“Just Say No.”

Ah, if only it were that easy.

Just.  Say.  No.

What couldn’t we do, if we could 


Close the door

Turn the page

Start over

No thanks

Don’t want

Done.  With.  That!

Like yesterday, for instance, when the Physical Therapy Assistant insisted that I lie on my back, with a hard piece of half-round foam running the length of my spine.  The idea is to open up my shoulders, which I’ve been guarding because of impingement syndrome.

I’m enthusiastic about getting more function.  I clambered onto the torture platform and lay down on top of the foam thing, expecting to open up and bliss out.

Except that didn’t happen, because the foam thing is hard as a rock.  I wiggled and squirmed trying to find the comfy spot.  There wasn’t any.  It pressed on my tender sacrum and my tender thoracic spine.

“Straighten your spine out!” The Assistant barked. That did it.

“I cannot straighten my spine because my spine…is…not…STRAIGHT!”  

Now other patients in the Physical Therapy room were interested.  A drama!

At a word from the head Physical Therapist, the assistant backed off.  After I had descended from the platform, she led me to a doorway (common PT tool, available to most people who don’t live in a van).  There she demonstrated a doorway-assisted stretch that I hope to be able to do one day, but not when I have recently fallen and can barely move at all.  Nope.  Not doing that.

“What do you MEAN, you’re not doing that?” She screeches, drawing further attention from the Peanut Gallery.

“Just what I said.  What else have you got for me?”

She crosses her arms.  Oh brother.  I’m waiting for the PT Get Tough lecture, but her boss shuts her up in time.

Now she wants to do something with my neck muscles.

“Neck is off limits.  No discussion.”

Too bad my aim was not to give this person an apoplectic fit.  If I had meant to do it, it would have been a tremendous success.  But that was not my aim.

I’m really not in bad shape at all.  Just banged up a bit.  Actually, when I think about it, most of my biffs and bangs were acquired doing things I love to do: occupational injuries due to the business of life, with a large overlay of genetic vulnerabilities.

I can’t say No to my genes.  But I can certainly say No to anyone who doesn’t listen to my concerns, who seeks to intimidate me, to use their position of petty power to try to overrule my ownership of my own person.

“But it’s for your own good!”


On the other hand, what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander, and so on.

I’m not just “a shoulder.”

I’m a person who has lost 2 1/2″ of height over the past two years.  That’s because my spine is kind of disintegrating.  It’s getting a bit pretzel-y.  My years of spine PT are over.  So nope, PT assistant does not get to mess with my neck muscles.

We ended up with simply repeating the exercises the Head Trainer had given me last week.  Whatever.

As I write this I’m thinking about a friend who is very ill.  She’s enduring incredible invasions of her privacy, has lost every vestige of personal space.  People bossing her around from every possible angle.

She can’t “Just say no.”  She can’t Just get up and walk away.

This has to be the hardest thing: to not have the option to Just.  Say.  No.

Leave a comment


  1. in one way or another its the same for everyone in the sense that if I choose not to seek treatment for my mental illness, then I would be removed from SSDI because they would have no medical records to support them paying me cash benefits. or if I chose to move overseas where it is affordable, beautiful and a grand adventure, again I can’t just say no to medicare enrolled doctors and treatments without losing my income and being forced to return stateside.the more one depends on others outside of family and friends, the less one is able to just. say. no. but I’m really glad you said no.

    • You are absolutely right. We have our hands tied in so many different arenas! Once we are “in the system,” and there are many kinds of system, we are bound up with it and its conditions.

      Do you have the bus schedule to Neverland?

  2. I’m glad you told ’em what’s what. What good is it if your shoulder feels slightly better, but you can’t walk because you blasted your spine?

    “No” was my very first spoken word. It remains a favorite (f (now that word really is my favorite) being a “yes” person). Perhaps saying no too many times can come back to nip a person in the arse, eh?

  3. Keep saying no because you know your body better than a bossy PT. Tell her I’m a Dr. I should know grrrrr!

    • Everyone has the right to say NO.

      I know the Physical Therapists are trained to “push through” pain in order to make progress (“no pain, no gain”). On the other hand, there’s pain like “atrophied muscles need to stretch” and there’s pain like “ouch, I have arthritis in my spine and you’re wanting me to do something that will damage me.”

      I had to learn how to say NO to things that would damage me. Now that I know, I will not shut up!!!

  4. You’d think that these folks would understand that the person who knows your body best is you, because you’re the one living with it. I’m sorry to hear that they’re still being unhelpful, Laura, but I’m also glad that you’re still bloody minded enough to keep on standing up for yourself.


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