Thursday, 13 January 2011

Getting a massage

Today I went for a massage which was a Christmas present I received. I am usually on high alert and tend to hold a lot of tension in my body so I wouldn't say I fel completely relaxed during it, but more relaxed than is my norm. Having someone give me attention and touch my body is not something I'm really used to and the process of having a massage in itself can be kind of stressful for me, which is probably why if I were going to buy myself such an experience, I would pick reflexology rather than a body massage as I am more able to enjoy it when it's just my feet being touched.

The lady took a history from me beforehand. I wasn't really sure how much to tell her about my mental health. On one hand I didn't think it was relevant as it's not really a physical problem but on the other hand I thought I'd better just in case something weird happened to me during it.
But then, what do you write on the form? I suffer from 'DID'? 'Dissociative Identity Disorder'? Nobody in this country knows what that is (I don't know about USA/Australasia/elsewhere? I'd be interested to hear if it is different).
So then, do I say: 'I have what used to be called multiple personality disorder'? No, that would probably just help make someone scared of me.

Well in the end I decided to put it down as complex PTSD, as I thought this is probably the nearest thing that would highlight what the therapist might need to consider and PTSD is relatively heard of so I wouldn't be asked questions would I?


She didn't know what PTSD was until I said out the full title and then she proceded to ask me what had happened. Well actually what she said was: "Did you have an incident?" LOL. Well I mumbled something about it being more of a long term thing from childhood and I think she probably realised I didn't want to give any more detail because she didn't ask any more about it.

So anyway, the massage... The only thing I have to say about it aside from that I think I enjoyed it, is: I felt like there was a lot going on in my head during the process. And not just a lot going on, but changing states/thoughts/emotions. One minute I felt like myself, then like another part, then like several parts were there, then anxious, then and largely: not real at all. I found myself unsure of who I was or how to feel or what to think. I was trying to focus myself to be one person or to feel one thing and then realising I was not really cherishing the experience, but wasn't really in control of myself enough to do so. So then I would try to not think at all but then I wasn't 'present' either.

And then being aware of another human touching my body, looking at me, touching my scars, knowing things about me that not even my family know. And the feeling of being touched in a soothing and gentle way. Stroking my hair, my hands. It felt like 'love'. Love from a stranger. I wasn't sure how to feel about being 'loved'. It's sadly not something I have experienced much of. But are there many people that do? I know my husband loves me, but it felt different. I'm not sure why. It was more nurturing. It reminded me of how my mum used to stroke my hair when I was lying on the sofa as a child. When did it become so hard to enjoy being touched this way?

Does any of this make any kind of sense to anyone? If you have DID, have you ever had a massage? How did you feel during it? Did you notice any strange changes/emotions? Do you think it'a good thing?


MultipleMe said...

Hey Candy,

Yes I have had a massage and I can so relate to everything you have said here.

Firstly DID is not that well known in Australia though most people have heard of Multiple Personalities. Generally, when I fill out forms I stick with a "dissociative disorder", though sometimes I put PTSD (I write the name out full though, most people seem to know it here) instead or as well depending on the situation.

When it comes to health care professionals I generally reflect on how we are all feeling and if their is any anxiety about the situation. When I first started to have blood tests I would explain to each nurse before they started taking the blood about DID and warning them I may switch. Now we have had so many everyone inside knows the drill and I am confident that it wont happen so I don't tell any more. But I can really understand the question - do I tell them, how much do I tell them...

I have had a few different massages, I get bad back pain and massage can help sometimes. My reactions varied based on who it was and the situation. One of my male friends was studying massage and used to practice on me. With him I eventually felt safe enough that I would relax and fall asleep.

The first full body massage I had was with a female and I went through a range of emotions - fear, anxiety, sadness, accepting what was happening, after a time I started to feel a growing sense of safety.

I haven't ever felt the loving nurturing you felt - but each person's experiences are different and it could have just been that's how it felt for you or it could have been the lady giving the massage.

Even if it was an emotional experience that doesn't make it bad - I think part of healing is feeling and experiencing emotions in a safe way. I think if you feel it helped then it is definitely a good thing - it depends on how you felt walking away. This sort of thing is going to be different for each person - you need to decide for you if it was a good thing :)

I am really glad you took the opportunity to try this even if it scared you a little. You should really be proud of yourself for trying.

Candycan said...

I think the feeling of 'nurturing' was something to do with the woman. I have had massages before and not felt this way. I've felt anxious, relaxed, turned on, sleepy and all sorts but this was different. She had a very motherly way about her, maybe this was something to do with it.
Have you ever felt you got a negative reaction from health professionals you have told about DID?
Here it is so little known that my doctor doesnt even know what it is. She had to ring my psychologist for advice about something and admitted to her she didn't know much at all about it. Most people have heard of multiple personalities but I tend to avoid using that phrase because of the preconceptions people have when they think of it.

castorgirl said...


I've only had a couple of massages, and both times I've dissociated the experience away. It was too scary and unsafe for me. I even have trouble going to physiotherapy for my back and shoulder problems.

Saying that, I know some people use massage and physiotherapy as a way to connect with their body and give it the soothing attention it needs.

I can relate to people not knowing about DID. You have the added barrier, that in Britain I think they use the ICD rather than the DSM. The ICD still lists MPD rather than DID as the diagnosis. So, probably there might be some confusion about the terminology being used.

Whenever I'm interacting with anyone new, I always say that I have PTSD. Most people have at least heard of the term, so it's an easier introduction to how I might react with them. My GP had never heard of either diagnosis, and still doesn't know. So at least your doctor was willing to find out :)

Say what feels safe for you.

Take care,

Meronym said...

I find that touch - whether massage or just snuggling or whatever - is extremely important to us. And it has to be skin-to-skin touch. I'm lucky that my community of friends tends to be pretty tactile anyway, so if I'm feeling stressed or jumpy, I can ask for more touch and get it.

There are also certain touches that really help me. My wrists being held very tightly will instantly make me feel safe and protected. Sometimes it will relax me so much I'll even fall asleep!