Saturday, 18 August 2012

Recognising the damage: Your Body

Write about the ways you are still affected by the abuse. 
Write about the strengths you've developed because of the abuse. Think of what it's taken for you to survive. 

I am going to use the sub-headings mentioned in the book. I hope they will cover everything. 

Your Body

"Children often learn to leave their bodies to avoid (these) feelings - or they numb themselves as best they can."

Answering specific questions:

Do you feel present in your body most of the time? Or are there times when you feel as though you've left your body?

I am now at the stage where I don't necessarily know I've left my body till I come back. But, I can also consciously leave my body. 

I think I've used this to deal with a lot of things. Not just sex or the abuse. I've used it to block out my mother shouting at me for not studying or for not doing things around the house. I've used it to avoid feeling the ruler - wooden, plastic or steel - when she hit me with it. I've used it generally to escape the physical pain of her beatings. Until recently, I had forgotten about the time she banged my head against the bathroom wall. I think I may have used it then. She did it because I had been reading on the toilet. I hid the book - a special Christmas story about the young Nancy Drew - before unlocking the door. She threw the door open, slapped me a few times, I think, and then held my head between her hands and rammed it back against the tiles. I now remember a sort of ringing and throbbing; general stars in front of my eyes. I remember falling to the floor. I saw her reach up and find the book; and she tore it to pieces and flushed it down the toilet. I remember shouting and saying "sorry" because I didn't want to lose the book. It was a favourite and I was only reading it for the second time. Even then, I was more upset about losing the book than about her hitting me. I had prepared myself for a beating before I unlocked the door. It was inevitable. But I had not been ready for her to tear and destroy my book. That was harsh. 

I've gotten used to getting through social situations by escaping my body. I am skilled at escaping my body during sex. I need to escape it when I am exercising. Swimming generally agrees with my mind and body. But most other forms of exercise or daily activities need me to separate my mind from my body if they need to be completed. 

Very few sexual experiences act as an anchor for my mind. 95% of the time, I'm not there. It doesn't make a difference whether I am with someone I love or just someone I'm fucking. If I am with Darren and make myself come back to him, because that's the way it should ideally be, I feel instantly nauseated and have to think up a reliable fantasy in order to avoid shutting down entirely. That is becoming more and more difficult now. 

Do you ever use alcohol, food or drugs in a way that concerns you?

Do I use them as compensation? No. I don't/have never used drugs bar once to try weed. I have never felt the need to 'use' them because I don't like the indulgence of it. I don't like the idea of being dependent on them. Anything over a certain limit is an indulgence and hence I don't do it. I smoke and feel guilty with every cigarette I smoke. But there is also a defiance - that if I want to smoke, I will Goddammit and no one can stop me. 

Do you have a full range of feelings in your body or do you sometimes go numb?

I think I can take pain. I did well with labour and delivery. I was in a lot of pain but I handled it well. Whenever I felt pain as a child, I told myself that I had childbirth to come and if I couldn't deal with teeny weeny pain, how would I deal with that? Now, I tell myself that I dealt with childbirth with paracetamol and codine. Any other pain is stupid. Deal with it. I seldom, if ever, take pain medication. 

During sex, I can go numb. Physiologically, it is possible for me to not feel anything - for example, a hand on my breast or in my vagina - although how much of that is me escaping, I don't know. 

More recently, I have noticed my mind affecting my body. Last week, while writing about the abuse, I felt physically unable to continue writing. My handwriting became very small and I felt incoherent. I had a dull pain in my arm and shoulder that throbbed after I had put the pen down. I felt unable to move for a few moments and wanted to close my eyes and go to sleep exactly where I was. 

Are you aware of messages your body gives you (hunger, fear, tiredness, pain)? Do you respond to them?

Yes. I think because I've had to function alongside the abuse, my body is used to a normal sort of functioning. I don't often fall ill. I eat well and can handle pain and tiredness. When I feel fearful, I also feel an optimism that it will pass. I don't know if that's another way to cope but my body's daily functions seem to work fine. 

There are times when I can be engrossed in something that I don't feel hungry, thirsty or tired. When I am writing or when I am baking for someone else. Any activity that succeeds in capturing my mind and body results in me realising at midnight that I haven't felt the need for a glass of water all day. It rarely happens.

Do you have a hard time loving and accepting your body? Do you feel at home in it?

I don't think I belong in this body. When I happen to catch a reflection of myself in passing, I don't recognise the person I see. I see someone ugly and fat and feel trapped inside that body. 

At the same time, when I look into a mirror, dressed up to go out, and if I look good, I feel like it isn't me. That I am looking at someone else. How can I look good?

Do you have any physical illnesses that you think may be connected to your abuse?

No, not that I know of. 

Do you enjoy using your body in activities like dance, sport, hiking, etc?

I enjoy dancing, some sports and also hiking. I am conscious that my body looks awkward when I am doing all of those and use my super escaping skills to counteract that if I really do just want to go ahead and do them. But I am always aware that I look awful and like I belong in a zoo. Actually, not even a zoo. 

Have you ever intentionally hurt yourself or abused your body?

Yes, once. I used my mother's best knife, because I thought it would do the job quickly. I was terrified of how painful it would be but I was determined to do it. The problem was that it was a serrated knife and not suited to break skin as easily as a smooth knife. Especially in the hands of a coward. I took a deep breath before every slash and all it did was scratched and stung. It bled, but only as a bruise. Stayed scabby for a few days and has left me with white scars to remind me of my stupidity. Even as I was doing it, I felt like laughing at myself. Because dying would be the easy way out. And living was the real punishment. 

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