Monday, May 12, 2014

Baby Got Back Problems

This summer, I am taking a huge step forward in my life.  After five years of living in New York City, I am moving back to Los Angeles.  After years of chasing one singular dream, I am opening myself up to new aspirations and opportunities.  I would be eagerly anticipating this new life, but one thing seems to be holding me back…my back.

On August 4, 2010, five days shy of my one-year anniversary of living in New York, I was hit by a car while crossing the street on Broadway and 87th Street.  I’ll save the story for my memoirs, but the gist of it is I spent a year in physical therapy recovering and relearning how to use my body.  I have waxed nostalgic about my story of overcoming adversity because it inspired me to eventually apply to the Alexander Training Institute and start a new life helping others.  Two weeks ago, I stopped reminiscing about the experience and started reliving it.

On April 28, 2014, I was driving around Los Angeles, getting ready to head to the airport for my flight back to New York, when I was rear-ended at a red light on Wilshire in the Miracle Mile district.  The accident was minor and my little Civic has seen much worse damage over the years, but my back seemed to experience PTSD.  When the car hit, my entire body froze and my heart jumped into my eyeballs.  Once I pulled over, I started shaking uncontrollably, my face turned grey, and I spiked a fever.  My body was mimicking its last trauma.  I couldn’t write down the driver’s information, I had to take shaky pictures with my phone.  She was so freaked out by my reaction that she held me to calm me down.  After our surprisingly pleasant exchange, I called my insurance company, picked up an icepack at Walgreen’s, and sat perfectly still in my car until it was time for my very uncomfortable cross-country flight. 

Just like the incident four years ago, insurance has made this experience harder at every turn.  The only thing that makes me feel more helpless than spinal pain and blinding headaches is the anxiety over how to pay for thousands of dollars of physical therapy.  I cry a lot.  I crawl into bed at the end of a long day, curl up into a ball, and cry until my cat comes and licks the tears off of my face.  I cry because of pain, because of fatigue, because of dizziness, because of helplessness, because of stress from all of the things I don’t feel up to doing, and most importantly, because I am going through something very difficult for the second time…and for the second time, going through it alone.  I think being upset fuels the tension and the pain, which then makes me more upset.  It’s a real backbone or the egg conundrum.

Though I have not yet been able to attend physical therapy due to insurance hang-ups, I have found to two temporary substitutes.  They don’t help my spine, but they keep my spirit from atrophying.  First, there’s Billie, my newish cat.   Having a little purring fluffball curling up with me every time I can’t take the pain is a wonderful distraction.  I feel like she cares, even if she is just waiting for her next can of Fancy Feast.  My other therapy is going out to live shows.  The inspiration came when I had Cabaret tickets and almost didn’t go because I was in too much pain.  Then I thought, “What good is sitting alone in your room…?” If I can be in pain sitting in my apartment, I can be in pain watching Alan Cumming give one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.   This inspired me to go to Magnet regularly to sit in pain during funny shows featuring my close friends.  I don’t feel hopeless when I’m surrounded by people who make me smile.  That community provides more warmth than any heating pad and numbs pain better than any icepack.  They prove laughter really is the best medicine.

I’ll admit it, times of illness and injury are the times I wish I were married.  I wish I came home to someone other than my cat who would curl up with me and let me cry and then remind me he has a sweet PPO that covers all of my medical bills.   Then he would make me dinner and remember all of my allergies and intolerances.  Okay, I don’t need vegan carrot cake, just some dark chocolate, compassion, and companionship.  I want to cash in on that whole “sickness and health” thing.  I sincerely hope I won’t go through anything like this again, but if the third time does prove to be a charm, I hope I have someone who loves me enough to feel obligated to help me get through it.  Until then, I’ve got my own back.

I know this experience will make me a better Alexander student and teacher down the road.  Maybe not down Wilshire Blvd, but down that new career path and journey as an artist.  Right now, I can’t see the forest for the trees, but when my spine is lengthened again, I know I’ll have a better view.   Until then, I’m settling for this one.

Reject your sense of injury 
and the injury itself disappears. 
-Marcus Aurelius