I am continually surprised by just how physical a process emotional and psychological healing is. Logically, the body is all one system, mind and emotion are all about structures and chemistry too, so of course healing is physical, I just don’t expect to feel it as such a distinct and bodily process. It’s often gut sensation as well, which makes little sense to me – but it’s what I get.
Wounding – physical and emotional, took me out of my body for a long time. Pain from illness didn’t help. I learned not to be in my skin, not to experience discomfort. What happens instead is that I go into this hazy, unreal headspace. The more pain there is, the more absent I become, vanishing away into a strange kind of fog where I am a disembodied awareness. Being asked, verbally or by physical contact, to show up in person to my body has been such an issue that in most contexts, it creates a jolt, and panic. I am not here, I am not in my skin, I am not this body… don’t ask me to be this body.
It’s not an easy thing to face up to where that comes from: A sense of betrayal. An understanding, deliberately fed over a long time, that my body was what caused the problems. My body, by its very nature, justified what was done to it. Pain, and shame and misery were not the responsibility of anyone else, they were the natural consequences of this body… and I came to believe it, and as I internalised that blame, it became logical to assume that any reasonable person would treat my body this way because I have the kind of body that deserves to be mistreated. I can’t imagine saying that about anyone else. Getting to the point of being able to consciously identify it is not comfortable at all, but there we go, healing can be a messy process at times.
Recent years have blessed me with people who treat my body gently, and are patient with my physical awkwardness. People who are concerned if I am sore, and kind if I am startled, people who give me time and who listen, and help me to be present in my own skin. The circle of contemplative Druids I sit with have been very supportive, and there are others, too. Teaching me how to handle affection, and gentle exchanges. Teaching me how to trust, and how to feel safe. Spaces in which I have wanted to say yes so keenly that I’ve been willing to take risks again in order to move forward.
I feel those changes in my body, in my gut and across my shoulders, down my spine and in the tips of my fingers. I feel it in my own growing willingness to be open hearted, and more open of arms. I feel it in the way my body no longer jolts with an adrenaline spike if someone tries to touch me.
It is a process of unlearning guilt. This body is not guilty, it does not come with any implicit invitations to hurt or harm it. There is nothing in my skin that requests disrespectful treatment. My body did not betray me – someone betrayed my trust. There is no going back to the person I was and might have been, but there is scope for going forward, without guilt or shame, perhaps even without fear. Showing up to my own skin, and offering heart and hands to people who know how to respond gently and in kind, with warmth and care.
I have no idea who or how I will be if I manage to come through all of this, but there are people to trust, and hands that have held mine when I could barely identify that I had hands… and I think they will still be there as I learn to do better with all of this.