Hydrotherm Massage with Ben Barnett

I had Hydrotherm treatments with Ben prior to my CFS/ME in 2009 and so needed no encouragement to book with him when I heard he was a ‘guest therapist’ at Wayside House this week.

Ben is not only a very skilled masseuse, but also a very talented healer and his specialty is connecting directly with your body. He believes that we have two ‘selves’, a ‘Contextual face’ and an ‘Experiential face’. The first is based around our heads and the second around the Torso. These two facets of our whole self is often working in conflict as the Contextual face see’s aspects of life as we have been taught or expect to see life. The Experiential face is imprinted with our physical body’s experience of that aspect.

Ben’s treatments start with not asking you ‘what’s wrong’ with your body but ‘what would you like to feel after this treatment?’ I was aware of this from previous treatments but had entered the luxurious Wayside House therapy room still undecided on what exactly I wanted. Previous treatments I’d asked for ‘calm’ and ‘clarity’. From experience I knew only too well to be careful what you wished for so the weight of a single word had to be carefully considered. Just as I was explaining to Ben that I couldn’t decide on what I wanted ‘well’ came into my head and I knew that that was exactly what I wanted to feel- wellness.

And so the physical treatment began. My over active mind was busy thinking about what ‘well’ meant, both for me and those around me. Anyone suffering from a chronic illness knows that after a while sickness becomes the norm and so the thought of a sudden recovery can be scary. ‘How will I manage?’ , ‘what if I relapse?’, and the unmentionable ‘Do I really want to get better?’

That last question could seem unbelievable to the vast majority of healthy individuals. How could anyone possibly not want to be well again?

Prior to my own illness I trained & then practiced as a Reiki healer. Being a highly motivated lover of life I came across a wide selection of friends and customers with various illnesses. Some curable and some not so treatment then was about reducing stress and encouraging acceptance. I learnt through that time that good health carries with it responsibility. There is tremendous social pressure to be ‘working’, even healthy individuals who decide to be ‘homemakers’ or ‘stay at home mums’ are often misunderstood by the over stretched and often over stressed masses. We want to share the load of responsibility. ‘Why should I be working myself to death when others can lounge around at home?’


To go against the mainstream takes a great inner strength, a confidence to not be upset or bothered by what other people think. This is a rare and difficult to develop quality.

In my own case, my illness has brought me support in the way of carers. By having my daily needs met ( washing, dressing and cooking) with the help of others, what energy I have left can be used to improve my own quality of life. Without help I was quite unable to prepare three meals for myself, let alone take care of my sons & husband. With help I am able to have visitors, bake flapjacks, garden & more recently start beekeeping. The big fear is that if I was to wake up tomorrow completely recovered I’d loose all my help. Would I only have enough energy to be a slave to my family? What would be the motivation in that?

When you are feeling such a long way away from health, a simple thing can seem like such a giant leap.

In reality, health returns in small easy to manage bites, and so my declaration of a desire for wellness to Ben was my body’s way of saying ‘lets start those small steps’.

Ben massages your body on a hydrotherm mattress placed on top of a regular treatment couch. The mattress is filled with heated water and so you completely drift away whilst your body is eased by long strong strokes and pulls. Prior to my illness, any treatment would have me zonked within minutes but now I’m fully alert, aware of every movement and as Ben chats to my body, reminding it of what ‘wellness’ feels like, I’m getting frustrated, thinking ‘come on, I want the lightening strike of self realisation’, at the same time thinking how will I manage to restart my career and look after my family & the house?

As always Ben is The Best when it comes to a massage, and I know some amazing therapists so that is saying something. Your body goes completely relaxed and he pulls, kneads and stretches muscles you didn’t know you had. His real gift though is the communication. He really does hear what your body is saying and needs and finds a way to express it to his clients so that they can make the necessary changes in their life to be more in tune with their body.

The treatment ended and I was left alone for ten or maybe twenty minutes to ‘absorb’ the healing. I wasn’t done though, I hadn’t yet received the wise words I was craving. I didn’t know the question to ask, why wasn’t I satisfied?

Dressed and ready to leave, Ben returned to my room and asked if I was ok. He sensed my lack of calm. Then the wisdom came, out of the blue Ben knew what I needed to hear, no matter how painful, and yet how perfectly true. None of the vague babble I was used to from all the specialists I’d seen.

His words painted a picture, there I was surrounded by my past, physical and emotional clutter all spinning around me like Saturn’s rings. Health was sat waiting for me in outer space.

That was it, exactly what I needed to hear and in a visual form I could understand. Phew, I’d got what I came for. Ben may well have said more, I must check the MP3 he sent after my treatment.


I’d written most of above a year ago, straight after the treatment. So how am I a year on? I wanted to paint a version of me being orbited by all my past. I couldn’t manage that, but the scribbled words below helped.

I downloaded, and listened to, ‘Clear your clutter’ by Karen Kingston. I’d found the book on audible just before my treatment with Ben but now I had a project. The book got me clearing things I never thought I’d let go of. It was so dramatic that my husband then started listening to it on his drives to and from work. My boys started loading bags for the charity shop and even my parents took on a new lease of life with their own de cluttering.

Health wise, my inner strength is returning. I still manage on between two and four hours a day of activity, and despite all the de cluttering I’ve had two big relapses since the treatment. I’ve also had more energy to research all my physical symptoms and found a condition that would explain it all better than ME. I’m looking forward to the appointment where that will become clearer this October.

Most of all, my hope and zest for life are hanging on in there.


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