I know personally what it is like to battle with pain. To fight it. To carry it with me daily, a heavy load upon aching shoulders and back, weights shackled and dragging with burning legs. I know the needles tingling down restless arms and within twitching feet.
The gnawing within muscles like a hunger for relief. The constant pounding of drums within my own head is all too familiar – a rhythm that blocks out everything else besides a blinding aura, a maddening deafness, an agony laced with a desire for pure blackness until the beating stops and the drumming cease.
This is life with fibromyalgia, with chronic fatigue, with chronic migraine, and other conditions all working together, working against me, against my own body. My body, fighting itself.
I have had dreams for many years of practicing massage. It began with trading hand and foot massage with a few of my best friends during sleepovers. We would give each other manicures and pedicures, with the massages accompanying.
Or sometimes the massages would stand alone, given while enjoying snacks and movies. It was during these moments that I realized that I might have a gift for touch- for touch that could give relaxation, possibly even healing. My friends and I would look up articles about reflexology, and I was very interested with the idea of all of it.
I had been surrounded my whole life by sickness and pain- my own and others. While I fought my own battles, I watched my mother fight hers- she lived with lupus, cancer…all while raising a total of seven children. Eventually her battle would end after 60+ years of near-constant warring. Watching what she went through for so long. Going through so much myself.
I wondered at the thought of being able to maybe help others alleviate some of their own sickness and pain. But then, I am so empathic and tend to take what others are going through onto myself. And with my own pain that I experience, I didn’t know if I would be capable of truly helping others with theirs. My hands and legs cramp up easily… My thumbs lock. My back sometimes aches after just 15 minutes of standing. I often tire quickly. If someone is deeply saddened or depressed, or sick, I feel it as my own. Could this be something I could do? I let my insecurities and fears keep me from even looking into pursuing massage, and instead pushed it away to pursue other dreams and interests.
I married for almost seven years, divorced three-and-a-half years ago, and am now the mother of two beautiful children- a 10-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. I currently own my own creative services and photography business, and I am working hard to grow it and to support my small family. But it has been a difficult road trying to care for them while living with chronic illness and pushing to make a living for us from scratch.
Thankfully, we have the love and support of their grandparents and other family and friends, who also give me the emotional stamina to continue forward and do the best I can. I was taught a long time ago by my sister to try every day to be better than I was the day before, and to always, always set new goals.
It is now over 10 years since my dreams of massage therapy, and life has placed me in a location literally surrounded by friends and family who are massage therapists and healers. Even the office I work at is located within the same building as the massage school I am applying to, and with my children’s grandma, who is also a massage therapist.
At least two of the instructors at the school also have fibromyalgia, and/or are highly empathic, such as I am. And I feel I have the people and tools in place to provide me with the best instruction and support possible to learn all I can to become a massage therapist as well. We all have wells of knowledge within us to reach down in to and to share with others, and it is within me to use all I have already gone through and experienced, and all that I will learn and experience, to help bring healing and relaxation to others.
Over the course of the past year alone, I have grown so much, and have learned so many new things- about different foods, exercises, stretches, about visualizations, mediating, using healing stones, therapeutic music. I am constantly seeking and implementing new information for my healing. For me, massage therapy is not just a journey for myself, but for others as well, and so I am seeking a career in massage therapy not only for my own healing, but so that through me, others may have access to the same information and the same healing that I have learned.
That this pain that I have carried for so long may be turned around and be used as a tool to bring relief for others. So that pain no longer has to be something that defines me, but, that that through alleviating it in others, it can be something that empowers me.
I may never be totally free from pain or from some of the limitations that it can cause. It may always be something that I have to push through. But knowing that it does not have to stop me from helping others, and that I will be someone who can truly sympathize with them and support them while providing them care, that is my hope and my goal. I look forward to working with everyone at Cohutta Healing Arts Institute and learning as much as I can in the pursuit of reaching my goal towards becoming a massage therapist.
I do not know how long I will be a massage therapist; I hope that it will be for many years, as long as possible. And I plan to continue with my other pursuits and to create new goals as I practice massage therapy. I want to be able to teach my children and my clients that it is not only possible to live with and manage pain, but that it is possible to overcome it and to thrive with it. I want to be able to show them that this world has so much to offer, and that pain is just one aspect of it. Helping others and pursuing the best life possible is another.
Name: Leslie Byrd
Favorite Color: Amethyst Purple
Favorite Animal(s): Cats, Tigers, Birds
Hobbies & Interests: Writing, Poetry, Coffee, Music, Movies, Dystopian & Classic Novels, Photography