Recovery from back surgery takes a long time. Even though I am healed on the outside, it will take several months for the inside to heal. The doctor told me they cut muscles and nerves to get to my bones to fuse them. It takes a long time for those muscles and nerves to regenerate. The doctor told me this, but I didn’t quite get what that meant. When my incision healed up and I no longer had shooting pains down my legs, I figured I was now pain free. I was wrong. It’s a different pain, but there is pain.
I noticed the pain last Tuesday after I worked my first six-hour shift. I was on big register. At first it was slow, then suddenly it was busy. I tried extremely hard not to twist too much or lift too many heavy things, but it is impossible to completely avoid it. A cashier’s has a very physical job, especially since most stores no longer have baggers. My store got rid of them many years ago. The cahier rings up groceries and bags them. I’m one of those cashiers.
While I worked my back ached. The line stretched into the aisles and I cashed and bagged as fast and efficiently as possible. Even though we have hand scanners, customers think it’s fine to put cases of drinks and bags of dog food on the conveyer belt. Some were willing to put them back in their own carts, but there were others who informed me they were not heavy. By the end of my shift, I was very sore.
Lou took me out to eat after work. Sitting felt good, but when I stood up the pain made me cringe. I let out an, “Ouch.”
Lou looked at me. “What’s wrong? What happened? Did you bang your back or fall?”
“No. I didn’t fall or anything. There better not be anything else wrong,” I replied.
Fear that I messed up my back again haunted me that night and into the next day. My mind went to the worst scenario. I was sure the fusion came undone and I would need the surgery again. I have a bad habit of thinking the worst. This led to anxiety and worrying. When I start to worry, I can’t seem to stop. I journaled out my feelings and talked to Lou and my friends. Everyone reassured me I was fine. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe them, it was just that I couldn’t stop my mind.
When I went to physical therapy, I told my therapist about the pain. She explained to me the same thing the doctor told me; the muscles and nerves were still growing back. She told me if the pain stayed in my back then nothing else was wrong. She showed me stretches to do to help relieve the pain. Keeping up with physical therapy will help strengthen the muscles and nerves as they regenerate.
One day Lou and I sat down and talked. We decided it would be a good idea that I change my availability at work. Since I was going back to a regular schedule, we decided I would say I was unavailable to work on Thursdays and Wednesdays. That way I wouldn’t work as many hours as I used to before surgery and I would have two days in a row to rest. Lou is working more hours and getting good checks, so he assured me we could afford for me to work less hours.
I filled out my availability sheet at work. My manager told me I was really restricting myself and it would hurt my hours. I told her what Lou and I decided. My mind suddenly went crazy with worry again. Was I doing the right thing? Would we be able to make it? What if we can’t pay our bills and we lose our home? Was this the right decision? Was I making a mistake? What if restaurants close again and Lou’s hours are cut? My chest tightened and I felt sick.
Lou and my friend Cheryl reassured me everything would be fine. I swear the two are secretly talking about me. They often give me the same advice. If things get hard, I could always change my availability back, but for now this was for the best. They reminded me to journal and look at the positive.
I sat down and journaled the positive things: now I could participate on Thursday night writing Zoom meetings, I will have more time to woodburn, I will have extra time to focus on editing my memoir, Lou and I could have more time together, and my body will have more time to fully heal. This means I will get my book ready for publication sooner. I have been working hard at editing it. I have seven more chapters to edit.
Plus, if I work less, maybe I will not have so many physical problems. I’ve become a regular at physical therapy over the years and I have had way too many surgeries. Most of my problems have to do with my job and years of doing the same thing.
I plan to get back to exercising when my back is fully healed. For now, I can walk. Working less hours also gives me more time to walk. When my body gets stronger, I can always get my hours back. For now, I need to take care of myself first.
Our bodies and minds are precious. If we don’t make changes to nurture them, then they start to fail us. Part of taking care of your mental health should also include taking care of your physical body. If you need to exercise more, cut down on activities, make changes at your job or change your eating habits to take care of your body, then do it. Your body and mind will thank you. Nurture yourself inside and out.
Since I decided to make changes at my job, I know I will heal faster and feel better. Nurturing myself is helping me stand in the light of recovery a stronger person inside and out.