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Reading, writing, rehab

Scott Willoughby

I’ve come to realize that just about everyone I know has been in therapy. No, not the Winona Ryder kind. Former girlfriends notwithstanding, I’m talking about the therapy otherwise known as rehab. And no, not the Robert Downey Junior kind either.But as long as we’re on the subject, it is sort of a funny little linguistics issue. I grew up with a pair of professional psychotherapists as parents (really, I’m not projecting here), for the most part erasing any social taboos associated with words like “therapy,” “shrink,” “basketcase,” “deranged,” “psycho,” or simply “not right in the head.” For instance, the phrase “That boy just ain’t right in the head” was uttered fairly often during my upbringing, as I recall. Mostly talking about my psycho neighbors.Point being, the word therapy comes pretty natural when used in the context of physical healing. Rehab makes me think of Betty Ford.Not to get bogged down in semantics, I’ve been thinking about rehab/therapy a lot lately, or the formal title “Patient Flow Sheet: Steadman*Hawkins Protocol for Open Anterior Stabilization at the Howard Head Sports Medicine Center.” That’s what it says at the top of the page, anyway. I tend to just think of it as a bitch. No, not the Mariah Carey kind.I suppose it’s the good kind of bitch, like a faithful hound trained to fetch your slippers at the end of a long, hard day. Sure, there’s plenty of gnashing teeth and drool in the early stages, but when it’s all said and done, the effort was worthwhile.Insert any hokey clich you like here: The agony and the ecstasy; Best of times, worst of times; Hurts so good. The thing about rehab/therapy is that it’s a necessary evil. Kind of like George W. Bush, only more necessary and less evil.Rehab/therapy is a personal roadmap to peace. Now that I’ve destroyed my body’s geographical equivalent of northern Africa, it’s time to rebuild. There are still bullets to dodge, but ideally, three months from now my disjointed shoulder will be flowing as smooth and freely as an Iraqi oil field. Maybe even smoother.What amazes me is the number of comrades who have been drawn into this axis of evil. As a rule, I tend to shy away from the HHSMC, except for the occasional visit with everyone’s favorite physical therapist, Kathy the Kayaker. That’s mostly because I find the place crowded, and a bit depressing. Sure, folks like Kathy are sweet and upbeat, smiling even as they administer healthy doses of pain in the guise of medicine. But the sheer mass of flesh rolling through her therapeutic den of iniquity makes me miserable. It’s hard for me to think about the genuine suffering those people endure, so I leave it up to trained professionals like Kathy. God bless ’em.Someone commented recently that orthopedic surgery is a right of passage in the Vail Valley. At some point, more than half the cocktail party conversations you have evolve into scar comparisons of knees, backs and shoulders. These are people who have already survived the conflict. Scarred but healed. Rarely do they fail to mention the bitch.Partly for that reason, I’ve come to think of myself as in both therapy and rehab. It seems I’m going to fewer and fewer cocktail parties every day, drinking fewer cocktails, having the same conversation a little less and trying to focus on the positive aspects of my own lame circumstance. Meanwhile, I’m reacquainting myself with hiking, taking advantage of one of the few physical activities that doesn’t stress my upper extremities. I read more, try to study a second language. And I’m already sick of television. If that’s not rehabilitation, I don’t know what is. I’ve even started flossing.Therapy is more specific to the wound. It’s the manipulation that makes you physically whole again, presumably including the mental resolve necessary to take you there. In an effort to maintain said resolve, my personal preference for therapy sessions is in an inspirational environment of the outdoor variety. I hike down to Dowd Chute or the Pine Creek hole on the Arkansas River and attempt to absorb the power and energy they exude, maybe up to the Lionshead Rock or Vail Mountain overlooking the Mount of the Holy Cross. Basically, anyplace far enough away that nobody can hear me cry.There I suffer through the requisite manipulations of the Patient Flow Sheet, tugging at the joint like J.Lo at P.Diddy’s heart. Bend it, twist it, lift it, drop it, then slap some ice on it and stuff it in a sling. The process is agonizing, but we’re both better off in the end.Judging by the prevailing standing room only status of the HHSMC, I suspect there are quite a few of us out there who choose to do our suffering in private, tramping around in the woods with Sport Cords and dental floss. I’m sure the others have found their own little nooks somewhere up around Booth Falls, or maybe they’ve checked into the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. Or it could be I’m just a deranged freak after all.Despite a lifetime of head shrinking, Scott Willoughby will probably never be right in the head. Between therapy sessions he can be reached at snowrite@vail.net.


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