This is a continuation of a previous post, which left off with my move from my desk to my couch. Feel free to go back and reread that first post if necessary.
As with all big mistakes we make in life, it started innocently enough. A little back pain here. A stiff knee there. Nothing I ever thought too much about. After all, I’m getting older and those things are not unusual. I would spend my days working on the couch, with my legs propped up on an ottoman or stretched out, laptop in my lap. Sometimes my feet would get tingly or my back would start hurting, and I’d switch positions. When I was done working or just needed to take a break, I’d mosey over to Facebook or check my email or surf the Internet. Then I’d get back to work, never moving from the couch. I’d get up and make lunch, which I ate on the couch while I watched TV. In the evening, I’d make dinner and afterward, I’d sit on the couch and watch TV, maybe use my laptop to surf the Internet while I watched. And when I’d get sleepy, I’d stretch out on the couch and fall asleep until my husband woke me up and told me it was time to go to bed. If I woke up too early, I’d come downstairs and stretch out on the couch for a while and go back to sleep.
Over time, I noticed I’d put on a few pounds. Then one day I was helping to load a friend’s refrigerator in the back of a truck. I’m a strong girl. I never shy away from heavy lifting. I don’t want to do it all by myself, but I consider myself an able-bodied person and I don’t mind helping out. With one guy on the ground and one guy in the bed of the truck to keep the fridge upright, I hopped up into the bed of the truck and helped pull the refrigerator up. Certainly not the heaviest thing I’ve ever lifted. But it was slipping and I needed to squat down quickly in order to keep it from sliding off the tailgate. This was a full-on squat: butt hovering over the truck bed near my heels, knee completely bent. Complete range of motion, and then some. Once I caught the fridge, I had to stand up quickly to pull it back up. I felt a twinge and heard a “grating” sound in my knee, but I took a step or two and it seemed fine. My busted up left ankle with the missing ligament was my greater concern, and that seemed OK, so I figured I was good. But then I had to get out of the truck, and there was stuff all over the back, so I couldn’t sit down on the tailgate and hop down. And neither of these guys offered me a hand. (Now, I’m not prissy, but that’s just common courtesy. Help a girl out of a truck, huh?) So I had to jump down from this truck bed to the driveway, a distance of about 4 feet. And when I landed on the driveway, I felt pain shoot from my foot to my hip. But again, I walked it off for a few minutes and figured I was OK.
The next day, I couldn’t move.
I had pinched a nerve and had shooting pain all the way down my leg. Even sitting or laying down was uncomfortable, but it was better than walking around. So, to the couch I went. My kids were very helpful, fetching things for me when they were out of school, but I had to give up the gym for 2 weeks. Laundry piled up because getting up and down the stairs took me forever. I had to put my hands on the steps in front of me and sort of crawl up. Going down, I would just take a deep breath and try to take the steps as quickly as possible, knowing I would need to sit for a while once I got to the bottom, until the pain went away. Getting from the couch to the bathroom, a distance of about 20 steps, was excruciating. I would drag myself along, hands on the wall. My son would see me struggling and come and put his arm around my waist, then wrap my arm around his shoulders and walk me to the bathroom.Not exactly the highlight of human dignity, but I was grateful I’d raised a son who was so willing to help.
It took about 4 weeks before that pinched nerve was completely healed. Before it happened, I’d just worked really hard in the gym and lost about 8 pounds in 8 weeks, and I gained it all back, plus 2 more, in the 4 weeks I was laid up. And then we were headed into the holidays, when losing weight is about as effective as brushing your teeth with a mouth full of Oreos challenging. Awesome.
Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy with my scale at the start of that new year. And it just continued. I’d lose a few pounds, I’d gain a few pounds, I’d never make real progress. I kept up with my gym workouts, although I’d been permanently scared off lifting any weights with my legs due to the fear of pinching a nerve again. So I’d just do my cardio on the elliptical and call it good. Eventually, I gave up strength training for my upper body, too. Another year passed.
We had some significant financial difficulties. I write advertising for a living and when the economy starts to suck, people don’t want to spend money on advertising, so my work dries up. But I kept at it, trying to find new ways to use my skills, which meant more time at my laptop. All along, I kept working on the couch. After another year, I had new clients and after a long spell of barely scraping by, I was suddenly earning a lot more. And I was busy, working almost all day, every day. My career was really taking off, the way I dreamed it would when I’d sit and clack away on Old Ironsides, forearms resting on my big white desk. Now that desk was covered with my husband’s papers, electronics equipment, gadgets, and crap. I was working more than ever and happy with the checks coming in. But what sucked was that I could hardly wear any of my clothes, because I’d steadily gained small amounts here and there.
Equally sucky was the fact that I began to notice that I was shrinking. I had been just under 5′9″, and all of the sudden, I was 5′8″. I always knew my son would be taller than me. I just didn’t think it would happen when he was only 13. (He turned 14 about a month later.) My husband is 5′11″, and suddenly he was towering over me. My older sisters are 5′2″ and 5′5″, and I was used to doing the towering, but for the first time in my life, at age 44, I felt short.
Around the same time, I developed pain behind my left knee. It was sore all the time, to the point that I had to cut back the resistance on the elliptical from 8 to 6, and then eventually to 4. Otherwise, it would be too painful. It felt like I had a permanent Charley Horse behind my knee, kind of puffy back there, and it never went away. And, no big surprise, my weight hit a plateau. Then I changed some medication which affects my hormone levels and … I started gaining. Up 14 pounds in about 8 weeks.
So, there I was … heavier than I’d been in a long, long time, knee thrashed, spine compressed like a tin can ready for the recycling bin. Heavier, shorter, in constant pain and aging–not the ideal dynamic for healthy living, and I felt like all of my hard work had slipped away and I could never get it back. Fortunately, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the nature of my problem: I had to get off the couch.
Come back soon for the conclusion of this story.