So, those of you that follow me here or on Twitter know I’ve been going through some stuff. Short version: I’ve dealt with some significant back pain for the last 8 years. I had surgery to remove part of a bulging disc in 2006, and the pain got better. Not gone, but better. I still had days that were rough, but was functional again.
Fast forward to fall 2010. The pain started getting pretty bad again. It got to the point that I basically lived on an air mattress in our tiny apartment’s living room. After working with a pain management specialist and trying just about everything, it was determined that I needed another surgery, a fusion at L4-L5.
The recovery from that surgery was particularly rough, but I survived and the pain got better for a time. Still not 100% gone, but completely tolerable. I figured this was about as good as things would get. Sadly, it didn’t stay that way.
Starting in July 2012, the pain came back with a fucking vengeance. It hurt to walk, stand, sit, lay down, you name it. The surgeon ran a bunch of tests, only to decide he didn’t see anything wrong, and that I should take it easy and hope things got better. They didn’t.
Since then, I’ve been fighting severe pain off and on. I would have a few good days, or even a week, but invariably, the pain returned. Pain medication became an almost daily part of my life. I started having to use a cane just to get around, even for short trips. I did my best to bite the bullet and still go do things despite the pain, but most of the time I’d have to bail early.
I was able to make it to SXSWi this past March, thanks to shear determination and copious amounts of pain medication. I basically tried to take the free cars or shuttles around as much as possible, and stay in the same general area for a while each time. Anyway, post south-by, the pain just wouldn’t go away. I remember mrs. hawk and I took a trip to see some family, but I ended up spending the majority of that trip in the hotel room. If I did go do anything, I’d have to cut it short to go lay down in the car.
For the first time in all my battles with pain, I started feeling suicidal. The pain was just too much, and I couldn’t handle it anymore. I remember laying on the hotel bed in agony, and starting to look around the room to find something to end the pain with. I didn’t actually go through with anything, but it was a thought that wouldn’t go away.
I talked to mrs. hawk, my therapist, and a couple of close friends, since that felt like something I shouldn’t keep to myself. Everyone was concerned and super supportive, which helped. Unfortunately, neither the thoughts or pain would go away.
It got to the point that I remember one day the pain was particularly bad, I was standing in the work kitchen holding the one kitchen knife we have, contemplating the most effective ways to use it to end things. I ran my thumb over the blade, only to discover it wasn’t sharp enough to do anything. At that point, I put the blade down and went back to my desk and just kinda broke down. I didn’t tell anyone about that incident until a few days later, as I felt ashamed I had gotten to that point.
After discussing it with my therapist and wife, I decided I needed more help staying safe, and agreed to go inpatient at a metal hospital. As terrifying a prospect as that seemed, I knew it was the right decision.
The time at the hospital was weird, but very helpful. For the first time in years, I didn’t have any personal electronics with me. No phone, no computer, no kindle, no iPad, no anything. I felt disconnected to the outside world which, in a way, was a good thing. The doctors there worked with me on medication and coping strategies, and I left a week or so later.
While the pain got a bit better for a few days there, it’s all come crashing back down on me. Most days, it’s a struggle just to force myself to go to work and sit upright for 8 hours. By the end of the day, I’m just a ball of pain. Some days, like today, the pain is almost unbearable from the time I wake up through the rest of the day. Lemme tell you, nothing quite so distracting as pain on a 7-8 out 10 scale.
I’m not really sure why I’m sharing all this, other than to just let folks know where I’m at and why I may seem more on edge some days, or seem fragile and whiny. I do my best to push through and deal with things on my own, but sometimes that’s just too hard, and it bleeds over into the rest of my life.
If anyone reading this is going through the same type of thing, just know, you’re not alone. By no means am I saying the pain is over, or the suicidal thoughts are gone, but I can say I’m fighting both of those as best I can, and I hope you can do the same.