An African mum living, learning, and documenting the process in London.

Marcy Madzikanda: On massages and the reason I enjoy them so much

My first professional massage was when my mother was training to be a masseuse. She needed a person to practice on and I happily volunteered. It was amazing. I cried during the treatment. I imagine it had something to do with a mother’s touch, healing hands and a shared history of pain and loss being massaged away. It was therapeutic for us both.

She was also not a very touchy, hugs, or kisses kind of mother growing up. It may have something to do with being raised in Zimbabwe. I notice she is different with my younger sister, born here and that she has over time started physically demonstrating her love. So this massage, for me carried me through waves of emotions.

Intertwined with our history, and surviving it, in that moment, I was immensely proud of the fact that she was pursuing her goal to own her own beauty studio and this was one step towards that. She never finished the course and still talks about having her own business.

She didn’t give up on the dream, she sacrificed it to support family. How often do we hear of women putting the needs of others before their own? Meanwhile life happens as it always does and the dream, remains a dream.

I’m writing this post on a train in the Czech Republic. I’ve spent a few days in Karlovy Vary, a well known spa town where I had a few treatments to help me unwind but purely because it was so much cheaper than Western Europe.

The train rides, and spa time have given me time to reflect on many things including my love of massages and complimentary therapy. Our bodies hold on to so much pain, hurt, abuse, love, joy. I may not vocalise certain things but I know if I set aside time for therapy I will be able to process them in a meaningful way that keeps me balanced.

When I was pregnant, I was as anxious as can be. Being an ‘older mother’ worried me. A period of depression in my twenties and in my family had me worried that I would develop post natal depression. In addition to this I also had pelvic girdle pain, which was rather uncomfortable. The amazing physiotherapy team at Queen Charlotte’s worked with me for many weeks during the pregnancy. I also researched complimentary therapies that would help.

As I researched, it came back to me that nearly 8 years prior I used to have a monthly massage. I met the woman through taster complimentary therapy sessions, provided by her charity, The Munro Cooperatives to staff and service users where I used to work. We could get a thirty minute treatment for a £1, and when I changed jobs I could still get a treatment for £5. At the time my immigration case was with the Home Office (this ended up being about 9 years in total) and being in a state of limbo was not good for mental health.

These treatments were so good for my soul and at that price (even though a struggle at times) I accessed the service. I later met her privately for hour long treatments and by this time I was hooked.

I still had her number and called her up and we decided that reflexology would meet my needs. She agreed to come to my home after work. I’d have something to eat and shower. She would arrive for my session shortly thereafter. The last six weeks of the pregnancy I increased the appointments to fortnightly and the week I was due she worked on labour inducing points. Honestly I have not written or shared my birth story but compared to many horror stories I’ve heard it was rather straightforward. A lot of that I can attribute to the marvellous midwife who I saw throughout, the team at the hospital and the reflexology I had from Rita.

The therapy allowed me to balance my inner mind and reconnect with who I am. This is what massage, or complimentary therapies do for me. I cannot recommend them enough. Even when times where tough (believe me they really were) I would make an effort to find beauty schools like The London School of Beauty and Make-up offering training opportunities for their students at a reduced cost. Groupon also served me well, getting discounted treatments. When I travel if it works out cheaper to get a massage, I get one.

I can’t put a price on seeing someone who knows you and your body regularly. Knows your soft spots, the injuries and the areas that need extra attention and once that bond is developed the therapy becomes so much more than that and bonds so close, create an intimacy that can’t really be put into words and ‘this feeling’ is what I propose we should all experience at some point in our lives through complementary therapies.

I’d love to hear your experiences of receiving and giving massages. Until next time.

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