(This was going to be a private post, and then I thought, why? This is real life, this is real suffering and this is real healing and release. Why not share it? If one in three women have been raped or sexually abused, why not talk about the journey? We have to help each other figure out how to live a life after this kind of trauma and staying silent helps no one. Short backstory summary: I was held against my will for a period of time by my first husband, from whom I was seeking a divorce because he had become violent. I was repeatedly beaten, raped and abused for about 2 weeks, I think. Hard to know for sure. I escaped to Florida and have spent the rest of my life picking my way through the debris. It has taken a long time, probably mostly because I have never been able to afford therapy, so mucked through on my own. I recently had some therapy, which has stopped for a bit, but which I hope to begin again.) (art by Anna Shukeylo)
Last night, I had an experience unlike any I have ever had.
Some background: I’ve been sick enough for long enough that my mojo had just about left the building. I was beginning to feel better physically and more like myself, so I was beginning to miss fun times with Matt. But I got shy somehow, and then anxious. When we began to have sex, I froze up. This has happened all of my life, since I was 20. Periodically, I will freeze up and sex becomes out of the question for that moment. It is a very uncomfortable feeling to continue. It begins to feel too much like rape and my muscles begin to remember. It hardly ever happens with Matt and hasn’t happened for quite a while. Guess my nervousness brought it on.
I sat up on the edge of the bed, weeping. I remember apologizing, “I’m so sorry. I guess I will be having this happen to me for the rest of my life until I die!” I was also frustrated, upset and angry that this still happens after almost 40 years and all of the work I have done to become well. I felt a strong pain in my throat, the way it feels when I am keeping myself from crying, except more intense. Like it had been when I had that panic attack on the front porch last year. It’s like I can’t breathe and I begin to gasp for breath. It’s frightening.
I was crying and gasping for breath, Matt murmuring to me softly, telling me to breathe. I suddenly felt like I had a scream that had to come out. Or, to be more precise, a howl.
I felt like a wounded animal on a hillside, lamenting her death. My head fell back, my neck stretched taut and a sound came out. I don’t know what kind. Not a scream, not a howl. A wheezing cry of some kind. Twice I threw my head back and let loose this guttural sound. All at once, the pressure lifted. I stood, stumbling to the other side of the bed, still weeping softly and whispering to Matt or maybe to myself, “I’m okay now. I’m okay now.” I sat on the bed and began to cry in earnest for just a moment, when all of a sudden, without warning, I began to howl with laughter! I laughed uncontrollably, like a tweener at a slumber party, laughing for far longer than Matt was comfortable. He grew silent and still on the other side of the bed while I shook and laughed uncontrollably for some time. Finally, calm descended and I was able to stop. I felt spent but also wonderful. Light. Like I had lost 20 pounds, like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I tried to explain it to Matt. I’m not sure how much he can understand of what was happening. I don’t know how much I can understand of it myself! Only that I know these were sounds of anguish that I had stuffed inside all those years ago to lessen the beatings and hasten the the rapes. I knew they were there without knowing they were there. That makes no sense, I know. I kept them covered over, hidden even from myself, but I somehow felt the toxicity and burden of them.
Why did they come to the surface right then? I don’t know that, either. Maybe because of the muscle memory and the fear it provoked. Maybe also because I’ve had several knots loosened, breaking fear’s hold in several ways and areas the last little bit of the journey. Maybe enough was cleared out of the way to get far enough back there, down deep enough to throw the cover off. Who knows?
All I know is that there was a howl in me that was released and I feel lighter and freer today. I find myself smiling this half-smile; a Mona Lisa smile, a Buddha smile. All is quiet within. How thankful I feel for that crazy letting go. Matt was kind of freaked. Said he thought I was broken. I’m aware of his eyes lingering thoughtfully on me today.
I am full of gratitude for Matt. I am thankful for the safe space he provides for me: for healing, for growth, for stumbling and falling. He is right there, never judging, always thinking good things about me. I am a very lucky woman, running over with gratitude for life, with all its twisty turns, its impermanence and paradox and mystery.