This afternoon I went to see the chiropractor. Two days ago, for no apparent reason, I developed a limp on the walk to work. I felt no pain, but it was obvious that there was something not quite right with my hip. It just felt weak, unable to do its job.
Though you’d think that developing a sudden limp would be a huge red flag, sending me straight to the doctor, it wasn’t the malady itself that made me seek help. I walk two miles to and from work every day, and one of the most fun parts of the journey is playing a mental game of Frogger, dodging cars, bikes, and pedestrians to make it home speedily. I leave almost everyone in my dust; it’s very rare that someone actually passes me. Being a little speed demon makes me happy.
The limp made me slow. It had to go.
Today I went in for the consultation and alignment. It was my first time with this particular chiro, and he asked a lot of questions, made me do exercises and show him where my pain was. I walked in thinking that my problem was kind of weird, since there was no pain at all. However, as we started to talk, I realized that I DID have pain. My neck has been stiff and achy for months, and about a week ago, it started hurting so much that I’ve stopped being able to use a pillow to sleep at night. I had also recently noticed (and apparently discarded) the fact that my right shoulder was about half an inch higher than the left shoulder.
As we talked, this all came tumbling out, and I’m glad it did. The alignment was a great success, and it turns out that the hip problem was related to my ankles (which explains why my arches have been acting up for two days, too), and my shoulder/neck problem was actually a combination of my head being jammed into my neck (there’s a medical term that I’ve already forgotten) as well as an issue in my middle back that I couldn’t even feel until the chiro pointed it out.
Four hours later, and I have no residual pain. The limp is already gone, my feet feel great, my neck and shoulder pain is gone, and my left and right shoulders are back in line again. I turn my head from left to right – no pain or stiffness. My arms feel light and relaxed. Not a hint of irritation in my hips or lower back. I feel good, relaxed, even a little sleepy, and also proud of myself for taking the time to listen and do something good for my body.
This, in turn, reminds me of how I felt last night.
Every Thursday night for the last nine months or so, I’ve gone to the same bar with the same friend. The same bartender serves us drinks (with a healthy side of snark, some gossip, and typically great tunes). We sit in the same seats at “our” end of the bar. We even drink the same thing – she drinks a Diet Coke & vodka, and I drink Jameson neat. It sounds boring, maybe, but I love our routine. It is an essential part of my self-care, and provided me a way to get out of the house and start attempting something like a social life when I was freshly single, very sad, and painfully shy. I know I belong at that bar. I am safe there, and I am among friends. It’s kind of like Cheers, I guess, just dirtier.
Last night was my first time back at the bar since New Year’s eve. Other than here on the blog, I haven’t been going around, trumpeting my changes for 2019. I wasn’t excited about having to tell our bartender friend that I wasn’t drinking, and I didn’t really have an idea of when or if I might have my next cocktail. As expected, it was a little bit of a shock when I told him that I wouldn’t need the one clean rocks glass he’d been saving for me. But he happily served me a ginger beer, and then the night went on pretty much as always.
When I got home, I reflected on how much fun the night had been. I never expected to be able to sit and talk with friends without the “social lubrication” that alcohol provides. I’m awkward as hell, and I hate small talk. But it worked, and after that initial moment wore off, no one said a thing about me not drinking. I sang along to the stereo just like normal, and had lovely snippets of conversation with various patrons.
Afterwards, I went home, got a decent night’s sleep (not great, but I’m still working on that), and woke up feeling mostly refreshed. No hangover. No stale alcohol smell. No tightness in my chest, anxious worry over things that don’t matter, no sad thoughts or mad thoughts or despairing thoughts. All clear, mostly relaxed, and even keeled.
At the chiropractor’s office, I marvelled at how pain can be referred from one area of the body to another. We so often ignore pain, will it away, and self-medicate to take the edge off. Leaving aside for a moment the obvious error of self-medication, if you don’t know where the pain is coming from, how do you know how to treat it properly?
I wonder how much of my anxiety, depression, procrastination, and boredom have to do with my addictions – television, social media, food, coffee, alcohol. They’re so thickly entwined that it’s been difficult to understand cause and effect, where one thing starts and another thing ends. To tell the truth, I was taking a stab in the dark with my Bold Goals this year. On the face of things, it sounds insane to give up all of your “favorite” things. But so often the ones we love hurt us the most, right?