I haven’t used this space to write anything about my health situation…you’ll find references to it (in the Sunday Times and Attitude pieces), but nothing that sheds light on where I am now. Progress has been sluggish, to say the least. To bring the uninitiated up to date, I broke my back, feet and left arm in a fall a few years ago. What I’d never really thought about, prior to that, was the array of additional problems you can be left with when your break your spine. Everything below the break point is affected. Nerve damage means I can’t quite locate the muscle you need to release in order to pee. I’ve therefore been in a rather grudging relationship with catheters for a while now. I can feel parts of my feet (in fact, they’re too sensitive) while other parts are numb. My calves are atrophied because I can’t exercise them. When I walk, the top half of my body is not in sympathy with the bottom. It feels like I’m walking two separate entities and that they’re unwilling to cooperate.
But the worst aspect is pain and, alas, this is the problem which has changed the least. I could tolerate the foot pain, but the back pain is debilitating. I never know which parts of the day are going to be the easiest. When I wake up, just getting to the kettle feels like a Herculean task. My body then warms up and I might have an easier half-hour or so. Then it’s bad again. I take a pill. It doesn’t work. Or it does work but only for half an hour. At several points in each day, I’m simply felled. There is nothing to be done. I try lying on my front, to help it subside. The situation is not improving. Steroid injections haven’t worked. Botox injections into trigger points haven’t worked. I’m looking into spinal stimulation therapy. The fact is that I’m tyrannised by my body. I can’t do the things I’d like to do, like get a career properly back into gear. In order to do anything, I have to plan, strategise and consider the timing. Sitting upright is the hardest manoeuvre, followed by standing. I will take a pill at a certain time if, for example, I’m seeing a friend at 4pm. It’s hard to explain how frustrating it is if the arrangement changes at the last minute. If it’s suddenly cancelled or moved to 5pm, then there I am, all doped up for no good reason. This happens quite a lot.
Is it dismaying and disheartening? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, it’s so galling I could cry. But I mainly remain connected to levity, gratitude or an approximation thereof, good cheer and optimism, not because of any particular merit of character but simply because the alternative would be so horrible.