I don’t think physical therapists like me very much.
OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating, so maybe I should explain.
A few years back, I injured my shoulder while weightlifting. I had been attempting to hone myself into a lean, mean, praying machine. Following the mantra, “no pain, no gain,” I continued working through the pain. The result: a recurring shoulder problem.
This summer, when the soreness returned, I decided to give physical therapy another chance. Once a week I went for physical therapy and each time I was reminded to put ice on the shoulder and exercise with elastic ribbons.
With every return visit, I reported in a somewhat whiney voice, “My shoulder still hurts.”
Each therapist would fire the same questions: Are you icing it three to five times every day? Are you doing the prescribed exercises? Are you being careful not to reinjure the arm?
About that time I was ready to leave and go look for a good faith healer. And in answering those questions, my mouth was wanting to lie so I’d gain acceptance, but my heart was reminding me of a basic Sunday school truth — “lies bad, truth good.”
I stammered out an answer sounding much like a New Age mantra, “Yeah-um-uh-eh . . . It’s just that I’m busy. I’m a full-time chaplain, husband and father as well as part-time National Guardsman, a freelance writer and a church usher.”
But even those excuses didn’t make up the whole truth.
The truth was that I was being what hospital dietitians, social workers and physical therapists call noncompliant. I wasn’t taking care of myself. The pain was causing inactivity and the inactivity brought intermittent depression.
And the tough questions that needed to be asked were: Why was I not choosing to participate in the healing process? What was I exchanging for the healing process?
I wasn’t sure. I knew what I was telling myself. I was telling myself that I was too busy to work on myself. There was a part of me that was getting a sense of self-importance from being the kind of guy who was too busy to take care of his own health.
The other part I realized is that I had no faith that bending and stretching my arm would do much good. The cold and heat thing being prescribed seemed much more like magic to me.
Yet one thing I knew, healing always starts with faith — and not necessarily the kind of faith that requires the placing of one hand on the TV set and the other on the wallet. This faith begins with the belief God wants me to participate in taking care of the life, body, and spirit he created.
It was then that I set my busy schedule aside, along with my feelings of self-importance, and I took the time to get the recommended tests that set the course for a healing strategy.
Armed with that information, the doctor sent me to a surgeon. And lo and behold, the surgeon recommended the same shot that brought on a fainting spell on a previous office visit. (See column of May 13 on my Web site, www.chaplainnorris.com)
A second shot would require a massive dose of faith. So the surgeon assured me he could make this injection into the joint and I’d be fine. I nodded my head affirming that I was willing to do what it took.
The shot was quick and I remained, as we also say in the hospital, “upright and ambulatory.” Since then, I have even managed to pull my own duffle bags through the streets of New Orleans.
Sometimes healing is hard; sometimes it’s easy. But as my friend Tamara Chin likes to say, “Recovery doesn’t come when we’re willing to do something, it comes when we’re willing to do what it takes.”