Hibernation Envy

I don’t think I have ever wanted to be a bear as much as I do these days. Hibernation sounds terribly appealing. I would like nothing more than to retreat to my bedroom, close the blinds and shut off the light, snuggle beneath layers of quilts, and just sleep for days, weeks, months. My reality is that I cannot even sleep soundly for more than an hour or two. While I can easily be in bed for 8, 9, or even 10 hours a night, waking up is like slogging through quicksand. Once out of bed, I stumble around like a zombie and yawn as if I haven’t slept for a year (which isn’t too far from the truth).

Martha Stewart I am not, but I am generally organized and focused on routines. While I was on medical leave, I appreciated the vast openness of my weekly schedule. Other than going to the gym three times a week and various medical appointments, my days were blank slates. I was usually in bed early and struggling out of bed slightly later than was my norm before the injury. Since returning to work, my weekly schedule is a lot fuller. There are fewer medical appointments, but I still go to the gym three times a week and I am almost back to full-time hours at work. Some weeks present a challenge for me in determining when I will go to the gym, because my work schedule in combination with how my body feels doesn’t always fit into my preferred training routine. This week saw me choosing to train Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, which I knew would be physically tough but the lesser of two evils. Monday was out for training, because I worked from 9 to 5:30. With how difficult it is to get out of bed in the mornings, there was no way that I could get myself to the gym to train before work. And I also knew that my body would be hurting too much to train effectively after work. This weighing of options has been a weekly necessity since returning to work. It’s about making decisions that allow me to do what needs to be done while extending grace to my continued healing.

Today is my last day of work for the week, and it is a closing shift. Today was also the only day of the week in which I didn’t have to wake up to an alarm and force myself to get moving to get to work, the gym, or an appointment. It was 8:13 when I finally cracked an eyelid to look at the clock. It was 8:30 when I finally decided I should get out of bed. As usual, I tossed and turned and was awake frequently through the night, but my deepest sleep periods tend to be the last hour or two before waking. It is almost 10 AM now and I’m still not dressed. My tired eyes are leaking, not because I’m crying or sad…it’s just something they tend to do first thing in the morning or late at night. I need to go wash my face and get dressed, get ready for the long day ahead, but I also don’t want to move. My legs hurt. My skeleton hurts. My head hurts. I am still exhausted, and fog has invaded my brain. Bending at work is the one thing that I am still supposed to do my best to keep at a minimum, because the back pain increases if I do too much bending. And I do try to not overdo the bending but I don’t avoid it entirely. However, the past three work days have seen me do an excessive amount of bending. Mostly out of necessity. But my body feels it. I just need to get through today. Tomorrow is the chiropractor and the start of my long weekend!

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There’s Only One Captain America

Today has been, and still is, an uncomfortable and painful day. I am so thankful to be on days off right now, because I have also been incredibly tired. Earlier this week, Wednesday maybe, I attempted an afternoon nap, which was only moderately successful for at most ten minutes. This morning I laid down for a nap around 11:00 and slept, actually slept for an hour! I do not nap under normal circumstances, and, even during the worst days of this injury when night time sleep was minimal, I seldom had naps during the day. But I have felt exhausted a lot lately, especially the past two weeks as my schedule has been full. Yesterday was the final of five consecutive work days, which was a first for me since returning to work. Although the shifts were still short, they took a toll, especially with all of the appointments, later nights and early mornings.

I was unable to sleep in this morning, since I had an 8:30 appointment at the pain clinic for my caudal epidural steroid injection. That’s a mouthful! The appointment went well, I guess, although I don’t have anything against which to compare it. The pain doctor taking care of me is a female, but she has only done this procedure once or twice before, which meant a more experienced doctor (a male) was present to instruct and supervise. Baring my derriere is not something I am particularly comfortable doing; however, when one is heavily involved with medical care, you kind of get used to being uncomfortable. As I laid on face-down on the table, I got to listen to the conversation between new and experienced doctors.

“I know everyone has their own solution mix. What do you like to use?”

“With a spinal injection we want to be extra careful. Swab before the freezing. Swab again after. Use the ultrasound to guide the needle, but don’t let the gel get on the injection site.”

“Down a little more. No. Stop!”

The conversation was both interesting and disturbing. It was bad enough that I had been forewarned of the doctor’s inexperience with the procedure, but I really didn’t need the frequent verbal reminders and had to focus on making myself relax. I’m not afraid of needles and I couldn’t see the actual needle, but this wasn’t quite the same as withdrawing blood or getting a tetanus shot. I relaxed as best I could, and then the actual injection took place and I felt an uncomfortable pressure right above my tailbone. While it seemed to last a long time, it really didn’t. All told, from the moment I was ushered into the treatment room until I walked back out was only about fifteen minutes. I was given a pain diary of sorts to use until my follow up appointment in a month or two. My youngest son had the day off and drove me to and from my appointment, as it was mandatory to be driven home following treatment. And I’ve been taking it easy at home ever since.

Taking it easy, yes, but uncomfortable and hurting. My very low back area has been feeling stiff and sore all day, which I am assuming is from the actual injection. I am really hoping that this discomfort dissipates by morning, because it does not feel pleasant at all. So far there has been no change in the ever-present pains and symptoms in my legs, although it can apparently take several days before seeing results. The doctor also reiterated that this injection will not do anything for the permanent numbness in my left foot. That’s mildly disappointing, but I suppose I’d rather get rid of the actual pain. The numbness is a nuisance, for sure, but I can probably also live with it more easily.

As if the “normal” pains and the injection pain aren’t enough, I am also dealing with post-chiro pains today! Well, the more appropriate name for it is DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness, but my chiropractor instigated this situation.

I had a chiro appointment yesterday morning and was pleasantly surprised when he said he was going to put me through some exercises. Now this wasn’t anything too far out of the norm for my chiropractor, but this was the first time he has had me do these specific exercises since herniating my disc. The idea was to see what could be added to my training program and what was still not safe. He tested me on Bulgarian split squats, single leg deadlifts, step ups, rack pulls, and banded pull-throughs. The only thing that was scratched off the list were the pull-throughs, because they made the tingling in my feet worse. Everything else was given a green light, and I am super excited about seeing these added to my training program soon. Of course, I need to be careful and mindful of positioning and breathing and other important considerations for someone coming off of a back injury, but this feels like progress. My chiro even let me work up to 95 pounds on the rack pulls! He might have made a comment about that being a decently heavy weight, which is likely true for someone who hasn’t picked up a bar for anything remotely resembling a deadlift in more than nine months, but it really is a weight where I would begin my deadlift warm-ups. Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile what I used to be capable of with where I am at now, and this is why I have DOMS today!

It isn’t that my chiropractor pushed me too hard or with heavy weights; it’s simply that those leg muscles have not be used in such a way for a very long time. At one point when I complained about the burning and gelatinous nature of my leg muscles, my chiropractor reminded me that this was what I wanted. So true! I do. Not the DOMS really, but I do want to get back to lifting heavy things. This isn’t going to happen overnight. My coach pointed out that he would incorporate these new exercises into my programming slowly. And I appreciate that, too. Despite the DOMS, it would be easy in my excitement to jump in headfirst and worry about the depth of the water after the fact, especially if today’s injection brings about the positive pain relief we’re hoping for.

Today would normally have seen me at the gym, but part of the injection protocol was to avoid rigorous activity for 24 hours. So, I am heading to the gym first thing tomorrow morning, where the goal is to hit yet another post-herniated disc, legs up, flat back, close grip bench press PR. Thankfully, tomorrow’s training is upper body focused, which means I don’t have to worry too much about the DOMS impacting my workout.

And unfortunately, there is no such thing as the Captain Rogers special serum, so I won’t wake up looking like Captain America. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing, even if the enhanced speed, strength, and healing factors would be appreciated!

Oh Monday!

Today I am tired and slightly cranky since getting home from work two hours ago. When my husband asked how my work day was and I said it felt long, he asked if it had been good long or bad long.

“Is a long work day ever good?” I asked.

He seemed to think that it could be, while I am not convinced, although I am probably not in the appropriate frame of mind to be agreeable in this moment.

Let me clarify. My work day was not bad. It is simply that my little shift felt very long, and my body hurts and aches and I am tired. Having worked until dinner, I am also a little miffed that the bare minimum was done in getting “dinner” made. Chicken was cooked and nothing else. I had eaten some leftovers for lunch and wasn’t exactly thrilled about having more of them for dinner to round out the chicken. I also wasn’t wanting to do anything to address the deficiency, because I was hurting and tired and needing to get off my feet. So tortilla chips and salsa rounded out my meal, more or less…and a glass of wine.

Today was work day number two out of five in a row. This is the first time I will work five consecutive days since last November. In fact, I’ve only had three consecutive work days once in the month I have been back to work from my medical leave. I think I can manage these five days in a row, because they are all short shifts. I am just hoping that my body will handle it all as well I hope it can. Yesterday was a decent shift for my body, but I’m feeling like more of a toll was taken today. Since I am not used to working several days in a row, I am not certain if today feels harder because of that or just the nature of today’s shift. Some tasks definitely have the potential to cause my back to hurt more by the end of a shift, like doing several loads of dishes or carrying in the patio furniture, but both of those tasks are ones that I try to avoid or limit as much as possible. Maybe everything is just catching up and compounding…the busy week last week, the extensive sitting as I volunteered at the powerlifting competition, and now work and another busy week.

Three more work days left in the week! I can do it. I can make it. I think I can. I know I can. I am holding out for Friday, when I have my appointment for a caudal epidural steroid injection at the pain clinic. I’ve been told that it won’t do anything for the permanent numbness in my foot, but maybe, just maybe it will help with the constant pains in my legs.

The Wall

For as long as I have been on medical leave from work and barring conflicts with medical appointments, my habit has been to do my work outs first thing in the morning. In the handful of years that I have been training, my regular schedule has seen me working out as consistently as possible through the inevitable changes in my work and life schedules. I have never grown accustomed to training only at one time of day and would usually have both morning and late afternoon training times each week. Since being off work for an extended period, my schedule has only been hampered by the ongoing medical appointments and my own mental or physical state. With the odd exception, I have been training in the mornings since being on leave.

Over these past months, my definition of “first thing in the morning” has generally seen me arrive at the gym between 8:00 and 9:30. These days I seem to be waking up by at least 6:00, but I am really not mentally prepared to hit the gym before 8. A few months ago, I had trouble dragging myself out of bed at 8:00. I am not certain which scenario I like better. I am generally more of a night owl than an early bird; however, my work schedule over the years has enabled (or forced) me to adapt to being functional by 5:00 AM. But these months of pain, lack of sleep, and medication have left me dragging my butt around as much as I am wide awake. I go to the gym in the morning, because I know I need some sort of routine and because morning is still better than later in the day when I will have definitely crashed.

Over the past few days, or has it been almost a week already now, I have begun to feel more hopeful that positive things are happening in my body. My chiropractor seems to have nailed down a plan of attack that is making a difference in how I’ve been feeling these recent days. There is still burning, electric current-like pains down the backs of my legs from buttocks to calves. There is still numbness in my left foot and small toes. The back still feels achy at times. However, I am now actually experiencing moments without tingling in my feet, which is a huge thing! My doctor gave me the okay to stop taking my medications, since I have never felt that they were actually helping. I might still have a ways to go before I am normal, at least it seems like we’re finally making progress.

At the gym this morning, I started off my training program with some bench press. It wasn’t a maximal weight, and the rep range wasn’t crazy. Aside from some shoulder issues which have been lingering for a while now, my bench press felt good today. I’ve been doing seated machine rows for quite a while now, at least when it doesn’t bother my back, and those felt decent this morning as well. The remaining workout was a struggle, even though I’ve been doing the same exercises for weeks and had been having solid results recently. The shoulder issues affected the band pull-aparts, so that I had to return to a thinner band than what I used last week and spread the total reps out a bit more evenly. Dumbbell curls and prone incline dumbbell shrugs both sucked. I hit the wall!

I am used to training “tired” these past seven months. It isn’t uncommon for me to yawn frequently through my workout, despite having a cup of coffee prior to heading out to the gym. But hitting the wall this morning was something different entirely. It wasn’t merely a case of being physically or mentally tired; I literally had nothing in me. I managed to get a few reps done each set, but I was well short of what was called for. I don’t like leaving reps on the table, but I also haven’t figured out how to magically make reps appear out of nowhere! I might be able to grind out a tough rep once in a while, but when the first rep of the first set is almost too much, there’s something else going on.

So what’s going on? I don’t know. Probably nothing! Apparently it can take quite some time to flush out the medications I’ve been on, which can account for the usual fatigue I feel all of the time. I haven’t been sleeping well for the past couple of nights, in part because of the shoulder issue and one aspect of the new treatment focus. The past week or so has also been kind of busy for me, at least in terms of what I am physically used to. Maybe all of those factor in and maybe none of them do. Who knows,  and does it matter?

Weekend Warrior

Between yesterday and today, I am completely exhausted and wiped out. And sore. It’s been a busy week for me, although my current state means an appointment or outing every day of the week is busy. My energy comes in little bursts and evaporates just as quickly. I can actually accomplish a fair bit in the course of a day, but I require frequent periods of rest. These last two days of the week have pushed my body and endurance further than they’ve been pushed since my injury.

My youngest son moved out yesterday. Whether this is a short-term or long-term thing remains to be seen, but he is excited to be out on his own for a while. Since everyone else was working, I was asked to help him move most of his stuff after I was finished at the gym. So, I worked out at the gym, bench pressing the heaviest weight I’ve pressed in 7 months and worked my arms and upper back. Then I came home to help load a night stand, a fan, and numerous boxes into my car and my son’s. Most of the boxes were a manageable size and light enough being filled with clothing and such. My son was mindful of my back and handled anything too big, heavy or awkward. Still, there was an awful lot of squatting down, safely lifting, carrying, walking down stairs, loading, and walking upstairs again. Of course, the entire process was repeated once we arrived at his apartment. My “work” day wasn’t done yet! Then I had to take him to Superstore to buy some groceries.

My back held up pretty well until we got to the grocery store, and then it began to hurt and ache. The good news, at least in my opinion, is that the back soreness was broader than normal. It wasn’t just in my low back, which leads me to believe that part of the pain was simply from the excessive physical activity and being on my feet for roughly 6 hours straight. Once I was finally finished all of the necessary activity and was able to do some rehab exercises and lie down, the back pain settled down significantly. The low back felt cranky, but I think that was to be expected. The pains in my legs were still present and accounted for, but they were no worse than usual. And I was physically wiped out. I was so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I have barely even given thought to the fact that my baby boy has left the nest.

Today’s busyness revolved around my daughter, as she graduated from college with an Associate Degree in Arts. She needed to be at the college by 9:30 this morning, and we were not able to leave until about 12:45. I was happy to watch my daughter’s convocation, but my body was in pain from all of the sitting. Even standing or walking was bothersome. I could feel tightness in my left foot and calf, as I tried to alleviate the tingling and numbness in my legs. The ceremony was outside. In the sun. It was quite warm. I’m sure the sun and heat only exacerbated the fatigue I feel throughout the day, and I am still too wiped out to dwell on the fact my daughter will be moving out in September to attend Columbia Bible College.

By the time we got home this afternoon, I was desperate to lie down and rest. Due to the length of the ceremonies, we ate a very late lunch and I was feeling bloated and gross, hot and tired, limping and hurting.  I wish I could nap, but I can’t. I reclined in my zero-gravity chair, impersonating a slug. The nice thing about lying down is that it takes away the strain and stress in the back; it’s hard work holding everything upright and together! The not so nice thing about lying down is the leg symptoms: burning, tingling, numbness, electric currents of pain from buttocks to calves. Late this afternoon as I laid down, the extra back aches disappeared, leaving only the low back aches and discomfort from all of the activity and sitting. Once I no longer felt quite so gross, I got onto the floor to go through my rehab exercise routine, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to do them.

I am still wiped out. I will miss my boy. I am proud of my girl, and I don’t need to think about September yet, even if she’s been thinking of it for a year! Tomorrow, I think, will be a quieter, slower-paced day, and that is just fine by me.

Enter Sandman?

It is two o’clock on this Saturday afternoon, and I desperately would like to have a nap. Sleeping during the day is not something I normally do. I might try to nap, but it seldom works for me. I wonder if I’d be able to nap if I wasn’t in pain while lying down, but then again, if I wasn’t in pain I would probably sleep better at night, wouldn’t need medication that makes me drowsy, and wouldn’t feel exhausted all day long! I’m stuck in a vicious cycle.

My ability to maintain some semblance of sleep for as long as possible has been fading. It’s like the earlier sunrises is connected to my sleep patterns. Despite a bedroom that is very dark with the blinds tightly closed and never sees the morning sun, I have been unable to hold onto sleep beyond six most mornings. Some mornings are earlier. If I am extremely lucky, 6:30 or 7:00 would be “sleeping in.”

I was awake and out of bed by six this morning. Not even a half-hour later, I began to notice a disturbance in my vision which was getting worse by the second. Ocular migraine with aura. I’ve had them a handful of times over the past four years. The visual disturbance part doesn’t last very long; in fact, my vision was back to normal within five minutes. It’s the headache after which is most bothersome. Almost eight hours later and half of my head is still hurting. The headache is moderate enough to be a nuisance but not debilitating.

Despite the headache, I did get out for a few hours with my husband this morning. He had a few little work-related errands, so I tagged along for the ride and the neighbourhood yard sale being held at one of his destinations and we finished off with a stop at Costco. Sitting in the car was painful. Walking through the small neighbourhood was tolerable but uncomfortable. By the time we got back home, I was wiped out and done in. My feet are burning and tingling with shots of pain. Pain is running down both legs from buttocks to ankles: burning, throbbing, crackling live wires.  Muscles are twinging and moving in my calves, hamstrings, and feet. Half of my head feels hazy, pained, and heavy. Closing my eyes for ten or fifteen minutes would be wonderful, I think, and yet, how could I possibly nap through all this pain?

 

Three!

This is how my mind works…

Several days ago already, I was mentally planning and arranging my time between then and my competition, because time seems to be something I don’t have a lot of right now. Today is day 6 of 7 consecutive work days. Two open shifts. Three closing shifts. Today is 10:30-6:30. Tomorrow is another open shift. I knew that I would need to go to the gym on Monday and Wednesday. Monday wouldn’t be a problem, but Wednesday wasn’t looking appealing with a mid shift sandwiched between a close and an open. I like sleep. I need sleep. I am usually drained by the end of my work week, and I am feeling that way already but I’ve got two shifts to get through yet. When would I be able to get to the gym on Wednesday?

Obviously I had two choices: before work or after work. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t thrilled about either choice. Before work would mean sacrificing some sleep after a late night. Going after work would have me scrambling to train, eat, and unwind before getting myself to bed early enough to get enough sleep prior to waking up at 4:45. As unappealing as my choices were, I knew that I could make each of them work. I could get up early and go. I could survive an open shift on less sleep. I can do all of that and more, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’m in the process of water loading, which means drinking a ton of water and making frequent trips to the bathroom. It feels like I have so much to get done before the competition and no time to do any of it before I finish work early tomorrow afternoon. Excuse my little whiny moment!

In my brain I like to look at all the angles and options and then come up with a plan. My plan usually also has options in case I hit a snag along the way. So, I decided that it would be better to potentially lose a bit of sleep last night in order to get to the gym early this morning. I can function on less sleep than I get, but I definitely do not like having my time crunched together at the end of the night, trying to fit everything into a tight space. I was awake at 7:10 this morning and at the gym ready to train at 8:00. Today’s training was super easy, because I am 3 days from competition. I performed all three lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlifts. At 50% for 3 single reps. Twenty minutes later I was finished without even breaking a sweat. Everything moved well and felt good.

Shortly I will be on my way to work. Hopefully it will be a day that seems to pass quickly, because I definitely feel exhausted and it wasn’t from the gym. But at least now I only need to worry about eating, drinking more water, and unwinding in the 2 hours between finishing work and crawling into bed!