Mental Health


"Nail in the Fence" © Grant Frederiksen, 2014. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Nail in the Fence” © Grant Frederiksen, 2014. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
“You have a really strong core. Great muscles in your lower back and shoulders. It’s just that a lot of them are holding things kinda, you know, in the wrong place.”

He spent thirty minutes trying to get parts of my anatomy I never learned the name of to release my left shoulder. Let it fall down, shift back. Slide into the place it used to reside. Before the motorcycle crash. Before I started leaning on it while studying, reading, writing. Before I forgot how to relax.

“We’ll have to come back to that next time. I want you to be able to move tomorrow.”

I wonder what other things I’m clinging to. So hard for so long that their adjoining filaments are cemented in places they don’t belong. Misplaced anger and anxiety. Little pieces accidentally flipped around and reflected back at me with such regularity I don’t even notice anymore. Not a clue how to let it go. No awareness that maybe I need to.

“Stretched muscles hurt more, but what you have to work on is the ones that are pulling them. The contracted ones don’t feel like anything a lot of the time, but that’s your real problem. Your shoulders hurt, but you have to stretch your chest to help them.”

We put in so much work to heal ourselves. Put in the time to tend to the places we’re hurting. But I wonder how often the pain and the problem are not in the same place. We stumble around, throw bandages on our abrasions, but never find out where we’re getting them.

Lately I can tell I’m closer to the source. I fill pages and pages with theories, but at the end of each I scrawl, “No. That’s not it. That’s just not it. Not quite.”

The frustration of knowing I’ve been here. Walked over this ground. The hurt crumples under my feet like dry leaves. It tries to get to me to look closer, but it fails to convince me. I tell myself I was a different person last time. Not ready to examine this as close as I need to. Maybe I just didn’t have an issue with telling myself the crux of things is something it isn’t.

You can’t heal like that, though. Everything is a temporary solution. Concealer. The effectiveness wears off inevitably and I find myself retracing steps again. Again. Again. A little closer every time, but still not quite. Not quite.

I pull back. I get scared. Spend a week in bed. Stop running. Eat only turkey cold cuts, pepper jack, and yellow mustard. Take four days to convince myself to go see a friend.

Then I loop around. Start over again.

We’re trying to get to the core. We’re trying to dig deep, but every time we’re close the conditions change and we have to head back. “It’s not safe down here,” we tell ourselves. But we’re going to have to explore those spaces. Cast our lanterns on the walls of these caves and finally discuss what all these paintings mean. The shadows we cast are twice our size, but nothing is as big as it seems. We don’t have to be afraid. The past is for learning from and that’s all it gets to do.

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