How the Intimacy of Massage Helped Me Recover From Childhood Trauma
After I was touched inappropriately as a kid, and then not touched at all for years, the right pair of well-trained hands helped me finally feel comfortable in my own skin.
Illustration by Cornelia Li
As I sat on the bench at the holistic health center waiting for my massage appointment, I felt nervous even though the waiting room was cheerful. The colorful chalk on the blackboard listed yoga classes, acupuncture and community events. The smell of herbs drying for teas and tinctures filled the room, and large windows overlooked a tree-lined street with charming Victorian houses. I tried to shake off my anxiety and fill out paperwork in which I marked the parts of a figure to show where I was in pain. I colored in the figure’s shoulders, neck and lower back.
But I didn’t know how to represent the other pain that I was feeling, which I knew was emotional but that I felt in my body. If I had to represent it on the figure, I would have used a blue colored pencil to shade over most of my body, but I would especially shade in my arms.
After my mother died when I was fourteen and my father had what I realized later was a nervous breakdown, I lived for many years w…