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cruise control

  • Life

I’ve been in cruise control for at least the past two to three weeks, ever since the mystery of my back aches has been solved.

(Well, at least the what; the jury is still out on why and how.)

Calling it cruise control might be a misnomer, now that I’m thinking about it – it implies that I’m going at the same speed as I’ve been, and maybe I’m… slowing down? Coming to a halt?

It reflects quite a bit in my daily routines, too:

  • I’ve failed to log my gratitude one-liner every morning;
  • My journal entry every night are sometimes one-liners now, often snarky (sometimes a clown emoji, actually);
  • While I’m eating okay for lunch (thank you, meal prep), when I return to the office a couple of days a week, I’m eating like I don’t have a really low resting metabolic rate;
  • I don’t drink coffee every morning because I find myself too lazy to grind the beans, then make the coffee;
  • I’m not engaging as much as I usually do in my group chats;
  • I’m probably forgetting the rest, because of Point #2.

I’m definitely grumpier and have less energy to care, on the work front too. This is bad especially as my team has been losing people left and right, and there are things that I should and could be doing, but I’m not doing that fast enough.

I guess, too, that my Toxic™  trait of equating productivity = good (and therefore, non-productivity = bad) is doing something to my brain. More to unpack at another time, I think.

So: Is this burnout? Is this just a matter of finding my focus? I don’t know if I’m excited to find out.

(Look at me dialling this post in, too. I keep telling myself to write more long-form stuff, but I definitely don’t have the mental capacity to do that right now.)

a little (little mix) mix

  • Media

I went through the entire year between 2016 – 2017 just solely listening to Little Mix, and not much of anything else. Before that, I was an iNdIe™ person (think Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Blind Pilot, Frightened Rabbit, etc) and a show tunes (*jazz hands*) kind of person.

So, not so much Top 40.

I wish I could remember how I got into listening to Little Mix, but it was definitely right around when Shout Out To My Ex came out (along with the Glory Days album). I listened to that album, and then suddenly I’m listening to all of the previous albums and watching their journey through The X Factor.

These girls are such amazing vocalists and performers – sometimes they’re even better live (or ‘live’, as in the case of festival performances with backing tracks) and a cappella, which is insane considering that the produced and recorded tracks are just non-stop pop and fun.

(I say these girls and I mean the three remaining members, because we don’t talk about #her in this household 🤡)

Their tour performances, too, are phenomenal. You can tell how much fun they have on stage, and of performing with each other, as well as the sisterhood and love they have for each other. I had the privilege and pleasure to watch them on LM5: The Tour, on Halloween 2019 – right before the pandemic. For a quick minute, I was tempted to fly to London for a couple of days to watch them on their last tour, but ultimately the fiscal side of me won out.

In celebration of them performing their last show (for now) as they embark on their personal careers in this hiatus from the group, I’m just pulling together some videos that have wow-ed me over the years. I’m going to miss them as a unit, but I’m so excited to see how each of them are going to excel on their own too, while always having a home to go back to.


My favorite performances

  • Confetti (Acoustic) – The harmonies? The belting? The fact that they were doing this in the face of losing a member, and having to round out their voices to create a still-full sound? Holy shit.
  • Secret Love Song Pt. II – Listen, I will go to battle for any performance of this song. It’s rallied so much LGBTQ+ support, and genuinely propelled the girls to properly become allies to the community, and for that I will always love it
  • Touch (Acoustic) – The original pop version was a banger, and was my “first” single that I’d experienced from them. The way the acoustic version was arranged to showcase all of their voices? Just magic.
  • How You Doin’? – Not my favorite song on the album, but the live performances of this song always hype me up.
  • Dance With Somebody (cover) – They’ve done plenty of covers through the years, but I’ve always really enjoyed this one.

The back of my back is ridiculous

Over the course of the last week and a half, while I’ve gotten my official diagnosis of what makes up my back issues, one phrase stood out from at least four different health care professionals:

“You’re so young.”

Am I, though?


spondylos

“spine” or “vertebra”

-lysis

“defect”

listhesis

“slipping, sliding or movement”


From the x-rays and the MRI scan, the doctors are able to pinpoint the actual issues I have. Specifically for my lower back pain, the main culprits are:

  • Disc desiccation between my L1 and S1 vertebrae, which means that the disc is dehydrated and has lost all the fluid. It’s also “protruding”, and has a tear where it is connecting both vertebrae;
  • Foraminal stenosis, which means there is a narrowing of the cervical disc space
  • Spondylolysis, with fractures through the pars bones (which are the soft little spiky bones on your spine), and;
  • Spondylolisthesis, which is a mouthful, but means that the vertebra has slipped forward, out of place from the rest of the spine

I’m still getting used to spelling these — all I know is that there’s an ‘lol’ in both spondy words.


I’ve had a week or so to sit with this diagnosis, and the neurosurgeon’s recommendation is to get back surgery done so that it doesn’t worsen.

I’ll know when it gets worse, because I’ll lose bladder and bowel function, so that’s real comforting.

But back surgery doesn’t come with zero risks: it’s not a guarantee that it’ll improve, and there is always a chance that something else might happen and the nerves might get nicked even more.

There’s also the other matter of how young I am, apparently. I can see two schools of thought here:

  1. I don’t need surgery at this point, because I can build up my core (for real for real this time) and the muscles will protect the spine from deteriorating — but I probably will have to do the surgery anyway when I’m older, even if I’ve built up the strongest core in the world
  2. I need surgery right now, because I’m young and can withstand the recovery period than if I do it when I’m much older — but I might not fully recover; there might be complications; the recovery period is actually pretty long right now anyway (a year was what I have heard), and what if the nails fail in the next few decades?

There’s still a lot of other things to think about too, beyond the actual medical aspect, like the economics of it. It’s actually cheaper to get the surgery because I’m covered by insurance, while physio sessions are capped at $750 a year, and — I’m not even kidding — I’ll be able to get a grand total of 3.75 sessions covered.


My hope is that I’ll be able to get some quality of life with no aching and pain when I do… pretty much anything at all, but especially when I arch my back. A stretch goal (haha stretch) would be getting back to lifting and squatting with no pain and no risk of anything cracking further.

Ultimately, right now I’m still in the information-gathering stage. I’ll probably suck it up and pay massively out-of-pocket for the physio sessions, and get second+ opinions on whether surgery is needed.

Until then, I’m just going to be paranoid every time I get a twinge or numbness in my butt or thighs, because that’s when I know this is progressing.


Frequently Asked Questions

Updated 11 May, 2022, because I’ve been getting the same responses and questions, and thought it’ll make sense to document the responses to everyone’s concerns 💖


Q: How? What did you do?

A: I truly do not know, and neither do the doctors and physio. The best assumption is because I naturally have hyper-extended joints, this has been happening through years of living. It could be from working out as well, but I have my own doubts about it as I’m not lifting super heavy, and my form is good (and vetted by the physio!).


Q: How does it feel?

A: Thankfully, I’m not in constant pain. Instead, it’s a dull ache that I have taken as my baseline for the past three years. I mostly feel it when I stay in one position for too long. The level of achiness, from most annoying to least: laying down on my stomach, walking down stairs, sitting, standing, laying down on my back, laying down on my back with my knees tucked to my chest.

I also absolutely cannot jump or do any sort of impact activity, without feeling like something is actually shattering within me 😬

On turning 33, and an update for my back problems


So, with turning 33, I really wanted to get my health and fitness in order. I’ve talked a little about my back problems here and here. Despite my chronic procrastinating on important things, I finally got myself to the doctor, thinking I would get a straight-forward referral to a physio.

Instead, the doctor first got me to take an x-ray. I’d originally thought that was overkill, but I suppose if that was the process to getting that referral, I’d do it.

What happened next was that in the span of five days, I went from thinking my back problems was because of “a weak core” (something that a physio told me two years ago), to finding out that it’s possibly something wrong with my actual spine? From the x-ray, it appears that I have a few conditions:

  • Mild scoliosis, which seems fair enough, as I do seem to favor my left side;
  • Spondylosis, which is a fracture in the thin bone in between two vertebrae on my lower back;
  • Retrolisthesis, which is a slipped disc, I think?

Of course, these are pretty 😳 prognosis – instead of the referral to a physio, I’ve been referred to a neurosurgeon (who is getting me to do an MRI this coming Wednesday), and who also said that my nerves are sensitive.

(I know, me too 🥲 )

Anyway, I’m just glad that these issues are being identified, and I can get to treating it ASAP instead of letting it linger forever.