Medicine. Absence of the normal immune response to a particular antigen or allergen.
“Are you still here?” I glanced in the direction of the comment and saw a lively, older woman, probably about my mother’s age, walking towards me with the help of a cane at my physical therapist’s office. I was seated, back straight, with a heating pad draped across my right shoulder. Had we met? I didn’t recognize the woman. “You were here all the way back when I came in for my Achilles tendon! When was that, March?”
I managed a half smile. I had been much more outwardly friendly when I first started the therapy this past Spring. Undoubtedly I had struck up a conversation with this woman, back when I was erroneously ranking my condition as a temporary setback. “Yeah, I’m still here. Probably be here for another year or so,” I said, trying not to sound too morose.
I was unable to summon enough energy to get defensive about it. I’ve spent entire posts railing about such seemingly innocent comments, like hers and like the one I get every time I leave the gym. “Done already?” the guy at the front desk will ask. My former self would have approached the desk, pulled the guy aside, and explained as politely as possible why that was judgmental and insulting. But now, I just say, “Yeah, that’s about all I can manage,” and keep walking.
I feel empty and dull, as though even my reserve supply of animation has been depleted. I’ve spent the last week unable to come up with a reason to write a weekly post. And it’s not like I need much. I’ll write even when I only have the vaguest idea what I’m going to write about, because often, these posts are shaped simply by the process of articulating thoughts and arranging them in a specific verbal order. But my head is thick and my mood is low, so I’m just typing away aimlessly, no rudder, no direction.
The impending translocation of this great ape has cost me too much sleep this week, and that, coupled with an elevated pain level that refuses to back off, has sapped of so much mental juice that even my snark is muted, indicating an exceptionally low level of functioning for me. Generally, my attitude is the last thing to go; even when I’m running on fumes, I can still usually find the wherewithal to take someone down a peg. It takes so little energy to be mean, not nearly as much as to be thoughtful, probably because thoughtful is a two-step process involving a filtering phase, whereas rudeness can be supplied straight from the tap.
Be that as it may, I’ve not been lacking for petulance, my new favorite word. I have a major exam in one of my classes this week, and I’ve barely studied at all, despite the fact that I’m barely hanging on to a “C” in the class, and really need to do well on this exam. The recent pain uptick means I need to call the orthopedist to take another look at my shoulder and have a serious conversation about the surgical option, but the thought of having to play nice with the receptionists and then auction off the privilege of driving me to and from the appointment to my friends makes my toes curl.
The list doesn’t end there. I need to go to the gym. I need to get someone to help me get more kitty litter. I need to take the car for an oil change. I need to pull together my grad school application; specifically, I need to start hitting up professors for letters of recommendation, because they’re busy, and the letters take weeks to process. I need to run back through the disabled support services red tape gauntlet to get my handicapped status renewed for next semester. I need to take the fur balls to the vet to get their vaccines updated so I can register them with whatever property management company I wind up renting from. All in all, I need to do a whole host of unpleasant things, and I don’t want to do any of them, nor anything else, and it’s hard not to fall into doing things that require zero effort instead, such as watching DVR.
I feel as though I’m being dragged reluctantly through some grand practical joke, and now that I’ve figured out it’s a joke that appears to be on me, I don’t want to play along any more. My shoulder is screaming, my school plans hang in the balance, and considering how little improvement there’s been in my pain level despite the several months of physical therapy, it appears as though even my modest career aspirations might be out of reach. I should be angry. I should be fighting. I should be planning and conniving and trying to manipulate the situation to work out some sort of advantage, but I’m not.
I remember early on in this process, how I would scour PubMed for hours, hunting down primary research on treatments and prognosis for my injury. The condition is so rare that little research exists; sample sizes are small, and samples are so heterogeneous that it’s impossible to draw any conclusions about what a typical progression might be. I was able to glean that most patients recovered in about 12 to 18 months. I remember that those whose condition went untreated for six months or more tended not to fully recover, and that at five and a half, I was right on the cusp of that [more or less arbitrary] boundary. I remember that some patients recovered from the pain but never got all of their strength and range of motion back. I remember that some patients had the reverse situation; strength and range of motion came back, but the pain remained.
I remember worrying that that might happen to me. But worrying about it and experiencing it are not the same at all, and by the way, the former, of which I did plenty, doesn’t do a damn thing to prepare you for the latter, which appears to be the direction in which I am headed.
In other news, my left shoulder is improving. This is a good sign, particularly since the right one remains on the bench, and I am reassured that while the one part of my body has gone to pot, the rest of it still seems to respond normally to physical therapy, manipulation, strength exercises, and stretching. However, it does throw the situation at my right shoulder in an exceedingly hope-dashing light. My left shoulder is almost completely recovered after a couple of trigger point injections and about six weeks of physical therapy.
But. I’ve had over a dozen injections in the right shoulder, along with eight months of physical therapy, and we are nowhere. Worse, the now-increasing pain is starting to lock up the surrounding muscles and tendons again, threatening to undo all of the work my physical therapist and I have done to restore my ability to turn my head and maintain good posture for more than a few minutes at a time. Hence the visit with the orthopedist, which, if all goes poorly, which I imagine it will, will be followed by another nerve ablation.
And then six months later, another one. And so on, ad infinitum.
Remember how I wasn’t going anywhere with this post? I’m still not. If I weren’t so exhausted, I might be able to construct something like a temper tantrum, where I invent new and creative ways of screaming and stomping on the ground and sobbing about how freaking unfair this all is, and why did this have to happen, and worse, why did it have to happen to me, and how I’m sick of everything, from asking fellow students to help carry my back pack up the stairs to the dirty looks I get when I park my car in a handicapped space.
But I’m just too damned tired. This post is about all of the tantrum I can manage. I just want my whole life to go away. I want to go to bed and sleep and sleep for hours and hours, and then wake up and find out all of this was a long and convoluted dream, and I’m back to my old existence, getting ready to graduate, getting ready to teach, looking forward to a new crop of kids and all of their funny personalities. Even though I can’t remember what that was like any more.
I’ve given up so much, and I’m having trouble being happy about what little I have left, especially when it appears that even that might be taken from me, and I’m too tired to do anything about it. So take it all, fine. Finish your stupid practical joke and laugh and post it on the internet, I don’t care, just please, can we be done with this already? Because I’m not having any fun any more. Even complaining about it isn’t any fun any more. It’s all a big giant ball of lame, and I want nothing more than to kick it away.
That, however, is the one thing I’m sure is not going to happen. I’m going to be stuck with it and it will be dragging at me, forever. And I’m already tired of it, and in the grand scheme of how much life I have left (under ideal circumstances, of course), forever is too monumentally depressing to contemplate. So I think of nothing, feel nothing, and do nothing instead. Including this post, a rather unimpressive ramble on nothing.