December 19, 2012

My One Night Stand with the Mexican Farmacia

The only thing that would have made the illusion that the inside of my head is an awful lot like an old school arcade better would be the nostalgic sound of a pinball game in play.  As I was stepping off the low speed treadmill workstation at work this morning, I noticed that my right hip was a bit sore, but not as sore as it could have been, having slept on the equivalent of a queen sized marshmallow overnight.  In years past, if I wasn’t sleeping on some plywood with a couple of cottonballs hot glued to the top of it, I’d be in a world of literal hurt in the morning.  

I went through several years of serious back pain.  My L5 vertebrae was diagnosed, in layman’s terms, as being squashed, dehydrated, and beginning to bulge.  I’ve got posture issues, muscles the consistency of a rubber band left on the windowsill in august, and a severe mind block when it comes to exercise.   So, the fact that I’ve been on this walkstation almost every work day since the beginning of October and can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken the elevator on one hand is a big fucking deal.  I haven’t see much weight loss, but I can touch my toes again, and I don’t have to spend near as much time in the morning regressing from the body of an 80 year old to that of a 35 year old woman when it comes to aches and pains.  It might not be radical, but I can see the payoff rather than have to trust that it’s working, and that makes it real to me.

What really knocked it out of the park as far as convincing me that I’m a Virginia Slim kind of girl, (that I’ve come a long way, baby) is that I woke up this morning still able to walk.  You see, I got a new bed over the weekend.  It’s a pillowtop that makes me feel like a bit like Jonah with the way it swallows you whole.  I was just certain I’d wake up sore from lack of rigid support.  I mean, it’s not like it would have been a first.  Take my last trip to Mexico, for example.

My ex-father in law was. .  . well, buy me a pitcher of margaritas sometime and ask me about the guy.  I’ve got a few stories.  The quick and dirty here is that he’d been slowly alienating his family be being the type of hemorrhoid that not even a donut pillow and surgery could cure when he got this idea that he’d take his kids and their spouses on a week-long cruise to make it all better.  Well, my affections can’t be bought, but I wasn’t going to deny the guy his attempt.  I mean, we’re talking umbrella drinks and cabana boys here!  So, I bought up all the SPF 500 I could find, packed up my breeziest clothes, and set out to cruise the caribbean for a week.  

We had taken a cruise for our honeymoon.  And Alaskan cruise, to be exact.  The first night on that ship saw 9 foot swells that turned us both greener than pizza left out on the counter for a month.  This time, we had smooth seas, and slept on a cloud.  The problem with that was that the bed was too soft.  I didn’t have the support I was used to at home, and that caused a panic in the lumbar, leading to one of the worst spasms I’d had since the injury that sent me to the ER in 2006.  Here I was in paradise, with tanned bodies to ogle and buckets of beer to nurse, and wasn’t able to stand up straight or walk  for more than a few minutes without stopping.  The Advil I’d brought with me wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t really enjoy relaxing in a pool-side folding chair when it took me 5 minutes and two sets of helping hands to get comfortable.  

Thankfully, the first shore excursion we took was to Cozumel, Mexico.  As much as I would have loved to have done the swimming with the Dolphins, I knew there was no way in hell I was going to be able to shimmy into my bathing suit if I couldn’t even put my socks on without help.  So, that was out.  Instead, we shuffled through town, taking in the sights.  

Let me amend that.  We shuffled through town looking for some underwear in my size.  Did I mention that I’d started packing for the trip three days before we left and neglected to put any spare panties in the suitcase?  (My ex-husband STILL hasn’t let me live that down.) So, we were on a quest for ‘roos  that fit an American Fatass in Mexico when we found the pharmacia off the main street, advertising several medications you’d need a prescription for back in the states.  

Listed on the board was Flexeril, a muscle relaxant I had a legal prescription for back in the states.  The fact that I was on vacation in paradise, stooped like a woman double my age and in the kind of pain that keeps most people in bed was a huge factor in making the decision to fork over the $40 for a bottle of little pink miracle pills.  

By the time we had our fill of fresh guacamole made tableside, bought a bottle of 100% agave tequila, marveled at how blue the water in the ocean was, and ambled through all the stores in search of even a single pack of high waisted grannie panties, the ship’s staff had found a slab of plywood to put under the mattress of my berth.  We got back to our cabin, put the bags from our shopping on the floor, and I plunked down on the bed to rest my aching body and test the firmness of the jury-rigged fix.  It seemed to offer more of what I thought I’d need, so I took out the bottle of muscle relaxants, took the equivalent dose of what I had at home, and wandered out to meet the rest of the family on the promenade before dinner.

The rest of the trip was so very relaxing.   I think by the end of it, I was the psychological consistency of silly putty.  We sucked down bottles of beer out of a bucket, soaked in the sun by day, and the shows by night.  To this day, I’m still in awe of the showgirls doing their high-kicking routines in 4 inch heels on the high seas.  Hats off to you, ladies.  I couldn’t make it to the buffet in flip flops without holding on to something.  I slept like a champ at night.  Hell, I slept like a pro or a distant member of the Van Winkle family for the entire week.  I figured, it’s vacation!  Catch up on what you need, and let the gentle rocking of the boat sooth a girl and lull me to sleep.  I mean, the pills were helping, but I still had to see the ship’s doctor for an injection of pain relievers and anti-inflammatories into those spasming muscles at least once while we were out to sea.  (Let me tell you, dropping trou for a strange medical tech with a South African accent wasn’t something I’d planned on having on my bucket list, but there you go.)  I’d have given my kingdom (all ¼ achre that it sat on) for my prescription pain meds and TENS unit that trip.  

Disembarkation day came with its organized chaos of getting thousands of people off of a ship and away to their next destination in a somewhat orderly manner.  The Flexeril was packed away in the suitcase to keep it from being confiscated outright by the TSA agents charged with making my flying experience safer, one degradation at a time.  

When I got home, I had my beloved matzoh mattress and TENS unit, so I put the quasi-legal bottle of Flexeril on the shelf and forgot about it.  If i don’t have to take the pain meds, I don’t want to.  Seems like the wrong way to end up on the news, or as another statistic, if you build up a tolerance.  

Sometime in the following year, I threw out my back again.  Not badly.  I mean, it wasn’t like I was back in the ER with tingling in my feet again, or needing to walk with a cane like I did for much of 2007, but I was pretty uncomfortable.  I dug out my TENS unit, and fished the nearly forgotten pills out of the back of my medicine cabinet.  I was running late, as per usual, so I threw them in my purse, shoehorned myself behind the wheel, put the seat heaters on nuclear, and went to work.

I don’t remember what I had done to make my back and hips angry, but I do remember it was winter or early spring when it happened.  It also must have been some time in 2008 because I was still a field tech who filled in on the help desk when they were short handed, rather than a full time phone jockey.  I do recall sitting on one of our high bar stools in our setup room at a station where the radiators were on two sides of me, and barely being able to keep my eyes open.  I mean, I was the level of zonked that went past A Clockwork Orange when it came to the effort I had to put in to staying conscious.  I was babysitting a Microsoft Update install, and it was going to take a series of restarts to complete, so I had to stay in my upright and locked position.  In the sauna.  

Have you ever seen GI Jane?  You know the scene where the recruits are told to write an essay about why they love being a Marine immediately after coming in from a hellacious, days long training session, and the drill sergeant cranks the heat up in the room?  Remember how the class drops like flies into a drooling, messy slumber in their composition books?  Yeah, I was nearly a one woman reenactment of that scene.  One minute I’ve got the mouse in my hand, restarting the machine.  The next I’m indelicately seated on the stool, legs splayed, about to slip off the edge onto the floor because I’d been hit by the ninja star of sandman sand.  There may have even been a snort to punctuate my near miss with being a puddle of comatose girl on the floor.

Like a bubble of wax rising to the top of a lava lamp, the realization dawned on me; THIS is why I slept so much on my cruise!  It wasn’t the vacation.  It wasn’t the rhythmic rocking of the boat.  It was the damn drugs!  These might have the same name, but damn if they didn’t hit me differently than the American Flexeril.  And then, with the same speed of that wax bubble breaking apart as it reached the highest point in the glass container, I had an awful realization; I was stuck at work like this until it wore off.  I couldn't drive home.  I was like a narcoleptic headed home after a bender!  I mean, for all intents and purposes, I was inebriated at work.  So, what’s a gal to do when she’s impaired and sure she’s going to get canned for it?  Well, I don’t know about your bright ideas, but I hid in the handicapped stall in the bathroom three floors up from mine.  Though, my idea of hiding involved snoring, and waking up an hour later to dried drool on my arm and stall railings from where I was leaned up against them, trying to get comfortable.

Less than an hour later, I’m back to catching my eyelids heading south to the border again.   I struggle through till lunch, when I’d decided I was going to find a dark, quiet place to take a power nap.

Those 20 winks came to me while curled up on the naugahyde chaise lounge in the women’s room down the hall from my office.  Working on the same floor as the Mayor has its perks, and no expense was spared when furnishing the restrooms.  Well, until you got to the ones the unwashed masses had access to, and then it was more like an afterthought bought at the discount furniture store in a rush after the mahogany stuff had already been delivered.   Amid the occasional automatic flush and bodily aromas you can only find in a ladies room, I napped away my lunch hour.

Somehow, I managed to avoid third degree carpet burns on my knuckles and made it through till quitting time.  Thankfully, my commute was during a time when the roads weren’t as full of hot-headed road ragers as you’d find during the height of rush hour, but I took the back roads anyway.  I didn’t want my drug-induced sleepiness to affect my ability to avoid non-consensual bumper kissing.  Because no means no, don’t you know.

By the time I got home and hauled the matched set of luggage under my eyes up to the bedroom, I had used all the gas in the reserve tank.  I plopped, face first, onto the bed where I remained until my then-husband woke me up with a steaming platter and a cold drink for dinner a couple hours later.  Having slept through lunch, I don’t remember chewing my food.  Suddenly, the plate was empty and I found my strength returning.  My first act upon my return to the land of the living was to flush the rest of the contents of my illicit Mexican Flexeril straight down the toilet.  I might occasionally have fisticufs with insomnia, but from then on I swore to be a Benadryl or  melatonin and warm milk kind of girl.

The moral of the story is twofold.  First, the experiment with the new squishy mattress not only makes Thunderhead happy, but I’d call it a success. I’m not back to walking with a cane after sleeping on it a couple nights.  Apparently, my daily appointment with the walkstation at work is making a difference where it counts.  Second, there’s a reason I’ve never indulged in recreational drugs.  If I don’t have a contract where I’m getting paid for my stupid behavior, I’m not gonna do anything that pretty much guarantees that anyone following me around with a camera could gain Youtube infamy as “that guy who caught X on film”.  That shit comes naturally, and Bravo isn’t exactly knocking on my door now.

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