So, Friday, my chiropractor’s retiring.
I know, some of you don’t believe in chiropractors, but for me, that’s kind of like saying you don’t believe in needles. They’re there. They do whatever job is put in front of them. You don’t have to like them for them to be able to do something for you. Sometimes the wrong thing, but, they do a thing.
So, anyway: my chiropractor.
He’s kind of amazing. Not so much for what he does – not so much for how he adjusts my spine, but who he is, while doing it. He’s kind. Unfailingly, unflappably kind. The first time we met, he didn’t say anything about the obvious stiffness in my body language, the silent scream of I Don’t Want You To Touch Me, Back Off. He didn’t say anything at my monosyllabic responses to his friendly conversation. He didn’t chide me or try to sweet-talk me into relaxing. He simply said, “Y’know, I’ve had all kinds of patients over the years, all ages, all sizes, and I’ve never dropped one of them.”
He put that out there in a kind of “by the way, one more thing you should know about our practice here,” kind of voice, slipped in amongst the commentary on office hours and treatment plans and various. You think it, unconsciously, when someone is in a position to manipulate your person. You think it – or at least I do, here on my little island of crazy – You think way down deep (or, some days, not so far down at all) that maybe this person will hurt you. Maybe they’ll miss your vein with that needle, maybe they’ll leave that pressure cuff on your arm ’til your hand falls off, maybe they’ll drop you.
It’s crazy, yes, that place where we sometimes live. And yet, without a lot of fuss, my chiropractor put it out there that I didn’t have to worry.
And I was unreasonably grateful.
I don’t think a lot about the medical personnel to whom I should be grateful. I don’t think about it, because I don’t like to, because I am constantly and unreasonably angry with my body. Constantly and unreasonably angry with my limitations, with the microcytic pinpoints that masquerade as blood cells, carrying oxygen and iron so inadequately. I am constantly and unreasonably angry that things I thought were normal, were simply quirks of me, but which I am fast discovering were little telltales of problems – things that, to hear my endocrinologist tell it (and that man is his own blog post), someone who wasn’t a blind idiot should have seen, and known.
My reaction to this medical blindness veers between that same constant and unreasonable anger, frustration, and then – deflated sadness/depression. Getting back into the grove with the American medical system has been painful, depressing and lacerating to the ego. How could it be much else to be reduced to a collection of things in someone’s eyes, a list of things, and not a person?
It is amazing how being asked a checklist of questions about yourself can be outright daunting. “You haven’t had problems with Z? You’ve never X? And there’s no history of Y in your family, none at all?” At each questions, the brows rise higher, the soulless oval of face wrinkles, the mouth twists in disbelief. It’s like the doctor sat in front of me and silently repeated “But, you had to have done something. This is, in some way, your fault.”
And so we wage then, a silent war. She looks at me with condescension and asks her questions, and I think back, loudly, “No, I am not classically ill in the textbook way you’d prefer. No, I am not suffering from things preventable by simple nutritional means. No, I am not accepting your casual judgment that if I just did A and B and C that it would all get better, and that I could then go away, be crossed off your list. I have tried all twenty-six versions, my dear, do not assume that I would be here if I had any other choice. Do not assume that I would let myself be skinned by your lancet if I had any. other. choice.”
Oh, you betcha, I’m projecting. As I write this, I realize that it could also be said that I hate doctors. It is true, and also not true. I have come to really appreciate my endocrinologist, who, in my first conversation with him said, “None of this is your fault. Throw that out of your mind.” I kind of love him, though you couldn’t have told from our first, disastrous visit. I was my usual monosyllabic, self-conscious self, and I think he despaired of me. It comes down, for me, to a dis-ease with authority, a cat-scratching, back-arched, spitting, hissing refusal to be told, to submit to their opinion on ANYTHING about me that I don’t want to hear. I do not acknowledge their superior knowledge of my person, they are not right. I am. I am. I am. And on my heart beats.
This attitude, of course, is equal parts hubris and terror, just as the cat currently shredding your arm knows darned well that you are much, much larger than it, and can carelessly relieve it of one of its nine lives with a mere twist of your hands – but it chooses not to acknowledge any of the above, and does the best it can to disembowel before springing away and disappearing under the bed. We go in with illness – and attitude, we scaredy cats, and come out shaking, exhausted, and ready to hide.
This is healthcare.
But, anyway: my chiropractor.
He’s a good man, and I am so glad he’s retiring, because you should, you know, if at all possible, stop working when you can still enjoy your life. He’s going to Oregon, to tie flies like he has been, since he was fourteen, to continue fishing, like he has been, since he was fourteen; pulling the silver-finned rainbows out of the water, admiring them, and throwing them back. Not gonna lie: I think that is just weird as heck, and probably a little mean to the fish, but I suspect being temporarily netted instead of permanently eaten is merely an inconvenience, rather than a tragedy. He is a good man, and I am made grateful for his calm, quirky temperament, his placid nature and the time I spent with someone who didn’t drop me, who never, by thought or look, communicated to me that I am unlovely or unwell. His position as traffic warden on my road to wellness allowed him to be sure I was pointed in the right direction and not judge my mode of transportation.
Thank you. And, good luck, Dr. Patterson.