Dealing with Depression through Massage
It’s so sad when tragic circumstances lead us to talk about it. Even in 2014 it’s something that’s not openly discussed because of the stigma still attached to it but the awful news of Robin Williams’ death brings it to the present. It brings it to our attention and it needs to be talked about. The “it” I’m referring to is depression.
Many people are still of the mind that if you can’t see something then it’s not there, it’s not real. If, for example, you’ve had a couple of drinks and are having people round for dinner, don’t think it’s a good idea to take that apple and blackberry crumble out of the oven ,without oven gloves. You will burn, it will physically hurt and you will scar. You do however know to run your arm under the cold tap for 10 minutes and apply lavender oil to the burn ASAP. It may blister and you can see the evidence of the incident on you; it’s your war wound, that takes you back to when it happened. As you may have gathered that did happen to me, it’s been 3 years since and the scar has now faded. We can all relate to physical pain and we can see when someone is physically suffering but depression doesn’t have these physical outward markers and because it’s a pain within it can be difficult to talk about or even come to terms with. We may not know the precise moment, pinpoint the exact “crisis” or determine the catalyst for when depression starts, but it’s just as real as anything we physically feel.
According to statistics 1 in 4 people suffer with mental health disorders in the UK. Chances are you know someone who suffers from it. In my profession as a massage therapist, I’ve seen many clients who feel like they can’t talk to anyone, who feel like they can’t see a way out of their problems and who often can’t get out of bed in the mornings. I’ve seen friends go through turmoil and really dark, low moments over problem relationships, awful jobs and money worries. On a personal level my family and I have had to deal with suicide because of depression. One client described it to me as “it’s like you’re trying to claw your way out of a deep hole with no tools and you’re so tired you just want to stop fighting.”
I’ve been seeing this particular client for over a year now. At first they were quite scatty and couldn’t focus, suffered from insomnia and had noticeably shallow breathing, a symptom of anxiety, which often occurs alongside depression. They had lost their appetite and as such a considerable amount of weight and frequently felt like they wanted to cry. I talked through the treatment plan and gave the treatment I felt was best, using relaxing scented oils and calming music. After that first session I sent a message a couple of days later to see how they were feeling. I was quite emotional by their response.
“I know I’m suffering. When I came to see you I hadn’t slept in days. After the treatment I slept all of that night and a little part of me feels that bit better. Thank you so much for letting me sleep.”
Having regular massages as well as counselling changed my client; I saw them bright eyed, calmer, breathing deeper after the exercises I had given and clearer headed. This was by no means overnight and each day, week, month was different and like a roller coaster for them but they’re in a much better place now. Each treatment was adapted after a brief chat before the session to suit their mood that day, and again, they were thankful for the tailored treatment.
Sometimes my empathy can run away with me and I feel my clients’ pain. I want to help so much but I know it’s not down to me and I’m not qualified to advise and I’m by no means saying massage is a cure for depression. It can help reduce some symptoms but shouldn’t be seen as a long term primary solution.
The charity Mind have listed ways in which you can help yourself (includes going for walks and other forms of gentle exercise, talking to other people, arts and crafts workshops and seeing complimentary therapists) on their website as well as other contact details and important information such as seeing your GP as soon as you can.
Some hints and tips for a peaceful mind:
• Taking long deep breaths equalizing the inhale and exhale has a positive effect on the nervous system and makes you feel less panicky. Try breathing in for a count of 6 and exhaling to a count of 6 five times. Once you feel comfortable doing this inhale for a count of 6 and exhale to a count of 10.
• Everyone is different (this is a good thing!) some people like sitting in complete silence to create a sense of calm, others prefer listening to music. Try a few different settings and see what works for you.
• Go for a long walk or try a yoga class. The movements release endorphins (happy hormones) and make you feel less sluggish and tired.
• Many people turn to lavender to feel calm. So many of my clients have turned round to me and said that it doesn’t work for them and they’re right. One scent isn’t going to work effectively for everyone. Scents such as Bergamot, Clary Sage, Geranium, Rose and Sandlewood have also proven to be effective in lifting peoples’ moods. NB: consult an aromatherapist when seeking out essential oil blends.
Don’t ever feel like you’re on your own. There is always a positive solution to a difficult problem.
For more information please visit http://www.mind.org.uk/ or http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx to find out more.