Today I had my 9th Thai Massage. It’s hard to believe I’ve already had nine sessions! During today’s session, I found myself reflecting on the difference between my first couple of sessions and this one. In my first sessions, the memories felt so intense when they came up. Now that I’m almost 10 sessions in, that usually isn’t the case. Those really difficult memories that came up in my first few sessions still come up now, but not as frequently and not nearly as intense. Even if I dissociate now during those memories in Thai Massage, I can easily bring myself back or be brought back by my instructor. There were definitely parts of today’s session where I found myself just enjoying the massage. This is pretty amazing. I remember when I first started, I was worried about never being able to just enjoy positive touch.
Not all of today’s session was easy though. The session began with my instructor massaging my feet while a track of wind chimes played in the background. I was anxious about this prior to the session. I have been having such a difficult time with this memory. The memory came up as she was massaging my feet. I felt my chest get tight and it was difficult to breathe. I tried to focus on the pressure on my feet. I tried to lengthen my exhales and relax from the crown of my head to my toes. It was difficult, but for the most part, I remained present.
When she was finished with my feet, my instructor changed the music to our typical playlist and worked her way up my legs. As she massaged the bottom half of my legs, I felt the calm take over. I am ok. I laid on the mat, in awe of how relaxed I was.
Then the session shifted for me again. My instructor moved up between my legs to massage my quads. I know that my instructor is safe. I know that she isn’t going to hurt me. But it doesn’t matter. My body automatically reacts: I’m in the woods. Pants off. He’s so heavy. It’s cold out but the sun is warm. The memory played in my head and I felt numb. My instructor tried to cue me back to the present moment, but I knew that what I was feeling was not what was actually happening to my body. Eventually, the memory passed. Even though I struggled to stay present when the memory came up, I know it wasn’t as dysregulating as it was in my first couple of Thai Massage sessions.
I did mostly ok as my instructor worked into my IT band and other parts of my legs. When we got to the stretches that cause that “opening sensation,” I did a good job of staying present at first. However, as the stretch continued, I found it too exhausting to prevent the memory from coming up. I felt my entire body give in all at once. I felt the shaking and the pain. I saw my younger self sitting by the nightlight with my abuser. I’m so little. What happens next in this memory is too terrible for me to ever share anywhere other than my therapist’s office. But when my instructor asked me what I was feeling at that moment, I felt this internal struggle of needing to get out the words to describe the memory and also needing to suppress the shame, pain, and fear. I fought back tears and tried to focus just on the present. What I was feeling was not what was actually happening to my body at that moment.
The memory passed and it was time for arms. This week, as I was going through some of my things and moving them to my cousin’s house, I came across some letters and cards that were written to me by my “adoptive mom.” No; I wasn’t really adopted. When I was a senior in high school, enrolled in a 9-month long DBT course, coming off of a serious drug addiction, and trying to overcome self-injury and anorexia, this middle-aged lady with a huge heart decided that she was going to become my “adoptive mom.” She cared about me; truly, genuinely cared about me. She fed me, took me to church, held my hand when I cried, and hugged me when I fucked up and got high or cut. My “adoptive mom” worked hard to make me feel like I deserved to be loved; she valued my life, and it is because of her (and God) that I am not dead or still using. Today as my instructor worked on my arms, those memories came up. The ones of my “adoptive mom” hugging me and telling me how precious I am. Unfortunately, they were accompanied by not so great memories – ones filled with pain and shame. I felt numb again. I couldn’t feel my instructor touching me anymore. I felt stuck in between the past and the present. I couldn’t bring myself back. I couldn’t find the words and I couldn’t find my breath. It took my instructor changing the way she was massaging my arms for me to feel like I was present again.
After some work on my neck (which apparently was super fucked up), it was time to revisit chimes. I laid on belly as my instructor massaged my feet and legs. When she got to my back, the chimes played. I did ok at first. I was shaking, but still mostly present. I could feel the pressure of my instructor’s palms pushing into my back. I could feel my belly being compressed under the weight. And for a little while, I felt ok. As time progressed though, I felt that sense of security slip away. I distinctly remember one chime playing and then being lost in the memory. It was as if that one sound engulfed the entire room. I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t even try. The world became a blur. I see her. She’s so little 6 maybe. They’re on the porch and she’s scared. Everything feels icky. I want to keep her safe but I can’t. My instructor started talking to me. I don’t remember what she said, but eventually it was time to go back into child’s pose. I felt my entire body physically release the memory. I wasn’t tense and shaking anymore. I felt ok again. I am safe.
The session ended with savasana. At first, I couldn’t feel anything. I knew my instructor was touching the back of my neck and head, but I couldn’t feel it. As she moved around to my forehead, I became more present and aware. I am safe. The savasana evolved into the type of resting pose that you don’t ever want to leave. Truthfully, I could’ve stayed there for hours, letting my body digest what had happened during the session.
I am not sure I can say that I am 100% better with chimes now, but I do feel like there has been some improvement over the past several weeks. Tonight, I feel lighter. Physically and emotionally lighter. I have so much gratitude for the these sessions. It is pretty incredible to reflect on my transformation from Session 1 to Session 9. With the holidays coming up, I am not sure when my next session will be. However, I am already looking forward to it.