My name is Jen. At the time of this writing I am 27 years old. I’m an attorney in the Boston area, and I also do a lot of writing and editing in the off-hours. I have a wonderful husband (we’ll call him “Husband”) a fat cat (“Fattie”), and a tight-knit family. Husband and I live in the suburbs and own a cute little house that was built in 1935. We go to the farmer’s market on Saturdays. We laze around and watch Netflix. I like my life. Really, everything is perfect except for my chronic pain.
When I was seventeen, I was driving with my mother and aunt to visit Georgetown University. Our car (stopped on the highway because of traffic) was hit at 65 miles per hour by an attractive man from Florida. My spine was fractured at T-11, T-12, and L-1; a facet joint in the thoracic level was broken as well. We didn’t find that last fracture for more than a year, so it healed wrong and calcified on a cluster of nerves.
Fast-forward almost ten years to the summer of 2013. My back was by no means great, but I’d learned to live with the constant pain. Driving home one night after work, my car was rear-ended again. It was a lesser accident that resulted in a lot of damage. My body, which had been working so hard to maintain some sort of equilibrium, was pushed over the edge. My neck and low back were alive with pain; they’d been mostly unaffected the first time around, so this was new and terrifying.
I ended up needing spine surgery less than a year later: a cervical discectomy and fusion of C5-C6. Now I have a scar on my throat. It’s like a gang tattoo; all of us who’ve had the surgery recognize one another.
This blog is for me to come to terms with what’s happened to me. I want to enjoy this life as much as I can, despite the pain.
Update as of 4.15.16:
Happy almost-Tax Day, everybody!
I figured this biography deserved an update in case you don’t want to spend the day sifting through the past years’ archives. I’m now 29 years old, living in the same place, living with the same wonderful (amazing, supportive, hilarious, caring, kind… Elaborate as further needed) Husband, and being tolerated by the ruler of the household: Fattie. Husband said I should tell you her real name now, and I do suppose the world deserves to know who this glorious creature really is:
Readers, meet Hobbes, my lady cat.
What has changed between that first biography and today? A heck of a lot. I left my job as an attorney at the end of 2015; I’d asked for part-time instead of full-time, and my bosses really did try their best to figure it out. It was just eventually understood that part-time wouldn’t really work with the setup of the office. I do miss my coworkers (though I do not not NOT miss tax season). I now work from home as a sole proprietor, telecommuting for a few different companies and generally liking this new, flexible structure of life. I get up when I wake up naturally. I take frequent breaks for walks or yoga. I nap when I need to nap. It’s a good system.
The personal injury case settled after three years, far exceeding my timing expectations given how long I had to wait the first time around (*cough*SEVENYEARS*cough*). I had another discectomy and fusion of C4-C5 two months ago, and it looks like we finally have a handle on my neck problems (though I still need injections at C2-C3 every now and again to handle the cervicogenic headaches). I had shots of the thoracic region that didn’t go very well. I see a pain therapist once a week, and she is thoroughly delightful. I also have more access to treatment from my father now (which I’ll talk about in an upcoming post because it’s hellishly impressive, and obvious disclaimer, yes he’s my dad, but the manual therapy work he created is still amazing). I’m recovering from both the surgery and the shots, working when I can, relaxing when I have to. I’m starting to get into pain advocacy. I showed up really late to the party on Twitter (@WearTearandCare). I have an Instagram account… I think.
Husband is doing very well. He’s recently gotten into boxing and woodworking, and he’s having a blast.
Our relationship is solid, but we get so very tired of this sometimes. We get frustrated because the pain isn’t between us; it’s more like us against the pain. I’ll feel better, and then I’ll do something ultimately deemed to be “too much” and power down for the rest of the day. Most of the time it carries over into the next day, so then I’m recovering from the recovery. Sleeping so much and waking up late feels unnatural to me. Only being able to complete three or four hours of work at the most is ridiculous. I still have to wear the soft neck collar on occasion in order to take pressure off my neck.
Things, however, are getting better. The days are becoming brighter. Dates with Husband have extended beyond the living room to the local coffee house. I’m able to drive farther than five minutes at a time. I’ve started writing again — at least 500 words a day for the past month, minus one day that I regretfully skipped. And most importantly, I am becoming far happier.
I’ve finally made my health the priority. Putting myself first has been so strangely liberating. My days are shaped around what I need, not what I think I’m supposed to accomplish. Do I have a doctor’s appointment? I can cut things elsewhere in the day. Do I need to just relax today?
That’s fine. Go ahead. The world will still be here when I get back.