This morning I awoke to the soft carpeted thuds of my seven-year old’s feet rounding the side of my bed. He quickly scurried under the covers and his head popped up next to mine.
“Good morning, Momma.”
“Good morning, Little Fish.”
I smoothed back from his forehead dark hairs recently parted by a mischievous scissor incident last week. He wrapped his arms around my waist and folded into my body. I love that my children are still small enough to fit so close. I can imagine I am still carrying them in my womb. I miss that time of wonder and flesh rolling with their bodies shifting under my skin.
Within minutes, Levi came to us in a flying leap. He kissed his daddy on the face about 13 times, rolled over, lifted his arm and said,
“Mom, smell my armpit.”
I don’t know why I get armpit and dad gets showered with kisses. Levi made it up to me by rolling over again, announcing more than asking, “Dad, smell my breath.”, before breathing hot into Paul’s face before he could contest.
For a time, we are cuddled in a warm cocoon. Limbs all tangled with covers as we put off heading into a day apart.
Suddenly, I realize that I cannot move my arm. I realize that I cannot quite roll over because my legs are under the dog. I find my body in a contorted position that I cannot change or control.
And just like that, the panic sets in.
I tried to explain to my counselor why being touched by my children is more than I can handle some days.
For shame. I teeter on a line between personal shame and understanding when I announce that.
I end up bolting straight up in bed, hopping out of the hammock, finishing my dinner in the kitchen or hiding in a quiet room.
I resort to flight. It is my favorite survival mechanism.
My counselor walked me through some self soothing options. She explained that when a young child is raped, they go from trauma to survival. There’s no room for comfort, calm and healing. I am no longer a victim. I have the power to sit up in bed and manage the amount of touch I allow. I have the power to ask my husband to shelter me by wrestling with the boys in another room. I can build the wherewithal to comfort my fears and panic so that I can enjoy hugging, kissing, embracing and dog piling with my beloved children.
My counselor asked me what it felt like to be able to touch my children physically.
I recalled the warm, soft, sandy, sticky and stinky, sweaty skin of my boys.
She then asked me what it feels like in my heart.
I replied, “Joy.”
Unexpectedly, tears rushed out. My head began to ache and I reached for a tissue. I do not enjoy crying.
Who has two thumbs and goes to counseling trying not to look crazy? This guy.
I realized in that moment that my past was stealing my joy. I realized that as a parent, what is natural is joy. As a child, it is a joy to have a parent who can be physically present and loving.
My father knew no such healthy instinct and so I was never able to benefit from a joyful, sincere, non-threatening, loving touch from his hand. And now, we suffer for it.
My children suffer for my past.
“It is not fair.”
After I mumbled those words, I felt silly. I asked my counselor if she wrote down how many times I used that phrase since coming to see her. It is not fair but stating the obvious changes nothing.
She gently reminded me that nothing about what happened to me and what I am going through right now is fair.
It is the anger too. The under current of anger that can be vetted out to no one. My father is long since dead and cremated. I don’t even have an urn I can cast aspersions on.
I am angry that my life is still so disrupted. That I am still so challenged, so broken and so injured.
I know that I must make choices outside of survival mode but I still struggle with that. I still enjoy the power I feel from surviving even self-imposed injury. I am so painfully aware.
It’s like deciding that you will never enjoy chocolate again. From that moment on, you are cursed with an abundance of chocolate everything. You find chocolate is the only thing you crave. It is as comforting as your closest friend.
Survival is my closest friend. I am introducing myself to thriving. We are not so comfortable together. It is a forced relationship like an unwanted arranged marriage. My counselor says that thriving and I will be good together but I can’t stop myself from cheating with survival. I have always fallen for the bad boys.
I am home now. My head aching and my eyes on the verge of tears.
This is it, isn’t it?
I am healing from a serious injury that with physical therapy will give me some range of motion.
My prescription is to schedule times to hug, love, kiss and tickle my boys. To give voice to my delicately healing heart, I need to practice touch under my control.
In a thousand years, I would have never guessed this would be an issue for me. It is a hard thing to admit as a mother. However, every time I feel shame, I have to remember it is not mine to carry. I release it. That bit of baggage that I picked up again just slid down the embankment. I only carry hope and healing with me.
PS – As a side note, I write about this topic because I truly believe three things;
You are not alone. – This means, I am not alone.
You need to know. – People who have not survived sexual trauma need a better understanding of what it’s like to deal with these issues.
Your voice is my voice too. – Giving yourself a voice is part of healing. You may not have one yet. Let me lend you mine.