I Belong

sis and me

Back in 2009, about two years into my new career as a massage therapist, my sister and I attended our first myofascial release seminar together. My sister introduced me to John Barnes Myofascial Release back in 2004, hoping it would help me heal. It did more than that – it gave me my life back. Attending a seminar together meant a lot to both of us, but it was tough. As a patient, turned therapist, I was now in her territory. This was her career, not mine. She is an amazing therapist and I was not coming into this career to one-up her. I was coming in to help people as I had been helped. We are both very good at what we do, in our own way. We are also very good together, now that we’ve reconnected.

Here’s what I wrote about my experience . . . and then read in class . . . with my sister sitting beside me.


Hi tribe,

I wanted to share a realization I had this morning on day 4 of the Advanced Unwinding course here in Sedona.

I have been doing this work as a therapist for 2 1/2 years now. My sister has been doing it for over 10 years. This seminar was the first one we have gone to together. Siblings all have a history and a story. . .

When my younger sister is talking on day one of the seminar, it feels very intense. I feel her anger towards me. I’m taking over her space as an MFR therapist; the thing she had that was her own and she was really good at. I sit beside her and make myself as small and quiet as I can. I’m afraid of her. I remember my perception of how angry she was when I was kidnapped – I left and didn’t come home. And when I did, I felt my whole family was angry. I came home physically, but really I never came home. I felt the anger and interpreted that as “you don’t belong”. I have been homeless. John asks the two of us to come up with goals – both individual and separate tonight. Mine is to come home and to reconnect with my sister.

Day 2 and 3 of the seminar, I am thinking I should speak up. Lots of people have come up to us and are relating to our sibling story. Hearing my sister speak and seeing me remain silent.

Half way through day 3, I start becoming very quiet again. I can feel myself getting smaller and quieter. I want to become invisible. We go to Therapy on the Rocks so my sister can receive a treatment. I wait on the waterfall deck. As invisible as I was trying to be, another seminar therapist (also an older sister), comes down and tells me she’s been watching me be so quiet – holding myself together. She sees my shell becoming tougher.

I confide that I feel I don’t deserve to take up space; I don’t deserve to take up people’s time by speaking in class. Old thoughts of suicide are coming up. Thoughts I thought were gone. I picture drowning myself in the hotel tub or hanging myself. This therapist brings me out of my shell enough to see what I am doing to myself.

That night, we go to bed and I wake up at 4 am. I go into the small feeling again. I get very small and feel the anger towards me. Then a moment of grace happens. I realize that my sister was not angry when I came home after the kidnapping. I realize that I had left such a giant, gaping hole in my family when I was gone, that their love had nowhere to go. They were sending it out like a calling card to me so I could come home. And when I did, my heart was so closed the love was bouncing off me and back at them. The love was so powerful that it created turbulence. That turbulence, I perceived as anger. Really, it was love in disguise.

I pictured the gaping hole I had left. It was really big. Geeze, I took up a lot of space. My family needed me to take up that space, so I could do my part to hold them together with me and now there was this whole and only a thin thread holding them together now. This is when I realized I belonged . . . I was essential to the whole.

I then had another realization, from my time in the hotel room with my kidnapper. I realized my willingness to comply with him – to be raped and sodomized – was me opening myself and letting his stored-up energy – flow through me. I learned afterward that his girlfriend had just broken up with him the day before. He was desperately trying to love her, but she wasn’t receiving. So he forced it on me. My ability to absorb this turbulent anger/love was not me being weak. In fact his energy was discharged and I know this is why he let me go and didn’t kill me. In my greatest moment of fear, I finally had the courage to open my heart. How wrong my perceptions had been.

Now, lying in bed in the hotel room in Sedona, I feel myself and the gaping hole I left. I feel myself filling the whole. I feel my whole body warming and tingling. I am coming home. I am home. I belong. I feel and see this whole – my family, embedded in a larger whole – my MFR family – and a still larger whole – it looks just like a fractal.

I hear John’s words “just stay with that”. And although it comes and goes and feels very, very raw, I will do just that, for as long as I can.

Thanks sis, for waiting for me to come home. You’re the best.



After I had read this to the class, my sister and I hugged and cried. John had the whole class join together and embrace us. The feeling was amazing. I will never forget the feeling of connection I had that day.

Mind Games

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

The Thinker, photo taken at Musee Rodin, Paris

There is a dance of trust that happens, between patient and therapist. The therapist’s job is to remain centered, no matter what the patient is sending their way. This helps the patient tremendously as it demonstrates the therapist’s commitment to healing. It also creates a clear and constant mirror for the patient, so they can bring their own avoidance patterns to light. With hands on therapy, this dance goes beyond the trauma of the mind. It directly reveals touch-based trauma like no other form of therapy. It is unavoidable. And it is absolutely essential to healing and forming healthy, intimate relationships.

The following exchange that occurred after treatment, is an example of how the mind can create a barrier to healing. At this point, I have developed a substantial level of trust with my therapist. I have been seeing him monthly for over a year. Even so, my thoughts are determined to create a persona of Dave that makes him incompetent in my mind and therefore, not able to help me further. This judgment goes very deep for me, but I have had a lot of healing happen with Dave, so instead of playing along, I question my thoughts. They don’t coincide with my gut and I know it, despite my initial accusations to Dave. There is a critical time after treatment, where the physical space allows my guard to come down further than in treatment. I give myself enough room to sit with the feelings behind the thoughts and realize I am afraid and attempting to run away.
Here’s the exchange. . .

Hi again,
I had to reread your last response. I don’t feel you are shutting me down – directly. I feel I am sensing you shutting down and that makes me feel like backing off. Does that make sense? Is this real or am I misreading? What do I do with this – real or not?

And I definitely don’t want to see anyone else right now. Unless you kick me out of course. I’m tired of running away. I’ll take terrified over isolated any day 🙂

Hi Dave,

Also, I’m getting this feeling that I’m going to hurt you (not physically) if I let all this stuff out. Am I using this as an excuse or is my gut instinct correct or all out of whack. I don’t know what feelings to trust. I’m acutely aware of everything about you as I’m in treatment so my gut is telling me there’s a level of shutdowness I’m feeling from you. What do I do with that if that’s the case?


You can’t hurt me, I am big enough to take what ever you have to give. You have permission to do or say what ever it is you need to do or say. When you are ready.

You should always honor your gut, but sometimes when we have been shoving stuff down for a long time it is hard to distinguish our true gut feelings from our fear. What is the worst thing that would happen if you just let go?

It is possible that your concern about me is an avoidance tool. I make no judgment. If you truly feel that somehow I am shutting you down, maybe I am not the right therapist for you right now. I don’t think that is the case, but if it is, there is always {gives the name of a female therapist} as an alternative, I’ll be happy to give you her contact info.

I only want what is best for you. Sometimes we take a couple steps back before we go forward.

See you next Wednesday?


I hear what you are saying.

I confess I am super paranoid about hurting other people. It took me 16 years to make 1 friend I could trust outside of John to say anything to and then I was emailed a “we need to take a break” letter while I was away in Sedona. That was a year and a half ago. I have not recovered yet. Life has only taught me that getting close to people means having your heart ripped out. I believe what I have learned is not right, nor is it constructive. My hope is that you can show me different.


Perhaps you are mistaking my being with you or me trying to stay out of your way as me shutting down.

MFR is about gentle nudging, maybe I was too gentle.

If you ever think I am shutting down, let me know. You have permission to say or do what ever you want.

I am glad you are not running away.

See you Wednesday!

Remember, more steps forward than back.


After this exchange, I break through an old pattern. In my next treatment, I leave the accusatory thoughts outside the treatment room. Now there is space where my thoughts were and I can sense when I am leaving my body. I come back in on my own and am in there deeper than I have been before. Without the false mistrust, a whole new level of healing begins.

Authentic Healing

anais nin

Before treatment, I lived life by forgetting and moving on. Then life caught up with me and I began to resist and hold on tightly to what I had built. Then, life handed me a third option – authentic healing. The kind where I get to heal myself. This time, I had skilled, intuitive therapists guiding me; guiding me into the body I had deserted; reintroducing me to safe touch; coaxing my mind to get out of the way so I could heal; giving me permission to do what I needed to do, physically, emotionally, and intuitively, in order to resolve what I thought was unresolvable. The dead ends I believed and felt to be true became openings to a flexibility and power I did not know I possessed.

What occurred in the following three years after those two intensive treatments, now that I look back, could not have been planned any better. If someone had told me this is how I would heal, I would have said, no thanks. It was both frightening and exhilarating; frustrating, yet easy. When given the choice between bracing/numbing and softening/letting go, therapists persistently and gently remained at each physical, emotional and false belief-ridden barrier until I realized – on my own – that letting go was indeed my best option. Many times, I would face myself and fight myself at the same time. I was so tightly connected to my beliefs and fear, and loath to change, even when in deep emotional and physical pain. The pain fueled my perseverance and steered me squarely into a barrier I was too tired of fighting anymore. Exhausted, giving up the fight, I would feel into what I had believed was too hard or scary to feel. Afterward, feeling so much better, I would wonder why I had resisted with such resolve. Eventually, not trusting, getting results, then trusting, I resisted less and allowed more. In an open arena where I was always given the choice to resist or allow; engage or not; feel or not feel; be in my body and leave when I wanted – everything was possible and nothing I introduced from my horrible past was out of bounds. When stalled in my treatment sessions, the therapist would sense this and gently nudge with dialogue, sound, words, or a slap (not really a slap – this one is best left for it’s own blog post). There was never force unless there was an equal meeting of force by me. There was no bargaining, cajoling or directing by therapists of what I should do. They were showing me my own built in healing mechanisms. They were teaching me not to be afraid of them; not to be afraid of my body doing it’s own healing. Not to shut it down and let it continue to completion.

On my own individual route to healing, I learned, through trial and error with the outcomes I was getting. I experienced going into a session with no expectation or judgment as to how I would achieve my goals. Feeling improvement, I gained the confidence and trust to write down and say out loud what I wanted for myself. “I want to feel safe. I want to feel calm. I want to trust men again.” Then, once again fearful and anticipating failure, I would go into a session and have the feelings of threat, anxiety and fear immediately come up. Still, my therapists never stopped encouraging me to tap into my own powerful intuition. In an entirely neutral atmosphere, where there was neither a shutting down nor a forcing through of the healing process – trust in myself flickered to life. Tentative at first. Always bracing initially and softening secondarily. It took two years before trust in myself became the dominant state in my treatments. Trusting the process and softening into what was coming up instead of bracing against it.

Although I wanted it to be a straight, logical path, that was not how the essence of me needed to get there. I had to learn, through iterations, how to trust myself, my body, the therapist, the healing process, the next moment. The path unfolded how it needed to in order for the healing to feel genuine; in order for it to stand the test of time and the interaction of living. I now have great respect for my body – that it decided for me that holding on wasn’t my best option.

Before the John Barne’s Myofascial Release Approach to life, I lived with the following approach: shove the bad events and feelings down out of the way, force yourself to get up and move on – that’s how you get over the past; don’t pull people down by mentioning anything negative from the past – keep it to yourself, it does you no good to bring it up (This is true if the other person is not equipped to facilitate healing, but the lack of trust to tell your story becomes ingrained. So it becomes best not to say anything to anyone, even therapists.); follow the advice of the experts, because you can’t trust yourself – you know less about your own healing than they do.

Gradually, I developed the habits of a healthy approach to life, embodied consistently and perpetually in the John Barnes Myofascial Release Approach: never force, never lead, never tell anyone what to do, feeling is healing, trust the healing process happening spontaneously in you.

Healing, Traveling and Expanding


The world feels different around me . . . because it feels. It smells, tastes, sounds, looks – intricate, rich, complete, brimming with life. There are pockets of life bubbling everywhere. In the bush, the bee, the clouds, the ever changing breeze as it hangs, heavy and soft around my face. Looking up, the wind ruffles a tree and smooths the clouds along an unseen conveyor belt.

Leaving the familiar atmosphere of home and traveling across the ocean to a globalized, yet foreign continent, changed my perceptions in a good way. Having practiced for 8 years now, how to let go and go with the flow of life, this trip was ripe for expansion of experience and by extension, of me.


Being in a place where, number one: you have no history, and number two: no habitual responsibilities, left many subconscious bracing patterns back at home. Free from old constraints for a little over two weeks, more natural and spontaneous habits began to emerge.

My muscles were more relaxed. I was less tense in general and joined up with a friendly, social and absolutely delightful French family, who meshed with our family like long lost friends, it was impossible not to enjoy our time in France.


The first perceptual change I noticed, was that my vision was embracing a bigger picture.



Instead of absorbing individual olive trees, I was inhaling an entire visual field – the olive tree was a grove, which banked a rise, running into stately rows of grapes, halting at a typical French farm, framed by the lovely Mont Luberon, complete with sun rays and a thunder of cicadas – a hint of lavender entering my nostrils and nesting in my eyes, enriching the scene even further.


Without being overwhelmed, there seemed no end to how much sensory information I could take in. It was the same with the people. Whether they were a cafe crowd, tourists, or locals on the Metro. I took in the whole of them. I wasn’t looking fearfully for pickpockets or terrorists. Taking in the whole picture, relaxed yet alert, the odd drunk Frenchman quickly stood out – and I simply laughed.

In addition to the bigger picture, the experience of driving in France blew away my tendency to hesitate.

My perception of speed and spontaneity changed drastically. Navigating a countryside of spoked roads with multiple exits to the same town, all the while sensing blind corners hiding pockets of cyclists (enthusiastic to retrace the route of the recently completed Tour de France) required a level of spontaneity that bordered on an F1 car race. John was our outstanding driver, having been graciously lent our French family’s stick shift mini van. As the navigator, I quickly learned how to get us unlost after “Lizzie”, our lovely British GPS had us leave a roundabout at the 5th, not the 6th exit.


We quickly became pros at making U-turns; merging onto packed roundabouts; properly stopping at traffic lights placed well back of intersections; driving the correct speed without marked speed limits, and locating open boulangeries for our daily baguette picnic. Each day, as we piled into the van – all five of us including our lovely exchange student – John would engage the clutch and I would sing a rendition of Willie Nelson’s “on the road again”. It was always an exiting adventure.

The third change in perception was simply an appreciation for the pure, natural tastes, sites and smells that the French countryside provided.




We have plenty of beautiful countryside in Canada to enjoy. It just looks, smells and tastes different. I enjoyed engaging my senses in the new smells of lavender fields, pillows infused with the zest of grapefruit, buttery olives with herbes de Provence, moist baguettes, honey-flavoured melons, unlimited varieties of cheese and saucissons; an appreciation for a cool, crisp Rose instead of a heavier Cotes de Rhone, and an afternoon Ricard’s pastis.

France Patti's iPhone_0416

Returning to Canada and home, my perception remained expanded and I began to see Ontario and Canada through a traveler’s eyes. We have a shorter history than the French. They know who they are. They know how they’ve evolved to the present time.


To them, believe it or not, we seem exotic. We are from the great white north. We are from a country that is so big, it appears as a wilderness in comparison. We have no traditional Canadian meals. We don’t have a lot of traditions native to our short history. We are seen as easy going, robust and always ready for a party. When I was explaining this perception to my sister Heather, she summed it up perfectly. Recently, she heard a group of Americans cheering. The sound was patriotic and assertive. You can hear them shouting “USA! USA! USA!” [fists pumping]. When the Canadians cheered, she heard “woohoo!” [translated: let’s party!] We are still young as a country and young at heart. I hope that never changes. The French, as far as I can tell, are not the group cheering type. Again, they know who they are. They don’t have to. They love to laugh and sing and joke around. They are also very passionate and open. They are wonderful to be around. I love them! And I love Canadian’s! And I love American’s! My world has expanded and it is more beautiful for the expansion.




We cannot wait to introduce our French family to Canada when we next get together. We miss them already.


Journey Home


West River Road

In retrospect, I (meaning my ego) went into my first two week intensive kicking and screaming really. It took until day three before I realized my neat and tidy idea of going to Sedona to get fixed and come home all better was not how life worked. I have this realization in the shower that morning of day three. I am hit with the absoluteness of knowing the truth – that this is a lifelong process. It feels like a life sentence and I cry in resignation, grieving the loss of my old way of living. There is no going back to the old way, even if I wanted to. The old way is craziness. It is swimming up stream and although this new way is scary, uncomfortable and requires continual participation, I accept it. I feel out my options and to me it feels worse to go back than it does to continue on. Yes, life is indeed the only journey and I choose real life. I choose authentic healing.

At the end of my two weeks I panic. I wish I could stay for three. I’m not ready to go home. My husband will not understand. How do I be this new person? I read a handout that is given to me in the take home package. In there are some comforting words that I will read over and over again back home. The most important. Go slow. Go slow. Go slow. I am given hugs by the staff and then quietly make myself small and disappear. Sadness consumes me and I go. I feel lost. I feel I have no home. I do not call the therapist they have referred me to for followup back home.

At home I barely make contact with my husband or my kids. I am sick in bed for ten days. I am raw and questioning what happened when I was there. I read John’s book again. I read the information I was given. I get stuck and then feel my way through a deep, deep depression. I have been here before, yet my body is responding with emotion this time. Not so frozen and stuck.

Gradually life becomes more liveable than before I had gone away. I still spend as little time as possible with my husband (don’t worry, there is a happy ending post coming), but I was connecting to my children in a new way that I hadn’t quite figured out how to convey to them.

I was still very much attached to my male friend at work. I decided that if he was with me, I could confront a few fears from the past. I asked if he could drive me to the place where I was abducted and make the route to the motel in Niagara Falls. He seemed honored. Applying the healing process I had learned to real life proved powerful. The one thing I did not want to do was go back to that place. So I did. I walked to the spot on the road and along the ditch. I stopped and looked and felt the inside of my body. My friend walked up to me and asked if I was ok. “I don’t feel so good,” I said. I felt this huge rush of fear and nausea come up and out of me. I started to shake. My friend held me. I shook harder and harder. My teeth chattered. “You’re shaking all over!” he exclaimed, fear in his voice. Yet he knew enough not to shut me down.
He drove me along the most likely route to Niagara Falls from there. Memories of the feel of the road put me back in the trunk of the car. Sitting in the passenger seat, I could feel the sunglasses I had been made to wear. I felt the fear continue to flow through me. There was a rise in the road and as the road peaked, I caught a glimpse of the Skylon. The tall tower which is a landmark of Niagara Falls. I count: two thousand and one, two thousand and two, then it is lost behind some trees. I am in awe as I realize that for the two seconds I had risked a glance at the road when I was being abducted, the Skylon is what I had seen. Seeing it had given me the information I needed to know where I was heading. How, in those two seconds, did I know to take a risk, open my eyes and look? I absorb the enormity of the power of gut instinct.
Inside the motel room, it is different. I can no longer stay in my body. I analyze the room, drawing comparisons from what I could glimpse from under the blindfold. It seems to be more or less match what I remembered. Spatially, it feels different, but then I did not have my entire visual field available then. I merge the old memory with the current. I have left most of my body here. It is not coming home with me. But the part left on the road by my bike is with me now and that is enough.

I process as much as I can. The gnawing anxiety that ping ponged inside me about confronting the past has significantly diminished. Throughout the next few months I bring my bike and ride the route. Each time, a new emotion, and its expression, find their way out of me. I finish the route I did not get to finish and get to the top of a hill with my favourite view. I sit and feel myself inside my body. A calm has settled in. I look out and see the expansive view. It looks like a postcard. Then I feel it with my body and the view becomes substantial. It goes from postcard to real life in an instant. So this is what the world looks like.

Thawing Trauma


Photo taken “off trail” across the road from Therapy on the Rocks

Over the week I gradually feel more comfortable receiving treatments at Therapy on the Rocks. This comfort vanishes abruptly as I hear words come out of my therapist’s mouth that slap me clear across the face – “Rob will be in to see you shortly.” Wait a minute. Did she just say Rob? That’s a male therapist correct? My mind was quickly calculating. Something it loves to do. Shit, it had not occurred to me that there would be male therapists at the clinic. Duh. John’s a male therapist, what did you expect? Yeah, but I signed up for the two week treatments that didn’t include John. I was not ok with this. The only male who puts is hands on me is my husband. OK, before that there were boyfriends, but, this was neither of those. OK, there were the obgyn’s who delivered my daughters, but I wasn’t in my body then. How am I going to get in there and have him put his hands on me? All the familiar feelings of the rape came to mind. Fear enveloped me. My mind went blank. I felt helpless.

Rob knocks and says “is it ok if I come in?” “Yes”, I say on queue. He opens the door a crack. He says something like, “I could feel you not wanting me in here all the way down the hall.” Then adds, “if you don’t want me in here, I can have a female therapist come treat you”. His acknowledgment of my fear and giving me a choice softened me a bit. I thought of the money that had been spent to get me here and decided I would go for it. “You can stay,” I say. It is a real challenge, but he is very patient. He meets me where I am. He nudges and tests my barrier, but never invades it. I begin to feel the difference between past feelings of invasion and present healing occurring. I begin to sense what healthy touch by a man feels like. Tears still well up every time I read this sentence I have written. Yes, it is possible to feel healthy touch from a man that I am not married to. It is not bad. It is not invading. It can be received. I don’t feel it as love, but it feels productive to my healing. As the treatment goes on, I feel, with his touch and words, a deep, deep deadness in me. So cold and lifeless. I feel myself floating over myself looking down on me, dead. The treatment ends here.

Over the next two weeks, Rob becomes instrumental in thawing the deep freeze I have been in for the past sixteen years. With each nudge, he ignites a long lost memory of what safe male connection feels like. He never pushes. He simply waits at my barrier, nudges, then waits, tests, then waits. Then, one day, he gets up on the treatment table and stands over my prone, face down body. He holds onto my wrists and holds my arms back and out in a flying position. He holds at my physical barrier and never yanks on them. And I thaw. My arms feel weak. I let them feel weak. They start to shake. I feel a wave of shame. Heat begins to radiate out of me. I feel excruciating pain that begs to be expressed. Grunting sounds come out of my mouth. My teeth start to chatter. I feel my entire body is gripping onto my wrists, not wanting them to let go, but I let them. My arms and hands go further and further back. My chest opens up. I feel my shoulders go back and my arms get longer and longer. It is so hot in the room, Rob has to stop and open the window and dry off his hands and my wrists. Sweat is dripping off of me now. I am shaking and sweating and feeling under pain and opening wider and wider. The handcuffed position that I had been in for sixteen years feels less and less prominent. I feel a sense of freedom. Of lightness. I am shaking and sweating the heavy weight I have been feeling all these years right out of me. The sense of helplessness I felt in the group unwinding is being overshadowed by an entirely new feeling – power. It is subtle. Not the “I could kick the shit out of someone right now” kind. It is a flickering, stirring, subtle kind. Subtle but unmistakable.

**A word about the thaw response.**

When any animal, including a human, is being attacked, there are three automatic, built-in responses: fight back, flee, or, if not effective, freeze/play dead. The freeze response occurs automatically, when fight and flight are not effective or are not possible. Once the danger has passed, a natural thaw response occurs, which discharges the trapped fight/flight energy embedded in the tissues. Once thawed, the animal returns to its regular relaxed and alert state. The one it was in before being attacked. Humans don’t commonly allow this process to occur. Yet, many of us are walking around in the freeze state. If you have ever been anesthetized prior to surgery, the freeze response was present. Any kind of physical or psychological restraint, or a situation that felt life threatening, could also induce this response. The freeze response is automatic, however, the thaw response can be shut down if we tighten our bodies enough. Once in a safe environment and given permission to let go, humans will let their guard down, soften their bodies, and start to shake, sweat, cry, and breathe very deeply. The cycle will come and go in waves. Unfortunately, I don’t have a human example on video, but click here to view a polar bear thawing.

My First Myofascial Release Treatment


John’s treatment room at Therapy on the Rocks

On the morning of my 36th birthday, I drive to the Myofascial Release Treatment Center, Therapy on the Rocks in Sedona, Arizona for my first ever myofascial release treatment. At this point, even though nothing else has worked to heal me and it all sounds good in a book, I still have my doubts. I am feeling like crap, but I know this is my best option. As I walk into the center, I look at the sign and think, “How ironic. I don’t feel any physical pain and I’m going to a pain treatment center.”

My first session is an intake with treatment for the remaining time. This is where, for the first time since writing my statement to police, I write down on paper that I was abducted and sexually assaulted. I write it this way because it sounds a little less horrible to me than being kidnapped and raped. I squirm a bit when the therapist reads and comments on this item. I don’t remember exactly what she said to me, but it took all my effort to hold in the tears. She understood my struggle intimately, yet we had only just met.

We then start treatment. She has me lie face up on the treatment table – a massage table. Her hands sink into my chest and I feel her inside it. I am caught off guard. No one has touched me this way before. No one has gotten past the wall I had put there. Not even my husband. This wall keeps everyone out. Somehow, I trust her completely. Not because of what she says to me, but how she says it, in combination with this new kind of touch. A deep, feeling connection has just been initiated. I have excellent radar for bullshit and there was no bullshit going on in her. She was genuinely connecting with a part of me I forgot I had. I named it somewhere in my journey as the essence of me. People have lots of names for that feeling. This is mine.

As she does a release of my head, neck and chest, I feel something, probably her arm, brush gently against my cheek. The gentleness of it is too much for my remaining wall to stand. In this deeply connected state, sobs escape me. Quiet ones, but the most spontaneous, heart wrenching sobs I had ever witnessed in myself. Gently, she says “that’s been in there a long time. ” Yes, it really fucking has. I hate that it’s coming out, yet at the same time, I feel tremendous relief. Thank god it’s out. She gently rolls me on my side, puts a pillow under my head and tucks me into a fetal position. She tucks a sheet around me and snugs me into an even tighter ball. It feels safe. Safer than I’ve felt in a long, long time. Then, she says: “Sometimes we need to be really tough. You’ve been really, really tough. You don’t have to be tough in here. Take as long as you need.” She leaves the room. Soft sobs come and go. It feels safe to do this. There’s no one to cover it up for in here. After my first treatment I knew this was the real deal and it was helping. My body and mind just knew.

Turning Point

The culminating point of pain – the point at which ignoring and denying the pain became in itself too painful, was the night in July 2004. My family were all siting at the table for dinner. At this point I was so self-absorbed I couldn’t tell you what brought the conversation to here. All I know is that my husband said in a stern but caring voice “Patti, you’re sick. You need help.

For the first time in a long, long time, I burst into tears in front of my two girls who were 6 and 4 at the time. When I could get myself enough under control to look up, I saw the fear in their eyes. This was and still is understood by them as the time Daddy made Mommy cry. It broke my heart to see their pain and fear. At that moment I made a pact, for them, to get the help I needed. Me, who never, never asks for help. Never wants to burden others. Never wants to believe I can’t do it myself. Never wants to feel weak.

This pact has been my constant source of motivation throughout the healing process. Because I did not believe I was worth helping. Doing this for myself had no meaningful purpose. Healing so I could be there for my children, because I knew I was good at that – now that was a reason I felt deep in my heart. I love them more than anything. Now that I could see how my suffering was hurting them, I refused to ignore it anymore.

The next day I made an appointment with my Physician. When I met her I could barely hold in the tears. The dam had been broken and there was no amount of patching that could remedy the damage. It was coming down whether I wanted it to or not.

I told my Physician I was having trouble sleeping; waking up with nightmares; having flashbacks during the day (what I liked to call daymares); I was crying alone a lot, feeling nauseous and unable to eat; couldn’t remember anything I was supposed to be doing at home or at work. Her face was full of concern and she said “this is no good, let’s get you sleeping and feeling better.” She was an angel. Someone who understood and could help me. She prescribed some non-addictive sleeping pills and anti-depressants. “You’ve understandably (she knew my history) come to a point where you need treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I’d like you to see a Psychologist.” She gave me the name of a wonderful woman who would, over the next two years, become my irreplaceable advocate in my healing journey.

I left my Physician’s office with a feeling of relief. I’d finally told someone how I was really feeling. I had renewed hope that the medications and psychotherapy would restore some level of normal to my life.

That night, having taken the sleeping pill and the anti-depressant, I slept soundly through the night for the first time in what seemed like forever.


The next four days were a period where something bigger than me came in to help. I cannot explain it. I simply know that I am continually in awe and forever grateful for what happened next.


Day one on anti-depressants gave me bowel changes, one of the possible side effects. Day two and three were similar to a shot of caffeine. I felt on the verge of mania, which made me feel almost anxious, but not quite. I thought maybe this was OK, because I wasn’t bursting into tears or feeling like staying in bed all day.

On day four, I entered the dead zone. I felt nothing. Not depressed, not manic, not a thing. Most of all, I realized that I was losing touch with myself. I was losing my ability to feel connected to myself at all, even if that self was a wreck. Sitting at my desk, losing my connection to myself, I decided that feeling dead to myself was worse than feeling like crap. It was frightening in a very different way than terror. If I had felt like a puppet while with my kidnapper, this felt like my entire mind, body and soul were the puppet now. At least before, I could still think and feel independently of what was happening to me. On the anti-depressants, I felt like I was being hijacked from the inside out.

Day four was the last day I ever took anti-depressants. I stayed on the sleeping pills for a few weeks, then tapered off them too. I’ve not taken any prescription medications since. That includes antibiotics and pain medications. I thank my inner self that it was so adamant about keeping me connected to that last thread of myself. I can’t imagine how hard this next part of my journey would have been, if I’d had to do it while having my feelings manipulated by a drug. It was hard enough to navigate myself without introducing outside roadblocks.

A Reintroduction

This is the email that started it all. This is the first “after healing” communication I sent beyond my myofascial release community – my healing tribe.

Take a read . . .

A Reintroduction

To my wonderful friends and family,

It has been almost 3 years since I wrote “An Introduction” letter to you my friends and family, to let you know that I was taking time off work to do some healing. Thank you, every one of you, for taking the time to read my letter. Your kind thoughts and words have helped and continue to help me on my healing journey. At the time I sent that letter I was very overwhelmed by all the letters and emails of support I received and was not able to respond with thanks. I was, in fact, speechless. Know that every bit of it helped – tremendously – thank you!

So what have I been doing for the last 3 years? Not what I expected that’s for sure. What I expected was to take some time just to do things I wanted to, learn to relax and then come back to work. What occurred in those three years, now that I look back, I could not have planned. It was both frightening and sad; frustrating and overwhelmingly amazing. The details will not fit in this letter, but the thing that happened is what I would call becoming myself. Uh, hence the title of this letter. In my own way, in my own time, with the help of some very courageous and gifted people, I’ve stripped away layers of the past, revealing the real me. We all have one. It’s usually buried under layers of “I’m doing just fine” and “I’ve never been healthier in my life” and “if I could just get that promotion, take my dream vacation, win the lottery, eat a piece of chocolate cake or have a drink with my friends tonight, I’d be happy”. These are just facades – they are empty. They are based in fear. They disempower. They’re not the real you.

I’m not writing to preach to people. Live your life how you want to. But ask yourself “am I truly happy where I am now?” I asked myself this question and the answer was painfully clear. No. But how do I get to that happy place? It took several months of rushing around, rediscovering my past, and running away from it to realize that what I had been doing for the last 19 years to feel better was not helping. Believe me; I tried everything I could think of to understand and get better. I got two university degrees in psychology, I became a police officer, I volunteered for the Sexual Assault Crisis Line, Victim Services of Windsor, I worked as a private investigator, I read hundreds of self help books, studied various religions and philosophies, saw a psychologist, saw a psychiatrist, took antidepressants, exercised and ate a healthy diet. All provided temporary relief or provided solutions so abstract and vague as to provide no real help. In the end, it got so bad I was unable to function in my day to day life.

So, totally exhausted and on that fine line between giving up and knowing there was an answer somewhere, I asked myself “is there anyone out there who knows how to do this?” That’s when I rolled over in bed and noticed a book on the floor. My sister had given it to me 6 months before, to which I had thanked her and promptly put it in the pile of self help books on the floor next to my bed. I saw the book, picked it up and read the quote on the first page: “And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaϊs Nin. My eyes were glued to this book. It was about people’s experiences of real healing told by them. It was not what I had expected. It was frightening really, because it was real and personal. I could relate to these people. I read the book and my skeptical mind – the one that has protected me from all the false promises of wellness – could find no holes in what this man was saying. A feeling of relief washed over me. Finally, here was someone who was making sense of my messed up life and better yet, he was doing this for real people and they were getting better. Not because he said so, but because they were saying so. The book: Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom, by John F. Barnes PT.

What I learned from this book was that I was storing every trauma my body had ever experienced – stuffing it down, way down and willing it there by telling everyone I was ok and trying desperately to just move on. This was further validated by people praising me for how well I was handling it all and how they could count on me to stay calm and level-headed in even the toughest situations. These people all meant well. They did not know what I know now – that I was not ok – that no matter how hard I tried I could not will away the traumas of my life. That my body was storing and remembering everything that ever happened to it – good or bad. That holding it in required almost super-human effort and it only served to intensify my fatigue and to focus most of my thoughts on my past and not on my present. This came in the form of extreme fatigue, sleeping up to 12 hours a day, depression, memory blanks, stomach flu, tonsillitis and most frightening for me, suicidal thoughts. And so I learned that at some point, for no apparent reason, beyond my super human ability to control it and of course at the most inopportune moments, something inside me would say “enough” and began emptying the past it so desperately wanted to get rid of. I began to cry uncontrollably, I became angry and yelled at people I cared about. I had nightmares. I couldn’t sleep. My life was consumed with trying to cover up this letting go and there was no room left for happiness. I could not make myself feel happy no matter how hard I tried.

So now that I knew what was happening and I knew what to do. Within 2 months of leaving my job I was attending a 2 week intensive treatment program in Sedona, Arizona with John Barne’s team of wise and caring therapists. At this point, even though nothing else had worked and it all sounded good in a book, I had my doubts. I went into my first 2 week intensive kicking and screaming really. I felt like crap but this was my best option. As I drove up to the Myofascial Release Pain Treatment Center on my 36th birthday for my first treatment I looked at the sign and thought “how ironic, I don’t feel any physical pain and I’m going to a pain treatment center.” During my treatments, however, it became clear that my body was experiencing pain, but that I was ‘courageously’ tuning it out. Something I discovered was not so courageous since it was sending me an S.O.S. that it was being ravaged and I was conveniently ignoring it. I also discovered that emotional pain is in fact real pain that manifests as physical symptoms and that its effects can be just as damaging as a physical trauma. So here I was, only minutes into my first treatment and I knew this was the real deal and it was helping. My body and mind just knew.

So life was livable now after my 2 week intensive. A few months passed and I realized there was more work to be done if I was going to get back to work. So 6 months later I went back to Sedona for a one week intensive. That’s when I met John Barnes. Words do not describe this man. The best that comes to mind is kind, gentle, knowing. His presence changes the entire atmosphere of the place. You can actually feel him there, even when you’re not in the same room. It was during this second intensive, as I was being treated by a wonderful therapist, that she said to me “you have angels all around you and they seem to be protecting you”. At that moment and I still don’t know the connection between her words and my thoughts; it suddenly occurred to me that I had to do this work. It was helping when nothing else did and I was feeling better than I ever thought possible. How could I not share this healing experience with others? Knowing what I now did, it seemed almost cruel, inhumane even, not to share what I had learned and experienced with others the way I had experienced it – through another’s hands. Within a month of returning home I had signed up for the registered massage therapist program. 2 years later I became a registered massage therapist and attended 4 of John’s seminars so I could practice using his myofascial release approach. I am now in private practice with my sister using John’s myofascial release approach exclusively. I know it works. It worked for me. And it is what I can now, with love, give to my clients.

For those who know me personally, I am normally very cautious, conservative and guarded about what I say and do. To say that this experience was profoundly life changing and that it saved my life is an understatement. I cannot put in words what goes on in these sessions. As I heard the other clients and therapists (yes they all get treated too) talking about their experiences I realized it was unique, personal and special for every one of them, every time. No two people are alike and no two people receive the same treatment. Nor is each session the same for one person. Healing is a progression not an event. So, all I can say is that I now feel lighter, freer, and happier than I ever remember being. I am now in control of most of what I feel and do and that is the best feeling in the world. It is like experiencing life for the first time. For the greater part of my days the world around me leaves me in awe, time passes as slow or as fast as I need it to, people are beautiful and loving, and my body and mind feel strong and pain free. I can now honestly say, from my heart, that my life is beautiful. And the cool thing about it all is that I look forward to the next moment of chaos. When I feel my head whirling I can now, finally, patiently sit with it. Not try to drown it out with a movie, music, chocolate, a drink, to do lists. Because I know that if I can be in the chaos like I’ve learned to, the reward is a release from yet another part of my painful past and a calm like no other. Then that movie becomes the best I’ve ever seen, the music more awesome than ever before, and the chocolate like ecstasy. The drink pales in comparison to the feeling of being awake and present. And the to do list? Well it vanishes!

I do still have times of doubt (which I learned is a good thing), and yet I keep coming back for more treatment (and now courses) because it’s the one thing that consistently and continually brings me through the chaos and out the other end a more joyful person. I waited to send this letter because I needed the test of time to be sure my feeling better was for real and not just another temporary thing. Every week that passes I find myself hardly believing that I feel this good. And every week it gets better, no matter what else is going on around me. I don’t’ have to ‘make’ myself happy. It is happening now without effort. I know it took courage and determination to go into the pain of the past. I now know there is no other way out of pain but to confront it head on. You cannot transcend your past. You must fully experience it in all its sadness and horror in order to master it and then let it go – giving room to live in the present. This is true authentic healing. It feels like coming home. I am home now.

For those of you out there who are feeling like this level of healing is not possible for you, ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen if I gave this a try?” What’s the worst that could happen if I trusted myself, opened my heart and just let go. Know that every single one of us was conceived with the ability to heal. But in this age of needing to prove we know better than our own awesome bodies, we’ve just forgotten how. That is what this work does. And this relearning is happening to millions of people worldwide, successfully. So my story is really not so unique, yet it would be nice if it were commonplace. That is my hope. That is my goal in writing this letter. That you will be inspired to take your own healing path so that you can truly experience the joy of life. Because isn’t that what we’re here to do?