Someone recently left a comment on one of my blog posts, sharing the story of how a dental procedure on the right side of her mouth left her with all kinds of pain and stiffness on that side of her jaw. She mentioned that she had another dental procedure coming up in a few days, on the left side, and that she was scared. I emailed back advice that she not get the procedure on the left side until things calmed down on the right side.
When we have chronic and, especially, debilitating pain, we have a certain level of desperation to get things “fixed” right away, before they get worse. I speak from experience. This whole journey into, through, and out of pain began with the collective refusal of doctors to give me the proper diagnostic tests and/or treatments necessary to respond in a timely fashion to an acute condition.
As with a spill on a rug, if you don’t take care of business right away, things fester, become hard, and get more difficult to treat. So as I became an empowered patient, I also became adamant about getting every new issue diagnosed and treated immediately.
The thing is, sometimes moving ahead right away is the best course of action, and sometimes it is not. I learned that the hard way. I was living in Israel, which at the time had about 70 chiropractors total in the whole country. Two of them had been inappropriate – one telling me to lift my shirt up (on the front side) for a back treatment, and one sticking his hand on my crotch while doing an adjustment, telling me to “relax” when my body immediately froze up.
Another was interesting – he had me hanging upside down on some contraption – but was a long drive away, and while he had some insights that were useful, the treatment was not entirely effective. Then there was the guy who was terrific in his technique but prone to being snarky and making fun of my suffering. Oh yeah, and then the last time I went, he was so busy laughing at the latest physical trauma – getting hit by a motorcycle when I was on a bicycle – that he didn’t adequatly pay attention to what I said about a certain sensitivity and ended up injuring me.
So when I landed in the office of Chiropractor #5 out of 70 in the entire country, a man who had come highly recommended, and when he was fantastically effective and compassionate for two or three sessions a week, over a two month period of time, I was fairly attached to getting treatment from him. Never mind the fact that he made a point of looking down my shirt each time I positioned myself to lie down on the table. (I ended up wearing shirts up to the neck, in blistering summer heat, and sweltering while biking to and from appointments.)
When the vibe suddenly became weird, giving me the heeby-jebbies, and when the chiropractor started forgetting not to do the adjustment I’d told him explicitly several times not to do, I continued treatment anyhow.
At the time, I was in a phone-based chronic pain support group with Jenni Prokopy of Chronicbabe.com and Paula Kamen, author of All in My Head. They both advised me to respond to that nagging feeling in my gut and not go back to this guy. “Another solution will arise elsewhere,” they asserted. “You don’t understand,” I said. “There are 70 chiropractors in the entire nation, and I’ve been to nearly 10% of them. Where will another solution come from?”
Before going to this chiropractor for another treatment, I was biking 10-18 miles roundtrip, five times a week; swimming 1-2 miles every other day; practicing yoga every morning at home and at a class three times a week; and doing regular physical therapy routines in my living room. After going to this chiropractor for one more treatment, I was barely able to walk from the couch to the bathroom, in excruciating pain pulling a sheet up to my chin, unable to open doors, and otherwise bedridden for two months. It has been over five years since that fated appointment, and I am still recovering from the damage the chiropractor did to me.
After that incident, and a number of other experiences, I came up with this phrase: “Practice the pause.” We don’t have to stop or move forward. We don’t have to make any decisions. Take a few days, a few weeks, or a few months; let things percolate; listen to our guts, bodies, and smarty-smarty friends; and see what direction the Universe takes us in next. Because if we don’t practice the pause when we need to, life as we know it may come crashing down around our feet.
If we do practice the pause, we may not get the treatment we want or need right away, and we may not even end up getting that kind of treatment at all. But we just might find ourselves on an entirely new path, with an entirely new and superior healing method or practitioner, neither of which we could have imagined would come our way. It’s the kind of things that the Universe seems to provide when we are in alignment with our souls and pursuing our true heart’s desires.
We may not see it now; we may not believe it now. And it may take years to find what we’re looking for. But sometimes a lot of things need to first happen before we can access exactly what we need. And in the meantime, going after something that doesn’t feel right just might be the worst decision we can possibly make for our health.