘oh dear, poor you’ is Not Helpful. So I am going to moan away in my own words, in my own time to the www.

I am taking a ridiculous amount of medication. One of which is turning me into a goofball at night/in the morning. Despite being a walking pharmacy, my pain levels increase as the day wears on and by 5pm, I find walking too painful. My back, left leg/hip down to my feet, and both my calves and feet scream with hot pain, pins and needles when I sit from standing, stand from sitting. And I have not been being hugely active. I am not running a marathon. In fact for the last two days I have bee child free thanks to school and nursery. I have been careful but kept moving.

I am not at work. I have been off sick for almost 3 weeks struggling get my sciatic pain under control. Hence the nerve blockers. Since June I have been off sick more than I have been at work -when I was there I was mostly on reduced hours. My Boss is supportive. My colleagues are Fed up.

I am worried I will lose my job in the long-term, worried the long-term might be closer than I think, worried that if I can work will I have to reduce my hours for ever?  Can I work when I am a goofball? Will my colleagues now resent me? See me as unreliable, flakey, thinking about how much work I am causing rather than how I am? I have got no Get well card that is for sure. No kind messages of wellness. And we all know what lots of people think about colleagues with ‘back ache’ right? I have already seen my career damaged, having to put on hold a Diploma course that would eventually see a rise on the ladder. Is this going to ruin me completely?

So, I’m worried about Monday. I should be returning to work. I want to return.  I am scared of going back only to leave again because I can’t manage it, or do two weeks then it all goes wrong again. I am worried I won’t be able to get out of bed, and if I do I will be out of it on pain meds? I am worried I will just stare wildly at my colleagues, a dribbling mess while they make me a coffee. And then, I am worried my GP will sign me off again, and say I am not ready. I am worried I will tell her I am not ready. Because. Lets face it. If I go to work my day is going to be, wake up, zillion coffees, no conversation as I am too out of it. work, badly, home, lots of pain and somehow I need to be a mum then, sometimes on my own if R is working late shift. Can I even do that? Really?

I am scared of my future. I am a crap mum and I can’t do the job I have done for 10 years. The sadness I felt after being told I should avoid kayaking was nothing compared to the fear I have now of losing more than a hobby.

Tomorrow, I’m going to post something positive.