Facing Fear and Touching Lives: Crystal Critch Comes Home to Healing
"Embrace the fear and the anxiety but also push yourself to get whatever it is that is in front of you done," Crystal Critch advises. Critch is from Killarney, a small town about an hour and a half from Sudbury, Ontario. She has been a registered massage therapist for the past eight years and is pursuing further education as an osteopathic manual practitioner at the Canadian College of Osteopathy. After finishing four years of classes there, she is going into her fifth year which involves writing a thesis and completing practical clinical experience.
Osteopathy is a complementary health profession similar to chiropractic, physiotherapy and massage therapy. It’s based on a holistic approach, looking at the whole body. Osteopaths do things like cranial sacral therapy and visceral manipulation, all from a place of looking outside the box to determine what is causing the patient's problem or pain? After years of learning, Critch is excited to put her knowledge to use soon at the clinic where she already provides massage therapy services.
When Critch was thinking about what she wanted to do as a career when she was in high school, her dad shared a quote with her that made an impact. What he said was “do something you enjoy, and you'll never work a day in your life.” This made her realize she didn’t want to do something she didn't want to do as a do. She doesn’t like sitting still, doing a lot of math or other things that bore her. She enjoys helping people feel better and she felt like it would be a rewarding career to help people professionally. She took a lot of tests online to see what route she should go down and they pointed her in the direction of healthcare. Critch looked at nursing as well, but prefers the scheduling flexibility of massage therapy over the long hours some nurses work.
Her job is pretty physical, but because she works in the gym she gets to stay active there. She listens to her body to find her limit of treatments per day and is mindful of when she starts to get tired. Over time she’s realized 8 sessions per day is too many and that she benefits from a three day weekend to rest and recover. Chiropractic and physiotherapy care help her take care of herself, though she admits she doesn’t get as many massages as she should. She explains the career span for a massage therapist is six to seven years on average and she feels good about having reached that milestone and is still feeling well herself.
Critch’s journey hasn’t been as gentle as a massage; she’s had some unexpected bumps along the way to building her career. While she has been in school her family has suffered some losses but her teachers have been understanding and she’s had the support of family and friends. During the pandemic, she had a harder time finding people to stay with when she was going to classes monthly in Toronto, four hours away from her home for up to a week at a time.
These days she commutes three hours a day to the job she loves so she can live in her home community without giving up work she enjoys. She moved away to go to massage school and is glad to be back for more than just summers.
Her advice to youth considering leaving home for opportunities in work or school is, “Just go do it. Pick a city that you think you'll enjoy, even better if you have family or friends living there already, somebody familiar.” A hometown friend helped her through her first year of massage school while she made new, lifelong friends in both Sudbury and Toronto. While there’s lots of great stuff waiting, the transition can be hard. “It's scary at first, especially [going from] Killarney, a town of 500, less than that, and then going to Sudbury which is 260,000, or Toronto, 4 million. It’s a total change of pace for sure but you get used to it.
Making the move meant facing her fears. “Toronto always scares me. When I was originally choosing colleges fresh out of high school, I was trying to avoid Toronto, but that's where the school of osteopathy is,” she remembers. Critch decided to go for it anyways and now she feels differently about Toronto. “It's not as big and scary as it seems. You get used to it, for sure. But I'm also pretty ready to come home to my small town after a week there,” she smiles.
Critch is inspired by her bosses, her colleagues and the environment she works in. “Everybody's so positive and happy, all the gym members. It's like our own little community there. That's why I didn't leave that place when I moved back home because it was just so happy and upbeat. That's why I love working there,” she reflects. “If I'm having a bad day at home and then I go to work, my day goes better because of those people,” she continues.
Outside of her workplace, Critch is inspired by her fellow students and their stories of how they are going through their own challenging experiences. “I find that inspiring to watch them go through because I know how hard the program is myself and then throwing in all these other factors, it's like, ‘good for you. You're an inspiration.’ Most people in my life inspire me,” she explains.
She has words of encouragement for youth who are learning from her experiences. She says, “Your goals and things that you want to do in life, whether it's school or work or whatever, seem really scary and intense and intimidating at first. But before you know it, you're going to be on the other side of it looking back like ‘Wow, I did all that’ and you're beyond the next challenge.” Critch reflects on a quote that means a lot to her, “growth doesn't happen in the comfort zone.” She elaborates that “you’ve just got to push your way out of it sometimes and keep moving forward and looking back it'll be worth it that you did so.”
She’s planning to continue on the path she’s set out for herself, completing final exams and her thesis so she can start offering osteopathic treatments while she keeps living in her hometown that she loves. Embracing fear and getting things done got Crystal Critch where she is today, contributing to community wellness through massage therapy and osteopathy. She’s helping people feel better and setting an example of how people can do better by believing in themselves and their dreams.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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