There are piranhas with poker hot teeth munching on my lumbar region

Sometime after I turned 12 I started to stretch. I was had basically no confidence, had left one school because of issues with bullying, was fairly unpopular and now I was a giant among hobbits.

I’ve just read an article that said the average height for Scottish men is 5’9 (175cms). Scottish people are statistically the shortest in Europe due to improving health and living conditions elsewhere.The link with poverty would lead me to believe that at my high school ( a Catholic school in a deprived, ex-mining area) the average male student was shorter still and the female students were positively tiny. I was shuffling down the hallways at a ceiling-scraping 6 feet (183cms) and hating every second of it. I spend my teenage years rounding my shoulders, stooping my posture and sliding low in chairs, trying to hide. I dated one person who was taller than me in my whole life (an English boy). I never wore heels, even then, as I was too busy enjoying being smaller than someone else.

I’m a grown-up now and generally my height doesn’t bother me. I have moved to a nation of short-arses and generally I enjoy the benefits. I don’t feel too claustrophobic during rush hour as my face isn’t pressed into anyone’s armpit, but rather sailing high above, taking in their bald spots and receding hair lines. I can always see over the crowd to figure out what has captured everyone’s attention. I do have to watch out for very low things that the tiny workmen don’t worry about and all the locals sail under. I have walked into signs, tree branches, bridges, electrical wires and low hanging pieces of construction.

Thankfully WW is 5’5 (164…I checked this with her and she said, “sometimes 165, depends on their measure” 😀 ) which is pretty damn tall for a female Asian lady and she fits pretty snugly under my arm as we’re cruising along. I think my height sometimes stresses out the local men though. Some have asked me if I am a ladyboy…a query not particularly well received.

But…yes, I do have a point and I am getting to it…slowly, what I really don’t like is that my height, or rather my lack of teenage acceptance of it has left me with a rather painful back condition.

The first time I remember struggling was at Uni but perhaps every 6 months since then I have had some kind of ‘episode’. The NHS (don’t be so jealous people in other countries, generally they suck!) dealt with this by making me wait an age for an appointment, prodded and poked me a bit:

‘There, does that hurt?’

‘Didn’t my yelp give me away?’

and prescribed ineffective drugs. This is after about 5 years of the same complaint.

Then I came to Ban.gkok. Land of smiles and some of the world’s fanciest hospitals. The first time I had problems I went to the hospital (straight away, with no appointment!!) and was asked to describe my symptoms.

‘Ah, chronic pain.’ They clucked sympathetically. ‘You go physiotherapy.’

What, now? No 18 month wait list? No guzzling of beefed up ibuprofen for 3 months first?

Nope, straight in. Hello proper muscle relaxants and pain killers. And when that failed I was quickly booked in for an MRI (same day as my consultation). Which led to a diagnosis– you know NHS, a phrase to describe an illness that means you actually have to sort out some kind of treatment process?

It’s almost the opposite of the NHS here; rather than fighting tooth and nail to get them to do anything you have to keep hauling them back to make sure they’re not doing too much. But I don’t really care as long as they come under the budget for my company health insurance. Which they usually do (with only a few baht to spare).

So…drum roll please, I have two herniated discs in my lower back. For the lucky ones out there who haven’t had to deal with anything like this, in between the sections of your spine are these cushions which keep everything rubbing along gently together. A couple of my cushions (the ones I used to rest on when my chin was level with my desk as I slouched at school) have begun to erode. This means that the sections of my spine are rubbing and pinching my nerves which equals pain and a stooping, shuffling walk which makes people wonder if I’m a well preserved 80 year old who has just soiled herself.

I was previously taking an almost daily cocktail of muscle relaxants and painkillers but I stopped when we started getting serious about baby making. I have had a lot of physical therapy which hasn’t helped. I tried yoga which sometimes seems to aggravate it. I also had two rounds of 4 steroid injections into my spine which hurt like hell, took me a week to recover from and only offered pain relief for a month.

Generally I have a small level of pain and discomfort every day. This gets worse if I participate in any activities such as rock climbing, shopping, standing still for more than ten minutes, lifting anything over 5 kilos or sitting for more than half an hour. It has meant that I’ve had to stop doing a lot of things I enjoy such as going to concerts, climbing, lifting and playing with my friends’ children, going to busy bars or sitting anywhere without good chairs with good back support. I usually can’t get through a visit to the mall with WW (who enjoys being overwhelmed by choice and celebrates it by reading, analyzing and carefully weighing and comparing each purchase decision, even what toilet paper to buy) without being reduced to necking fistfuls of pills. It’s crappy and it makes me feel old.

I am writing this less than upbeat post from flat on my back on our very expensive mattress as I am struggling with another flare up. If this is not my best writing please forgive me, I am a few inches under a prescription medication fug.

And why am I sharing my little tale of woe with you all? I’m scared. I have just consulted Dr Google and found lots of scary things like ‘rupturing herniated discs when having a natural child birth’, ‘6 months of bed rest when pregnant with h.d.’, ‘giving birth 2 months early due to stress from back pain’, ‘unable to lift my new born’.

WW is alternating between berating me for not exercising enough and panicking that I’m going to wind up in a wheelchair. Last time we did this I had a little case of histrionics because she suggested I shouldn’t get pregnant right now.

I know I am inviting more pain that I will not be able to alleviate with my usual pills. I know that I might make my condition worse. If I thought I could take a year and cure myself I would. But everything I have read and all the doctors I have spoken to have told me there is no one defining cure. Some people found the steroid injections offered long term relief, others recovered spontaneously after a certain period of time. Some had surgery and were cured. But lots didn’t. For lots of people these treatments cost a lot and didn’t help. For some it even made things worse.

No one’s getting any younger and I am not willing to let this hold me back from making a family with the woman I love. We’re going for it, even if all the worst case scenarios come true. If anyone out there has any pregnancy safe back pain treatments ideas, please share. I’ll give anything a go.

All the best with your journeys!


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