Soft Walls

I marvel at the power of not just the body to heal, but also the psyche. I feel remarkably eager for the sports massage I am about to have. This feeling is in stark contrast to how I felt prior to the one I had last week.

My trainer had suggested massage may help my thoracic spine, which would help with my workouts. In a heartbeat the idea had me worrying about being touched. On the next beat I realize how much I’ve changed recently and dismissed any anxiety. Maybe I give him too much credit, but I swear he put on his best bedside manner to ask if I know what that means. “Chest” I bravely squeaked out.

“Oh dear god, no” I dryly thought to myself.


It took 2 years for the abuse to become real to me. In 1976 I was 17 and finally had a boyfriend. We had awkward sex once, but the stumblings were easily explained because his mother was down the hallway. A few nights later my family was away, and we sped to the empty house. I was his first and though I was experienced all I really wanted was to make out. We were free to be uncovered and completely naked, the blood couldn’t rush through our veins fast enough. And just as we started, he touched my chest and I recoiled.

It was the moment I knew I was damaged. I hated myself for it. I hated that Jimmy, John, Jeff, Richard and all the others got to me. It was the moment when everything I dreaded about myself solidified into a hammer. And I beat the shit out of myself. How dispicable was I to allow some bad tricks to break me? Wasn’t I strong enough to absorb it, deflect it? Was I so weak it stuck?

I spend years teetering. When it comes to my history I was most comfortable balancing on a sharp blade. Falling to one side was the contempt I held myself for allowing “inconsequential” events to affect me. If I fall the other way, it’s the reality of how toxic and damaging they were. So I stood on the blade and took the cutting.


The massage therapist is a friend who I knew I could trust. Weeks before in an unrelated text, something he said came close to what I was dealing with. Instead of hiding, I shared this blog. I knew I could trust him.

Riding the bus to the appointment I found myself hunching into myself, curling into a huddle. Walking the few blocks, I couldn’t stand straight. I didn’t need to, I just needed to get to him. Laying on the table, both hands holding my head, I spoke my issues. I told him that enjoying touch was new, though my chest is what needs work, it is where I store my garbage and I was freaking out. Truth said, I put my hands by my side and let him start.

He was very gentle, especially on my chest. I found that I thought about cringing, but didn’t really have it in me. It didn’t feel like he was ripping my soul out. I was afraid I would start sobbing if I let him in. I didn’t. His touch was just a fact, not a threat. By the time he was working on my back I had dozed off.

My trainer suggested a “deep” “sports” “elbows” “pain” massage. I didn’t think that was the safest path into this for me. But for the upcoming one, I am ready, and eager.

I learned a few things. Reactions can become habits. Know yourself kindly, but also press up against the old walls. Are they still firm? If they aren’t consider knocking them down.


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