I hadn't heard of this type of bodywork until I started working out a new gym and totally jacked up my upper back and neck. For about 2 months, I would get slightly better, then try upper body work again and backslide into pain. It was a time of not being able to sleep, not being able to turn my head, and my tried and true Act.ive Rel.ease Ther.apy (A.R.T) chiropractor not being able to make it better. Enter a suggestion to try Fasc.ial Str.etch The.rapy (F.S.T) in conjunction with the ART, so I gave it a go. Here's the upshot: yes, it's helpful, yes it worked when I did both of those things together, and yes I definitely need it. But it also seems to be tapping into something else.
Quick explanation - F.S.T is basically assisted stretching that's done on a massage table fully clothed. Generally it's pretty gentle (unless you're really tight, then it can get uncomfortable like deep massage can), and that's about it. It's also, in my opinion, way more intimate than massage. Are you thinking, how can being naked be less intimate than fully clothed? Well, the practitioner in F.S.T uses their body to assist in the stretching. It's all touching, bracing, and repeated movements to put traction on joints.
Several sessions in of F.S.T and several things start happening:
- At first, I'm happy with the results and the way it feels after I'm done with the sessions. Generally I feel lighter, kind of like after a massage.
- But then...I start getting nervous around the stretch guy for no good reason.
- Stretch guy keeps saying I'm holding a lot of stress and recommends I see an integrative-type practitioner who does work on the mind-boy connection. (blah blah blah, everyone says that to me and I tell him it's not stress dammit, I just have tight muscles)
- I have nightmares (this was in the thick of trying to get my muscles to release and when I wasn't sleeping well).
- On two occasions I almost cry on the table, but manage to make it to my car before completely breaking down into sobs. I feel overwhelmed and sad and maybe guilty.
- I fall down a rabbit hole of Go.ogle because WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON
- I start to psychoanalyze myself (yeah, based on interwebs), learn a new concept (Transference) and it gets more confusing. Is it emotion being brought up by the bodywork, is it shame that he's touching me in ways that no one ever has? Am I transferring my emotional crap to him and making him play a part, or am I just making shit up in my head?
...and then I see Therapist and got around to the fact that I don't like to be touched by other people. S and my kids are the exception. I don't like to be touched by my parents, and until the past several years as an adult, my mom never wanted to hug me goodbye. She tried to do it regularly for a while and I hated it. So, let's get to attachment issues! The stretch is gentle and rhythmic and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. I don't think I'm in touch with that part of my nervous system very often. I'm the person who will lie in savasana in a yoga class and either make lists in my head, or try to coach myself into relaxing. I don't hug my friends goodbye unless everyone else is doing it, and once when a guy friend gave me a quick hug I thought he was nuts. The more I learn about myself, the more I'm amazed I ever managed to have a healthy relationship. The exception to the rule is S. It always is. We are tactile, we snuggle every night, we kiss and hug in front of our kids frequently. In fact, we do it enough that X has started initiating family hugs when he sees us hugging. That NEVER happened in my family growing up. When it comes down to it, I don't have any memories in the forefront of my mind of my parents touching me in a gentle and loving way. I remember the yelling, the spankings, and generally feeling like I did something wrong. So, the only guy who touches me a lot is S. And now I have this other guy touching me in a gentle way that I only recognize as a way that a spouse should touch me. Confusion? Fear? Sadness? Check, check and check.
So, I have homework to do when I feel up to it. I am to make another appointment with stretch guy, tell him that I'm having an emotional reaction to this bodywork and see where it goes. Can you say vulnerable? I do not want to have this conversation, and I can't bring myself to make another appointment yet. The last appointment I had was one of the breakdowns, and not only that, but I walked into the office a giant ball of anxiety and felt weird and awkward the entire session. I couldn't relax, I didn't talk beyond the couple of minutes prior to starting and was pretty short with him. He didn't talk the whole session and I felt even weirder. Like, was my mood affecting him or was he just going with my black cloud attitude and figured I wasn't up for talking? Whatever it was, I got another little "take care of yourself" pep talk at the end. I don't really understand how people think I don't do take care of myself. I'm the mom who will take a day off work and both kids stay in daycare/afterschool care until their normal times. I escape from the house in the mornings because I can't stand the chaos of the morning routine. I go to the gym several days a week. I ride my bike. I travel and leave S to single-parent while I luxuriate in a solid 3-star hotel. What else am I supposed to do to "take care of me"?
Part of me wants to have this conversation. I keep running through scenarios in my head trying to get ready for every reaction from him in order to be ready to protect myself, and that's exhausting. Admitting that I'm afraid to cry when I'm in the middle of a session is the worst. Is that shame jabbing at me again? I don't want to be vulnerable with someone who is a stranger. Hell, I can't even be vulnerable with people I consider my girlfriends. ARGH, I don't know! I want to know, but I don't want to initiate this!
In past times, this would be where I terminate the therapy (yep, totally have cut and run on therapists just when they are getting to the root of the issues). I feel like I'm trying to do that here. It's different because it isn't psychotherapy, but there's that emotional, vulnerable element that I don't want to admit to another person.