*The following post is from a sexual abuse survivor and may contain elements that could feel triggering.
It has been three years.
My body feels heavy, my pulse throbs in my neck. The memory, so violent and traumatic. My mind has begun to recover but my body has been slower to follow.
During an EMDR session, my body had a memory of being raped by my next-door neighbor’s dad as my brother and the neighbor’s son held me down.
I feel like I am making this up. Yet, this is such a strange thing to make up. I am more screwed up than I thought. My therapist says, “Little girls don’t make things like this up.”
My body remembered what I had no story for in my head.
Adrenaline courses through me, everything is on fire. Wailing sobs burst uncontrollably out of me. My hands shake, my head feels as though it is disconnected from the rest of my body. Everything is spinning. I am out of control and cannot will or command my body to stop it. I feel nauseous and begin to dry heave. My breath is short and rapid. The moment my body had feared is here, and it is as terrible and unbearable as my unconsciousness had predicted.
I desperately seek out people from my past who will leave me on the hook.
Tell me I made this “memory” up. I speak with my neighbor’s daughter who has not spoken to him for over a decade. She tells me that her father was diagnosed as a psychopath after being arrested for shoplifting. The psychiatrist told her mother that he was one of the most dangerous people she had ever met and that she needed to get away from him as quickly as possible.
I would rather be a devious little girl than a powerless one who had no one to protect her, and nowhere to go with this life-taking secret.
I barely get out of bed for two weeks. The tears just seemed to never end. I am powerless for the first time to stop them. This is something I could not shove down or push away. It pulls me into the pit with it, and I am certain I will never get out.
I learned as a child how to hold in my emotions as to not overwhelm my father. When they broke through, his face would scowl creating a deep crevasse between his eyes. His long, wiry eyebrows would extend upwards revealing the fury in his eyes, shooting terror through my body. His tongue folds over revealing deep blue veins accentuating the uncontrollable adrenaline coursing through his body. His angry face comes inches from mine as he reminds me that I need to learn to be able to control my emotions.
I am choosing to intentionally go slow. It is my hope that if I allow my body to metabolize what is surfacing instead of plowing through, I will provide defiant self-care for my body that is long overdue.
I sit with Jenni. I share the hate and contempt I feel for my husband’s desire for me. I know the right answer in my head for why I feel that, but it doesn’t feel true for me. A picture flashed in my head. I’m staying on the edge of the woods. I’m trapped between two unbearable worlds.
I’m standing at the entrance to the woods and two hundred yards in front of me is a concrete wall. I am also concrete and cannot move forward. The wall’s message is clear: stay back. Adrenaline begins rushing through my body again, just subtly. Starting at my toes and working its way up, it reaches my chest and my breathing becomes fast and then rapid. I am sitting still in a chair but my body is spinning. My eyes cannot focus, and everything is blurry. The panic wraps itself around my neck. It is happening again.
Instead of running from this out-of-control feeling, I sit in the sheer terror. Sweet tears flow freely down my face. These are new. They are tender, healing tears. I felt overwhelmed at that moment as a thirty-two-year-old woman whose environment is safe. Oh, the terror my poor little seven-year-old body endured. This thinking is a large step towards kindness.
My battleground is engaging my body as I engage my sexuality. I have sought out and begged my Jesus for healing for so long. If God does not yank from my hands the very skills I adopted that kept me alive, why then should I?
God does not heal me because he wants to use me. God heals me because God loves me and then invites me to finally play. I have been waiting a long time to play, and it is ok if I play with small kindness and sweet tears.
Taylor is a lover of deep conversations and hearing others story. Exploring outdoors and discovering eclectic coffee shops with her tender warrior husband and their four legged fluffy child is what brings her the greatest Joy.
Thanks for the honesty. 40% of women have been impacted by sexual abuse. An even larger number have suffered emotional and physical abuse. The cruelest part of it, is the trap it sets that hold you prisoner. There’s an internal message that controls you and silences your letting it out. This writing is both graphic and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.
Thank you for writing what so many of us feel/experience. I hid my abuse and emotions in a 55 gallon drum which I buried at the bottom of a lake. (I actually wrote this story, and many people thought it was a story in support of global warming.) Eventually, the drum rusted, started to leak, and toxic waste surfaced. It took years and decades to get to a point where I was bearable to other people for any extended period of time; I could have unpredictable belches. I still have moments when the leak breaks loose, and I have to address it.
I am thankful you are able to “play with small kindness and sweet tears.”
This article is one of the most poignant reflections on suppressed (and real) abuse I’ve ever read. My trauma was not as overt, but still has hints of the same source. This post is why Red Tent Living is so very important. I can’t imagine your strength and I totally understand everything you are saying. A testimony I feel helps anyone that has gone through childhood abuse that is worth watching is Elizabeth’s Smart’s recounting of her experience. Life-changing
Your courage is so lovely. Thank you.
So much of this feels familiar to me… The EMDR and body memories are so difficult. I know all too well the feeling of “maybe I made it up, but what a strange thing to imagine”. Peace to you!
Taylor – This is a hard story to read as so many of us have been impacted by sexual abuse – either ourselves or someone we love. Tears…. beautiful, healing tears. That is what struck me most about your piece. “Wailing sobs burst uncontrollably out of me.” and “The tears just seemed to never end. I am powerless for the first time to stop them.” And “Sweet tears flow freely down my face. These are new. They are tender, healing tears.”
As you allow your tears and emotions to flow I pray that the tears will help to bring healing and relief for your weary soul. The last lines, “God does not heal me because he wants to use me. God heals me because God loves me and then invites me to finally play. I have been waiting a long time to play, and it is ok if I play with small kindness and sweet tears.” Powerful. May your days be filled with small kindnesses, sweet tears, and play as your soul heals. Blessings to you this day, Taylor.
Your story brought flowing tears. Thank you for your courage and vulnerability in sharing your heart I am with you. Our 40th anniversary is coming up in April, and the sexual violence done to me at age six, still has its affect. I love your empowering words about playing with small kindnesses and sweet tears as your soul heals.
Oh, how horribly, terribly sweet. I appreciate your putting into words how hard it is to struggle back to some sort of peace and release from your trauma.
I have not learned of my trauma, but I feel it lurking under my dysfunctions. I am praying to God also for revelation and healing.
Thank you again, for giving me hope and understanding that I am not alone.