My well-intentioned, loving husband surprised me with a day at the spa for my birthday. It was a luxury I’d been curious about but had never experienced. The place was beautiful. The chandeliers and furnishings were elegant. Soft classical music oozed from the walls. It was the perfect setting for being pampered.
A white-coated staff member greeted me upon my morning arrival and escorted me to the dressing room. There I changed from my clothes to the uniform of the day, a comfortable pink cotton robe and matching slippers. I filled out a form disclosing any illnesses and was assured that their staff was familiar with fibromyalgia and would take all necessary precautions. Feeling safe, I chose my lunch from their menu and received my agenda for the day.
A clinician escorted me to my first activity. After draping my naked body in warm seaweed, then covering it with even warmer towels, she closed the door behind her and left me alone to ferment (or whatever is supposed to happen). This was a pleasant experience, aside from feeling claustrophobic from being in a windowless room, the first in a series I’d encounter that day. She returned to unwrap me and escort me to the shower where I refused their specially formulated, but highly scented, body washes in favor of an odorless choice. Once my skin was cleansed of green goo, I redressed in my pink robe and proceeded to their outdoor gazebo, the highlight of which was a cup of green tea. My caffeine sensitivity opted for water instead. It would be the last daylight I saw that day.
Back inside, a pedicure was next. Essential oils were offered as additions to my preliminary foot soak. At this point, my sensitive body suspected danger lay ahead. I actually taste those oils sooner than most people smell them! Additional questioning revealed that “therapeutic” Epsom salt also had been added to the water. Thankfully, I knew of the severe laxative effect their magnesium content had on me. Even a tiny amount absorbed through my skin would have disastrous results. The technician emptied the tub and returned with clean warm water. The soak was followed by a “soothing foot massage.” Exclamations of “Ooh! Ouch! Ow!” were evidence that it was not so soothing to me. I did allow one of their formaldehyde-containing polishes to be applied to my toes. I normally avoid that toxic substance but I needed something to show for my day at the spa.
With dividers between my toes, I hobbled to a beautifully set table for one, where I was hidden from view by tall bamboo screens as soon as my lunch arrived. This provided the “secluded setting” highlighted on the menu. For me, a social person too frequently isolated by my illness, seclusion was less than desirable. On the plus side, the food was great, and I continued to enjoy the music.
Following dessert, I was led to another enclosed room for only the second facial in my life. Close scrutiny and refusal of many of the concoctions intended for my skin must have frustrated the technician. Nevertheless, I emerged with a clean, glowing face.
The final event was a total body massage. Again, I examined and refused the entire selection of oils and creams intended for use by my masseur until odorless versions were found. By this time I was stressed and anticipating pain. My muscles were masses of knots. I probably tolerated deeper pressure than I should have, hoping for relief from the soreness that ravaged my body.
I actually felt quite good when the day was over. It may have been relief or the joy of being reunited with the great outdoors. It wasn’t until the next morning that I suffered the aftereffects of the too-deep massage and the daylong vigilance I’d maintained. In retrospect, I’m glad I had my day at the spa. I no longer wonder if I’d enjoy one or not. Now I knew: Day spas are challenging for fibromyalgia.
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