I had a few other coping skills at the time that were less innocuous than painting. Even though I was on meds, I was not consistently stable. Self-indulgence was not a new concept for me. I self-soothed with things like food, shopping, and sex. That immediate gratification was comforting. It was like the high I imagine people get when they do drugs. It was an escape, but an unhealthy one. Over the years I gained over seventy pounds and found myself $100,000 in debt. I knew I had to take some positive steps to get my life in order.
I decided to take a spa vacation where I could indulge in something positive and recover my balance. On September 10, 2011 I got my very first hot stone massage. I had jokingly told the spa front desk manager that it would take three treatments to “break through” and I was exactly right. I don’t know if the first two treatments just loosened the lid for me or if she was just that good, but oh my holy God. The 50 minutes I had that day may have changed me forever. Each pass of that heated, oily stone stripped me away like old rotten varnish on an antique dresser. The tightness, the pain, the mental resistance, all gone. I almost cried on the table. It was transformative.
The result was short-lived but significant. I can’t remember ever feeling that good, physically or mentally. So, the question was how could I get that feeling back at will? This left me wondering about the mind-body connection for real–like medically. Was my mind poisoning my body? Does stress literally kill? Would my mood-management shortcomings cause me to die early? Would a massage a month help me to live a healthier life or is it just a band-aid like that old-fashioned cake doughnut at Starbucks? So many questions arising from some slippery hot rocks.
On the plane home from the spa I was in a foul mood. The trip was perfect and I guess I was just pissed that I had to leave. The stress was pre-emptive. The acid reflux was back, my muscles tightened, and my anxiety was high. The difference this time around though was that I now had my evidence. Stress was evil and it had a direct line to my body.
So even though I was essentially back where I started before I left, I considered my little mind-body experiment a success. As the plane winged its way closer to home and I reluctantly reemerged into my daily life, I went back into the fray a little smarter. I now knew the powerful relationship between my mind and my body. I respected this knowledge and used it as a stepping-stone to begin a better and healthier life.