I Tried A CBD Massage & This Is What It's Like


I've been struggling a lot lately in my personal and professional life, which has been the source of anxiety, self-doubt, lack of sleep, and this ongoing feeling of not being "enough." The end of my 2018 and the start of my 2019 were rough, and since I have become a "push through" queen, it has been normal for me to put things I want in my life before my physical and mental health.

"You're looking really frustrated over there," my co-worker and friend Q said on his way out the door. "I've got a lot on my mind," I said cupping forehead in my hand. "I know," he said with a smile before hugging me on his way out. He along with many of my coworkers know what I've been dealing with since I returned from holiday break.

I'd been saying, "I'm going to take a break" since I got back from Atlanta in January. It was March 5th, and I decided that it was time to take at least a day.

At 11:25 pm I sent my boss a note on Slack letting her know I was going to take a mental health day, noting that, "If the team needs me, I'll come in. I hate feeling like I'm leaving the team hanging."

I was feeling guilty and very millennial as I wrote that message. Who needs to take a day for mental health? But, I knew in my spirit I needed that day.

Before she wrote me back, I'd gone ahead and booked a massage at a new place in Los Angeles called The Now. What intrigued me about the spa was their pricing ($100 for an eighty-minute massage) and that fact that I could add on their CBD balm to my treatment for an extra $10. Before you say that's too much, we all have those beauty and wellness things we can't live without like getting going to see our favorite nail tech, getting our edges laid by our lifelong stylist, or whatever your heart desires. If I give up eating out six days a week for only two, I'll have enough to book my next spa day.

With the boom of the cannabis products in the beauty and wellness world, I'd read many studies that claim CBD can lower blood pressure, act as a natural anti-inflammatory supplement, and help ease the pain of those chronic pain. The next morning, I woke up to a note from my manager, "You are not leaving us hanging at all! Take care of yourself — that is the most important thing."

How lucky am I to have a boss that understands, I thought.

Too often, managers guilt employees into pushing through at the expense of their health. In 2017, only one in five American workers under the age 45 took sick days, according to labor statistics. If we're not taking sick days when we're sick with the flu, a cold, or any other ailment deemed a sickness — the likelihood of people taking a day off for mental health is minimal.

I scheduled my appointment for 2:30 pm on a rainy Wednesday in Los Angeles. I know Tony! Toni! Tone! told us "It never rains in Southern California," but it does. When I arrived, I was greeted by two lovely hosts dressed in denim and was checked in to my appointment with my massage therapist Darrien.

Writer Bianca Lambert captured in The Now

I know there are black massage therapists out there, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a young black woman greet me to go over my what I was hoping to get out of my massage.

"Your girl is stressed," I said with a chuckle.

We chatted a few more moments, and I was off to a dimly lit space filled with salt lamps, sounds of an ocean breeze, and Tulum-esque decor that made me wish I could stay there forever. "Take a deep breath," Darrien said as she started the massage.

I tried to inhale to take a deep breath, but my body was so tight that I was only able to take in a little air. As the massage went on, I made attempts to quiet my mind, but if you have ever experienced anxiety, that's not as easy as you'd think. I started to think about the emails I might miss, the phone call I might get from my agent telling me I'd booked that audition I'd gone in for on Monday, the possibility of there being an emergency. My mind -- even in a place that was meant for mindfulness and relaxation -- was filled with all of these never-ending, fear-based, obsessive thoughts. About 20 minutes into the massage, I felt myself start to relax, especially when she got to the spots on my body where I hold all of my stress — my neck, shoulders, and back.

Eighty minutes later, my spa day was over.

I looked at the ceiling, took the first actual deep breath I'd taken in months, and cried. I felt like I'd dropped the boulder I'd been carrying around for the last few months. When I left the shop, my body was so relaxed that I dozed off at the restaurant I'd gone to have a drink and when a couple of stressful emails popped up on my way home — I felt the stress, but my body didn't tense up the way it usually would.

I think that can be attributed to the peppermint and hemp-derived CBD in their CBD balm — so I will be adding CBD oil to my list of things to buy in the name of self-care. When I got home, I turned on The Golden Girls and woke up the next morning having a had my first night of uninterrupted sleep in months. As I write this a little over twenty-four hours after my massage, I am still feeling grounded and relaxed, which is a pleasant surprise.

Many of us view massages as a birthday treat or for special occasions, but I realize that massage therapy can be important for those of us that carry our stress on our shoulders (literally) — science backs me up. Doctors say that massage can be beneficial because of their ability to connect your mind to your body and can help with stress management.

I know that a CBD massage can't knead my problems or anxiety away. But, choosing to put my well-being above the grind with the help of mental health day (and 80-minute massage) was just what I needed to change my inner dialogue. I have always been proactive about seeking out opportunities to grow in my career, but haven't put that same thoughtfulness into checking in with myself along the way. I'll continue to try new wellness remedies to ensure I stay in control of my life and mental health, and not allow the hustle and things I hope to accomplish in life control me.

If you're curious about CBD massages or do a self-massage, spas in Atlanta, New York, and D.C. offer them. If you're not in any of these cities, you can also purchase CBD oil online to add to your self-care regimen.

All images by Bianca Lambert / Instagram

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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