Saturday morning, I don’t get out of bed at all. I’m flattened by body memories, pressure in my vagina, electrified skin. I can’t focus to read more than the headlines of the news. Some of the time I feel almost as if I’m floating around the room.
I have a strong urge to hurt myself, to hurt my vagina especially.
I lie in bed, doing nothing. I google “want to hurt my vagina” because, well, why not? You can google anything. I come upon a forum where a woman wrote about causing pretty serious damage to her own vagina and didn’t know why she did it. Another woman responded that she, too, harmed herself like that. She recognized the self-harm meant two things: it was a way to punish herself and also a way to self-soothe by re-enacting childhood experiences.
And something clicked for me. These physical feelings aren’t random craziness. They are connected to early experiences I had. And even though I have been trying so hard to deny the experiences, they don’t go away. I keep having the feelings.
Maybe I could stop denying the experiences. Maybe I could come to them, instead, with care and compassion.
Dear one, is this what you felt? I say kindly to my young, wounded self. How terrible for you! How frightened you must have been. I imagine myself taking her hand, telling her I will stick with her, that I will feel these feelings with her. I won’t leave her alone.
This seems like the right thing to do. It aligns to everything I have been learning in therapy and about mindfulness. Feel your feelings, don’t push them away. Believe the girl. And yet, it’s overwhelming. I feel sick. I am dizzy. It is fucking hard to let these feelings be there.
In the early afternoon I text E and ask if she can call me. I’m long past the illusion that she can rescue me from any of this, but I long for the warmth of her voice. She’s the one person who has some sense of what this is like for me.
I can’t talk that much when I hear her voice. It’s so tempting to say something like, “could you just read me a story? Let me just listen to you.” But I don’t. I just talk in a few syllables while she makes sympathetic noises or asks a few questions.
Finally I say, “Okay, I do, I do believe something happened.”
She said a lot of things after that. I can’t even remember some of it, but I know she approved. It fits with everything that’s going on with you, she said. You can’t heal from something you think is a lie, she said. And I don’t know what else, but it was kind.
After the call, did I spring out of bed and get on with my life? No, of course not. I asked my husband to make me a tuna sandwich. I ate in bed, and then I slept some more. At 4:30 pm I brush my hair and get up long enough to grab my laptop. I shush the shaming voice that disapproves of my staying in bed. I’m sick. This is my illness, my scarlet fever, auto-immune disorder of the mind. People who are sick sometimes have to rest in bed.
My counselor told me last week that my PTSD and DID is no different than being diagnosed with a physical disease and being in a wheel chair. There are things I am unable to do, one of them is managing stress. You spoke outloud a truth today that has needed to come out for many many years. Im sure it took all your mental and emotional energy to say it. You’re doing good to take care of yourself. Glad you didn’t hurt yourself. Take care.
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I believe the girl too. I am so sorry for your body memories. Take care x
Great work – kindness to the girl, reaching out, kindness to self. Hoping it gets better for you.
Sounds tough, and as ever, you are clear sighted about the experience.
Q, I love you. What you wrote so resonated with me….again or still. Just this morning I was wondering if my thoughts were my own or stolen from the horrific stories I heard at work. And yes–Google, I google everything to too and I’m always so relieved that someone else has thought such absurdities before me. One day I really want to be strong enough, courageous enough, brave enough to advocate for all of this. And I’m really sorry I haven’t been more present, honestly I’m working on it.
I believe the girl, too. I believe you. And I’m so proud of you.
One of the turning points in acceptance for me was my best friend (a type 1 diabetic) telling me that I was no different than her. My brain was damaged, her pancreas was damaged.
I’m very glad that you reached out to E and she was reassuring. Are you seeing her twice a week now? She sounds very kind and connected to you.
It sounds like you feel a sense of relief about believing the girl, combined with overwhelming and chaotic feelings. It’s good you are being kind to yourself and resting when you need to. Sending you very warm thoughts and thinking about you.
I believe the girl, Q. And I bet the girl is so relieved that you are listening to her, and being so compassionate to her, right now. Even in the midst of this pain and inner chaos, that is beautiful. I’m glad you are here, sharing, writing, thinking – that is really brave.
It is true, mental illness is just as real as physical illness (because it is a physical illness, in the brain!) but I don’t think of you as “sick,” Q – I think of you as YOU, as recovering and strong as hell, just like I think of everyone in our community. I guess I’m just trying to say that in my mind, I don’t label you as “sick” – that is not my first thought. My first thought is, “That is Q, and I love her.” xx
I can’t believe you wrote something I connect so much with. I ihave not had anyone else write something like this. The pressure you feel in your vagina. I have this. I know this feeling. I actually posted two poems about it in the last few weeks because I had to talk about it and didn’t quite know how. But I showed my poems to my therapist. They were poems written from a vagina point of view. Im sure some people reading them were like omg what has happened to bethany but I feel memories and pain there…..So anyway, just thank you for sharing so I didn’t feel like i am the only one that has this feeling.
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I must have missed those poems on your site; I’ll have to go back to look for them. It’s not something I have seen women write about very much, but I know what you mean; it felt validating when I found others had similar experiences. Thanks for speaking up and saying you, too, know what this is like. I really appreciate you.
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I hope you find them.i think you’ll be able to really relate.
That’s a really good visual of you talking to the little child.
I use my therapy doll at times, which can be scary, but its one of the most healing things I’ve been able to do in order to connect to the child part of me who was so small and so vulnerable, dependent. She, like a sponge, soaked up the sun, but she also sat waterlogged in filth. Talking to the child we used to be can be very triggering which is why it’s with my therapist.
You can’t heal from something you think is a lie… nor can you change a belief system if you don’t know to change it.
I learned I’m useless. I learned I’m a liar. I learned I’m different and people won’t understand me. I learned I’m unlovable… and I believe it. We untangle ourselves from a web we can’t even see, a web so complex, so tricky it too has to be pushed back because it means saying those who should have loved us instead taught us how to hate ourselves and doubt ourselves.
My friend Snow sometimes just reads to me. That’s so comforting.
I wish you comfort at this time.
Good job on shushing the shame. You do what you need to in order to heal.
[…] makes sense to me. (Side note: the fact that it makes sense to me means that I have accepted that I didn’t make up my abuse stories. I want to call that out because it’s something I have struggled with for such a very long […]