Sunday, August 17, 2008

Massage my panicky heart

Lest you think I completely live off My Love's income (well, pretty much I do), thought you should know I actually got hired by someone. A reader, in fact. That is frightening on so many levels.

From today on, I will also be writing a monthly column in the e-letter of the Aetheria Relaxation Spa. It's not only a great spa that gives you personal attention in a friendly, healing atmosphere, but it is also located right next to a funky tavern with Smithwick's on tap. I know this because that's where Beth, the coolest spa owner in the world, plied me with drink and mozzarella sticks during negotiations.

"Look at me," I said, wiping crumbs from my chin. "Why would you want this (pinching love handles, staining shirt with zesty marinara sauce stuck on fingers) to write a health column?"

"The monkey broke his arm," she said.

"OK, I want $500 per column, unlimited massages for me and the wife and a bowl of Skittles -- greens and yellows only -- in my dressing room."

"I'll buy you another pint."

That's better than I was making as a reporter! Sweeeeeet!

So, without further ado ... Your Uncool Health Columnist makes his debut:

I had my first heart attack at 24. At least I thought I did.

Chest pains, shortness of breath, numbness in the arms. "Ooo, it's the Big One, Elizabeth! I'm comin' to join ya, honey!"

Two ER trips, a couple of EKGs and a visit to a general practitioner later, the medical profession copped out on me with these conclusions:

I definitely had a sinus condition.

I may have pulled a chest muscle.

I was apparently prone to panic attacks.

Mucus issues - agreed. The chest muscle excuse I still don't buy because, honestly, overexertion for me at that stage in my life meant carrying TWO cases of beer from the car to the 'fridge. But panic attacks?

Since I paid enough attention to "ER" on Thursday nights to recognize most of the signs of a heart attack, apparently I had convinced myself that I was actually having one when the first pain hit. My overactive imagination just filled in the rest of the blanks, the docs said.

That made sense. The problem now was unconvincing myself that that I was headed to the cardiac care ward before I had even moved out of my parents' house. I spent a week or two lying on the couch (yes, my parents' couch), watching cable and being afraid to make any sudden moves.

One of my co-workers' suggested I try massage therapy to help me relax. That his girlfriend at the time was a licensed masseuse showed great confidence either in himself as a boyfriend or in her as a massage professional. Turned out to be both.

Thinking about that first massage, to this day, still makes the hair on my neck get delightfully tingly. I remember leaving her office that day craving food for the first time in weeks (though, in retrospect, a bread bowl of chili and Heineken may not have been the best meal). The smell of heated lavender oil stayed in my nasal passages for at least two days, and every intake of breath was a reminder of that etherealness under her fingers.

And elbows. I think she also climbed on my back and used her knees at one point. I was one uptight puppy in those days.

I started seeing her weekly for next few months. Gradually I tapered off when I felt completely back to my old self. After that I went back for a "tune up" every few months when I was feeling low or achy or just in need of an hour of tranquility under someone else's nimble fingers.

See, here's a secret: Guys like to be pampered, too.

OK, maybe not avocado-scrub and seaweed-wrap pampering (we'll deal with the perils of mud baths some other time). But if a guy won't admit to feeling some of the world's weight melt off after 60 minutes of having all the right pressure points warmed, oiled and kneaded, then he's lying. In fact, he's lying more now than he did when he said he polished off that zucchini quiche you made (psst, look inside the empty milk carton, under the coffee grounds, at the bottom of the trash).

I won't claim that every massage I've had since makes me feel the same way that first one did. But I've never come out of one looking to the sky and clutching my shirt and quoting Fred G. Sanford. I've only come out feeling peaceful, rested and ready to take on the next challenge.

Or the next bread bowl of chili.

Hope I didn't rub you the wrong way. Now, please massage my status over at by clicking the link and giving me a smiley face. Thanks!


  1. When I gave up my massage virginity, I almost came off that table ready to start giving it up to women, because the woman who rubbed me up rubbed me up right. Nevermind she was old enough to be my grandma. It was perfection. I think I need more massages. See if you can hook some random, sexually confused stranger from the Midwest up, why don't ya?

  2. I thought I was having a heart attack when I was in my early twenties.

    But it was gas. Glorious gas!


  3. My wife wont let me go into any of the massage parlours in Bristol....

  4. Hee hee! I love the image of you freaking out, 'cause, you know, it contradicts your relaxed persona. I often give my husband massage gift certifs for his bday bc I am too lazy to give a good massage.
    Massages are basically the best thing in the world. When I manage to score a gift certif for myself from Noelle spa in Stamford, I feel like a total queen.

  5. Love the photo-illustration you've chosen to accompany the article. It says, "The Lions are 0-14 AGAIN this year."

  6. Well look at you go! Congrats on the gig.

    The love of massage is primal I think. Just to be TOUCHED so changing. Okay that was dramatic. But you know what I mean.......

    I hope.

  7. Congrats on the new gig! I got all my medical information from ER for years. It's amazing I'm still alive.

  8. Hmmmmm....never had a massage but your post here makes me want one.
    ER freaked me out to much so I quit watching it. I am queasy around other peoples blood anyway. My kids I am ok but after that yeah sorry hubbie you dead.
    Cheers on the new gig!!

  9. have a gift card for a massage on my bulletin board. been sitting there for 8 months.

    will cash in next week.

    and avoid yet another heart attack.

  10. FADKOG - Would you like happy ending with that?

    B.E. - Uh, thanks for sharing.

    Freelance - They have call back service now and will come right to your home.

    ST - Never mention that other spa's name in my presence again. It's Aetheria Relaxation Spa or nothing!

    MAW - That's my "the Mets' bullpen blew a 7-run lead again" look.

    Marcy - Some say I am touched in other ways ... mostly the head ... and not little one, either.

    3un2 - I just got back into ER last season. I think I've got a man crush on John Stamos.

    Maryo - I do some editing for a health new Web site. After the first week I thought I had six different diseases, including preclampsia.

    Ms P - Do it know! We like to see you around here.

  11. I had EXACTLY the same experience in my 20s... Chest pains, shortness of breath, the whole thing. And yeah, I think I was quoting Fred Sanford, too. (We must be the same age.) Anyway, mine also turned out to be a combination of the very misnamed heart burn and anxiety. I've carried a Xanax prescription with me ever since... Ah, sweet, sweet meds.

  12. I'm a panic attack veteran but have never had a professional massage.

    Maybe I should fix that.

  13. Seriously, I would FAKE a heart attack right now if I thought it would get my insurance to cover a massage as a medical necessity. Perhaps they'll have a masseuse at the "special hospital" I'm going to be Baker Acted into. Wish me luck.

    Rock on with the new job! Way to be financially sexy.

  14. gotta love a spa with a humor columnist! glad you and beth linked up... she's the best.

  15. Mmm. I'd like me an oil rub down with some Smithwicks afterwards.

    And I thought I was the only one to quote Fred Sanford ;)

  16. Congratulations on the new gig. This is a fantastic column!

  17. Congrats! This is great--if I don't get enough stalking time in here, I can follow you over there. ;)

  18. Wow - I too, thought I was having a heart attack in my early 20's. After the EKG and getting my parents all in a tizzy, I was told that I was having irregular heart beat (arythmia - spelled wrong I'm sure) mostly because I was too caffeinated at the time! How embarrassing... did I slow down on the coffee? Yes, for a little bit.

    My first massage was at the age of 42 and it was amazing and glorious and I was a ball of goo afterwords. I had to sit in my car for 15 minutes before I could coordinate my muscles enough to drive home.

    Good luck on your new occupation! More beer is always the best answer!

  19. Every time Thomas needs to fart he thinks he has appendicits. Even though he doesn't have a fever or nausea or any of the other symptoms of said affliction.

    Maybe I should get him a massage. It would be worth it if I didn't have to listen his whining. lol

  20. I freaking love massages.

    Laughing at your heart attack...sorry. But I diagnose myself based on ER and Grey's Anatomy all the time, so I can understand. But truly, I've had a panic attack and I seriously thought I was dying. Like, where's my white light, type of dying.

  21. I can't believe how many other head cases I have reading this blog. I love you even more. Now roll over while I peak under this sheet.

  22. this reminds me that is way past time for my next massage. thanks!

  23. Listen, I had a massage therapist at both of my deliveries! I was all, "Effaced, schmeffaced, just keep working on my feet..."
    I am hardcore.

  24. I love a massage myself. I am prone to panic attacks, trips to the ER, and being an absolute hypochondriac.

    If I even hear someone is sick with something, I almost certain that either I have it, I will get it, or I have something else far, far worse, and a million times more deadly.

    Massage has helped mediate some of the stress that is the by product of my insanity; xanax cleans up the rest.

  25. I had my first massage this year (I'm 27!) It lowered my blood pressure so much that I nearly passed out when I stood up.

    I'm scheduling one today, just because you reminded me gooder.


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My Uncool Past