A bullwhip in motion: the whip arches backward and cracks forward, its sound splintering the spine of the world. Fascinating yet horrifying; no wonder doctors use the action of the whip to describe those who suffer neck injuries. Most of these injuries result from car accidents; others from football or violence. I haven’t been in a car accident. Nor have I been shaken or tackled.
Yet, I have whiplash.
In January of this year, I decided to stop making excuses and to take better care of myself. It wasn’t a resolution but a result of two things: playing with my cat and inadvertently banging my head against the nightstand and my grandmother’s death. The former increased my visits to a massage therapist and introduced me to chiropractic care; the latter got me on a treadmill. And for the majority of the year, the massage, chiropractic and exercise connected me to the joys of being in my body. Movement became more fluid, and pain, which at one time seemed arbitrary, made sense with the changes wrought on a body held in a limited way for too long.
And then September happened. Without rehashing a month’s worth of drama and trauma, I still managed to take care of myself. I wrote it out and I danced it out. Of course, with our loss of income and insurance, massage and chiropractic were put on hold for a bit; although thanks to the generous and beautiful nature of both my therapist and doctor, they have made it possible for me to get the care I need.
Yet, I am in more pain than ever.
My doctor and therapist do not understand it. I do everything right, everything my mind and body need, but my muscles, bones and core return to their positions, settling inside of themselves, settling for pain which is more often than not excruciating. St. Francis of Assisi once called his pain-wracked body Brother Ass; honestly, I can understand why. My body has become stubborn.
Yesterday, in the middle of my second massage in a week, I lay on the table quietly observing, connecting the dots. Every spot touched resonated elsewhere, in meridians of energy so vibrant and sharp, they seemed almost toxic. I saw how the knotted muscle living deep within my right clavicle pulled on the right side of my neck which somehow torqued the right eye outward. And how the same knot shot across to the left side of my body, wreaking havoc in that clavicle, down my arm and into a shoulder-blade which has slightly detached the muscle from itself. And how this shoulder screamed at the ribs beneath it, who in turn, bullied the sciatic nerve. I watched it all, meditating through waves that often threatened to steal my breath. In two minds, I endured this massage but I also viewed it, almost outside of myself. There, I found my answer.
Having been too quiet, I blurted, “Would you find the same type of problems in someone who’s been in a car accident?”
In an epiphany of her own, my massage therapist said, “Yes! If I didn’t know better, I would have thought you had whiplash.”
“Bracing for impact. I’ve been bracing for impact.” My arm gestured upward. “I’m waiting for the next blow.”
My sorrow was immediate.
I had worked so hard to put the events of this last part of 2010 behind me. To rise up with grace rather than bitterness. Three, four, perhaps even five notebooks had made sense of it all. I sweated out anger and grief. When I felt like exploding—hell, when I sometimes did—I talked it out. I scraped it away layer by layer. I did everything right. Yet, deeper still, in a chamber of hell I didn’t even know existed, my body held on. Holds on. I am not blaming myself but it would be ludicrous not to admit how my emotions over the last several months have manifested themselves in my body.
I have whiplash. Why? Because there is a part of me that just doesn’t trust life anymore. Too many changes occurred in too short a time and my body is waiting for another strike. My mind may have dealt with recent life, but my body refuses to relax. Like being on a flight: once the passengers experience prolonged turbulence, it’s damned difficult to fall asleep again.
The sadness of this revelation is complete: exhaustive, chilly, somber.
But it is a revelation nonetheless. From here, this new bit of information, this last piece that has been holding me physically in stasis, I can grow upward. I manifested this pain. Only I can rid myself of it.
I’ve worked too hard. I’ve already endured enough. There is just no good reason to suffer any longer under the crack of a whip.