My body remembers everything my psyche holds back. It tells me when to fear for my safety, when I am somewhere familiar and terrifying, about to repeat an event that I’m not safe enough to remember yet. My heart speeds up and every hair on my body stands on end. I begin to panic. Even when there is no real danger. I begin to feel alarmed and get the overwhelming urge to isolate and take hands off my body. Even if those hands are just holding mine. I can’t explain why I’m triggered, I just need to get out of there. Even when “there” is naked and waist-deep in the ocean at the bottom of a 986-step descent. My body remembers and responds to the danger, even when my psyche doesn’t.
This is not merely anxiety or some kind of agoraphobia that can be resolved by systematic desensitization. This is re-living a horrible past of childhood sexual trauma I cannot bring myself to remember, except with my body. I rationalize with myself and negotiate through it. I assert boundaries and demand that they be respected. I terminate relationships when I have to repeat them — when they are taken as trivial, by someone who fails to understand that they exist for my very survival.
I didn’t just survive my trauma. I had to fight to get to a place where I can begin to feel my emotions again for the first time, and I have to keep fighting for it. I had to fight to get to a place where I don’t hear voices both inside and outside my own head, knowing that none of them are real; and that neither are the sensations of insects crawling in and on top of my skin, or the feeling of being touched by leathery hands and jagged fingernails. I had to fight to understand why I feel simultaneously terrified and sexually aroused, getting the urge to void, whenever I experience immersion into wet filth, either directly or vicariously. I had to fight my way out of multiple relationships that took away the voice with which I assert my boundaries, that took away such a basic degree of safety as the knowledge that my body is safe from any imminent threat of harm, and that took away my ability to navigate my way back out as I fell in love with a surrogate of my pedophile parent — over and over and over again. I had to fight to unveil an entire subset of language with which to speak.
None of these things come easily, and many of them are locked behind unspeakable barriers. We are not allowed, in our kyriarchy, to speak of what lies beyond the bounds of consent. Of what happened behind closed doors that makes a child so hyper-sexual or an adult so desperate to self-objectify and self-harm. Our compliance with the system of injustice we are all born into is both required of us and enforced by us. The repercussions for speaking out against wilful blindness are oppressive: emotional blackmail and exploitation, ostracism and marginalization, rejection and alienation, and even direct acts of violence. It’s part of the social contract of living immersed in the murky waters. Part of the cost of admission to any form of support while we peer into unknown depths at hidden threats.
But I am no longer ashamed of what’s happened to me, and refuse to take on a burden that belongs to the men who perpetrated against me. I am not sorry, because I did nothing wrong. I don’t want to hear that you’re sorry, either, because you didn’t do it (unless you did, in which case, I don’t care for your attempt at an apology, because it’s not all about you any more). I want to hear that there are other survivors. I want to hear that other people like me are taking up space, unashamed, and speaking out about how we can end this perpetual nightmare. I want to hear that there is an end to the number of voices with a story of survival to tell. I want to hear most what my own body is telling me — to take myself back to somewhere safe, and to remember once and for all.