The Penultimate Post?
(This is an ongoing story. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.)
Years ago, I was sent to a therapist (I’ll call him “Dr. Bob”) by Dr. John Sarno (the back pain guy) to help me deal with repressed emotions that were presumably causing my recurrent back pain. (This idea still sometimes amuses me, as I don’t think I could repress an emotion if I tried.)
Dr. Bob’s area of expertise was somatization, which is when all your psychological doo-doo manifests as physical symptoms. I’m not pooh-poohing this phenomenon – far from it. I have witnessed tennis elbow, back pain, even hemorrhoids “dissolve away” after a good therapy session.
Bob had a book he would often pull off the shelf called You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, an author of many books about loving the broken parts of ourselves and healing ourselves by changing the way we talk to ourselves (a concept that seems to work wonders for many people but has never done anything for me).
I would be sitting cross-legged in the oversized leather chair and Bob would sit across from me on his swivel chair, his tired feet crossed at the ankle, clad in the type of super-cushy shoes that you’d think wouldn’t be needed by someone who just sits and listens to people kvetching all day. At some point during our session, he would ask me if I’d ever seen the Louise Hay book, a question that would infuriate me, because he asked it practically every session. Seriously: every two weeks he would hand me this book he’d shown me countless times and ask if I’d ever seen it before.
If I were a stronger, more confident person, I would have said, “Of course I’ve seen this book. You give it to me every fucking time I’m sitting across the room from you.” But I never did say that. Instead, I'd smile, take the book, and look up what might be wrong with my body, all the time wondering what was so unremarkable about me that my $200-an-hour psychotherapist couldn’t remember from one session to the next that he’d handed me the same stupid book at least a dozen times.
That said, the Louise Hay book usually had some interesting insights.
I stopped seeing Dr. Bob, but I did buy myself my own copy of the book. When I look up “Foot Problems,” it says, “Our feet have to do with our understanding of ourselves and of life – past, present and future.” And, “Foot problems often signify fear of the future and not stepping forward in life.”
A skeptic might say that all of Louise Hay’s body part assessments are relatable to everyone. But when I look up something like “Bulimia” and read, “Hopeless terror. A frantic stuffing and purging of self-hatred,” I can say with confidence, “Nope. Not me.”
This week, my son and I went dorm shopping for the first time. I suspected, years ago that, given my physical history, I would have some severe malady overtake me as I prepared to let go of my oldest child. That like my mother, who was incapacitated by back pain for the months leading up to her retirement, my physical pain would disappear as soon as the feared emotional event occurred and there was no longer a need for a distraction.
I’ve wondered throughout this year whether these foot problems were that distraction. Whether AE was just an accidental catalyst for some monumental physical malady that could have been anything, but ended up being my foot, and if it weren’t my foot, would have been something other all-consuming thing.
I wonder still whether my foot will be back to normal come September once my “real” trauma has passed. Whether “fear of the future” and “not stepping forward” have everything to do with trying to hold on to my boy just a little bit longer. And whether the fact that my foot is feeling better lately, in small but regular increments, is actually a harbinger of that back-to-normalcy.
It’s hard to know. I’m sure AE wouldn’t rule it out. And Dr. Bob, after having me read the foot passage aloud, perhaps for the 800th time, would most certainly say, “What do you think?”