A Key To My Recovery: Massage Therapy and Art

1 Oct, 2019

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that require intensive, evidence-based treatments delivered by a range of trained professionals. However, there are many other pursuits and activities that - whilst not currently supported by extensive evidence – some people may find helpful. This blog is part of our series, A Key To My Recovery, which provides a direct reflection of the unique experiences of the author and may not be the experience of everyone. Always seek out professional advice that is right for you.

In this blog we explore how massage therapy and art, either informally or as part of art therapy, can be practiced in addition to and in conjunction with traditional treatments.

Massage Therapy

Bianca Hill says massage therapy has played an important role in her journey to overcoming anorexia nervosa.

“Believe me, as scary as it sounds, with a therapist that understands eating disorders, massage therapy is life changing,” she says.

She stumbled upon the practice by chance last year. In a last-ditch attempt to help her recover, Bianca’s father urged her to try hypnotherapy. The hypnotherapist, who was also a masseuse, suggested she try massage therapy.

“Instantly I freaked!” Bianca says, “Hell no! No way was anybody seeing my body and absolutely not touching me.”

“It took a lot of pleading from a very patient therapist before I agreed to begin my first massage treatment.”

Bianca started her first session wrought with fear and discomfort. But those feelings did not last long.

“As the hour passed, and afterwards, the feeling was euphoria,” she says.

“The sensations and gentle touch my body had been so deprived of for so many years was nearly unrecognisable. It was as if my mind was in a whole new world.”

“Afterwards, my head was foggy and I was sleepy from relaxation, not from the exhaustion of the constant mental fight and sleepless nights caused by the eating disorder.”

“This experience drew me down the track of recovery. It helped me in so many ways, both physically and psychologically.”

“Touch is paramount for one’s emotions and sense of connection. It gives reassurance, warmth, pleasure, care, acceptance, love, comfort, as well as increasing our circulation.”

Bianca found massage so beneficial that she has become a masseuse herself, “so I can forward this amazing service on to others and aid them in their journey.”

Art Making

Heidi Fabien-Lee says that art helped her to express her feelings, and find a voice, in the midst of her eating disorder.

“It has been 22 years since my recovery. I truly understand the healing power of art and the story a picture can tell,” she says.

Heidi says her love of art started at a young age and creating has always been her “happy place”.

“I always loved to draw, create and play. In art, I was able to be me. I felt peace, the ability to express myself, an outlet for feelings and emotions.”

“In my final years of high school - when my eating disorder was starting - art helped me to find some calm and peace when my mind was very unsettled.”

“I immersed myself in art. Painting, printmaking and photography.”

“Art helped me to express my emotions and feelings, and to get out everything I was trying to get out but couldn’t,” she says.

Heidi was diagnosed with an eating disorder at 24 years and admitted to a clinic for treatment.

“While at the clinic I drew a lot. Through drawing, I was able to express what was going on in my mind and within my eating disorder.”

“I created scenes and stories on paper that helped me understand my inner-self, distinguish the conflict in my thoughts, and recognise my own eating disorder better.”

“Seeing this on paper helped me to move forward through to recovery.”

In the years to follow, Heidi always carried a small art book.

“I draw in it whenever I felt the need to. I know this contributed greatly to my recovery and helped to keep me focused on my recovery."

Heidi says she believes in the healing power of art so strongly, that she now runs her own art classes.

“You do not need to have any art experience or talent to do art. Sometimes it is self- expressive, free form, and other times it is guided by the instructor.”

“Art truly helped me. I believe creating artworks while on a recovery path can help the person visualise, express emotions and see a visual path on their journey in recovery.”