A Lump of Pain
by Scott Lee
When Travis Martin, president of the Military Experience and the Arts, contacted me about an organization called Serve the Warrior that sets up alternative healing treatments for veterans in their hometowns for free or reduced cost, I was definitely interested. As a Veteran of the First Gulf War and a driver for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle for our brigade, I witnessed over 20,000 enemy lives taken in the 100 Hour Ground War. On this mission, I led the battle tanks into position and watched them dispatch the opposition tanks, turrets flipping end over end from our new armored piercing rounds. It was a four-day orgy of death that received little coverage in the press. In 2005, I was living in a small town in Kentucky far away from everyone I knew. Stuck in a perpetual cycle of isolating, trying to hold everything together and eventually losing control, I was involved in a bar fight in which I ended up getting stabbed in the face. A month later, an inpatient at the local Veteran’s Administration Medical Center psychiatry ward, I was faced with a choice: do something different or die, if not by my own hand then by another’s. For the next eight years, healing came in spurts and sputters as I fumbled around the different treatment modalities of western traditional approaches to mental health. It was when I started using non-traditional methods that my healing began to accelerate.
So when Julia Decker, founder of Serve the Warrior, contacted me to ask if I would be willing to experience an alternative treatment modality in exchange for writing about my experience for the TFGP blog, I was ready for the mission. Over the phone, Julia presented me with a few choices of treatment options. Because a former girlfriend had great results from it, I chose massage therapy. Within two days, Julia informed me that she had set up an appointment with Elements Massage in Louisville, Kentucky.
With an atmosphere of a high-end but friendly and comfortable salon, Elements greeted me with a sign on its window that read “Therapeutic Massage, Swedish, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, Hot Stone, Prenatal, (and) sports. When I walked into the waiting room of Elements, I was received with a warm smile by the owner Colleen, who confirmed that all was in order for me to receive a full body massage. After detailing to her my history of trauma, surgeries, degenerative disks and radiating pain down my legs and into my feet, Colleen decided to offer me a 90 minute session instead of the original 60. With such care and attentiveness, even a gruff veteran like me could feel at home.
My masseuse Jen met me in the lobby and she led me into a low-lit room with flickering
candles, fresh smells and the sound of water trickling in the background. After a brief conversation on my medical issues and surgeries, we began. Jen explained that she was going to be doing a mix of Swedish and deep tissue/trigger point massage. Because I was feeling anxious, I meditated on not letting my mind take my body hostage and tried to surrender to the moment. Jen started with pressure points in my hands, arms and neck, moving the snarled muscles around and pushing the stress out and away. I could feel her isolate the gnarly tissue, melting it away with her deliberate manipulations. She used her hands and forearms to knead the stress from each area of my body. Amazingly, the effects were immediate. The throbbing in my feet was gone and my overall pain level had diminished by three-fourths. Jen said she could see my shoulders gain four inches in width. She gave me some information on easy exercises to strengthen my quads to avoid the stress in my shoulders and neck. Easy enough to do.
The next day, without the constant alert blips from the rest of my body, I noticed a neck cramp as it started and not after it had already manifested into a bulge. It is an odd experience to recognize where in my body the pain is localized. This new awareness makes it so I don’t have to tune out the radiant foot and back pain that has kept me from taking my dog on long walks for most of the year. Over the last week, my body has mostly retained its relaxed state, and when I feel muscles getting tense, I use mindfulness techniques to ease back. I was a lump of pain until my massage therapist started kneading the tension areas built up from years of stress and anxiety. It reduced the amount of pain from my back and feet, enabling me to hone in on where stress is building up and use coping strategies more effectively. And I’ve been on several long walks with my dog Smokey over the last week.
© Serve the Warrior 2014 All Rights Reserved
TFGP Editor – Sarah Eggers
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