For the last two weeks, my back has been in a bad relapse. What does this mean? I am in more pain -- a LOT more pain and I cannot get my mind off the child abuse that caused it.
Able-bodied people think they know what chronic pain is but they don't.
The epicentre of my pain is in my lower back but it radiates, hot and swollen, up the sides of my spine, across my ribs, under my shoulder blades, over my shoulders, into my neck and around my skull to my eyes.
It radiates through my buttocks like a stab deep on each side. It radiates down each thigh, and calf, and under each foot as sciatica, cold and shrill and buzzing, like electricity. Have you ever heard fingernails on a chalk board? That's what sciatica feels like.
What does this mean pragmatically? It means that every single physical act is an act of courage because every single physical act causes pain. It means it takes courage to even roll over in bed, let alone get out of it. It means it takes courage to feed myself, to go to the bathroom, to brush my teeth, to get dressed.
It certainly takes God-like courage to leave the house, yet I had to go to physiotherapy. Physiotherapy takes courage because it too hurts. As much pain as I'm in in these photos on my way to physio, I was in far more pain later, after physio.
Pain at this level means asking Beau to help me wash my hair and get in and out of the tub. It means that carrying a glass of water or a mug of coffee hurts like hell. It means I have to make choices all day and night: "Do I really have to pee that badly or can I wait and not have to get up for a while? Am I really thirsty or can avoid carrying water? Do I really need to lie on ice packs now for the pain? But they're so heavy!"
Beau helps with a lot but he's not Superman. He has a job, a PhD to finish, and two children to raise. He has housework to do because, even at my best, I can do very little. At my worst, I can't even wipe down the counter tops. He already does far more for me than anyone should.
This too is what pain means: constant guilt as loved ones do for me what I wish I could do for them.
But I'm not the one who should feel guilty. I didn't do this to myself. My abusers did. In a way, Beau is now their victim too.
|Shoes: Ecco; Cane: Life; Jeans and top: Reitman's; Clutch: thrift; Earrings, small ring, and watch: vintage; Large ring: Effy; Bangles: gift from Beau|
As you can well imagine, then, comfort was my primary goal in getting dressed for my Big Trip out. Still I did want to look a little bit good, if I could.
The blouse, with its pouffed sleeves, transparency, and little tie, reminded me a bit of the 1930s, which is probably why I chose to tuck it in, something I don't usually do; high waists were the thing in the late 30s. I also usually refuse to wear anything with hearts on it as they seem too childish, but I thought the hearts on this shirt were understated enough to go mostly unnoticed.
I looked alright. I didn't look terrible. But they are stretch jeans and I have poor posture from the pain and I've gained weight from the disability and my face is all wan and tired ...
Where the hell do those stereotypes come from? Heels? Hardly! Wasp waist? Not since I stopped being able to jog. A precarious perch on a stool with no back support? Are they trying to kill me?!
As I had to give up my passion for high heels, I found a passion for jewelry taking its place. Jewelry doesn't hurt my back. It's not too heavy. It doesn't push on my lower back. It doesn't tilt my feet at a painful angle.
It's pretty and it gives me some poise (if only in my imagination) especially if it's real, as the rings, watch, and earrings all are here.
My summer freckles are making their annual come-back too. But for the freckles, I'll remain milk-white but I won't be quite translucent anymore and I won't tend toward a slightly bluish, bruised look under my eyes as I do in the winter. That's nice.
So, yeah, I can put on a happy face and strike a pose or two.
But make no mistake: I'm faking it.
Often, when I tell people that I have a back injury that causes a chronic pain disability, they reply with, "But you look so good." What do they mean by that? Do they mean I don't look like their stereotypes of the disabled? Do they mean I look "normal"? Do they mean I don't look like I'm in pain? I find this hard to believe.
Any astute observer, anyone who knows me or knows pain, can see that I'm suffering. Can't they?
Beau calls this face my "pain face" and he always expresses great delight when my pain face goes away and my smiles become genuine again.
This pose here is one of my classic pain poses, in which I try my darndest to push my hips forward to alleviate the pain in my over-arched lower back.
I was born with Lordosis, which, simply put, is an exaggerated arch in my lower back. Many people, including practically everyone in my paternal family, go through their entire lives with Lordosis and experience no back problems at all.
But my case was different. I was severely sexually abused throughout my childhood. By about nine, I was being regularly sold to men who would rape me, often more than one at at time, sometimes extremely violently.
On perhaps the worst of these occasions, when I was nine or ten, I was sold to three men who took me to a dank basement and raped me in every possible way for three days straight. They raped me on the cement floor, they raped me strung up on a kind of modified cross on the wall, they laughed and were delighted with their behaviour. The more dehumanizing their acts, the happier with themselves they were.
|Artist: Eric Ravelo|
There I was, an unusually small nine year old with Lordosis. My back didn't stand a chance.
Whenever my back hurts now, I am reminded of how this pain was caused.
My back always hurts.
When the pain is worse than normal, so are the memories. When I'm using my cane, I feel even further reduced and humiliated by those who saw fit to destroy my body for their own pleasures 34 years ago.
So you'll forgive me if I'm a little peeved by the stereotypes and poses of younger women with canes.
The "sexy" back arch, the one that, when natural, is due to a spinal abnormality, the one that hurts me so very much? It's ubiquitous.
Apparently, it's hot.
So hot that there was a time when fashionable women forced themselves into this position with the s-curve corset. Yes, it did cause spine, bone, and organ problems.
It hurts terribly just looking at it!
What blows me away when I'm using my cane, is how many people, usually men, say with mischievous glee, "It's a great weapon. You could hit someone with that." They say this even when they know how I was injured!
I can barely hold up the weight of my own body, let alone lift my cane and give someone a powerful smack with it. And this is when I'm suddenly the living embodiment of some secret, SM vision in these men's heads?
Just when I'm weakest, men like this insist on seeing power, not pain, sexual autonomy, not the results of sexual subjugation.
They see something like Madonna at the Grammies, all sexy dominatrix and stuff.
When, in reality, I feel much more like this ...
I feel more like this ...
... than this.
Christ, I couldn't get into one of these poses and certainly couldn't get out of them!
This is my unsexy reality: huffing and puffing with pain as I push myself up with one arm on the back of the bench and support myself on my cane with the other.
And canes are damned unwieldy things too. Have you ever tried to accomplish anything, let alone everything, with just one hand? That's what you have to do with a cane. And if you think you'll just set it down for a moment, think again. Even if you do have something lean on other than the cane, the cane will fall to the floor, no matter how careful you are to lean it against some vertical surface. And then you'll have to bend down to pick it up. And that will hurt -- a lot.
Do I sound cranky? I am! I've been in constant pain for about seven years now. I've been in intermittent pain since I was nine. I've got about forty more years of pain to go.
Because of pedophiles.
Yes, I am indeed cranky and I'm not overly inclined to give this entry my usual, peppy, "light in the darkness" conclusion.
The only "light" I'll give you is this: The night after these photos were taken, despite my pain, Beau made me laugh so hard, I spit water across the table and even got it up my nose. I'm mad as hell about what happened to me, and sad as hell about what I've lost because of it, but my partner can still make me laugh.
Take from that what you will.
That's all for now, folks.
(I'm linking this up at Visible Mondays on Not Dead Yet and to Shoe Shine over at Ephemera.)