I’m laying face down, arms by my side on a soft, plastic bench in my physiotherapist’s clinic.
My cheeks are squished together in the hole that’s cut out of the bench for people’s faces. I’m thinking that it would be cool if there was a television or something on the floor, directly underneath the face hole, so that I could watch a movie, like they have at my dentist, only there, the television is on the ceiling.
“OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!”My thoughts about the cool television idea are cut short by the steely thumbs of my physiotherapist as she digs them into my shoulder. I writhe in pain. “OWWWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I shout again, and she releases the pressure just slightly.
She bends down to my ear level so I can hear her and half whispers, half chuckles “Shhhhhhhhhhhhh! The people in the waiting room will be able to hear you. It’s not good marketing!”
She’s joking. But seconds later, when she digs her thumb in my shoulder again, I stay silent. It hurts. It’s not a sharp, intolerable kind of pain, but the deep, knotty, trigger kind of pain of a tight muscle. I squeeze my eyes shut and grimace. My head hurts from clenching my jaw so much. I want it to be over. The clock says 8.24am. 6 more minutes and then I’m out of here. She gets back to work, steel thumbs at the ready. Ugh. There’s the pain again.
Still I stay silent. Because she told me to be quiet. And even though she was just joking, something in me, deep, deep down, recognises that it’s easier and more comfortable, for her, and for the people in the waiting room, if I do not show my pain.
And we all do it, don’t we?
We’ve been conditioned to not make a noise, to not make a fuss, to dial back what we’re really feeling so that we don’t make other people feel uncomfortable and awkward. Stiff upper lip and all that.
I often wonder where our feelings go when we push them down and away, when we don’t express them.
Mine hang around my shoulders, I’m pretty sure of it. Years and years of being okay but not really okay, putting on an act and ‘shouldering’ the death of my mum is probably the reason why I am having physiotherapy now, 18 years later, on my shoulders.
I asked a client once—who shared with me that she’d never fully grieved the loss of a much-loved family member—exactly where the grief is, if she’s never expressed it.”
“Two extra, can’t-shift-them stones around my belly.” She replied. That’s where the grief is.”
Another client recently admitted that the half bottle of red wine a night she necks is her way of checking out of the distress and frustration she feels about her ailing marriage. “I can’t talk to my husband anymore, Liz. I can’t tell him what’s going on inside, I’m scared he’ll leave me if I do.”
Red wine it is then.
And it might not be red wine for you. But it’ll be something, I know it. We all have our way of checking out. Why do you think Facebook is so popular? Yeah, keeping in touch with people you went to school with over 25 years ago is great and fascinating and all, but really? Facebook is actually so popular because most people are addicted to it. The incessant scrolling soothes with a gentle, warming dopamine rush to the brain, ahhhhhhh. Do you know how many times I’ve checked Facebook while writing this? At least 10 times. Why? Because writing is hard and painful.
Life is also hard and painful. And good and beautiful. And hard and painful again. Sometimes all in one day.
And yet most of us don’t talk about the hard, painful bits.
We just talk about the good and beautiful bits (check out people’s Facebook pages full of photos of their amazing, #blessed holidays and sickeningly perfect homemade fucking salads). The evidence is right there.
No-one wants to see a miserable, we-want-to-go-home holiday photo, do they? No-one wants to see a shitty, thrown-together limp salad photo, do they?
Or do they?
I think, secretly, or not so secretly, we actually do.
Because it’s a relief to know that most of the time, no-one has their shit together, shitty holidays and salads included.
And it’s also a relief to know that life is hard and painful for other people too.
My private Facebook group is testament to this. The thoughtful, kind and welcoming humans who write and lurk there are honest and say it as it is and get real about what’s really going on in their lives. And there’s always someone who writes back and says “That fucking sucks, but we’re with you, friend.” or “Man, that happened to me too, how are you doing?” There’s no holding pain in over there.
They let it out.
And so will I.
Next week when I return for another physio appointment, if it hurts, I’m going to yell.
Fuck being quiet. On the physiotherapist’s bench (that should really have a television underneath it) and in LIFE.
Over and out,