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Confessions of a Massage Therapist: Poor Self-Care and The Worst Massage I Ever Had

Is Today Over Yet?

I woke up this morning with mush brain and I haven't been able to concentrate, focus or get much of anything remotely useful done. The most productive thing I've managed has been finding matching socks. But I promised myself I'd maintain my writing schedule, so here I am. Since the ol' noggin has gone belly up on me, I'll tell you a story instead. A story about the worst massage I ever had. It was a disappointment of epic proportions so bad it bordered on the hilarious and was almost kind-of worth it for the sheer absurdity of the experience. At least I got a story out of it.

Do Massage Therapists Make Picky Clients? Not This One.

First let me just say that being a massage therapist does not make me particularly picky about getting a massage. Quite the opposite actually.

You know the expression The cobbler wears the worst shoes? Essentially the cobbler is so busy taking care of everyone else's footwear needs that he neglects his own and walks around in raggedy-ass shoes. I shouldn't admit this, but I'm pretty much like that with massage. Between my schedule of giving massage, the backend work that goes into the business, building my writing practice and the dumpster load of everything else that goes into being a working woman with a family I'm always either too tired, too busy or too forgetful to get the care I need. And I really need it.

I educate my clients on the importance of regular massage. I encourage them to book ahead so they don't let their personal care fall to the bottom of the to-do list. I remind them that they need to take care of their precious hard working selves in order to best take care of others. Three very sage pieces of wisdom from an experienced and dedicated massage professional. But do I listen to any of my own advice? No, uh-uh and nope. When it comes to getting my own massage I'm the absolute worst!

As I sit here writing this I realized my shoulders are literally up near my ears. I willed them to drop and I could hear the ka-thunk they made falling from such great heights. No wonder my general state of being right now is so uncomfortable it's literally dragging me down and driving me to distraction. When my body feels bad it permeates my entire being. But did I book a massage a week ago when I realized how irritable and achey I've been? Nah. Did I book a massage yesterday when I could tell by my very weird and specific nervy pain pattern that today was gonna be the pits? I did not. Did I follow my gut this morning and cancel my afternoon work plans to book a last minute massage? Um, nope. No to all of the above. No a hundred times over. That would require planning, setting aside a few hours just for me and spending money I should probably save for the upcoming holiday season.

Instead, I ignored all my red flags of impending doom and here I am - essentially a useless bag of thorns. Instead of taking a couple hours off for personal care I wasted many hours at the computer making vague and futile attempts at being productive and feeling bad about the things I really need to be doing but just don't have the energy for. And instead of spending time and money on myself I spent it on Amazon, getting a fun little treat for my pup (cause I've been a sucky dog mom this week too) and some things I kind of needed for my massage practice anyway. I wrote a list of things I had already done today just for the satisfaction of crossing items off.

All that is to say that when I get a massage I am deeply, profusely, monumentally grateful to be on someone else's table receiving instead of giving. I send up silent thanks for each and every second someone else's hands are on me applying pressure to a knot or lengthening out my cranky old muscles or just ... being nice. I'm a puddle of sincere gratitude. I love it all. I am the best client ever.

So when I say I had a terrible massage, I hope you get the idea that it had to be pretty stinking bad. And it was.

This Little Piggy: The Worst Massage I Ever Had.

The pretty stinking bad massage took place at a lovely mineral spring spa I had carefully chosen for the serene setting and healing mineral water. I didn't expect the service to be super personal and highly skilled - I find that they often aren't at these types of places - but sneaking away for the weekend with my two oldest besties was pleasurable enough. I was already completely relaxed from the sauna and pools and the massage was just the icing on the cake. Or at least it was supposed to be.

When the time came I was led down a lovely little walkway past lovely little gardens and into a lovely little treatment room. I hopped on the table like an eager little sprite and exhaled a lovely little sigh as I waited for the therapist to return to the room and do their thing. Things kicked off with a few weirdly disjointed and half hearted minutes on my back and shoulders that felt like an eye roll. I realized from the get that this wasn't going to be all that great and I was right. After that disappointing start things, didn't get better. In fact they just got more confusing.

After what seemed like a criminally paltry amount of time on my back the therapist moved onto my feet. It was a strange progression with no discernible flow but foot work can be really relaxing so I was down for some - there are incredible pressure point in those puppies. Sadly this therapist wasn't familiar with the concept because the work was basically just lotion application. And worse - it lasted for a really long time, doubly confounding because the back work was so fleeting. Mercifully the foot work eventually ended and my legs got a brief moment of attention before I was told to turn over. I was naively optimistic that there might be some relaxing neck work in my future. Instead, to my absolute amazement, they returned right to my feet. Again! And for ages! Only this time it was even worse because it was more like my toes instead of my feet. I mean - how long can you work on a person't toes? I felt like a toddler on the receiving end ofThis Little Piggy Went to Market only I was decidedly not feeling delight. More like increasing consternation. At this point, I could sense that we were closing in on the hour and I wistfully let go of the hope that this session would turn around. In fact the remainder of the time was spent on the piggies and their day at the market followed by about 30 seconds of something like massage on my neck before signaling the end.

My expectations may have been moderate to low but I did have some expectations and that massage did not come close. I can't really remember if I mentioned specific areas that were troubling me before the session. Even if I didn't, I'm pretty certain that spending 85% of the treatment time on a person's feet is not the most efficient or well received default routine. And I mentioned this was at a fancy mineral spring place so you should just imagine dollar signs drifting away on the Palm Springs Breeze.

Lesson #1, Learn From My Mistake and Communicate!

Why didn't you say something?! Excellent question. I'll tell you why.

First of all, I didn't feel unsafe. Let me get that out of the way. I get a lot of foot fetish jokes when I tell this story and I suppose there could be some truth to that but I don't think so. It just seemed like a weird, highly unskilled massage by someone who would rather not be there. I didn't feel violated - just annoyed. I'm saying that because someone being violated by a medical, health or any other type of professional is nothing to joke about or downplay.

I educate clients about how to communicate during a massage and encourage everyone to speak up if they need something like pressure, speed or focus area changed - or anything else that's leaving them uncomfortable or underwhelmed. So I'm perfectly aware that I could have spoken up at any point and asked this person to move on to something else. Anything else! But there's this part of me that sometimes just likes to let a therapist do their thing when I don't have any particular goals for the session. I've learned a lot from other therapist's work and and I'm always open to new and different ways of doing things. Learning what makes a less than desirable massage experience informs my work as much as learning what makes a great experience.

But in this case, if I'm being honest, I kind of just wanted to see where exactly in the hell all of this was going. Maybe there was a method to this madness?

Nope. No method, only madness.

The Moral of The Story is Know When to Quit.

Ok, maybe I overstated when I said It was a disappointment of epic proportions so bad it bordered on the hilarious and was almost kind of worth it for the sheer absurdity of the experience. Really, it was just a bad massage with an annoyingly single minded focus and a client that didn't speak up. And, yes I was curious where the whole thing was going, but I should have put an end to the ridiculousness when I realized just how little I was going to get out of the session. I didn't know when to call it quits.

But not today. I've learned my lesson and can spot when something has no hope of working out in my favor. With that in mind, I'm packing it in for the day and I'm not even going to run this writing through Grammerly or read it over fourteen to twenty-eight times before posting. And I'm a perfectionist - that's how done with today I am. I'm going to make some tea, eat some chocolate, read a trashy book and call it self-care. I think it qualifies - at the very least it'll be more restorative than that sad massage.

Stay curious. Stay humble. Stay kind.




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Hey there, I'm Juliette (She/her) – I'm a Bodyworker and Writer.

I run a thriving massage practice in the East Bay California, where I've helped thousands of people feel amazing in their bodies.
When I'm not helping people feel better in their bodies or writing about wellness, practice-building and the messy art of being human, you can find me hanging with my family, curled up with some chocolate and a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area with my pup.

My daily grind involves battling my brain to carve out a space for healthier living, personal growth, and a pinch more self-love. It's an ongoing challenge!

Join me as I explore wellness of the head, heart and body. 

Stay curious, stay humble, stay kind.



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Juliette Wilk is a licensed and certified Massage Therapist with 20 years of experience. She runs a thriving private practice in East Bay California, where she's helped thousands of people feel better in their bodies. When she's not helping people achieve a state of bliss or writing on wellness and practice-building topics, you can find her hanging with her family and pup, curled up with a book, drinking room-temperature tea or hiking the gorgeous Bay Area. Work with her or read more @


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