Sunday, April 29, 2012

The twitches ...

A few days ago I woke up with a sleeping injury. My neck was sore, my shoulder crushed. A sharp painful reminder that at age 36, I'm one awkward blink from breaking a cheek bone. I tried to find a yoga class on Monday so I could be led through a series of slow stretches that might untie the knots. The class was at a community center I'd never been to in the East Hillside and I drove around a block a bunch of times trying to zero in on it. I never found it. By then I would have been late. So instead I went to Burrito Union and ate a bowl full of a nacho cheese sauce spiked with chorizo, downed a pint of the shop's home brewed root beer.

This did nothing for my shoulder pain.

An abbreviated version of life followed. A life where things that happened over my right shoulder were lost to me. Items placed above shoulder left were left on the shelf. Chuck lubed me up with Ben Gay. We straightened out the feather bed in case it was the culprit. I began a diet of three Advil at a time in regular intervals. I did slow windmill maneuvers with my arm. Rolled my head until I winced. In moments of high stress, I alternately forgot the pain, then came to to find it throbbing and aching.

I try not to Google these aches and ailments that crop up. It's too easy for me to read something, relate to the symptoms, then send out a mass email telling my friends and family that I now have Lou Gehrig's or Fibromyalgia. Please send money. So I let Chuck Google things and then pass along the information. He keeps the biggies under his belt and tells me about a treatment in which a doctor manually redirects the wire-work and muscles in your shoulder and arm to alleviate the pain. He tells me about Valium. He tells me I don't have Muscular Dystrophy. Maybe you shouldn't sleep on your stomach, he tells me. I'm not willing to give that up. Stomach sleeping is worth the pain.

Sometimes I think I have the lowest tolerance for pain of anyone on earth. I think "Surely the pioneers occasionally slept wrong on their lumpy mud beds. They didn't use it as an excuse to hole up all day and watch Lifetime and wince their way through commercials featuring people with nice hair and active lifestyles." On Friday night I slept on the bad arm to show it who was boss. The arm was boss. I woke up before birds, screaming, shuffled into the kitchen for an Aleve then had a hard time finding a way through the ache and back to sleep. On my back, no less.

On Saturday the twitching started. First at the top of my arm. Great convulsions visible to the naked eye. You've seen the birth scene in "Alien." Now in the role of Sigourney Weaver's stomach: My right arm. It bubbled and jerked it's way down my elbow. My arm felt heavy, like an added limb I'm forced to carry around. Just walking makes the appendage tug on my shoulder. Carrying a coffee cup taxes it.

First I watch a handful of episodes of "The Killing" with a heating pad wrapped around my arm. Then I nap. Then I watch a movie on Lifetime in which a woman has growing suspicions about the activities of her next door neighbors. She believes they have murderous secrets. She is either incredibly intuitive or paranoid. I wonder what science would say about this channel. Say I'm the target audience -- which I'm not because I don't wear khaki pants cinched above my navel or get woozy over cleaning supplies -- and I have a neighbor I'm sort of morbidly curious about. And say my dog suddenly dies and my daughter breaks her arm and my husband is crushed beneath the car he has jacked up in the garage. Does this channel justify my suspicions? Do I say to the police "I saw something like this on the Lifetime Network. The show starred that guy from 'A Guy, a Girl and a Pizza Place.'"

I begin to wonder if the muscle twitches are a message in morse code from my body or from God. My arms shakes as I take the pizza from the delivery man. The two liter Coke gives me palsy. We have plans to go to a party for my friend Sea Dawg, who has left his longtime job and has started a new one. "Chuck's still sleeping," I text JCrew, his fiance. "And I have muscular dystrophy. But we'll be there soon." The paranoid woman is right. Something is amiss next door. And then a new movie starts starring a 2007 version of Lindsay Lohan, a victim of torture who ends up in the hospital with just 1.5 legs remaining.

What if they have to amputate my arm?

I once spent five-sevenths of my nights at the Pioneer Bar. It felt like home. A disgusting home where people felt free to liberate their bladders on the bar stools, then conk out backward onto a dirty floor covered in pull tabs. Still, they were my people. And I stepped over them on my way to a bathroom, risking the possibility that what I was about to do would appear on a weird website specific to toilet cams. The bar eventually changed ownership multiple times, closed, re-opened and now has been renovated. The last time I was there I met my former landlord and his brother. They had just emptied a storage space from their rental property, a trailer worth of life's accumulations that had been marinating in layer of fluids from a backed-up sewer system. They had bellied up to the bar. Outside, the entire block smelled wet and fecal.

Tonight the place is packed in a way that never happened in the old days, except for during dart league. The Pioneer Bar now has lasers. A fog machine. A DJ who has remixes of 80s songs and Rhianna. Someone is celebrating his 40th birthday in the back, where there used to be rubber flooring similar to a wrestling mat. I see Taco Dip simmering at room temperature and wonder how many beers it will take to make me dig into the strangers' pot luck. Maybe none.

My arm feels better when I move around. But it also doesn't. I'd made a grave error when I walked in the front door, raising my arms in the air and dancing along to "Mony, Mony." I hold my arm as it twitches. The message: "This is not Billy Idol's shiningest moment." Sea Dawg's party is like an all-star event filled with faces rarely seen. Our entrance marks the exit of the first shift of people, a crowd that believes that 7:30 p.m. is an appropriate time to descend on a bar on a Saturday night. "I've usually been in bed for an hour by now," an acquaintance says as she makes her way to the door with her husband.

When I was in grade school there was a woman who lived across the street from St. Piux X Church who wore an eyepatch and a sling. She had two kids at the school and sometimes worked in the lunchroom as an aide. Years later I'm envious of the sling. My arm is so heavy. Stupid "Mony, Mony."

"Do you really have muscular dystrophy?" a woman asks me. I'm glad JCrew has spread the word.

This night is what I like to call a shit show. JCrew bullies people on to the dance floor with a growled "Come on, you little bitch," as she yanks on their arm, pulls them from stools. Blitz, quiet, not a drinker,  probably not a dancer, gets a hearty tug from my friend who rips him to the back of the bar: "Let the world know!" Two minutes later, his head can be seen bopping above the others. I'm unable to talk about the worst of my pain because I'm sitting next to a woman who is crippled with carpel tunnel and no longer able to work. My "It hurts all through here" sounds flimsy. Like telling a Cancer patient, "I know how you feel. Our drain is just clogged with hair. Sometimes I shower in water that is ankle deep."

It seems like the beer should serve as a muscle relaxer. Like maybe the twitching will slow or maybe I'll just stop noticing it. But it doesn't. And around 1:30 a.m. I am restless and ready to leave. I want to stuff my throat with Aleve and see what Episode 5 of "The Killing" has to offer. Back at home I prop myself against a heating pad and eat pizza. We watch TV, read a bit, then get heavy lidded. "You no good lousy stomach sleeper," my arms messages me.

I fall asleep on my back. Like a commercial for sleep hygiene.


Anonymous said...

My husband had strange shoulder pain. Can you only lift it to a certain height?

Anyway he had a syndrome called frozen shoulder. Apparently when calcium deposits try to absorb back into the body it can cause horrible shoulder pain. 1 shot of cortisone and he was all better.

traci said...

I had what sounds like the same injury a couple of years ago. I fought it for a while and then gave in and went to the chiro. I am not a back cracker and didn't want him to crack my back either, so he used what I refer to as the "clicky thing." I had 3 appointments and on the 3rd, I let him crack what he felt needed cracking and the pain was GONE! I even sent him a thank you card.

Christa said...

Anon -- I wish it was frozen shoulder. But, unfortunately, I can move my arm above my head.

Traci -- I really didn't want to make this a chiro thing. Ugh. I feel like that always turns into: "Ok. Let's meet back here twice a week for the next two years and I think we'll start to see some improvement."

amy a. said...

this happened to me once and i went to urgent care, where i used to live. st. lukes. the doc told me i slept wrong and told me to take ibuprofen. maybe he gave me muscle relaxers. i don't remember, but in a week it was gone. i have a high pain tolerance but i remember that pain was wicked bad. then i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but years later i understood that they diagnose everyone with that when they don't know what's wrong with you, like say you have a weird cranial dis-order and end up having 2 brain surgeries. so christa, you just come to me when you need a diagnosis. i'll hook you up. but i'm everyone's worst medical nightmare.