Writing left handed

Of Ballet and Back Spasms

When I was in college, I used to calculate exactly how many ballet classes I could skip before my attendance (or lack thereof) would affect my final grade. It was usually three or four, and I’d take full advantage of these few precious hours, usually heading off to the library to craft crappy poetry about whoever was responsible for my broken-heartedness at the time.

A friend of mine who teaches creative writing once relayed the following maxim from one of her colleagues on the virtues of crappy poetry:

All poetry deserves to be written but not all poetry deserves to be read.

Mine definitely fell into the former category. Which was (and still is) fine by me; I don’t even like reading poetry, but I liked attempting to write it far more than I liked the hour and a half of mind-numbing demi plies and mind-boggling petit allegro combinations.

Today however, which marks the first day that I’m leaving the house on my own after a trip to the ER on Monday, has rendered me eternally grateful for all those plies. Grand plies in particular, because when you find yourself hospitalized for a back spasm, you’ve got to start moving again eventually, and there’s no better method for retrieving a flash drive off the floor or plugging in your lap top without bending your back than the tried-and-true grand plie.

grand pli2

So here I am, prancing around like a prima ballerina—well no, not quite prancing… I promised everyone (from my parents, to my fiancé, to my future mother-in-law) that I would “take it easy” and “not overdo it”—but I am feeling rather graceful. More graceful at least than on Sunday night, when PIC had to roll me into the bathroom on an office chair, more graceful certainly than on Monday morning when he had to carry me down the front steps and into his car, and definitely more graceful than I felt when my mother came to take care of me on Tuesday and had to dress me from head to toe, including my underwear.

There’s nothing more infantilizing than the inability to pull up your own underwear…

Long story short, I experienced a small back spasm about a month ago after a few too many hours curled up on the couch. They continued, sometimes every few days, sometimes several times in a single day, but they always went away eventually. Then Sunday night happened.

I literally could not move.

I couldn’t stand, couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit, and couldn’t even really lie down. It was terrifying. PIC suggested we go to the ER but ever the independent woman (with a more-than-slight aversion to hospitals) I made an appointment to see a chiropractor instead.

Had I done this oh, I don’t know, a month ago, when the spasms first started, this might have been okay. But take it from me: if someone has to carry you into a chiropractor’s office, you don’t belong at a chiropractor, you belong at an ER.

So that’s where I ended up, complete with an ambulance, EMTs, a stretcher and the whole nine yards.

As it turns out, suffering from a back spasm is a bit of a Catch 22. They won’t give you drugs until they determine you’re not pregnant, and you can’t exactly pee into a cup to prove that you’re not pregnant until you can move, but without the drugs you can’t, so there was a lot of sitting and waiting and trying to urinate into a bedpan but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, even when I sent PIC and all of the nurses away.

Eventually I managed to hobble down the hall to the restroom but turning on my side for the X-rays was an entirely different ordeal, and because no one wants to go to the hospital over the holidays, the ER was overrun with folks who were waiting to have their various ailments dealt with until after New Years.

It was horrible and scary and really painful and that was all before I had to go to CVS to pick up my own damn pain killers and muscle relaxants because I recently switched insurance policies and hadn’t registered everything with the pharmacy yet…

(The inefficiencies of our health care system never cease to amaze me.)

But anyway that was 5 days ago now. And today I am able to sit up long enough to type this, to walk, to put on my own socks and my own underwear (thank you very much!), and I am never again going to take these things for granted.

6 Responses to “Of Ballet and Back Spasms”

  1. Landlord No Longer

    A hectic few months coming up, keep your posture and stretching exercises on your daily regimen, please 😉

  2. Leah

    You brought me right back to my first bout of sciatica last winter when I could standd and I could lie flat without agony. Anything in between, and particularly transitioning from one to the other, was pure Hell. I was a Canadian in the US, too nervous to try out the health care system.

    I can’t really say “thanks for the memories,” but I will say that his was an excellent post. It was written so vividly. Enjoy that road to recovery. Here’s hoping it is a smooth one!

  3. lindykate

    No matter what is going on, your blog always makes me smile. Your comical look on life keeps everything interesting.


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