When I think of a massage, I fondly remember a swedish I had in highschool. The massage therapist used aromatherapy and a very light touch, and the combination lulled me into a drowsy semi conscious state. If you glance further down the menu of over priced spa treatments, underneath "seaweed wrap" and just above the "medical massage" is a deep tissue also known as sports massage, sounds harmless? It's not. An obvious option for those who enjoy a little pain every now and then. According to its description, its best for those of us who have a few, shall I say, kinks, to work out. Kinks that make it hard to walk with a spring in the step because you have tension that weighs you down, its not so much the weight of the world (well, unless your clark kent) but the weight of your world. Emotional, psychological stress can turn you into a big ball of unrelieved tension, so I hear. I experienced my first deep tissue massage not long ago and kept thinking "Uh, people pay for this?" No happy endings here.
Barebacked and a bit sciddish, it was clear that the strangest places were the most painful, held the most tension, and provided the greatest release. Following the curve of my muscles, the massage therapist found particular spots that felt so tender that I would twitch uncontrollably in response. You'd think I was a bruised peach - maybe I am. I've been known to wake up in the morning with a series of bruises and scrapes of unknown origin.
There were times when the pressure beneath her finger tips felt so monumental that all I wanted to do was grab her hand and rip it away, jump off the table and hide. First I'd like my clothes back. I wanted to tell her to leave me and my big balls of knotted muscle alone - I'll use them to jump off this table, run a hot bath and drink a glass (or bottle) of wine. I wanted to cry. Each area of my body had spun its own web of stress, and it ached. She promptly located my marble-like lymph nodes running down the sides of my neck - the physical proof of my turbluent junior year in nursing school and the many physical manifestations that accompanied the emotional and psychological deconstruction of myself. One infection promptly followed by another, followed by several others, treated with buckets of antibiotics. To be specific. She said my shoulders were as hard as my neck, they both required more time and effort, would I mind if she went over the allotted time? These uncooperative parts of my body demanded more elbow grease on her part, and a higher pain tolerance on mine. And so, while I was having someone's body weight work out my multitude of kinks, I drew a comparison to lying naked on a massage table wanting to cry, and my life.
Physical pain makes us all react, I pull away from it and sometimes I whimper. When I run into walls, I usually swear like a sailor and laugh at my clumsiness. But to be perfectly frank, I prefer the physical kind to any other. I'd rather wake up with scrapes and bruises than tears. And so is the case with somatic disorders (psych nursing 101), the physical manifestation of emotional distress serves as a preoccupation, a socially and self acceptable reaction. We would like to blame our bodies for everything gone wrong, must have been your physical self that's haywire -- because it is so much easier to diagnose a broken arm than a broken heart. I'd rather point to a dark spot on my shin and say "see, this is where it hurts!" than to talk about the kind of hurt you can't point to, that's hard to identify, that you wish would disappear, that you can't begin to understand. Sometimes with distraction and sheer optimism, it can, but it can also resurface - and like a storm gaining momentum over water - by the time you work it out, the enduring hurt might dissuade you from any attempt at resolution.
I won't compare a spa treatment to walking on hot coals or basic military training -- but I'll compare it to the parts of myself and the events in my life that make me hurt. I will compare it to the problems we finally address, sooner or later, the things we decide to fix with whatever tools we may be equipped with, like a pair of lubed up hands and a lot of upper body strength. Or communication. Or writing. When I strip away the many things that preoccupy my mind, the relationships or stressors that I can so easily point to - the bruises - when there is nothing left to do but look inside and not out. What I find in there might hurt, getting past that may feel like burning embers. I can either run away from it, point to something or someone else or even pretend it's not there. Naked on a massage table, I surrendered to the truth that the pain of working it all out out would be the best for the physical me, that is before I transformed into a big ball of maddening stress and discomfort. Surprisingly, I got off the table feeling light as a feather, and strangely emotional. If working out the kinks inside yields the same result, it's well worth it.