Healing Myself through Healing Others
“I believe the true healer is one who has been wounded and learned to heal herself.”
- Heather Luttrell
:: Written by Heather Luttrell ::
Being a human is hard work. It requires a lot of emotional and physical exertion. Sometimes, when we injure ourselves, the source is obvious: a fall, a slip, a broken bone. Sometimes, the source of our pain is not so obvious: you attempt to get out of bed in the morning and your left leg just won’t work anymore, rendering you unable to walk for six weeks. You can guess which was the case life gave me.
I spent the better part of the past fifteen years driving my tour van around the country, singing the blues with my traveling music show. It was a lot of sitting, a lot of work and I was exhausted by the hustle. I was exhausted period. My growth as a musician was nonexistent and as a human I had become stagnant. Life held little interest for me beyond whiskey and a stage to scream my blues away. Like in a cartoon, it was as if someone had bricked up and painted over my tunnel and I was a musical freight train headed straight for disaster. Unsure how to get “through” all of this, or perhaps simply unable to see it, I hit the wall with an excruciating metaphorical splat and the injury took me down. I wasn’t doing any self care and my body had finally made me stop. After being carried into my doctor’s office, I was informed I had five herniated discs. Faced with either surgery or bed rest and crossed fingers, I opted for my bed which came with a host of healing kitty companions.
To remedy my situation I decided to employ a combination of therapies including chiropractic care, cold laser therapy, yoga and massage. My holistic doctor also spoke to me about the emotional implications of my injury. My back was breaking because I was doing ALL the work for my band: the booking, the tour managing, the art for the albums, writing all the songs, driving us everywhere, handling all the money...pant pant pant... I wasn’t getting any help from my band mates or record label. My back was literally breaking in part because I felt unsupported. So as I lay there, legs up on pillows staring at the ceiling, I began to make phone calls to my support system to discuss how to lighten my load. I began delegating, saying “No” to things I couldn’t do, and was pleasantly surprised with how simple that was: no one thought less of me for doing less. That may have been the longest six weeks of my life... but after many books, movies, hours of thinking and learning to play the banjo, I emerged from the cocoon my bed had become and into a back brace with a lot of research under my belt.
While my hodge-podge therapy combination was helping me to become a hobbling human again, nothing truly did the trick until a friend came to give me a massage. She was a tiny, intimidating person with whom I had no deep emotional connection, and yet, she was able to work magic on my physical form. After she unlocked my piriformis, I could be upright with minimal pain. It was long, slow, deep work... but I could once again walk without pain. Once my physical body had been attended to, it was time to give my emotions my full attention.
This experience of being being healed with holistic methods after being told by doctors that surgery was required reinvigorated my love of natural healing. The need to help and to heal others was reawakened within me and I knew I had some changes to make in my life and work. In 2003, when I graduated from the Atlanta School of Massage with a degree in Neuromuscular Therapy, I had mostly been doing mobile, in-home client massage and working out of my own home on friends and family. It sort of petered out over time and I missed it but wasn't sure where my fire had gone. This injury gave me the time to reassess what was important to me. My former fascination with the miracle that is the human body, our ability to heal and the emotional brain/body connection was once again at the forefront of my mind. Reuniting with my work as a massage therapist gave new fuel to pursue the passions that I had let fade. The new information I had gathered through my own experience was the key: the emotional body must be addressed for true healing to occur in the physical body. I find what often gets set aside in modern Western medicine is the emotional state of the patient and how the processing of emotions affects our physical body. I began exploring how to incorporate a range of therapies that take this emotional aspect into account in my own practice. Meditation, guided visualization, talk therapy, sound healing, and nutrition are a part of the healing I found vital for myself and now give to others. I believe the true healer is one who has been wounded and learned to heal herself.
Now, five years later with a yoga teacher certification under my belt, I am back to massaging full time. While I still struggle with working too much, I love what I do. I feel a purpose in it and am honored by my clients for allowing me to help them, as I once needed that help. I’m trying hard to remember and learn to listen when my body starts telling me to slow down before it stops me dead on the tracks again. If it does, I feel that maybe this time around I can trust the universe that change is coming, and it might just be time to rest up and get ready for what is next.
-Heather Luttrell, Massage Therapist