Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Medical Matters #1 :: The Furious Compassion of Diligent Dr Payne

Last week I went back to Dr Payne, my vicious, needle-wielding osteopath. Physically, Dr Payne is rather intimidating. He’s a little shorter than me, and he certainly weighs less, but somehow he seems bigger. He has presence. I guess it’s because he knows who he is. Which is to say, he has no doubts as to his role in the world. Actually, maybe he does have doubts. I don’t know. He has confidence though. He knows what he’s doing. Plus he has huge muscular hands and he looks like a 50-year-old Mark Ronson.

Before he got on with the important business of kneading my spine, he wanted to know how I’d been getting on with the stretches he’d recommended. I had to confess that I hadn’t really made them a regular part of my life. I’d done them twice in fact. At which point, suddenly and surprisingly, Dr Payne got really rather angry with me.

He wanted to know why I hadn’t been doing them. I had to think about it. Why hadn’t I been doing them? I was pretty sure that they would cause me less pain and generally improve the quality of my life, so why wasn’t I doing them?

‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘I’ve been going through a bit of a down period actually.’

‘What do you mean, a down period?’

‘Well, I’ve been a bit down.’

‘Why?’ he wanted to know. He was very brusque, and slightly unconvinced, like already he didn’t believe me.

‘I dunno really….’

‘Why don’t you know? What’s wrong with you?’

Incredibly brusque.

‘Nothing. It’s just that I’ve been trying hard to get my life to go in a certain direction and nothing seems to be working out.’

‘Well, it doesn’t sound like you’ve been trying very hard to me. I gave you a few simple exercises to do, which would take no more than ten minutes a day, and you haven’t even managed that. Have you been swimming? You said you were going to go swimming.’

I shook my head.

He shook his head.

‘So what’s the problem?’

I didn’t know what to tell him. The truth would probably have been, ‘I’m feeling a little sorry for myself and a little self-indulgent, and very lazy, and I need a good kick up the arse.’ But I didn’t say that. Instead I said, stupidly, ‘Well, I lost a lot of stuff in a laptop accident and… you know, I just got down.’

He looked at me like I’d just started speaking Afrikaans. ‘What’s that got to do with anything?’ he said. ‘What’s that got to do with your back?’

‘Well, no, nothing really. I just… it’ll mean a lot of extra work….’

‘Oh, boo hoo,’ he said.

I laughed.

‘You don’t know you’re born, do you?’ he asked me.

‘No,’ I said. ‘Am I born?’ I shrugged.

He shook his head again and glared at me. I blushed.

‘Take off your shirt then. Loosen your trousers and lie face down.’

Then – there’s really no other way of putting it – he beat me up. It was under the guise of massage and osteopathic manipulation, but in reality, he beat the crap out of me. When I actually cried out at a couple of points, with tears springing to my eyes, he told me to stop whining. ‘Your muscles are soggy!’ he yelled. Then he stuck some acupuncture needles in my back and sat down opposite me.

‘How’s the weight loss going?’ he asked, already knowing the answer.

I sighed. ‘Not well,’ I answered.

‘Any idea why that might be?’ he asked, injecting a little softness into his voice in order that I might relax a little and make myself more vulnerable to attack.

‘Well, yeah. I’ve not been exercising and I’ve been eating a lot of junk again.’

‘Any idea why that might be?’ he asked again.

‘I just….’ I harrumphed. ‘I’ve given up again, a bit. I suppose. I’m pissed off, frankly, and I’ve stopped caring.’

‘I see,’ he said. ‘Well, that’s a shame. Do you read?’

‘Not as much as I used to,’ I answered.

‘Not as much as you used to,’ he said. Then he stood up and walked around behind me muttering. I was annoying him, I could tell. I was annoying myself.

It is amazing how quickly one loses one’s motivation. It’s amazing how easily it just evaporates, along with all that good feeling you had from actually getting off your arse and doing something – that good feeling which you swore had changed your life and made you realise what you were capable of. That evaporates too. In a matter of days. In fact, it’s like a Tamagotchi. If you don’t keep feeding it, it just dies.

Payne twiddled the needles. ‘Have you read a book called She’s Come Undone?’ he asked.

I told him I hadn’t heard of it.

‘Read it,’ he said. ‘Now put your clothes on.’

We made another appointment, for another two weeks’ time. Before I left, he said, ‘Do me a favour, will you?’

‘Do my stretches?’ I guessed.

He gave me a little scowl. ‘Just make an effort,’ he said.

It reminded me of that scene in Naked, when the embittered security guard takes Johnny to a café and tells him, ‘Don’t waste your life’.

‘OK,’ I said.

And so I did. Because it meant a lot to me that this complete stranger had taken the time and the effort to actually get annoyed with me. I was rather touched. So I went into town and I tracked down a copy of She’s Come Undone. And then I came home and I stretched. Then I ate a vat of rice pudding with some choc chip cookies in it, turned on the telly and told Gordon Ramsay, ‘I’ll make an effort in September’.

And I will.

I am.

I’ll show him.

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Misssy M said...

I just think that any doctor who prescribes you a book to read has to be a bit of a genius.

He might have come across as being a bit of a narky git (most doctors are), but he's prescribed you something for your soul. Now, stretch!

Tim Footman said...

He sounds like Laurence Olivier in dentist mode.

dan said...

You say you 'need a good kick up the arse' - it sounds like Dr Payne is delivering the prescribed medicine!

Seriously though, well done for getting back on track - that sounds pretty tricky especially with everything else that's going on. Fingers and toes crossed,

Larry Teabag said...


I'm wondering what the message is for the commenters on this blog. Everyone tends to be very sweet and supportive round here, but if a kick up the arse is what you really need...

So. Put that pudding down and get swimming and stretching, Stan.

Then, afterwards, you can treat yourself to one biscuit. It's already september - so what the hell are you waiting for now?

Anonymous said...

I have an idea for losing weight. Competition (obviously it needn't be with me - you'd do well to pick a real person from the real world) for some sort of prize more sexy and tangible and immediate than 5-7 extra years of life. I lost nearly 6 stone once, but I fucked it all up by eating very, very many biscuits and cakes which I'm now wearing in the form of an Evans-size Robe of Lard. I sometimes make rice pudding because somehow it doesn't seem as bad as eating the contents of a can which is a standard unit clearly intended by Them to feed at least two normal people. And - this is the thing - you have to re-teach your brain about food. Tell yourself that chocolate, rice-pudding, cakes, cream, lard, etc, are actually very poisonous and will make you dangerously ill, except on Saturdays. I'm very cold, my feet are cold, I've been in the rain for hours and I'm delirious. Don't read that book, please, it sounds terrible. (I skimmed some reviews) There are better books to read. I'm so glad you're back. La Biche x

Anonymous said...

"Then I ate a vat of rice pudding with some choc chip cookies in it, turned on the telly and told Gordon Ramsay, ‘I’ll make an effort in September"...umm, color me confused, but that doesn't seem like an effort.

P.S. it's already is September, so instead of watching Gordon Ramsey and eating cookies, get your arse to the gym.

P.P.S. DO YOUR STRETCHES!! It's important to stretch to build muscle strength and elasticity.
Plus, it also feels damn good. So do it!

Anonymous said...

Well, perhaps his compassion free approach was the result of correctly second guessing your want of a kick up the arse, or perhaps this guy is just naturally a prick, but it's my humble opinion that the guy could have done with a little less blind whip cracking and a little more thoughtful putting together of what you were telling him and responding intelligently and with a touch of warmth. That would hardly have prevented him prescribing the book or nudging you more forcibly to do your stretches and swimming, both of which were wise and ultimately kind things to do.

But then again, I am a pansy-ass American, so.

I'm pulling for you in your efforts at improving yourself, and empathizing completely when the efforts get set down and you're feeling bluesy and discouraged.

Keep plugging away, brother.

Unknown said...

"I just think that any doctor who prescribes you a book to read has to be a bit of a genius."
I like the sound of this Payne guy; I bet he is a violently aggressive tennis player at weekends.
As for book recommendations, my pick off the month is 'The Elegance of the Hedgehog'.

Anonymous said...

Wow he sounds scary and rather super actually.
I guess it's time to get a grip huh? ;o)

Anonymous said...

Bete, it's September 3rd. If you do not stay away from the sugar I will personally fly across the pond, find the ugliest man I can and inflict so much pain you'll hear about it in the news.

Anonymous said...

I've just scoffed a large bar of Green and Black's Dark chocolate, whilst reading your missive. *Burp*

Anonymous said...


Do your bloody stretches!

You goddamn lazy mothercocker.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about lacking motivation. I hurt my back a couple of months ago when I (stupidly) tried to move my son's motorcycle when he wasn't home. It fell on me. (I had no idea how heavy it was!)Anyway, after about a month of not being able to stand up straight when getting out of a chair, I saw my doc, who prescribed pool-walking. I kept putting it off. Making excuses. Finally, I started walking in my pool every evening. After just three times, my back felt 100% fine. Why did I put off feeling good for so long? I don't really know. I think it's just human nature. FORCE yourself - You will feel GOOD!

Maria in Oregon

Maureen Sock said...

oh my God! She's Come Undone is one of my favourite books ever! It's funny, beautiful, sad ... it's about a funny, obese teenage girl who grows up with a terrible secret. It's unbelievable that it was written by a bloke, and not an obese teenage girl. It's an awesome book and I think you'll love it. When you've finished you could read I Know This Much Is True by the same author, which is almost as good.

Eloise said...

Tough love is a weird thing... mostly it makes me rebel (I have a problem with being told what to do, even by myself) but sometimes it works much better than people being nice to you. I wish I knew what it is that makes motivation motivating... I want to make an effort too.

Also, yay that you are back! And godspeed. (Sounds better than goodluck, no? Or at least more dramatic. Woo.)

La Bête said...

Misssy M, I agree. I actually thought his narkiness was kind of cool too. I thought ‘Oh boo hoo’ was hilarious.

Tim, quite. ‘Is it stretched? Is it stretched?’

Cheers, Dan. And you Catherine.

Mr Teabag, Selena, Lauren :: it’s OK, I know! This was all last week, remember. This week has been a completely different story. I haven’t been near a sugar puff and I’ve just back from my third session at the gym. Feeling pretty damn pleased with myself as it happens. I could treat myself to a chocolate bar but I’m not gonna. I’m going to have some grapes instead. Good for me.

Cheers, Michael. That looks good, that Hedgehog malarkey. I think I’ll order it.

Pen :: grip got.

tnthsmws, welcome. And shame on you.

Done ‘em, Anon. Did you just call me a mothercocker by the way? I do believe that’s a first. Thank you.

Hello, Maria. Do you have your own pool? Whoa. That’s cool. I bet everyone in Oregon has their own pool. Anyhow, well done for walking in it.

I did love it, Maureen. I really loved it. Looking forward to the second.

Eloise, every time I see your name, the song comes into my head. You must have people singing and humming that tune everywhere you go. Or – equally possible I guess - you really don’t know what I’m talking about. Do you? This.

Anonymous said...

That's so funny as I was reading your reply- I was eating my non-cookie grapes too...

Umm, ok- so I forgot that this blog is currently operating on a time lapse. So I am happy to stand corrected about the gym.

What are you doing at the gym if you don't mind my asking?