Adult laying on table and receiving a massage from a trained therapist.

My Failed Attempt at Reintroducing Massage

Getting a massage used to be one of my favorite things.

Heading to the spa a few times a year felt like the ultimate way to indulge myself and escape the world.

I still remember the sensation of lying under thick fluffy towels while strong hands massaged my tension away. It was such a sensory experience: the warmth of the darkened room, the smell of the scented oils, the low hum of relaxation music. Bliss.

But the experience of massage changed as my undiagnosed AxSpa progressed

Certain my muscles were just extremely tight, I upgraded my relaxation sessions to therapeutic level then moved on to chiropractors and osteopaths.

What had been a relaxing process became a torture session. Everything hurt, it felt like the sessions could be doing more harm than good. I tried to grit my teeth and assured myself these therapists knew what they were doing, it would feel better if I could just let them work on my body.

It didn’t. If anything, the massage and manipulation made my pain worse. Finally my osteopath suggested I go back to my doctor for further investigation. It was the start of a process that finally led to being diagnosed with AS.

That was almost 10 years ago and I’ve only had one massage since

I was definitely nervous about getting back on the massage table. The therapist was experienced and came highly recommended. I spent time explaining my condition and problem areas before we began.

I wasn’t in a flare and recent blood tests had shown my inflammation had reduced. It seemed like the perfect time to get back to something I had missed out on for so long.

As we spoke I realised I had found a very capable, kind therapist. She listened carefully and tried to put me at ease, assuring me to speak up if anything didn’t feel right.

I lay down on the table, forcing myself to relax and get in the zone. But as soon as her hands made contact with my skin, something totally unexpected happened.

I began to cry.

It wasn’t that the massage hurt, it didn’t at all. Lying in the dimly lit room, some huge dam of emotion suddenly broke inside me.

Overwhelmingly, I was filled with fear. Even as I tried hard to trust this person it was still terrifying. Part of me was being transported back to the excruciating adjustments back before I knew better. I couldn’t relax, tensely waiting for the pain to begin. It wasn’t just in my mind, it felt like my whole body was stuck in high alert.

Part of me was also mad. This one nice thing I had tried to reclaim for myself was ruined thanks to AxSpa. I could feel the anger bubbling up in me and coming out in even more frustrated tears.

Finally, the emotion I kept coming back to was a deep and heartfelt sadness

It might sound strange, but I just felt immensely sorry for myself in that moment. I think a lot of that outpouring was simply grief over all that AxSpa had cost me. I was mourning the old carefree version of me who no longer existed.

No longer just silent tears falling into the towels, my crying progressed to big shaky sobs and a streaming face I couldn’t hide.

I felt embarrassed, even though my lovely masseur assured me not to worry. She said it was just how people reacted to massage at times. I wasn’t sure if this was true or she just wanted me to feel better.

Time was eventually up and I left feeling self-conscious and completely exhausted. Far from the indulgent experience I’d had in mind, my massage had left me drained and unsure of what to do with my totally unexpected reaction.

That was about five years ago and I haven’t tried again. My AxSpa is far better controlled today than it was but I still wonder if I could ever venture back into such uncertain territory.

It’s a shame, I really do miss massage.

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