It was curiosity and nagging back pain that led me to the chiropractor’s office. As I was filling out the intake form, the chiropractor walked in the consultation room, sat across from me, picked up her pen, flipped through her papers, and said this. “Now, we know that who we are today is a result of the pain we experienced in our past. So tell me about your past.”
I folded my arms over my chest, leaned as far away from her as possible, and built a wall between us.
“Traumas?” I asked.
I thought I was in therapy. I related my past experiences. An accident I had in college with a book bag in which I lost muscle and strength all down my back and arm. I told her how my right shoulder (the shoulder that should be the strongest) was lower than the right. I told her how my legs go numb when I sit or stand. I told her of the aching pain in the middle of my back. I told her all this with a careful skepticism. Chiropractors after all aren’t “real” doctors. They just crack your back, make noises, and make false statements. Pain can be managed with Advil, stretching, and donuts.
She asked about my headaches. I don’t know why I hid this from her, but I was in the midst of a pounding headache at that very moment. I felt as if I were going to throw up. “One or two migraines a month,” I said. “Headaches every now and then.”
Her eyes got wide. she leaned forward. “What if I told you that the [insert medical study I can’t remember] says that you are only to have two to three headaches a year? Headaches, not migraines which are much more severe. And you say you have one to two a month?”
I laughed out loud. I literally laughed out loud. “Who doesn’t have headaches a few times a month?” I asked.
“I don’t,” she said.
It was then the pain in my back increased from sitting too long without slouching. I slumped forward. Her eyebrows raised again. I wanted her to go away. She took reflexes. No response on my right. A small response on my left. She she got behind me and felt my neck. She leaned it right. I squirmed.
“Hurt?” she asked.
“I’m just tight,” I said. “Probably need to stretch.”
“Yah,” she said.
She turned my neck the other way. It hardly moved without me grimacing.
“More stretching there,” she mocked.
I didn’t know chiropractors were so snarky. Then she turned my head left and right. No problem. She lifted it up. No problem. She turned it left and pushed down and I nearly went through the roof.
“Interesting,” she said. “That hurts?”
I glanced at the door.
“You look as if you want to leave?” she said.
“Where is the nearest door?” I tried to joke.
“What makes you so uncomfortable that you want to leave?” she asked, her voice very serious.
I felt the wrecking ball slam into my protective wall. I blubbered something unintelligible. I stuttered. I didn’t know what to say. But I did want to leave. She was right about that. I was uncomfortable. She was right about that.
“You know, if you were to go to the eye doctor and you couldn’t see the big E, you wouldn’t think there was a problem unless someone told you were supposed to be seeing a big E. I’m here to tell you there’s a big E there and you’re not seeing it.”
And if she hadn’t looked down at her paper to write I probably would have lost it. I fought the tears welling in my eyes.
I am in the stupid chiropractor’s office, I thought. This is just witch doctor medicine. Why am I feeling so emotional? And then it hit me. It is hitting me even now as my legs are falling asleep. I have lived in this way for nine years or so. The back pain is relatively new and so is the numbness in my legs, but the pain in my neck has been there for a long time. And, she was right, I wanted to leave, not because of her sale’s pitch, but because of what she was suggesting. She was suggesting that the pain could be gone. That the headaches that I have had for years. The neck and shoulder pain, that this could be gone. I wanted to leave because what if she was/is wrong. What if she couldn’t take away the pain? Why give me hope? Why tell me there is life outside of this prison cell? I was happy until you told me there was a chance I could be free.
And as I sit here, with tingling legs and toes, I can’t help but think of what the chiropractor said. “Now, we know that who we are today is a result of the pain we experienced in our past. So tell me about your past.” I don’t know if a chiropractor can help me with headaches. I have one right now. But I think what she had to say is very true, that who we are today is a result of the pain we experienced in the past. My writing teacher, Jane Resh Thomas, would have said “Who we are today is a result of the pain and pleasure we have had in the past.” This I feel is more true. But I want to emphasize what the chiropractor said, because story is about trouble and problem and pain. Jane Resh Thomas said, “In stories, there must be darkness and light!” But where does a writer find the darkness? Where does a writer find the trouble?
Listen to my chiropractor. “Who we are today is a result of the pain we exerperiened in our past. So, tell me about your past?” There is secret pain hiding in places you had not realized.
Well, everybody had a terrible father, you might say. Everybody had a boyfriend that beat them. Everybody had a childhood filled with noise and threats and anger. No. Not everyone. There is pain there. There are pains in the head and heart, numbness in the body and aches reverberating through your core. Tell me about your past. And you will find your story’s tension, your story’s trouble, your story’s pain.