Goodbye April

I haven’t had the opportunity to post here, however I hadn’t realized that it was over a month since posting something substantial. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything different going on in my life, so much as that, upon reflection, perhaps I’m spending a bit more time seeking comfort where I need it.

I got back into a martial art that I started before the pandemic, called baguazhang, or simply bagua (pron. bahg-wah). It’s a little idiosyncratic compared to more mainstream forms like karate, taekwondo or BJJ. I’d say it’s somewhere between what we in the West call “kung fu” (external) and tai chi (internal). Let’s just say there’s a lot of walking in circles. That said, I needed something that allowed me to move/train my body in a way that was different than going to the gym or distance running, which can feel static. Bagua is anything but static. Also, crucially, the very place that teaches it is literally across the street from my office in Chinatown. It centres me and its choreography is demanding enough without the more wild kung fu-style kicks etc. It’s also nice to do this with other people — something I was also sorely needing (ie a form of socializing that wasn’t chatting with someone at a pub)

I also started Book Four (I know, I know), which is coming along. I can’t really say much about it because it’s very early, however I’m liking its shape. What’s funny is that my previous long-form entry here was about not wanting to be stuck with Author/Psychotherapist in publicity material…and yet the protagonist of Book Four is exactly that. It’s also nice working on a book where the protagonist is a woman. Radioland had two protagonists — male and female — and The Society of Experience had an intermittent female narrative in the form of Seneca’s diaries, however I’m looking forward to keeping things female this time around. Book Three is in revision-mode now, for the last round I think.

I’m trying to keep myself informed of what’s going on in the world, but the world is too big and there’s too much. I think the curse of social media is that there are so many perspectives on so many things that it can be paralyzing to even log-in some days, so currently I’m not. I’m very thankful that I re-subscribed to the London Review of Books this past summer because their coverage of what’s happening in Gaza is extensive and authoritative, without the self-censorship or bad faith arguments that have poisoned coverage of this conflict in much of the mainstream media. I’m not a prolific magazine subscriber, however I can’t help but think of how lucky I felt when I happened to subscribe to Harper’s just prior to the towers falling on 9/11, the drums beating towards a disastrous war. Reading informed, well-written arguments isn’t going to stop the worst of humanity from manifesting, but at least I can form my opinion from a source that isn’t compromised by a fear of spooking advertisers or an editor casting a dark shadow over someone’s shoulder.

Yes, and reading. Lots of reading. Let’s see…Labyrinths (a collection of Jorge Luis Borges stories and essays), Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World (which is fabulous), The Rigor of Angels by William Egginton and Audit Culture: How Indicators and Rankings are Reshaping the World by Cris Shore and Susan Wright.

I hope this finds you well.

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February update

self-portrait walking in Little Portugal, Toronto

It’s been a busy time in these parts. Working on the short story I mentioned last post, working on a Canada Council grant (because why not), as well as working-working.

My day job has been affected by the economic downturn since about September of last year. September is typically a busier time for therapists — end of summer/vacation, anxiety about returning to school, etc — but for me it was the opposite. And it was more or less that way until January, where it continues to be patchy. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it weren’t that I have an office lease and a number of other regular professional expenses. I’m getting by ok enough, but the lack of predictability can be stressful. The thing I also remind myself of is that psychotherapists are typically downstream from whatever’s happening in society, so it’s no surprise the economic crunch that so many are experiencing now should visit my doorstep.

February was…fun? Keeping the momentum going from seeing Quebec band La Sécurité in late January at The Monarch here in town, earlier this month my partner and I hopped on a train to Montreal, where I haven’t been in nearly a decade, in order to see one of my favourite current acts, Sweeping Promises, play at La Sala Rossa (note: they are not Quebecois but hail from Kansas). I was not let down. Super-impressed with their energy and their songs translated to a live venue easily. Strangely, having heard all my adult life about how tame Toronto audiences can be, I was surprised to see the Montreal crowd’s energy was so restrained…and here I was, in my early 50s and one of the more enthusiastic people in the audience. Needless to say, it was great to be in Montreal and I was struck by how little damage the pandemic lockdowns did to their bars, restaurants and live venues. Otherwise, I pushed myself to get out and socialize more this month, which I’m thankful for, even though I’m a little more introverted than others, as it was good to connect with old and new friends.

If I do get some grant money I’d like to see about booking a return to the artist’s retreat run by the Pouch Cove Foundation in Newfoundland. It really is a stunning place. If I have a burning frustration with the airline oligopoly in this country it’s that it’s cheaper for me to fly to Las Vegas (3,619km) or Vancouver (3,359.km) than St. John’s (2,686km), and believe me I would take St. John’s any day over those and many other destinations (okay, only between the months of May and October).

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September

September is a strange month. As a therapist, I associate it with a predictable increase in new and former clients reaching out for support. Why is that? A bunch of things, depending upon the situation of the individual, but to name just a few reasons: end of summer, beginning of school, vacation(s) in the rearview mirror, THE END OF THE YEAR IS COMING (if I were the months of October and November I would file a complaint), shorter days (and, subsequently, daylight). What’s that, your pulse is racing just reading this? I’m not surprised.

I find September to be a significant time for reflection, whether or not I’m looking for it, and this year is no different for yours truly.

As an author, it’s hard not to think about the progress on Book Three. I’ve just received some substantial feedback and I find myself wanting to balance between (putting on overalls) OKAY LET’S GET TO WORK!… and taking a little bit of time to stand further back from the book (if possible), so that I’m not simply following through on what I’ve already created, but asking myself essential questions about structure, story, themes.

Writing a book (or short story), one can sometimes fixate a little too much on what the original idea was — that thing which struck your passion and allowed you to sit your ass down and start the project in the first place — and in doing so run the risk of missing how the larger form might change to convenience the parts which require changing within it. It’s like getting the inspiration for a mansion on a hill only to discover, the more you think about what it is you’re aiming for that, actually, a bungalow near a pond is actually a closer realization of your original idea. This can especially happen if you’ve put in a shitload of work already. Your insecurities begin to howl, and suddenly the idea of changing direction is giving you heart palpitations. No! No! I have to finish it soon, I want to move on to the next project! I don’t want to work on this forever! As with psychotherapy, there are no easy answers in this profession, and much of the time it boils down to “it depends.”

Welcome to September.

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An Impossible Essay: “The Movement Against Psychiatry”

I’ve been wondering whether to respond to an essay that was posted on VICE Magazine a couple of weeks ago, and so this is my meagre attempt. The hesitation you are picking up is based upon the fact that it’s an almost impossible essay for anyone to attempt to write; impossible because its subject matter contains so many perspectives — ground level, professional, clinical; historical, academic, unacknowledged — that one would need to write a thick book in order to begin to encompass just a notion of the territory that is being covered. The fact that I’m blogging about it means it’s stirred up some feelings (some conflicted) that need to be put on paper. Mostly this reflects well on the piece, despite the fact I’m not exactly a fan of VICE in general.

The essay, The Movement Against Psychiatry, by Shayla Love, lays itself out from the beginning with a profile of two people with two very different mental health challenges: one of whom, it’s argued, might have been helped by being institutionalized (even if against her will) in order to prevent her downward spiral; the other sought psychiatric assistance but found herself over-prescribed with various medications, without a sense of there being an overarching logic or consideration for the underlying causes of her situation, or the side effects of what she was prescribed. In this comparison we are presented with an outline of the challenges facing mental health in general and modern psychiatry specifically.

We are then presented with three groups: the psychiatric orthodoxy, those who belong to what is known as the anti-psychiatry movement, and those who belong (or fall into) what is referred as “critical psychiatry.” The first glimpse of the impossibility the author faces — if using those two persons’ examples off the top didn’t do it — is that, if you stop and consider it, there are inevitably going to be many voices within each of these three groups, ranging from the open-minded to the downright neglectful. For my purposes, it is specifically with how those who belong to the last two groups are separated from each other that I think the piece finds its greatest challenge. A key problem is that there are those who are self-declaratively anti-psychiatric — ranging from wanting to abolish psychiatry altogether to those wanting to revolutionize the foundations upon which patients’ conditions are considered — and those whose philosophy might be considered by the establishment as anti-psychiatric, in a pejorative sense, but who for all intents fall into the “critical psychiatry” group.

To her credit, the author touches early upon the detractive nature of the term anti-psychiatric, however my criticism is that the essay misses an opportunity to convey the power those in the psychiatric establishment have who wield this term, compared to those who are not medical doctors (perhaps researchers, perhaps academics, or clinicians) but who nonetheless have pointed questions about the prevailing logic of certain psychiatric interventions (whether it be about overprescription of drugs, or the use of ECT). That term and its connotations, in other words, can be weaponized, whether or not it is used accurately or as an attempt to discredit or dismiss the person in question entirely.

But I want to be fair where fair is relevant: the author also correctly exposes the fact that the waters of the anti-psychiatry movement are muddied by the more than passive involvement of the Church of Scientology. They have a stake, albeit a selfish one, which is fitting for a cult. This does no one any favours in this debate, and only makes it easier (see last paragraph) to punch down from the psychiatric establishment with only the briefest mention that a critic may have ties to Scientology.

And I will admit that there are a host of well-respected voices who, if pressed, I might put in the “critical psychiatry” camp, who do themselves no favours by using only the most self-serving, one-sided Mad in America articles to labour their (otherwise respectable) arguments. I find by contrast that my professional perspective ends up being more nuanced (which gives me pause given my comparative lack of academic credentials). I believe in a biopsychosocial approach to mental health (whereby causation might be one, or a mix of all). I can tell you anecdotally that, yes, there are people who are temporarily helped by medication, who are able to use that stabilization to pursue non-biomedical interventions like talk therapy. It’s good to question the underlying chemical imbalance hypothesis of depression, but if someone achieves stability enough to be able to advocate for themselves (and to make choices such as tapering off said medication) then so be it.

I think what gets lost in the debate, which can often pit two highly qualified individuals speaking in terms that are highly specialized and often theoretical — and again, I think the author does their best to come back to this point — is that, at ground level, regular people who need help are harmed. Harmed, because their GP likens depression to something like diabetes, insisting that their patient will need to be on drugs for the remainder of their life, or puts their patient on a high dosage of a toxic anti-anxiety med like clonazepam without mandating regular check-ups in order to potentially lessen the dosage. Or they are harmed because community organizations are often ill-equipped to provide consistent space for people who suffer from psychotic episodes. Or they are harmed by an untrained psychotherapist who operates in a province or state where the profession is unregulated, thus allowing practically anyone, regardless of credentials, to see clients.

I keep hearing the word “patchwork” when the mental health support system is mentioned. That is what the average person faces: a patchwork of often disconnected resources with no sense of guidance about what is best for them and their situation. Moving closer to a system that has the capability to provide continuity for each individual within a public health system should be the priority. While there is a need for debate, the largely sectarian nature of it only seems to put that possibility further away.

 

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A Hard Week

Last week was hard. Overwhelmed by the end of it. Head full. No room to deal with the quotidian what do you thinks and what would you like to dos that approach us from friends and loved ones. These sorts of periods are not necessarily rare in my profession, as a psychotherapist. A common underlying cause, what makes it so overwhelming, is, naturally, holding the weight of my clients’ concerns, their varied life events, the precipices, and shadows.

But this past week especially, it felt like I was talking to myself in parallel to my clients. We were touching on things, incidentally, that seemed to resonate with me, my own past and present*. We talked about broken romantic relationships, we talked about unresolved dynamics with parents that likely may never be resolved, we talked about feelings of professionally lacking when up against our peers. We talked about death. We talked about heartache, complicity, and that fucking word “selfishness.”

So there was this sort-of doubling effect, like when you’re on a smartphone call and suddenly you can hear your own voice echoing because there’s a bad connection, and no matter how much you try to tune it out you can still hear every UM and YES echoing a second after you say it, in the shitty way your voice sounds like when you hear it played back to you.

One of those weeks. Material that, using its own logic, veers a little too close to mine. Most of the time this wouldn’t cause much in the way of distortion — that echoing voice. However, given the state of the world (remember when people used this as a figure of speech?) and where my mind happened to be, it was harder than it needed to be.

This week will be better.

 

* these are anonymized/defocused to protect both my clients’ and my own material

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Normal

When I’m working with clients at my day job as a therapist, a lot of questions get asked. These can as often be prompted at the client’s request than from my own professional curiosity. However, at some point in the course of our work, one question will almost always be arrived at, regardless that finding its answer in a general or objective sense would seem intimidating: what’s normal supposed to be?

This question is provoked by the arrival of two large, often incompatible and almost always incongruent masses: our-normal — the nuanced consideration of the innate (though not necessarily immutable) principles and conditionings that define who we are as individuals — and normal-normal — the broader idea of how we should be both as individuals and with others, and our expectations for how society works. In our unprecedented present situation, given widespread self-isolation, a death count that isn’t stopping soon, and worldwide unemployment, to name just a few items, normal-normal seems less normal than it did previously.

I’ll start by saying that I’m pretty sure our-normal, who we are as individuals, isn’t going to change as much as some might fear. Individual change happens slowly, even when its intentional.  That said, over the course of our current crisis we may feel different due to a host of serious inconveniences, which — depending upon socio-economic factors — might wreak havoc on our lives, even traumatize; this isn’t even to mention the ever-present tension and the fact most of us don’t know what the the future looks like beyond the next week. This is not a safe time, for anyone, and these sorts of situations don’t happen often on a worldwide scale. In light of this, if we find ourselves suffering anxiety or depression during this unsafe time, even if we haven’t experienced those things before, I don’t generally consider that to be a sign of our-normal changing; I would contend it’s a sign of our-normal reacting within an allowable range, given the present context. If anything we may end up seeing more of ourselves (the good and the meh).

For me, the prime question boils to: when this is all done, what’s normal-normal going to be? What will normal be like with respect to unemployment support and health care services? What’s normal like for travel and public gatherings? When we don’t even know the next time we’ll be allowed to sit in a pub or café — let alone our favourites because they might’ve gone out of business? When we don’t know when we’ll be seeing our next paycheque, what’s normal supposed to look like?

I’m tempted to look at normal like the passage of time from the standpoint of physics. Time doesn’t really pass, it just is. There isn’t really a 2pm — that’s just society trying to sort itself out so that we know when to sleep and when to feed the chickens. Given the unpredictable timeline ahead of us, I think we will need to look at normal-normal similarly. Most of us would readily acknowledge that words such as “normal” are open to subjective bias, even if at the same time we are using them to define objective standards because we have to, because humans. I think we may be less comfortable acknowledging that normal can be something as subject to change as it is to definition.

What’s happening, I feel, is not the suspension of normal-normal, or normal-normal being reprogrammed. Like being part of an engrossing movie only to catch a piece of fake scenery, we are jolted out of the way we have accepted our places in, and the construct of, pre-pandemic society. I see this as an opportunity to question to what degree normal-normal, beyond semantics, truly exists, and who benefits.

I feel it’s important not to get too hung up on restoring whatever our collective version of normal-normal was, like the last backup of a computer. Among other things, there’s a lot of inequality there. When our community, municipal, provincial, and federal representatives inevitably talk about moving forward I would prefer that we not reflexively reach for  previous notions without first considering what can be addressed so that there is less inequality. I want to pay attention to the laws and precedents being laid down presently — like taking over a hotel in order to house the homeless, an initiative that was ignored by city council in the past — so that we are able not only to take care of ourselves and our communities today, but to think about the evolving normal-normal we want from this point forward.

As I might venture to share with a client, in answer to that inevitable question I opened with, whatever normal can be, whatever normal can include, we get to have a say.

 

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Tips For Finding a Therapist

I wrote a quick guide on my professional site to who-does-what (in Ontario, at least) when it comes to providing psychotherapy. It’s complicated, as I’ve commented here before. It can also be political, as there can be professional viewpoints that don’t align. I would like nothing more than for psychotherapy to be covered by OHIP (well it is, but only a) in the evidently magic hands of a Psychiatrist, which is funny because less and less Psychiatrists are providing psychotherapy, or b) a recently announced provincial pilot program, but only CBT is allowed). I’d like all licensed professionals such as myself to be covered because I understand the human value of what talk therapy can do for people who are seeking help and perspective.

Here are some tips for people who are looking for a therapist:

  1. “Fit” is everything: no matter how conveniently a therapist is located to your place of work, no matter how reasonably priced they may be, no matter how many initials they have after their name or what hallowed “evidence based” therapy they practice, it all takes second place to fit. What I mean by “fit” might be a little different than how it might sound to you: a sense of comfort (but maybe, for some of us, not too comfortable because we’re not going to therapy to be lulled but rather to learn and sometimes learning can be uncomfortable), a sense of the who-we-are being intrinsically acknowledged (i.e. not feeling as if they would say exactly the same things to the next person who sits on their couch). Overall, it’s the sense that the shrink “gets” us. Now, as I type this I’m thinking of all the reasons someone may not want this sort of “fit.” Maybe we want someone who reminds us, less than consciously, of our high school Phys Ed instructor, you know, the guy who you never not saw wearing sweats and a polished whistle dangling from his neck, who will call us on our bullshit. Maybe we’re not comfortable making ourselves vulnerable with the opposite sex, but nonetheless we want to push ourselves out of our comfort zone for reasons of growth. People are really complex. Ultimately, the better understood we feel by the person working with us, the more easily we stand to open up.
  2. Sliding scale. Not everyone can afford regular weekly sessions with a therapist (Registered Psychotherapists are generally cheaper than Psychologists, but, even then, cheap is relative), so look to see on their website if they offer a sliding scale for clients who are financially challenged. If you don’t see it listed it doesn’t mean that they don’t offer sliding scale, rather it might just be something they don’t advertise, that you may need to inquire about before your first session. I get the fact that some people find asking for things like this to be stressful. Consider it part of your growth.
  3. Therapists-in-training. Another option, for those who are looking either for the right fit or are concerned about the financial burden, is to check training institutes to see whether they have a program where therapists-in-training might be matched with prospective clients. Not everyone is keen on working with a therapist who doesn’t necessarily have all the practical experience in the world, however the price is often right. I’ll also note that, just because someone is in-training doesn’t mean they lack life experience, if you get my drift.
  4. Has your therapist ever been in therapy? I personally don’t understand how anyone can practice long or short-term psychotherapy without ever having been in psychotherapy themselves, and while the regulating college in Ontario encourages “safe and effective use of self” (or SEUS), there are still therapists seeing clients (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Registered Psychotherapists) who haven’t seen the inside of a therapist’s office that doesn’t have their name on it. So, when you’re shopping around, feel free to ask whether they have been in individual psychotherapy, either as part of their training or by personal choice (for the record, I have been in therapy in both contexts).

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Book Review: Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness, by Anne Harrington

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For the longest time I’ve been looking for an impossible book: an historic exploration of psychiatry and psychology over the last 150+ years that lays the groundwork of how we got to where we are (with the infighting, the arrogant spectacles, the tentacles of private interests), that also isn’t painfully academic or with too little (or too much) of the author’s own perspective of such a unwieldy topic. Well, as I said, it doesn’t exist, but Anne Harrington’s Mind Fixers comes very close.

As the subtitle states, Harrington (a science historian and the Franklin L. Ford Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University) has her lens steadied on the search for the (real, perceived, and ultimately elusive) biological underpinnings of mental health conditions. This is a terribly important topic and if this book has not ignited the debate it might have, it’s no reflection on the scholarship or insights gleaned from Mind Fixers, but perhaps a victim of timing and not being the loudest possible controversy to be found on Twitter. Even then, if you follow psychologists, psychiatrists, and those who specialize in related research on Twitter you’ll soon find yourself inundated with accusations of anti-psychiatry levelled at those who criticize prevailing notions of mental illness being caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, while the replication crisis undermines many of the foundations of Psychology 101.

If there’s a story here, it’s one of shifting hegemonies: from those who were concerned of their patient’s physical wellbeing, to those concerned with their brains, from those concerned about subconscious maternal conflict to those convinced the answer was in our brains, but only chemically. And with each shift in search of a possible answer to mental suffering there are reciprocal shifts in public investment and, eventually, interest from pharmaceutical companies. And at the end of the day what shifts the most are some of the most vulnerable people in our society: from sanitariums to hospitals; from wartime battlefields to community centres…only to be dumped onto the streets. It’s all here in Mind Fixers, and it’s a timely read considering the vested interests currently luring large investments in brain science, or in such promised but potentially dangerous remedies as ketamine, or those convinced of a genetic pathology. And if it sounds as if this book is strictly for history/psychiatry wonks you are dead-wrong.

What Harrington does very well is take reams of historical information and distill it into a narrative that ultimately maps out how those with what is generally called (though I hold some hesitations at times) mental illness were treated and what those in their charge felt was at play inside their bodies. Along the way we see ethical lapses in the form of wholesale human experimentation (i.e. injecting unknowing patients with blood infected with malaria), as well as the overreaching ideal of Freudian psychoanalysis as a Rosetta stone. Along the way we are introduced to ideas and theories which seemed to make sense at the time — narcosynthesis, insulin coma therapy — along with travesties such as deinstitutionalization, basically the dumping of people with mental health issues on the streets as a result of overambitious government policy that was out of sync with the realities of state coffers. Mind Fixers is also blunt about the influence of pharmaceutical companies, who increasingly figure in the narrative; the last quarter of the book is an admonishment of the profiteering that took place from the mid-1980s to the mid-00s as companies such as Eli Lilly were able to advertise directly to Americans and, with the help of an increasingly subjective DSM that allowed two people with completely different symptoms to be diagnosed with the same disease, exponentially increase their profits through prescriptions.

There are some issues. Repeatedly, Harrington refers to the “neo-Freudians” who, in their day (mid-20th century), held the reins of power with respect to diagnosis and how psychiatric trends were approved. There is a lot of confusion (just look at the definition provided on this U of C Berkeley page) about what a neo-Freudian is: those who studied but ultimately disagreed with Freud (however kept his strictly psychodynamic approach) or those who held Freudian views but refused to downgrade the role of biological processes? It may sound semantic, but in lieu of a definition the term’s repeated use without context begs for clarity. In the process it also makes it sound as if all psychoanalysts were in some way Freudian adherents. What about Melanie Klein and the rest of the object-relations movement? How did they differ? Indeed, the role of plain ol’ talk therapy — explicitly Freudian or not — is given short shrift, which might sound understandable in a book looking at biological underpinnings, but as a tool in the arsenal against so-called mental illness its absence feels odd, especially in light of the author’s emphasis on the misdirections of neo-Freudians. I get that Harrington could easily have written a book three times its size on her chosen topic. But if you’re going to talk about the influence of Freud and psychoanalysis in general then I feel you have to unpack and contextualize a bit more than what is on display here.

For the most part, however, Harrington is surprisingly fair-minded, not only unveiling the naked greed (and capricious biological arguments) of psychopharmaceutical manufacturers, but highlighting the testimony of those patients who were — placebo effect or not — helped by their medications, even if it came at a cost of other aspects of their health. She is by no means on a mission to dispel the notion of a biological source of mental illness, as I’m sure some vested interests might think looking at her book from a distance, but rather to show how partisanism, arrogance, and greed have wasted decades of valuable mental health research as we swing from trend to trend.

Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness, is available at an independent bookseller near you, or online.

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Book Review: Casting Light on the Dark Side of Brain Imaging

Whenever a mental health authority is interviewed in the media it’s nearly inevitable that this person is a medical doctor, usually a psychiatrist. This individual typically isn’t a practicing therapist; they may only be able to speak of clinical diagnoses and/or the prescription of psychopharmaceuticals. I mention this because when this authoritative psychiatrist is interviewed in the media I end up listening to a depiction of the massively complex human interrelational landscape I see around me every day, as both a writer and psychotherapist, reduced to a chemical imbalance in someone’s brain. It’s like ascribing a boxer’s loss of a title match solely to the width of their biceps.

book coverThe gold standard for looking at mental health is through what’s called a biopsychosocial lens, a flexible model that allows professionals to consider the biomedical (for example, thyroid issues, dementia), the psychological (traumatic experiences, abusive relationships), and socio-economic factors (unemployment, impoverished environment) that might be at play in the mental health profile of any given individual, even if it ends up a combination of one or more parts. In North America there is unfortunately a sacred primacy around the biomedical approach to mental health, with the psychological and socio-economic as (at best) secondary considerations at the table of funding and education. At this moment there are medical doctors losing sleep wondering how to beat the shame of knowing there is a patient in their care whose condition might be psychogenic (meaning, whose pathology is not, strictly speaking, a biomedical end product). Continue reading “Book Review: Casting Light on the Dark Side of Brain Imaging”

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Pain, pt. 3

So, according to the chiropractor I was referred to, I have an irritated disc [“subacute grade III mechanical low back (irritation of the L5/S1 disc, affecting the L5 nerve root on the left”)]. It’s nice having an answer. It’s also nice to hear that, contrary to what my impatience tells me, I’m doing very well (though I’d leave out the “…for your age” part, ahem). Basically, she said to keep doing what I’m doing and give it time.

The pulled Achilles is slowly healing. Ironically, though it didn’t stop me from running that 8K race, it does prevent me from doing my baguazhang forms due to the crouching stance required.

In the meantime, the weather is warming up, my winter coat is spending most of its time unused.

Again: give it time.

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