Today was my second round of Thai Massage. My yoga teacher wanted to count today as my third since technically we did do Thai Massage this past weekend in yoga teacher training. However, because my primary goal in that experience was to not dissociate, have a flashback, cry, or feel like I needed to hurt myself, I don’t really count it. I was much more focused on just staying alive than I was on the actual massage.
Today = Round 2
If you read my post earlier, you know that I was walking into this massage with a lot more anxiety than I had in my first session. In my first session, I was primarily anxious about the massage itself. I was also anxious over issues within my marriage. There was some trauma work going on, but mainly just another read-through of memories that had come up. This time, it was a whole different scenario. The marriage stuff is still stressful, but it’s actually been put on the back burner for now as I sort through trauma stuff. Yesterday, I worked in my sand tray in therapy and yet again hit that wall of “I can’t keep the little girl safe.” We started talking about anger and how I really want to be angry at my abuser, but it’s like there is a block there. I worked some last night and this morning on trying to write down what things might be “ok” to feel angry about towards my abuser. My anxiety numbers were instantly at a 10.
If you read the post I wrote yesterday morning, you know that I am torn between the past and present right now. I see my younger self hurting and I want to protect her, but I can’t. At the same time, my present self is mostly ok, and I want that for my younger self too…. but I can’t make that happen.… or so I thought.
I walked into Thai Massage with all of the above racing through my head; again that battle between past and present. I was so anxious today that I was literally shaking uncontrollably. The shaking didn’t stop when the massage started, it simply just moved into different parts of my body.
Similar to the last session, my yoga teacher started at my feet and worked her way up. This time, the tears didn’t come right away. However, once they came, it felt like the tears were never going to end. So many trauma memories, sensations, and emotions came up this time. Last time, all of the memories that came up for me were ones that had taken place outside in the woods. I thought it was strange that those were what came up, but I didn’t put a lot of thought to it. This time, it started in a similar way.
The first memory that came up is one of my worst memories – the very first time he had sex with me. I see the girl, 9 years old, leaves underneath… and the sky is so blue and beautiful today… I watch as he rips everything from her…. fear and panic overtake. As the memory came up, I tried to just allow it to surface. I could feel my body stuck in this place of wanting to tense up with fear and disgust, but also wanting to relax as my yoga teacher pressed her fingers into my feet. It was like I was stuck between the past and the present. In this moment, she is treating that little girl with the love and care that she deserved. And that is where the tears came from. The memory changed from one of terror, to one of care. It was as if the little girl from the memory was laying on the mat having her feet carefully massaged by my yoga instructor. The sensation of the leaves under my hands, him pressing on my thighs…it’s gone…and I’m ok.
As my yoga teacher worked her way up my legs, more memories came up. As the memories came up, so did the emotions. Throughout the session, she cued me to take cleansing breaths, which helped me stay present. All-in-all, I processed through at least three complete memories, and several partial memories. The three that came up were, what I consider, my three worst memories. They are the ones that are either really significant (the first time he had sex with me), or excruciatingly painful…. the kind of pain that the body holds forever. I didn’t push the memories away this time; I really felt them. I don’t think I had a complete flashback, but I felt like I was little again. The memories changed from fear and anxiety and pain (physical and emotional), to suddenly the little girl is getting what she needs. She feels safe and cared for; she feels loved and important; she is ok.
Let that sink in for a second….
It is the very first time I have felt like my younger self is ok.
I understand that rationally I was not ok when I was little, and horrible things happened to me, but Thai Massage today ended up being all about healing those wounds. It bridged that gap between past and present. And it was evident because the shaking did eventually stop. I was able to be flat on the mat, my body sinking into it, without shaking.
Now there’s a second difficult component of Thai Massage for me, and that is the self-injury piece. My yoga teacher asked me if she could work on my arms today. I thought it was considerate of her to ask, especially since I had already clearly had some emotional experiences in our session. Of course I told her it was fine.
So here we are – on my left arm, with all of the scars and pain. Everything from hiding under the bed while my dad beats the shit out of his girlfriend, to going through withdrawal from oxycontin came up this time. Again, I didn’t push them away – I allowed the memories to surface. I felt my body tense up and the shaking begin again. Please make this stop; please don’t touch them; I’m horrible; scarred and worthless. I don’t deserve to be touched with compassion. The thoughts raced. And when they finally stopped, and I could just be, the tears came. So many tears. Even more than last time. And those tears were accompanied by an unbelievable fear of being alone. It wasn’t until my yoga teacher told me to “take a deep breath in and then let it go” that I realized I was gripping onto her hand. Please don’t leave me.
This experience made me realize that in addition to the pain and shame, my scars hold isolation; they represent times when I was utterly and completely alone. I know that rationally it is unlikely that I will ever feel that alone again. However, today the fear of being back in that place was strong enough to take my breath away. It consumed my entire body. And when I took a deep breath in and let it go, and subsequently let go of my yoga teacher’s hand, I felt the release.
The rest of my Thai Massage was probably a pretty normal experience. I had huge knots in my upper back that she worked out. I had one of the best savasana’s ever. And, I was calm – physically and mentally calm. I was ok.
Today’s Thai session was exhausting. Allowing myself to really sit with and process through everything that came up, instead of stuffing it back down, was draining. At the same time, I feel a sense of release and serenity. My yoga teacher said it is like she is smushing out all of the things as they come up. I agreed with her. That is exactly what it feels like. And with each cleansing breath I take, I make a little more space in my body for new, lighter energy. For the first time in days, I feel normal again. I feel like I can function in the world without being anxious. And for the first time ever, I feel like maybe, just maybe, the little girl that he hurt for all of those years is ok.