“I HAVE THIS,” you can declare, and nobody is allowed to argue or tell you that you don’t look ill enough, or that you probably just need a multivitamin and a hobby.
Which is why finding out I have a slipped disc was an odd sort of relief. I’m so used to the sort of medical complaints that doctors pull sceptical faces at – weird headaches that come and go like Harry Potter’s scar pain, indigestion caused by all foods except biscuits, a fear of consumption that has reccurred ever since I first saw Moulin Rouge – that being diagnosed with a real condition felt almost like a victory.
It’s only ‘slightly slipped’ and doesn’t need surgery, a fact my stone-faced GP was keen to stress while glancing down frequently at my heeled ankle boots. But I was already mind-shopping for a quilted bed jacket by this point, and mentally listing all the activities it could get me out of.
Camping. Sit-ins. Theme parks. Queuing all night for tickets for something. Slipped disc says ‘no’.
Exploiting my invalid status is only small compensation for the pain, it must be said.
It has ruined my favourite activity, which is lounging. I can no longer slump or recline in languid positions on the sofa – just sit bolt upright or lie down flat.
Reading a book and watching telly are both significantly less fun now that I have to do them in the posture of the Dowager Countess, and I must try to make ‘taking a brisk turn abut the block’ my new favourite activity instead.
There’s also something particularly sad about the first ailment you get that can’t just be cured or waited out but has to be ‘managed’. At the creaky age of 26, I’m facing the fact that I’ll probably just be a person with a slightly dodgy back forever. It’s a new one for my collection of ageing disappointments, alongside never being described as a ‘wunderkind’ (maximum age: 24, I reckon) and never having successfully worn cut-off denim shorts. This is my lot in life. Even the term ‘slipped disc’ sounds archaic, because I keep picturing it as a floppy disc that’s been awkwardly ejected from my spine. So, I’ll take the excuses and the sympathetic sighs for now, but when I can upgrade to a back complaint for the digital age, please let me know.