So, today I popped my reflexology cherry. I jumped into the world of alternative therapy with both feet (literally) and spent an hour this afternoon fluctuating between a state of complete relaxation (where, to be honest I had moments of panic as I thought I’d started to nod off and drool) and overheating beneath two hot towels and a large hot stone (on my solar plexus, apparently).
It started off painfully as my therapist firmly manipulated my big toes to release some tension in my head (I think). That bit hurt. A lot. The rest of it was rather lovely and I have felt a little spaced out for the rest of the afternoon. I must admit to being a bit of a sceptic when in comes to alternative stuff and I did worry slightly about someone being that close to my feet! They were scrubbed until they were glowing red this morning, so concerned was I that she would take one look at my feet and send me on my way. It’s like when you go for a leg or bikini wax – you simply close your eyes and repeat over and over again in your head, “She’s seen worse. She’s seen worse. She’s seen worse.” It’s like being a kid again and thinking that if you close your eyes no one can see you (the only way to get through a smear test too by the way!). Growing up with a medically trained doctor dad and now married to a man who believes in science and who is a complete disbeliever in anything unproven, I wasn’t sure what to expect or whether it would work for me, but I was willing to try anything what with the stress and tension I have felt over the past few months. And I must say, I am glad I did and I will definitely try it again in the future.
I have always been willing to give stuff a go. I remember going to see a medium, probably 17 years or so ago now. My sister, our good friend Liz and I looked someone up in the Yellow Pages (remember that?) and went to this woman’s house in Bradford somewhere. We all had a reason to go….I’d just moved home after splitting up with a boyfriend, Liz, if I remember rightly was also having boyfriend worries and Emma was about to set off on her year-long travels around Australia. So, off we went on a dark, wet winter’s night. She lived in a very normal semi and was probably in her 50’s. A large, buxom, matronly figure whose husband said hello to us as we walked past the living room door and followed her into the kitchen. I can’t remember which of us went first for our reading, mine and Emma’s readings were pretty forgetful. She asked us if we had siblings (she clearly had not recognized with her all-seeing internal eye that we were sisters!) and once we’d told her about our family connection and that we had a brother, she very dramatically deduced that he had dark brown eyes. Well done Sherlock! I think she was expecting a round of applause or something the way she closed her eyes and furrowed her brow to gather that bit of information from beyond the grave….Emma and I just stared at her in disbelief, given that both of us have dark brown eyes we were not impressed. Then it was Liz’s turn. “Do you want to get married one day?” she asked my lovely friend.
“Yes, one day,” replied Lizzy.
“Well, you’re not going to,” she told her, bluntly. “Do you want children?”
“Uhhh…yes, one day,” Liz answered, a bit more hesitantly now.
“Well, you’re not going to have any children,” she informed her. “You will live somewhere in Asia and you will be in a long term relationship with an Asian man and he will have a large mole on his bottom.”
We left not long after that, after parting with £15 each and Liz was, understandably quite upset. We took her to the pub and within an hour we were laughing about it. For the record, Liz has been married for ten years to the very un-Asian Danny. They have a very handsome son and a beautiful daughter. To my knowledge (and I think I would have been told at some point over our 20+ year friendship) Danny does not have a mole on his bottom. What a charlatan she was!
Back at the beginning of Mum’s dementia journey I remember talking to my mum one day, at the request of my dad actually. She was so angry, so argumentative, so tetchy and unhappy. Nothing we did was ever right, she would have a go at any one of us for the slightest thing, comments under her breath, snide comments. “Nothing is ever right for you is it, Sarah?” she snapped at me once when I popped into the shop on our way past because I fancied some flavoured crisps and Mum only ever bought plain ready salted crisps, which just didn’t quite hit the mark as an accompaniment to my red wine. Trivial I know, but it was the straw that broke my camel hump that day and I made her talk to me. I made her sit on the sofa and I made her tell me why she was being so mean. I told her I understood that she had insecurities from her childhood, that she felt inferior and she was lonely and missed her family (all things that have been recurring themes with her throughout her life) but that she couldn’t carry on behaving like this. That she was snapping at those who loved her most in the world and we wanted to know why. What could we do to help her? What did she need from us to help her find the old mum again? Where was my fun-loving, happy mum?
She cried. I cried. We talked for hours and she was so grateful that I’d raised it with her. She felt lost and depressed and unworthy and I really thought we’d cracked it – that with a bit of help from a counsellor or a psychotherapist to address her insecurities and feelings of being unloved and unworthy I’d have my old mum back. Little did we know, that this was very likely the early stages of dementia and no alternative therapies, no talking therapies or even hard words from me could stop the connections in her brain from slowly dying.
But, we didn’t know did we? We didn’t have a clue what was approaching and so she tried a number of different things. Talking therapies, facials to help relax her, shoulder and neck massages to help relieve tension…Dad bought her some new golf clubs and booked her in for some private lessons to try and get her confidence back up and get her out on the course again. Nothing worked, not long-term anyway. I’m sure the massages and facials and the talking helped her feel better in that moment, but no amount of talking or of relaxing treatments is going to stop the spread of diseased blood vessels in her brain.
I have just spoken to my parents. I told my dad about my reflexology experience today and he is keen to get Mum booked in for some. Apparently Alzheimer’s Scotland have a centre that offers alternative therapies, including reflexology, but it is 35 miles away near Glasgow, so instead he will have to look for someone locally. Part of me is now a little concerned about how Mum will be in a small room with a stranger rubbing away at her feet for an hour. How will she respond or behave? Will it disorientate her? Will she be agitated over where Stephen is? Will she try to leave half way through and go home? Will she get aggressive or will she accept the therapy calmly and even enjoy it? Then the other part of me, the part of me that still sometimes closes my eyes and pretends I am invisible thinks, “F**k it! Surely she’ll have seen worse!”