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Saturday, June 3, 2000

Staying home and getting work done might not make for thrilling journal entries, but it definitely makes for a more relaxed Michael. I've been up and down on almost a daily basis of late, and every hill and tunnel along the way has found its way into my writing. Whiplash, anyone?

I don't think it's clinical (but then how would I know?), but as good as I feel today, I can't guarantee (to myself or anyone else) that I won't be back in the dumper tomorrow. Or if not the dumper, at least the doldrums. Thinking about this should depress me, but just recognizing the pattern, however haphazardly it's applied, gives me some reassurance. It might even help me deal with it, keeping me from getting too low by reminding me I'll probably be on the rebound tomorrow.

If anything good has come out of the intermittent back pain I've been experiencing for the last week or so, it's learning how to set limits for myself. I'm not all the way there yet. But at least I have a grasp of the concept, even if I haven't figured out how to apply it.

It's a little like quitting smoking, or some other habit that you know takes away from your quality of life as much as it gives you. Something that pushes you over the edge, a revelation that your mortality is at stake, can spur you to make a life-saving, or at least life-enhancing, lifestyle change. I've never smoked, so I can only sympathize without fully understanding, but I've been to the edge. I know what overstressing my mind and body has been costing me, and I'm ready to give moderation a try — even if all it means is stepping back every so often and doing something less taxing.

I've spent more time today sitting in a comfortable chair with a spiral notebook and a pen, really enjoying the process of putting words on paper. And that's given me the energy to come back to my desk at times throughout the day and get some valuable work out of the in-basket and into the out. More than anything, I think, that's why I'm feeling better tonight.

And all it took was feeling as if someone were standing behind me plunging a red hot poker into my back every half hour or so.

Oh, I have no illusion that I'll actually get caught up, or that I'll be truly ready to leave for vacation next weekend. But maybe it won't be as bad as I'd feared.

It turns out that it's a good thing I don't have to see a doctor, despite all the aches and pains of late. That's because the medical group that my doctor works for has folded, and my insurance company has dropped them. I got a letter from the insurance company earlier this week, telling me not to worry, but I'd hate to develop some condition that called for critical care just now, because I'm not sure I'm covered for anything.

I've had this coverage for all of the thirteen years I've worked for the Company, but I've used a total of three times. The first time was when I was so sure I had high blood pressure, or some other threatening condition, that I was thinking about making arrangements — writing a will, buying a plot, shredding documents. I was so humiliated to find out I was in perfect health that I didn't go back for two years, until I thought I was going deaf. My other two doctor visits were to have my ears washed out, a recurring problem that is just embarrassing enough for me to put off going in until it gets out of control.

So if I seem reluctant to get professional attention during my current troubles, there's some history behind it. There's no really good reason, just the vague sense that I'm going to tell the doctor my back hurts and he's going to tell me to go home and take a pill. Which, by the way, it's time for.

On the other hand, he might tell me, if he sees this picture, that I need an ergonomically designed chair. This is the chair I have to get out of after twenty minutes of work.

chair of pain

Do you think this has something to do with my back problems? I'm using a throw pillow and a blanket to try to make a kitchen chair into an office chair. I can't say that it's been working awfully well. But I'm dealing.

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