Monday, February 15, 2016

All the Rage

I had the pleasure of joining in a viewing of Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky's work in progress All the Rage, a documentary about John Sarno, an NYU-based physician whose radical work on back pain and pain in general, which focuses intensively on the connection between mind, emotion and body and rejects musculo-skeletal determinism prevalent in mainstream medicine. Sarno has not, to be sure, been a figure welcomed in the medical establishment.

The film focuses just as much on Galinsky and his family's own connection to Sarno. First his father, than his twin brother, then Michael have been helped if not permanently cured of back pain and other issues by Sarno, and Michael's desire to legitimize and raise consciousness around Sarno's work has been a long-running and entirely heartfelt effort for a goodly while by now. And it's more than that too, in many ways Galinsky is reaching to make a deep, holistic statement about life, family, ambition, self-worth, how we treat ourselves... there's a lot of stuff going on. You'll have to see it when it comes out.

But here's the thing. I identified with a lot of Michael's journey. We're from the same place, same generation, issues with dads (who doesn't have em), ambition, worrying about how what he does impacts his kids, blah blah blah, he's telling a universal story through his own experience, and in a very open way.

But my story, my conflicts with my dad and our own family narrative (including plenty of stuff from my mom's side has always been filtered through the lense of substance abuse and affective disorders. So when the film started trotting out statistics about how big of a problem chronic pain, and in particular back pain, was in America ("$600 billion annual economic impact") I found myself feeling left out. Because though I've had intermittent and sporadic issues with back pain, it's never been more than that, or so I was thinking...

And, sure enough, like clockwork, I had back pain when I went home that night. The same kind of seemingly causeless upper back pain that I've had before, now and again.  And of course, it has been recurring with greater frequency since then. It's almost like my back and my body are willing me to have recourse to Dr. Sarno and his book, because it seems like such an appealing paradigm: journaling, being in touch with the feelings which lie at the root of your pain, etc.

In the middle of writing this post, on a cold day, I drove out to big box land to get some running tights, having left my other ones in Larchmont over Christmas. I always leave something there. As I may have mentioned, I am no fan of the big boxes, and on my way out I found myself getting pissed off at a variety of Andy Rooney-type things: the traffic (which, viewed differently, is but a natural outgrowth of Chapel Hill's anti-development policy which pushes all that stuff out to the Durham border, and living in a succesful metro area), how expensive stuff is (anger and shame at myself for not having found the fabled easy path to sustainable revenue).  And yes, my back was twinging, though it abated a bit as I looked at those pulling into the shopping center and saw how many lands they seemed to hail from. Made me proud for a moment to be in a reasonably hospitable corner of America.

More time passed, ice came down over a long weekend, and I realized that I in fact have had more intermittent back pain than I was giving myself credit for. Had I not, for example, called up my friend David the neurologist at some point in time and gotten a reference to a book about exercises to do to calm the aches back there? Had I not had Graham walk on my back many many times? Did I not, after many months of working through the CFP curriculum, start standing at my desk for 3-4 hours a day to mitigate pain.

Oh yes, gentle reader, all of these things are true, all of them I have done. I have just not focused on my back pain as being a core issue. But now, my back hurts. I am in the game. Better get the book, and add it to the pile.

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