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Massage Therapists: Be Your Own Body’s Best Advocate
As a bodyworker, the most important title you have isn’t CMT (Certified Massage Therapist) ~ it’s “YOBBA” ~ your own body’s best advocate. Working as a bodyworker, the essence of your job is to be an advocate for the health and wellbeing of others’ bodies. Your hands and your touch are literally the defenders of your clients’ bodies. In the process of doing your job, especially if you work at a resort, you are bombarded with exotic bugs from all over the world throughout what is usually your busiest and, of course, most profitable part of your year ~ “High season .” The survival instinct and your boss urging you to overcome it can be hard to fight, but in my experience the best thing you can do for yourself and your future is to be your own best advocate. body and stay in bed and drink plenty of fluids. . There’s a reason this is conventional wisdom ~ because it works.
There is nothing better than a new year. You get a new slate, a blank page to write your story on ~ one that may not have turned out the way you planned the year before. I love a new year and I’m grateful that every twelve months we get an automatic overhaul. For most of my life, the end of the year has usually meant some sort of cold or flu, ruining the holidays or at least making them more stressful. Fortunately, however, by the time the New Year rolls around, the annual cold or flu is a faint memory. For the past eight years or so, I have been blessed with being spared any type of plague, annual or otherwise. This New Year, I’m afraid I haven’t been so lucky.
For the past two weeks I have been battling an unfortunate case of the flu which turned into bronchitis and is now an annoying, persistent cold. It’s amazing to me how much snot a body can make in the process of an upper respiratory infection~ I think I’m on my seventh or eighth box of tissues. For probably two or three weeks before that, I struggled with “something” trying to land on me. Tired of feeling just on the edge, I finally said out loud, “If you want to have me, then catch me!” Naturally, as soon as I gave the flu permission to invade my body, it did~ the day after. I know better than to give my brain permission to let my body get sick. I think this is the last time I’m going to do this. Next time I will say, “I AM NOT SICK!!”
As I battled this super bug ~ the first one I’ve had in a very long time ~ I remembered a very dark time in my bodybuilding career when I failed to do what was right for my body and that I allowed myself to succumb to the pressure of my workplace and my bank account. I failed to defend my own health and paid a high price for my negligence.
About eight years ago, I came home with a horrible bug that I may have caught at a weekend workshop in Arizona, or had been exposed to before I left. Nevertheless, under extreme pressure to work as soon as I could and longer than I should in my busy spa, this bug quickly turned into walking pneumonia, then horribly and inexplicably turned into a medical nightmare that nearly left me kill in the process. I also ended up having to quit a job I loved and lost all my life savings because I couldn’t work full time for almost a year. I won’t go into detail about my medical nightmare because it’s a long story that needs to be told completely for the whole process to make sense. Long story short, I’ll just say that due to a combination of overwork, stress, and negligent, arrogant doctors, I miraculously experienced something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
It is important for massage therapists and body professionals to be their own body’s best advocates for the health of their body. Whether it’s saving your thumbs or hands, elbows, shoulders, back, or just staying in bed when you have a cold or flu, you are your body’s best defenders. No one else will care about protecting your body more than you do. Too many spas or massage establishments unfortunately only care about one and only one thing~ their bottom line. They will push a therapist as hard as they are allowed~ by the therapist ~ produce, often far beyond what a therapist’s body is capable of.
In my case, not only did I have pressure from my spa to come to work before I should have and work on too many bodies every day, but I also put pressure on myself. I was extremely lucky to work in a situation where I was earning a lot of money ~ I mean many money that all therapists dream of earning ~ and feared that if I dared to take a few days off to heal, I would lose too much money this week. So me and my spa contributed to my ultimate demise. By prioritizing a week’s pay and the needs of my spa, I lost so much more than a week’s pay. I lost nearly a full year of full time work because my body was too weak to handle more than one or two sessions a day ~ a few times a week. I also calculated that combined with my lost savings and lost job, the salary for that week that I was so worried about cost me about $65,000 that year! What a lesson I learned, right? My own body’s best advocate put her results first.
It is very difficult for me to write about this experience in my life because it is a disturbing reminder of how a stupid and short-sighted decision on my part jeopardized my health and my livelihood. But it is important for me to remember and share with others an example of what not to do when faced with a decision about your health and the well-being of your body.
As I mentioned earlier, as a bodyworker, you will come into intimate contact with exotic insects brought into your massage room by your clients. Sometimes they may just be unconscious carriers, but too often they are sick themselves, selfishly putting their own comfort ahead of their therapist’s health. In obvious situations, you have the option of wearing a protective mask, or if your client has glassy eyes and a fever, you have an obligation to him and yourself to cancel the session. I’ve worked on many sessions using a protective mask, telling my clients that I can’t afford to get what they have. When I suffered from allergy season I also wore a mask even though I knew I was not contagious because I wanted my clients to know that I cared about their health and well-being . It is possible to defend the health of others while remaining your own defender.
When I was a new therapist, just starting out, I worked for a high end hotel spa during the SARS crisis. A group from Toronto came and one of my guests had an obvious cold and cough. I panicked as we had no masks available and was afraid to cancel the session as I didn’t want to lose my job. It was a very stressful session for me, not to mention the following weeks as I waited for SARS to strike me dead. This is an example of a spa putting their sick guest before their therapist ~ and a therapist putting something/anything before the safety of their own body. As I mentioned, I was a relatively new therapist and worried more about my work than my own body. I did not fully understand my responsibility and obligation as a defender of myself to protect mine health.
As I continue to battle my New Year’s virus, I hope that by sharing my past experience, I can impact other bodyworkers and how they view their role as advocates for their own bodies. I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to be your own body’s best advocate. No one has a greater stake in protecting your health and well-being than you, except, of course, your family. If you’re too sick to work, don’t. If you are injured, do not work injured. Remember that the decisions you make today don’t just affect tomorrow. If you are the best and most insistent advocate for your own body, you can virtually guarantee health and longevity in a difficult but rewarding career where you can also continue to advocate for the health and well-being of your clients.
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