CW: I am not going into great detail about my abuse but I will be writing about specific sexual, physical and emotional abuse situations. Please be kind to yourself and come back to this later if you’re feeling at all vulnerable right now.
I never cease to be amazed at this process of integrating my trauma and alters. I’ve been having night terrors, flashbacks, new memories and a ton of somatic symptoms. About a week and a half ago I woke up around 4 am with new memories of my childhood sexual abuse. Afterwards, as I rested and processed all the feelings I was having, I had a ginormous realization:
Until I separated from my ex and moved into this house nestled against a creek I had never not felt hunted.
When I was a child I was always wondering when my father would be secretly watching me play in the backyard or come into my room in the night to rape me. I became sexually active only two years after my father stopped raping me. I was vulnerable from that abuse and so became a victim of many other rapes as an adolescent. I honestly can’t remember how many different teenage boys raped me. I had a two year relationship with a boy who never pushed me to have sex with him but he was quick to anger and I was always on edge waiting for him to snap and smack or violently grab me. I married my first husband at 19 and that was a brief respite. I left him for Joe, the man who sadistically raped and locked me up for several months. When I left him, he stalked me for a year and accosted me several times during that period. I went away to college and I was still vulnerable. I didn’t know how to set boundaries so I ended up having a lot of sex I didn’t want to have and I was again raped a few times. In my other two marriages, as kind hearted and well intentioned as those husbands were, I was often pressured into sex.
That’s forty something years of being and feeling hunted. I had a lot of feelings come up as I began to process this realization. Grief and rage being the biggest. I remember thinking that ground under my feet had shifted, that it had never felt even slightly steady until this last year. The following day I leaned down to pet our cat and when I straightened up I felt so off balance I had to sit down on the floor. After that I felt the ground moving under my feet whenever I walked and when I laid down, I felt like I was spinning. I didn’t think the dizzy, off balance feelings were related to the big revelation I’d had; I just assumed I was experiencing some random vertigo. I ended up going to the ER the following day to make sure there wasn’t something serious going on with my health. They ran ALL the tests, determined it was benign, gave me some medicine and sent me home.
It was the following day that I put it all together. The vertigo was somatic! Realizing I am for the first time in my life not being hunted in some way, that I am safe, was so huge that it left my brain thinking the ground under my feet was shifting. I had my boys all last week so I rested as much as I could while making sure they were still fed and got some of my attention. When I saw my therapist on Friday she told me I needed to do some somatic processing and use more skills when these big things happen. I’ve been doing that the last few days as I process new memories and flashbacks.
I’ve often complained that this process is achingly slow. Now I understand that it needs to be in order to be absorbed and integrated. If the years of living in a nervous system that’s been in fight, flight or freeze all came up at once, or even over a year, it would be so overwhelming that I’d go right back into that frozen or panicked state. I’m learning to understand how healing works and honor how hard it is and what I need in each moment. I feel my strength more and feel fiercely protective of the alchemy that is healing. As a result, I don’t want much human contact. I’m able to enjoy being present with my kids and I greatly value the friendships I have with my few girlfriends but for the most part I want to be alone.