Almost all the big choices in my life have felt intuitive or inevitable. I am not used to wrestling with things this way. But right now, I am really learning the meaning of the word "agonizing." Making this decision about what to do with this screwed up back of mine truly is agony. So I'm going to try and write it all down--and see if that brings me any sort of clarity.
So, the plan as of just a few days ago, was to give the back 6-8 weeks and see what happened. Give nature a little time to run its course, see if maybe things would improve on their own. Backs are mysterious things, and you just never know. If it was still terrible at the end of that period, I would schedule surgery. This seemed like a very rational plan. No one could argue with it. It was entirely reasonable. I decided that my surgeon was being overly aggressive, maybe even unethical, recommending major surgery only a week after the onset of new pain. I decided that I couldn't trust him. I read all the bad stories about spinal fusion, and all the inspiring tales of people who healed themselves without surgery, and I felt I was making a good choice. It would be crazy rush into spinal fusion because I was overly emotional or didn't want to miss my summer vacation (which will definitely be missed if I end up having this surgery in 6-8 weeks).
The problem is, most days, I don't feel like I can survive this plan. My gut tells me that this back is not getting better, and that I am merely stuck in limbo, watching more and more of my life slip away. Every day, I find myself clawing at crumbling ground, trying to keep from falling back into that awful black hole of depression. The idea of lying around disabled for another two months, and then likely ending up having the surgery anyway, makes me feel like I want to die. With the exception of a couple days, I have felt like sobbing pretty much all the time. I have not wanted to eat. I have been unable to concentrate on work--or on anything. I have alienated my husband and tried the patience of friends and family. I tried to tell myself that, during this waiting period, I would just suck up the pain and go on with my usual activities, and I've been able to do that to some extent. But, as I do those things, I feel awful, miserable, full of panic, barely able to hold it together.
I was feeling that way all weekend, and in desperation, I called a family member who I trust. I asked her what I should do, and she said, "Just go ahead and have the surgery." When she said those words, I felt the first relief I had all weekend. I can't go on like this, my inner voice told me. I have to do something. I have to take this risk to heal myself. And it is a risk. There are lots of people who have had this surgery and gone on to good and happy lives. I've talked to several of them. But there are a lot of people who have had fusion and not gotten relief from their pain, or who have developed other problems as a result. There is absolutely no guarantee that I will not be among that group. I have already ended up on the wrong side of the odds with my back, so I know it is possible. It's also possible that it will resolve some, but not all, of my pain. What if I do this surgery and end up permanently disabled and in chronic pain? What if, what if, what if?
These are the worries that stop me in my tracks, these worries about the unknown future. But where am I now? Right now I am in a place that feels untenable. Do I need to simply sit in that place and hope that an answer will eventually become more clear? Or do I need to make a bold leap based on the hope for something better than this miserable existence? I don't know. God, I just don't know.