Looking back on our childhood can be an illuminating experience: As children, we may have had the intuitive understanding that something was way off, but we didn’t have the life experience or verbal skills to be able to articulate exactly what was going on or why. As adults, however, we can make sense of things.
I have a similar experience looking back on the decade I spun in a maze of chronic pain hell. At the time, I didn’t understand the monster I was up against. I trusted that insurance companies were there to protect me, that doctors were there to help me heal, that the whole system gave a damn about my well-being.
I know better now. I know that patient lives are sacrificed in the name of profit. I know that doctor integrity is sacrificed in the name of reputation. I know that my trust was betrayed almost every step of the way, that it was never deserved in the first place.
This evening, I read the book When Food Is Love, by Geneen Roth. Roth suggested that being out of control around food is something along the lines of smoke & mirrors, a mask covering our true lack of control — over love, for example.
I resonated so deeply with what Roth was saying, that I put the book down and had a good cry. When my life spun out of control in chronic pain hell, I turned to food — for comfort, for entertainment, for physical activity that didn’t hurt. Over the years, I gained 45 pounds.
Between 2004-2005, I lost 25 of those pounds. During that last year, a chiropractor’s negligence left me with multiple injuries in my neck, shoulders, and right ankle. As an upshot, I was bedridden for much of two months, during which time the simple act of pulling a sheet towards my face caused excruciating pain.
I had just discovered dance as a healing modality, and I used this period to explore it further. So despite my general immobility and resulting boredom and dependence on others, I remained in good spirits and maintained my weight.
What’s more, I made great strides in healing my shoulder, and I was able not only to heal my right ankle, but my left as well — which had been injured a couple of years earlier. No bodyworkers I had worked with previously had been able to heal that injury. I was feeling quite triumphant.
But suddenly, months later, I had the sensation of walking on glass shards, every time I took a step on my right foot. When I went to a podiatrist to see what was going on, he was so busy laughing at my story of injury (a common occurrence that I will address in a later post) that he didn’t pay adequate attention to what I was saying.
He was then careless in handling my foot and, as a result, he reactivated my ankle injury. It was challenging even to drive away from the appointment, because my ankle was in such pain again. The cocktail of sensations — pain, anger, frustration, and powerlessness — threw me back into the arms of food, and I gained 15 pounds in just a couple of months.
After joining a spiritual program for people with eating disorders last year, I quickly lost 13 of those pounds. Then six months ago, when I went in for a wart removal, a doctor thought it would be fun to pour the whole container of liquid nitrogen onto the examining table. In doing so, he splashed a particle in my eye – which caused a chain reaction of problems, including debilitating headaches and constant eye pain.
Snap! I gained 25 pounds.
Roth is right. It’s easier to rummage through the refrigerator than it is to face the horror of a health care system that is criminal. It’s easier to eat a piece of cake than it is to deal with how — despite my education, assertiveness, and determination to heal — I have been injured over and over again, ultimately rendered powerless over my own body and life.
In fact, just by writing this all down, I can hear the chocolate chip cookies calling out to me from the freezer.