The State of the Blog

Around the time I started blogging, I noticed a throwaway remark somewhere in interwebland – something along the lines of ‘most blogs dry up after about five years.’  Not me, I thought.  I love writing and documenting my new life here in Provence!  But, slowly but surely, it began to feel same old, same old :

Some groundwork with one of the horses (usually Aero).

A trek in nice weather.

Dodgy back.

Through the ears ‘back in the saddle after the dodgy back’ shot hooray!.

The occasional dog post

The even more occasional family post.

And life continued, same old, same old.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the rhythm of our life here, but I began to feel I could constantly recycle the same posts and no-one would notice.  I felt the blog was becoming stale and my enthusiasm for it was waning.  Looking back, I realise that I was subconsciously suppressing a constant recurring theme.  My back.  After all, who want to read the equestrian blog by that oul’ wan who’s always moaning about her back?

It’s been bothering me on and off for years.  Thirty two, to be precise.  Irish doctors invariably prescribed anti-inflammatories which I always felt masked rather than cured the problem.  While in Ireland, I self-prescribed visits to osteopaths and chiropracters, which helped me far more than medication ever did.  I took up yoga and benefited greatly – thanks to yoga, I confound the medics with my flexibility!  But still, crippling ‘dodgy back’ moments kept recurring.  And, slowly but presistantly, a constant low-grade pain started to occupy the spaces between the acute episodes. Pain in my lower back, upper butt, hips, thighs, knees and ankles.  Always there, somewhere, to some degree.

I love the doctors here.  You visit your GP with a sore back and practically the first question is “Have you been to an osteopath?”  A reply in the affirmative and a series of visits to a physiotherapist is prescribed.  Along with a very effective pain killer/anti-inflammatory for those acute episodes.  On the osteopath’s recommendation, special insoles were prescribed which were to balance my posture (interesting theory, not sure it helped, tbh).

Between January and September 2017, I had x-rays, massages, a course of twelve one-hour sessions with a physio, those special insoles and several visits to the osteopath.  I spent forty minutes every morning performing a mixture of yoga and the stretches and exercises my physio had shown me.

And still, my symptoms did not improve.  X-rays showed nothing more than a normal degree of arthritic wear and tear between L5 and S1 (a classic weak spot, apparently).  I began to feel like I was imagining it all and tried so hard to “get on with it!”  But every time I rode a little bit more, I had more pain.  Was I being a hypochondriac?  Was there something else going on in my head?  Was I deeply terrified of riding and making up the pain as an excuse?  I can be nervous, for sure, but was I any more nervous than any other 55 year old woman settling her behind into a saddle?

Finally, in November, I asked my GP to send me for an MRI.  I was fully expecting it to show ‘nothing’ – ie., normal arthritic wear and tear.  “Suck it up, woman, you’re just getting older” sort of thing.

It was a relief of sorts to see that HEY! I wasn’t imagining it!  Four herniated discs, L2/L3 to L5/S1, the lower three of which are touching nerve roots on both sides.  This actually does explain everything, pains in the legs and all!  The GP looked long and hard at the images and said well, the first thing to do is go back to the physio to try to strengthen your core so that it supports this weak area.  After that, maybe injections might be an option.

Back to the physio.  More exercises to incorporate into my morning routine, which now lasts an hour.  I am flexible and strong.  I can hold the plank for five minutes and I’m developing a six-pack (bar of chocolate, the French call it!!).  I’ve lost a total of eleven kilos over the last year.  Frankly, I don’t think I could be doing any more than I am.

But still.  I ride for more than an hour: my pain increases for the next couple of days.  The same with trimming two hooves.  Or doing more than half an hour of light gardening.

And worse… injections in the spine are quite probably NOT an option.  They can’t inject all six implicated nerve roots at once, apparently.  I’ve been referred to a neurologist in Marseille.  We’ll see what he says, but I’m not very optimistic.  Sure, I’m far better off than so many other people – a couple of para riders I know spring to mind – but I have slowly come around to accepting that my riding days are numbered.  I don’t know what that number is, but it’s there.  I’ve accepted that there will be no repeat of Le Big Trek, no mounted expeditions along the Via Domitia, no trail-riding in Yosemite (on my bucket-list for years, that one).  Instead, I am hoping to do more hiking with the LSH, once his knee has recovered from surgery.

So will I wake the blog up again?  Yes, I think so.  There will be fewer riding posts – I’m currently aiming to ride three days a week if possible.  There will be more Provençal life posts – there’s a lot going on in our little village this summer!  There will be a few gardening posts, as we attempt to grow some of our own vegetables this summer and investigate cheap and ancient irrigation techniques.  And some hiking posts, with any luck.

See you soon, I hope.

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12 thoughts on “The State of the Blog

  1. Pingback: I am not back. This is not a post. | Rodney's Saga

  2. Hi Mo…. that is a bummer. Sure it’s good to know you weren’t imagining/exaggerating it but herniated discs are bad news. Had a long discussion about back stuff with the (Dr.) brother in Brisbane. He said ‘put off fusing discs as long as you can – but it may come to that’. This was when he saw me wince while reaching to load stuff on top of the 4×4. So far my yoga/meditation/tennis/swimming regime is keeping my ‘wear & tear’ damage in its place but I feel I’m walking on thin ice. It will be great if you can get to hiking with LSH (Long Skinny and Happy?). Prob need to limit the size of any backpack.
    And I did like your blog – even the bits about the oul wan’s back.

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  3. Welcome back.

    Yay, diagnosis. Knowing there is a reason & not “all in your head” helps.

    Boo, riding. Have you considered driving? A lot of folks come to driving when their knees/back give out. Also, are you still working toward your ground exercise shows?

    Yay, slice of life. Bring it on.

    Boo, me. Thanks for the shout out. I was so proud of being able to say that I had blogged almost every day for 6+ years and every day for 3+. While repetition was definitely a factor in my taking a break – I hope it’s a break – the main problem was that I was repeating a message of frustration. It got old.

    Onwards!

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  4. You have my sympathy.
    The pain is bad enough. I hope you can find a solution so you can continue to ride. It is hard to give up activities we love…I dream of my beloved ski slopes…I was astonished to read about the amount of exercise you do. Is that perhaps too much?,

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    • You’ve often spoken of skiing again Leah, so I know you understand! Re the exercise, it’s mostly stretches with some core building exercises incorporated. And to be fair, there are days when I’m either sore or under pressure for time when I just do a brief set of stretches, lasting 15 – 20 minutes. I do feel it helps rather than hinders!

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  5. Wow you’ve really given ‘having a bad back’ a good kicking. I really hope you can get more relief, but you’ve done an amazing job getting so fit. I like reading about the horses, but find stories about your local area interesting too.

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  6. I know what you mean about the waning blog–seems I was just writing the same thing over and over–go for ride, repeat.

    And yes, the pains of growing old–my elbows (tendonitis from shoveling), knees (from attempting to jog in the woods etc.), periformis syndrome (maybe from riding?),and on and on. I NEED some yoga in my life. Every class I ever want to do is on a night I work, and I don’t have a TV to watch a DVD. So I feel your pain, (hah) literally!

    So will my blog continue? Maybe not, at least not until something remarkable happens in my life–I finally find a farm of my own and move, I retire, I leave this country (current political environment is making me sick), or I go on an amazing horseback trip. I have been putting my efforts into working on some pieces for publication rather than the blog. More on that at a later date.

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    • I thought I had periformis syndrome too (upper butt pain, right?) but it turns out it’s part of the nerve pain that’s going on. I also a have cyst in my coccyx which is apparently common-ish which may be contributing to that too. The MRI revealed all!!
      I think the focus of my blog will change. I had made a deliberate choice several years ago to have it very much a ‘horsey’ blog, but now it will become more of an expat/French life blog. Perhaps you’ll do the same, if you ever manage The Great Escape (I would not like to be in the US right now either, in fact I have little desire even to visit, despite the fact that my sister lives there).
      Thanks for commenting. Nice to see my old regulars haven’t forgotten me!

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  7. It’s nice to see an update from you Martine, altho I am sorry to hear your back is still so problematic. It is hard to get older, and become accustom to new physical normals. I struggle with it every day. Letting go of what was, sucks. I think most aging equestrians wonder when riding might become a thing of the past. All the more reason to savor every moment with our mounts. As you know, there are soo many other ways to enjoy our beloved horses. Riding 3X a week sounds like a good game plan & gives your back a needed days off in-between. As for longevity of blogs, much of their demise is due to faster easier social media outlets. For me, blogging is so much more rewarding then any thumbs up/hearts. It’s an in-depth form of expression & sharing. Similar to Lori (her journaling record is so impressive!) I’ve continued blogging as a form of documentation/reflection to get things off my mind, as well as interacting with amazing participants. I don’t have many followers, but the ones I have are simply the best! I truly treasure them. Your blog will be interesting regardless of how much you ride, because it’s a reflection of you. I don’t follow blog “rules” and post when I feel compelled. My blog is also in it’s 10th year. SO when you feel moved, share your beautiful writing & photos, ride & enjoy your sweet horses, tell us how your back is doing & about your wonderful life in Province. Your sunset photo is beautiful, I love silhouette photos!

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    • Yes, it’s letting go and admitting that I’m probably somewhere in the last year of my riding career is the difficult part. Tears were shed. But I have always loved everything to do with horses, so as long as Aero and Flurry are around, I’ll still have those special hay-breath moments (usually followed by a snot-from-a-snort moment)

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  8. Do what works for you! Feel no guilt. My blog is in the form of a Journal and it is simply a record of what I do every day. I have only missed one day in over 10 years (in the hospital) and I will never understand why anyone cares about what I have been doing. The colors in this photograph are stunning!

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    • Your blog is like a gentle soap opera – you know, a sweet one about everyday life! Maybe like a grown-up Little House on the Prairie, not one of those awful trashy over-dramatic soaps nowadays! I’ve always found I can dip in and out of it and follow along in no time, and I think it’s because it reflects very much the rhythm of your life, if that makes sense.
      I could never be an Everyday blogger and I greatly admire you and Katharine from Rodney’s Story who do it so well. I do have several posts and topics in mind for the next couple of months, though, so you will be hearing from me!

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