(Song Dedication: Soul to Squeeze by Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Well my previous post was the extent of my writing ability to leave ya’ll on a riveting cliff hanger. So you’re welcome. I have to say the weirdest thing about “that day” and that post was THAT POST. But I will stand by my initial assessment of my thought process, where I admitted imperfection and brought my give a fuck level down a few notches and hit”publish”anyway. I am doing it again…getting all extraneous with minutia rather than saying what needs to be said. I am not sure what this hesitation is all about, maybe I’ll know by the end of this…
I had alluded to the roundabout way I was referred to this local Chiropractor; and so this is where my account continues. Emma, who I’ve been seeing for Integrative Teaching Method of the Alexander Technique, recommended Dr. Weston, and so I made the call.
The initial intake was like most, fill out a page or two of medical history and background material and hand it back to reception. Sit on the table and wait for the Doc. So far all this was pretty familiar to me in my plethora of medical office visits over the past year. However, when Dr. Weston entered the room he sat down in a chair across from me with the clipboard and my paperwork still attached and proceeded to review the information with me. He went over a few other formalities for chiropractic medicine and next asked me to walk across the exam room on my toes and then my heels. Then he asked me to lay face down on the table and performed a few other motion-based assessments. I was put at ease by his thoroughness to evaluate how my body was moving in space. And why wouldn’t he really…I was there for limited mobility concerns, but I liked how he didn’t just take my word for it based on where I marked “X” on a androgynous rendering of the human body.
He shared with me the locations of concern in my spine. He picked up on the obvious neck and shoulder rigidity immediately, but also noted mid-spine and pelvis/tailbone misalignment. All of which I was aware from my work with the Naturopath, Massage Therapist and Quantum Biofeedback Specialist.
As I lay face down on the table, my neck grumbling at me in a slightly unfavourable position I felt my body holding a bit, like a deep breath of acceptance wasn’t readily available at that time; probably because it wasn’t.
He communicated with me each adjustment he needed to make, sharing how the disparity in the mobility of each of my legs indicated a pulling of my tailbone to the right. After using the giant rumbling massager to bring circulation and warmth to the area he used the drop table to make the necessary adjustments and then prompted me to walk on my toes. I had no idea! I was wayyyyy way higher up on my toes with significantly more equilibrium dispersed between them. I felt like a ballerina, like I had grown 3 inches! (Ironically, not my actual dance experience…albeit in it’s limited timeframe of my 7th year of life, when in all my gangly limbs and long neck, torso and legs tried the ballet slippers on for size; only to meet every Saturday morning, my anxiety face-to-face and the fear of God I experienced with the dance instructor who seemed to believe that stern shaming and disapproval would help her ballerina’s flourish into life-long dancers. That approach didn’t appeal to me and I took my awkwardness and ballet slippers hanging them up forever…the slippers, the awkwardness barely left…if at all.)
With my ballerina poise re-established, he referred to one of the Skeletal Charts on his wall, referring to my T4/T5. He explained he was not going to adjust this area today as we already had done quite a bit and he wanted to give my brain the opportunity to come online with the adjustments he had just made. He showed me on the chart how the unresolved area of my spine relates to specific organs in the body. Liver and Gallbladder for this girl. I wasn’t super surprised…my Liver is always showing up with issues at my various appointments like some sad girl at someone else’s birthday party looking for attention…but, like, what about me??! (OMG…I think I just described myself in my 20’s. OOf.)
At this point I felt the need to share with him about the micro-current treatments by my Naturopath and how sometimes my muscles have such a strong reaction in my neck and shoulders that I feel pain shoot into my fingertips. It’s like a lightning strike…sometimes it doesn’t necessarily hurt, it’s just completely shocking.
This is when the conversation stopped. Not a pause to breathe and consider a response, it stopped like a flatlined pulse. It felt tangible. Dr. Weston who was referring to the chart in front of us, stopped, squaring his body to mine and made eye-contact. It wasn’t aggressive at all, it was calm and present and I was bewildered for a moment by this shift in his body language. He asked me quietly but very directly, “Were you ever physically abused as a child?” I inhaled deeply (but was steady within my own body as I acknowledged that yes I did, AND I’d also like to state for the record, I have”dealt” with this already on many levels). When I told him I was, he then requested that I raise both my arms overhead. I instinctually chuckled, knowing the upward salute pose is my nemesis in yoga practice. I did as I was asked and he noted the limitations, equating this as a very typical type of pattern in people who have suffered childhood abuse. Steady still, I looked and listened intently, not cowering inward or trying to downplay this issue through a badly timed self-deprecating joke…I made no attempt to shield myself because I was accepting.
He asked me to sit in the chair he had sat in initially 15 minutes before this all began; when we were complete strangers. He continued to speak in a way that could only be perceived as safe and he explained the next adjustment he needed to make. He said, “We need to adjust your first rib.” I stumbled over this, unaware of what this meant. I responded hesitantly (projecting fear of my neck being adjusted or even touched) “Sorry my what?” He repeated himself and walked me through each thing he was doing with gentle reassurance and communication. He picked up on my resistance for him to even touch the area around my neck and reassured me that he would not be touching my neck at all because this was the NUCCA chiropractor’s territory. He used his fingertips to indicate my first rib (which I would have called the clavicle). He reinforced that my first rib being out is my body’s reaction to childhood abuse.
Steady. Breathe. You are okay Sarah…Breathe.
Just before he performed the adjustment he said “you will hear some noises, this is normal, you are safe.” He was instinctually setting up a safety net I wasn’t aware I was going to need in a moment. I nodded when he asked if I was ready. I knew if I held anything, my breath, my protective muscles, my inner voice, this wouldn’t be effective. I had to find a way to settle into this moment. He waited patiently until my head was cradled gently in his hands and I had released some of my resistance.
He performed the adjustment to both sides and then asked me to rotate my head left and right. I was stunned by the range of motion.
I went from the pivoting upper body Joan Cusack neck brace girl in Sixteen Candles, to what in contrast seemed like the neck of a barn owl! At first I was excited for a millisecond and as I turned my head to the left (my much sticker, stubborn side) and again felt no pain I was overcome with a pain in my heart centre; as if this entity had migrated from my neck inward to seek refuge. I began to cry. A lot.
Through watery eyes and tear stained cheeks, I reached for a kleenex, sheepishly looking at the Doctor for his reaction; who by this point had taken the seat on his drop table to sit and face me at my level. It wasn’t that there was no reaction on his part, but it was subtle and he looked me in the eyes and said, “It’s ok. You are safe. You need to let this reaction happen, it is completely natural.” This permission only encouraged more tears to fall and the sadness to crack open through the hardened layers of rock I had been cementing around my heart. He continued to hold the energy in the room as a compassionate grace; witness to my emotional pain without judgement or pity. He wasn’t projecting that he had a schedule to keep, and I needed to go and make quick work of this emotional outburst. He just kept telling me that what I was doing was ok and necessary.
I think I understand right in this very moment why this part of my story still brings tears to my eyes. As someone who was abruptly separated from her biological father at 4, who then attached deeply to her big brother as a caregiver and continued to find herself in interactions with males who required her to self-impose control, composure and stoicism. There was little to no room for vulnerability for fear of rejection. This Chiropractor, who just so happens to be a man, was breaking that role. And in that compassion he gave me, I was able to see it in pieces and parts of the other males in my life. It had always been there but I had forgotten how to receive it.
Just like the way I can find patience for my son when he’s feeling emotional, we sat there for a few minutes until the wave of sadness subsided and I was able to breathe deeply. Once I was in my car and out of earshot and eyesight of public, my drive home became a space to sob and I released what I needed to on my own terms. At first I was panicked by the idea I had no one to turn to and tell what had just happened. I was confused, disappointed, and deeply despaired. All emotions I did not allow permeate my life as an older child…they were there but I often shoved them so deep within they would get lost and take a while to resurface into my consciousness. In this isolated struggle I found
something someone; I found myself waiting to be there for me.
Rather than looking outward to make something or someone fix me and take my pain, I let me, alone, be with it. And this is why it’s taken some time to collect my thinking and write what I have written today. I wasn’t done with me yet because we had some profound healing to honour. That highly difficult moment was just that though, it lasted about an hour or so, but I did come out of it and became surprisingly functional; a meaningful rebound of sorts.
I’ve since had a total of 5 chiropractic adjustments, each time my body is less reactive and I only had the emotional release the one time. The pain still persists but feels different and I wonder if it will ever resolve…or if this is just a part of who I am. For now, yes, I can unequivocally say this is who I am and answering the question of pain is irrelevant. I have learned that I still have much to learn, but at least I have my strong, vibrant, beautiful and honest self to carry me through this.
Oh! And as for my yoga practice…the strength and balance awakened in my physical (and probably spiritual) body is exciting. I am so enjoying the increased mobility and endurance I am building and that has been freed up to my body as a result of these treatments. It’s all for something. It’s never for nothing. Never.