“So, how many months?”
My spine arched backwards, my left hand supporting my lower back, I inched forward and into the physiotherapist’s clinic, wincing with every slow step.
“Oh no! I’m not pregnant!” I replied.
A little embarrassed, the doctor apologised and asked me about my backache.
“Four-five years?! Why on earth did you not get yourself treated all this time?” Her response was a mixture of surprise, sympathy and anger.
‘Coz I didn’t have the time
I had consulted a GP, an internal medicine specialist, an orthopaedic, a super specialist spine surgeon, an Ayurvedic physician, a Kalari gurukkal, no less than four homeopathic advisors (two of whom are family members) and got three x-rays, an MRI and countless blood tests spanning over six years.
The Ortho told me to visit a physio, the spine surgeon prescribed some exercises and the ayurvedic doctor advised a massage. My Kalari guru diagnosed my problem by just looking at my foot many years ago and scolded me several times for not getting the treatment done at his clinic.
But I followed none of their recommendations. Why? Because I had no time. It was as simple, common and pathetic an excuse as there could be. Every time my lower back protested against me, I took a day or two off from work. And things would be back to normal – or as close to normal as they could be.
And even now, I probably wouldn’t have been sitting in front of the physio, had another consulting doctor not referred me to her when I limped, in extra slow-motion, on top of the examination table.
“Well, atleast you’re here now. It’ll take time. And a lot of effort on your part if you want to lead a normal life. But it is not impossible,” said my doctor, calming down, having overcome her initial surprise.
The able-bodied cripple
My muscles had lost all strength. There was inflammation in my joints. My nerve was getting compressed. The painkillers were of no use, and added to my problems with their side effects. I could not sit, stand, walk or lie down without excruciating pain.
Funny how I always complained of not having time. Two weeks was what my Kalari Guru had asked of me. And now, I had taken three full weeks of medical leave from work. It appeared that my body was teaching me a lesson.
During those three weeks that I was at the rock bottom of my life – physically, mentally, and emotionally – my support system stood rock solid.
I stayed with my convalescing parents – my mother was still recovering from chikungunya and my father had been afflicted by dengue less than a month before. My husband managed our household single-handedly despite his insane work schedule. Setting aside their own inconveniences, they supported me unflinchingly.
The startup I work in, allowed me the leave of absence. Any other company would have let go of me like a depreciated machine (humans are, after all just another replaceable resource).
I took a hard look at what got me in this place. I looked for something to put the blame on. But deep within, I knew I was the culprit. And something had to change. I needed to change.
My boss had been telling me to relax and loosen up for months. And even as I complained of my pain, he said “it’s largely psycho somatic you know.” It hurt. It hurt a lot. I knew my pain wasn’t made up in my head. But this statement struck deep within – not because it was a false accusation but because it was partly true. As I browsed through the Materia Medica, I found that frustration and anger were also likely to cause back aches.
This breakdown was a warning. And if I didn’t mend my was, I won’t get another chance. The workaholic, always-available, Kasturika had to go.
I told myself: If it isn’t going to kill anyone, then work, no matter how exciting or pressing, can wait. My life and health are now my priority.
I decided to give up, albeit temporarily, that which I loved most – writing. Health first, I told myself. My bestselling book will come. Have patience.
It has been three months since my medical crisis, and I am in many ways a different individual than the one who crawled in to the doctor’s clinic tenderly. I have followed my physio’s advice as closely as I can – my muscles are slowly regaining their strength. But these are just baby steps. My joint still flares up every now and then when I strain myself too much, or skip a day’s exercise. My family and company have continued to support me in this duration and if it weren’t for them, I’d be in shambles.
I now have hope that I may be able to practice Kalari again. My physio says it’s unlikely. But the hope is there. In this roller-coaster of a journey, the worst days are definitely over.
Keep chipping away, one day at a time, my muscles tellme; take good care of yourself, the ride is just beginning.