The life I’d planned out carefully now seemed unattainable. I couldn’t exercise, dance, act, direct. Some days I couldn’t even drive a car. Forced to be sedentary, depression crept in, combining with constant pain to make even part-time work an endurance contest. I was thankful just to push through a day and even more so to sleep through a night.
The accident threatened to completely derail the reason I’d moved to Denver, a directing internship with the National Theater Conservatory, an acting school at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. I’d planned to build on my undergraduate studies in acting, and directing, to use the internship as a stepping-stone to a graduate directing program. That life-plan brought me to Denver.
Determined to find pain relief and continue to pursue my dream, I tried every traditional approach, including, physical therapy three times a week, and steroid injections from a physiatrist. I also pursued non-traditional and holistic therapies chiropractic treatment, weekly massage therapy, and acupuncture. I wouldn’t be satisfied with just a magic bullet, I wanted a sense of normalcy.
Because of nerve compression from the neck injury, I had very little feeling in my left hand and fingers, and frequent tingling and burning. Often I couldn’t pick up so much as a glass of water without dropping it. Many glasses and dishes were broken during those first few years of healing.
The medical recommendations were overwhelming. The neurologist: pain medication and a back surgery to relieve constant low back pain. Plus, a rib resection to alleviate nerve compression. TMJ specialists: jaw surgery on my right temporomandibular joint. The physiatrist injected steroids and encouraged continued physical therapy.
It’s almost comical now when I look back at the array of appliances and props. A neck brace to drive and really, just move around, a bite-like retainer for my TMJ, a lower back brace to help with the pain and special pillows and medications to sleep.
Finally, in the fall of 1995, I gave in and decided to take the path of surgery. The first: rib resection in hopes of decreasing neck pain and possibly regain the use of my left hand and fingers.
Part Two from the article, “An Unexpected Cure: My Journey from Pain to the Transformative Power of Pilates” by Genevieve Nedder.