|Troupe photo taken in 2008|
I've stepped up my deep tissue massage routine because my partner moved in with me several months ago and I can more easily afford to give it the "old college try." I've been seeing a specific massage therapist at Hand & Stone Massage biweekly for the past two or so months in hopes that I can be the most functional person I can be. Sometimes that means that she works the kinks out of my shoulders from the combination of office job plus schoolwork plus wheeling plus cane usage. Sometimes it means that means she wants to try a different technique to see if I can get any sort of relief from the messed up spine joint. It started out with just getting near the fracture then progressed to glute and outer hip work.
On my second-to-last appointment, she suggested trying to loosen the psoas and asked if I'd ever had this done. I replied yes and told her how I'd had it worked on when I was bellydancing as it's a persnickety muscle that can get wonky with various shimmies and other lower torso movements. I told her that I was fine trying it again, even though I knew it involved uncovering my abdomen and having her dig near my pelvis. This is definitely a sign that I trust my massage therapist.
So when I saw her on Thursday, she asked if I wanted to try the psoas work. I let her know that as long as she wasn't neglecting some part of my upper body I was willing to try it. I'd rather know that my shoulders are able to handle my mobility needs and my scholarly work, even though some of my work is going slowly due to the new fracture.
The majority of the massage goes as usual, although laying on my stomach hurts worse than usual because of the increase in spine instability. She has me roll over, gets to the front of my shoulders and arms, and asks again about the psoas work. She gets me properly draped to work on my abdomen.
I quickly realize that I'm a bit nervous about having my belly touched. When my belly is uncovered, I unconsciously sucked in a bit then had to keep telling myself to stay relaxed. Every time she moves her hands off the psoas I relax, and every time she puts her hand back I try to pull myself in, then remind myself to stay loose. It happens every time she moves, and it feels like this is the longest part of the massage (even though I know it's not). I try to laugh it off with the therapist, apologizing for trying to suck in my stomach. She laughs in that way that tells me "no worries" (one of the many reasons why she's the person I go to).
Ever since that appointment, I keep thinking about how my relationship to my body has changed as my level of disability has increased. I've gained some weight recently, although I'm not sure how much of that is due to a decrease in my ability to exercise, if it's a side effect of the various medications I'm on to deal with the pain, or if it's moreso related to my birth defect. I've never actually been a thin person, and only flirted with being what the BMI considers to be a "normal" weight when I flirted with eating disordered behaviors in high school. When I was a triathlete, I was still fat enough to be considered a candidate for gastric bypass. I've never been a small person, and never will be. I don't have the genetics or the physiology for it, and I'm usually ok with it.
I admit, I'm struggling with my weight. By that, I mean that I'm struggling with the meaning of my weight. This is where it's murky and tied to issues of internalized ableism and internalized sizeism, and it's hard to admit as someone who studies both fat and dis/ability in physical activity & sport. Gaining weight, for most adult people, is considered to be a moral failing. I had a neurologist, while otherwise awesome (particularly awesome because he treated my education level as a perk not a hassle), start talking to me about calories in/calories out and how weight can contribute to spine pain (correlation =/= causation, as I'm pretty sure I'm in pain because MY SPINE IS BROKEN). I'm struggling with how people look at my body in motion, how my legs rub when I limp, or how my wide hips fill up my wheelchair when I roll. In an ideal world (or maybe just my ideal mental world), I would just be another body, getting around however my body-at-that-time gets around.
Ideally, that's how it would work. That's how I became a fat athlete. I was just another body in a sea of bodies. I wasn't the culmination of several markers of Otherness. I was just a person, doing person-things. I hope to one day find that happy point where I'm just another body, an albeit fat crippled body, moving around as just another body.
It's hard when everything is bound up with pain though. Pain is raw. Pain is all-encompassing. Pain is distress. Pain makes a person take notice to the exemption of whatever else is going on. Pain makes my thoughts derail, and makes for some long & rambling blog posts.
P/so/as the massage didn't make a difference in my pain, I think it brought to light a discomfort I've been having in my body that was intangible. There will be more experiences that I'll have that will show me my body in different ways (and you all will get a chance to see the results soon, with photographic evidence).