While I am not a risk to snap at anyone in my general vicinity, I am feeling just a bit grumpy today. This isn’t a sudden occurrence, as I have felt a disturbance in the force for the past several days; it just was mild enough to be brushed off. This morning though, as I walked from the change room to the weight room at the gym, my attempt to be positive and upbeat crashed hard. An immediate cause was evident, at least to me, with every step I took. I am quite familiar with the area of permanent numbness in my left foot and toes since herniating a disc, but I was startled by a new area of numbness in the same foot.
I have had numbness in my left foot since herniating my disc more than 8 months ago. For the first month or so, the numbness was quite extensive. For the past 7 months or so, the numbness in my left foot has been limited to my smallest three toes and the ball of my foot directly below those toes. Sometimes the numbness is painfully strong. Other times the numbness is simply numb, but it is always there. What hasn’t been there for 7 months is an odd, numb sensation on the sole of my foot near the heel! Hours later, the sensation is not as strong or noticeable, yet in that moment, I was dismayed.
After being off work for 7 months I am glad to be back, however, my body is not so excited. I was warned about that. Told to expect an increase in pain, that it would be completely normal. I thought I was mentally prepared for it, but reflection on today’s mood has me re-considering that position.
I worked two very short shifts last week and went home in a significant amount of pain. The back was the main culprit, increasing in pain over my time at work until I was reduced to limping once again. Once back home and laying down, the back pain subsided within an hour or so; however, the nerve pain in my legs would only increase. Despite having a couple of days off in-between shifts and since my last shift, I am feeling the effects of being back to work. There is an increased aching in my back. The nerve pains in my legs have most definitely increased compared to what I had been experiencing in the weeks prior to going back to work. It isn’t as bad as it was way back at the beginning. Not even as bad as a few months ago, And yet, it is worse than the best it has been recently, and this should be expected and normal.
But I wasn’t expecting new numbness in my foot. Is that normal? Is that to be expected? Perhaps this new numb sensation will be fleeting. Maybe it is just an anomaly. I don’t know and the not knowing is disturbing. Frustrating.
Frustration is really the name of the game here, I think, and the reason for my grumpiness. Despite knowing that pain would increase, I think I was still half hoping or expecting that returning to work would be okay. Mentally, I am so glad to be back to work. Physically, my body is not so happy. I think my body will eventually adapt, at least in some ways, I hope. Like the back. In my non-professional opinion, the back will eventually get used to being back to work. My back has held up okay the past few weeks, when I’ve been out and about for several hours at a time, so I thought it would be okay at work. Work, I suppose, is more physically demanding than simply standing and walking for hours. The nerve pain increase is exhausting. I had trouble falling asleep last night because of the pain. I nearly burst into tears at one point last night while in the middle of an activity, not from the pain but from the dark tunnel my thoughts randomly entered. When will this be over? When will I be back to normal? Will I even be normal again? My doctor’s mantra is that it takes time, and I get it. Healing takes time, but how much time is considered reasonable? At what point do you consider healing to have reached its maximum potential? Because quite honestly, I’m leaning towards the belief that I will never fully return to my pre-injury state. That numbness in my left foot and toes…I suspect that might be my new normal. The nerve pain in my legs…even if it seems to go away eventually, I suspect it will return now and then, depending on what I’m doing. When I think about the possibility of these symptoms being permanent, I feel my insides shrivel and twist into a hard, ugly lump.
I just want to get back to normal, to resume normal activities again, and to feel normal when I sit or stand or lie down. That’s not too much to ask for, right? I am tired of being asked how I’m doing, how it is to be back to work; I don’t always like to talk about myself or make a big deal out of my problems. I feel like my being back to work should mean something more than what it currently does with my graduated return. With how “well” I was feeling in the month leading up to my return to work, I think I expected an easier transition than I am having, as if that warning I had been given wouldn’t apply to me anymore. Obviously that’s not the way things work with this sort of injury and recovery.
As I went through my workout this morning, moping and frustrated without really understanding why, I managed to put 2 and 2 together to reach 4. Those mild irritations I’d been experiencing for the past few days were flowing out of my frustration with the state of my body after returning to work. The increase in pain was a disappointment and unwelcome. I had thought I was prepared for it, but I guess I still managed to downplay just how significant it could be. Will it get better with time? Maybe. Hopefully. To be honest, I just do not know.
Thankfully, or not, I had an appointment with my doctor this afternoon. If he were at all interested in how I am actually doing, I would have shared some of my thoughts with him; however, he’s not, so I don’t offer much beyond what is physically relevant. My doctor doesn’t seem all that interested in how I actually feel or the toll it is taking on my or my life. He also doesn’t seem overly interested in improving my situation, but maybe that’s just the way most family doctors approach (or don’t approach) such things as herniated discs. I have come to the conclusion that my doctor is merely the gate-keeper (yes, I am thinking of Ghostbusters!). The only way I can access various means and methods of treatment is through
the gate-keeper my doctor, but that’s about all that he is useful for. Another source of frustration to be sure! My doctor told me that I wouldn’t be damaged by returning to work. Good to know! He sent off yet another request for an appointment with the pain clinic. I’ve been waiting for an appointment since March. And I can come back in 2 weeks. Lucky me! I get to waste my time every two weeks, so he can get paid to see me and do nothing to actually help or improve my situation.
It’s been almost a week since I officially started back to work, and it has been a painful, uncomfortable week. Maybe my little shift tomorrow will be better? I have my doubts, but I’m hopeful that it will at least be slightly better. I’m desperately hoping to at least last the entire 4 hours this time!