about that whole “getting old” thing, pt 2

November 28, 2011 |  Category:   life me rambling

us, circa 1996.

It’s pretty funny to have all these old photos of us together when we were much younger. It’s more interesting still to witness how we’re both aging over the years (why do guys in general look ok with the grays that come in? So unfair).
Friends, I had a much sobering moment over the weekend when my back started acting up. Though it’s not officially diagnosed, I suspect I have a possible herniated disc brewing back there. I have bouts of sciatica. My childhood scoliosis probably doesn’t help (yes, I wore an awful plastic back brace for 5 years). It’s never really terribly painful, but the pain is annoying and just there. I’ve managed to keep things under control by not lifting anything at all anymore, but it is a bit sobering to see how much this affects the every day details of my life. I’ve also now realized that the decisions I have made in my early 30s have all helped shape the life I live right now where I can manage my back issues from getting worse – the fact that I had children when I did and not later in my late 30s (and no doubt my back issues became exasperated or maybe even caused by carrying, lifting, and pushing around 2 big babies for so many years). The fact that I decided that office life wasn’t for me since it’s physically hard these days to sit in a chair all day (when I am working at home, I lie as flat on my back as I can with my laptop since that puts less pressure on my lower back).
All of these things I know. But over the weekend while Mark was gone I sort of had a freak out moment when I realized I was so dependent on him to do all those little things I need to avoid to keep my back in check. I can’t lift anything more than 10 pounds or stand longer than an hour straight without feeling it in my back and legs the rest of the day. This is why he does all the grocery shopping. This is why I can’t work in the kitchen baking cookies or lift heavy pots of water. This is why I can’t take out the garbage or carry packages to the post office. So many little things that I can’t do.
I look at my mom and see how in many ways I am becoming her. When I realize that she was only 6 or 7 years older than me when she had the first of her 2 back surgeries it makes me feel really old in a way that I have never felt before. Watching your parents age is like watching a play unfold – everything is written on the wall. You see how some of their life choices are catching up with them now, or you see how some of the choices they made 20 years ago, like quitting smoking (my dad) or switching careers from a less physically demanding job (nursing) to a desk job (real estate), have made a difference for the better. The things that we do when we are younger really do affect our lives later on. You can’t see this or care about it when you’re in your 20s (we thought we were invincible back then, didn’t we?), but man, when you turn 40, suddenly all those issues are right there in your face.
Still, there are no regrets, but I feel like we are at a critical age where the things we are doing now will affect the rest of our lives. Our parents are a daily reminder of that, though I think we are better equipped with knowledge than they were about so many things. We can’t be in control over everything, but we are in control of some things. Make smart choices. Make everyday count.

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  • Betsy November 28, 2011 at 9:34 am

    Hi Jenna!

    I know you’ll be skeptical, but I’ve had similarly long-term back pain as well. The past two months have been especially horrible, preventing me from playing my instrument (I’m a doctor of musical arts student in bass performance). My aunt recommended a book by Dr. Sarno called “Healing Back Pain”. It’s going to sound like hippy-dippy voodoo magic at first, but I’m serious when I say that my back pain was gone within about 30 pages of reading this book. Just read the amazon.com reviews! http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Back-Pain-Mind-Body-Connection/dp/0446392308

    I know it’s hard to believe that a book could heal such horrible pain, but I’m hoping that you’re at the point I was (had tried everything….PT, chiro, ice, heat, rest, exercise, stretching, etc.) and are willing to try something new.

    Please please please give it a try! Feel free to email me directly with any questions or feedback about whether or not it worked for you! I really want the world to know about this because back pain has become a very common and debilitating injury.

    Thanks for listening, and good luck!

  • Tian November 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

    i wish there was a reset button or that someone slap some sense in me when i first started hurting my body!

  • Jenna November 28, 2011 at 9:42 am

    @Betsy – I have that book!

  • Misha November 28, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I’m so sorry about your back pain 🙁 I relate on many different levels.
    I hope you get some answers…or relief, which ever comes first.

  • meg November 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

    yikes, i hope you can find some relief, and don’t worry about being dependant on mark, i’m sure there are things that he depends on your for too. knowing you can count on one another when you need to is something that makes a relationship strong 🙂

  • Atsuko November 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I hope you will feel better soon. I wish I can say something helpful. My father had had a back problem from hernia. He had a surgery a few years ago since he could not take any pain longer, and his job, veterinarian, was getting harder to operate. In the end, he was happy with the decision. He does not have a bad pain like he used to have. Nowadays he is having regular exercise, like walking and stretching.

  • unha November 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

    backback got really bad for me since ava too.
    i read that yoga really relives the pressure on the back.
    i think it may be true. when I actually do it, i feel much better!

    (no, not the kinda spaghetti pose we had to do last time!)

  • Kiana November 28, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I have mild scoliosis which was diagnosed in my twenties (after my growth spurt) so I didn’t have to wear a brace as a child. Even so, I have constant backaches which sometimes makes it uncomfortable for me to sleep in any position! The doctor advised me to do pilates so I could strengthen my core and thus make my back stronger. I’m ashamed to say that I stuck with this for a year and then stopped because I hate exercise. If you have more discipline than I do, maybe you should check this out?

  • Mellany November 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Jenna – I read your blog several times a week (ok, pretty much every day). I don’t usually comment, but in the spirit of the season, let me just say Thank You. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs and stories. Thank you for your honesty and thoughtfulness. Thank you for inspiring me to make certain changes in my life. Most of all, thank you for showing me a different way of looking at raising a family while remaining a well rounded woman. I don’t have children yet, but I feel like I’m learning so much from your blog. And when you write posts like this – just when I was starting to feel worn down – it gives me that little kick in the butt that I needed to get myself back on track. So thank you, and I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season.

  • Liz November 28, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I turned 40 this year and for the first time in my life I can really see the fragility of my health. I first had back problems in my early 20s but I’d got used to pain and making all sorts of odd adaptations. A near escape this summer – I walked away from something that statistically I shouldn’t have – made me rethink things. I’ve started pilates (initially one to one classes at a dance school, now small group classes) and I’m almost pain free and getting stronger by the day. It might not work for you but I would second the suggestion that it’s worth a go.

    But above all I hope you find something (other than surgery) that helps as back pain is such a horrible thing to live with.

  • Michelle November 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I know Dr. Sarno’s book has helped many people. I watched my husband suffer for years, doing every exercise known to back specialists to try to help. When pain began to inform his life, he finally took the step to have surgery. He found a wonderful surgeon at Mt. Sinai here in NY. (you can email me privately for his name if you like). My husband’s life has improved so much, and the recovery was much easier than he could have anticipated. These surgeries have improved tremendously in the last few years.
    One thing that struck me when I visited the doctor’s office for the first time when my husband went back for the post-surgery checkup was a newspaper article that discussed how gratifying it is to perform this surgery, since the outcome is so happy! It’s something to think about for the future.

    Wishing you a happy, pain-free holiday season!

  • sodashi November 28, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Hi! When I was in my early 20s (I’m early 30s now) I had a herniated disc & a bulging disc causing severe sciatica for one year (almost constant pain while sleeping, walking, standing, or sitting too long, no surgery just injections). I can say that even knowing that it was going to get worse as I got older (definitely scared to have children now because of it), it didn’t really change how I treated my back, other than maybe being a bit gentler because I actually had the back pain then.

    Even with the knowledge that your back would get worse as you get older you probably wouldn’t have changed your habits. So don’t regret what you did back then. Look foward on how to manage the pain and it will get better. The people who write about strengthening your core (pilates) are right… if you have the discipline, you can do it and you will feel better 🙂 Hope your back feels better soon!

  • Sarah November 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Hi, This post is pretty timely. I just gave up my office job, realizing that it was making me sick. I don’t want to look back in 10 years’ time and regret not taking that leap. I want to spend some more time with my son before he starts school. The work thing will work itself out.

  • lindsay November 28, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    If you could find a Pilates class nearby I’m sure it would help you – it’s incredibly therapeutic for the lower back in ways I can’t begin to describe. Seriously. I go to class once a week and if i miss a week my back starts to trouble me again. And it’s very relaxing, too…x

  • Karen November 28, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    There are lots of back care suggestions here, but I thought I’d add one more to the mix. I too have minor scoliosis (never had to wear a brace, though) and experience sciatica on occasion. I took this class and it helped quite a bit. It is a lifelong lifestyle change, but it may help you. Online classes are now offered:

  • PInk Ronnie November 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks Jenna. A great reminder/encouragement to do even the little things like slap on sunscreen here under the Australian sun and to do my daily 30 minutes of exercise…
    Ronnie xo

  • Eve November 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I too had a herniated disk last year. Endured awful pain for about 6 mts (hoped it would fix itself) and moved around like a 90 year old. I was completing a masters at the time and working in a library part-time-merely lifting a book caused my body great distress. Then I got help! Physio helped greatly and my therapist echoed all the points above-Pilates, Pilates, Pilates. Strengthen your core-it will support your disks.
    I’m am now so much better-if I overdo it I suffer-but a million times better so give it a go.
    Wishing you well!
    Ps. I don’t have a Mark to carry groceries-I envy you 🙂

  • tamerajane November 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    ughhh. i also have really bad back problems – it pretty much makes my life miserable nonstop with the pain. I need to get to a point where I’m not at a desk (recently tried sitting on an exercise ball, felt great for a week then felt way worse??) & doctors are not helpful. I miss my witch acupuncture lady in Berkeley.

    this comment has no point other than to say: me too. it kind of makes me feel better that people my age have the same issues because i feel like i’m 90 and about to die all the time. ok.

    p.s. mark looks like an elf here.

  • Colleen / Inspired to Share November 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    So sorry to hear this Jenna. I hope comfort and peace come your way soon as you get things figured out.

  • RKN November 28, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I thought I was the only one who worked lying down with a laptop to coddle my back problems! I am 36 with two herniated disks and have been doing that for the last 3 years. I live in fear of having to go back to an office job. (My little sister had back surgery 10 years ago…. what a genetic lottery we won!)

    I have had 2 MRIs, and I’m not sure why I paid $2K for them, or another $2K for steroid epidurals, or another $1K for the physical therapy. The one thing that has helped has been a network chiropractor. The guy who does it just does gentle touches, no cracking or popping. 99% of me thinks it’s totally bogus and like I’m in a cult, but I can’t argue with the fact that it worked. The guy freaks me out, so it’s not like I was at ease and under some kind of spell or anything! If you want to try it, here’s the web locator: http://www.associationfornetworkcare.com/practicingmembers.shtml . At the very least you should pitch them a redesign of their website, because it totally sucks!

  • RebeccaNYC November 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    oh, I know what this is like! Sending you healing thoughts and hoping for a lessening of your pain.

  • Jill November 28, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    This is apropos of nothing, but I thought I’d take the opportunity to just say this: regardless of back pain, gray hairs, getting older, or any physical limitations, I think you are beautiful both inside and out!

  • Jackie November 28, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    I commiserate about your back. Hope it gets better! Wise words at the end of this post. I have a 5 month old & I keep noticing I look like a hunchback in recent photos. :/
    Completely unrelated, Mark looks so much like Dax Shepard here!! 🙂

  • vitaminA November 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Jenna thanks for being so transparent. It’s quite refreshing to read such honesty. Both my husband and mom suffered from a herniated disc, both ending up with back surgery. I was about 12 yrs old when my mom suffered from intense pain (she owned a deli in NY, lots of lifting) and it was really emotionally painful for me to watch. I would rush home from school to take care of her, feed her and take care of household chores. My husband had his herniated disc in college, so young! He had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player, played way too hard and ended up with many injuries, his back being the most affected. My mom and husband are now doing much better but a lot of maintenance is still required. The way we treat our bodies definitely affects us today. I too have a bad back from lifting everything for my mom bc I was more worried about her and from all my college days of doing art projects on the floor. Your post is such a great reminder for me to take care of myself more, especially now that I too have a big, ever growing baby! I want to be able to keep up with him. I do love his chunky thighs and doughboy rolls but gosh, by the end of the day, my body is spent! Jenna I feel for you!

  • Janine November 29, 2011 at 4:38 am

    I just want to second Lindsay. I was beginning to feel that my back problems were really limiting day-to-day chores when I found a local Pilates class..
    I just go once a week but it just keeps my back in check.

  • Helle (Helen) November 29, 2011 at 5:14 am

    So sorry to hear about your back problems. Have you tried out sitting on one of those big plastic balls, physios use them, one sits totally differently from on a chair, I find it helps my lower back pains quite a lot. Not all the time, obviously, but just to break up how one sits.
    Hmm, yes, when we were twenty, the world was our oyster and old age was a non-existant future, these days it all looks rather different, doesn’t it.

  • Natasha November 29, 2011 at 5:25 am

    Jenna, I stumbled across your blog a few months ago at just the same time I stumbled/fumbled/tripped into beginning to train in the Korean martial art Hap Ki Do. At the time I thought that having these two Korean gems cross my path simultaneously must have been a “sign” (of what?). Anyhow last weekend I went for my first belt grading after killing myself for months and feeling fitter and stronger than I ever have in my life and I found myself having to declare my age at the commencement of proceedings. I called out “1970” after a number of calls like, “1980”, “1988” and (oh my god!!!) “1994”!!!! I’m old enough to be their mother…. But I figure that I am going to get older and I might as well give it my best shot at heading down that path as fit and healthy and positive as possible. And this is really working for me because I enjoy it. You are so right – make each day count and enjoy something every day. Life is too long not to.
    Thanks for your charming blog.

  • Jeanette November 29, 2011 at 6:37 am

    so sorry to hear about your back Jenna. but that’s a good wake up call. i’m in my mid 20s and occasionally i also do feel some backache and whatnots. and yep, certainly agree on making everyday counts and whatever decision we take today will determine what’s in the future. 🙂

  • kimia kline November 29, 2011 at 8:23 am

    a beautiful reminder.

  • priscilla November 29, 2011 at 8:34 am

    hello Jenna
    I love your hairstyle! actually you didn’t really change much from then to now. and i love your blog. will visit here more often 😀

  • sandra November 29, 2011 at 9:59 am

    once again thanks so much for your honesty

  • Sebbie November 29, 2011 at 11:36 am

    I have struggled with back and neck issues as well and the things that work for me are Pilates and a firm mattress. It’s amazing how a too-soft bed can really put too much pressure on a person’s back.

    I wish you good health.

  • Audrie November 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I’ve had scoliosis and back pain since I was little so I know how that is. I used to be stubborn and carry loads of groceries so I’d only need to make one trip. Learnt not to do that anymore because my mother’s shoulders are suffering now from doing the same. She also has bad knees, which I’ve inherited, and I try to take care of them because I see how much pain she’s in now.

    More than anything, I hate watching my parents age. The fact that they’re thousands of miles away makes it worse. It’s part of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

  • nan November 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    The photo is so sweet, it captured you and Mark as a beautiful starry-eyed young couple. You both look great now too.

  • Laura November 29, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Tai chi works great. Go easy with anti inflammatories as i was told they will help you walk to your grave. I take it they mask the pain causing other damage so not a solution to ongoing back problems.

  • joyce November 30, 2011 at 1:20 am

    found your blog through sallyshim =)
    i had my first bought of back pain the month before turning 40 this year. i lifted my daughter down the stairs at a giants game hoping she wouldn’t pee in her pants…i couldn’t carry her all the way down, twisted my body and put her down…I didn’t feel the damage until the next day…went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life but the good thing was the physical therapy they made me do. i’ve stopped my exercises since my pain is gone but i know i should keep doing them to keep my back strong… i am feeling my age but yes you are right that we do need to make the right choices…in health…and life…

  • Susan November 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I totally relate, and I’m so sorry you are hurting. Back pain is the worst!

  • Charlotte December 1, 2011 at 3:38 am

    Hi Jenna,

    This is my first time commenting. I enjoy your writings and I’m glad you share your stories the way you do. Sorry to know about your back, I hope you will be strong and get well. Your honest writings has taught me a lot and set me some deep thinking going… my mum tells me the same things about taking care of my body now before it’s too late, and I’m really thankful that you share and spread your love and concern to us readers as well.

    I wish you good health and a smooth-sailing year ahead!

  • Natalie ann December 5, 2011 at 9:01 am

    jenna, i just want to thank you for sharing your perspective with such sincerity. you have no idea what a source of inspiration your blog has become to me. we too have two little girls… who we pretty much live and breathe for. your circumstances are so relatable to me in many ways. i truly admire how you and your husband raise your girls and live such a sweet simplistic life style, I also admire your confidence in being able to tell it like it is. your blog is not fake or pretentious like most other blogs out there which are sometimes so annoying to even read… i always look forward to reading your posts….so thank you …

  • Lindsey December 5, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Funny that someone recommended Healing Back Pain. I read it and unfortunately, nothing happened. I think you have to go into that book with a vulnerability and openness that most of us don’t have. I’m sure he’s gotten a lot of patients as a result of his book but after 2 friends of mine in Paris said their pain was “cured” after reading his analysis, I jumped on the bandwagon. Wish I could count myself among the lucky liberated.

    I feel your pain, literally. I CONSTANTLY worry about what I would do without my husband – grocery shopping, taking the cat to the vet… all those little things. But the fact is, we just have to be grateful they’re here with us now. We’d figure something out if that ever changed. For now, do what feels good and if you have to, wear a lumbar belt (like I am now, ugh) to maintain good posture when working, standing, cleaning dishes, etc. Bon courage, I hope it gets better for both of us!

  • Sarah E. December 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    It is so great to be able to relate to others and hear about how others cope with their back problems. I was diagnosed with a herniate disc in college and now that I am in my 20’s, I have been diagnosed with mild scoliosis. I had my chiropractor measure my legs for discrepancies and he found my left leg was half an inch shorter which may have been the contributing factor. At my age, doctors dont seem to really beleive or think about the amount of pain that I am in.
    I have some level of pain every day and most of that is probably my fault since I work an office job and dont give much time to exersize. I did take pilates for a while and they were wonderful. The owner actually had severe scoliosis and is a true testament to how pilates helps. It became expensive though and I became busy and I stepped back from it a bit. Bad idea.
    But I do think about the future and what it holds. I don’t want to beleive yet that I have to modify my activity. I feel so much older than I am and I worry that I will have such a problem when I am pregnant or have to pick up kids. It is hard to not crumble under those thoughts sometimes so it is so nice to hear the many ways others have been helped.
    Good luck to you and I hope you find something that works for you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Betsy December 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Did it not do anything for you? What a bummer. I found out that I’m in the 10-20% who feels instant relief upon reading the book. I’ve been pain-free for almost 3 weeks, after 2 months of the worst pain of my life.