SarahTonin Therapy Services

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How the Occupation I Never Thought I’d Practice Became the Passion I can’t let go

My story begins with a 2 year old me, swinging on a swing, looking at the blue sky, wishing I could go up into the blue…and I remember letting go… a shock to my neck…After that, I don’t remember much besides being sent away from the hospital being told I was fine. I had let go of the swing and had fallen on the left side of my neck onto a log that they had behind the swing. I had cried pretty much right away, and there was no concussion damage that they could see. They didn’t know then, but this would set me on a path of klutziness seen throughout my childhood and into my early 20’s.
My whole childhood I had the privilege of following around a farmer/logger/mechanic/handyman, and with no boys, my five sisters and I were tough nuts. So when I was 8, I remember waking up in pain, unable to get out of bed without much discomfort, and without question, my parents brought me to the walk-in/hospital and eventually I was sent to Okaped where they showed how my walk was wrong and how they could try to correct it with inserts molded for my shoes. These ‘Band-Aids’ helped, but I was still ‘discombobluated’, a term I used for the feeling I felt when I couldn’t figure out how to perform an action shown. This was extremely detrimental to my self-confidence, but it’s all about perspective, and my dad was a happy go lucky guy who made fun of everything, even himself, so I was able to learn to laugh at myself.
I ended up with glasses when I was 9. When I was 10 or so, I raced down a hill with a scooter to beat my peers, and when I realized I was winning, I looked back to see where everyone was, saw everyone had stopped, wondered why, and turned around to take a stop sign pole to the face! The impact was so hard, I even lost a glasses piece! (I did recover it and put it back together myself, so no one was the wiser). This impact shifted on of my right skull plates, which caused the blood vessel on the right side of my face to protrude whenever my blood pressure fluctuated, and if my blood pressure was super high, it would throb and get quite hot. Sometime before 13 but after 11, I took a GIGANTIC soccer ball directly to the same eye, and while not as concentrated in impact as the stop sign pole, moved my right plate even further back.
When I was 15, my mum and I were cutting wood on the chop saw, and it’s safety broke, causing a piece of wood to fling off in my direction. I took it directly in the bridge of my glasses, giving me a nasty hole and two black eyes. When the doctor stitched me up I’ll never forget his haunting words ‘Any higher, any lower, you’d be dead.’
I went to a chiropractor for many years, but his method was too text-book, and many times the week following the treatment I would be in pain till the correction slipped back to its original misalignment. I’d only go to him once every 6 weeks, and when he retired we started going to someone who was a little more willing to look outside of the box. His treatments felt more effective, less painful, yet I still felt they slipped back.
When I was 16, my mum bought me Figure skates, buuuut I had only ever used hockey skates, and having always felt the need for speed, I took off like a shot. But as I rounded the corner, I hit something – the toe pick, and it took me down so hard it took the breath out of me. I landed on my right side, shifting muscles from the right to the left and vice-versa. I remember getting up trying to catch my breath that had been knocked out of me, my shoulder blade stabbing pain, and my right hip and side so sore. But I pressed on, and sometime between 17 and 18, I took a baseball directly to the glasses.
My chiropractor tried in vain to fix my crushed right side, he took X-Rays for me showing the amount of arthritis that was starting to form, but as the focus was on the ribs and shoulder blades (bones), was unable to unhook the mess of muscles happening in the right side. I stopped going after 3 years.
In college, I exposed my hands to bleach for a half hour without realizing it, weakening the structure of my hands skin. This started them cracking painfully ever winter, the damage progressing further when I took up skiing, as a few times I did induce frostbite. My first attempt at skiing added another injury to the list, as I got my legs uncomfortably stuck doing the splits between two trees for about 30 minutes, and when it appeared no one was going down the trail I was on, I wrestled myself out, tearing things as I went.
Entering the working world, at 19 I got a job as an aircraft parts clerk, daily moving heavy parts around, started skiing more regularly, then as skiing costs went up, petered off from skiing, and turned to one of my dearest passions – swimming.
At this point, I had just gotten my eyes PRK’d , and for once I wasn’t worrying about contacts slipping around in my goggles!! (My eyes are allergic to Chlorine) I managed to hurt myself while doing this also however, I had just turned 22, and thought it’d be fun to learn to surf…and gave myself some fun whiplash!! I then decided to do something easy, but my off-centered body attempting a simple dive, simply could not make my right arm level with the left, and took the dive directly the right side of my face – yup, wearing goggles! This resulted in a very dizzying swim back to the surface, where I attempted to brush it off, thinking the searing pain in my eyes was just the fact I had taken a face full of chlorine as the goggles had shifted…
These last two injuries strung my body to the max. I started getting major migraines constantly, which up till that point I had only experienced every couple of years. But after this accident, each migraine gained intensity and the time between them went from yearly, to monthly, and after 3 months, I was starting to experience them weekly. It didn’t help that I had switched jobs and now at work I was sitting for 8 – 9 hours a day, with no sit stand, and wearing a left side headset, which put strain on one side of my neck. A new throbbing blood vessel started in the middle of my forehead, the pain so great it started to impact my day to day procedures. I started to experience things such as ovarian cysts, Kidney stones, heart burn, arthritis, bladder control and constant fatigue. My thyroid went from slightly Hypo to Hyper, causing me to drop weight rapidly, leaving my body with no cushion to block the pure pain of my injuries. I tried Acro-Yoga, which I had to stop after 6 months, as during a move I found myself on the floor in pain, my sciatic starting to give me grief.
After my last bout with Kidney stones, I can remember lying on my bed crying, ‘I’m 22, how is this happening?!’ This moment had brought forward the haunting realization; you don’t have to have kids or be that old to have all these medical problems. (My mum had seven pregnancies, 1 being a set of twins, 2 of them miscarriages, and I had always attributed her issues to the amount of pregnancies, but it was that, a combination of injuries throughout her lifetime, and the inability to let her body get the proper rest and alignment it needed which put her in the state she is in now). Firstly, if you rest for too long, then overdo it; you’ll induce a vicious cycle of trying to play catch-up for the rest of your life. Secondly, we have been ingrained with the mentality of treating each part of the body individually – even though we all know the song ‘Toe bone connected to the foot bone, Foot bone connected to the heel bone…etc’. The philosophy of ONSEN® is to treat the body as a whole, while most practitioners learn more about one area of the body and tend to specialize in that area.
“It is more important to know what person the disease has then what disease the person has.” Sir William Osler.
This is one of my favorite quotes, putting forward the idea that mentally, it’s willpower that keeps us going, and on the physical side, we see that flexibility has a major play on how we react to injuries. The body is an amazing machine, and when used properly, holds a potential many of us have yet to even catch a glimpse of.
So as I lay there, wondering if this was the end, I started to work on myself. I cut off a skin tag on my neck which revealed the amount of damage being held to my body since I first flew off a swing, and when I closed my eyes, I could create a map in my mind of my body – a phenomenon that I felt super odd talking about, but speaking with many massage practitioners, this experience is quite normal, and envied by some. This allowed me to trace out trouble spots, and my OCD made it simple to bring my body back to ‘One’.
As friends and family started to realize I was fixing them, they prompted me to get certified. I was recommended the ONSEN® course, and plan on getting my Physiotherapy within the next 2 years so I can be covered under extended medical.
While taking the ONSEN® course, I have had a few physical setbacks, with the nastiest ones being:
1 – Skidding off my bike, off centering my hips and scraping my kneecap, mashing the muscles on top underneath the cap.
2 – Fell on my tailbone while skating.
3 – Shot myself in the left index finger with a roofing nail gun, which my body tried during recovery to help my finger by hyper-extending the thumb.
4 – Fell off my bike again, this time completely turning my left arm backwards and sitting on it with a heavy backpack on.
5 – Major whiplash from a day of tubing
But with each injury, I learn something new which helps me be more relatable to my clientele. And having a construction worker for a boyfriend means even more practice for me!
With this insight into my past, my hope is that this will give you a better idea of what I’ve been through, what I can do, and make you more comfortable in letting me help you start your journey of rediscovery and wellness!
Thank you for reading, and hope you have a wonderful day!
-SarahTonin
To learn more about the ONSEN® technique and how to get certified click here.
To learn more about what ONSEN® can do for you, click here.
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