“Now, stay there in that moment. This is how we heal.”
I had forgotten just how graphic some of the portions of my writing were and listening to the paragraphs individually read by the voice of someone else caused the words to cut me like a knife. I deflected the desire to relive the moments of the earlier paragraphs, however this one pierced me not once but dozens of times. There wasn’t just one memory of this moment; this memory was one I lived daily for years.
The soothing sound of my therapist’s voice encouraged my body to reconnect with my brain, reminding me that I was safe and in a space that had become a second home. Keeping my eyes closed, I felt my body sink into the couch. I struggled to walk the tightrope between dissociation and just a mindful awareness of my body sensations. I heard my therapist’s voice, yet I felt the cool leather of the school bus bench; I smelled the inviting aroma of essential oils, yet I saw him walking towards me. I wanted to scream but I whispered. I wanted to flee but I sat frozen.
The truth was, I’d never tried to flee at all from him. I never screamed. At most, I initially made futile attempts at fighting, but eventually I was simply too exhausted and defeated to do more than whisper a simple “No…” or grab his hand for a moment as he wrestled his hand under my clothes. Trying to leave was matched with verbal assault or his self-inflicted cuts pulling at my heart strings. Trying to report anything to adults was met with disbelief or his own compelling storytelling. Everything was meaningless, I was hopelessly trapped.
Despite it all, I never felt blame towards him in my heart. I knew he was troubled. I thought that, somehow, by allowing him to ravage my body and ransack what little pride that remained inside of me, I could somehow save his injured, tormented soul. I placed most of the fault, especially regarding the sexual aspects of the abuse, on myself. I never tried to flee, I never tried to scream…
“Where are you right now? What are you feeling?”
I’d lost myself in a sea of thought, but the familiar, delicate voice of my therapist was a lifeline, a rope keeping me from getting too far from the shore of reality. It has never taken much for me to drown in memories of him, even after all these years. I’d finally learned how to not let intimate moments with my partner trigger the waves, but numerous simple triggers remained. The sound of heavy boots, tall men with mostly shaved heads, sitting on a school bus or going under bleachers at football fields… It all made the memories come crashing back to the shore of my mind.
For many who have experienced trauma, assault, or abuse, the blame gets placed upon themselves, not the one who committed the infraction. I deserved to be touched because of who I am. I didn’t fight, therefore blame me. Just sitting on my therapist’s couch, reliving the moments makes me want to destroy myself, it makes me want to die. I am certain I am not the only one who holds these feelings inside her heart; I won’t be the last woman to carry the shame upon her soul, like a branding etched into my skin for all to see.
“It’s ok to take the power back. You can take back the control for yourself.”
I chuckled at that seemingly unattainable, yet infinitely appealing idea: power. I can’t even think of a time where I’ve ever felt empowered, where I felt that I was the one calling the shots in my life. Yet, as soon as the words moved from my therapist’s mouth into the space of the room and were sucked into the inner workings of my ears, I knew that she was right. We break free from control by using our own strength, our own power. We continue to live even after the seemingly worst of times because we are powerful. Taking moments like this to share our story helps others become empowered as well.
I have no clue what “taking the power back” looks like for me just yet, but I know that time will help me heal, time will show me the way. Forgiving myself will help shatter the glass. Writing will allow me to process. Accepting that what happened were the results of choices he made will allow me to stand again. Taking back my body and my brain will give me the real power here, both of which I never thought I’d fully hold again without the stains of the past. So, my loves, if someone stole the power from you, no matter how little or how long ago, it’s never meaningless to reclaim that power… it’s never too late.
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