When Ressy hijacked me in her car, boy did I kick up a fuss.
Ressy is my wife, but that that doesn’t mean I follow her blindly. She has an obsession with health and a compulsion with nutrients and I must stay on guard. Mung beans are her potato chips. She visits the chiropractor like other women visit the spa. She spent $30 — thirty — on an organic papaya. I guess, though, I should tell you why she bought it in the first place.
There I sat, buckled into our Honda Odyssey, because Ressy issued a “Let’s talk” order, and she was behind the wheel. Instead of the usual scenic throughway we take whenever we need to smooth out an issue, we were surrounded by towering skyscrapers and the honk and din of Manhattan.
I had known Ressy would want to talk after last night. It had been an unusually hard day for me. My boss didn’t realize what a good job I was doing under difficult conditions. He came down really heavy. When I came home, Ressy was busy serving dinner to the children, and she barely listened to me. And that wasn’t right, I told her. Husband before children, isn’t that the order of priorities?
Ressy went all cold and she wasn’t even there for me later, when I started punching my pillow to vent my frustration. She walked out the house, so I followed her and blocked her way. So then this morning, she didn’t say a word. Until she picked me up from Shacharis and instead of driving me home, or even out into the wide open spaces, we were stuck in Manhattan’s snarl.
“Why are we here?” We stopped at a red light and people bobbed across the street.
“We’re going to Dr. Frey.” Ressy’s shoulders leaned in on the steering wheel.
“Who’s this Frey guy?”
“A chiropractor,” she said simply, glancing at me before turning back to the traffic light.
“I don’t need one,” I said, putting on the smile that usually wins my way.
But she ignored me.
“You’ve been doing well for the last few weeks, but I want you to be well. I want you to be healthy, completely healed.”
She was talking, of course, about my emotional state, which fluctuated from down in the depths to up in the heavens, crashing and rising like a broken barometer. I’ve used every medication the psychiatrist has in his bag of tricks, some with better results than others. I’ve been fat, lethargic, angry, (lethal), drugged, bugged, everything.
But now I was doing fine. Not too many outbursts. No swaying, rocking (just a little), crying. I went out to my job and brought home a paycheck. Six weeks had passed on a plateau, neither dipping sharply nor rising like the inflated economy. I was fine.
But I must grant it to Ressy, she’s an eishes chayil if ever there was one. She’s been by my side and tried to understand, even though anyone who’s never tried mental illness can’t possibly understand. She’s tolerated my daily bawling and thrashing, my angry outbursts. She kept up cheerful banter when I stared into the depths of space, my eyes focused on an unseen dot. She laughed with me good-naturedly when I told her my belief that henceforth I’m earning a six-figure wage. But at some point, even the deepest well of patience runs dry.
And then, late last night when I’d finally calmed down, she said, “It’s your illness or me. Choose which one you want to live with.”
This was no threat. This was for real.
So today, I stopped protesting and followed her into the elevator. We came in to Dr. Frey’s office, we sat. “Drugs do not provide inner healing,” Dr. Frey explained in his doctor’s voice.
Ressy nodded with zest.
“Upon passing toxic loads out of your system the innate mechanisms of your body are able to do what it knows to do … heal itself.”
“Can you say that in English?” I asked warily.
“Basically,” Ressy jumped to defend the doctor, “the body is designed to heal itself. When toxins are removed, the body can do what it knows best.” She looked up at the doctor. We all nodded to each other.
Dr. Frey bade me to hold out my hand. He asked questions and pushed my arm down for the answer. I focused on disproving him, holding my hand strong while the answer was false, so that it wouldn’t fall. It didn’t work. He got his answers, and after a while, swiveled his chair around and scribbled noisily.
He handed us a grocery length list of vitamins, homeopathic drops, and nutritious food. Ressy grabbed the list and thanked the doctor profusely. I merely nodded and left.
“We’re going right over to the health food store,” Ressy informed me as we got into the car. This time, I took the driver’s seat. “Let’s see,” she perused the list.
“Just a second.” I held up my hand and pressed the gas, even though I’m usually a careful driver. “What got this idea into your head?”
“My brother’s cousin is a new person after Dr. Frey’s treatment. That’s enough to make me try.”
I rolled my eyes. Why didn’t she ever listen when study after study said coffee is good for you? “I’m doing fine,” I insisted.
“You were not fine last night,” she said. “This treatment is your last hope for staying.” I could see her chin set in its most determined pose.
I sighed but kept my lips tight, pensive. Did I really have to submit to Third World medicine?
“I deserve a healthy husband. Do it for me,” she said.
For her, I’d do anything. Like she would do (read: does) anything for me. And I sure did want to stay. So we walked the aisles of the health food store with a giant shopping cart, as a $30 organic papaya was placed inside, along with yams, chestnuts, organic seaweed, and a load of vitamins.
As we rang up our purchases, the cashier offered to deliver. No, Ressy said, she wanted to take it now. I sighed. There was no getting out of this.
I have to hand it to her — Ressy spent hours preparing all these foods. I ate it grudgingly. Some of the textures made me gag, but I couldn’t just ignore Ressy’s efforts — and the threat hanging over my family.
Two days later, I sneaked home a chocolate bar. Ressy flushed it down the toilet in a fit of frustration. “Don’t you want your detox to work? Don’t sabotage it.”
If I was convinced it would work, I’d have been more careful. Still, I decided to leave my noshing for the office.
The following week, we returned to Dr. Frey’s office. This time, although I was reluctant to go, I didn’t need to be kidnapped. Something about the doctor’s logic rang true.
“You’ve been on medication for seven years, and you’re still in to the same place,” he said. He was right. “You’re doing fine. But you’re in a rut. You could be doing so much better. You could be healed.”
It sounded like a nice promise, so I sat through the session. This time, the doctor used acupressure and spinal adjustments. While he worked, he explained.
I walked out of the office that day on light steps. I know I risk sounding like Ressy, but I felt good, as if I was walking into a spring day after a long hibernation. The air was sweet, Manhattan’s traffic was vibrant, and I felt better than I had in a long time.
I continued my regimen of vitamins and weird food, but I stopped cheating. I was convinced by the good energy I felt, and I wanted to make this work. I started taking my vitamins religiously. Ressy was doing her bit, too — chopping foods and making them palatable
By the time the ninth session rolled around, we had tackled my fluctuating blood sugar levels. I was sleeping less, communicating more, and being the person I had always believed I could be but had never become. I was nearly on a high, but a fresh stream kind of high, not the spurting lava high that I’m used to.
Now, Ressy sang out loud while she worked in the kitchen, and her feet skipped on the floor tiles. She shared an incident that happened at work, and it reminded me of the early days when she trusted me with her feelings.
I went back to my psychiatrist who took my blood work. My hormone levels were normal. He adjusted my meds and stopped one of them. My general endocrinologist shrugged when he got back my blood work, and took me off insulin.
At home, I sat at the dinner table, listening to my children’s day while forking kasha and liver into my mouth. I tuned into the names of their friends and teachers and what each one said or did. I felt part of things, alive.
Ressy and I took walks and played games, and I felt like we were dating again. We stopped to admire the supermarket’s new storefront and we spoke about little things, those grains of sand that build a mountain of trust.
At work, my boss stopped criticizing me. When he did, we both joked about it and I went back to the screen, erasing, recalculating, and doing my stuff. I was proud and I was strong.
Look, I’m a success case. As someone who didn’t totally join Ressy’s alternative camp, even though I saw she was right, I’m not going around convincing people to go natural. But I can tell you, the difference between inner health and piling on drug after drug after drug to make me feel kind of normal is like the difference between a florescent lamp and the sun.
Papaya has become a code word in our family. It means hope. Ressy and the kids are happy — and so am I. They are no longer victims. Nor am I. And all because Ressy was strong enough to terrorize me into health.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 332)
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