About a year and a half ago, Mrs. A (my therapist) asked me if I would consider trauma/touch massage therapy. I immediately said “NO!, NOPE!, and NEVER!
About 6 weeks ago, I woke up one day and decided that I needed to do this to help get past some of my fears and bad memories. However, I couldn’t imagine allowing someone to touch me for any amount of time and being able to stay present and not fall apart.
For probably the last 15 years or more, I have not had any physical contact in an intimate relationship without numbing with alcohol. It literally was the only way I could keep the flashbacks and fears at bay. I needed the alcohol to up my confidence and relax enough to want to be touched.
Flash forward to the days leading up to the massage. I was anxious and nervous and terrified at times. I had an intake appointment with “D”, and we discussed a brief overview of my trauma as well as what to expect during the massage. We decided ahead of time that I would be fully dressed and totally in control of the amount of pressure, areas to be massaged, etc. We looked at the massage table and chair and got a feel for the office layout. I felt a little more at ease until a few days before the massage.
The massage was scheduled for a Friday at 12:30pm. I started worrying on Wednesday. (not that it ever left my mind for any amount of time.) Part of me thought it would be fine, because I’m an adult and I’m safe. I am in control of all that happens to me now. The other part of me knew that I was never good at speaking up for myself and placing boundaries around my body. My “freeze” response never really left other than the times that my “flight” response took over. The “fight” response was never really in my vocabulary. I just put up with anything and everything physical that happened to me. Besides, I was usually able to dissociate and leave the room anyway.
The morning of the massage, I paced and worried, and felt nauseated all morning. I rehearsed in my head what I would do or how I would act during the massage at least 1 million times. Still, I had no idea what would happen.
I am so fortunate that my Mrs. A agreed to go with me the first time. She offered the first time she mentioned the massage way back when and I did not forget. So, I asked her to go with me now that I have finally made up my mind to do it. I felt really safe having both of these incredible women with me and yet I felt so childish and immature. It’s a massage for God’s sake. It’s not like I’m going to the death chamber. Anyway, there they were, and I couldn’t have asked for two more perfect people to accompany me to this monumental event.
As we started, I immediately felt shame as I put my face in the head rest. How many times did I hide my face because I was trying to avoid appearing scared? Then, as “D” started, I was immediately triggered by her moving my hair to the side. Why didn’t I think of my hair being in the way? I immediately felt sick and wanted to run, but I was determined to stay in that chair until the end.
The rest of the massage, I forgot that I was supposed to enjoy getting a massage. I spent those moments trying to get my breath. I was trying to stop crying. I was so embarrassed. Midway through, she began to massage my back. I started to hyperventilate. Those that have followed my blog will remember that my uncle would give me massages under my shirt in front of his wife and kids and no one thought it was odd. I could feel him standing behind me. I started to feel confused. Was the person rubbing my back “D” or him? Was this the past or the future? I had to block out everything at that moment. A few moments of dissociation never hurt anyone, right?
Throughout the whole massage, Mrs. A kept checking in to see if I was ok. She asked me what I was thinking and feeling. Honestly, it wasn’t easy to answer because of the tears and worrying about my face being a literal wet, snotty mess. Face down position is not ideal for crying.
Finally, “D” started to touch my arms and for some reason it felt comforting. I endured the “back massage” and was just so relieved that it was over. I felt my body starting to relax and let go of the fears and tension.
As she finishes, she stepped out of the room so Mrs. A and I could talk. I felt angry, and scared, and sad, and confused, and I don’t know what else. Mrs. A said she was so proud of me and asked me if I wanted to say anything. What I said, amazed even me. I said, “I am so angry that this happened to me”. And then, I said, “I didn’t deserve it”.
What??? Was that me? I had never said that out loud. I always felt that I probably did deserve it in some way and that I was never good enough for anyone. I also got very panicked, and asked Mrs. A to never give up on me. How embarrassing!! I always think that she would prefer to work with a client that is more mature and adult-like than myself and that she had to get annoyed with me on many, many occasions.
By the way, my legs took all the stress and I felt weak when I first stood up. I held them so tense and tight that they hurt for a couple of days.
In conclusion, I survived. I felt like that is all I did was survive. But I did, nonetheless. I’m planning my second visit, but I intend to go alone. I also intend to try and enjoy it. But even saying that makes me feel creepy and guilty.
I’m trying hard Ya’ll. (As we say in the south). One day a massage will be a normal part of my life. Or will it?
Until next time – I am being MJ every day.