As some of you may have gleaned from my recent posts, I’ve been working recently on healing about a decade’s worth of repressed sexual assault and unwanted touch, things I’m not entirely ready to talk about because I had split them off from my experience so hard.
Here’s something that happens when you grow up with abuse: as a coping mechanism, you acquire the ability to leave your body and intellectualize your experience instead. This is helpful because it allows you to survive some very difficult experiences while continuing to function, relatively speaking. However, the cost of that is disembodiment, and an inability to discern your “yes” from your “no.” Note: it doesn’t matter what form the abuse takes; in my early life I experienced verbal and emotional abuse, while later in life I experienced psychological abuse and physical and sexual assault – the common denominator here is that your body loses the ability to feel when something doesn’t feel good.
By my late 20s I lost the ability to even feel physical pain. I broke my hand in parkour and the only way I knew was that one of my knuckles was moving in a way none of the others were. I took to BDSM, masochism in particular, like a duck to water because I’d been deflecting pain my whole life, and it felt so good to join a community where I was already good at something and it could be done in service to someone I liked, someone I wanted to like me back, and I got to be cuddled after as part of aftercare.
The trouble is, pain has a purpose: it tells us when something is wrong. As a result, I got myself into a number of bad relationships because I just couldn’t tell when something was hurting until it was far too late, until it didn’t even make sense in my head, in my logical brain where I was most comfortable. I knew something was wrong with me; my body was like a factory machine whose switches wouldn’t turn on. I started losing my hearing (a likely symptom of a mood stabilizer I was on), and I realized that in the same way I needed to lean in to hear people, I maybe also needed to start leaning in to my own body to feel things.
I realized that I actually have no idea what I did and did not consent to, because I was completely unable to listen to my body’s yes and no. This creates more shame of course because then I think maybe I wasn’t actually an assault victim, maybe I just went with it for whatever reason, maybe I decided all of this was ok. After the first time I was coerced, it felt like a line was crossed that couldn’t get crossed back – a gap was made in the fortress and now anyone could get through, so protecting myself was of no use. On some level, I just chose it from then on, because it seemed easier to just accept that that was who I was now. And I was so good at that role that nobody ever knew anything was wrong, including myself.
Here was what I cared about: I cared about whether lasting, tangible damage was done to my body. I cared if I a) got pregnant, b) got an STI, c) landed with a hospital bill, or d) if it cost me money in any way. Those were things I could measure.
Here’s what I didn’t care about: I didn’t care about how my body felt about it. Because I had no way of knowing.
My body had stopped talking to me a long time ago, because at a very young age I had stopped listening to it, because I had to tune it out to survive. As I’ve often noted before, I was madder at my ex for breaking my coffee table than for strangling me during a fight, because my throat healed on its own in a week but my coffee table that I’d saved up for with my own money was now irreparably, embarrassingly damaged. Guests would see it, heaven forbid. The strangling incident on the other hand could remain a secret; nobody was there to witness it and probably nobody would believe me anyway as there was no physical evidence.
As most of you know, I moved to LA for this purpose of healing, the depth of which I never could have imagined before I started, and yeah, it’s been a journey.
My conundrum right now is that in undergoing this healing process, my body is really crying out for positive touch. I need for my body to understand that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, that we’re on this journey for a reason, that there’s even a POINT to feeling things when so many things we’ve felt have been so awful. The conundrum occurs in that there is so much negative touch in the world on offer to me at all times, so many people who want to touch me for their pleasure instead of my own, or who think they want my pleasure but are actually projecting their own desires onto me (see: the man who simply MUST make you climax for his own ego regardless of how you feel about it, the tantra hippie who MUST hug you to show you how much he loves everyone, the online guy offering free massages to hot women, the person who keeps pushing “being there for you” but really it’s to assuage their own loneliness or drive their agenda of getting closer to you). So if I ask for touch I’m going to be flooded with people wanting to fuck or cuddle or even just hold hands but like, I just don’t trust a lot of people to get physically close to me right now and I think honestly that is pretty reasonable given the circumstances. If we’re being honest, at this point in my process I actually want most of you to just go away.
So please don’t comment here offering to touch me, but if anyone has any similar experiences and is willing to share what helped them through it, especially as a person currently not in a relationship, I would very much welcome your stories.