So here’s the TL;DW (too long; didn’t write) of the last several months:
We have tried every treatment for my neck, short of surgery, that is available. Every single one of those treatments has failed, and they’ve failed in a way that makes it seem like surgery would fail too. We don’t even know, entirely, what the pain generator is, and multiple second opinions have confirmed that all we can really do, without the risk of quadriplegia that exploratory surgery at this level comes with, is… wait.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that writing about recovery is incredibly disheartening when no actual recovery is happening. When you’ve already been waiting for over a year being told to wait longer is kind of the shittiest advice ever. But I don’t want to dwell on that. That’s not what this post is about.
This past fall, a dear friend of mine purchased her dream farm and moved her horses in. I have inserted myself (wanted or not, hah) into pretty much every step of this process and have spent a lot of time down there on the weekends going over supplies and safety and baby horse quarantine and all those things that you definitely don’t realise you actually need to do when you bring your horses home. We’ve talked about this farm for years, so even though it’s in no way mine doing this vicariously is a little bit of a dream come true for me as well, and I love it. But what I haven’t been doing is riding.
Hey internet; been a while! A lot has happened over the past few months….
The good news first: I am officially a straight-A college student… two times over! I had to really pull it out of the bag at the end of summer semester – don’t take three half semester classes, y’all – but I pulled it off. I’m still amazed that this is something I’m capable of.
And very importantly: I adopted a cat! Her name is Piper and she is the most perfect and wonderful creature currently alive on this entire planet and we were brought together by fate. Novel on her forthcoming later, probably.
Now for the bad news.
Since my last post, we’ve tried three new treatments for my neck. Targeted facet injections at C4/5 and C5/6 gave some relief, but not enough. So far the best thing we’ve tried is an occipital nerve block – which, thank goodness, can be done in the office. With that I got about 40% relief, which is frankly amazing. The first few days I kept walking around thinking, “is this actually… working?”
Of course because this is my life, it can’t be that simple.
It is becoming increasingly evident that no one knows exactly what’s wrong with me, nor do we have any idea how to fix it.
When last we left off, at the end of December, I had just applied to start taking community college classes and had begun working with a new doctor on a different course of treatment.
One of those things has been going really well. The other one? Not so much.
In the face of overwhelming adversity, eventually you just gotta get up and get back to work.
Okay, obviously, it’s not that simple. Depression doesn’t go away because I decide I want it to. Healing is never linear. But I’m a storyteller: I can make a narrative out of two shoelaces, and this is my life, so that’s what I’m going to do.
The people who tell you that grief lessens with time are all lying. All it does is get quieter. But it starts out screaming, screaming and wailing, so deep in your body that you can’t make it stop, like a ringing in your ears. The screaming will always live inside you; eventually, though, it screams from further away, and it becomes less distracting, and turns into an old friend: one who’s annoying because they won’t ever shut up, and they like to turn up at your door at really inconvenient times, but you’re fond of them nonetheless, because of how important they’ve been to you.
At least, that’s how it’s always been for everything else I’ve lost. But after losing my childhood dog, and then my ability, and then my job, and then my best friend, I didn’t think it would ever quiet.
When I was 18, the spring after I graduated high school, I was bucked off while in the air over a jump. I remember that moment in flight thinking to myself “am I really about to die over a goddamn crossrail!?” I remember being on the ground with my instructor standing over me, asking how many fingers she was holding up. And then I remember nothing, until some indeterminate amount of time later, sitting in the barn aisle while my instructor was on the phone with my parents so they could figure out the best way to get me home, because clearly I couldn’t drive back. I had to call her the next day to figure out what had happened. Somehow I brought the horse back to the barn, untacked and took care of him, and put all my gear away. I don’t remember any of it.
I know there are some people who really love chiropractors and feel like they’re completely different after seeing them. Hell, I even know some horses that act completely different after an adjustment.
I am not one of those people.
I woke up the next day and knew almost immediately that something was up. It wasn’t pain, so much, but an aching stiffness. But it was fine, I told myself, expected, and the urgent care doctor agreed: it’s just whiplash. Here’s some muscle relaxers; it’ll be gone in a week or so. It was a Friday.
I still went to work that day, although I brought someone along to help me (this would become very common). It wasn’t too hard, really – I was just stiff, and needed to rest. Afterwards I called my boss, who was at a horse show that weekend. “Hi,” I said. “So, uh, I know this is really inconvenient timing, but I got hit by a car last night.”
Some dates are ingrained in your memory forever.
On the 28th of June, 2018, I had recently turned 25 years old. I’d worked with horses in some capacity for almost all of my life, but at the time, I had been doing so professionally for several years. In the months prior, I had been working very hard on my riding and general horsemanship skills because I was preparing to take the next step up in my career and begin grooming full time at a much higher level than before. My preparations had been a little slowed by the planned and peaceful death of our 16-year-old childhood dog a few weeks prior, but I still had my own canine best friend, and with support from my friends (and a Dramatic Life Change haircut) I was starting to get right back into the swing of things.
I was happy. Until I wasn’t.