On Wednesday, another osteopathy session. Had high hopes as when I had manual therapy last Fall, I had dramatic digestive improvements. Rhea, my therapist, explained that extensive scar tissue and adhesions from earlier surgeries prevented my muscles from working properly, which was why attempts at physio and exercises always flared my lower back. These adhesions also affected my digestive organs which were, she said, stuck with no natural movement. I could feel muscle spasms like fists.
She made great headway with my digestion and suddenly I was able to digest foods I haven't eaten in four years, ever since getting h.pylori in Africa. And then she moved to Toronto, but recommended I saw an osteopath who would be able to take her work further. She had magic hands and had taken many additional and varied courses. She brought her knowledge together like a chef perfecting a recipe.
I was game to try the osteopath, especially when I found that, unlike Rhea, she was covered by my insurance! My first interview was encouraging – a pleasant woman, very right brained and breathy so it was rather like talking to a chiffon scarf or a cloud.
The first few sessions seemed to do no particular good. I would feel freer for a few hours, but then would tighten up again. I decided to continue while my cover ($500 a year) lasted. It might do some good and she didn't seem to be doing any harm. After each session, my back was worse for a few days, but then picked up – muscles getting used to realignment?
Till last Wednesday, when she worked for 90 minutes. It didn't feel as if she was pushing too hard, but I was aching and stiff all evening – and felt slightly stunned. Then at 3.00 am, I was woken by severe lower back pain and my digestive system felt as if it had been attacked by a jackhammer. All Thursday, I could hardly move or eat. I went to my chiropractor, not for adjustment. Heaven forbid anyone touched me. But for low level laser which usually calms my back down. He said my sacrum was twisted, but when the muscles released their spasm, it should settle back down. We have a month before flying to BC to see our son and he thought he should be able to get me sorted by then.
Now, 3 days and two low level laser treatments later, am finally eating normally again, but my back is very painful, sitting and standing are almost impossible and my muscles feel exhausted. Spent the day mostly lying flat, not even reading because of the weight of a book. Thank goodness for audiobooks and solitaire on my iTouch. Am bemused with pain, so thinking like molasses.
This is the end of the road. I have run this cycle before – a hopeful new avenue: if lucky a short lived improvement (placebo effect?) then splat, flat on my face, back in spasm, lying on ice, weeks before it comes back to my usual, substandard normal. I keep trying another therapy, chiropractor, physio, acupuncture, open focus, manual therapy, exercises, Tai Chi, yoga. And always with the same result. What a fool to keep repeating a failing pattern. Why? Because I hope and that hope tantalizes. It dances before me like a mirage.
One day I dozed after lunch and dreamed I could move again, joyously and pain free. And then I woke up and the simple act of bending over a basin to clean my teeth set my sacrum into alarm. Every morning, I wake pain free, and there's a wonderful moment when I get out of bed and walk across the room lightly, happily, until the first movement with any forward bend.
So stopping reaching after treatments means giving up hope and, perversely, that may be the most useful thing I can do. No longer will I put my back on the rack in vain hope.
But how do I live without hope? Without that elusive possibility? I must accept that this is the best I can get, which isn't so bad because the one thing I have learned is that I am not dependent on external things for my mood. I can choose how I feel – I haven't been actively unhappy today. If I stop and look inside, I am content as long as I don't look over my shoulder. As long as I don't compare myself with other people and don't allow myself to envy their freedom, I am actually happy.
Always, I remind myself that I have the most precious gift, a deep and happy marriage. My love for my husband has been the fuelling force of my life, my greatest joy and my rock. With that, all else falls away.
So many people I know are bored, restless, thrill seeking, dissatisfied. They pore over bucket lists, which seems a last grab at life. You can' t take the bucket with you; my memories will vanish in a flash at death. Where will the Taj Mahal experience be then? With my parents and grandparents, what has lived on and been passed to my grandchildren are not the Nile cruises, but Granny's wisdom, my father's courage which has set the bar for me and many funny stories – he was superbly eccentric.
My back has triggered what Shawn Achor calls Adversarial Growth, which he defines as bad things in life which spur profound positive growth. It has taught me, kicking and screaming, what really matters and that I want to live authentically. I have had to watch doors close one by one, and gained tranquility and patience. Deep peace, hard won. So, yes, I have lost the shimmering mirage of hope, but actually, to my surprise, it doesn't matter.
Further info: The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor