Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Cure

It is called the scorpion. Even the name strikes fear in my heart.  But, for the speaker, my friend Bob, the scorpion has changed his life for the better, forever. And, he almost commands me, both in his tone, and later by his written note to me, to become a disciple.

John Sarno. These two words are repeated by Gene with an almost cult like reverence. I am instructed that  the lessons Sarno teaches are not those of a charlatan but are the one and only true answer. Over dinner one evening,  he repeatedly invokes the mantra to "just tell yourself that it is all in your head", or at least that is how I interpret his passionate proclamations. Later, I watch the video that has been sent  me, in which others speak of miracles large and larger.

In the midst of yet another round of painkillers, muscle relaxants and physical therapy, having difficulty sitting, standing, lying down or doing anything more strenuous than breathing, my off and on hate affair with my back has resurfaced. Acupuncture, chiropractors, therapists and gurus of one dimension or another all advise and implore. Yet for me, the most intriguing diametrically opposed alternatives are the scorpion and Dr. Sarno.

The scorpion, as it was explained it to me,  is an exercise in flexibility in which, while lying down, one foot is somehow wrapped around the back and emerges to come into contact with the opposite hand that is outstretched to the side of the body. It actually causes me physical pain to even imagine myself in this position. My idea of flexibility is being able to come within 6 inches of touching my ankles. And this, my wife and many others, would repeatedly suggest, is why I walk around with a cushion to put under me or behind my back, why the medicine cabinet is overflowing with last year's pills and this year's pills, and why the steroid anti-inflammatory has become a staple of my diet.  I have always believed that my failures to follow a strict regimen, or any regimen at all, has been the root cause of my suffering. If only I could actually perform the scorpion, I would be healed.

But, Dr. Sarno, and my dinner companion, would call that theory pure nonsense. My friend, several years ago, lay flat on his back, in unremitting pain. He was, by his account, desperate for a solution that was nowhere in sight. And then, from above, came magic. There was this doctor who said that back pain was not a physical but a mental aberration. Stress was the real culprit. It caused the blood to stop flowing and created tension in the body. The mental pain one was feeling was being deflected into physical agony. Do away with the mental concerns and the physical pain disappears.  And my friend, on Chapter 7 of the book, got out of bed. And then he took Dr. Sarno's lecture. As here he stands, pain free, a living testament. Throw away your crutches, get rid of those pills, put the cushion in the garbage, and stand up like a man to your insecurities and frustrations.  Free your mind and free yourself.

You can see why I am so confused. Yin and Yang. Right and wrong. The universe in polar extremes.

Is this all in my head or all in my butt? Am I actually in pain or only in psychic distress?  I know that life has dealt me a couple of interesting wrinkles over the years and that I, like everyone who is reading this piece, could do with a week on the beach in Hawaii. But can I really will away my pain?

This afternoon, at 3PM, I will once more undergo an hour of therapy.  I will once more absorb the heat,  go through the electric stim, and do the gentle little routine that is supposed to nurse me to health in the coming weeks. I think I will seek counsel from my therapist and inquire if it is even possible for me to extricate myself from the scorpion if I become unable to de-pretzel.

As I lay there, my thoughts may well turn to Dr. Sarno and to my friend who invokes his name like a deity.  I will wonder whether I am following the path to health or only to continual backache. And I realize that all these thoughts are causing me tension, and that my back is tightening up. I wonder if Dr. Sarno has an opening later this week?


David B said...

We just saw a bus that offers round trip schedules for Lourdes. Shall I get their brochure?

Robert said...

The funny thing is that my sister read this post and advised that my uncle and my sister's best friend are also Dr. Sarno groupies. Who knows where truth and fiction meet?

Pam said...

I went to Dr. Sarno 30 years ago.... is he still alive and not retired? I was a believer..

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the scorpion;, but I do know that I would not be walking today if not for YOGA. Neither physical therapy nor acupuncture helped at all. Of course, you have the added pressure of extreme mental anguish which triggers your attacks.If you could find a yoga teacher who practices Hatha Yoga ( which is calming to the mind and heals the body,),I am sure it would be very helpful. I have a suggestion if you are interested. What have you got to lose except your pain?
But this is just your mother-in-law talking and who ever listens to one of us!
But you know you are my favorite son-in-law any way.