My Mind-Body Massage Experience

A couple weeks ago I got a massage.

It was part of Neil’s birthday present and I didn’t think much of it aside from the fact that my body could certainly use one. As a personal trainer and someone who works out pretty aggressively, rest days and active recovery are something that need to be incorporated into my schedule. I’ve got the rest days down, but I don’t do much for active recovery.

I know well enough that things like yoga, massage, and other forms of holistic treatment can sometimes elicit emotional responses as well. It’s why I don’t do them. I’ve become comfortable to a point with emotional self-expression, but allowing myself to experience every emotion that comes up is still something that I work on after decades of actively doing the opposite.

I didn’t really consider this as I went in to focus on my neck and upper back — areas that had been feeling tight from throwing giant weights around all the time. If you recall, I hurt my back almost a year ago which left me sidelined for a month, so I wanted to make sure that I focused on that area as well.

This wasn’t a relaxing, zen-type massage; it was a sports massage that was meant to be a little uncomfortable as he dug around to find knots and other tight places to release. I felt fine during the massage and headed home nice and loosened up.

When I got home I ended up taking a long nap — one of those naps that you can’t escape from no matter how hard you try. Several times my mind woke up, but my body would not cooperate and I felt dragged back into sleep as I fought to open even one of my eyes.

Each time I fell back asleep I had a bad dream. I can’t remember all of them now, but the one that sticks out most vividly is being back in active addiction and using a variety of drugs throughout my time there. It wasn’t an allusion to having used drugs as some of my dreams in the past have been; it was a sharp and striking recall back to places that I thought I had escaped and feelings that I thought I wouldn’t have to experience again.

When I finally awoke, my whole body was fuzzy and numb from too much sleep. I made my way out to the couch where I told Neil I just had to sit and come back to normal. I felt terrible and although my body finally returned to normal, my mind was preoccupied with anxious and negative thoughts which reminded me of how this was my normal before I started antidepressant medication.

The feelings continued to the next day and it took me almost a complete 24 hours to feel like myself again.

I’m not saying this to scare people away from massages (ha), but to emphasize the importance of the mind-body connection.

In previous years, I have attended women’s recovery weekends which involve things like meditation and deep work on the self. When Neil and I almost separated we both went through intensive therapy and I dove head first into any and every self-help book I could find. My life improved tremendously when I started medication. For almost every year since I entered recovery, I’ve done a pretty good job working on the inside.

This year, not so much. I’ve taken on more and more work and my body (and mind) prefers workouts where I don’t have time to slow down and think. Apparently in all that rushing around, I’ve conveniently been storing any negativity in my body, most notably my shoulder area. I should have known this — it’s where my posture immediately starts falling apart as I experience stress and anxiety. Getting that massage must have released more than just tight muscles, which then manifested in dreams and thoughts I wasn’t prepared for.

Since then, I’ve been feeling a pull towards more wellness. Not drinking turmeric lattes and stockpiling crystals (although if that’s your thing, go for it), but slowing down and taking more time for introspection. Some of my greatest personal growth moments come from meditating on things I’m feeling or have done. Asking myself what’s going on. Figuring out how to grow into the person I want to become.

I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s almost like a stirring. I feel like wellness-centered events catch my eye more often than they did a few months ago. I remember the importance of journaling. I long for time to sit. Not sit and scroll through Instagram or other social media, just sitting. Being mindful of where and how I am.

I’m not sure where this stirring is going, but I’m excited to put some work and focus into making it a priority. My body and mind still crave things like Crossfit and anything high-intensity for workouts, so that’s not going anywhere, but I may try and make more time for slower avenues.

I think the mind and body are amazing things and it’s wonderful what you can learn by just taking the time to listen to them.

Questions:

  • Have you ever had an experience like this?
  • Where are you being pulled lately?
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13 Comments

  1. April 19, 2017 / 5:30 am

    This is so interesting. I notice with yoga that emotions tend to rise up so it would make sense how a massage would elicit a similar effect. I think it’s like some type of purging process that can be uncomfortable at the time but allows you to feel more whole afterwards!

    • erinsinsidejob
      April 19, 2017 / 6:52 am

      Yeah I think I will they’re beneficial and I am actually glad it helped get some things out of me. There’s a monthly membership they have that neil actually suggested we get!

  2. Dee
    April 19, 2017 / 6:36 am

    I really loved this blog post. I have gone down so many paths to finding wellness and I’ve realized that it’s within me, not “out there somewhere”. I fell hard down the holistic path for a while, thinking I just wasn’t enlightened enough or there is some “natural magic bullet” out there. Now, I find comfort in staying in the middle. I find strength in being realistic and not just falling for something but also recognizing the mind body connection as well. Thank you for being brave and sharing with us. I think in todays super health obsessed blogging world it isn’t easy to share how medication sometimes is the answer to enhancing one’s wellness.

  3. April 19, 2017 / 8:47 am

    I know exactly what you mean by the power of our minds and bodies being inter-connected. It’s amazing how we were created with this deep connection that can’t be severed, even if we’re doing what we might consider a purely physical activity.

    And I’m craving more time to just sit and think, sit and pray, sit and not be scrolling or working or typing or listening to a podcast, because I think I often get sucked up in, ‘Do. do. do’ that I forget the value of being still.
    Emily recently posted…Eating For Weight Gain and Maintenance (It’s Hard)My Profile

  4. Kristi
    April 19, 2017 / 9:16 am

    Erin I really appreciate how open and honest you are and how in touch with yourself you have grown to be. I find the spiritual connection the toughest part of my recovery bc my will often wants to take over. I have had a rough 2-3 years, but being involved in a community of others like minded has been helpful(12 step). Self care, slowing down, being present and getting out of self are all major things in my day to day. I am human though and sometimes things sneak up on me and can totally take over. Knowing that it will pass and riding that wave helps me get through. Keep up the sharing. It really makes on impact on your readers.

  5. April 19, 2017 / 10:28 am

    I used to cry in yoga on a regular basis (thank good for a dark room and hot yoga so we can’t tell the difference between sweat and tears) because the calmness and stretching would just release emotions for me.
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  6. April 19, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    We all have things that we need to heal, some we are aware of and others are subconscious. The subconscious stuff will get us every time. It’s the stuff that drives our lives and our choices, the men I pick, the people and experiences I choose to have in my life etc. It doesn’t matter if we’re recovering from addiction or not. I’ve been in recovery for 33 years and I still find things to obsess about so that I don’t have to feel. It’s been many things over the years, businesses, workouts, relationships, decorating, eating. I go through ups and downs of balance and imbalance. The thing that has helped me the most is meditation. It was frustrating at first. I felt like I was going out of my mind. My brain would jump all over. But it’s a practice and it doesn’t take long if practiced daily, if even for five minutes. Over the years my meditations have gotten deeper and my state of being has become calmer. There are some really good apps for meditation like, Insight Timer and Headspace. I also enjoy doing the Deepak Chopra and Oprah meditation’s. They have a free 21 day challenge going on right now.

  7. April 19, 2017 / 12:23 pm

    Yoga is definitely an emotional release for me – I’ve often felt choked up/extra sensitive simply from being still. Acupuncture brings up a lot of stuff too. I used to get acupuncture specifically for helping heal my broken heart! 🙂

  8. April 20, 2017 / 10:50 am

    I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced this from massage (thanks for the reminder that I need to use my massage gift card I’ve had for A YEAR), but I have from yoga. It was strange to me too but I sort of welcomed it since I needed that emotional release.
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  9. April 20, 2017 / 8:11 pm

    Love this post, Erin. I can’t say I’ve had this experience from a massage necessarily, but I have had an emotional collapse during the stretch portion of a circuit training class I attended… last week actually. I have a lot of shit to sort through right now, and I guess that all just came to the surface, combined with a slow sad song and my muscles feeling oh so tight. I bawled right there on the floor. I had to run out of the class and into the bathroom so hopefully no one would see the mascara tears. It’s a very strange feeling to have all of that come to the surface and bubble over at once.

    On a side note, there’s a meditation class at my gym that I want to try… and I’m kind of excited for it, but also really scared that I’m going to be an emotional wreck. But maybe that release is needed.
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