On December 31, 2007, I was rushing frantically through a mall, looking for something-anything-decent to wear for a New Year's party that night. I remember this day because it was the day that I sustained a mysterious hip injury that has changed my life in many significant ways.
I took one wrong step and my left hip felt torn. I chalked it up to the misstep and ignored the pain. I thought the small injury would disappear within a few days.
Three years have passed. I've visited a multitude of doctors and physical therapists and even an acupuncturist. I've paid quite a pretty penny for xrays that show swelling and anti-inflammatory medicine that just masks the symptoms. Still, the cause and the cure remains elusive.
The pain is constant and alternates between deep, dull ache to tearing flesh. As a result, I am inactive and flabby. Once in awhile, for a couple of weeks, the pain will lift and I will try to reinstate myself into the world of the physically active. However, I can't run or jump or hike or do anything physical without backpedaling and thinking about the inevitable aggravation that occurs. The pain sets in, increases, becomes unbearable. Right now, because I've been hiking for several consecutive weeks, the pain follows me around like a second shadow. It lies with me in bed and taps me awake at night and sits with me at work and joins me during happy hours with my friends. I've learned that a comfortable position does not exist.
Two years ago, I read Philip Roth's novel, The Anatomy Lesson. Zuckerman, the main character, is a writer who suffers from a mysterious ailment that begins to take over his life. The corpus of his work, like his body, suffers tremendously. Although others believe his symptoms are psychosomatic (and he does seem to agree occasionally), the pain he feels is so prevalent that he cannot sit, type, or even hold a book without each movement becoming an ordeal. He turns to orthopedic pillows, mistresses, heavy booze, and a kaleidoscope of drugs and pills in order to cope. In the end, he concocts a crazy scheme to enter medical school.
Sometimes, when I feel impending panic ("What if I can never jump again? What if I will always have this pain?"), I think about Zuckerman stumbling around Chicago, hoarding his pain medication and dreaming up alter egos. I can't laugh.