I don’t usually mention this to a lot of people but, I’m disabled. It happened about five years ago. I was in the process of moving and had been doing a lot of heavy lifting, pushing, and pulling. In addition to that I was working twelve hour shifts at the hospital. My mother was in the middle stages of a disease that eventually took her life so I was stressed, worried, and tired. My blood pressure was sky high along with my blood sugar. I had a heart event earlier that year that put me in the hospital on a nitroglycerin drip for five days. I had my first cardiac catheterization. Then one morning, soon after that, I tried to get out of bed and couldn’t move my legs without extreme pain. Of course I went to the doctor, told him I had been doing a lot of lifting, and after discussing the pain, we both came to the conclusion I had merely strained some back muscles. My doctor loves the fact I turn every appointment into a discussion about treatment and medications. I always tell him he’s my ’second opinion’. I’m the first. He gave me a couple of prescriptions and told me I would be better in a few days. Those days turned into weeks and then months. No matter how hard I tried or how careful I was the pain just continued to get worse. One day I tried to get out of bed and my right leg gave way and I collapsed on the floor. I knew then this was more than a back strain. The usual tests followed, Cat Scans, MRI’s, neurological function tests, etc. I wasn’t too surprised to find that I had a herniated disc. In fact I had three herniated discs in my back and one in my neck. What I wasn’t prepared for was a diagnosis of severe spinal stenosis. While the rest of me had expanded with age, my spinal canal had gotten smaller and less flexible to the point of compressing my spinal nerves. I thought back and realized I had fallen a lot in the past year. I put it down to clumsiness. Now I realize it was much more than that. However, this article isn’t about my health problems which I’ve come to accept. It’s about a group of people who literally made me want to continue to live.
I lost my job shortly after I was diagnosed with my back problem. I lost my insurance, my paycheck, and my purpose for being. I was in a deep dark place and, to be honest, to say suicide was on my mind is a lot like saying Bin Laden had an attitude problem. I thought about it all the time. When I was working I could out walk, out talk, and out work anyone. Now I had no place to do any of that. I thought my life was over and I felt like the most useless, unwanted person on earth. My mother no longer recognized me, one of my daughters was going through a painful divorce, my son had married a woman that didn’t want him to have anything to do with his family, and I almost lost my home during the 2008 mortgage crisis. I did lose my car and savings. So, as you can see, I felt like I had lost everything and there was no reason to go on living. Then one day, out of the blue, I found a blog group on the internet.
I still can’t remember how I found the Dave Barry Blog. I like to think it was divine intervention although calling some of the bloggers ’angels’ may be stretching it a bit. I just remember reading some of the stories and the comments that followed and slowly I began to smile again. The turning point was when my first submission was posted. It was a headline, “Large-Woody”, over a smiling bride’s wedding announcement. I felt like I had won the lottery and I grinned like a maniac all day. Every morning I looked forward to reading the comments and occasionally at first, made my own. Each smile brought a little more sunshine into my life and I felt like the sadness was being peeled away slowly, one layer at a time, one comment at a time. There were no mean remarks directed at anyone except for the few Darwin Award winners mentioned in the posted articles. It was like going back to high school and finding out all your best friends had turned into the ‘cool’ kids. Only this group was a whole lot nicer. Dave Barry had always been my second favorite humor writer. Erma Bombeck was the first. Sorry, Dave. Reading and responding to the comments made me feel like I wasn’t a totally useless person after all. I could give my opinion and sometimes make people smile! It was a great feeling. It also helped change my attitude and I began to look at the positive things that had occurred because of my illness.
The first is it gave me the opportunity to spend more time with my mother during her last few years of life. She didn’t always know me but she never failed to smile when she saw me come into her room. My father took care of her at home, by himself, right up to the day she died. He and I began to talk and really get to know each other. We’re closer now than we’ve ever been. I reconnected with my children. My daughters both call me everyday now on their way home from work and they usually drop in on the weekends. My son went through a divorce and found a wonderful woman that understands the importance of family. I see him at least four times a week these days. Because I can’t work I’m able to give more of my time to the things that really matter to me like my Church and my grandchildren. I was present when my youngest granddaughter was born. I held her when she was only about ten minutes old and I’ll never forget how she looked into my eyes and squeezed my index finger with her tiny little hand. I knew then that we were life long buddies. When I see her now she runs towards me with open arms and yells, “Hey Mama Cindy!” I can’t imagine not being around to see and know her or my other grandchildren. I now have the time to go to recitals, band concerts, Chuck E. Cheese, cookouts, and birthday parties. When they announce bad weather on TV instead of worrying about how I’m going to get back and forth to work in the snow I concentrate on things such as, do I have enough firewood and batteries if the power goes out? More importantly do I have enough bread, milk, peanut butter, Diet Coke, and chocolate if the power goes out? I’ve been able to follow my dream of writing. I never had the time before. Sometimes I wonder if my illness wasn’t actually a blessing instead of a burden. Maybe this was a wake up call. A reminder that sometimes you have to slow down, smell the roses, and just be happy.
Because my life has slowed down considerably, I now take time to talk to people at stores and Church, especially the ones that look lonely, because I’ve been there. I still have a lot of limitations and I still need more surgeries on my back, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I’ll get through them. I walk a lot more slowly these days. Some days I can barely walk at all but, I can always read. When I’m feeling sorry for myself I remember funny blog comments and I think about the wonderful people I’ve had the privilege of getting to know from the blog. I look at things a lot differently now. I don’t take myself so seriously anymore. The big problem I do have is how do you thank a group of people, scattered all over the world, for giving you back the will to go on? I hope they already know. I also hope, that in some small way, I’ve brightened their day too. By the way, The Funny Bloggers WBAGNFARB. If you’re a Dave Barry Blogger you’ll know what I mean.