I'm not a person who thinks about the spiritual health of my vagina. Maybe some people do, but it's never been high on my list of concerns. Despite all this, I did recently find myself spread-eagled on a massage bed in Thailand while a tiny middle-aged woman in cargo pants went elbows deep in my sweaty chakra.
For me, life has come with its share of health quirks: fucked lungs, chest infections, bouts of arthritis in my goddam face. But since puberty endometriosis had been my major complaint. I've struggled with erratic, incredibly painful periods from adolescence that no doctor, pill, surgery, or hot water bottle had been able to ease.
This year, after a long winter of middle-class hell (nonstop chest infections that stopped me from going to yoga), I went to Thailand for a friend's wedding. Seeming like a good chance to try out some drastic health measures, I enrolled for a weeklong cleanse in Phuket. I wasn't sure raw food would fix my long-term menstrual issues, but I've always enjoyed acupuncture, oil pulling, and swallowing naturopathic pills that are the size of a baby's head and make your pee smell weird. I also like the suggestion of relief from some of my many physical issues without actually committing to any real lifestyle changes.
Like most retreats of this kind, it involved attending sunrise yoga; participating in group circles where I said things like, "today I am going to breathe in energy and breathe out fatigue;" devouring the wisdom of my daily angel card; and getting massages from nice Thai women with beautiful souls. I also learnt "beautiful soul" is tourist-speak for person who is poor but smiley. Until the third day the only unusual aspect was the daily self-administered enemas, called colemas. Side note: If you appreciate a good BM, and you've never had a colema, don't even finish reading this. Just go book one right now.
Midway through the week I took a break from refueling on all-you-can-drink clay and psyllium shakes to run through my medical history with one of the retreat's advisors. After detailing my menstrual situation, he suggested I might benefit from a session with Mrs Timmy, a local woman of some acclaim. Mrs Timmy, he told me, was a practitioner of Chi Tsang Nei, a Chinese health practice aimed at realigning the flow of chi in the body. I nodded eagerly—this was my kind of talk. He shifted slightly in his seat and dropped his voice as he explained the treatment involved the "massage of the sexual organs." I hesitated, but only for a second. After all, I have always prided myself on being open to alternative therapies.
Mrs Timmy dressed like a Brad Pitt era Jennifer Aniston, but any soothing feelings I received from her Friends vibe were dispersed when she announced there was a demon living under my modern Brazilian. And with that, Mrs Timmy set about exorcising my vagina.
The treatment started off normal enough. She got on the table and held me and we rocked back and forth together. She then got out a tiny hammer and tapped it all over my body. Then she began stabbing her finger repeatedly and deeply into my belly button, which felt weird and kind of painful. Given how uncomfortable this was, it was almost a relief when she stuck her digits in me.
I did wonder for a moment if this was the whole deal: getting me off to distract me from the fact a stranger was digging her hand inside my vagina. For the record, having a stranger perform pressure point therapy on your cervix isn't much worse than a pap smear. If I focussed on the spiritual aspect it was just like someone ringing the gong at the end of yoga, only inside me. I've since described it to friends using a lot of hand motions and Boy Scout salutes; best I can explain is it like when a masseuse digs their fingers firmly into your armpits, with one obvious difference.
The treatment ended with a vigorous lower stomach massage that felt like the scene in Indiana Jones where the baddie twists the hearts out of human sacrifices, just with my ovaries in place of a beating human heart.
When she was finished rearranging my insides, Mrs Timmy stood silently for several minutes with her hands on my stomach and her eyes closed. Then she sat me up and said, "You're fixed!" In all seriousness, that woman knew how to banish vagina spirits. I marveled as she held out my undies for me to step into. For days afterwards I had the most magical sensation that my entire torso was floating.
Even now, a few weeks after her special touch, my whole system still feels amazingly light, and my periods have been miraculously free of pain. Of course, most importantly, on my return everyone told me I looked great and remarked on my 'glow'.
Apart from the brief belly button abuse, the whole experience was one of the most relaxing of my life. Since returning home I've tried to emulate it, but eating a carrot in front of The Bachelor while rolling myself over a tennis ball isn't quite the same. I know that internal organ massage and daily enemas may not be everyone's cup of tea, but should you ever find yourself in Phuket and in Mrs Timmy's capable hands, just lie back and wait for a different kind of happy ending.
Follow Carolyn on Twitter: @wowcat9