I knew something wasn’t right with my body during my pre- pubescent years, but I was told by practitioners that with a bit of physiotherapy my muscles would balance out and my body would be without pain in no time. Boy, were they wrong.
By the time I got my first cashier job at 17, I noticed my back started to get worse with an additional symptom of knee pain seemingly due to weather. At 19 or 20 my hips also became affected and I didn’t know what was happening to me. At this point, I was still physically able to work (not mentally) while wearing knee braces but I had to sit down more often to relieve my body of the stress my 5’8 ½” frame was pushing onto it.
After ruling out arthritis through x-rays and blood tests, I was left to deal with the fact that I would have pains for the rest of my life like a supposed majority of people have to. It became increasingly difficult to stay standing in one spot for more than 5 minutes at a time so I made sure to gain employment in places that didn’t require a person to remain vertical for 8 hours straight. One morning during my college years, weeks before turning 24, my left knee snapped like a twig upon standing. I was rushed to the hospital and had an x-ray done of it but was informed that nothing could be done because it was more than likely a soft tissue injury.
How did this happen? I had to sleep in peculiar positions in order to find relief, most often with my left leg bent in the air with my foot perched on top of my right knee, which was also upright. It is speculated to have stretched the ligament on my inner left knee and that morning, the pressure of standing up finally caused it to snap. Physio this second time around forced me to see that my back was not alright because the exercises for my knee were modified to favor my back issues; I had normalized my pain for so long I didn’t tell the physiotherapist until I had to reject many knee exercises she offered because my back couldn’t handle it. While this all sounds horrific, nothing could prepare me for the tailspin that this accelerated injury caused to the rest of my body.
I was at my healthiest, physically and mentally by the time October of 2012 rolled around. My skin picking had decreased, in my opinion, due to my healthier food choices and I was Zumba’ing every few days which kept me toned. Through all of these years, I would go through phases of exercising (including physio) but would eventually cut it out because I would hurt myself doing it or just from when general pains would worsen. During this particular month I had gone to a funeral and was wearing heels. We had to repeatedly sit and stand for a good hour and a half in a wooden pew and, selfishly admitting, my tears were mainly because I was in excruciating pain. My now fiancé helped me to the car and we returned home; I thought that I would just need to rest for a few days like usual after a “strenuous” day, but 17 months later I am still waiting to get back to my manageable self.
Whether this event was the catalyst for it steering out of control or it would’ve occurred a month later on its own anyway, I think whatever happened was a long time coming. My then family doctor discredited any types of holistic medicine for me and solely relied on physiotherapy to treat pains- chiropractic, osteopathic, and massage care are the practice of “witch doctors”, in his arrogant opinion.
My back didn’t get better and after a month of barely being able to get out of bed I started to see a chiropractor who is wonderful and who I still see every few weeks. Through her care I have been able to get rid of the pain in my knees nearly immediately, much quicker than physio did and my hips have gotten better, but my back is an entirely different story. Now, my pain has been localized to a spot on the lower left side of my back.
I don’t know the full details since there are different theories on what is wrong with my back, given to me by an osteopath, physiotherapist, massage therapist, and chiropractor, but it seems to be mainly soft tissue damage. My old GP mocked my intelligence when I finally gave in this past summer and asked him for Tylenol 3’s by saying, “Is that what the cool kids are wanting these days”? My new (unofficially) GP was angered that he didn’t put me on any medication that is actually used for chronic pain, but gave me a narcotic instead- I didn’t know the wiser but knew that I needed something for relief.
A month before the 2013 TLC conference, I had seen a massage therapist (all who were in school due to not having a medical plan, not being able to work, and not having income except the tiny bit my book offers monthly) and she jerked my left leg so hard that it sent my progress into a tailspin. After being in chiropractic care for roughly 4 months, she suggested I get massages to release myofascial tension in my back and with one wrong move from the unskilled student, I was back to square one. While at the conference, I had no choice but to walk around with my father’s cane because my mobility was compromised while my back pierced with pain with any movement I made.
As it stands, my body is crooked and there is still something severely wrong with the lower left side of my back. My old GP held back details of my CT scan that revealed a mild scoliosis on the lower left side of my back, “coincidentally” in the place that hurts. I still have limited movement in my left leg and my muscle tone has decreased noticeably all over. In recent snapshots I look frail or stiff and this constant has affected every facet of my life- financially (treatments, no job/ medical plan), mentally (concentration, patience), physically, and naturally, my need for undesirable behaviors that I am prone to.
When it comes to my picking, it increased when I let my dietary health go. I am admittedly a binge eater who succumbs to comfort food and when this happened, every bag of Doritos that heightened my taste buds was a moment of escape for me. I am proud of not going back to smoking, which I gave up during this health-run of mine in July of 2012, despite having a cigarette here and there. Also, picking is still an escape for me so if it means curling up like a ball on the floor to pick my legs and zone out of this reality… I’m much more prone to want to tune out.
The biggest question is, did I do this to myself? Has my years of awkward bathroom positions caused my back to mal- adapt to the rest of me? Did my 8 hour bathroom stints create this curve in my spine, which also includes a non-problematic C2 jut-out in my neck? Maybe everything really does run full circle and now my physical health has failed to remind me that I can’t escape the dangers of picking despite surpassing suicidal ideations that plagued me for years due to my non-acceptance of this disorder. Another nerve-wracking question I have is whether or not my back pains when I was younger contributed to the onset of my Dermatillomania as a way of coping with not only emotional distress, but physical discomforts as well. If this was settled appropriately in my early years, would I have succumbed as easily to the grips of this disorder?
I don’t have an actual diagnosis for my condition, just a barrage of symptoms with the main one being that pain in the lower left side of my back that is causing havoc for my Sacro-Iliac joints and myriad of surrounding muscles. For all of the years I stayed hidden in my house in fear of being seen in public, with an unhealthy mind I now have to do it all over again just because my body no longer allows me to freely walk down the street to go to the store or even be able to sit up at a desk to bring in income. I won’t let it stop this from reaching important milestones, such as my wedding in 41 days, but I will be sitting at the altar with my love instead of standing face-to-face. I’m lucky to experience it at all, to even have him in my life, to still want to be with me despite my ailments… but I want something to go right, something in my life to be normal.
I am now on a 2-year waiting list for the pain clinic as of December of 2013 and a 1 year waiting list for an MRI scan of my back as of the same date. What do I do in the meantime to “better” my situation and get my life on track? How do I make a living when I can’t sit or stand properly for 5 minutes at a time? Maybe I was just meant to be trapped inside myself forever, falling through the cracks of another flawed system.