Friday, March 27, 2009

Just a Share

Just an update post.

The last two weeks, since my back injection, have felt like a year. For one, the initial lidocaine injection into the facet worked; I came around with no pain at all. That lasted for a few hours, and it wasn't until Sunday night, two days later, that the sharp pains returned. And then what a ride.

Because Monday was absolutely hell. It caught me so off guard. My pain must have quadrupled, and it was much more constant. I was so shaken up I forgot to take enough vicodin, hardly any. Then Tuesday it was the teeniest bit swollen and I laid on my back for several hours grading online papers; that caused about 3 hours of exquisite pain Tuesday night. Why am I so puritanical about taking Vicodin? I don't know, but if I ever have another injection I am sure as hell going to plan on spending a week on it.

Maybe all the stories my dad told me about how my grandfather got addicted; he lost his hand in some machinery and used to ask my dad to inject him with morphine or some other narcotic. Somehow, after some time, he simply kicked it by himself. I haven't thought about that in years. Obviously, taking a few vicodin is not the same as shooting fucking morphine.

Because the other thing was that I became a bit...stimulated, animated, as if I had a couple cups of coffee. I was just a little bit jittery, and more scared and emotional than normal. I'm not sure, but I was told the steroid can do that too. Who knows. I am feeling less jittery, less nervous, and sweating a lot less during sleep. All good, but all side effects I was not told about ahead of time.

The sad thing, truly, is that while the lidocaine worked and acted as a diagnostic tool the steroids did not. I don't think I received any relief from those meds. I called my "second opinion" ortho, the guy who suggested the facet block, and left a message with his assistant. She called me back but we haven't spoken yet. There are a couple things we could do that I know of:

1) since this injury was the result of trauma I want to know if we need to xray or mri or ct scan the actual facet to see what happened to it; that may not be the case, but that is my first question

2) a facet rhizotomy. this is where a needle is inserted and the two nerves in the actual facet joint are basically cooked using radiofrequency pulses...oddly, this only provides pain relief about 50 percent of the time, but the pain relief can be significant, even total, and can last as long as two years; typically, maybe a year, but then the procedure can be repeated. my concern with this, after my injection, is an increase in pain. that can happen I read and can last not a few days but a few weeks though it is unlikely to happen

3) there are less dramatic treatments, physical therapy mainly, working with the injury to minimize discomfort and to strengthen the muscles around the spine; this is the thing I'd like to talk about first...this injury has never completely gone away, but it has been essentially pain free or close, felt like a tightness in the area, for months at a time. if I could get back to that place I think I'd be alright with it and there is no surgery involved.

On my back, that's about it for now. It flared up a bit yesterday. I think I stretched it too much, went too deep, on my inversion bed. I have been walking almost every day...ran twice at the gym on a treadmill and while that felt fantastic overall the second time irritated my back a bit. My son tells me to swim and that is not a bad idea.

Oh, and there are other treatments like accupuncture and other alternative treatments. One thing I am glad about is it does not seem to be a disc...that is even harder to treat, often, than what I have. But this is about all I know; I will learn more as I go.

The emotional impact has been real. I am going to see the therapist I saw this week next week and if she works out I'll continue to see her for a while...I just have so much going on!

My three days working from home alone has gotten more annoying than ever. I am finding ways to cope but I hate it. And now that I am involved in campus governance and come down a third day...this would be less, but my back has caused me to miss some meetings because driving (for the first time in 2.5 years) has become an aggravating factor.

My wife and I do want to move closer and I'd love to do that this summer, even half the way closer, but with my son in his final year of high school next year, and even more, me considering commuting part time to seminary from near my job...this decision is very difficult. Buying a house halfway down he could still go to his high school, I'd be closer to work and so would my wife; but if I want to go to seminary in one or two years part time it is farther, harder to do, maybe impossible.

On that topic, will my back injury effect my discernment? It might, but I don't want to get that far ahead. Driving has only been an issue for a few weeks, about a month, actually less. This flare up may lessen and driving may be a non issue again. But still, why be that much farther from the seminary? I am overwhelmed, because the benefits of being closer are vast to me personally, emotionally, even, probably, economically. One more year up here, though, and we could move anyplace, including very close to my campus. That puts me closer to sailing and closer to the seminary...closer to work and all the good that entails.

Sighs. Only time will tell.

That is about all I have. I won't call this rant, I'll call it 'sharing.' If I can't do this on my blog, what can I do? I need direction or a good decision making process and right now feel short on both.

At least I have a good job which isn't going anyplace; I am not dying or in danger with my injury (a 34 year old friend of mine is dying of leukemia) and my spiritual life has strengthened since I entered discernment. I have a new therapist who might be okay with other names if I want to continue to shop. I am exercising again, even if it's just brisk walking up and down around my neighborhood for 40 or 50 mins. I have a loving family; this is priceless beyond measure. My wife and stepson have done more for me than anything ever.

Well, that's enough for now. I was so mountaintop when I was at the seminary just, what, five or six weeks ago? It feels like a lifetime. May God grant me my desire to one day go there one way or another. May he draw me closer to him. And, somehow, may my back get better.

Love to all, including me :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pee girl gets the belt...

Listening to Hole's Live Through This today on an old, burned cd. When that album came out all I could think was, Courtney didn't write this by herself. The lyrics, sure, but not the music. Whether Kurt helped her or not (and how the hell would I ever know) that really is a hell of an album. It reminds me of the days when physicality was my salvation; when going downstairs, numb with pain, and hitting the punching bag till I was exhausted kept the death-wolves at bay. I remember doing that, beating the bag, and screaming to Lithium from Nevermind. I didn't know how to box then, or evenif I had any vague memories, I just swang away...

And running. Before I became a true gym-rat, a stairmaster regular (I didn't really lift then, only a little) I would beat the bag and sometimes run. Not run far or well, but run, and listen to Courtney's album...

For what it's worth, when I saw Kurt on MTV unplugged, half of the time having a fight with Moll on the phone, when I saw him, I had enough recovery then to know, what did Burroughs say about him...there really is something wrong with that boy. I knew he was emotionally unstable, angry as hell, and depressed even more. When he was dead that next year I was shaken up but not stunned.

God, I loved that music. In Utero was my favorite album for a long time...replacing the Pepper's Blood Sugar Sex Magick for a time even. My other favorite band then (and I am embarrassed to admit I was in my late 20's) was Bikini Kill, the raging riot girl poet punk band. That music helped me as I saved my own life.

Which brings me to today. I have been therapist hunting again. I am not in serious depression, anxiety, or obsession. The biggest issues in my life now are, well, real: the isolation of living so far from work, way up in the wild woods, continuing growth for my marriage, discernment, and dealing with my back (which is doing better, more on that later; I may always have to manage that but my hope is for better if I put in the work). I am not in crisis, but it's great to have someone out there to connect with, and I realized after just two visit with two different people (it really is a nice feeling to shop therapists) that I have trauma I still need to process. A lot of that processing happened way back in the early days; shit, a lot of it happened listening to punk rock music, to Nirvana and Hole and many other bands. In my garage and even at clubs, screaming and wheeling. But now that I am older, a homeowner, a tenured professor, now I find a need to still go back. A lot of things that happened to me I just wasn't strong enough to handle at the time. I did not have resources, or even know what resources were. And OCD, even if it lends survival power, a mild insanity instead of the real thing, OCD blocks the process of real emotion. Now, I think, I'm ready.

Granted, I may not be beating on a bag with my back (but who knows). And I tried running on the treadmill yesterday and that final set caused my back to tighten and hurt a bit. But I can walk briskly, and often do; that can be used to process. And I can write. And talk.

Damn, I miss Sharon, my last therapist. The one who retired...So far both of the women I've met have been good, one early in her career, the other much farther along. One does EMDR and I am curious about it's application to trauma; the other is all old school feeling based work, and I know that stuff works. I am living proof.

Before I forget, on my back injury: the injection proved the source of the pain, the sight of the injury, my lowest left facet joint. But the steroids did not work for long term pain relief. But walking, and my new inversion table, and watching posture and using heat...all that is helping. I don't know why it recently flared up so dramatically and awfully, but it did. Of course, the injection did not help...heh. I was sore from that for several days. Driving is hard but getting easier. This is good, as I can get to campus easier and that means less isolation.

So, there you go. Just an update on life. I have a facebook now with over a hundred "friends" and when I post there I got comments, many respond...here I have a smaller audience, I guess. Who knows. But I can say whatever I want here, mostly, and not worry about that information ending up on my dean's desk, or higher up, or worse, on the Bishop's desk...hah. Not that that would be the end of the world, but I like the anonymity here and long have.

Oh, Moll contacted me on facebook. I never got to write about her in my ongoing Estella saga of long ago. I will; I deserve to talk about it. I politely declined her friend request but did give her an email. She was an 8 month girlfriend, while I was going through my divorce, and I have to admit a place I leaned emotionally and sexually. I deserved that too. The problem with Moll was that she was, and is, nuts. I mean, what is it called, attachment disorder. Sexually charged but incapable of emotional bonding or intimacy or even normal attitudes towards those things. I thought maybe because she was so young then, 22, 23, that that she was just immature. Based on what she wrote me, not much has changed. She has not responded since I sent a longer email telling her my experience with her and I, not a mean email, but an honest one; I don't think I will hear.

Oh, any honeymoon I might have had with NTW is over. His attitudes towards homosexuality are unsupportable, as is what he says about the larger scriptures. I still have not found an NT critic that matches my own feelings on the bible, or what I'm reaching for. Not Borg; he is close but goes too far (looking for symbolic meaning in the miracle accounts, and ruling out the miraculous all together). Not Wright who is a fantastic NT critic but something of a closet fundamentalist when he feels like it. Not Moo and his gang who really are fundamentalists as far as I can tell. Maybe LT Johnson comes closest. I am very interested in reading Barth on the bible. Eventually.

Well, enough for today. This has been a good post for me; I can feel my emotions, like heat, just below my skin. What a gift it is to access them so freely now, so easily. In spite of all my trauma in and out of therapy. Note, I only see women therapists now. But I'm sure I've talked about that.

burn the witch, the witch is dead,
burn the witch, burn the witch,
just bring me back her head...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Of Nerves and Men

Many people who are in my facebook know most of this story; but here, in blog, I can tell is at leisure and include more intimate feelings. This I like.

As I note in the post below my back pain has indeed flared up. Ironically, it was the week I saw a specialist 90 minutes from my house. That week I was on campus 3 days, and it was driving home that 3rd night that the pain really hit: like a fire below my skin, really, a burning, awful pain. With rest from pressure, either directly on my back or sitting, that eased and I was able to go back to work the next week though I missed my department meeting. What that visit with a genuine orthopaedist led to (as opposed to the utter idiot that I saw twice near my house...the ortho who just kept telling me: exercise, no matter what it is, it will get better if you exercise) what the genuine orth did was set me up for my second spinal injection. I had an epidural to one of the nerve roots three or four months ago and it did nothing. This shot, though, was different; the anasth doc (no idea how to spell that) injected two shots into one of my lumbar facets on the painful side. An simple idea, when one thinks about it. Diagnostic as well as potentially therapeutic.

I woke up Friday from the injections (no memories of any of it) completely pain free. That is very important because it tells my docs where the pain has been coming from all this time: an injure facet joint, wounded 2.5 years ago in that grappling match with that fool who hurt me.

But that is not all the news. The fact that I was pain free for a few hours, actually the pain gradually resurfaced until about two days later when I when the pain came slamming back, this is good to know. But now the longer acting meds, the steroids that are also injected, get their chance to work. Some people are pain free for several months. I am a bit disappointed here; it's been four full days and so far no long term relief. Yesterday the pain really flared up horribly as the anaesthetic was gone and no steroids were working...it was the very worst ever and it caught me off guard and I was panicked and not taking enough pain meds. Today is more like a normal bad day in the last two weeks. I took Monday off work and today missed a meeting but plan to drive down tomorrow.

So, the steroids may yet kick in; if they don't within a few more days though it is apparently unlikely. Luckily, the steroids are not the only option for long term management of my symptoms. There is a procedure called rhizotmomy where a doc goes in through a tube, I guess a kind of scope, and uses radio waves to cook the two nerves in the facet that cause the pain. That sounds pretty scary, but if this injection fails to help I would consider it unless they want to do another injection and see if different meds do the job. I hope so.

The rhiz, if it works, is supposed to work for a long time, maybe a year or more until the nerves grow back. Still, it's a newer procedure and spooks me.

I am very sad the steriods are not (yet) working from this recent injection. I think they should have by now, but I know it depends on the person, etc.

Well, at least we know what is broken. It makes me very sad I did not know this earlier. Sitting compresses the discs but also the facets, and I sat an awful lot the 18 mos. I was in second life. If I knew I had a structural injury I would never have done it. I don't know how much difference knowing would have made in the long term, but there it is. I think I would have really tried to strengthen the muscles that support my spine, etc., had I known the problem was on the spine itself.

Damn. I did have a few truly pain free hours. I could not sleep Fri and Sat night because all I could think about was working out: sparring, lifting, all the things I used to do. I wanted to run again, most of all kickbox. Now, I'm not sure. The orth did tell me cardio is helpful in healing back injuries, and I did walk 3 days straight this weekend, a brisk walk, up and down around my house.

I've also relaxed about taking the vicodin. Sorry but it doesn't seem that strong. It makes me tired like cold medicine, maybe a bit spacier, sure, but it helps with the pain. Not as much as I'd like with the amount I take, but it helps. It seems totally fine to use that to manage the flare ups like this one.

Last fall, walking 3 times a week and not sitting, I managed to get things feeling a lot better by December, and that includes all my driving. Then, I spent 30 hours in SL or so, crouched in front of my computer in January during break, and that was the beginning of the slide. fuck. that does piss me off.

Well, the docs seem optimistic, at least my primary doctor, now that the problem is isolated. I ordered one of those inversion tables cause I heard that helps with facet problems and it just seems like a great stretch anyway. who knows, it might help a lot. It shipped today from amazon.

And that is it right now, gang. A mixture of news good and not so good. At least it doesn't seem to be the disk causing pain. Those are harder to work with, I think, depending on what the problem is.

Right now, it hurts pretty good though. Burns. Is that bone on bone or muscle in spasm? It reminds me a bit of the pain of levator...I don't know. It's much better than yesterday though! That pain, coming off having a needle stuck in there and stuff injected, that was the worst. Sorry for the graphics....

Keeping up hope.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The 5

The back injury I have had for two and a half years has flared up and in a bad way. Now, driving hurts it. I live an hour from my job and this is suddenly a critical issue. As much as I enjoy being on campus more, going down 3 days a week for Senate, last week I came home after 3 days going back and forth and was in genuine pain. So much so I saw my doc the next day. I'm trying some new meds, celebrex and flexeril (just one a day) and have yet to touch the vicodin he gave me for times it really, really hurts.

On the plus side I saw a different orthopaedist, convinced the one up here by me is a complete idiot. I drove a long way, almost 90 minutes, but the guy was worth it. This Friday I get another injection into the spine (woot that shit) but in another spot, a different spot. And he's not done with me if that doesn't work; there are a number of other things to try. Thank God.

Oh, and if it really IS just a very oddly unhealed tendon injury from so long ago (which should have healed two years ago) he assured me...eventually, it will get better. He thinks that likely the spine or a disc or nerve is involved somehow, he did say more than once that he was mystified, but I could tell he was thinking-mystified and not tossing his hands up mystified. Good. I have hope.

We plan to move closer to my work, maybe right next to it! But not while my son has another year of high school to go. So for now, I am looking at all other options. Living near campus I wouldn't have to drive much at all; I could walk year round, etc. Walking helps.

And besides all this (and why did it suddenly start killing me when I sit in a car...it didn't do that before all this time) the stress of discernment continues. Rather, the fear. My current job is a good one; it provides flexibility and almost ultimate security. I'm big into security. When I went down for my first Senate meeting a couple weeks ago, well my second, I realized how much I loved being there, even if the things we were talking about were not critical things, really, parking problems and such. Just the intellectual community. Then, drinks after with a half dozen colleagues...it was great. So, I admit, was my lunch in between with a priest who runs a parish right by my college. Another place I am sharing and listening. But sometimes my job seems hard to leave; other times, it seems far from vital to who I am as a person.

As a practice for ministry, I want to do a book study at my parish this summer on a novel, maybe Till We Have Faces. Then, in the fall, perhaps a study in Mark where I can inject literary discussion (the synoptic problem, marcan priority, the marcan "sandwich," his use of irony, etc.) along with the usual kind of thing done at bible studies. And I am thinking: at a big or medium parish, a parish with larger numbers of educated people, that kind of thing might fly well. Will it even work at my parish? I think again of what one staff person at the seminary I visited said: "If you can learn to minister to all kinds of people, to just about anybody, you've learned the single most important thing." How much I agree with her. My little mountain parish fits that bill rather directly.

Underneath all, all of it...fear.

I did make an appt. to see a new therapist this Thursday. I had some depression a couple weeks back, home alone by myself, nothing harsh or major, and it lifted each evening when my family came home. It was only two days. But it reminded me that I am going through a lot with the discernment process, shaking and changing in my core, and it cannot hurt to have someone I can see every couple of weeks. I'm not thinking weekly, unless at the very first. She uses the same waiting room as Sharon, my other therapist (yes, transitional objects can be rooms) and I think it's okay that I drink that in. She seemed nice on the phone. The funny thing was she said Sharon used to text with her clients, take calls late, be more available outside the office time and this new person can't do that so much. I had to laugh because I never talked to Sharon outside the office. I think Joy's boundaries are okay as I am not in crisis. I have done my crisis days, rather years, and that is behind me, I believe, barring a major life loss or some such thing. And even then. I have changed who I am on the inside through years of therapy. No, I need maintenance. Anyway, it was a good move on my part to set something up so I can have someone "out there" when and if I need her.

***

And I end with this: the 5. The psalmist sounds self righteous in some of these lines, and he seems to have specific persecutors in mind, but what a poem. If this were all we had...it would almost be enough. This is the genuine outcry of a man in need; it is my prayer to my Father this morning. Fear, pain, these are humbling. And sometimes, the KJV simply dominates, whatever its shortcomings.

Love to all; please read this with me to the end:


Psalm 5

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.

Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray.

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.

The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.

Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.

But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.