breaking the cage
to deprive a writer of idle time is to do worse than move the furniture in a blind person’s home; it is to stuff every piece of space between the existing furniture with other furniture until there is no room to move at all. this is what occurs to me as i stand and breathe a bit freer, holding an ice pack to my neck. i wonder, then, if i am talking about a writer or just me. and i wonder, too, if i am talking about furniture, or the slow, stifling, accumulation of scar tissue on the neck joints.
it’s one more of those things that’s more clearly seen in retrospect…and admittedly, easier (or just possible) to speak about when you see an end in sight. but i hadn’t realized how much freedom to move had been disappearing from my neck, from my life, until i began seeing the chiropractor. and today i realized how much this had affected even the way i move, stand, and in all ways physically express myself. dance. reach for a lightbulb. i had become used to living without being able to turn my head and look in the backseat as a passenger. it made it very hard to deal properly with my daughters when they were in the backseat. or crane over and kiss them goodnight. if i tried to drink a glass of water so that i tilt the glass all the way up, i couldn’t do it. not unless i held the glass in my left arm. because my arm has to move along with the tilt of my neck in certain ways or else the neck bones would have had to be mobile—in ways they normally are, but ways mine were not. so if i had to look up at the ceiling from a standing position, i’d raise up my arm as i did it. like i was holding an invisible glass to nobody’s mouth. sometimes the limitations were more easily obscured. like if you had to turn your head to the left to see something; you simply turned your body, too.
but i never thought of it as being immobile. i just thought of it as…unable to move in certain ways without feeling excruciating, knee-folding levels of pain. so i avoided those directions of movement and positions. that’s different! it was a very intelligent choice! not immobility!
today when i told the chiropractor that, he laughed with me, just a little. you’d lost about 50 – 60% of your range of motion, he said, speaking of my neck. and as we slowly break up the scar tissue on these joints and do a few other things chiropractice/rehabilitative, i’m slowly getting some movement back and as i navigate this progress a little bit every day, it is evident that it wasn’t just pain, it was straight up immobility.
a week ago, (and for a while) i couldn’t tilt my head to the left. not more than a degree or two. i couldn’t turn it to my left but a little. i couldn’t tilt my chin up at the sky. (still can’t do that one yet.) hell, i couldn’t do a lot of things. but i had gotten used to this. well, you know. as much as you get used to such a thing. amazing what we can work around. amazing what we can adapt to, the doctor said.
the ice pack is to keep the inflammation down on days he is breaking up this fibrous tissue, and i am doing my physical therapy type exercises and everything is being newly disturbed out of its frozen state.
i’m trying to be careful not to push it at this point, the movement–because even just today, i (we, to be honest) suddenly have broken through a bunch of stasis in the (compressed) upper few vertebrae and suddenly i can feel the confines of this condition slipping a bit away as i shrug my head free, though still with sprinkles of sharp shards if i move too fast. my neck does little pops as i move my spine in ways it has not moved in a long time. some of the muscles feel so weak, and strange to control. i still don’t have full motion, but it’s only now that i realize how much of my motion had been scripted by this condition. and it cycled. so i thought for a while i could just ignore it.
all the while, the successive passes through the flare-ups drew deeper down. they got worse. i felt like i was in an ever-encroaching cage of pain, and now feel, suddenly, standing and inhaling fully and slowly–carefully–and tilting my head more than 45° to the left (whoa), that i may just be escaping it.
this is the weird part that started to make me feel faint earlier as i thought about it too much while doing my physical therapy type exercises: it’s actually a scary feeling, this “new” movement. isn’t that odd? the constraints fall away and it’s terrifying to have so much freedom. i’d become so used to not moving my neck in certain ways that now those ways, once “normal,” feel ungainly now; scary in all the open space that suddenly is available. for over a year, i’ve simply become used to this. now i feel like i’m carefully guiding a ship past razor-sharp, craggy, islands. these wobbly, foal legs are dangerous. and long.
i wrote earlier online that i’ve never felt better about paying doctor fees than now. this is real, tangible, dramatic change in the quality of my life. already. it’s been blowing my mind. truly. more than once today i’ve moved my head or neck in certain ways and in suddenly realizing how much more movement i had back, or perhaps in realizing how much i had lost, before…well, i guess it was more that i was realizing that i might actually soon be free of this condition that i’d been thinking of as a life-long thing, and tears filled my eyes.
another thought that hit me was how on earth have i been doing all these spinning, turning, jumping kicks like this?? that’s impressive. very unreasonable!
amazing what we can adapt to.