It started with a dull ache. A few days of pain, that then culminated to one day of a downward spiral into paralysis. My body ground down to a halt, the nerve endings of my back and hip pulsing with a discomfort that made any posture hurt. Standing, sitting, horizontal- no positioning would allow me to get around the ow.
Two weeks later, with multiple bodywork and acupuncture sessions employed, I’m beginning to emerge from the haze, climbing (slowly) out of the pile of pillows, ice packs, tennis balls, and icy heat lotion. I think I can now safely shelve the bottle of ibuprofen.
It’s unnerving to have a pinched nerve. In that one is in a state of nervous panic about when/how the pain will end, feeling utterly out of control. Simultaneously, this lack of power (punctuated with chronic sting), breaks one down to a point of surrender, not unlike when your big brother pinned you down and made you cry “Uncle.”
The pinched nerve scenario seemed to play out mostly at night. Something about prolonged periods of being in one position made sleep possible for only an hour or two at a time. With a little help from the healing arts, I got to a place where I was able to function pretty well during the day, though my left side is still completely numb from hip to knee.
It’s fortunate that I have been able to move about during the day, as pre-incident, when I was still fit-as-a-fiddle, I had signed up for two volunteer shifts at the school concession stand, selling snacks in conjunction with Jeb’s fifth grade play. The production was a five-day run, requiring daily commutes to cast calls, entailing drive times of an hour and half, round-trip.
Once on location, I’d stash the tennis ball (which had been wedged between my low back and the car seat for added acupressure relief), and enter the theater space to see many-a-parent bustling about backstage with costumes and make-up.
I did not limp through the door, I just moved more deliberately. But there was nothing to let on that my thigh was not only novocain-numb, but that the skin was tender to the touch, as though crisply sunburnt. There was work to be done and brownies to sell. No time for woes. So I simply sorted the red vines from the cupcakes and made sure my front-row seat was saved, my camera, picture-ready.
After the final curtain call, we were left with white frosting smears on the counter tops and stage props to be disassembled. I had to tell a parent that I shouldn’t do any heavy lifting, mentioning this ‘pinched nerve thing’. It was embarrassing to have to bow out.
“I’d never know you were hurt. You look great. You seem fine,” she said.
I may have been swept up in the bustle of exchanging dollar bills for chocolate chip cookies, and, of course, I was a proud mother snapping shots of Jeb on stage. But the truth was, I felt far from normal. I was a moving body in a soup of tenderness, completely out of balance, fragile and unnerved.
And no one knew.
How often do we see one another, completely ignorant of the discomfort or unease that is residing just below the skin of our fellow humans? It may be a literal, physical ache, or just as uncomfortable, something emotional. Yet, we pass each other, smile and orbit, unaware.
Injury is humbling. And as the feeling in my leg slowly returns, I’m left with compassion for anyone in chronic pain. Whether of the soul or of the body, it is so hard to be hurting.
We are all going through something. Working out the kinks. Often, these processes are going on beneath the surface of our vessels, unseen.
Let’s remember this common, human thread we share. We all feel. Sometimes it hurts.
We can be gentle with ourselves. With each other.
Be mindful, that there is often more than what we see.