So you know I’ve been complaining about my back, which has been getting worse. Yesterday I saw a physiotherapist who said, Inflammation of the sacroiliac joint but did not take the pain away. Tylenol and Advil have become my best friends. Today I saw my massage therapist who said, muscle spasm near Lumbar 4, spasm also in the hips, and in fact, just about everywhere.
Pain takes a lot of time and money and energy. It’s exhausting and draining and just a complete drag.
And then I went to see my shrink. I told her about my back, about how back pain for me is linked to stress, and we discussed what’s going on right now to stress me. That the book I’ve worked on for years is soon going out into the world, already stress enough, plus it’s a memoir and so my whole adolescent life will be on display, not to mention my parents. In fact, it’s a big thing, worrying about betraying my loved ones. And then there’s setting up the book launch and the reading series and getting ready to go away for a month. Just a few tiny things to feel anxious about.
And then Dr. O’Neil said, out of the blue, “You joked when you came in about making sure to pay my bill now in case you drop dead in Paris. Are you thinking at all about death?”
And I laughed and said, “Well I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.” And then it hit me and I started to cry. My father was 64, almost exactly my current age, on a trip to Paris and the rest of France, when he realized that something was very wrong with his body. On his return, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he died not even a year later. That anniversary is looming.
I am taking a scattering of my father’s ashes to pour into the Seine, and my mother’s to put in the Thames. So they are both coming with me, he to Paris, she to London. As I talked about my father’s death, my mother’s, I realized that I store not only stress but grief in my lower back. After talking about it all with Dr. O’Neil, when I got up to go, I felt like a different woman. The pain was hugely less. The back is still tender, I have to be careful, but I’m not bent over and hobbling as I was this morning.
That’s my amazing story. That’s what a good shrink can do for you – help understand and take away not only psychic pain, but physical pain as well.