Every now and then in life, we get stuck. We get frustrated, irritated, and discouraged. A job or relationship loss may leave us with an immovable sadness. We may be coping with the loss of energy that comes with illness or age. Sometimes one personal crisis follows another, too quickly to be absorbed.
Add to that the pace and disconnect of modern life, the climate of anxiety in uncertain financial times, and it is no wonder people are struggling, some trying to displace a hurt they can't even name.
"So many people come to us and they say, 'I need help. I don't even know what's wrong,'" said Nileen Drzewianowski, a massage therapist and teacher who left her job in nuclear physics to establish the Center for Healing Therapies in Waterford with co-owner Amy Martin.
"Look at all the expectations we have for ourselves in our lives," said Martin, a board-certified nurse practitioner, hypnotherapist and doctor of RoHun transpersonal psychotherapy.
"We want to be happy, successful and have the things we want; we want our kids to be happy and successful and have the things they want. It becomes easy to get away from our internal knowing..."
" — And our core values," added Drzewianowski.
The center's growth over the last few years mirrors the way in which the women have shaped their lives around their own core values. From two rooms in a professional building in Niantic to the current multifaceted facility at 83 Boston Post Road in Waterford, the center grew as they realized the need to put together more classes and workshops for the clients they were seeing with both similar problems and interests, and as Drzewianowski realized that her heart and full-time future lay in massage and other therapies.
"Massage has been a wonderful vacation," from 23 years in the nuclear field, she says smiling. "I was always athletic, and body-aware. ... I always worked on others. Someone finally said to me, 'You know, you can go to school for this,'" she says.
While still working her day job, she attended the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in Newington, which she describes as "one of the better decisions of my life." In addition to her work at the center, she now teaches at the Groton campus.
"We are touch-deprived in our society," Drzewianowski said. "We are not present to one another. So when an individual comes in the door ... we are here 100 percent for them."
Martin's three decades of clinical experience as a nurse practitioner in women's care, psychiatry, gerontology, adolescent and community care of special populations led her to research nontraditional treatment options for those in physical and emotional pain. RoHun practitioners hold that negative feelings and thoughts are not mental abstractions, but manifest as physical energies which can "block" people from creating the lives they want.
"It's a transformational therapy," she said. "It's very freeing when you can do what you were meant to do, and you're not held back by irrational fear."
The center also offers reiki, qi gong instruction, acupuncture, yoga for all ages, personal training using weights, bands and kettle bells; hooping classes and parties; a variety of support groups, counseling for individuals and couples, meditation and holistic weight-loss classes, hypnosis for smoking cessation and several forms of massage, as well as continuing education classes for massage therapists. Visit centerforhealingtherapies.com for more detailed information and schedules.
Drzewianowski describes their clients as people "who are starting to take responsibility for their own wellness."
"They don't want a pill. They don't want to treat the symptoms," she says. "They want change. They are willing to change their lives and willing to change their habits."
The pair said that staff work on finding the right tools for each individual. They describe it as an exploratory, growth-oriented process. Martin spoke of one woman, a longtime massage client, whose life was in some turmoil due to a death in her family. She was also facing the prospect of knee surgery — which her medical team advised her she could probably avoid if she lost weight. She began attending a wisdom group at the center and pursued yoga, personal training and nutritional counseling.
"Six weeks later, she had lost 12 pounds," Martin said. "With no drugs, no surgery. She was simply able to accept and love herself more deeply."
Helping people restore their self-esteem and remember their gifts is the most meaningful thing about their work, Drzewianowski and Martin said. It is very moving, Martin added, to see the physical transformation that accompanies emotional well-being.
"You see a change in posture, in their demeanor," she said. "You actually see the light in their face."
Most of all, they encourage people not to give up.
"So many people feel isolated, alone, lost, unsure, yet they would never tell anyone. And people need to know they're not alone, or weird or crazy. There is more to life than just the stuff we gather, and our experiences. When people can finally touch that truth, their true purpose," she says, the real healing begins.