Wednesday, November 04, 2009

elise in lumbar-land

My three-year odyssey of back pain has led me finally to a chiropractor's office, a place I never thought I'd enter after reading Dr. Sarno’s books which explained my pain to be psychosomatic and nothing that a firm self-talking-to couldn't fix. And it worked. For a while. But now the yoga has brought my pain into sharp relief. There are certain poses and transitions between poses that just hurt my back in a way that I can't abide any longer.
I happened to be in class last week with only one other student, which is something I never experienced in New York. Sometimes it's lonely but sometimes it's great, like a semi-private session for 75% off, and who doesn't love a bargain in these trying times? So the teacher generously worked with me on my back issues while the one other student in class turned out to be an acupuncturist who stayed after class to talk with me about my lumbar troubles, and I tell you it was heavenly. I didn't even have to pay her. People are so giving and kind and helpful in this world. What's more, she knew about Sarno, but told me to go to my primary physician to rule out anything structural, which I admit Dr. Sarno does too, and me, well, I never did do it.

But then I did. Last week.

And it was while I sat on the end of the paper-covered examining table with my feet dangling that I thought of the title of this post. Because the first thing that I ever did three long years ago for this frigging pain was physical therapy. It didn't work. Then acupuncture. Zilch. Then Sarno. Nice for a while.

The doctor filled out a referral for an X-ray and bone density scan. Then it turns out that I have arthritis in my knees. And my kindly doctor, who is a frustrated author and stand-up comic by the way, tells me that what saved his back was a chiropractor, and why don't I go see one of those before getting the X-rays?

So I did. I got an evaluation on Monday from my new chiropractor, who is also a drummer and painter. These suburban people-fixers are very well-rounded, and the acupuncturist is a former graphic designer.

Me? I am out of alignment. My pelvis, now this is personal, is tilted. To the left. And forward. And my right side is in constant spasm, even though it's my lower left back that hurts. And my scapula is winged. Chiro said that if I were a bird I'd fly in circles. I told him that's how I feel a lot of the time, that now it all makes sense. Then I managed to work into the convo that I'm a frustrated novelist and he told me to acknowledge him in my next novel, right before he threatened to give me homework. Writing homework, because he is a childless wonder who has time to paint and drum and adjust peoples' vertebrae and he thinks all I need is the right inspiration. Did I mention he paints a mean tiger?

He cracked my neck, cracked my back and then hooked me up to a handful of these little electric zappers and now my back and neck feel tight and not miraculously pain-free. But I have been admonished to be patient and not to expect a miracle, even though my evaluation alone is miraculous after three years of pain: constant spasm resulting from misaligned pelvis. Priceless somehow. I roll that sucker around my mouth like a Milkdud. Chiro says my yoga will kick ass once the treatment starts bearing results. Not that I'm competitive or anything. 


Stella's homework is to bring in a family picture so the class can discuss everyone's families at circle time. I thought this was the perfect shot. Oh to be a fly on the wall. I'm just happy my daughter isn't one of those kids who flies into traumatic sobs at the sight of her mother in drag. (Or father.)


Below, a drawing by Hamish. It's Daddy about to be smushed by the trash compactor. Can you see the tear rolling down his sad little cheek? Hamish is really into trash compactors these days, especially when they are going to receive his parents for snack. He tells me almost daily that he wants to put me in one, not today though. Today was good. The drawing though. I was a little chilled when he explained it to me but then I thought, well, isn't that what people are supposed to do with their strong emotions? Put them on paper? Isn't that what I'm doing with this blog? It's healthy, right? Who doesn't want to throw their dad in the trash compactor sometimes? So I stood there watching Hamish draw and then out of nowhere he drew an X through Daddy and put it aside. When I asked him why he did that he answered, "I think it's a little too mean." And I thanked the ceiling, where Jesus lives.


My college roommates, we've been friends for twenty-thousand years now and I get ferklemt to get together with them these days, because fair reader, what forty does to me, is teach me what's precious about life: and it's good friends. One of these beauties has a gem of a coffee shop in SoHo and we sat in there after closing time soaking up the conversation and looking out the window at all the drunken youngsters. It was sublime. Then in the cab back to my in-laws in Brooklyn, wouldn't you know there was a traffic jam at three A.M. Now that I'm a tourist, the novelty is back.


Since my October 23 blog post regarding the New York Times article about screaming at our children, I haven't screamed at my kids. I raised my voice in irritation at Stella this morning. Stella who awoke at 5:30 A.M. coughing and warm, I was sure it was the swine, but then she was twirling and cool before school, but unapologetically three in terms of cooperating. I didn't lose it though. But I noticed that I raised my voice and said so.

I'm trying to get the kids to see A) that I'm working hard on my own issues and that they're not the only ones who grow and learn and change, and B) that they can do it too. Hamish especially. He's really into punching me lately, usually in the butt. The other night at the tail end of a dinner play-date he punched me in the stomach so hard I went, "Oof!" But I didn't yell. I cried. I let my friend see my tears of frustration because I don't pretty it up for anyone.

"I don't know what to do," I sobbed, as she backed out the door with her darling daughters. I tried putting him in his room but I cannot stand holding the door shut while he tugs on it from the other side, so I walked away from that. What usually happens though is that Hamish will hit me and then he'll stick his tongue out at me, yell at me and then let me know he's ready for dessert. This is a good time to deprive him. This night he really wanted ice cream. I told him no way, and if he wanted any chance of having cereal for dessert he needed to go to his room to cool off for five minutes and he did, which I thanked ceiling Jesus for then too.

Hamish had already pushed a good friend of his down at the playground just hours earlier and now this. I sat there not knowing what to do, growing scared of the teenage him. The postal him. The incarcerated him. But when I called Bryan to talk me down from that ledge he assured me that boys are just physically violent like that and not to worry, we won't be seeing our child in an orange jumpsuit and shackles, ever.

Here's what I'm noticing in my non-violent parenting efforts: when I don't yell or scream or spank, the smallest show of irritation is enough to grab the kids' attention. This is good. However, I'm working on not being uber-irritable mom either because she is no fun to be around, and I don't want the kids to emulate that crabbiness, and anyway constant irritability usually leads to yelling. The other notable is that I may have taught Hamish his crappy coping skills, but neither one of us is a lost cause. (This is where treating myself kindly comes in handy.)

Typically, Hame resorts to punching or yelling when he doesn't get his way, and after being scolded by me turns to Stella and threatens his sticky little fist at her. Usually. But today he wasn't so bad. We're talking through it a lot more, and I let them know when I really want to throttle them, which is usually daily, and then I keep calm.

Maybe I'm dreaming but I think they can tell that there's a difference. In any case, it's rewarding to solve problems without going ballistic. There is a way to raise kids without bullying them into submission. I'm working on the doormat part of the equation, and when I explained the concept to Hamish he identified. Hopefully he'll catch on and realize that he can raise his sister peacefully too. I could use the help.


kristi said...

i LOVE LOVE "ceiling jesus." that's awesome.

and one time when aedan was around 3 or 4 he told rick "i am going to put you in an envelope, stick a big stamp on you, and put you in the mail and send you away." not quite as violent as the trash compactor, but the sentiment was the same: get the frick out of here, dad, you are annoying me. :)

don't you think it would be awesome if sometimes we would just sit down and draw pictures of things like this? i could definitely benefit by drawing my own mother going into a trash compactor. for SURE.

i'm excited for your chiro--i really hope it helps with the pain.

and i'm looking forward to visiting that coffee shop soon! xo

Rima said...

I'm very interested in your non-yelling experiment (not that your tilted pelvis isn't fascinating.) I find what you said about the kids picking up on and responding to the slightest bit of irritability when yelling is no longer in the picture very intriguing. I also had a lightbulb moment when I read the part about constant irritability leading to yelling. By God, that is so true, why hadn't I noticed before? I think I'll use your blog and my own personal psychotherapy.

Amelia Plum said...

It's so chockful o' stuff. I really hope the chiropractor takes your yoga to a whole nother level. I too am very intrigued by the tilting pelvis. And I totally relate to the struggle not being constantly irritable not being a doormat the delicate balance of motherhood. ceiling jesus is awesome, you got to remember all these bon mots for your next book:)

Misner said...

Hollywood - I'm back, commenting and clicking to assist in your quest for $5.00! LOL
But, really my thoughts are this, I started the whole Chiro thing about a month ago and let me tell you, it's bleeping wonderful! The release feels like anger, pressure and sadness escaping my being. According to Dr. Barry, who is the spitting image of Donny Osmond, it is in fact, Nitrogen. Hence, why I blow-up all the time! Humor - back to the back, I love the electrodes too! But, don't touch them with fingers - it does hurt!
The downside to Chiro, of course, is the lovely $15 dollar visit co-pays and the recommended $40-1/2 hour massages, 3x a week, not to mention the $55 pillow...anyhoo, one AmEx payment later reveals that I'm feeling a tad bit better. Like you I have dislocation, unalignment, mismatched legs and a lovely case of degenerative hip disease which will probably require a hip replacemenet in 20 years - lucky me! So I'm cracking and flexing on, with the small hope that I will one day turn into a super human lady with magical strength and agility, before I turn 40.
As for the screaming to the kid part, well let's just say I'm working on that, thanks in part to you! I'm being a follower, although not at work (DM) I'm still the pistol! Back to the kid thing, it ain't easy and I must have underlying mother/daughter/father/daughter/divorce child/stupid people raising me syndrome because the issues arise STILL. However, I'm thinking anxiety and anger are my new diagnosises versus depression and "childhood sucked disorder". In general, I'm a freakin nut case - worried about "the world" disease. It was never properly explained to me as a child how hard it would be to raise one of my own. Giving up every minute of my life, not knowing which direction to take next, cleaning up food, exhaustion, and of course stressing about 2012. Now that I'm the parent, I'm seeing me in her and my mother in me and it's bleeping scary. So, I figure with the help of the proper Chiro, frequent outbursts and regular blog visits, the future doesn't seem so bleak. And the toys this week, are all messy! BTW - sorry so long, still wired from work, excellent thinking post! Hopefully you like the writing, it's been a while since I've thought on the computer.

elise said...

Everyone, thank you for your thoughtful and thorough comments!

Kristi, the Daddy envelope is a jewel. I too look forward to your visit to Local, perhaps with me in tow!

Rima, Let me know if you get on board with the non-yelling experiment.

Kim, the doormat issue is a biggie! I guess it's the difference between commanding respect and demanding it. And bon mots is a term that must now integrate itself into my daily vernacular.

Misner, you're so funny and honest and I want to read your blog! I relate relate relate, esp. to the "childhood sucked" disorder. My second visit to Chiro is today. It's very exciting. I might have to bring him flowers or cookies. Yoga yesterday was sublime. Looking forward to more release. It's all so metaphorical, huh.