When I’m not spending time in Urgent Care or hat shopping or cooking or trial watching or wine drinking or traveling or blogging, I have a day job.
I have been a Myofascial Release therapist for over 23 years now. In fact, when I started practicing MFR, I was the only person in my entire city who offered this profound form of therapy. But really, what captured me in this web of miraculous healing was my own need for relief and salvation.
Here is my professional website:
When my colleague and friend Phil Tavolacci asked me to submit an essay as part of his book about MFR I happily said yes. I’m going to share with you the essay I submitted, not sure yet if/how it’s been edited but this is the raw form. It describes part of my own healing journey with this profound method.
His book was just released this week! I can’t wait to get it and read the entire thing and share it with my clients! It’s filled with stories like my own and I’m sure very inspirational essays about healing and miracles including Phil’s own memoir. I hope it sparks some interest in you as well to purchase Phil’s book and/or explore more about MFR if you have body/mind issues that it may be able to help you find relief from. It sure has changed my life.
Phil’s book “What’s In Your Web?: Stories of Fascial Freedom” can be found here on amazon, also a Kindle version available:
Here’s my essay, I hope you get something from it:
The world of Myofascial Release caught me by surprise. I was a practicing RN in an outpatient head injury rehabilitation facility and a part time massage therapist trading massages for haircuts in a busy salon. My then boss heard John Barnes PT was coming to town to offer this course and asked me if I’d like to go to scope it out as an option for our Neuro rehab program. Little did either of us know, this offer would change the entire course of my life and career.
My shameful little secret, at that time in my life, was that I was silently struggling with a severe anxiety disorder. I’ve typically been viewed as a strong person so most people had no idea about the burden I was hiding inside. I was broken and ashamed of it all at once. It was not a happy life for me.
I had received all kinds of traditional therapy, medication, hospitalization and was, as John Barnes says “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”. I was 29 years old, and had been living with this debilitating condition for over two years. I was functioning but always guarding myself for the next panic attack, at times having a hard time leaving my home, always had a hard time leaving the city limits, could not get an on airplane without being highly medicated or intoxicated. I lost hundreds of dollars having aborted many trips, sometimes right at the airport because I suffered extreme claustrophobia on planes. I walked off two planes unable to even stay for takeoff. I once even spun out in a panic attack on a vacation because I was walking on a beach and saw too many clouds in the sky that triggered a feeling of being “trapped”.
As a former Psychiatric Nurse I knew the labels of what I was experiencing but had no idea how to deal with it. My Psychologist father, well meaning as he was, kept telling me I was going to have to learn how to manage this. But something greater was operating in me that said “you will not live with this the rest of your life, you need to find a way to heal this” so I went off all the medication and started looking around beyond my traditional scope as a Nurse. I was not even 30 years old! It was right about that time I found myself sitting in the front row in a seminar room listening to John Barnes describe to me a way out of this nightmare. I could feel it in my bones, if anything could truly resolve this, this was it.
So as serendipity would have it, I was so enamored with this work that the head injury facility took me off my nursing duties for the most part and set me up in a treatment room where I began practicing, and I do mean practicing, Myofascial Release with their patients. At the time I began, I had two courses under my belt: MFR 1 and 2. And with that foundation I treated recovering brain injured patients for an entire year This was the best initial training ground I could have asked for as those patients taught me how to practice and of the miraculous power of this work every day.
I can share one of many examples of learning by success that taught me the value of this distinct form of addressing trauma. We had a patient in our head injury program I will refer to as “John”. John was the son of a physician and he had been living in Boston, had gotten engaged, had recently been accepted to a PhD program in another State. While he was walking home one evening, he was randomly and without provocation jumped by a group of street thugs and left for dead in the street. He suffered massive head injuries and had been in a coma for weeks.
By the time John entered our program, it was toward the end of his long and arduous rehabilitation. Yet he was still severely impaired. He had almost zero short term memory and had lost most of his long term memory as well. He hadn’t remembered his fiancée since the accident and sadly, she had moved on with her life.
John was referred by the program to me because he had severe ambulatory issues. If you were to see him on the street, I think the average person would think he had Cerebral Palsy by his gait. So I was to treat him with Myofascial Release to see if there could be any improvement.
The first time he came to my treatment room, I had to go fetch him in another building as he couldn’t remember simple instructions moment to moment. I had to walk him over to my room. I remember standing with him in the room, giving him the instructions about getting disrobed and on the table, waiting a few minutes and knocking on the door only to find him still standing in the center of the room where I left him having forgotten the instructions the moment I left the room. This is how we began. I was a novice at MFR but I knew to assess him for “hot, hard or tender” areas. His entire body felt like a mass of concrete. It was more a question of where to begin for me.
Once during a session, as my soft spa style music was playing , John asked if I had any rock and roll music. I didn’t but my stereo had a radio in it so I found a rock and roll station and played it for him during his session. One day he asked me the number of the station on the radio.
In the first weeks of treating John, I still had to retrieve him from his previous appointment and walk him to my room but gradually I noticed I would walk out of my last treatment and find him sitting in the waiting area all on his own. Then I noticed he was preparing himself for the sessions and getting on the table without need for instruction. I’ll never forget the day I walked in the treatment room to find John on the table ready for his session listening to rock and roll music on the stereo. He had changed that station all on his own! His body was softening, his gait was improving and his cognitive function was returning all at the same time. I was astonished!
About two months after John’s first session with me, I sat in on his discharge meeting with the entire staff. He was ready to go home to live back with his parents in a nearby city. I asked for the Physician’s notes to be passed to me and the words I read were “John has experienced a quantum leap in cognitive improvement in the last month and is ready for discharge”. Quantum leap! The one and only thing that had been added to his treatment regime was the MFR. Me, being a novice still, kind of bookmarked those words in awe, thinking that could be the reason! Of course after 23 years of practice and seeing many many miracle stories like this one, I know it was the x factor. John had not been touched with loving care throughout his rehab. That alone helped his mind release some of the trauma and come back in to focus.
A year after I started my MFR journey with that head injury program, it was sold and many of us were laid off. I was given the opportunity to either go back in to Nursing or continue the MFR work. I took the leap at that time and opened my own practice fueled with the successes I’d seen over the last year and believing this was my life’s work.
But I was still struggling with anxiety. A true believer but still struggling.
A couple of years after I started my practice I received a phone call that John Barnes was thinking of opening a clinic in Sedona AZ, right up the highway from me in Tempe. They were just inquiring if I could pass along some basic info about licensing and things like that. I was elated! I had traveled back to Pennsylvania to intern with John Barnes but now he would be right in my backyard!
From that point on, the MFR courses started being offered more and more in Sedona which meant I didn’t have to board a plane and could have easier access than most. I started signing up and taking every course I could manage. But again, silently and secretly suffering with anxiety. Yet still believing. Many times just leaving the city limits and driving to Sedona was an excruciating journey for me. Many times just staying seated in my chair in the Seminar was the biggest accomplishment of the entire weekend. I was in a near constant state of fight or flight to some degree in many areas of my life, particularly when traveling. But I almost never experienced these symptoms in my treatment room. It was my one refuge from that tsunami always waiting to engulf me.
I heard John Barnes once say “you will notice that your symptoms lessen in severity over time and the episodes of pain become less frequent”. So I started to notice this. I would clock my last anxiety attack and notice the space between them getting broader. I also noticed the severity and lengths of the attacks become lesser. I would get very discouraged when an attack would hit, feeling like I’d not made any progress, but when I stepped outside of it and noticed the changes that had occurred over time, I would feel a sense of optimism. If this thing could change at all, maybe one day it would go away.
I’m not saying I recovered from anxiety in the most efficient way. It took me about 8 years total. In hindsight I might have done some things differently, like do more intensive therapy vs. working this all out in Seminars. But I did recover 100%. And I know it was Myofascial Release and clearing the trauma out of the matrix of my cellular memory that allowed this recovery to happen. . I used to be able to tell you the last day, exact moment, exact location of my last panic attack but that’s been long forgotten now. It’s been well over 10 years. I experience fear and apprehension like a “normal person” now. But I’m no longer plagued by the black cloud of panic. I travel everywhere I want now and live one of the most abundantly free lifestyles of anyone I know. I shudder to think of where I would be at age 53 now if not for the miracle of Myofascial Release. To this day I don’t know what “caused” it and I don’t care, I am free.
I was once a person who was crippled, “grounded” unable to board a plane or travel from my home without severe discomfort. Like many people I had severe anxiety speaking in public including even introducing myself to a large group. I’ve now evolved in to a person who recently boarded a plane comfortably and flew to another State to appear on a national television show to discuss some past traumatic events in my life hopefully to offer help to others. There is no longer even a shadow of the disorder that had once taken control of my entire life.
I now know that I have a road map to help others find their way clear of this debilitating condition. Just the very essence of my being and my recovery is that road map. My clients can feel safe in my confidence that they too, can recover. People come to me specifically for anxiety conditions which seals my place of belonging on this planet and gives all that pain a sense of purpose. I believed, I waited, and I kept stepping in to and through that suffering to find that light at the end.
In that spirit, I would like to share a poem that burst in to my mind while giving a MFR treatment recently that, to me, describes an aspect of this healing process in a way that reflects my ability to now shine. I hope this sharing helps someone else out there to unearth their inner light and be found by their unshakable brilliance as well.
Flawless (for Laura)
by Kathy Monkman
the bigger person.
When life’s crushing blows
come, be small.
Get smaller. Wait.
A perfect diamond won’t apologize
for taking all that time.
It patiently pauses for
it’s moment to shine on
The watch glancing,
So much pressure,
tick tock tick tock.
just one proclamation:
While you were busy being
in my disappearance,
I was becoming.