You Need Level Six Security Clearance to Read This

Okay, not really.

It’s only that I looked up the intro for “The Bionic Woman” (which isn’t nearly as fun as the intro to “The Six Million Dollar Man.”  Rip off.), and Level 6 is what a person needed in the fictional world of Jaime Sommers to know how they modified her and how much it cost the government.

The rebuild I’m undergoing isn’t quite as high-tech or dramatic and bionic prosthetics, but it’s something.  When I last posted, I’d just experienced my first visit with a physical therapist, Jamie, for attempting to minimize the gap in my abdominal muscles I’ve been tolerating for 10 years.  I say “minimize” instead of “close” here because I’m told that it simply does not close again without surgery, as the connective tissue is actually torn between my abdominal muscles on either side.  Allow me to explain how, with Jamie’s help, I am restoring and rebuilding my body at its foundation.

First things first.  My initial visit was supremely validating.  Jamie measured my separation at my belly button, as well as above and below.  She told me that most women (who have diastasis recti) experience a football-shaped split (think: popped zipper) that’s limited to the area right around the navel.  In my case, I am split all the way up to my ribs!  Jamie said, “It’s no wonder you have low back pain.  You have ‘nothing’ up front that’s stabilizing your hips.”  This news made me feel better because I’ve always kind of wondered if I’ve just been acting like a big baby about ‘I can’t do [yoga, biking, sit-ups, planks, etc.] because I have this condition….’  Also, it explained why I keep having low back issues, on and off.  That is: it’s not all my fault.

Because I was still experiencing limited mobility due to the vacation back thing (it took a whole week from when I started the steroid for me to be without pain!) at my first appointment, she set me up with just one small task/exercise, which was to engage my lower abdominal muscles while lying on my back with my knees bent. (I called this “my squeezies,” on my to-do list, twice a day.)  It took concentration – and guidance from her – to even figure out how to do that at first.  It seems I started out with this gap and this weakness in my middle, and my body’s other muscles took over and compensated for so many years that my body “forgot” how its supposed to function naturally.

Like my abs had amnesia.  And fugue.  We had to formally reintroduce ourselves.

I have had three appointments since then, and I’ve mastered the “squeezies” and added seven other daily exercises, which are geared to both close my ab gap and help strengthen and stabilize my lower back.  As far as coordinating the movements required of my body, the exercises get easier every time I do them.  But they are WORK!  This is good.  This is exciting.  I am actually sore for the first time in ages since I’ve been unable to workout routinely all year.  (The downside:  Even though I do most of them while lying on the floor, they are just hard enough that I sweat a little.  And since I need to do them – for now – two times a day, I have several costume changes and/or showers a day. )

Last Wednesday, I asked Jamie if I could try to go for a run, since I finally had no back pain.  She asked me to hold off until this week when she’d have me get on her treadmill to ensure that I could properly run.  That is, we wanted to verify that I could run while holding my core in and otherwise using good form.  I had the opportunity to treadmill at my Monday appointment, and Jamie gave me the green light to run!  For now, I am to run for only five minutes at a time (I can do walk/run intervals), to stick to a flat surface, and to concentrate on getting my core to hold itself in.  For the past five years, I’ve been reliant on my hydration belt, cranked tight (thank you, space program, for Velcro) around my waist to keep me from feeling like my guts are about to fall out.  No more!

Yesterday, I went for my first run like this.  For one, I’ve run so little this year that five minutes is not quite a challenge, but I definitely kept a close eye on my watch because I looked forward to switching to my walk break each time.  It also required a good bit of physical and mental effort to make sure that I was engaging my core, swinging my arms carefully front-to-back (no crossing over!), and pushing off the ground, as instructed.

The running felt very strange.  Like the normal proper way of doing it was rather foreign to me.  This first outing would also have been pretty dispiriting, in that I had intended to train and run for at least one half marathon this year (I had to sell my bib for my favorite race that took place the first Saturday in June), and now I can only run for five minutes at a time – and sloooowly at that.  But I managed to reframe the circumstances to something encouraging.  Specifically:  It’s a bummer that I have had this setback.  However, what this is forcing me to do is strengthen weak areas and teach my body the proper mechanics of running and other movement.  Not only will my current efforts assist me in avoiding future injuries, aches, pains, and setbacks, I expect that if I keep at it and adopt a reasonable training plan, I will likely – eventually – become a faster runner than I used to be because I will be moving more efficiently.

So this is how I am rebuilding my foundation.  I am training and strengthening my core and back with targeted exercises and I am re-teaching my body how it is supposed to move while I run (and while I do everything else – sitting, standing, walking, carrying things, even getting out of bed!).

In related news, Jamie recommended that I switch to a cross-body purse, especially since I carry around a good bit of stuff all the time, as the mom of smaller kids.  The cross-body bags I owned were either too small or lacked sufficent pockets for me to keep my items in order.  I need to divide to conquer!  Pens are in this pocket, lip balm in that one, phone and keys in exterior pocket (ALWAYS!)….  Or I just can’t find what I need when I need it.  Basically, I had a legitimate excuse to shop!

So after over an hour of research on Amazon, I became the proud new owner of this beauty.

Bag

New, back-saving, cross-body bag.

My criteria were:  cross-body, cheap, durable, and pockety.  (NOTE:  You cannot use “pockety” as a filter criterion in Amazon.  Which is why I had to look through a lot of bag images to find a winner.)  In addition to the obvious pockets on the front, there are wee pockets on either side of the bag  (they’re holding Eos lip balm and reading glasses, in case you’re wondering).  And there is a Velcro (yay, again!) pocket that goes across the entire backside of the bag, which I didn’t even know about until it arrived!  (It’s keeping a small note book for me to write PT notes, as well as the photocopied images of the exercises Jamie is giving me.)  A handy little bonus!

That’s all for now.  It’s actually time for me to change into a sports bra and something comfy and head out to my next PT appointment!

Why I Am in a Good Mood on Zero Sleep

[Alternate title:  “Pharmaceuticals, alcohol, and heavy machinery.”  Wait for it.]

At least I think this is why I’m in a good – excellent, really – mood, despite not getting a WINK of sleep.

For the first time in a week, I am not in moderate to severe pain and discomfort.  There have been a few, other pleasant things about my day, but I am in an outstanding mood simply because I am not hurting.

I’ll explain the source of the pain, but first, an analogy about why this creates such happiness (or – this just hit me – maybe I’m not “happy” but just “giddy.”  Which can be caused by happiness. But also by drugs, alcohol, and/or sleep deprivation.  And I’m two outta three on that score.  Should be all three.  But I digress yet again – and I’ll come back to that.)

I am all happy-happy, joy-joy today because I can:

  • Sit, stand, walk comfortably.
  • Go from sitting to standing.
  • Vice Versa.
  • Get in and out of my car.
  • Pick things up.
  • Carry things.
  • Put on my pants without crying.
  • You name it!

Except for sneeze.  Sneezing still hurts like a fucking bitch.  (Yesterday, I thought I was going to hit the floor in Walmart over a single sneeze.)

My situation is analogous to this clip from 80s Eddie Murphy.  Even though I totally forgot that 1)  he was actually talking about sex in this clip (like, why didn’t I know that automatically?), and 2) he,too, is making an analogy.

So sex-droughts are analogous to crackers when you’re starving are analogous to being (mostly) pain free after a week (vacation week, to boot!) of suffering.  Who knew?

Now someone probably wants to know why I was in pain for a week.  Or maybe not.  Should I stop right here because the only people who’d care to read this already know about it, via phone and/or multitudinous texts?

Venn Diagram

Self Explanatory

I’ll try to be brief (stop laughing!).

I got this really gnarly injury while we were in Myrtle Beach last week.  Ah, DUDE, you won’t believe it!  My low back (almost exclusively on my right – not at all the side that had been bothering me for 2-3 months – WTF?), butt, hip, and thigh from hip to knee got Effed. UP. because I did this crazy-ass stunt where I…, uh….

Rode in the car for 10+ hours and slept in a strange bed for three nights, waking up on the third morning only to find that I could barely get out of bed.

Yes, apparently it is a crazy-ass stunt to go for a long car ride and sleep in a foreign, too-soft bed – while being old.

We drove to the beach on Saturday (we made excellent time).

Saturday (6/25) night, I was fine.

Sunday (6/26) , I was fine.

Monday (6/27) , I was fine.

Tuesday (6/28) I suddenly struggled just to stand up to get out of bed  in the morning.  And then any time I sat for more than 10 minutes.

Wednesday (6/29) , I was still hurting, but feeling much, much better.

Thursday (6/30 – our wedding anniversary, no less), I literally could not get out of bed.  I got stuck, half-way up, and had to slide down onto the floor.  I might still be on that floor if Bob hadn’t come around to pick me up.

Friday and Saturday (7/1 & 2) were roughly the same as Thursday.  Sitting/standing/lying still for too long was the killer, which was why the mornings were the worst.  But I couldn’t move fluidly enough to stay in motion for long, either.  I did a lot of Sit, Stand, Wander around awkwardly for a few minutes, Repeat.

Sunday (7/3), I somehow managed to survive the car ride back home alright.  I wouldn’t say I was particularly comfortable, but I wasn’t in a lot of pain.

Monday (7/4) it was at its worst.  As Bob had told me at the beach, my “butt was so crooked.”  (Not in the criminal way, but it probably wouldn’t take much to push it over that edge. My ass is shifty.  In more than one sense of that word.)  My shoulders were, too.  Basically, I looked like an “S.”  Specifically, an “S” who was also leaning backward like she was about 3 weeks past due for delivering a baby “s.”  A chiropractic adjustment helped.  A bit.  For a few hours.

Yesterday was as bad as Monday.  TWO chiropractic adjustments (AM and lunch time) took me from about a 10 on pain to a seven (the first session hurt so bad, I cried!  And I don’t cry easily.  Over physical pain, anyway.)

Finally, yesterday afternoon, I had a chance to leave work and run to Med Express (after a first-thing in AM trip to my regular doctor didn’t work out due to him having to attend to an emergency).

The PA there armed me with a short-course of steroids and a muscle relaxer.  I was told that 1) the steroid might take a day or two to work before I’d feel results, and 2) not to take the muscle relaxer until I got home for the night and wouldn’t be driving because it would make me drowsy (this is a key word for later).

The combo of chiropractic and the steroids DID start to work, and I went from that seven on the pain scale to maybe a 3.5.  I still hurt and had to watch how I moved.  But I could move.  I’d made it through my long day of work, and I left the office feeling 1) oh-so drowsy (I think from being in pain all day), and 2) oh-so excited to get home and take my muscle relaxer – and get drowsier.  As I was already sleepy (note: another word for drowsy), I figured it wouldn’t be long after I took the muscle relaxer before I crashed for the day.

I’d jokingly sent this image of my medicine label to a few friends (i.e, you), adding that I thought the statement sounded like a dare.  It doesn’t say “do NOT take this with alcohol.”  It says the medicine may make you drowsy, and that alcohol may make that worse.  It’s like it’s secretly whispering, “Try it.  See what happens.”  I told everyone I was thinking about washing the pill down with an Angry Orchard and calling it a party.

meds

I double dog dare ya.

But I did not have that beer.  This was my first mistake.  We will return to this in a moment.

What happened next was this:  I was feeling so much better that I perked up a little, i.e., was not drowsy.  And feeling good and perky allowed me to be able to fold the laundry – otherwise known as “all the clothes owned by the four people in this residence.”  (We all over-packed for the beach, significantly, except for maybe Bob.)  Being able to DO the chores that had been taunting me for a day and a half of being unable to move, made me happy.  Happy + actually productive (not just busy) can sometimes be my thang.  Ended up, I didn’t even head to bed until about midnight.  Between midnight and ~5:30AM, I attempted to go to sleep three times, each time lying down for about an hour of decidedly not sleeping and getting up to read, or delete the useless emails I’d accumulated while on vacation, or some similar, low-key task.  I finally said screw it, and took a shower and got ready for my day.

Today, I learned during my first visit to the local physical therapist who treats diastasis recti (Have I failed to mention that I never did manage to fix that on my own?  But we will absolutely come back to this topic!  So exciting.) that steroids can Jack. You. Up.  I told her I didn’t know that, and that I wasn’t too worried about sleep deprivation overnight because I’d have the opportunity to take a nap this afternoon.  She had a good chuckle, and said, “Good luck with that.”  I wasn’t sure she was serious, but it’s mid-afternoon, and I’m still awake.  And I’m still not feeling particularly tired.

The lesson here is:  When I have the idea to have a beer, and I have access to beer, (and alcohol consumption isn’t an actual, pharmaceutical contraindicated no-no), I SHOULD HAVE A FUCKING BEER.  Or two.

A beer might have helped me.  In more ways that one.  Opportunity lost.  So sad. Tragic really.

To wrap up, I want to write soon about how awesome the physical therapist is going to be and how I am hopeful that getting my abdominal wall taken care of will help prevent my other body parts from going to war with me.

But since this was intended to be a running blog, and I’ve barely run a handful of times – very slowly and not for very long at all – I am especially hopeful that the meds, chiropractic, and PT will allow me to start running again soon.  It’s been so frustrating.  Several times, I thought I was on the mend and I’d begin a plan (that I got from internet research) for starting up after injury.  It called for starting with a 10-minute run, which would turn into a 12-minute run on the next outing, provided the 10-minute run caused no problems.  Add two minutes each time a run went off without issue.  Subtract two minutes for the next run if any problems occurred.  Seems so slow and too simple, but I’d work up to 30-40 minutes within just a few weeks.  I’d be set!

But I don’t think I ever got past 14 minutes.  (There was maybe a 16-minute run.)  I’d end up stopping all together and starting over later with 10 minutes.  ARGH!

Here’s to hoping I can do a 10-minute run by about this time next week.  And that it will be the shortest run I do for a long, long while.  Fingers crossed!

 


 

p.s.  Also frustrating:  We learned earlier this year (after having the same healthcare plan for like 100 years) that Bob’s health insurance has a plan where, for $25 a month, you can become a member of any of the gyms in the plan’s network.  I signed up almost immediately, and drove around town to get my passes for LA Fitness, the Aerobic Center, and the Y.  (It was like Christmas!)  I made it to the first two gyms only a handful of times before all this messed-uped-ness started.

Number of gyms I have access to:  3.

Number of gyms I’ve been able to go to: 0.

Wah-wah!