22 May 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not


Dear Diary,

Today I turned “I Threw My Back Out” years old. I feel like that’s a legit rite of passage. Like getting my period. Or passing the test for a driver’s license. Or finding my first grey hair. I have plenty of friends who’ve already passed the Licking Flames of Back Pain Fire threshold. I’m a late bloomer, I guess. No surprise, though, that I’ve taken longer than the others to mature. I mean, I still feel like I’m sneaking something when I watch shows with “for mature audiences only” warning, like I’m getting away with doing something underhanded and deliciously nefarious.

(Psst… if deliciously nefarious is your thing, too, I recommend The Great on Hulu for historical fiction peppered with “loosely based on a true story” tidbits. In a time of Global Pandemic, it’s alarmingly delightful how much I feel I have in common with Catherine the Great of Russia — an optimistic woman full of ideas thrown into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable setting and forced to contend with the gross injustices of a corrupt and ego-centric national leader. SOUND FAMILIAR, AMERICA? Yes. Yes, I thought so, too.)

But my point is, today I turned “I Threw My Back Out” years old. I decided to move rolls of sod alone, and those suckers are HEAVY, Diary. There are only a few of them… just enough to put under my hammock chairs so I’m not dragging my feet through the brown clay dirt when I want to swing and read and decompress under the wide open sky… but when you lift them wrong — say, trying to protect your shirt by holding them away from your body instead of snuggling them to your belly and lifting from your legs like Every Single PE Teacher Ever in the History of the World taught you to do — your back may protest. Your back won’t care there were only a few rolls to move. Your back will yell, “FOR FUCK’S SAKE, BETH.” And you won’t even chide your back for swearing out loud in the back yard where any passers-by, including those with small children who should theoretically be able to go for a walk without hearing cursing from the neighboring homes, can hear. You’ll just bundle your back up, hobble it and the rest of yourself inside, throw some pain relievers down your throat, and call it a day.

It’s a day, Diary.

And since it’s Friday, it’s family movie night, a new ritual for Quarantine Time. So far, we’ve watched Jumanji: The Next Level (recommend), Dead Pool 2 (recommended for “mature audiences” — we don’t really qualify, but we liked it a lot anyway — definitely DO NOT watch if you’re offended by, oh, you know, sex, drugs, violence, swearing, etc., etc., and so forth), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (recommend — this one holds up to time), The Hustle (a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which was… meh — I was excited because it was a remake with women, but it was fat shaming, and that sucked), and a smattering of TV shows like new episodes of Doctor Who and Picard (both phenomenal). Tonight is Toy Story 4 which my entire family — other than me — has already seen, but they all want to watch me cry, so here we go. 

Now if I can just figure out a way to sit on the couch with my ancient, barking back, I can get this show on the road. 

You can pray for me, Diary.





P.S. Unrelated, our kids’ youth leaders showed up as an ice cream truck, handing out treats.

And I just think it’s rad the creative ways people are spreading joy in this weird, weird time.

With a lacrosse stick for 6-foot distribution purposes.

Thanks, Sammy, Rachelle, and Cara with a C! 

You’re pretty damn cool. 

P.P.S. IF ANYONE HAS “I THREW MY BACK OUT” TIPS, I’M ALL EARS. So far, I’ve taken ibuprofen, rubbed my favorite CBD lotion on it, and taken a hot shower. I’ve got prescription meds I can break into. I’m contemplating making a rice bag I can microwave for heat, but that seems VERY productive and I’d rather… well… not. I *could* call my doctor, but that would be proactive, and we’ve already covered that I’m not necessarily doing that right now, so… help?

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14 responses to “22 May 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not”

  1. I think one of your beautiful kids could make you a rice bag. They are super easy to sew if you have a sewing machine, and after all it was just your birthday, for Pete’s sake. I like to make rice bags with about 2 lb of rice. I find the warmth and weight soothing.
    Once constructed, I like to microwave the rice bag for 2-3 minutes then place it against the painful back (or another painful body part). The rice bag will stay warm for hours.
    Careful, gentle movement and stretching are also important. I agree that physical therapy is a great idea. Also agree that cat/cow and child’s pose can be good for incapacitated backs. I mainly like to lie on my back on a floor mat, hug my knees to my chest, and gently rock side to side. This can also be done with a warm rice bag under your back. I hope you feel much better soon.

  2. FOR FUCKSAKESS BETH You are not allowed to hurt yourself! I thought this was understood?!

    Be careful. And take care of yourself. And stop doing things that get you hurt!!

    My heart can’t take any more right now. Doolittle went on her first solo drive since the surgery. It’s a bad idea. I know in my mother’s heart it’s a bad idea, but she’s 28 years old and just got a nice car (thank you stimulus check and unemployment) and she hasn’t seen her best friend in 3 weeks. The hives (from a drug they gave her during surgery) are receding and it’s a bright sunny day and she wants to go.

    And I’m losing my mind. She’s driving 20 minutes to see a friend, but a short trip to the doc’s wears her out. She’ll come home exhausted and likely regret going… but we couldn’t tell her no. 28. New car. Best friend.


    Take care of yourself Friend. We need your sunshine in this dark world.

  3. Ice, ice, ice!! Google “MacKenzie exercises.” Try two Aleve at once (my back surgeon recommend this to me.) And rest alternated with walking to loosen things up.

  4. Ice ice baby! No, seriously. Heat is comforting but ice helps with swelling. Ice for 15-20 minutes, every hour-ish. Along with Ibuprofen and drinking HUGE amounts of water, that’s the best thing for the 1st day or two. Then ice/heat/ice, along with gentle stretching. Hope the back nastiness is short-lived!

  5. Gardening all day while pregnant…not recommended but has made me a 13 year veteran of back pain and treatments.
    You may be able to get a PT appointment via zoom. Worth investigating because you have just realised your back may be vulnerable. Anxiety is often linked to back pain – muscle tension and sensitivity to pain signals. Any anxiety in your life right now?!!
    I have always found applying heat to be the most helpful and taking it very easy to let your back calm down. I use an electric heat pad. It’s like an 18 inch wide electric blanket that you can lie on. Should be able to find it online. I lie on it when I am reading in bed at night. It calms everything down so I can sleep. Some of them switch off after a certain amount of time otherwise you think you’re having the worst hot flush in the middle of the night.
    Definitely get some advice on gentle strengthening exercises but don’t overdo it. My physio used to tell me to split my reps across the day if my exercises started to hurt. The response I was looking for involved fewer exercises and more magic.

  6. Ask on Facebook if any friends have an electric heating pad with a moisture sponge they’d be willing to leave on your porch for you to use.

    Moist heat is best. Even if you hate the word moist. I learned that when my husband (Mr. “I have a sensory disorder so the only way I know I’m having a migraine and not a mild headache is the visual aura”) threw his back out so badly he could barely crawl to the bathroom.

  7. Up front: I am not a medical professional, though I do have more than 12 years of experience with back pain. If it hurts really bad, my advice would be to rest as much as possible and take pain killers. If you feel that you can move a bit without being in a lot of pain, here is my favourite “exercise”: Lie down on your back. Your legs are stretched out straight, feet relaxed or toes pointing to the ceiling, whatever you prefer. Now move your hips one at a time, i.e. try to push your right heel further away from you, then your left heel and so on. This helps me loosen up my lower back, and you can control how far you move your heels and your hips. In the beginning I can only do a few centimetres, but it gets better. Get better soon!

  8. I screwed up my back a couple weeks ago. Usually a trip to my chiro would help, but well, pandemic.

    I forget how I found the article (and I have hundreds of tabs open so it’s probably somewhere on my computer), but it was something about joints alternating between static and moving and that when they do the wrong thing (like your lumbar moving when it should be your hips or thoracic) it causes pain. Anyway, down the rabbit hole following that since I knew my hips/glutes were weak I ended up doing hip hinges (squats basically) to remind myself how I’m supposed to move and lunges to make my muscles start doing their jobs. It was noticeably better in two days and has only improved in the week or two since. I do 10 reps of each (hip hinge, forward lunge/knee drop like I’m picking something up I dropped on R & L) in the morning and that’s it. Go slow so you can’t use your momentum.

  9. I have thrown my back out twice. Once while writing on a whiteboard. I made it to a chair and then had to wait 45 minutes until another teacher came in (I was early) because it hurt so bad whenever I moved. It felt fine if I was stationary, so I was killed into a false sense of security several times in the 45 minute (I can probably get to my desk to reach my phone-NOPE!)

    anyway, after being wheeled out to the car in my desk chair and helped into the passenger seat so my hubby could get me home, it took several days before I could move ok.

    What really helped
    -Lots of Ibuprofun, as often as you are allowed, in the highest dose you are allowed
    -alternate hot and cold (I use Icy Hot when I am unable to move and Jeremy can’t help)
    -Rest, be gentle with yourself, listen to your body and be patient (which is ALWAYS the hardest part for me, but the most beneficial).

    PS, the second time I did it was picking u a super light thing after I had hauled my uncooperative child somewhere. I don’t remember the circumstances precisely, but we were somewhere, and I wanted to leave the somewhere and she didn’t…

  10. Beth I hurt my back years ago and a PT major gave me a gentle stretching exercise to to that really truly helped…I am going to try to explain it to you but just want to say this really is an official exercise in spite of how it sounds–lay on your back on a yoga mat or something similar… with your knees bent. Then, arch your lower back up ( pushing your bum down,),hold for a couple of seconds… then push your lower back down to the mat while arching your bum up…hold again… doing it as a gentle stretch three times a day was really helpful. This is not a substitute for real PT or medical advice for sure but really helped me… Hope you feel better soon!

    • Sounds like cat/cow, and it really is excellent, along with child’s pose … depending upon where in your back poses like reclined pigeon and simply hugging your knees to your chest could also help … same disclaimer though, not a doctor, this isn’t medical advice.

  11. Oh, I hate the back-throwing-out part of being a grown up. Though, I must admit, I matured *much* earlier than you- or was just silly enough to think a 26 year old back could handle swinging (gently, mind you) a bucket carseat containing a large-ish baby into the *middle* seat of a Volvo wagon.
    Anyway- muscle relaxers are good, and also I recommend gentle yoga stretches. (Alas, you can’t go to a hot studio right now, which would be THE BEST, but maybe run the water really hot in your bathroom and lay on the floor to do some?)
    Good luck- hoping someone else will move the rest of the sod!

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