The tuna was delicious. Cooked to perfection – just done enough to be cooked, but still rare enough to be melt-in-the-mouth. The citrus dressing was yum and the boiled potatoes – a welcome change from rice – were slathered in garlic butter – real butter!
The kids had chips as usual but what’s new. They have subsisted on mainly chips and pasta since the off, especially the little one. It’s a big change though, and some degree of backlash is to be expected. Food, after all, is one of the few things they have full control over. That, and clothes and toilet. Of course they have both been mostly naked, especially here in this place as it is so dead and nobody cares, and both of them have taken turns in shitting their pants. Nothing new for her anyway.
After lunch we tried to do some admin. We had a big to do list that required a good internet connection and we had chosen Secret Bay at the Gajah Mina resort nearby for this, but also because of the salubrious surroundings and delicious food. Let’s be honest most of the food here is delicious but the small menu in our resort is getting boring and there is very little cooking you can do with one hot plate and a small frying pan, and a very meagre shopping.
We have tried our best with the local veg but there is precious little choice and while we are happy to eat basic and the same each day, it is a disaster for the little ones.
We needed to choose some accommodation in Australia and New Zealand, and thought we might try and get some pet sitting, giving us free accommodation for a month or so. I spent quite a long time perfecting our profile to make us seem attractive to pet owners. We searched for photos of us with our cat – dear Archie RIP– sending us into a reverie of nostalgia over the kids when they were little, and marvelling how awesome “the cloud” is that we can access old photos in minutes, even from a remote hut in Bali.
I was a bit uncomfortable. I had had a bit of a bad back for a couple of days. In fact this week had been a bit shit really. We were staying in a lovely little bamboo beach hut, literally on the beach (not figuratively). The resort was a collection of 10 or so cottages and only had been occupied for half the week with two friendly American couples who were happy to let our kids download onto them – they are getting sick of our company after nearly a month on the road with pretty much no contact with any kids, and hardly any grown-ups as well.
After a lovely couple of days just relaxing (and one trekking to discover the Secret bay restaurant and accompanying resort), I found myself with a bit of a headache. It just wouldn’t go and while I had a few hours feeling ok it really turned into a full-blown migraine by day two. I spent a terrible night feeling wretched and the next day had awful photosensitivity and noise sensitivity.
We Googled all the natural remedies we could think of, and were happy to discover we had a fair few: magnesium, yes we had bought some to avoid leg cramps and twitches on the flight; eating chilli, I had a breakfast of crisps with a hot salsa with onion, garlic chilli and tomato; reflexology, being a reflexologist it was easy to direct Kieran to the right places to rub; Acupressure, again foot points were easy to do; and my own contribution was ibuprofen and a strong coffee. Over the course of the morning I managed to ease it off. As the headache was so sinusy, I thought that doing a steam face bath might help. It did, it was really good, but having my head bent over the bowl twice for 10 minutes set a twinge off in my lower back that got worse throughout the day.
As the migraine got better, my back got worse. Well, I thought, at least I know where I am with a back twinge – been here before, whereas I had never had a migraine before and just felt helpless and clueless.
The following day I ended up feeling well enough to contribute to the house again. I cooked lunch – no mean feat it took an hour, plus did some laundry (by hand of course: wash and soak with suds, squeeze each thing out, and rinse twice), then spent an annoying hour trying to get hold of EE in order to sort out a contract anomaly they had done, then supper – another hour or more in front of the hot plate.
I was pretty exhausted by the end. A half a bottle of beer set my head off again and I figured that perhaps the beer was the migraine trigger. I had had a bottle a few days before and I don’t drink beer anymore because of the wheat, but we had run out of gin mixer so thought one or two wouldn’t hurt. So off to bed after a G&T feeling that I was getting there, finally and I might be able to start enjoying the holiday again.
Friday came. It was our last day here and we all felt a bit house- and resort-bound. We planned to go to Secret Bay to have some different lunch, and use their super-fact wifi to get our research done. At our last visit we had got a free ride hoe with the hotel shuttle – a large tuk-tuk with a motorbike or scooter front, and a minibus behind that could seat about 6 people. It was a hairy ride back, mainly due to the steep road and bumps but despite needing to close my eyes several times, we made it back without incident.
Our hotel wanted to charge us the equivalent of 3 meals to take us there in their car so we rang Secret Bay and they cam to collect us in the tuk-tuk. My back was much better although still a bit twingy. I found leaning forwards and then straightening up was the worst giving little spasms but nothing I couldn’t handle. The bumps on the ride were not great but once we got to the final approach I knew it had been a mistake to take the tuk-tuk.
I got out of the vehicle with trepidation and care. I was OK just very stiff and felt I need to take a lot of care not to make it worse. We spent some money paying for the kids to use the pool, but as it was cloudy and overcast and we were not getting in, the got bored after 10 minutes or so. I stumbled off to the toilet and hobbled back to the pool. Shit why did I get the tuk-tuk.
It looked like rain and the wifi didn’t reach to the pool so we decamped downstairs to the restaurant to eat. After lunch I was restless in my chair. It was a bit uncomfortable I could feel my posture was not great – my shoulders hunching over. I reached a pause and felt that I should stand up and have a little stretch. There was a yoga and surf retreat for women in the resort. They had all had a chatty lunch and half of them had said goodbyes while a few remaining women chewed the cud. We had asked the restaurant for a couple of hot chillis – a great home remedy we discovered years before (on another holiday, another back spasm) that rubbing the inside of a chilli all over your back acts like deep heart but much stronger and longer-lasting.
I stood up, reached for a pillar next to me and knew my back was going to go. I tried to straighten out and the whole back went into spasm. It was agony. Not only were the muscles seizing up but I just couldn’t hold onto my own bodyweight. I was moaning in pain, the seizures of the muscles like labour contractions but shorter and way more intense. Kieran leapt up to support me and the surfer women also rallied around but basically I was doubled up in pain. One of the surf girls had some muscle gel – perhaps it was like voltarol or something and they rubbed a bit on my back. This really activated the chilli but also the slightest touch on my back set the whole thing off again – agony, oh agony.
I just couldn’t hold my body up, the muscles were so intensely painful across the whole back. The slightest touch set it off like a chain reaction. I clung onto a pillar and then onto Kieran for dear life.
I knew I had to get to the floor to allow the muscles to release. Kieran was holding me up and I essentially lay down on the floor right there in the middle of the restaurant. If I lay on my back I knew I would never get back up so I got down onto my left-hand side. It was tricky and the slightest movement gave me a severe spasm. What the heck was I supposed to do now?
I had taken some ibuprofen at the start of lunch and so I had another dose then. The restaurant staff (who were brilliant, including the owner’s wife who came to help) put a wet towel into a plastic bag and heated it in the microwave to give me a hot compress – that felt great. They also bought some ground up ginger to spread on my back – they claimed it was better than chilli – and Kieran rubbed a bit on but to be honest I just couldn’t be touched.
I found that I couldn’t even move an inch. I had been given some yoga mats that were tucked behind me and in front of me but I couldn’t even lift up my side to slide a few centimetres onto the mat. The sweeps of spasm were breath-taking, and I found myself moaning and crying – much like the intensity of labour pains but actually much worse.
We wondered what to do. How do I get up off the floor? How do we get back to the hotel? We were supposed to be moving on to another place about 2.5 hours drive over mountains the next day on small windy roads. I have had back spasms before. A miserable few days on holiday in Annecy in the French Alps was at the forefront of my mind. The kids just ate crisps and ice-cream that holiday and I twanged my back doing something innocuous like reaching forwards for a crisp. There were no chillies at all in any of the French supermarkets – who knew they just don’t cook with chillies – and the thing that finally enabled my back to come out of spasm was getting royally pissed on Prossecco! No chance of that in Bali!
One thing at a time. Mindfulness. Just solve the first puzzle: being able to move more than a muscle. I knew we had some paracetamol and codeine back at our place. Kieran got a lift back home to get it. It felt like forever. Luckily the restaurant owner’s wife had bought her little girl out so Beatrix had a little friend to play with and Gaius had some game on daddy’s phone. Bless them they really weren’t bothered and were happy as larry!
I was getting very uncomfortable but I still couldn’t even shift a muscle. I was lying on the cold, stone floor of the restaurant. It had started raining in earnest in the meantime so the mozzies were out and I was actually getting a bit cold despite the staff re-heating my heat compress periodically.
Once Kieran was back I took 1.5 dose of the codeine. After about 30 minutes I was able to start moving a little bit. First onto the mat – ah relief on my hip – and then partially rolling to my back. I initially thought I would need lots of help to get up – I knew I couldn’t support my own weight at all – but it turned out that I was slowly able to push myself up onto my side, up to kneeling, and then used a chair to support myself to get to standing. Took about 45 minutes! But every moment I tried hard to be as mindful as possible – one step at a time, one step at a time.
I was OK as long as my body was straight and my legs and arms were bearing the weight. The slightest wrong move set off a spasm but the codeine took the edge off so I could at least maintain my stance more-or-less and use a straw breath (breathing out through pursed lips) to get through the spasms which were thankfully short.
My first problem solved! Now problem two was that I desperately needed the toilet! I managed to hobble to it but still had the occasional spasm. Shamefully I had to pee standing up. Surprisingly I managed this without making a huge mess but the humiliation of getting your husband to undress and redress you is still pretty sour.
It felt so incredible just to be standing on two feet and no longer on the floor. The next step was to get back to our villa. There was no way on earth I was getting back in the tuk-tuk but the hotel had a car and were on standby to help. I made it to the car park and then had to navigate actually getting in the car. I had to support my weight with my arms and thankfully it was a very high people carrier so I didn’t realy have to bend down much. The lovely driver went really slow so the bumps weren’t too bad and we made it home!!!
At the villa I managed to have a hot shower – the nearest we had to a hot compress – necked some more drugs and got onto bed. I say onto bend but once down I couldn’t roll over so I had to choose a position and stick to it.
Our villa was thankfully free for an additional night – we were supposed to be leaving the next day – and in fact we stayed the entire weekend, moving to a different cottage the following day.
I also dabbled in a stiff G&T – sorry but alcohol really is quite incredible to halt muscle spasm, even if you have to drink it sideways from a cup with a straw! I was stuck in bed for a good couple of days, slowly easing my muscles, slowly moving around, rolling this way and that, and trying to release the tightness.
I have spent over a year working intensively with an amazing chiropractor in Reading, Kelly & Liam at Dynamic Family Chiropractic, and also having acupuncture with an incredible acupuncturist Alison Savory at One Acupuncture, plus my wonderful osteopath, Julian Hearne, and I really thought I was over all these silly spasms. Of course there is a mind-body connection and I wonder if this is part of my departure from “normal” life, into a life travelling with kids and all the challenges that brings?
Because of the amazing work I have done with these people, my back bounced back surprisingly quickly. When I had a similar injury around 12-13 years ago, I was off work for 6 weeks! This time, I was back on my feet in 2-3 days, and really more-or-less find within 10 days! I used a lot of gentle but dynamic movement – rolling the hips and back to bring flexibility back to my tight back.
I have had to park my plans to do lots of scuba diving and try loads of different kinds of yoga, which is really one of the key attractions for Bali. But I remain with the affirmation to TRUST THE JOURNEY. Something I saw on a T-shirt last year but has consistently, and constantly resonated with me every since (and yes I did go an buy the T-shirt).
Getting on the mat with this injury has frankly gone out of the window. It has served as a time of reflection, of learning about my anatomy (I think it is the quadratus lumborum, or the lumbar part of the longissimus), and also of letting my husband do it all!