On 12 April, I woke up and found I was unable to move without horrible pain. I'd done nothing physical. I didn't fall. For about six months up to that point, though, I had a series of stressful events that kept piling up and compounding the stress level in my body. I first felt the pain in my left heel. That caused me to stop my morning aerobics. Then the pain moved to my right hip. I took a few ibuprofen each day and managed to get on. Then one day my husband said, "Do you realise you're walking crooked?" Then on 11 April, we rushed to Gaborone to find a place for my daughter to move and to shift her stuff after she was given less than a week to be out of where she was. That seemed to be the straw that literally broke this camel's back. 12th April my life changed.
At first, though I was scared by the severity of the pain, I was sure my body would sort itself out. It always had before.Though I could do little more than lay in bed, I was sure it was nothing serious. But then a week passed and then another and then a month. A bit by force I was taken to a chiropractor and then I had Xrays and an MRI and suddenly everyone had an opinion. A disc between my vertebra was herniated and pressing on my sciatic nerve so the pain starting in my lower back shot straight down my leg all the way to my foot. I was advised by one qualified medical fellow that if I did not get surgery and very soon I would be paralysed.
I kept explaining that I felt the months of stress leading up to the day in Gaborone was the cause, but no one was interested. They saw that disc and it had to be cut out. But I wasn't going to do it. I just knew I would need to find another way.
So more months went by. I swallowed so many pills I was a walking science experiment. I stopped going to the hospital because their only option was more pills or surgery. One was not working and the other I knew would not improve things.
Eventually I found a physical therapist who also does acupuncture who has helped me a lot. After seeing him only a few times, I could sit on a chair again. I could walk with minimal pain.
As of today, I still have pain in my leg, but nowhere near what it was before. I can do nearly everything. I go for physical therapy once a week. And I've begun to understand a bit about pain. If I'm having a bad day, the pain is more. If I lose hope of ever being pain free, the pain is more. When I just get on with things, the pain is less. When I get scared and think maybe that fellow was right and one day I will be paralyzed because of this, the pain surges.
I know for sure and certain, whatever my MRI shows, my pain started in my head and continues to be produced in my head. Yes, I'm feeling real pain, but it is my brain creating it. If those six months of crazy stress had not occurred, I doubt 12 April would have happened. If I would have paid a bit more attention to my heel pain and my hip pain, paid a bit more attention to how I was coping with the stress, I wouldn't have spent nearly six weeks scared to walk to the bathroom.
I've developed huge empathy for people who live with daily pain. I know what a dictator it can be. It leaves nothing left of your life, it takes it all. I don't know if one day I'll be completely pain free, I hope so. I don't know if I'll have another attack that throws me back in bed, I might. I'm trying to learn to be kinder to myself. I'm trying to let things slide a bit. I've seen what stress can do to me. It's been a tough year, but I'm trying my best to relearn how to live and that's not a bad thing I think.