From head to toe – it’s all connected

It’s ALL connected

I’m figuring out this back/shoulder pain mystery.

Turns out, it’s not just my lower back that’s throwing off my upper back and shoulder. It’s my hips and legs, as well.

I stretch at night to relax, and my left leg and hip have been extremely tight. It’s been this way for a while. I usually don’t think much of it, but the other night, when I was stretching, I spent some extra time loosening up my left hip and hamstrings, and lo and behold, my upper back “let go”.

Deep Muscles of the Back
This full color stock medical exhibit illustrates the deep muscles of the back and spine. The following structures are labeled: semispinalis capitis, spinalis, cervicis, spinalis thoracis, rotares, splenius capitis, longissimus cervicis, iliocostalis cervicis, iliocostalis thoracis, longissimus thoracis, iliocostalis lumborum

It actually makes sense — looking at the deep muscles of the back, you can see how they run from shoulder to pelvis, and while they don’t appear to be exactly what’s been paining me (localized between the shoulder blade and my spine), it’s all connected, so if they’re pulling down, they’ll be pulling off the other superficial muscles that are connected to them.

It also makes sense from a where-did-this-come-from point of view. When I drive (and I’ve been driving a lot, over the past few weeks), I usually keep my left leg bent, and I use it to stabilize myself while I’m turning. That’s great, but it also shortens the muscles in my left leg — especially in the front. So, those shortened muscles pull on my pelvic bone, which pulls the deep muscles, which pull on the surface muscles.

And I’ve got persistent back pain that won’t seem to go away.

Now I’m pretty sure I know what’s causing it. Stretching helps. All the time.

The key is to not let it get a hold of me, but to keep myself strong and limber on a regular basis.

So, that mystery’s dealt with.

Now, to start my Monday.

Onward…

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Drink water, eat regularly, get exercise, rest

Soon...
Yes.

My sleeping has normalized, at last. After 3 days of vacation, I finally got to bed by 10:30, and I slept till 7:00. That’s progress.

I’ve been getting good exercise, getting out in the mornings to walk the beach or roam around town, and I’ve been able to nap… and relax.

Nice.

It’s really important for me to keep on a schedule. If I’m not, I can get tired. When I get tired, I get cranky. I’ve had to catch myself a number of times, yesterday, to keep from getting “snappy” with my spouse. I hate when I get short-tempered… especially when my spouse needs my help. I seem to get more short-tempered more quickly when they really need my help. That’s the worst time of all. I want to be patient and helpful, but my patience runs out when they are most in need.

That’s something I’m working on. It’s come up drastically in the past, and it weighs on me with the guilt. It was worse when I was first dealing with my TBI stuff and wasn’t getting any help, yet. My spouse had fallen and hurt their back, and I was so angry and confused and turned around, that I just walked up to them, yelled at them, and walked away in a rage. I couldn’t figure out how to handle the situation, and I left them lying by the road in pain.

I’m not proud of that. But I know now it was the TBI that made me do that. I would never do that myself by choice. And I think of that situation often, when they are truly in need of help with something, and I am feeling short with them. I don’t want to be like that ever again. The injury they sustained that day has worsened over time, and now they are nearly disabled by it at times.

I sometimes blame myself for that — especially because I didn’t help them in the following days and weeks and months… as their injury worsened and their back ache spread down their legs to their knees and the whole way to their ankles, but I couldn’t figure out what to do about it — and neither could they.

At least I got some help, when I did. If I had never gotten help, things would be even worse now, I’m sure. But it’s hard to face my own role in making this situation what it is. Fortunately, my spouse is getting physical therapy, but it’s been years since they could walk and move without pain.

Of course, they’re responsible, too, for much that happens in their life. They make unhealthy choices and resist common sense, so it’s not all on me. Still and all, I do feel a responsibility for this situation. And it’s incumbent upon me to manage myself properly, so I don’t pose a risk to them anymore.

I’ve had enough of that for one lifetime.

This vacation is about us being here together. Being a couple again. Being partners again. This is the first vacation we’ve had all to ourselves in a long time — for the past several years, they’ve always wanted friends to join us. But this year, no one can come, so it’s just us. And that’s fine with me. It’s easier for me to take – and it’s more of a vacation for me.

Drink water, eat regularly, get exercise, rest… and reset.

It’s important.

Less scary when it all gets broken down into pieces

Get it out of my head onto paper – it gets easier from there

So, last night I was at my very end. I’d had a long and very tiring week, and my spouse has been out of commission with their back out. They don’t take good care of themself, and they spend most of their day sitting around or lying down. I don’t see how anyone can even function on the lack of exercise they get. It’s like watching them disintegrate before my very eyes.

I work really hard to keep myself in good working order. I fall behind, of course, since I’m human. And there have been long stretches of time when I did not get the kind of exercise I needed. But I’ve never allowed myself to just “go to pot” like they have.

I don’t see how they can even live with themself.

But that’s them, not me. And that’s the toll that mental illness takes — unaddressed, untreated mental illness. Their dysfunction is so profound, they cannot even see how non-functional they are. Their answer to it all, is hiding their dysfunction from others, so they can continue to live that way. I know why that is — I know (pretty much) what they went through as a young kid that made them this way. Their father was a World War II vet, and the things it did to him, screwed up their whole family — all the kids, and beyond. One of the grandkids was a convicted felon before the age of 16, and the offense was pretty horrifying. That’s what can happen, when dysfunction is allowed to fester, everyone is in denial, and you hide your issues from everyone.

The fallout from WWII that I’ve lived with for the last 25 years, is one of the big reasons that I am a major supporter of veterans. I don’t do nearly as much writing directly about vets here, as I should. My hope is that I can write things that will help vets in a way that reaches them / you as people. I’m not a vet, and I wasn’t raised in a military family, and I don’t want to take liberties, writing about that kind of world that I don’t know, myself. I want to be respectful. But maybe I need to do more writing specifically for vets. It’s unconscionable to me, how my country sends folks off to fight for us, then abandons them when they come home.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. What I started out saying, was that last night, I was done. I had a long week, and my spouse was needing a lot of attention and help. It was one thing after another, and I was so wiped out, I had to just go to bed early, which I did.

Last night, the weekend seemed like too much for me to handle. I have a number of things I need to take care of – some that are left over from last weekend. I had a number of time-consuming things to take care of, which ate up a lot of my spare time, and then I ran out of steam. So, this weekend I’m filling in the blanks.And last night, it seemed like way too much for me to handle. It was just overwhelming, the variety of things I had to get done.

This morning, though, I spent some time writing everything down in my notebook, and breaking it out to see what I would do.. and when. As it turns out, there is not so terribly much to do. And it will even leave me time to do some things I have been wanting to do, but didn’t think I could, last night.

Turns out, I can do them. If I stick to my plan today, I can get a lot of things done, so I can do the one thing I really want to do in the morning.

I just have to get it all down on paper. Get it out of my head. My head gets spinning, and then I get confused and tired and more confused and more tired. And then everything looks like hell.

That was how it was in my head, last night – not a fun place to be. I just wanted to blow up. Or throw up. Or both. But I kept it together and was just very quiet, all evening. I was really working at keeping myself from going off the deep end, and I drew the line, when my spouse urged me to eat something sugary and stay up later, watching t.v.

That’s about the last thing I needed. So I declined. And I got about 9 hours of sleep, which is exactly what I needed.

So, lesson learned. Again.

Tonight, after I mow my lawn, I think I’ll watch some martial arts movies. That will put the icing on the cake of what’s starting out as a beautiful day.

“On” day today

Time to hit the “on” button again

Yesterday was a quiet day for me. I rested a lot, did a lot of reading and studying the parts of the brain, and also looked more closely at my MRI. I might be due for another one, because it’s been five years since my last one that revealed the pineal cyst.

The cyst is actually about three times the size of a “shouldn’t be a problem” cyst. It is 1.6 cm and .5 cm is a usual size that shows up. Looking around online at other people’s experiences with pineal cysts, they are experiencing a lot of disruptive symptoms with ones that are about the same size as mine.

I honestly don’t know what to think of this, because on the one hand, all the headaches I’ve been having, along with the vertigo and numbness and tingling in my face and hands *might* be related. On the other hand, I don’t want to start digging around for issues that will raise flags with medical folks and send me down a path of super-invasive procedures, when the symptoms I’m having are actually tolerable.

The headaches don’t make me happy, but they also don’t stop me from living my life. I just recognize that my head hurts, I do what I can to relieve the pain a bit, and I get on with my life.

Anyway, after spending a quiet day yesterday, getting some good rest and taking it easy, I’m ready for a whole new day – out and about. I’ve got a handful of things to take care of — nothing really intense or overwhelming, just stuff. And running those errands will take me into a town with a library that has some books I’ve been wanting to check out, so that’s good.

This seems to be about the right pace for me — not too fast, not too slow, just very steady. I have some intervals of excitement, here and there, but I have also interspersed it with some naps and rest, which is a real step in the right direction.

It’s been great to slow down, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Stopping moving makes me realize just how much pain I’m in, and the stretching and exercises I’ve been doing have revealed some stuff that I need to work through. The tenseness, the tightness, the limited range of motion, and also my poor posture. I really have poor posture, which is screwing up my back. Not until I stopped going 100mph and slowed down to notice what’s going on with me, did I realize it. But now I realize it. So, ouch. There’s the good pain that comes from sore muscles after exercise. There’s the bad pain that comes from limited range of motion and under-use. Ouch. But I’m working through it.

One of the other things that keeps happening to me is that I keep getting very emotional — tears are coming up, which I hate, because crying gives me a splitting headache and I feel like crap for days afterwards. I have been tearing up while driving, and also while sitting around my house. I guess stopping all the forward motion is causing the emotional stuff that I usually “use” for fuel and motivation to show itself for what it really is. I haven’t stressed about much of anything all week, which is a big change. And not stressing and not needing to keep everything under wraps seems to be making me more emotional.

Times like this past week, when I am not constantly focused on what needs to be done, I get re-acquainted with my TBI issues in a much closer way. The memory problems — I went to the hardware store and bought $75 worth of supplies, but I couldn’t remember what they were, a day later… the fatigue problems — never feeling like I have enough sleep and always been a bit wiped out… the coordination problems, headaches, ringing in my ears, and the difficulty I have getting started on things… Slowing down makes me more aware of these things, and having time to think about my life, also doesn’t really help that much, because I just get depressed, thinking about all the things I was able to do before, but now cannot seem to get my head around.

Well, whatever. I’ve had a few down-time days, which has been good. And now I’m ready to be “on” again. I’ve got my list. I’ve got my plans. I’ve got things pretty much mapped out, and that’s good. I can’t sit around anymore and feel bad about my situation. That’s just no good.

Now, onward – the day is waiting.