As much as I love the holidays, this isn’t always the happiest season. With the days shorter, the light more scarce, and the wind more harsh, most faces around me grow more closed.
I see my friends getting sad.
This week, a very close friend of mine wrote a powerful piece on depression — Riding It Out — on Disrupting Dinner Parties. I’d strongly recommend reading it all — here’s a section of it:
“I’m scared that my depression will turn me into someone who is not worth loving.
I’m scared of who I become under its influence. Someone who binge-watches vampire TV shows, who never comes out of her room, who can’t bring herself to call her friends or go dancing or write blog posts. Depression strips away all the external markers of my personality. It strips me of my ability to do any of the activities that validate my sense of self-worth, while simultaneously filling my head with a litany of my own worthlessness.
I’m scared that I will ride it out, make it through to the other side, and look around to find that I have lost all of my friends.”
I was driven to start a career in massage after I saw many of my friends injured. Sore backs, rolled ankles, pounding headaches — I hate seeing my friends in pain, and I sought a low-tech way of paying it forward. Thus: massage therapy.
As I’ve grown into this career, I’ve worked with more clients whose hurt isn’t solely connected to their musculature; at this point, supporting clients who are dealing with depression and anxiety has become a central aspect of my practice. I consciously work within a safe, non-judgmental space at Freed, and make space on the table for any type of expression. I am as comfortable with crying as I am with laughing.
With clients who are working through internal issues, I take more time. I make it clear, I hope, that the space and time is theirs, and if they’d like aspects of the session to change, I am eager to oblige. I explain where I plan to be working, and clarify any boundaries or triggers my client may have. I feel comfortable pausing, or stopping, a session at a client’s request at any point in time. And you don’t need a reason.
I want to honor my clients. I want the bond we share as client-therapists to be strong enough to comfortably hold different types of pressure — not only the need for physical relief, but the need for active listening, and consideration.
To be clear: I’m not a stranger to anxiety or depression. I know (all too well) how a panic attack feels. I’ve spent years struggling with fears surrounding leaving my room or my house. At points in my adult life, I’ve been unsafe to myself and others. I tended to bury these issues in alcohol, disordered eating, and avoidance, until I started my education as a massage therapist.
And things, for me, started to change.
While massage can’t “cure” depression, weekly sessions in school gave me a sense that others saw me, and did not reject me. As a sexual abuse survivor, I used to have a troubled relationship with touch; in school, and in my career, I experienced hours and hours of comforting, non-loaded touch, during which I was completely safe. While the other benefits of massage are apparent to me, these more subtle affects accumulated over time.
While I hesitate to say I’m “all clear,” I’ve had fewer relapses. I’ve become more capable at self-care, more forgiving of myself, and more knowlegeable of my triggers. And I’m committed to helping care for others in similar circumstances, be it through touch, listening, or simply holding the space.
And in this line of thinking, I wanted to share this quote by the excellent Daniell Koepke of internal-acceptance-movement:
“The fact that you’re struggling doesn’t make you a burden. It doesn’t make you unloveable or undesirable or undeserving of care. It doesn’t make you too much or too sensitive or too needy. It makes you human. Everyone struggles. Everyone has a difficult time coping, and at times, we all fall apart. During these times, we aren’t always easy to be around — and that’s okay.
No one is easy to be around one hundred percent of the time. Yes, you may sometimes be unpleasant or difficult. And yes, you may sometimes do or say things that make the people around you feel helpless or sad. But those things aren’t all of who you are and they certainly don’t discount your worth as a human being.
The truth is that you can be struggling and still be loved. You can be difficult and still be cared for. You can be less than perfect, and still be deserving of compassion and kindness.”
And so in this sad season, I hope a bit of that message stays with you.
ps: There are a lot of motivational images out there, but this one by dani (probably because of the folk song “This Pretty Planet”) has always spoken to me.