This delightful kitty picture is by Dan Borris. Click on it for more of his photography.

Ok, so I want to talk about pain. Not because I want to solicit sympathy, but because the topic has been preoccupying me for, like, the last six weeks or so, and I feel like I need to explain my All Aboard the Grump Train demeanor of late.

So my back is a mess. The good news being that after five years of dinking around with mentioning it to my doctor, minimizing and then as it got more irritating, insisting, I finally have a diagnosis that makes sense. In a few weeks I’ll meet with the doctor to talk more about what we’re going to do about this ankylosing spondylitis business and get back in the groove. The bad news is, well, my back hurts, and I think it’s making me a whole lot of no fun >.<

I am not always in pain, but I am generally in some kind of discomfort. There are two sides to this business, one being the flare up, when I cannot walk right, when it’s a drag to get up the stairs, and getting up off the couch requires some colossal improvisation upon the realm where physics has rules. The flare up can last anywhere from 12 hours to two weeks (before it mysteriously disappears all of a sudden, whut), and generally affects one leg/hip/butt cheek to the point where I cannot think about anything other than the acute pain and how to make it go away. I fantasize about eating up a bunch of advil (which I can’t take because it gave me stomach ulcers a couple years ago) and wishing that I liked drinking enough to have a good solid blackout and sleep uninterrupted for about a month* (with the hopes that I would wake up and not hurt anymore). Having a bowel movement can be sheer hell – any kind of bearing down makes me want to scream. When the flare up is around, I sleep in something like forty-minute shifts; I am always tired, and I cry a lot, probably because I’m so freaking tired and am only eating soft food that I know won’t cause distress in the bathroom.

Then there’s the non-flare up, the space between flare ups, which can last for weeks, sometimes even for months. During this time I’m not in pain, per se, but I’m constantly a little bit uncomfortable. The middle of my back feels like it’s poking out, no matter how soft the chair. My hips get sore if I sit in the same position for more than fifteen or twenty minutes at a stretch. If I stand for a long time, for example, spend the day in the kitchen without enough time sitting down between tasks, my back starts to spasm (and the next day I’m laid up, and possibly on the way to a flare up), and my legs get stiff and hurty. Sleeping can be tough too – I sleep better than in the flare up period, but still I wake up with discomfort two to five times a night. Sometimes I move into the papasan chair in the living room and doze off the last few hours of my sleep cycle because I can no longer get comfortable in bed. My front is generally on the tight side, and it can be hard to get a good deep breath without hiking my shoulders up to my ears; eating a full meal can often make it worse. The muscles under my right shoulder blade twitch, and I can’t reach to scratch where it itches, so I’m frequently sawing over my shoulder with a ruler or a hairbrush to get at the spot (which is now, after all these years, a fancy kind of discolored from all that scratching).

And yet, during this part, I’m super grateful: I can do yoga like I normally do (and it helps with the stiffness and soreness, brings it down a notch or two, so I try to do some every day – but not overdo it! Overdoing it has the opposite effect), I can walk without a roll in my gait, I can climb steps, I can poop without thinking that I might suffer an embarrassing death on the toilet, and waking every few hours is preferable by far to bobbing on the surface of sleep every half hour or so. The only thing is, the discomfort is ever-present. This period is defined by being a little bit uncomfortable all the time. Which is really, the same thing as being a little bit annoyed all the time, a little bit angry all the time. A little bit distracted and off my game all the freaking time.

Which is to say, if I love you, then I probably owe you an apology for being a cranky brat here and there. And I’m really sorry – the last thing I want to do is piss away the friendships I have, because I really do love my friends deeply, and I pick them so carefully as to be able to count them on two hands and a few toes. I promise to work better on managing this stuff and being more gentle.

There, I’ve spoken about it. Now, with any luck, I’ve gotten the misery out of my system for a while, and this blog can return to nice things like otter videos and WoW pets, and batiking projects. -whew-


*For the record, it’s a guarantee that I’ll throw up long before any kind of blackout business occurs. Jai jai cheap date.