Whitley's Journal

Crawling to Nirvana

One of the great blessings of being human is that we walk upright. I don't think it's something that evolved over any length of time; we just started doing it. As a result the human back is kind of thrown together. Or maybe if somebody designed us, they were too busy with other things or at war or whatever, and just didn't get the back done right.

So along comes Whitley Strieber. happily unaware of what is about to happen. Last Sunday, I spent the morning biking with my wife, planning to take in Looper in the afternoon. I go to the store to pick up a couple of things, stroll out feeling like a million bucks--and my back explodes. In my left hand I was carrying maybe a two pound bag of groceries. I was wearing good shoes. I am in good shape, well exercised and not overweight.

The pain was so terrible that it was actually kind of fascinating. The right side of my back from my thigh to my mid-back seemed to have burst into flames. I actually hollered and lurched, just like I would if my pants had caught fire. In a split second, I went from a state of normal well-being to being a total basket case.

I shuffled slowly to my car, actually hallucinating strange red flashes as I crammed myself in. One great thing about a Prius is that it has superb seats, so I leaned it back as far as I could and still manage to see, and crept slowly home. The lumbar support was a real godsend.

I managed to get to bed with Anne's help, and there began the saga that is just now showing signs of ending. I got hold of my doctor on Sunday, who prescribed hydrocodone. I rarely take any drugs at all, so this really knocked me for a loop, but didn't help the pain. Finally, I just embraced it. I opened myself to it and let myself be grateful for the challenge it was bringing me. It responded by dancing on my back with golf shoes.

On Monday, a masseuse came and got lots of good motion going. Then came Tuesday and the trip to the MRI scan. My son drove us, and it turned out that the passenger seat of the car was even more comfortable than bed. That is to say, I got a little sleep in the car, instead of the sweating, stabbing, burning nightmare I had been enduring. I decided to just live in the Prius. I could go to drive ins for food. But, of course, this is far from practical.

My problem was that I couldn't really lie down, sit up, stand or walk. So what's left? Living OBE? The people at the MRI place were great. They had a wheelchair. Halls too tight for a gurney. (This was not in a hospital). Sat down in it for a second. Might as well have been sitting in a campfire. So I ended up where we all started, which was on all fours, crawling through the medical establishment like a dog.

It was fine at the MRI lab. Not too many people around. My wife and son there to run interference. A nice nap in the incredibly comfortable MRI scanner. Usually, they're scary because they're so narrow and noisy. I asked the guy, 'could I stay in here for life?' He said over the intercom, 'not a problem. That'll be ten million dollars.' So, home we went.

Yesterday, time to see the orthopedist. She read the MRI and said, “you have a good back.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She said, “It’s going to be fine.” She explained that I had a couple of nerves that were swollen, and prescribed a course of treatment.

Then it came time to go home. I tried the wheelchair again, but it was bonfire time, so I gave up and crawled out of the office and into the lobby. So far so good. Just me and Anne. We got in the elevator.

We were on the ninth floor. It stopped on eight. People got in. Nobody said anything. I considered explaining that I was looking for something. On seven, more people got it. A few murmurs. A few snickers. Six, five, four, more, more, more. Was it the only working elevator in the building? In west Los Angeles? In all of California?

I decided that we’d stumbled into an elevator riders’ convention.

People were shuffling around. I was taking up way too much room. Then came three. The doors opened. There was a woman with a loaded double stroller and a five year old in hand. We are face to face. He yells out, “that lady’s dog looks like a gorilla!” The doors close.

For a couple of seconds, there is strained silence. I know that I have to say something. I come out with, “Does anybody have a dog biscuit?” Finally, the strain is gone and the elevator roars.

We get to the lobby. For a while, I lie down. Anne waits for our ride outside. I use my cane as a sort of flag. I am pretty miserable. Half the people stepping around me are doctors. They keep asking, ‘did you fall?’ I reply, ‘I’m a back,’ and they go on their way. They’ve seen backs before, obviously.

Finally, our ride, in the person of a healer called Phil Marcus, appears. I crawl out to my Prius of blessed seat design and we inch home through the usual carmageddon.

Phil is worth a whole journal entry of his own. More. Today he took me very, very deep in a healing that is going to have a powerful place in my life and remembrance, no matter if it helps my back or not.

I am in pain now. I am in great pain. I have been in the house of pain since Sunday. What do I do with my pain? We love each other, we laugh together, we join heart to heart, me and my pain.

So be it.


tee hee I thought looper was an aka for liqour or alchohol. Dedgum if my day was ruined by a back explosion like yours i definanately would have been ingesting more looper. But as far as Betty Andreasson's book given to her by Qwauzga or --their is several different spellings for this particur being, this is phenomenal ! DO TELL! This will be too cool! Can't wait!

It's Thursday October 11 and I'm a little better. It has been a week and a half of the worst agony I have ever known. (And as a person who once had a burst appendix, I know what pain is all about.) On the 10 pain scale, the moment the appendix exploded and fell down into my peritoneal cavity was a definite 10. This ENTIRE EXPERIENCE has been somewhere north of that--say about a 15. To give you an idea of how debilitating it has been, I have lost 12 pounds in 10 days. But I'm under excellent care and confidently expect to be back to my old rug-cutting style in no time. At least I don't have to crawl around in public places anymore. I am using a walker, however, and yes, one of the wheels fell off the first time I tried it. Of course, how could it not?

When lifting.;.;.; Never lift and twist at the same time (even 2 lbs could do it) or you will re-activate an old injury.

This is now hardwired in my brain since old high school wrestling injury where lightning shot up and down my back just to the left of my vertebrae... took 2 weeks to "heal" walking straight up and down consciously.

Hope you feel better, DoHickey

I know your pain. I once hurt my back stepping off a curb. I thought I had blown a disk. It felt is if vertebrae were grinding a nerve. It was incredibly painful, and as you said, there are very few comfortable positions to assume.

It turned out to be a deep muscle spasm irritating a nerve. No damage whatsoever.

my first thought to: Kundalini.

Whitley, I'm sorry about your back pain. I have a similar experience in that I'm in decent fitness, but recently experience groin pain...can't figure out why...it's subtle but chronic. Nonetheless, I hope Whitley's on the mend and I look forward to more conversation w/the fans of unknowncountry.

Whitley and Anne. I am keeping both of you in my thoughts and prayers and hope there is SOME improvement.

"It's going to be fine" just isn't what you want to hear in that situation, is it? I had a similar experience, but with my neck. The pain was so sudden and so severe I asked my husband to take me to the ER, fully expecting to be heavily medicated and taken into emergency surgery. Instead, I am diagnosed with "wry" neck and sent home with Tylenol 3's (seriously?!). When I got home I looked up wry neck in my pocket dictionary, which advised me it was a painless condition (again, seriously?!). Ice, rest and chiropractic got my neck back on the straight and narrow and I learned a valuable lesson that day. Humankind may (allegedly) have sent men to the moon, but we know squat about our own backs or how best to fix them.

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