He said to just relax. An impossible request with the pain clouding all thoughts as I lay prone on the floor, hoping the beasts wouldn’t take this as an invitation to play. My pelvis had popped out of place again, several days of excruciating pain with any movement, inability to stand without a groan escaping meant I couldn’t hide my condition. With enough physical therapy sessions under my belt and a long car trip looming, I decided it was time to teach my Chef to do a correction on my tail bone. First I showed him, then I lay down. Relax, he said. But I never relaxed when the professional was working on my twisted body, how could I under these circumstances. And then he touched my tailbone and gasped. Yep, he felt that it was not where it should be, he felt that it was sticking way out. He pushed like I taught him, he maintained the study pressure, it slide enough that I can walk again. Now I can relax.
I realized as I let the steam from the shower calm the muscles that had tightened and the tendons that were pulled the wrong ways, that I was actually relieved that he had felt the protruding bone. I was vindicated. The culture in my family of origin is one of distrust when I am ill. I didn’t put it all together until recently, how much the family needed to invalidate my truth. Our very existence together required that I not be believed. This story has carried on though into adulthood in ways that are harmful, a story that the family hasn’t considered whether is true, fits, works. It is supported by subtle comments and jokes. Thus my tailbone sticking out and someone in the family touching it instead of a paid healthcare worker pleased me in a sick way.
In the summer before high school, I contracted Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a rare compilation of symptoms that attacked my mouth, throat, and then my insides with blisters and sores. Rushed to the hospital as they fought to diagnose and then find a treatment, my mother was told I might not live through the night. They were preparing to do a trach, I was struggling to breathe. Something worked, some swelling reduced, I began to fight the infections. I was left though with vocal cords that respond to colds with laryngitis almost every time. I was left with kidney issues that have plagued me well beyond pregnancy. I was left with crazy symptoms that have been discounted almost as soon as I left the wheelchair and enter the car to go home. My family made fun of me for losing my voice, it became a thing in our family. The culture of distrusting what I said was so deep that even with this serious event, they all needed to fall back into the habit of invalidating my voice, or lack of one.
For almost 12 years I have been under medical care for an autoimmune disease that seems to be running along the lines of MS. This leaves me unable sometimes to join in, sometimes so exhausted to go to events, often without words by the end of the day. Seasons come where I lose the ability to walk, where I have tremors so badly that I can’t hold a cup. Still, this condition is not believed in my family of origin because that is our culture. Relax, stay stress free, sleep when you need, this is the advice of my neurologist. I have to take care of me. No longer worrying about whether I am believed, whether I am heard, I just carry on. Until today when Chef pushed on that bone.
Much has been written about life in families where alcoholism and sexual abuse occur, the need for secret keeping and the roles each member plays. My honesty was sacrificed every bit as much as my body, my voice had to be silenced. Discrediting me was our glue, an agreement unconsciously made to keep each of us together. With each joke, each jab at me, the whole of the family could relax while I tensed. Knowing now why they couldn’t believe me, that it wasn’t about me but about what else I might say, I can relax. And just like that, everything slides back into place.