I met, briefly, with a local Melt instructor. She told me the very basics of the method and showed me how to do the main techniques on my hand. As I wrote about prior, I was hopeful it would work for me since it is a hands-off massage method. (I experience great relief when my BHH rubs out the tension in my upper back, but I don’t do well with massages from others.)
I told the local Melt instructor the basics of my story (PTSD) and history of physical pain and past attempts to correct my posture. She was intrigued to learn that the Melt Method uses similar language as I’d been learning in cognitive behavioral therapy–particularly regarding the rewiring of neural networks in the brain. I was intrigued to hear that the Melt Method recognizes that incorrect posture is often emotions based.
I purchased $170 of materials. The materials included a book, “The Melt Method” by Sue Hitzmann, four instructional DVD’s, a blue foam roller (much softer than the spine stretching roller a physical therapist once forced me to purchase during physical
therapy torture) and a bag of small blue balls of varying degrees of firmness. While it was a lot to invest initially, I reminded myself that one physical therapy visit, complete with painful massage, was costing my health insurance at least $170 a visit.
I am reading through the book. I have watched about half of the DVD’s. I have begun by doing the basic ‘beginner’ exercises, on my hands and feet, as well as a ’50 second facial’ exercise, (which I find very relaxing) all of which takes about ten minutes a day. These basic exercises use the larger and softer balls from the ‘bag of balls’. (shown in photo)
A main theory behind MELT is to rehydrate the fascia, connective tissue which is everywhere and which is believed to be crucial to sending feedback from the muscles and skeletal system back to the brain. Fascia helps your body ‘talk’ to its other parts. The theory is that fascia tension and dehydration in the hands and feet can affect your entire body, hips to neck.
There are several components to using the balls on your hands and feet. Gliding (which preps the fascia), sheering (which rehydrates the fascia) compression and rinsing (which spreads the rehydrating effects around), and then drinking lots of water after a sequence. These techniques will then be learned and applied to other areas of the body once you work past the beginning phases.
Doing the foot and hand sequences was all going well and fine for me. I had some localized pain in my hands a few times and so I eased back on the amount of pressure when I did a glide and shear technique. Overall, though, doing the simple hand exercises already seemed to be making a real difference in decreasing my arm and hand pain and increasing flexibility.
But that foam roller that stretches out your spine… Yikes. It was softer than the physical therapy spine stretcher I still have (and ought to toss!). But it was still quite distressing for me to lie down on that thing. It also made me feel quite funny in my neck. Memories of my months of near-immobility, from strained neck muscles and PTSD rearing up all at once, returned every time I tried to lie down on that blue torture device.
I was scared.
I had a few traumatic flashbacks of my time in physical therapy–during which I forced myself to go through manual massages with a therapist I couldn’t stand and slowly progressed deeper and deeper into physical immobility and pain rather than being released from physical tension–as my therapist had outright promised me would happen if we just kept massaging out all my tight spots.
Ugh. It was a hard time for me.
I didn’t realize I had PTSD at the time, neither did my doctor who had prescribed physical therapy. Eventually I found a physical therapist, and a therapist-therapist, both of whom understood the emotional component of my physical pain. It has lessened. But the physical pain has not fully resolved, despite several years of treatments.
The Melt Method uses a lot of similar techniques to physical therapy–including that spine roller which made my hands sweat just looking at it… Therefore I knew that before I could go any further with trying this new method, I was going to need to face up to some more fears.
I prayed and asked God to show me what else might be going on physically and emotionally and spiritually. And I saw myself like Lazarus. He’d come out of the grave alive but he was still wrapped up in burial cloths. Removing the burial binding was work either he, or others close to him, had to do. Just like a burial shroud, parts of me are still tightly ‘wound’ up, something is still trapping me around my core–my spine. But what?
Further prayer and therapy session ensued.
I believe the thing tying me up is hyper vigilance. A state of being that I have adapted and ‘known’ for my entire life. Beginning as a baby when I was born into an abusive home–being on guard was just how I have always been. Not being on guard, being relaxed, still makes me nervous.
I worked through a lot of those feelings in my next therapy session with my Christian therapist, who totally understood the hyper vigilant state I had chosen and why I was choosing it. Basically, I am in the process of reframing my need to remain vigilant with a trust that Jesus and angels are guarding me in the midst of the dangers and therefore I can relax and start to unwind those grave cloths which still have me bound in so many ways.
But I couldn’t, and can’t, shake the feeling that while the spiritual and emotional element is huge; something physically has gotten out of whack with my body. Therefore it needs to be something physical which rights it again.
Hence, I prayed and got out that blue melt roller a second time… I propped my head up on a small travel pillow, even though I could find nothing in the book or video saying you could do that..it just mentioned propping your arms up on pillows, not your head… but the pillow made it far more bearable. For a few days I didn’t even try to do the rebalancing sequence (which is part of the ‘beginner’s protocol). Rather, I just acclimated myself to lying on the spine stretching roller using the travel pillow to prevent any neck strain. Even with the pillow for support, I could only lie on it for about a minute before my neck began to warn me it was too much. I also worked through some inner fears while lying there, turning them over to God in prayer.
I stopped and tried it again the next day. Each day increasing my time a bit.
The other day I was finally able to work through the ‘rebalance’ exercise while lying over the blue roller, head propped on a travel pillow. But I didn’t assess, and then re-asses afterward, as the DVD and book states you must do.
While I was excited that I could do the sequence without my neck warning me to stop; I didn’t feel any real improvement. I kept reading the book, regardless…and voila, I finally read far enough in the book to see the emphasis the inventor of the method places on both initial body assessments, and then reassessing your body AFTER doing any of the sequences. When people fail to do the assessments, they rarely improve.
That’s when it all kind of just clicked for me. I needed to allow my body the time and space in which to talk back to my brain, and make those internal connections, as well. I followed the assessment instruction (lying on your back and assessing all the areas which are out of alignment)–then did the rebalancing sequence on the foam roller (propping my neck with a small pillow)–and then re-assessed my body once again (lying on your back on the floor and noticing all the areas which went back into alignment).
Taking the extra time to ‘assess’ before and after a sequence can seem like a waste of time (hence I was skipping that part), until it ‘clicks’ in your own head and you get what your body needs…in fact, I had a hard time even finding an ‘excercise-ish’ photo of someone lying in a relaxed, listening, pose on their back–hence the strange photo above of someone lying in a road!
But I believe it is those crucial moments of lying down and listening and tuning into your body that are encouraging your brain to start communicating again with the autonomic nervous system. I have the feeling that this simple technique is a huge discovery, training your body and brain to talk to each other again– especially for anyone recovering from massive stress, trauma, anxiety, etc. (like me).
For me, my autonomic nervous system is clearly still out of whack and not communicating well with my brain. I am wondering if that miscommunication between mind and body is playing a role in lingering body pain. Years of my central nervous system ‘living’ in fight, flight, or freeze states has probably contributed to that miscommunication.
If you took the time to read this far, I figured you might appreciate an update. So one final note: I am still in the beginning phases of trying this method. Time will tell if it is going to be effective in treating the lingering physical effects of PTSD and anxiety disorder.
For now I remain cautiously optimistic that these hands-off massage and assessment sequences; in addition to therapy, prayer, and support from others– can help me unwind from the lingering tension.