I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a couple of months now. I have chronic neck and back pain, which was aggravated by my 18 months of a frozen shoulder and my implant. My chiropractor is a gregarious guy, full of stories. I know about his family, about funny things that happen at the medical office building. He and his wife just moved into a new townhome and he’s super happy not to have to shovel the snow this winter. He always laughs at my jokes, so of course, I trust him.

I’ve been getting better, slowly. Today though, I felt so much worse.

The chiropractor asked me questions about what might have triggered the pain. I didn’t work in the yard or carry anything heavy. I wasn’t out dancing. After he put the electrodes in place, I asked him if he thought emotions could cause pain. He said “While I’m doing the ultrasound, I’ll tell you a story.” The ultrasound is my favorite part. I love the combination of the warm wand and the coolness of the gel. I love the way I can feel the coolness long after I leave. He told me a story about a former patient, a young, healthy woman with a great job. Like me, she had lower back pain. He couldn’t figure out what was going on. Finally, she revealed that her husband had schizophrenia and she was trying to decide what to do. She went on for months in pain, and shortly after they divorced, her back pain stopped.

This led to a story about his 35-year-old stepson who was schizophrenic and died by suicide a year and a half ago. His birthday is next week and his wife is beside herself. He has told me before about his other stepson and the way his wife takes care of their grandchildren, and how he thinks it’s all too much for her. Today it all made sense. I told him about my cousin who had schizophrenia and died when I was a young teenager. I told him that today was the anniversary of my friend’s death, and that a woman I loved died last week. He told me about a former patient who came at the same time every year for three weeks. She didn’t have pain any other time of year. It only came at the anniversary of her husband’s death.

We sat there with each other for a little while after my appointment was over. Thinking about or own pain, and the pain of others.

He suggested I have a glass of red wine and a warm bath with soft music. I suggested he run a bath for his wife. He squeezed my shoulder and told me to feel better.

When I had cancer a religious friend of mine told me to tell people. He told me that you never know who you’re helping by “testifying” telling them your own story. I think he may be right. Grief is a universal language. Sometimes you have to say it out loud.

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