On Monday, my back started hurting. Like literally I was standing by The Dandy’s computer chair, saying goodbye to him because I was about to go to work, and suddenly I got stabbing paints in my lower back. Which is exactly what you need right before going to pose for an art class for three hours. 😛
The pain did get better in increments over the next couple of days, but it’s Saturday now and there’s still something there. Not exactly pain. More like…constant, uncomfortable lower-back pressure and a feeling of impending doom. And it’s freaking me out.
Last night I figured maybe the back issues were a manifestation of anxiety, and tried to figure out what I could be stressing out about. My living situation – with Dandette gone – is great. My financial situation is comfortable and I’m able to have a lot more days off than I did when I lived on my own. My romantic relationships are good.
I asked The Dandy – as we lay snuggled in bed – what he thought it might be and he ran through the same list and came up empty, like I did.
Then I remembered a nightmare I had recently: Dandette was visiting for some reason. She walked into the living room barefoot, freaking out and in pain with her toes bubbling and sizzling from some sort of chemical burn; she’d somehow managed to do this to herself while painting her toenails. She said she needed one of us to pour nail polish remover over her feet to stop the burning. I was like “…I feel like that’s counterintuitive though…?” but The Dandy rushed to her aid. I, meanwhile, left to hang out in my bedroom, only to find that Dandette had been doing her pedicure thing in there and left bubbling, smoking puddles of caustic liquid all over the floor. I came back out again and confronted her: I yelled, “You can’t just pour toxic shit all over the place. That’s my room now. YOU DON’T LIVE HERE.” Her face crumpled and she started having a full-on panic attack over me daring to point that out. I sensed that this was entirely faked for The Dandy’s benefit, and indeed he did hover around her all concerned and shit. I went and tried to barricade myself in my room to be rid of her but the room suddenly had a sliding glass door leading to a patio, and also a bunch of windows on several walls, and none of them had curtains or functioning locks. I was running around trying to secure them before Dandette could try to peer in at me or even climb right in.
So I surmised that something about Dandette was bugging me and making my back seize up, and I said to The Dandy “Tell me again how once she gets the rest of her stuff she’ll be out of our lives and you’ll never talk to her again?” – because he did say that to me, once, completely unprovoked.
And The Dandy paused. And my brain and body flooded with dread. And he said “Well, I don’t know if I want to cut her out of my life entirely…”
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
I asked him what benefit there would be to continuing to have any sort of contact with her. He went silent. I waited and waited and still nothing. Fine, I guess this is one of those things where he needs to ruminate on it a while. In the meantime I riffed about how angry I was – like WTF would it take for him to cut ties with this asshole? If she’d actually stabbed me with the sword instead of just playfully poking me, would that be enough for him to maybe not want to associate with her? Or would nothing she could do ever be enough to actually put him off? Also, this “well I don’t have to cut her off completely!” thing reminded me uncomfortably of the time my ex-husband realized (for like the twentieth time) that his drinking was ruining his life, and when I said he ought to stop he was like “Well I don’t have to stop entirely! I could have one every now and then!” No, he couldn’t – that’s why booze was ruining his life – and also, how creepy and sad that he was so desperate to cling to this thing that he consciously recognized was totally fucking him up. The Dandy was reminding me of that right now; it feels as though Dandette is some kind of destructive addiction for him.
And I said that if he insists on hanging out with her sometimes then that means that either he needs to keep that entirely secret from me – and I’d hate to have secrets between us – or else I’d be traumatized on a regular basis, because if I wasn’t clear before, her actions toward me have gotten me to a point where THE SIGHT OF HER FUCKING FACE MADE ME WANT TO VOMIT and I unfollowed her on Facebook weeks before she moved out because every time her profile picture popped up in my feed my brain went into fight-or-flight mode. Hearing about her or thinking about her makes me woozy. So I’m not really up for The Dandy just casually mentioning that he went for a drink with her or whateverthefuck. I want her out of my life and thoughts, permanently and entirely.
He tried to reassure me by saying that hey, they are broken up, at least; he has no romantic interest in her and she’ll never live here again.
“I honestly don’t want to keep bringing this up and rubbing it in your face,” I said, “buttttt…you do have a history of lying about your involvement with Dandette and your feelings for her. You led me to believe that the two of you had been broken up for years, there was nothing between you, you were basically siblings, when in fact you’d been fucking her just three months prior. A while later, you insisted again that you had no feelings for her, but I got such a strong vibe of chemistry between you, and when I said you might as well go ahead and date her again if you wanted to, you did. So why would I believe you now when you say your feelings toward her are only friendly? There’s an established pattern of that not being true.”
Again he went silent. I let it go (well, not in my head. But I let the thread of the conversation go). I cried a bunch and he held me. And sometime during the crying I realized where my anxiety lies.
It’s that Dandette still has a bunch of her stuff here and has made no plans to come get it. It feels like a power play: she knows The Dandy won’t be enough of a hardass to throw her shit out, at least not anytime soon. In leaving stuff here she seems like she’s keeping her foot in the door (having an excuse in her back pocket to see The Dandy one last time, even if he doesn’t want to – to what end, I don’t know). Or maybe she’s just fucking with us by taking up our space – same principle as writing “tried to kill myself twice” on The Dandy’s BIRTHDAY CAKE last year – she’s inserting herself into our lives even when she can’t physically be present.
I said to The Dandy that I’d probably feel better if we had a timeline on her getting the rest of her stuff. Doesn’t have to be crazy fast – it can be six months from now, if need be. But I need a time limit; I need a “get your stuff by [date] or we’re disposing of it” ultimatum in place.
The Dandy pointed out that a bunch of her stuff isn’t actually packed up, though, so really we need to do that first or else this bullshit will drag on forever in bits and pieces. Better to have a neat pile of boxes in the corner of the living room that she can just take and go and that’s the end of it. Fine. Fair. Let’s make packing a priority, then. The Dandy said that the main thing is packing up all her various little tchotchkes and whatnot, and since he works full time and I have a looser schedule, maybe I could do it. Which annoyed me because I don’t know which pieces of brick-a-brack are hers. I’ve packed up everything in her room already but there’s a ton of nerdy figurines and action figures and shit in the living room – but she and The Dandy are both nerds and both kinda hoarders so how the fuck do I know which items are whose?
Anyway, I’m glad I got to the root of my anxiety, but it didn’t make my back stop hurting so I guess this really is a purely physical thing.
And I’m annoyed all over again because tonight I started angsting over whether this might be an actual spine problem and not a muscle thing. I asked The Dandy if he would Google what a slipped disc looks like and then take a close look at my back, just to make sure. The next time I passed by his room, I noticed he was looking at a web page with a diagram of a human pelvis and some arrows pointing to the tailbone and I thought “Oh cool, he’s actually helping.” But when I asked “are you learning some things about pelvises and tailbones?” he chuckled and said “it’s amazing the weird things that come up when you’re reading about medieval history.”
I was like “…Ah. And here I thought you were actually Googling spinal things like I’d asked. I didn’t want to do it myself because when you look up medical stuff on the internet, there are always alarmist blogs and whatnot that come up and my anxiety would have a field day and I’d probably convince myself I was dying. I wanted someone calm and sensible to parse out the real information from the scary stuff for me. But hey, learning about shit that happened hundreds of years ago is obviously just as important as my physical well-being, so I guess I’ll leave you to it.”
And I stormed off to my room to angry-type this blog entry.
A little while ago he came in and petted my head soothingly and told me that he’s not trying to downplay the pain I’m in or anything but his understanding is that a slipped disc is a huuuuge damn deal that will incapacitate someone, and I seem too functional for that. Okay, that’s probably fair.
I said though that he needs to understand that my fellow art models (the ones who’ve been doing it a decade or longer, anyway) have all grimly told me that the job dooms everyone to chronic pain eventually – back pain in particular gets mentioned a lot. And from what I can tell, I work a lot more than most models do (or I did, anyway, when I lived on my own and my expenses were so high). And I’m middle aged and my body was never especially robust or good at healing itself, anyway. So I have pretty legit fears.
I also pointed out that maybe I just power through extreme pain better than most people. Like okay I do think if I had an actual slipped disc it would probably hurt too much for me to walk around or work or anything. But the fact of the matter is that after a couple of decades of my mom dismissing any sort of discomfort I ever felt, I’m convinced that I’m a faker; I always tell myself that whatever pain I’m in is probably not that bad, and I’m too embarrassed by what a stupid drama queen wuss I am to actually say anything or stop doing whatever painful thing I’m doing.
I did a pose at work, once, with a string of Christmas lights playfully wrapped around me. This was my idea. I thought it would be cute. Two of the bulbs were sandwiched between my ribcage and the floor, and became first uncomfortably hot, then excruciating, like to a point where sensations like “hot” no longer have any meaning and it’s just my skin screaming and my brain filling with panic chemicals. I often count off the time in my head when I pose, even if I’ve set my timer, and I can tell you that when things got to the excruciating point, I was about two minutes in. I told myself, though, that it probably wasn’t that bad. They were mini-lights, ffs; you touch those and they feel warm at best*. I was probably just being stupid. And I held the pose until the end – eighteen more minutes. And when I got up I saw that the Christmas bulbs had blistered my skin.
So yeah. Ironically, years of my mother telling me I’m a wuss who can’t deal with pain turned me into someone who can lie there serenely smiling for twenty minutes while getting second-degree burns. This happened shortly before Christmas of 2016 and there are still visible scars.
My point being that The Dandy can’t necessarily judge my health by how incapacitated I seem because I have a tendency to push myself inhumanly hard.
Oh and by the way, two days ago I was on the bus to work and it was standing room only and I hurt my right arm trying not to get flung when we went around a corner really fast. I feel like I tore my triceps or something; when I do certain things with the arm I get huge, shooting pains. So that’s going on in addition to my back constantly feeling under pressure/borderline pain.
I’m thoroughly pissed off at my body right now. And I’ll probably have to have a few more talks with The Dandy about why the fuck he still wants to be in contact with Dandette. And I’m afraid there won’t really be any resolution on that.
*Of course, touching a mini-bulb and pinning it between your skin and the floor so the heat has nowhere to go are two very different things. As I found out.