Friday, at the close of business, my doctor’s office called me. A call from the doctor at the beginning of the weekend is not necessarily a good thing. I had some test a month ago and while nothing is seriously wrong, I now have to have at least one test repeated in four months.
The nurse asked if I had any questions. I could barely speak. Shock rocked my brain. But my overall feeling was betrayal.
I have always been healthy. It felt like suddenly, my body was fighting back against me. I am finally in a place where I’m happy and life is going well and my body decided that wasn’t a good plan and now I have to monitor some aspects of my health.
For many survivors, there is an overwhelming feeling of bodily betrayal. If their body was aroused during the assault, they may wonder if they truly did enjoy it. Of late, too many people are saying that a woman’s body has defenses against rape and will respond appropriately. It is an absolute lie, and the latest example of victim blaming.
People often become self-harmers because the pain they feel on the inside does not show outwardly. “If someone will just see what I’m feeling, they will ask me what’s going on and help me stop it.” The worst part of this is that, very often, people do not want to see.
Some people eat to hide their bodies. Some people starve themselves so no one will notice them. People get addicted to drugs, sex, and alcohol to hide their pain and torture their bodies and their souls. Torture and suffering is not something a survivor wants, but it may be all they know. This process of self-abuse is not always prominent in the thought process behind addiction, self-harm, and risky behavior, but at least for me and my struggle with food, it was always an underlying thought. If I hurt myself, that maybe someone would see, and if I managed to do some harm to myself, it wasn’t the end of the world.
These behaviors helped you survive at one point, but continuing to do those behaviors may not serve you anymore. You may actually just be hurting yourself.
Your body did not betray you. The person who abused you, or let you continue to be abused, betrayed you. Even if your body responded, it did not betray you. If your legs froze and you could not run away, it was not your body’s fault. If your voice stuck in your throat and you couldn’t scream, that is a natural response to violence and violation. You and your body did not do anything wrong.
Your body actually helped to save you. In the moment of abuse, it may not have, but it helped you walk away when you were able. It helps you go to counseling. It carries your fragility to Take Back the Night, Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, and One Billion Rising. It moves your being to coffee with a friend, where maybe you told your secret for the first time. It creates the tears you cry in silence and the scream you utter when it has all been too much.
Your brain tells your hand to reach out to another victim you see hurting. It allows you to hold the hand of another; the hand of one who has healed and one who is raw with the fresh agony of assault.
Your body has carried you through a lot of pain. But if you let it and learn to love it, your body can also help you experience tremendous joy.
It isn’t always easy. I won’t even pretend to tell you it is, but it can be better. After abuse, there is joy and there is hope and so much more.