Seriously, don’t even bother getting jealous, because here’s all I’ve seen: the inside of an apartment; my computer screen; the rain. The timing of this trip is a little wonky due to a tight deadline for a piece I’m super excited about—news on this later—but suffice it to say, one doesn’t come to Paris to see one’s own words being written and then deleted on a screen.
In the span of three days, I have managed to eat one croissant and a sort of embarrassing amount of paté, so things are looking up.
Also, today I saw this insane osteopath, which is what I’m here to tell you about.
When I came to Paris three years ago in an enormous amount of pain and completely desperate for someone to heal me, the first thing I told Noelle was that I had had surgery and that it had been a failure.
“Don’t you have peasants back in the U.S.?” she asked. She said “paysan” because this whole conversation was being conducted in French, so this might not actually translate as peasant, but suffice it to say, I took her to mean someone with miraculous hands, but no medical training. In other words, someone who would be arrested for touching you back in New York.
Her “paysan”—who turned out to be an osteopath—came highly recommended, so even though I had been traumatized by a particularly bad one in New York who shoved his fingers where they shouldn’t have gone botched my X-Rays, charged me $500 and called me “sweetie,” I went.
M. Balard wore a loose-fitting blue silk shirt and black slacks. His brown hair flopped on either side of his head like a puppy’s ears. Like Noëlle, he didn’t care about MRIs or X-Rays.
The office windows that faced the bustling street were slightly ajar. I stripped down to my bra and underwear—the French don’t believe in gowns—and positioned myself on his table.
His approach was positively acrobatic: He twisted me into positions I was convinced would land me in the ER; he shook my pelvis in a way that even the most adventurous sex never had. One of the most scandalous maneuvers involved me sitting with my legs straddling the table while he stood behind me with his arms wrapped around my torso in a giant, backwards bear hug. Together we would curve to the right, forward and then to the left in a quick, rolling motion, like I was back in a modern dance class. I basically spent the whole session hoping he wouldn’t paralyze me.
He did five or six different crazy things, collected my money, and sent me on my way.
But slowly, I started to feel better, so I returned several times for more.
A week before leaving Paris—I spent two months working with Noëlle—I went for a visit. By then things were on the up—hours or a full day would open up before me uninterrupted by pain. I credited Noëlle and M. Balard in equal measure. My life—or, a life, for this didn’t resemble any life I had had before—was coming back to me. Happiness doesn’t begin to touch the surface of what I felt. Free at last was more like it.
“I need to see you one more time,” I said, opening up my datebook.
“No,” he replied. “We’re done.”
In all my years of forking over enormous sums of cash—and a little piece of my hopeful heart—to healers, never had one of them refused my money.
“Everything is in its right place now,” he said. “Now your body has to teach your mind how to not be in pain anymore.”
My pain pathways, he explained, were overdeveloped, so they would scream at the slightest disturbance. But when these pathways started to understand that there was nothing wrong—the bones and ligaments were now finally where they should be; I was no longer technically “injured”—they would learn to quiet down, and the pain would slowly recede. I literally just had to believe it, to convince my brain that that was true.
It turned out he was right.
So every time I come back to Paris, I go see him and we do our weird acrobatics. Today he told me, with a huge roll of the eyes and this funny “bof” sound the French make, that everything felt so much better than it had three years ago.
This doesn’t mean I’m never in pain—I’m lying in bed as I type this—but it doesn’t last, and I tend to
still panic panic less. There’s hope.