Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Many More Times

     About a week ago, my husband and I were getting ready to go to bed and just before I turned off the lamp next to my side of the bed, he suddenly tensed up and gasped. I turned my head to see him rigid and bowed up towards the ceiling, breathing through his clenched teeth. While that pose could easily be interpreted by some as, "Oh no! I'm suddenly possessed by a demon!" a la The Exorcism of Emily Rose, I knew that it meant he was in the throes of a sudden muscle spasm. Sure enough, when I asked him what was going on, he said that his back was cramping up violently. After a few minutes, it started to let go of him, just a bit, and he was able to resume normal breathing. He tried to relax into the mattress, but I could still sense something was off.

     He continued to shift around a bit, trying to get comfortable, but it wasn't going to happen. Apparently, there was a particularly bad knot in his back muscle that was making him feel as though he were laying on a baseball. I couldn't imagine that felt very nice at all, so I suggested a Flexoril to help relieve the pain and maybe allow him to get some sleep. I know that it's a weak-ass suggestion, but that and hot showers are typically all I have to work with. We don't keep anything stronger than ibuprofen in the house and nothing short of Dilaudid in an IV would've touched it anyway, had he been in serious pain. Clearly this wasn't hospital-worthy, so he took his muscle relaxer, I turned off the light and we both went to sleep.

     The next morning, I was awakened much earlier than I wanted to be, especially given that it was my day off. If my husband's making enough noise to wake me up, I know it means one thing - he's in serious pain and considering calling in to work. Even though he's not in danger of losing his job over missed days due to his disorder, I still wish things weren't this way. I was brought up to believe that you only called in to work when there was absolutely no way you could be a functional human being that day and for most of us, those days are few and far between. I'm still learning that, for my husband, those days are far more frequent and far more debilitating than I'd like to think.

     The other side of that argument, though, is the "Push through it" mentality, with which I'm very familiar. It was that line of thinking that I employed when I said to him in the early-morning darkness, "Please don't say what I think you're going to say, not again." I know how cold that sounds to some, how unsympathetic, but just hear me out on this one. The reason I said what I did and encouraged my husband to get up and get in the shower with the water as hot as he could stand it is because I really believed it would be to his benefit. I have to believe that there are still methods available to him that he can use to feel okay and go on about his business in as normal a manner possible. For God's sake, he's only thirty-eight and this cannot be happening with this level of frequency. Can it?

     Maybe it can, that's the real hell of it. My husband has moved into the past-his-prime period of his life, which is not all that off-schedule from a normal person, when you think about it. I would guess that forty is about the age where people really start to feel their living, though I don't personally believe that marker should by any means be seen as the beginning of the end. It's just that, statistically speaking, forty is roughly the halfway point of the average person's lifespan. So when I look at it in that light, it doesn't seem so bad that he's beginning to have more bad days than good. Actually, that's not true - it feels just as bad and the mental acrobatics I'm pulling to make it seem okay are rather unsuccessful. I keep circling back to the fact that he's only thirty-eight and these days are coming faster and harder.

     That's why I pushed my husband to get up and get going that morning, because I believe these mornings can't all be I-can't-get-out-of-bed mornings. Sometimes I have my doubts about doing this, since I obviously can't know how badly he hurts, nor what his true limits of pain tolerance are. In that respect, I have to trust that he will tell me when he truly can't do it, as was the case this past Monday. (That was a whole new adventure that I'm sure I'll write about soon.) I also have to rely on him to know when he's really at his limit versus just being tired and achy. Basically, there's a whole lot of trust going on here in levels most couples don't ever have to touch. It's also entirely possible that I'm overthinking this whole issue, because I tend to overthink things like it's my job.

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