Imperfect Collapse

As in the total collapse of a level in my lumbar spine. The area where most of our movements are generated and that acts as our precious shock absorption system. The area where we need the thickest disc to be. The area that, when disrupted, carves out a pain path fully down legs, and causes numb feet and the inability to walk.

I’ve written about my spine injury journey before, and it’s not even close to being over. The pain, loss of the life I had and want back, the impact on the family, the uncertainty, and fear have all had a profoundly negative impact on my mental health. I’ve shared some insight into these hardships along the way, but I still struggle to properly articulate what this has been like–it’s a very lonely place. Since words are sometimes not enough, I’ve posted some MRIs that can at least speak to the physical side of this story–here they are.

Essentially, what happened is I had a herniated spinal disc that ruptured and crushed my nerve. I couldn’t walk; the pain was beyond anything I can describe, so I won’t attempt to. I had an emergency surgery to remove the portion of this disc that spilled out of place. These, sadly, cannot be put back in–like toothpaste out of a tube. I felt great for a bit after this until the same thing happened exactly three weeks later.

There are three sets of images in the link shared: one from July 2023 with my original rupture, one from August 2023 showing the re-rupture after the initial surgery, and a third showing my current state, with a completely collapsed level–there’s no disc remaining, there’s no space remaining. I’d say it’s as flat as a pancake, but pancakes are not actually very flat in comparison–more like a couple of sheets of stacked paper. Maybe a penny. It is technically possible for this to be enough disc of someone to be able to live their life with and be OK. It was a gamble that I lost big. I am not OK.

Through it all, though, there was a greatest fear, a thing that was so big and so scary that countless people have told me to avoid it at all costs–friends, family, and professionals alike. The problem is that these people were sharing absolutes based on stories they’ve heard. Most of these people were not looking at my MRI or aware of critical details. Well, this greatest fear, the thing to avoid at all costs, is here, and it’s real, and it’s happening soon. I have to get a fusion.

Being confronted with your greatest fear is a strange thing. I’m not sure if I’m in shock and still processing or if not knowing for sure is what’s worse. Like a boogeyman that might pop out at any second but also might not. You must always be on edge because you just don’t know. But for some reason, I’m OK today at this very second and aim to spend it not worrying about tomorrow or the next day.

I’m very tired. I need a mental break from fear and sadness and regret. I’m looking forward to our Wiggle Work coffee chat and getting some work done. I’m looking forward to kicking off new projects with new and old clients. One thing I’ve learned for sure throughout this is that pulling away and retreating from the world is the exact wrong thing to do, so I won’t.

See you tomorrow over breakfast.

February 16, 2024

A tiny project byJoni Trythall inspired by friends at Wiggle Work.