I have been wanting to do something about the incredible level of pain I’m in on a daily basis for quite some time. I have an advanced case of Scoliosis (curves in the spine in several places) and it seems to be progressing every year. I also have intense pain in both hips. I was diagnosed with Scoliosis before I reached puberty, but it didn’t start causing me pain until I was about 14. The pain in my hips started when I was 22 (in 1992). I also have two new areas of pain now: my waist on the left side feels like a constant muscle spasm or cramp and sometimes when it gets really bad even the skin there is so sensitive that I can’t touch it. That’s been going on for the last 4 or 5 months. I also have another new area of pain on my left shoulder. The skin there is constantly super sensitive. It feels like a bad sunburn and sometimes it feels like pins are poking me there and then sometimes it itches. Of course, when I try to scratch it, it makes the skin hurt more. I can barely stand anything to touch the skin there. That started about a year ago. Basically, I’m “that far” from being a cripple (That may be politically incorrect. Maybe I should say “torso and leg movement challenged”.) I probably shouldn’t be bringing car loads of groceries upstairs 8 and 9 plastic sacks at a time. I probably shouldn’t carry around a wiggly 25-pound toddler. I probably should never have gotten pregnant in the first place, but, you know, life happens. You’re there and you just do it. You move through the pain and just keep going because that’s what you have to do.
I started going back to a local chiropractor, John Vincent, during my pregnancy because it was recommended to help reduce my insane pain levels and to make delivery easier and faster. So, Miss S. is now 18 (almost 19) months and I haven’t been back to see him in all this time. I went back yesterday because my pain levels are ratcheting up again and I really want to get something done about my pretzel-of-a-spine. I have read that a person is only as healthy as their spine is mobile. If that’s so, I’m VERY unhealthy.
The office had moved to a new location. It looked like a new building. It had that “new car” smell. You know what I mean. I even commented on it and was told that no, the building wasn’t new but that it had been remodeled. The impossibly skinny and tall receptionist, Kale, gave me the tour of the new facility. (I inwardly grieved for his childhood when I first heard his name. I thought, “God, your parents named you after a leafy green.”) I was shown the “family” area where parents go to get their manipulations who don’t want to be separated from their children. It was an open-air affair with no walls to speak of, but instead had short partitions to separate table areas which were about shoulder high.
To the left of that was the Midwife Room. I was informed that the midwife’s name was Amy and that she was “super nice”. A smaller room next to that was the room for the “overweight people”. Kale explained that that was where they all had their appointments with the weight counselor there and that several people were taking advantage of this service. (Here, I was offended on several levels. Firstly, by the up-and-down look I received from Kale when he said “overweight people” and secondly that he couldn’t refer to them simply as people who wanted to just get healthier instead of people who wanted to lose weight. I’m willing to bet that Kale has never been fat and has no friends who are fat.)
Around the corner, I was shown the “yoga room” followed by the “Cross Fit” room, which was like a bootcamp for fitness. I thought it looked more like something from a sexual sadist’s wet dream than a work out room. On the left there were what looked like steel girders. Sort of an over large jungle gym, if you will. Hanging from the bars where several different types and colors of elastic bands and other things. Overall, I found it to be alternately funny and intimidating. I figured out in about 2 seconds that I would NEVER be doing Cross Fit. Not in public, anyway.
Down the hall, Kale pointed to the water fountain, kitchen, restrooms and mentioned that they have shower facilities. Under impressed (mostly with Cross Fit), I followed him back through the door to the lobby. He led me around another corner into Mr. Vincent’s office and asked me some general questions. Mr. Vincent then came in and asked me the same questions, which I thought was thoroughly tedious and unnecessary since I had just told Kale AND since he treated me during my pregnancy.
Mr. Vincent then directed me to a small room where was housed an x-ray machine and a scan machine. The latter machine is one where a technician rolls a ball up and down your back. The ball is connected to computer software which registers the worst part of your body in ever darker colors. White is the optimal color here meaning absence of stress. (Not trying to be racial. It’s just how I was told the software works. I didn’t designate the colors.) I was wearing a dress, which Mr. Vincent told me would present a problem since they needed access to my back. Apparently, no one wanted to see me in my panties and a backless hospital gown so I was given a pair of shorts to put on under the gown and told to sit on the obligatory stool and wait after I was finished changing.
After a few minutes, the physical therapy tech, Tray (who was not as cute as I thought he was when I was pregnant, weirdly), came in and informed me that he needed me to unhook my bra so he could roll the ball up and down my entire back and neck unhindered. Now, I’ve had my wild days, ok? I’ve flashed the girls a couple of times. But not in more than a few years. Make that at least 20 years. My breasts NEED their bra. The word “support” has more than one connotation in my life. Regardless, I mentally dumped whatever modesty I had left after my birth experience and let the girls loose. Tray rolled the ball up and down and up and down. Ten minutes later, I was again alone in the small room putting my dress back on, taking off the shorts and wondering just how many other people had worn those shorts and whether or not one of them had pubic creepy crawlies.
After I finished dressing, I was directed into Mr. Vincent’s office again where he glossed over the scan he had tacked to a clipboard. He asked me to lay face down on the chiropractic table, which I did. He did some manipulations then turned me on my right side. He put my right arm out in front of my body so that it was hanging off the table. He picked up my left leg and slowly moved it over my body so that I was laying there twisted from the waist down. Then he moved to pop my back into place. That’s when I screamed. Really screamed. He quickly removed his hands and said, “What’s wrong?” In the back of my mind a thought skittered by that was something like, “You hurt me, dumbass. What do you think?” I didn’t say anything, though. I just laid there stunned, panting, shaking and in incredible pain. Finally, I was able to whisper, “That really…hurt.” I think I heard him say, “I’m sorry, your muscles are tighter than I thought they would be.” He then directed me to lay on my stomach again, which I did with some difficulty. He applied some kind of vibrating massage device to my back, which felt awfully nice. I was wishing that the rest of the appointment could just be that instead of more pretzling. As he was massaging, he explained to me that he still had to manipulate my back, but that he would not be using that particular technique. Instead he lifted a part of the table which was under my belly until it clicked and then pressed down on various parts of my back until the part of the table that was raised when back down and clicked again.
After he was done, he said that I could get up off the table, but I found that I was in far too much pain to do so. So, he had to put his arms entirely around my upper body and pull me up into a sitting position. I can’t explain how much pain I was in at that point. What’s worse is that I wasn’t in that much pain when I got there. I was also feeling a little panicky and had that cry lump in my throat which always signals that the tears are about to come any minute and there is nothing I can do to hold them back.
Feeling like I was moving through water, I made my way to the front desk and pretended to listen to the scheduling clerk say something about what was going to happen at the next appointment. I wanted to be out of there as quickly as possible because I didn’t want anyone to see me in my crying hysterics. Why I felt like crying I couldn’t really fathom at that precise moment. I just knew that I was freaked out and wanted to run and hide. I wanted to be anywhere except where I was at that moment.
I walked out of the building and got into my car. I had no more sat down and shut the door when the waterworks started. It was not just a little boo-hooing. It was screwed-up-face-runny-nose-hiccuping-hyperventilating-freaked out-crying. I tried to tell myself that this all was silly. I’m a grown woman after all with a child of my own. I tried to tell myself that one cannot expect to go to a chiropractor and not experience some kind of pain. They do, after all, move your spine and hips around. Logically, that has to cause a bit of pain or at least discomfort. However, the little girl me told the rational-grown-woman me to shut the hell up and go away. I tried to stop crying. I really did. I managed to hold it together long enough to appear somewhat ok when I picked up Miss S. from the babysitter. Not long after I strapped her into her car seat and got going again for the 45-minute drive home, I broke down again. I tried to think of someone to call, because I knew that I needed to talk to someone.
I called my mom, but when I tried to speak my voice came out like a squeak. Have you ever watched The Chica Show on the Disney Junior Channel? I sounded sort of like that. Totally unintelligible. Add in that I was crying hysterically and you get a squeaky, snorty, hiccuping mess. Of course, my mom couldn’t understand a word I was trying to say. Frustrated, I let her go, but she said she would call me back in about an hour when she got home. I drove for awhile in silence. The heat was on Furnace Blast in the car and I thought briefly about turning it down because I was beginning to feel that suffocating feeling. The heat felt really good on my skin, though. Almost like a warm hug. I really needed a hug at that moment, so I focused on how good the warmth felt on my skin. I guess that was the right thing to do, because I began to calm down.
Nearly home, I called a friend of mine who lives near me, because I still felt like I needed to talk to someone, but not just ANYONE. It had to be someone I trusted and someone I knew well. I’m not one of those people who can just talk to a random stranger when I’m freaked out. When my friend answered, I asked her, by way of opening the conversation, if this kind of thing had ever happened to her. She said that it had and that what had probably happened to me was that (unknowingly and accidentally) in causing me so much pain, my chiropractor had triggered my PTSD. Ok, I’m pretty introspective, but I had not even considered that possibility. Matter of factly, my friend said, “You are having a panic attack. You have probably been panicking since you left his office.”
I have felt for quite a few years that my personality is fractured because of childhood trauma and abuse. During situations like this when I have a million and one thoughts fighting for space in my head it feels like a bunch of little people in my brain all trying to be heard. However, I generally make the final decisions on which part of my personality gets to be in charge. I don’t think I’m a multiple. I do, however, think that I have very different parts to my personality and that when I’m hurt as I was at the chiropractor’s office, that it’s the little girl part of me who remembers the hurts from before.