Today I had my tenth Thai Massage. It had been exactly 31 days since my last one. Given my typical schedule of Thai Massage sessions and the amount of stress I have been dealing with, 31 days was a very long time. I was eager for this session, but also anxious about it. My therapist is out of town this week, and while I do have an individual session set up with the therapist who was my marriage counselor, it’s not the same. I knew I needed to allow some things to come up during this Thai session, but I didn’t want things to get too overwhelming because it’s important that I feel at least semi-safe while my shrink is gone.
Our session began by discussing where I am right now with life. This discussion came at a perfect time really. Last night, I stayed at the house with my ex. He and I are not back together, but I needed to get some things done in that part of town this weekend and, truthfully, I really miss my bed. Despite my request, he refuses to sleep in the guest bed while I’m there. Last night, he rolled over in bed and wrapped his arm around me to cuddle…. but he never really wants to just cuddle. I shrugged him off and he got irritated. I said it makes things complicated and we shouldn’t have sex. His response took me by surprise (I get that it probably shouldn’t). He said that I shouldn’t spend the night anymore if I’m not going to allow him to have sex with me. Even though I pay $600 a month for the mortgage, he doesn’t think I should stay there since I won’t fuck him. There is so much wrong with this situation. He shouldn’t expect me to sleep with him, but especially given my trauma background and all I have been through in my life, where sex was not an option, it is wrong for anyone to use sex against me like that. I don’t think I would’ve recognized that a year ago, or even six months ago; but now, I see it. I understand it. I value myself more than I value pleasing him.
So, pre-Thai Massage, we got through that discussion, a discussion about my stressful job, and a discussion about dating.
When the massage started, my instructor began on my feet. This time, I did not have my usual trauma memories come up. There were no memories about the woods this time. This was relieving. However, instead I had a new memory surface. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a new memory – months, possibly even a year. All of my memories are essentially the same, so I know that it doesn’t change anything. Still, the idea of having yet another memory of abuse makes me feel physically sick; it makes my tummy hurt. I did not spend a lot of time with the snapshots of memory that I acquired today. I did not try to put the pieces together. When a new memory surfaces, it’s like someone dumps out a 1,000 piece puzzle onto a table, and just gives you a couple of pieces to look at. It can take me weeks to put it all together. The last new memory that surfaced, I chose not to put the pieces together. That is essentially what I have done today. When my therapist returns, I will probably work a little more on putting this one together, but for now, it’s better I leave all of the pieces on the table.
Throughout the session, my instructor helped me stay present. She talked to me about what I was feeling and cued my breath. This was so incredibly helpful. I would find myself drifting into a memory or into the angry thoughts and feelings I have been having. But before I drifted too far, her voice would bring me back. It made me concentrate on the present moment instead of getting lost in the past.
One of the things that I really noticed in this session is how completely disconnected my mind and body are when trauma stuff comes up. I had such a difficult time feeling my instructor pressing on my legs and arms when my trauma stuff was coming up. It makes sense, but I don’t know how to change it. I don’t know how to process through the trauma stuff during my Thai Sessions, but also stay connected to the present moment.
During arms, I felt myself getting sentimental about my scars. Even though I stayed present for this part of the massage (thanks to my instructor’s efforts), I felt an overwhelming sadness. There are so many scars. I had a difficult time feeling her hand on them. She is the only person I willingly allow to touch them. I will celebrate two years without cutting on December 7th. That’s 730 days. That’s such a long time. I miss it. I know that sounds crazy. But I do. I miss the release, the control, the numbness. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever do it again. I know that if I slip up, it will be bad. Historically, when I have gone a number of days without cutting and slipped up, the relapse is not just a couple of cuts, it’s my entire arm. I know that if I relapse this time, it will likely be the same. Even though I miss it, I love where I am in life right now; I love the person that I have become and the work that I have done to get here. I am proud of myself. I am proud of my accomplishments, my strength, and my willingness to keep growing.
While my instructor massaged my right arm, I asked her about the benefits of Thai Massage on the belly. I have had so many issues with control lately. This has transpired into me controlling things like food and bathroom. I mentioned this in this post, but it’s like “I need to _________(insert basic need here), but I don’t want to, so I’m not going to.” My therapist says it’s like the same type of regression she sees in small children. I know that this is bad. It’s bad for my digestive system. I feel it. So, I allowed my instructor to massage my belly today. It was different. I didn’t have any flashbacks or anything. I tried to just focus on what she was touching. There was one point where the palm of her hand was nestled in a space between my ribs and belly button. All of the pressure she applied was so grounding. I could’ve stayed like that forever.
After having my belly massaged, it was time for chimes. I had requested to just do them once this session because I didn’t think I could handle doing them twice. I was right. As soon as they started, my body filled with fear and anger. I was laying on my stomach and my instructor was pressing on my back. I knew she was there but I couldn’t feel her. I wanted more. More weight. She could’ve laid on top of me and it still wouldn’t have been enough. I wanted enough weight to keep me from breathing. It must have been obvious that my breath was nonexistent. My instructor cued me to breathe with her throughout the remainder of the chimes track. The whole room was fuzzy. I couldn’t talk. I wanted to. I wanted to tell her how scared I was and how much I didn’t want her to leave me. Looking back, that’s an irrational fear. I know she wouldn’t turn the chimes on and leave me. And if she did, I know I could turn them off. But rational thoughts didn’t matter in that moment. In that moment, I was so little again. Six. And I was terrified. I watch as he puts something inside of her for the very first time. Instantly my mind goes to all of the other memories. The dinosaurs and nightlight and woods. It’s like a flood of memories coming in all at once. And then it’s time for child’s pose. And in my head I’m pleading her not to leave me. She doesn’t. I can feel her pressing on my back. I’m shaking so much that the tears refuse to fall. I need to cry but I can’t figure out how to make it happen. And for a split second, I could see the six year old me laying on the bolster in child’s pose having her back rubbed. I could see my instructor touching her back with so much care and compassion. No child deserves to go through bad things; they all deserve to be touched the way that my instructor touches me. And then it stopped. The chimes stopped. My instructor went to the bathroom. I don’t know how much time passed. When she returned, she sat down next to me and said she was just going to breathe with me. And then the tears came. I could feel the anger and shame and hurt release in all of my tears. For a moment, I thought my instructor had her hands on my back again, but I couldn’t feel her to know for sure. I was so disconnected from the present moment, but as the release happened, I gradually became more aware. It’s not fair. What I went through, what so many other kids go through, it’s not ok; it’s not fair. I have to work so hard every day to function. It makes me angry. It makes me angry that he hurt me like that. It makes me angry that no one stopped it. It makes me angry that it took me until I was 29 years old to learn what compassionate touch looks and feel like.
When I sat up, finally ready to move on from those memories and emotions, it was time for shoulders. Shoulders and savasana. I was still struggling to stay present. I felt numb: emotionally and physically numb. My body was still processing the experience with chimes and the memories and feelings that had come up. And even now, 4 hours later, my body is still processing it.
Our session ended with namaste and a hug. I felt little again. As my instructor wrapped her arms around me, it was like she was hugging the six year old Little Jen – the girl who needed so much support but was completely on her own. There is a level of healing that I get from Thai Massage that I can’t get from my therapist. There is a true connection between past and present. While I know that it will take me time to process what came up today, I feel like there has been at least some release, some shift in my healing process. Tonight, I feel safe from my past for the first time in weeks. As always, I have so much gratitude for my instructor. Without that level of trust, care, and compassion, this work would not be possible.