Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Healing is Not Linear

It's been twenty-two years since my rape, and now more than ever I am embracing the phrase, "healing is not linear". In retrospect, I can see that there were years that I really broke through the pain into healing and other years when my healing was on pause. I believe that both the healing years and the resting years have been equally important to me in the process.

This year has been a healing year. When I say that it's been a healing year, I don't mean that's its been rainbows and butterflies. I mean quite the opposite in fact. Healing years are years full of pain as I dredge up the memories and emotions that feel heavy and as sticky as black tar. In doing the work to clear the darkness, I am often taken to the depths of hell and back. But, then-- after, I am so much lighter, more free. It's worth the trip to the darkness. 

Healing often comes to me in strange ways. A song on the radio can provoke a vivid memory. Connecting with someone from my past can cause forgotten moments to bubble up into my mind. Books and blog posts from others who've had similar traumas can make me feel less alone in my brokenness. 

This week I had a revelation that came in a similar unexpected way. I'd been hearing my rapist's voice in my head for weeks. He was telling me that the sway of my hips as I walked was an invitation, that he'd known I wanted it. These were the words that he said to me in the minutes after the rape, as he continued to hold me down. I believed him. After all, I'd been "trained" my whole life to believe that sex was evil and that women were the root of it, by the Catholic church and, in particular, a certain priest who seemed to loathe all females, by the beliefs of my family and society... in a million different ways. I took the responsibility for the rape onto my own heart. 

Back in the present, I wondered why these words were playing through my head, but assumed that they were being brought up to heal and I was trying to do the work and face the memories, journal, meditate and talk it out with friends that I trusted not to judge my process. 

Then, the epiphany of why the words were coming up. I was walking down the pet aisle at Sam's Club(Yes, epiphanies can happen in warehouses-- who knew?) and I noticed the woman walking in front of me, her hips swinging naturally and strongly side-to-side. I heard the voice in my head repeating the awful words about my hips being an invitation. I felt my presence going to my own body, walking stiffly, body straight. I felt an awakening come over me. For over two decades, I have held my body as tautly as possible while walking, careful to move my hips as little as possible. I have unconsciously believed that I would be raped if I swayed my hips "in invitation". I invite you to try walking like this, particularly if you are a woman. It is unnatural and painful. However, I have truly walked like this for decades with no conscious awareness that I was doing so. Even as a nurse who is trained to observe the gait of others, I somehow have never noticed myself doing so.

As this revelation washed over me, I relaxed my body and tried to walk naturally. My body felt stiff and out of practice as I allowed my hips to sway with the movement of my legs. Every step felt a bit like freedom and tears began to leak down my face as I mourned for the woman-girl who had felt that she needed to walk in such a painful way for two decades so that she unconsciously avoided attracting another rapist to her. I continued to walk through Sam's Club, avoiding the eyes of those who must've wondered why I was crying as I walked. It felt as though a metal serpent that had been curled around my spine inside my pelvis for all of those years was releasing me from its grip. I suffer from intense neck pain nearly twenty-four hours per day but could feel my neck loosening with each sway of my hip. 

I checked out, still crying, and went out to my car and allowed the wracking sobs to take me. I pounded at my steering wheel and allowed the anger that I've held in for so long to rise up. I screamed out(yes, while still in the parking lot and hoping that they wouldn't call the police!) a whole lot of fuck yous to the universe. 

Fuck the priest who told me that sex was evil and woman were always "at fault" for sexual encounters because "boys can't help themselves, it's biological". 

Fuck the fact that my only sex talk was that prenatal sex was sin and women who have it are whores. 

Fuck the man who molested me(and many of the other children in my neighborhood)for years while spouting bible verses and telling me how I temped him(I was 6). He used to call me Eve, as though I was asking him to eat forbidden fruit. 

Fuck the man who hunted me down and raped me after my 17th birthday party and then managed to convince me that I was the one at fault. 

Fuck the police officer who told me that if I wanted to press charges for the rape that he would also press charges on me for underage drinking(in a tone that let me know that mine was the bigger sin). 

Fuck everything and everyone that made me believe that I couldn't even walk like a normal human being if I wanted to be safe. 

It felt really good to let all of the anger out(okay maybe not all, there is still some in there). I was finally calm enough to drive myself home, where I put on some sex-soaked music and danced around my house, swaying my hips as much as possible. There are lots of dance parties, hip-swaying walks and hula hooping in my future. This hips have been held hostage for too long. 

It also has me reflecting on what society and organized religion continue to teach women. If anyone has found this blog post and is healing from a sexual assault of their own, I want you to know what I wish someone had told me those years ago in the fresh hell of my own assault: There is nothing at all that you can do to entice someone into raping you. There is never, ever a reason that the assault was your fault. You did not deserve this. Also, my loves, I swear that its going to be okay. Reach out to someone and start your own journey of healing. And, be kind to yourself when the journey to healing feels slow or even completely stuck. Healing is not linear and the human experience is weird as all fuck. Sending you so much love. 

If you are struggling, RAINN has a wonderful hotline and chatline where you can speak to a kind human twenty-four hours per day-- 


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