grayscale photography of man lying on floor



Today, I put my underwear on by myself. On most days, that wouldn’t seem significant. However, it was a sign of victory for me after a recent series of painful back spasms.

For years, I’ve battled the occasional back spasm; a lightning-hot flash of pain that usually drops me to my hands and knees in pain. I first experienced this when I was living in Bali, and it sent me to bed for nearly a week.

Recently, I was playing with Atlas and decided to pick him up to dance. Swinging him through the air, I suddenly felt a hot flash as my lower back gave way to a teeth-clenching back spasm. I dropped to my knees and managed to safely release Atlas before falling facedown on the floor.

“Atlas, please sit on the couch and put your hands in your lap!”

Atlas obeyed with a smile on his face. He wasn’t entirely sure why Dad was rolling on the ground like a fish, but it seemed somewhat funny to him, and I wanted to keep it that way.

“Look, Atlas! Dad is a worm!”

If you’ve never experienced a back spasm before, the closest thing I can liken it to is a semi truck that’s been compacted to the size of a softball, suddenly landing on the middle of your back. Everything stiffens and it feels like a lightning bolt is coursing through your spine.

I found myself in a nightmare of a situation when I realized my phone was upstairs. Every time I moved, my back fired up another spasm that would paralyze me.

Times like that, you have to think about the end goal and make a mental decision to get there. And that’s what I did when I decided to crawl to the stairs and rally Atlas to join me.

”Atlas, it’s time to crawl like bears! Let’s crawl upstairs!’

Atlas bounced up from the couch and raced over to the stairs, where we both crawled up until we reached the top. I directed him to “Daddy’s room” and continued my crawl until I reached my phone.

Within the hour, Atlas’ Mom came to pick him up. I have never been so thankful to see her as I was that morning.

It’s really hard to go through an experience like this. However, it’s an added variable when you’re a single parent.

As I type this, I feel a throbbing sensation in my lower back that feels like a rattlesnake ready to bite at any moment I move the wrong way. Half the difficulty of back pain is going through the moment-by-moment fear that something you do will trigger a spasm, and you don’t know how bad it will be…

Up until this point of my life, I’ve never worried about any sort of disability or life-altering injury. However, these thoughts are now hanging over my head as I ask myself whether or not I’m going to be able to heal and recover permanently from this pain.

I used to judge people who didn’t work and instead cashed a disability check each month. Now, I realize that the check they cash each month isn’t nearly large enough to support their families properly.

In many ways, I feel fortunate. I know that in a matter of time, my back will be on the mend and I’ll be able to function like a normal human being. Once that happens, I won’t hit snooze on the stretching, exercises or recovery needed to ensure this will never happen again. Those days feel like weeks and years as I lay in bed and think about moment it doesn’t hurt to get up to use the bathroom.

As a Dad, this has been really difficult. I never want Atlas to see me in pain or somehow weakened. In a scenario like this, there are only so many ‘games’ you can play with a toddler before they realize something isn’t right with Daddy. When that moment happens, I want to make sure that Atlas never feels any sense that he’s the one responsible for my pain, because he’s not – and he isn’t able to fix it.

When I first fell, something told me that no matter how bad the pain got, I needed to be mindful of how I interacted with Atlas. I didn’t want to yell, snap or lose my patience with him because I was in pain, and that’s completely separate than my responsibility to care for him.

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