A Real Pain In the Neck: It’s Not A Too-Mah!

horse massage

Perhaps I need one of these?

Ever felt like someone was stabbing you in the neck with a large flathead screwdriver?  How I’ve been feeling lately is exactly how I think it would feel.  I say this because we have one in the garage and that’s the mental image I get as I’m in pain these days.

After five months of issues with my neck and upper back ranging from uncomfortable to excruciating, I had finally reached the breaking point.

Yes you saw that right.  FIVE MONTHS.  Why have I not gone to the doctor?  There are many reasons, the first and foremost being that I’m used to being in pain.  I’ve had back problems forever, this just seemed like yet another chapter in the ever popular saga of “Look what motherhood has done to my body!”  I also live with a man who feels that if you’re not bleeding profusely it’s probably not serious enough to go see the doctor.  Add to that the fact that I don’t make any money right now.  Making the decision to pay to go see a doctor about something that may be something but could be nothing is almost viewed as a luxury.  Believe me, I’ve shelled out my share of money for conditions that were unsolved mysteries.

Remember this?  The I-Don't-Remember-What-The-Award-Is Award?

Maybe I’m just questioning things too much…

So back to the breaking point.  About three weeks ago I felt a small lump on the back of my neck where the pain seemed to be worsening, right around where the pinched nerve I’ve had forever lurks.  I’ve had some lumps and bumps pop up on my bod lately, and they almost always turn out to be another zit.  But this was not turning into anything.  I don’t know how many times I played contortionist in the bathroom trying to get a good look at it in the mirror.  I tried to show Evil Genius, who of course thinks that I think that there is always something wrong with me.  Naturally I didn’t pursue that venue too long, since he has all kinds of coefficients to think about.

I didn’t look this up online, by the way.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, then you know that one thing I’ve learned is to never ever ever google your symptoms.  EVER.  You’ll think you’re dying.  When all of this started back in December, I made the mistake of looking stuff up and wrote about it. I had what turned out to be bronchitis on top of everything else that was going wrong, and my subsequent neck pain was poo-pooed as being a little from being sick and a lot from anxiety.  Another reason why I haven’t been back to the doctor.

Don't do it!

Don’t do it!

Anyhoo, I’m rambling again.  Back to this week.  After the third night of very little sleep due to being uncomfortable and anxiety ridden thoughts like “What if it’s cancer?  I will die and my kids will have no mom!”  I finally called the doctor’s office.  Often getting in to see the doctor around these parts is like playing a strategy game.  I got to talk to the nurse, which is always F-U-N.

“And why do you need to see the doctor today?” The nurse asked.

“I’m experiencing neck pain.”

“How long have you been experiencing this pain?”

Um…ummmm… be honest, “Please don’t laugh at me, but five months.”  I replied, and then quickly added  “There’s a bump there too!”

Then I had to spend another few minutes describing this bump in detail.  I must have done a good job, because I was in.  Shockingly I got in that morning, but it was two hours away.  I spent the next two hours in an anxious person’s hell, because I do this every time I have any kind of ailment.  I spent two hours worrying about the doctor’s appointment.  Should I live like I’m dying?  What if I go in and she takes one look at the bump and whisks me off to have it removed immediately because it’s that advanced?  Should I go ahead and name the bump something like Cher so I can talk to it?

Anxiety-cat-400x300By the time I made it to the doctor’s office, I was pretty much a basket case.  Luckily they didn’t make me wait very long.  I went in with my list of symptoms in hand (because I forget to mention really important things) and then promptly forgot about it the second the doctor walked in.

The doctor looked me over and asked some questions.  She had me do some interesting things with my arms, because I am soooo strong and in shape these days.  She felt my neck, including the bump.

“So what do you think it is?  Do you think it’s serious?”  I asked nervously.

“No.  That bump is part of your muscle,”  she replied with a smile.

Really?

More questions-had I been in any car accidents?  Had I fallen from a great height recently?  Did I fall down the stairs (this is a legitimate question-everyone knows my stairs are out to get me).  Unfortunately, there is nothing that I could pinpoint that could have caused me to injure myself and thus explain some of the pain I was experiencing.  Bummer.

After looking me over a little more, she declares “Looks like we’re definitely going to need some x-rays.  Would you like to go to the main clinic (in other town) this week, or wait and set something up here next week?”

“It’s not life threatening?  I’m not dying?”  I had to be sure, you know.

“Nooooo…”  she said, still smiling (STOP SMILING!  It’s not funny!)

“I’ll do it next week.”  I figured since I wasn’t going to die that I could wait and do it when it was convenient.

I was sent away with prescriptions for muscle relaxants and a pain reliever that wouldn’t upset my stomach like 800 mg of ibuprofen would.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I think about muscle relaxants, I think of this scene from Sixteen Candles:

Muscle relaxants.

When I think of muscle relaxants… Sixteen Candles Wedding.

I can’t say that they’re working like that for me, which is a little disappointing.  I feel a little weird, but that’s about it.  I can’t say that the pain reliever is doing much for me either, which is a lot disappointing.

As for what I believe is going to happen next, I foresee some more physical therapy in my future.  I’ve been there and done that in the past.  If it makes me feel better, I suppose it will be worth it.  And because I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use this meme again, here we go.

Oh yes...

Oh yes…

My Glands, My Glands, My Lovely Swollen Glands

Don't do it!

Don’t do it!

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve been sick.  It seems like I have been sick forever.  I think I told someone I’ve been sick for a month.  I really wasn’t lying-in my defense it certainly seems that way, but I think it’s only been more like three weeks.  It started out as a cold, got really bad, and got better but hasn’t completely gone away.  I was left with this tickle in my throat that when I cough sounds something like a weak chipmunk.

This morning I woke up feeling completely crappy with swollen glands.  I’ve never had swollen glands in my life that I remember.  They aren’t just swollen, they HURT! Having never had them, I had no idea what was wrong with me.

Of course me being the cool calm collected person that I am, I panicked.

I spent the first part of the day finishing my New Year’s blog post and purposely avoided going anywhere near Google, since I was convinced that with the pain being sort of to one side it had to be a tumor.  If you google your symptoms, you will very quickly think you are dying.  I knew that if I got on there I would be in trouble.  Then I took ibuprofen, which didn’t help at all.  This worsened my fear.  Not only was I swollen and in pain, traditional pain killers weren’t helping.  Great, I’m dying.

frog croak

My husband didn’t help matters.  Being ornery, he made sure to let me know that he thought I was dying too.

By late morning the swelling and achiness seemed to be pretty much all over on both sides of my throat.  So if it’s evenly spread out, it can’t be a tumor, right?  After this thought I self diagnosed myself with thyroid disease, since it runs in my family.  Why not?  Later on I would discover that my thyroid is nowhere near the part of my neck that actually hurt.  Sigh…I never claimed to be a medical expert.

Around 2:15 I tried to lay down and take a nap, but my neck hurt and I of course sat and thought about it.  At 3:00 I dragged myself on a walk and worried the whole time.  When I returned home I threw the empty box for the ornaments on the table and pleaded for the kids to take them off the tree.  Then I drove to town to return a movie that was two days overdue.  My phone chimed just as I pulled in to the movie place.  It was my Mom-she had commented on a blog post I had written on Facebook.  She’d been gone to visit my sister, so this meant that she was home.  I called her to wish her Happy New Year.  When I told her how I felt, she said “Oh you have swollen glands.”  Oh, duh.  People get those.  She also mentioned that I really should go see my doctor-I’d been sick long enough.  Therefore that reaffirmed in my messed up head that I was dying.

By the time I returned from taking the movie back, I couldn’t stand it any longer.  At 5:00 I googled “make swollen glands less painful”.  I so shouldn’t have done that. I now think I may have a whole slew of diseases starting with “a” and going almost all the way to “z”.  I tend to make up symptoms as I go.  That day that I had that itchy bump on my stomach-that counts as hives, right?  My boob hurt the other day, even though I figured out it was right where the underwire of my bra pokes it, that counts as breast pain.  Sometimes my eyelids twitch-that is TOTALLY a symptom.

toomah

By the way, I never did really figure out how to make my glands less ouchie.  Partly because I was obsessing about diseases I could have and partly because some of those websites tend to have really, really gross pictures of stuff like nail fungus and infected things on their sidebar that I can’t bear to look at.

This whole situation is akin to having back pain and renting 50/50. If you are experiencing back pain of any kind, just don’t rent it.  It’s a great movie, by the way, even though I did think I had cancer after seeing it.  I often have muscle spasms in my back and neck.  This has been confirmed by two different doctors.  I’ve been in physical therapy for the neck pain, which I have my daughter to thank for this.  When I gave birth to her I did something to my neck.  Even after six weeks of physical therapy for that and a dislocated pelvis, I never did regain full range of motion in my neck.  She is literally a pain in my neck.

I will give my husband credit, by evening he finally admitted that he was feeling a bit swollen too.  He has been sick right along with me, just a few days behind.  He’s not coughing like I am but he snores when he’s congested.  I should have known this was true.  So maybe I’m not dying…

Incidentally if you put the words swollen glands to the tune of jingle bells it works out pretty well music wise.

So tomorrow I begin the long ordeal of trying to get in to see my doctor.  It’s not that it’s hard to see her, it’s that you have to answer all kinds of questions and possibly have a nurse call you to determine if you are actually sick enough to be seen.  It’s kind of annoying.  I only go through this when I am dying or have some sort of medication issue.  I don’t get that sick too often, so it’s been awhile.

One thing is for sure here, these are the days when I really miss my big fluffy kitty!  The one who currently resides in our house is indifferent to my suffering…

WHAT?  Me comfort you?  Just who do you think I am?

WHAT? Me comfort you? Just who do you think I am?

The Internet: Brain Sucking Distraction or Useful Source of Information?

I have really got to get a life.

I have purposely avoided the computer, trying to only focus on the job search thing twice a week.  But yet it continues to suck me back in.  Especially Facebook.  Something about looking at everyone else’s supposed fabulous lives helps pass the time?  Who knows.  I do know this-that I really need to stop googling everything and anything when I am online doing whatever.  Somehow I wind up on some of those forums that you’re not supposed to really look at when you are not quite in your right mind.  “I have been unemployed for three years, and now I’m dead.”  “I quit my job and my skin burned off”.  “I have been jobless six years and now I live in a toaster oven.”  Ok so none of those really actually existed, but they might as well have because that’s how I take them.

A while back I took a little detour through a nearby town to stop at a locally owned appliance place.  I haven’t had a working dishwasher in a really long time and my mother had offered to help either fix the one we have or aid in the purchase of a new one (I’m sure the mountain of dishes in the kitchen when she visited was a bit of a catalyst in that situation).  I’m bringing this up because all of my research about dishwashers took place on the internet, except for the guy at Lowes who was in his third day of work there and he really really liked Samsung dishwashers because he had one.  Not exactly scientific research there.  Anyhoo, it turns out that it does not matter what the product is, EVERY product out there has an I-hate-this-product website.  EVERY product.  They could make an appliance that pooped out solid gold eggs and someone would find a reason to complain.  Funny that the very dishwasher that is sitting dormant in my kitchen is actually one of the top rated ones out there, but people hated it just as much as any of the other ones.

I walked into the store with two wide eyed children, and the appliance guy looks me up and down.  I try to talk to him, explain my situation.  Told him about my dishwasher, made sure I made it clear that we had bought several appliances from them in the past and wanted some “expert” advice.  Then I opened my mouth and said I had been looking on the internet.  At that very moment, I think I made Hulk angry.  He proceeded on a ten minute tirade about how the internet is evil and that I should not be looking up, well, anything.  I think If I had lingered the villagers would have come out and burned me at the stake.

I politely thanked him for his time, turned and ran out of there as fast as I could.  This is why the big stores are doing well…

I had a point, and it was about the internet.  Anyone can post anything on the internet anywhere.  That’s what makes it so great, and so awful at the same time.  If you need information on something you can get it quickly, now whether it’s correct or not depends.  The same goes for an opinion.  Or pretty much anything.  You seriously can type in just about anything and something will come up.  Not so good for an anxious person.

If you’ve been hunting for a job anytime recently you have probably noticed that EVERYTHING is online.  EVERYTHING.  Even a job at Casey’s is one you are directed to the internet to apply for.  I am not so proud to say that I will never ever be hired for a job at Kum and Go.  I am a very intelligent person, but I can’t pass their test.  And you can’t take it a second time.  Every job I have applied for this time around has been online.  That’s just how it is.  Good for me as far as the convenience-I don’t have to leave my home as long as I have the internet.  Bad for me in the fact that they most likely skim over my application and toss it in the trash.  Or laugh hysterically “Bwah ha ha!  How dare someone with a music education degree apply for this job?” and light it on fire.  Oh wait, it’s probably all digital-doubt they actually print them out.

I have several websites I check twice a week.  Ok I TRY.  It’s been a bit more often.  I can’t help myself.  I don’t know why-when jobs are posted there is a week or two to give people time to apply.  I also have done the networking site LinkedIN.  It’s where you “link up” with other people to try to get as many connections as possible.  A lot of the career websites highly recommend it.  I don’t quite get it, but I’m willing to give it a try if it will increase the likelihood that I might get a decent job.

Back to the forums I keep coming to, usually about 11:00 when I should be heading to bed, or doing something more productive like reading a book.  Much like the whole appliance debacle, there are many different stories out there.  There are the success stories, and then there are the people who I wish I had never read about (that would be the guy in the toaster.)  The fact is, I can try as hard as possible, but it may be awhile before I get a job.  And what if I DON’T find a job?  What’s the worst that can happen?  Not us homeless living in a cardboard box, or me exploding (somehow things exploding always work their way into my anxiety).  My husband has a good job-we won’t be doing great but we will get by.  I honestly don’t WANT to work full time right now.  My kids are still young-part-time so that I can contribute would be GRAVY right now.

I want to get past all of the anxiety about the whole situation.  I really want to just enjoy things and take it as it comes.  I don’t want to simply exist, I want to enjoy life again.  But at the moment I can’t.  Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment to address the sleep issue.  Finally-I lost my insurance when I lost my job, and now that my husband has insurance again I need to get things taken care of.  And as much as my husband does not want me to take meds to help me, this is something that as much as I would like to conquer on my own that I may not be able to.  If the doctor recommends it, I think I need to do it.  Does that make me a bad person?  No.

On an up note, this week has been one of the better ones for exercise for me.  Today the whole family participated in a walk for my husband’s work.  Between my morning walk and that one, I did over 5 miles in one day.  I am tired, but I feel really good.  This is the kind of thing that I want to get back to doing.  I used to be religious about it-before I had kids.  Now, not so much.  I want to do things like this again-also reading, writing, and GETTING AWAY FROM THE INTERNET (except for this blog, of course)  Maybe getting to the doctor will be the start of some good things.  And I can get back to being the semi-funny semi-fit fully conscious person I used to be.