Updated: Mar 10, 2022
I’ve been going to the chiropractor every week for over a year now. For months, when the receptionist would ask me which of the two doctors I would like to see, I would lie and say I wanted to see the old white man who owns the place.
He was definitely not my first choice. Ever. Not even the first time he adjusted me. I already get triggered by humans of his demographic. Laying on your back, eyes closed, surrendering your neck into the hands of a stranger is a vulnerable experience. He’s touched me unprofessionally a handful of times. He’ll pause - mid adjustment - holding my hand and take his time staring at my tattoos as he touches them. Even just writing about it right now, I feel sick to my stomach. It reminds me of the sensation I get after I’ve been sexually assaulted. So why on earth would I keep lying to the receptionist about my preference? It was my choice, afterall.
But the thing is I felt like I didn’t have a choice. The scared five year old who gets activated in me pulls out the survival mechanism we learned to stay safe from my aggressive, alcoholic father - fawn and surrender. Don’t let him find out he’s not your first choice and you won’t get hurt. My inner child was afraid if he knew I don’t prefer him, that I’d be in danger in the off chance no one else was available and he had to adjust me. I mean - he’s the owner. So he’s there every time I go.
I learned proximity to the predator is the most effective way to stay safe. Make eye contact, smile, laugh at jokes you don’t understand. This is how the peace is kept. Except for every time I would leave, I felt an inner war inside of me.
But the thing is, it all happens so fast. You’re in and then you’re out. By the time I would have opened my mouth to say - “actually can you please not touch me unprofessionally?” his hand would have already returned to adjusting me by then. I mean, right? I always biked home telling myself, “I’ll say something next time for sure.” But then the cycle would continue.
I finally put my foot down just a couple months ago - that’s right. Can you believe I’ve been swallowing that icky feeling in my tummy for about 10 months now? It honestly makes me sad to say that out loud. I really feel like I let myself down.
Ironically, my inner child was trying to keep us safe, but it was making us physically ill. That’s why I had to take the wheel. My inner child tried out his strategy. I thanked him and said “it’s my turn now, baby.” I could feel my heart beating out of my chest, my palms sweating, my eyes avoidant, as I whispered to the receptionist that I preferred to see the female doctor. My nervous system was so activated that I couldn’t even glance at the side of the room the male doctor was on.
For the last 8 weeks this process has repeated. Sweat, avoid eye contact, get adjusted by the female doctor, dip out. Each time I confront my fear in honor of my needs I build trust with myself. I’m courageous for my inner child. He deserves better. But today, the place was packed and only the male doctor was available. I found myself again in the SAME fucking cycle. And I’m angry about it. He did the thing where he paused, lifted my arm and touched my tattoo. We’ve had the same exact conversation about it in the past. I froze. I couldn’t take action.
I’m grieving that emotional violation. It’s like letting my guard down and letting myself get kicked in the face. I feel like I’m walking away with a bloody nose. Except for the sensation is all concentrated in my tummy. It’s like a mix of anger and sadness. It feels hot, tingly and dense with friction. Like tiger claws gripping the lining of my stomach to pull themselves out of a ditch. Or rubbing an eraser furiously against paper. Thank god for biking. Otherwise, I might explode.
Even though it’s true I let myself get metaphorically kicked in the face every week for nearly a year, I’m still not angry with myself for allowing that to happen. I understand my inner child was acting out of love when he tried to protect us. It just wasn’t effective. He didn’t know better. I’m grieving our hurt, our need to protect ourselves in a world where love is scarce. Where consent is not the norm. Where competition is rewarded. I’m grieving the pain of the collective, which is revealing itself through my codependency with my chiropractor. What a fucking world we live in.
But I’m happy to be alive because I choose to be alive every day. There have been moments in my life where I asked myself DAILY “Do I wanna live today?” Sometimes, I couldn’t leave the bed that day because I didn’t have an answer to the question. The day I started choosing to live - to surrender to the human experience, to be with my emotions - ALL of them - was the day the light came back into my eyes. No, I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect at keeping myself safe. But I love myself regardless. I’ve already tried punishing myself, hating myself for my imperfections. It didn’t make me wanna live.
My self acceptance is a manifestation of love. It is not the easy choice, but it is a choice that makes me grateful to be alive. I literally don’t think I could live any other way. I’d probably end my life.
I can both acknowledge the pain and imperfection while celebrating my courage to speak up for myself and change the cycle. One step back, two steps forward. I’m grateful for the experience I had today. The contrast between empowerment and disempowerment has left this sensation in my tummy feeling unbearable today. I can’t swallow it this time. I’m so angry I could burn down a building. But - relax, y’all - I’ve got other tools in my tool box that I will use. Like writing ;)
This unbearable feeling in my body as I write these words is a reflection of my progress. When you relapse after a period of sobriety, the negative side effects hit your body so damn hard. I’m really feeling it today. May it be a reminder of my commitment to courage and love. Thank you, universe, for teaching me these lessons. I am your humble student.
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