They say the second time going through anything is the hardest part. We know what happened the first time and hold what we didn’t like firmly in our minds. We anticipate and cringe, wondering, how am I going to make it through this one?
After my first session of chiropractic care, I had gone to my grandparents’ house, where my grandmother heaped frozen bags of small potatoes and vegetables on my shoulders (gently, of course) and back. A soft blanket was draped over my lap, covering my toes. I watched one of my favorite TV shows on my phone while eating supper and, relatively speaking, felt amazing for the first time since my wreck.
Two days later, after the second session, it was a different picture.
I knew what was coming, said ow even though I didn’t need to, and walked out sore like none other. The thought of climbing into my mom’s Ford Explorer and driving home was a disheartening prospect. Once I was able to make the climb and situate myself behind the wheel, I pushed the brakes and gas pedal tenderly and moved my head left and right like a tortoise. All of it was much worse than I felt after the first session, and even worse than I felt before I started chiropractic treatment.
A month and a half later, I continue to visit the chiropractor each week, and she has helped tremendously.
But truthfully, it’s been tougher to heal than I thought it would be. My muscles were so tight from whiplash and bones were splinting and knots were not rubbing out that the chiropractor said it would take a few months to return to normal. The worst part has been my hands. I can’t grip tight and sometimes have to force myself to type at work. Often, I just have to stop and lean back and rub my hands. Even now, I can barely form a fist.
Despite all these facts about the physical effects of the wreck, there was one thing I knew.
I felt better when I wasn’t doing all of this. I just took Tylenol and sedatives that got me all drugged up and I felt okay. Why even do this? This hurts.
I hung my head. Discouragement knocked.
Yet, I could not open that door. I could feel that the effects of the wreck went deeper than a shoulder that made me cringe every so often. There were muscles and bones that needed to be popped back into place, and there was no way I was going to do it myself. I needed someone who would force me to let her help.
So, with the encouragement of friends, I kept going.
And I was reminded of that excruciating truth: healing hurts.
It seems counterintuitive. Healing means “on the road to recovery.” So, theoretically, as things get better, they shouldn’t hurt so much. Right?
Well…I felt better when I wasn’t going to the chiropractor.
But really, how long would that have lasted? A year? Two? Probably not long. Muscles I didn’t know I had were affected, and if I had let those go untended, the long term effects most likely could have been disastrous. I have told myself, it wasn’t that bad of a wreck. I didn’t hit the concrete wall. I didn’t hit another car while I was fishtailing. It wasn’t that bad. I’m not that hurt.
Then I try to lift a gallon of milk off the top shelf of my refrigerator, and I change my mind.
The effects haven’t been solely physical, either. There have been times when a semi has come barreling by me on U.S. 41 and I’ve become tense and tried to make myself smaller by taking my foot off the gas and creeping toward the right side of the road so that I wasn’t touched. On a recent trip to Chicago via the toll road, I had to close my eyes when surrounded on all sides by semis, buses and other vehicles. I just couldn’t bear to look. (Don’t worry…I was a back seat passenger.) I eventually fell asleep, only awakening when we arrived at our destination, relieved that I was no longer surrounded.
I can’t keep doing that. I’ve got to heal from what happened.
Healing takes many forms, and there are many things in this life to heal from…physical injuries, heartaches, disappointments, slashing words….We often think we were better off before the heartache or disappointment happened, but through the healing, we find that we weren’t all that great, and we needed something to pull us toward higher ground.
And when I think about this fact, I think of Eustace Clarence Scrubb. His story comes alive in the pages of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader.” The boy nearly deserved his name (so begins the novel), as he was a nuisance.
By accident (or maybe not), Eustace was swept away to Narnia with his cousins Edmund and Lucy for all sorts of adventures on the fair ship Dawn Treader. One such adventure came when the ship landed on an island full of gold. As Eustace was exploring the island, he found a dragon’s hoard, thought dragonish thoughts (even putting a gold ring on his arm) and soon himself became a dragon!
The boy turned out to be very helpful as a dragon and found a few aspects of that life he enjoyed, but the gold ring dug painfully into his foreleg. And he was learning that he very much preferred being a Boy. One night, Aslan the Great Lion came and led Eustace the Dragon to a well. He said, “Undress.”
Dragons don’t have clothes, but they do have scales, and Eustace started scratching those scales off. He tried his best, scratching through three layers, but every time he peered into the surface of the well, there was always something rough left. He could never completely peel off the scales. His efforts were useless and hopeless.
And then, as Eustace tells it,
“The lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like bill-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away…
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. You’d think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they’ve no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian’s (the king), but I was so glad to see them.”
Strength does come back. Time does heal. I had another chiropractor visit today, and things are looking good. It wasn’t so bad to lift milk today.
And it’ll only get better.