An Update on Me or The One in Which I Write a Novel

First off- thank you all so much for your heartfelt and concerned emails about my back. It’s been a trying week, to say the least. I have felt all sorts of emotions- from very low and discouraged, to hopeful and thankful. This week has served to remind me how precious every day is. You realize that fact when you literally can’t move and enjoy any of it. I actually prayed that I might have the physical capability to do the laundry today. Now that’s sayin’ something. It’s interesting what kind of perspective on life you can get when not only can you not enjoy a fall drive through the canyon, but you can’t even enjoy doing the mundane tasks like loading the dishwasher.

I have been extremely grateful to my husband this week who has been such a trooper. He’s handled dinner every night, emptied the liter box, massaged my aching back, and many other tasks–all with no complaint. On top of it all, he’s been home sick himself a couple of days this week. Poor guy has been coughing and sniffling and sounding miserable for several days now. I think we are both ready to get back to normal.

During the course of this week I was surprised that several of you revealed that you’ve been suffering from a similar back pain and wanted to know about my progress. So if you’re interested, here’s a run down.

I first experienced this pain exactly a year ago at the end of September 2011. It came on gradually throughout the course of a day and then when I woke up the next morning, I was in excruciating pain. Andy had to lift me out of bed and I cried big crocodile tears. I took some time off work, visited the campus doctor and took pain meds and muscle relaxers. After about 5 days it went away as gradually as it came on. The pain was in the left side of my back, mid way up around my shoulder blade, close to my spine. I had no idea what brought it on—in hindsight, I think I have an idea. The muscle relaxers helped me sleep at night. I slept with an ergonomic pillow only to be told later that that was a big mistake, as it actually tweaked my neck in the wrong direction.

I consider myself a fairly active person. I’m strong and healthy and young. So when I first had this happen, I assumed I’d done something to injure my back and that it would heal, and that would be that. I didn’t think I could have this kind of severe pain when I took good care of my body. I was shocked when it happened again. 

The second time I experienced this was in June of 2012. It was bad enough this time that I did some research online about my symptoms and ended up making an appointment at a spine, sports and rehabilitation center. I really didn’t know what kind of doctor to go to or who could help me, but their website told me that they specialized in the kind of pain I thought I was experiencing.

My doctor did some physical tests on me and felt the muscles in my back. He noted that I probably had trigger points that periodically flared up. Trigger points are “classified as potential, active/latent and also as key/satellites and primary/secondary. There are a few more than 620 potential trigger points possible in human muscles.”  In my research I have found that this is in connection with myofascial pain syndrome. “Myofascial pain is associated with muscle tenderness that arises from trigger points.” This pain is not initially caused by trauma or injury and often there is no explanation for the pain. However, stress and repetitive motion that irritates these spots can make them much worse.

I was sent to physical therapy for a few weeks. I learned some at home stretched and exercises I could do which helped a little. The physical therapist told me that the muscles in my back were too stretched out. This can be caused by sitting at a computer or desk either in an awkward position or with my arms stretched out in front of me at the keyboard and my shoulders hunched. I often sat like this when working at the library digitizing collections. Also, my scanner was placed in a difficult to reach place and I’d stretch awkwardly over and over again when scanning large collections of photographs or other documents.

This last time, the pain has been on the left side of my back and has radiated tightness and pain throughout my upper back, shoulders, and neck. It is much, much worse than any of the two previous times. I’ve had some time to think about what might have caused the trigger points to flare up and then what may have aggravated them even further. 

The first time the trigger points in my back acted up was last fall. I was taking 20 credit hours, teaching dance, working full time, and getting ready to organize the annual book sale at the library, To say I was tense and stressed is an understatement. I was stretched very thin and very, very busy. Hence, back pain appeared which was made worse by the repetitive motion of lifting hundreds of boxes of books for the sale.

The second time the trigger points acted up was in June. My job environment had become unbearable, my boss was going out of town and everything rested on me- in a time when I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing in the first place. I was stressing myself out with questions of where to go next and what to do. I took full charge of Gift in Kind donations at the library and single handedly picked up over 20 donations in a 4 week period, amounting to over 1000 boxes of books. I picked these books up at people’s homes all over northern Utah, transported them by van and then hauled them in to the library where I sorted, counted and moved them all again to a holding room. As you can see, all this is a major reason why I no longer work there. 

This last flare up has come on in a time when I’m a little worried about the lack of decent jobs out there, the decision to take on more debt to get my master’s degree–only to possibly not be able to find a good job afterward, and just other random little things. (I’m a chronic worry wart, what can I say?) But mostly, I think it’s more physical this time. Last Monday I tried a new Pilates class. I’ve complained on here before about people advertising their class as mat Pilates, only to go and find out that it’s nothing more than an aerobics class with very little classical Pilates involved. That’s what this class turned out to be. But I was there- I’d paid my money, so I stuck with it. We did some work that required contracting those sensitive back muscles over and over- way too much. At the time, I didn’t know this would have a major effect on me. I should have stopped, I know. But hindsight is 20/20. Then I taught three hours of dance to hyperactive kids on Thursday night and came home utterly exhausted. It’s only the third week of dance this year and I’ve had the whole summer off- my body wasn’t ready for toe touches and c-jumps. But I’m the teacher and I teach beginners who have absolutely no idea how to do anything without seeing a demonstration- I can’t fake it.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday morning and he gave me some injections to numb the pain. It didn’t help me at all. I still may try acupuncture or dry needle injections as I’ve read that it can help. I would get the injections again just to see if they really don’t help me. He’s ordered an MRI for me as well. He gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers which haven’t dulled the pain either. It just seems that this time around, it’s too severe and the only thing to do is to persist with ice packs, heating pads, soaks in the hot tub, massages from Andy, and the exercises my physical therapist taught me and wait it out. I think these things help to relax me rather than dull the pain. When I’m relaxed I can better endure the pain. When you have this much pain, you end up getting even more tense, which just makes it worse.

In the future I will be much more selective about the Pilates classes I attend. I’ve said before that they are a God send- but only when they’re taught correctly. I need traditional mat Pilates in a serene and quiet environment. Pilates focuses on core and spine strength- it’s very beneficial to me. Also, I’ll rely on my assistant teacher at dance more. Last night she was able to lead the warmups and demonstrate a lot of the skills we were working on so I could let my body rest. She’s a wonderful teacher and I’m going to allow her to step in where I can’t. It’s hard though, to curb my enthusiasm for helping the kids in class. I often get excited and carried away in class just trying to help the kids have a good experience. I’ll have to reevaluate my teaching methods so I can demonstrate enthusiasm but tone it down too.

Also, I’m a naturally tense person. I’m not sure why this is. For instance, I will be sitting at dinner and realize that I’ve got my shoulders tightened up and I will have to remind myself to physically relax them. I’m not sure why I do this. Stress is an interesting problem for me too. I think of stress more in the form of having an extremely overactive mind- it’s always going, thinking, analyzing, wondering, worrying—active. My mind is never at rest. So when I add more to that pot then I liken it to a person being ‘stressed.’ I’m not frantic or anything- there’s just a lot going on up there and sometimes my brain gets overloaded with mental lists, ideas, plans, etc.

The problem is, I don’t often know when my ‘stress’ level is at the point that it might cause a back flare up. This is because I’ve done a very good job my whole life of refusing to recognize when there’s too much going on up in my head. (I plan on giving meditation a try in the hopes that it will quiet my mind for a little bit each day.) I am excellent at ignoring it, pretending I’m fine, and pushing right through- sometimes to the point of really wearing myself down. I usually have to be talked out of taking more on, even though I know I’m already doing too much. Both Andy and my mom have become very good at recognizing when I’m at my limit and telling me so. I need this at times. For example, I have the opportunity to take on one more dance class each week. I know I shouldn’t, but I can so my brain is telling me I should just do it. These are the times when I remind myself that just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.

So the next few months for me are going to be about trying a few different things- muscle relaxation techniques including some deep tissue massages from a specialist, I’ll be getting an MRI just to rule out something more serious, perhaps morning meditation is in order, more self awareness and being okay with not doing everything, and also some extremely light Pilates and weight training to strengthen the weak parts of my back. I’ll be working on getting to a more balanced state in both mind and body.

So that’s where I’m at right now. I’m gradually regaining my mobility and my pain is lessening just a little each day. I am hopeful that, while these active trigger points will never go away, I will be able to manage them with a little daily diligence. I’m good at diligence :)

Here’s some sources that helped me if you want more information:

Trigger Point Therapy
Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Because I’m feeling a little lovey dovey…..

I thought I’d share with you this great Love Story in stop motion by Carlos Lascano. It’s been around for a few years so you might have already seen it, but I still thought it was worth sharing. There’s something about the cold weather that’s sweeping in that makes me feel like cuddling up with my honey a little more than usual.

Enjoy your weekend my friends!!

xoxo-Kimberly

PS- Like the Ooh! Piece of Candy! Facebook page over there in the side bar to stay in the loop and participate in some fun little chats with yours truly!!

oh hi!

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On Mondays and Wednesdays I have a 45 minute break between two of my classes. Perfect for catching up on my reading. Typically I have about 5 books per class to read each semester. This semester, however, I have twice that much due to my literature class. I feel like I’m reading every single second that I can throughout the day. And can I tell you?? I’m really enjoying it.

I should have taken 20 credit hours every semester because it does something to me. It lights this amazing fire of ambition under my butt. I realize that in order to stay alive, I have to stay ahead- not just on top of everything. Something about that sense of urgency really pushes me to work hard.

In truth, I’m really having fun with all these classes. I’m enjoying the reading and I’m enjoying the work. I can’t think of a better way to make my exit from the University.

On top of that, married life is so awesome. It really, really is. I think we’re really doing well in figuring things out, making decisions together and talking to each other. It’s so nice to have an equal partner in my husband and Andy is a pretty damn great husband.  I find that I love him more and more every day, if that’s even possible.

Anyway, enough rambling. I should have been reading about the Kiev Empire but instead it’s now time to head to History of Modern Art. (Personally ancient art is cooler but modern art is a good class too.)

xoxo-Kimberly

on frustrations

I’m supposed to be preparing for a final that I have to take today. I came up on campus because I thought it would help me get in the academic mode. This past month has been hard and I’m not really sure why. I feel like I have a lot going on, but I really don’t. It’s not much more than what is normally going on. I feel overwhelmed but calm at the same time. Still, I just don’t want to face anything that I need to right now. I have decisions that need to be made and I don’t feel like making them. I have projects that need to be done and I don’t feel like doing them. And then there’s the studying. I really don’t feel like doing that.

Honestly, this entire semester has been rough. It’s like my mind has just decided to check out. I can’t retain information worth crap. I stare at my notes and nothing sticks. It’s been a frustrating semester to say the least and my grades are suffering for it. Because I can’t seem to perform at my normal academic level for the past three months, I check out completely. I’ve gone through this cycle of not caring, to stressing out and trying to cram, to feeling like a total failure because I can’t pull it together. I’ve faced lack of motivation before, but this just seems like something so much worse.

And now here I am, smack dab in the middle of finals week. I have my History of Africa final today. I have to take it sometime before 7 pm tonight. I feel just a little bit angry because I was excited to take this class. Yet, because of my inability to get any of the information I’ve been learning to stick, I feel as though the class has been a waste of time. As I sit here staring at my pages of notes, names, dates, and terms, I’m angry. Because memorizing this stuff has never been hard for me. Yet, I can’t recall a single thing from this entire semester. And I keep thinking, what’s wrong with me? Am I just completely distracted by  life and the upcoming months and events that I’m doing this to myself?

I don’t know. Because even when I do sit down with a feeling of determination and excitement to read and study and comprehend, those skills just won’t come. Even reading for pleasure and learning for pleasure, the last few months has been impossible for me. So here I sit becoming more and more frustrated. Knowing, that I have to at least pull a 90 on this exam.

“I miss you.”

“I’m right here.”

“I know. But even when we’re together, we’re not together.”

That’s how it’s been. Mentally we’re each in our own little worlds, just trying to get through with stupid school. It’s very frustrating and I’m tired of it. We’re coming up on what should be the most exciting time in our lives and we can’t even enjoy the ride. That also makes me angry.

Anyway, I can’t really sit here and blog all day-even though I wish I could. I really need to focus right now. It’s just that focusing is the last thing my mind wants to do. If only it would cooperate just for today. I just have to take this test and then maybe I can breath a little…and enjoy pizza with my grandparents on Saturday. Mmmmm…..pizza. No! Think Africa, Brain! Please!

A fun Saturday night- Kalai

Last night Andy and I went to see Kalai in concert at the U. Andy saw him several years ago and told me about him, so I went and got us tickets. The concert was so great and we had so much fun just enjoying the night together, listening to great music. Perfect.

Sadly though, we forgot our camera, so no pictures. But here’s a couple of videos I found on Youtube of my favorite songs that he performed last night:

Anyway, if you ever get the opportunity to go to a Kalai show, don’t pass it up. He’s hilarious and has amazing, amazing talent.

xoxo-Kimberly

The game of life

Last night Andy and I sat on the couch together playing Angry Birds. As we sat there, we got into a rhythm of passing the controller back and forth- each taking a turn to play.While we played, we would give each other guidance and help each other.  And we would discuss…. “Do you think I should aim right there?” etc.

If I wasted all my birds before killing all the pigs, then Andy would take the controller next and give that level another try. It was always a celebration, with cheers for each other, no matter who completed the level. There was no competition between us- only partnership.

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That hour of time meant so much to me, because it was more than just playing Angry Birds. It was working together for a common goal and having fun while we did it. It was being each others cheerleader and saying, “Don’t worry about it,” when someone messed up a shot. It was being silly together and enjoying each others company.

Andy never criticized me when I screwed the level up. He always cheered when I hit something dead on. He got up to take care of the ‘kids’ and let Henry out when I was playing so I didn’t have to be interrupted.

It made me realize that I’ve picked the perfect partner to have by my side in this crazy game of life.

More thoughts on relationships

When C and I were married, I knew I wasn’t getting what I needed out of the marriage, emotionally. I always felt deprived or starved for that one thing that was important to me. It doesn’t really matter what that one thing was, what matters is that it was something that was important to me because it made me feel loved, wanted, and secure in the marriage and I wasn’t getting it. So, of course, I constantly felt unloved, unwanted and insecure. This wasn’t a physical need, it was an emotional need. Everyone has emotional needs when it comes to their relationships with others. Some people may need gifts, others constant verbal affirmation, and others, quality time and attention. If you aren’t getting it, then you won’t feel satisfied that you are with the right person.

I found that when I asked C for what I needed to feel happy in the marriage, that even though he could easily find a way to give it to me, he wasn’t receptive. He wasn’t receptive because he didn’t understand my need and thought it was unimportant. He felt that way because it wasn’t his need- he had different relationship needs than I did.

For a long time, I beat myself up about it. I felt that it was wrong of me to want certain things from a relationship and that I didn’t have any right to ask my partner to give those emotional needs to me. I felt selfish for even thinking that I deserved to have what I needed out of the marriage to feel loved. So I spent a lot of time, trying to shut that need down and stop myself from wanting it. I stopped asking for it and instead retreated inside myself and dealt alone with the feelings of being unloved and unwanted. My mind was telling me that my husband loved me but without that important emotional need, I couldn’t fully believe that.

At first, I reasoned that maybe if I was giving C what he wanted out of a relationship, then he would return the favor. So I asked him what he felt was important and what he really wanted from me as his partner. Luckily he was good at verbalizing what was important to him. His requests were easily fulfilled and I went about doing them with no complaint. The only problem was, the favor wasn’t returned. So eventually, I gave up trying to give him what he needed. I began to feel resentful towards him. I turned away from him and as a result he turned away from me. We both slowly retreated away from each other and away from the relationship, until there wasn’t much left between us.

I then realized something, it wasn’t selfish of either of us to have relationship needs and ask for them from each other. It was a matter of respectful give and take in the marriage. The selfish part came when each of us refused to listen to each other and contribute to the marriage in the way that the other person needed.

So when I started dating again, I was determined that I would not get into a serious relationship with someone again unless 1. They could fulfill my relationship needs and 2. I could fulfill theirs. It’s not selfish to want something from a relationship and ask for it. If the other person can’t or won’t give it to you and it’s that important to you in feeling happy in the relationship, then they are not a good match for you. Plain and simple. So that is why I say that when you’re choosing your mate, you should be selfish. You deserve to have everything that you need to feel loved, satisfied, happy, and secure in your relationship.

One final thought on the subject. If you’re not getting what you need from a relationship and you haven’t communicated that need with your significant other, then you have no one to blame but yourself. It’s important to be open with each other. And on the other side, it’s just as important to be receptive to your partner when they try to communicate their needs to you. You should never dismiss them or make them feel like they are being selfish for asking, just because their need is not important to you personally. If that person is important to you, then their needs should also be important.

Chances are, you’ll end up with someone who has very different needs than you do. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good match, it just means that you both need to be receptive, understanding and as accommodating of each other as possible. Communication and compromise is vital to a relationship, but it’s never okay to settle for less than what you really want out of the relationship or marriage. If you do that, you won’t be doing yourself or your partner any favors.

Okay, just some thoughts I’ve had on my mind. I’m not saying I’ve figured everything out or that I’m perfect, but I’m trying. I make mistakes, but I try to learn from them. So that’s it. I’ll get off my soap box now. Thanks for reading.