An article by Bonnie Lee, LMT-18719
OSM Instructor of Kinesiology and Business Intro

As I turned to massage as my career

There were many reasons and justifications for finding a new path towards helping others while in turn helping myself. I desperately wanted to shed the corporate world from my skin and find ways to have talks with people that weren’t revolved around their finances. Being a banker, all I did was talk and manage people’s money. It was exhausting from all angles.

In 2009, I came to the OSM Salem campus ready to put into action what had been ingrained into myself since I was 5. Finding my way through the program and graduating in 2011 to move directly into my first job, I was ready to put people’s well-being first. My only hurdle was (if you didn’t know this about me) I am a people pleaser, so right out of the gate I ignored the biggest and most emphasized piece of advice from my new colleagues: take care of myself first!

In the first couple of months

The level of massages and effort it was taking to do so was a bit more than I had anticipated; so out of desperation, I started making a monthly appointment for myself to receive work. It was too late. I was coming at this problem from behind. My issues had already compounded and one 90-minute session a month wasn’t getting ahead of the 9-10 hours a day of massage I was doing at the clinic. Frustration and depression set in, followed by rookie mistake injuries including frozen shoulder, giving me my first cortisone shot of my life.

I fantasized about having a healthier body that didn’t feel exhausted all the time. And, I dreamt of moving away from employment to sole practitioner. I though having better control of my hours and my energy would surely diminish my aches, my pains, and the negative feelings I was beginning to harbor against this beautiful career I once thought was the answer. When I stepped away to start up my practice in 2013, I was so grateful for the work balance but upset with myself. Starting out now on a shoestring budget, I didn’t reach out to colleagues more and trade work.

With this freedom of schedule

I was close to the perfect picture but just couldn’t get it into focus. Off and on I would receive work, but the consistency wasn’t there for many years. I was so focused on a thriving practice from the number of clients and the money it brought to my household. My massages could wait. People need me – and boy did I buy into that. Thinking they needed me in hours or days I originally didn’t work. Working long hours after an already-heavy load that day or week. Contemplating ways to get out of work because I just mentally, physically, and emotionally was on an empty tank. Realizing my anxiety had come back. Looking at people on my table thinking, “That should be me! I need this just as much, if not more!

Hearing from fellow LMTs

“Bonnie, you’re scheduling yourself too much, you need to slow down. There’s no way you can last, you need to trade work or something” – I heard it, but I didn’t absorb it. I still push limits on my energy. Test myself in ways that I shouldn’t. I pay for it, mind you. 11 years in, only 36 years old, and my body screams at me, “Get on the table! Let someone care for you.” I again force myself to find pockets of time in an overly scheduled calendar for my existing clients to say, “This is just for you Bonnie, and this time is just for you.” Granted, my daily practices of working out, taking walks, and eating well are at the best they’ve been. I just honestly struggle to pick a day and a therapist and make it happen, especially since there are fewer operating thanks to COVID.

You’ll all be proud of me, though. I do give my body mini breaks. I am quite the budgeter when it comes to our home finances (thanks to the many years of being a financial banker). So every year, I take quite a bit of time off, including one month where I don’t work at all. It isn’t easy to go a full month with no income. Planning is key, and when I do, the recharge I get is phenomenal. I work on getting on the table in that time, with someone different to experience hands and techniques that will open my mind to a different way of speaking to the body. Variety does help make sure that you don’t get into a rut with someone you consistently trade/pay for work.

For the month of June

When school was out before the start of summer quarter, I took the month off from my studio. It was marked in my calendar since February; my clients knew to make arrangements for themselves and their care, as it was my time yet again to make myself a priority. I ended up in CO with my husband visiting family, and while there, I made a commitment to receive bodywork. I also set the wheels in motion to schedule more when I got back. First one is booked in August, so that’s a start.

In being on the table in CO, I got lost in the work – first and foremost because the techniques being applied with such care were phenomenal. I couldn’t help but get in my head and imagine exactly what he was doing to make that feeling or release come about to that muscle. The room had this intoxicating way of helping me to let go. Granted, here I am again, asking someone to fix me in 90-minutes when the last massage was a couple months back.

It’s exactly the behavior I encourage my clients to avoid by sticking to some sort of regular maintenance plan. I don’t want to burn myself out trying to constantly bring their muscles back to neutral. There were a lot of deep breaths and a heavy focus on allowing the intent of the body worker to work his magic so that, for a brief moment, I can feel functional with my mechanics.

Reflecting on what’s important

It was a great reminder, so fresh in my mind as I type this, as to why we are the main priority. My mental state was shifted as I walked home from his studio to my sister’s in reflection of his work, style, environment, and the wonderful chat we had afterwards about LMTs’ habits of neglecting themselves. It almost felt embarrassing or shameful to say out loud, “I don’t take good care of myself like I should.”

There lies the raw, honest truth we all struggle to say to ourselves and especially to other people: we should be doing better at our self-care, especially when it comes to massage. All of us should be minding better the food and drink we consume, the content we read and mindfully digest, as well as the physical exercises we employ through our day. The same way you schedule your kids’ soccer practice, a date with your partner, and time with your friends. You need to find that space in your calendar to schedule the most important massage of them all: yours.

In doing so, I hope that you’re able to find a happier balance in work and life. I am still working on this myself; I am not perfect, nor am I in any way a better LMT than anyone else. Being honest with myself, and with you, that I need to be more accountable to myself. I sure hope this helps you avoid pitfalls I made and reaffirm core beliefs that bodywork is beneficial to all, including the most deserving: you!


Visit Bonnie at:

Share →