Last night my husband and I were watching the Netflix political drama, House Of Cards. During the episode, a female character described her rape experience. The scene was about a minute long. My husband kept asking me if I wanted him to change the channel. I kept saying “No, I can handle it.” I thought I could. I knew there was something for me to learn about my own childhood abuse from watching this scene. The character said something to the effect of “You can’t give in to the hatred because if you do, it will swallow you whole.” (I’m paraphrasing, but this is the message I took from the scene.)
At the end of the program, we turned off the television and headed to bed like we always do. But something was different. I was anxious, I was nauseous, I was afraid to lie down on the bed. I was afraid to be near my husband. I was afraid to be away from my husband.
I was afraid to face what was waiting for me when I closed my eyes. I knew what was coming and I was afraid, this time I would fall apart.
This time I didn’t beat my self up for exposing myself to a “trigger.” I’ve been avoiding watching rape scenes and listening to Led Zeppelin for years. Led Zeppelin has a very scary trigger for me, not sure what it’s about and up until now, I didn’t want to know. I just knew that it was time for me to expose myself to whatever it was I needed to face by watching the scene unfold. As I write this, I am listening to Led Zeppelin, waiting. Waiting for that scary, breath-stealing fear that creeps up out of no where and grips me. All in an effort to learn what I need to learn so that I may heal.
As I lay in bed, the flashbacks start. I notice. I feel pain in my body, my breathing is restricted – not from anxiety, but from a crushing weight of skin, hair and sweat being pressed into my body. My whole body. I am frightened. I see blurry images of faces, beards, fists, belt buckles, boots and bodies, too many bodies. I see myself as a twelve year old girl, naked on the floor, out numbered. Then, after a few minutes, the images and physical feelings fade and I feel broken. I start to cry, I want to cry, but can’t. I just can’t cry anymore. At some point, my husband tries to hug me. I know his intention is to remind me that I’m safe, I’m loved. But I can’t stand the feeling of him touching me at this moment. His touch is soft and gentle. The feelings these flashbacks evoke are the opposite of soft and gentle. They are mean, hurtful, and devoid of compassion. They are violent and cruel. I can’t have my husband’s gentle touch confused with this ugliness. I have to keep them separated, but I don’t want to push my husband away. His touch is the only thing tethering me to reality in this moment.
Even though I hate this, I want to run away, but I don’t. I stay. I stay because I know it is something I have to experience for my own healing. The only way I will ever win over what these men did to me is to face, and deal with, the real, raw emotion that I avoid. By acknowledging these feelings, letting them wash over me then releasing them, I am able to heal.
If this resonates with you, let’s connect on Facebook. I would love to know that I’m not alone.
What keeps coming up for me is shame and embarrassment. Intellectually, I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of, but I am. How can I tell people this story and expect them to not cringe or be frightened? The twelve year old girl inside me still wonders why this happened and why no one came to my rescue. The forty-eigth year old woman inside me knows this is an unanswerable question. I know there is no “fruit up that tree,” yet I struggle with these unanswerable questions.
If I am going to heal my soul, I have to trust that I can release everything, not just the things I hope the people in my life can handle, or would be comfortable hearing. Up until this writing, I have never shared any details of the flashbacks or details about the events I remember. I felt like it was enough to tell my story. I wanted to care for the people with whom I was sharing. I wanted to protect them from the ugliness. But holding on to this part of the story will not heal my soul.
I now recognize at a deeper level that I am not what happened to me. I am not broken. I have come too far to turn back now. I am truly on my own in this process, not because I don’t have anyone around me. But because I am the only one who can get myself through this in a way that I will come out of it a whole person. I have seen what happens when I fight my truth. And I’ve seen what happens when I trust in myself and the process and I go with it.
The silver lining to my cloud is that every time I face my demons, I earn a bit more freedom. I get to, even if only for a moment, feel peace, peace in my soul.
If you are struggling with releasing a painful experience I highly recommend giving yourself the opportunity to set aside the “how’s and why’s” and “should’s and shouldn’ts.” Practice being present to your feelings and your body sensations. Listen to your heart, it knows what you need. Write it down, share it with a friend, cry, scream, do whatever you have to do to release what no longer serves you. Believe me, I know it’s hard, I’ve been there. Having been there in the trenches, I can also let you know that what lies beyond the healing is beautiful.
Post a note in the comment section below about what you are ready to release. I read and respond to every comment.
Lockey Maisonneuve is the founder of the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is a combination of yoga, discussion, journaling and meditation. Upcoming workshops in Ca., NJ. Click here for workshop registration. Lockey and the MovingOn program have been profiled in magazines, television, radio. Print: Shape Magazine, Origin Magazine, and Yoga Mantra + Health Magazine. For more information about Lockey and to sign up for her weekly Tao of Bacon, go to www.lockeymaisonneuve.com.
Image courtesy of Amarit Opassetthakul.