Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From Paralysis and Fear Through Touch

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Imagine a 25 year old guy laying in a hospital bed and struggling to talk, move all parts of his body and remember basic things like his name. There was no car accident and no disease. The muscles had the same tone in them as they had before this time.

Just days before, this same guy had been an average hard working person just trying to make it in life. Of course he had the usual aches and pains that everyone has and he had been getting medical attention to deal with all of this. Of course most of the doctors didn’t have the slightest clue what to do in this situation. After a severe episode of seizures, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital only to be sent home because they found nothing wrong with him.

As the situation worsened, family and friends once again took him to seek additional medical help. Fortunately this time a neurologist knew to ask the right questions which began the road of healing for this young man. He had been diagnosed with a condition known as a conversion disorder.

Conversion disorders are technically known as Somatoform Disorders which involve physical bodily symptoms that suggest there is a medical problem when in fact no medical condition can be found. Symptoms may include anything from chronic pain, blindness, and deafness to paralysis of the arms and legs, and seizures. Conversion Disorders are estimated to occur in about 15 out of 100,000 people. It is a very rare condition.

If you have not figured out by now who this person is, it was me. I suffered through this condition in 1991 and have fought hard to overcome the effects of it. Although some sources indicate there is no treatment for the disorder, most people would not be able to tell I suffered through paralysis to the point that my brain was shutting down on me.

As part of my continued healing, I spent many years undergoing counseling and therapy to overcome the effects of this condition. With conversion disorders, there is usually an underlying emotional situation such as child abuse that goes to the root cause. I did suffer through intense child abuse as a kid and I have had to deal with the effects that this brought into my life.

For a long time in my life, I struggled with touch. Since my body was beaten and sexually abused as a kid, touch and closeness to other humans was not something that was a comfort to me. Yet at the same time, I longed for touch and I longed to be close to people because it was a very lonely life.

Several years ago, I started trying to receive massage from a very good licensed massage therapist in NC. This lady was very professional and tried to make sure she could do whatever it took to help me begin accepting touch as something good, healthy and beneficial. I think I made it through about 3 sessions before what she was doing just triggered me to past events. I still remember leaving her office that day, so silent and withdrawn, not able to say what was going on and afraid of her even though she was doing a fantastic job. Of course it was not her that I was afraid of, it was the touch.

More healing took place in my life which allowed me for the first time to accept touch in a healthy and wholesome way. As time went, I began to trust a very special person in my life and touch became so much easier than it had ever been in my life. However I went through some very intense periods where a hug would leave me feeling nauseated and I would feel at times like my skin was crawling with bugs. Even with all of the struggles I faced, my body longed to be touched and to actually feel the touch and feel the goodness that it held.

After a life changing event where I lost my mom to a car accident, I began to contemplate the future direction of my life and the role the universe was asking me to play in it. Amazingly with all of the touch issues I struggled with, I was drawn to massage school. Just before massage school, I once again had a massage and it was actually something that was a much more enjoyable experience for me. I knew that I was drawn to massage school for some reason but was not totally sure why at that point nor was I sure if I could handle learning how to touch others. Fortunately, I trusted my intuition enough and took a giant leap of faith into massage school.

I felt so at home at Educating Hands School of Massage and I felt like I would be able to learn how to trust others. So as time went and we began doing the touch on each other, I was so frightened. My body didn’t know how to take all of this and so most of the time, it just shut down to what I was feeling. I know several of my classmates were frustrated when we tried to give feedback about the massage and I had no words to describe it because I could not feel it. I knew that the massage was not bad, but I absolutely could not feel it.

With time and continued massage day after day, my body began to wake up. It started to see for the first time in my entire life just what touch was. It was like a miracle to me and as I began to feel the touch of my classmates in my body, I began to feel and sense through my fingers wonderful things that were going on inside of those people I got to work on. As school progressed and the experiences continued to come my way, my body became more awake and alive. Life started to change in dramatic ways for me.

Last July, I again followed intuition and attended a workshop by Dr. Paul Canali on the Enteric Brain. It was at this workshop that I heard someone speak a language about the body which my body fully understood and realized that no one else had ever spoken in this way. Through my continued work with Dr. Canali’s, “Unified Healing Therapy”, I am for the first time in my life becoming totally aware of what it means to live in my body. I’m actually experiencing what it means to reach a relaxed state far from the anxiety, depression and abuse that I suffered from all of my life. Touch is becoming so much more alive in me and life is becoming more beautiful with each new day of awareness that I am introduced to.

Working with people who struggle with touch takes a great deal of patience, understanding, compassion, sensitivity and non judgment. There are others out there like myself who may come across your massage table and I hope that you realize from my story that touch is sometimes a very scary thing but you may just be one of the healing stones for that person on their journey. From first hand experience, I know there is hope for each and everyone of these people and while the journey may get rough, it is well worth it in the end.

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