Storytelling – Part One.

It’s hard to know where to begin this. It seems like it’s important to get right. The stories you tell about yourself create your reality. We know memory is incredibly fallible and untrustworthy, but without it we have no way to determine who we are, where we’ve come from. So this may not be the truth, as it played out to an objective observer, but this is the beginning of the story as I remember it.

My mother was a sewing machinist (seamstress, before job descriptions became politically correct). The year I was ten, she hurt her back, badly. She was in hospital for seven months altogether, with a stint in the middle at home on complete bed-rest. I remember being constantly terrified that my mother was going to die. I remember the nurses giving me lots of biscuits because they felt sorry that a ten year old spent all her free time in hospital waiting rooms. I remember being ushered out a lot, and people whispering, and the only occasion on which I have ever seen my father cry. I remember running to my mother’s bedside when she came out of a prolonged spinal surgery, and hugging her, because I was so glad she wasn’t dead, and hurting her horribly in the process by jarring her, and feeling terrible.

My mother had a fragmented disc at L5/S1 (your lower back, just above your pelvis). The disc had lost fluid, and dried out, and become hard, and then shattered. Parts of the disc pierced her sciatic nerve (down the back of your leg running through your butt cheek). By the time she had the surgery, she had permanent nerve damage and the nerves which controlled her bladder and bowel were dying. She got better, mostly; she regained most of her mobility and found ways of managing her pain (which persists, some 16 years later), and she became my mother again. Her injury was attributed to her work, which involved long hours sitting hunched over a sewing machine.

That seemed like the end of it. But that was actually the beginning of my story. A deep-seated fear of hospitals and doctors. Debilitating terror inextricably linked with spinal issues.

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