Cuddles Combating Grief
Last week I experienced my first bout of depression since beginning medication in January. Luckily, I was reading Samantha Hess’s The Power of Touch, and found out rather quickly that I was operating at an oxytocin deficiency.
This might sound funny, coming from someone who gets paid to touch people, but it happened.
A little over a month ago, I ended a long-term romantic relationship, with my primary partner whom I lived with. Looking back, it is easy to see how I had been consistently flooding my system with oxytocin from always having someone cuddly around, as well as other partners and friends — not to mention clients.
In the same month that I removed the factor of having someone around all the time (which would be more than enough oxytocin for nearly anyone), I also ended a working relationship with someone who had been doing my advertising, and pulling in lots of clients.
Suddenly, I found myself in a touch desert. In my funk, I managed to convince myself that all my friends were busy, so instead of calling anyone I just cried by myself. Suddenly, it was hard to get out of bed again. I felt alone, and realized that this is the exact state many of my clients are in when they come to me for a session.
I found myself wishing I was wealthy enough to afford a session with a professional cuddler every day until I felt better. Luckily, my community is quite open-minded, and I was able to reach out and ask people I thought would be willing to hang out and cuddle in a platonic way. I also registered for a Cuddle Sanctuary group cuddle, which was a beautiful experience to say the least.
After just a few days of fulfilling that need, I bounced back. I couldn’t believe I had considered upping my dosage of depression meds! I’m proud to say that I can officially vouch for my services as necessary, preventative health care.
I am sad, however, that this experience highlighted for me exactly how broken our Western (specifically American) culture is, that when someone finds themselves suddenly alone (after a breakup, the death of a loved one, etc.) is precisely when we find ourselves without the resources to heal.
In a tribal culture, an individual in a grieving state would find themselves surrounded by family and friends — people who they trust and have rapport with - to give them nonsexual touch and empathy. This kind of physical care floods our brain with the neurotransmitters oxytocin and serotonin, which help us to create new patterns. And new habits are exactly what we need to establish in order to overcome grief.
So, I find myself reinvesting in my work, and my desire to touch people in the way that I want to be touched — with tenderness, strength, and acceptance.