Monday, February 11, 2013

Dealing with the [Winter] Blues

     So, it's the middle of Winter and much of New England is blanketed in snow.  The air chills you to the bone and the sun is lacking (though, thankfully, it is setting later each night!).  People are passing the time away hibernating inside their homes and/or drinking themselves into a stupor.  This season is rough.  In general.  Aside from snowboarding, skiing, sledding, and hot chocolate, there isn't too much fun to be had during Winter.  And I find that peoples' attitudes and energy wanes drastically.  I believe this is known as Season Affective Disorder (SAD).  The lack of vitamin D from the sun, and the warm air, and the general happiness that Spring and Summer bring may/can actually cause you to be sad and depressed.  While these people are all around me, I have also noticed (over the past several months) that I have been connecting with more people who are depressed; and not of the SAD kind either.  I am talking about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
     Dictionary.com defines PTSD as "a mental disorder, as battle fatigue, occurring after a traumatic event outside the range of usual human experience, and characterized by symptoms such as reliving the event, reduced involvement with others, and manifestations of autonomic arousal such as hyper-alertness and exaggerated startle response." A coworker of mine has had it and is still dealing with the remnants of it.  A friend of mine is going through it.  And I couldn't even tell you how many of my clients are trying to work their way out of it.   Being such a positive and optimistic person, it's sometimes hard for me to see how someone can get so depressed.  But unfortunately, it happens.  And I try to help them in the best way I know how: through touch.
     There have been studies (not enough in my opinion) on this very topic.  In fact, I wrote a little blurb about it early last year.  But I'm not talking about studies this time.  I don't care what scientific facts there are, and what doctors think.  I'm talking about my experience in working with people who have PTSD.  I have been a massage therapist for almost 7 years now.  (June will officially mark 7 years!).  During this time I have encountered a wide variety of . . . people.  And I find that I get the most satisfaction out of helping someone who not only has some physical discomfort, but some mental and emotional discomfort, too.
     Touch is a powerful thing.  It relaxes the muscles, releases endorphins (endorphins make you happy), and provokes a somato-emotional response.  A somato-emotional response, or release, as defined by Dr. Upledger of the Upledger Institute, is "the expression of emotion that, for reasons deemed appropriate by some part of the patients's or client's non-conscious, has been retained, suppressed and isolated within the soma." Soma is the entire body of an organism.  I have touched hundreds of people over the better part of the decade, and I have witnessed every single one of them respond to it, including those with PTSD.  Through my experience I have also found that those with PTSD take a little longer to respond.  After talking with many of them, I can conclude it's usually because they tend to hold things in.  Like, super tight and closed up, and they've put up these emotional walls and are very guarded.  But being touched by someone else is part of their undoing; it un-glues them.  If you really don't want to be touched by someone else, you won't.  The simple act of touching is actually a very sacred thing.  You're allowing someone else to connect with you.  And by connecting with another you're allowing yourself to heal.
     What's the #1 thing massage can do for you? It can relax your muscles.  I'm repeating myself because it's so true.  In turn, your body goes through a physiological change and relaxes the mind as well.  When your body can let go of stress, your mind will follow suit.  And after a while (meaning: after receiving a decent amount of massages) your mind and your body will learn what it's like to not be stressed.  And it will like it! And isn't that part of the healing process? Those suffering with PTSD deal with the mental, emotional, and physical discomforts it brings.  But they don't have to suffer for the rest of their lives.  Doctors and studies aside, massage therapy works.  I'm not saying it MAY help you; I'm saying it WILL.  And I can say that because I have witnessed it.