Both of my therapists had recommended Belleruth Naparstek’s guided meditations. My favorites are the one for sleep and the one for trauma. One of the most difficult mantras that I worked to own was about my body.
Belleruth would slowly talk about my body relaxing into my pillow. My body being my oldest friend, supporting my mind and my heart. I would lay in bed and cry. Crying exhausted me, which in turn helped me sleep, so it was highly effective.
I had more layers of betrayed feelings around my body after Lyra. Some of those I’m still sorting out.
I had been working with memories for years. There was a solid foundation of body mistrust from the abuse. I hated that I would orgasm without any consent of my own. If someone; horribly, if anyone touched my body in specific ways, I would respond. I spent hours working on masturbation and control. On being able to touch a partner and not have a flashback. I studied porn and worked to address my feelings on what messages were being sent out through that media. I talked more about my sex life than any twenty-something I knew.
My body was where the abuse happened. I carried the location with me, brought it out for extra attention in the most intimate moments.
It was always going to be work to have sex. I would always need to be on high alert, and watching to make sure that the room is still the room I remember. I would always slightly fear my male partners. These were facts, I told myself, that I must accept.
In that context, I reexamined my body feelings. If sex would be difficult, what about just being sexy? Perhaps body fulfillment existed on some previously unknown plane and by dressing up, I would find my pure woman self. Or something. I started on Halloween and dressed as a sexy sailor. I got a slave girl Leia costume for my then-boyfriend to see in private. I bought lip glosses. Halloween went over well, and sexy was something I started to play at on occasion.
My therapist recommended yoga. I knew Megan did yoga on DVD. I went to the Borders on Vets Memorial and bought a box set starring Rodney Yee. I did yoga with Rodney every morning for years. It was slow going. I didn’t realize how numb my body was until I had to try and find a specific muscle to stretch. I found that yoga breathing was similar to the meditation breathing. This was another side to the therapy coin, I decided. It was like body therapy. Like eating well and sleeping, I need to move my muscles and make sure I’m physically aware. When I could find awareness, I found grounding much easier. Reality was within grasp more frequently with body work.
The view I had of my body was not positive or correct, physically. I would project inaccurate images of myself into my mind. I knew what I saw wasn’t true, but I still couldn’t see what was true. I’d been watching myself bleed when I was completely fine for years. I saw Jim yelling at me and Preston in my bedroom weekly, at least, and that was just in my mind. Not believing what I saw around me was normal. Still, if I wanted to feel good about how I looked, it was important to understand how I looked.
I started taking a lot more pictures. I could use the background, foreground, and other people as scales. I took a lot of time folding my clothes, noticing the sizes I clearly owned and wore. I stayed away from weighing myself and the numbers behind my body.
I was gifted with an invitation to Midsummer Mardi Gras, where I did body painting with my college roomie Katie and Craig Tracy. A man I’d never met before named Mark painted my whole body while I wore a bra and shorts. I was terrified. I’d never had someone see that much of my body without sex being moments away. It was paramount to a bikini, which I hadn’t worn since I was twelve. I looked around the room and saw that on average, it would take two other women duct-taped together to equal my normal size. I was huge in comparison. I told myself how stupid I was to compare. Negative self-talk continued for the first hour or so.
As the day went on, other artists came by and added touches to my look. Compliments abounded in all directions. I painted Mark, and others came by and added to him as well. Katie was bright green and had made friends with some matching pop-art-painted girls from Russia. Everyone piled together against Craig’s wall as several people snapped pictures. I was being photographed, nearly naked, with a couple dozen people I barely knew. Surreal.
That night we all went out and danced in the Quarter. The lights were blurred with tipsy edges. The night was a thick blanket of humidity with bursts of conditioned air slipping out from bars and galleries. Bold colors paraded down Bourbon, being cheered by festive folks who were also celebrating. In a city of music and mud, the colors rolled through, encouraged and inspiring themselves.