I’m twenty-three years old.
The first time I threw my back out, I was fourteen. I was never the athletic specimen in high school that I am now. Then I was a bit heavier and a lot more whiny. I didn’t like exercising because it was hard. But my alma mater requires two trimesters of sports every year, and I liked playing lacrosse, if not for the thrill of the game, then for the kilt I got to wear.
That day at lacrosse practice we were running suicides. Everyone knows what suicides are. The joke writes itself, really.
As I was “sprinting,” I bent down to touch the line. Suddenly, an incomprehensible pain shot through my back, leaving me hunched. I started crying almost immediately. I had never felt pain like that before? Was I dying? I was probably dying. Did I break my spine? Indubitably. Holy shit, I was paralyzed, but only on the right side of my back!
“Whitney, keep running!” My coach yelled at me, aggravated that I was standing there crying like a little baby.
“My back hurts!” Even yelling hurt.
“Keep RUNNING!” She bellowed. So I did as I was told, but I ran like the hunchback of Notre Dame. I was perpetually reaching for my right foot, my left shoulder arched higher. I was barely jogging, and I was crying so hard I couldn’t see.
At the end of practice, I hobbled to the trainer. He told me I had a back spasm, and one of the worst he had ever seen. He iced my back, and for the next week or so, I was incapacitated.
From then on, every few months (or, honestly, whenever sports season started again), I would throw my back out. I quit lacrosse. In field hockey (know how I know I’m gay-ish?), I almost always threw out my back during pre-season.
Runing had always been excruciating. I thought everyone ran with back pain, and I was just too much of a whiny idiot to overcome the pain.
Turns out, I was wrong. The summer before my senior year in high school, I went to a physical therapist. There, after an amazing massage, I learned that my sacroiliac joint in my right hip locks up randomly, causing the muscles on the right side of my back to be underdeveloped. When it locks up, I throw my back out and suffer the spasms for a week or more until it relents.
I was given a bunch of exercises to do, which I only did when I threw it out. Because I was lazy.
I threw my back out my freshman year of college, trying to raise my bed by myself. I was out for a week. I threw it out the summer after sophomore year of college when I, and this is especially embarrassing, sat down on a couch. I threw it out Junior year in college when… I don’t remember. I threw it out last January doing dead-lifts with 30 lbs in my house.
And I threw it out on my drive home.
I had Atreyu on leash. A backpack on my back. His kennel in one hand. His bag of everything else in my other hand. I thought I’d be fine, because I LOVE exercising now (because I’m a freak of nature) and it wasn’t more than a four hundred yard walk from my hotel room to the car. I set the bags down, opened the trunk, and reached down for the bag of Atreyu’s stuff.
And, holy shit, I thought I was going to die. I started moaning in the parking lot, and winced with each Quasimodo step I took. It took five minutes to load my car. It took five minutes to walk into the gas station and get Aleve.
The attendant in the station asked if I threw my back out while pumping gas.
“Worse.” I said. “While loading my car.” He smiled sympathetically, and I limped away.
Who needs 12 Days of Whitsmas? Not this girl. This girl needs a back massage and a chauffeur.