Massage therapy – which I refer to as treatment – has been part of my rehabilitation since the very first day. On the day I found out I could overcome my disability, I also had initial assessment with a physiotherapist and a massage therapist. I realize now that this set me on my trajectory to better myself: physiotherapy and massage became just as much a part of my life as taking a shower and brushing my teeth. I learned a lot about my body when I went for regular massages and I began offering massages to my family members and friends. I told them I wasn’t trained but that I’d been receiving treatments regularly and that using therapeutic touch felt natural to me. I regarded each treatment like a professional service – rather than a gesture of intimacy – and everyone I gave massage to felt better. My mother and my friends encouraged me to apply to massage therapy school, but medical professionals and practicing massage therapists advised me against it. Whether I wanted to ‘face it’ or not, this was one of ‘those times’ where the fact that I have a disability is the main reason why I can’t – or shouldn’t – do something.
I was told that I was not physically strong enough to handle the demands of the job. This extends beyond the strength (and lack thereof) in my legs. My hands are not dexterous enough for the profession and I do not possess enough upper body strength. I believed that I could work to build the strength I didn’t possess – and for once I felt motivated to go to the gym in order to build the strength – but I was told not to. The massage therapist I spoke with candidly informed me that massage therapy is hard enough on even the strongest, healthiest, most flexible people, and that many students who graduate from massage therapy training do not even enter the business because the schooling alone has ruined their bodies. They don’t possess the strength to continue the work. She said that if I trained to be a masseuse, I would only be able to work as a professional therapist for three to four years, I would irreversibly damage my body, and I would ruin the progress I had made with all the other physical work I have done in the last five years. I understood her perspective – especially since her training and experience made the information she gave me more fact-based than just an opinion – and I decided not to go to massage therapy school. I chose to study publishing instead, but I still give massages to friends and family members because it’s something I enjoy and they enjoy it too.
Having cerebral palsy automatically places limitations around me that I work to subvert, challenge, break, and break out of. This is one of those times that – regardless of progress – I have to accept what my disability prevents me from pursuing or achieving. Accepting it frees me to pursue other things I am passionate about, even though the fact that I can’t study the practice or enter the profession makes me sad. I can continue to receive treatment and learn from it – and apply it to the treatments I give – while taking up other doable passions, like writing, editing, and research. These things make me happy too.