Apparently I have skin

It came as a bit of a surprise. There were a few hours, recently, in which I could feel my own skin. There is was, being the edges of me, being real and present, delicate and sensitive. It was a kind of feeling alive that startled me. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced my own skin in that way before.

I find embodied Paganism difficult because I’m not really embodied. I spent some years assuming this was just me doing it wrong. I should try harder. Get out of my head. Do more physical stuff as part of my practice. But the truth is, I don’t have any consciousness of my own skin unless something is impacting on it. It’s not something I can change at will. I’m not even sure what going around with an entire functioning skin would feel like because so far it has only been partial.

I poked about, found out about and looked up disassociation. Apparently this is a common trauma response that can last for hours or even, in more extreme cases, months. The internet has not told me what to do if you find it’s where you’ve been living for most of your life and you are curious about how to leave. Apparently I have skin. Or at least the potential for skin, sometimes.

I remember experiences around the age of fourteen, when I discovered, thanks to my first boyfriend, being able to feel my own body shape. It was a bit of a revelation, feeling grounded by someone else touching me. Experiencing my edges as edges for the first time and having a sense of my own physical presence. I look back at that now, and am wondering if that was normal, because I think it wasn’t.

I’ve never enjoyed being in this body, it has been something I struggle with, fight against, try not to be defined by. It’s never been a happy place, and I start to think there are reasons for this, and that the answer was not, New Age style, to love myself more. There’s something much deeper going on here, and working out how to have skin is going to be a process. I can see how a person could delight in their own body and their own embodied experience, based on that experience of having some skin. So, I shall stop beating myself up for being rubbish at embodied Paganism, and start trying to figure out how to inhabit myself differently, and what might help me achieve that.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

11 responses to “Apparently I have skin

  • bish

    Watching supportively.

  • potiapitchford

    Sounds similar to proprioception variations found in a range of conditions including EDS and autism. Perhaps some of the studies in these areas would be of use to you as you explore if you haven’t already looked into them, which of course you may well have done 😊

    • Nimue Brown

      I’m entirely new to this and up for anything, also EDS may be pertinent, if you’ve got any pointers for that, I’d be really interested.

    • Yvonne Aburrow

      I was about to say the same thing, regarding autistic people not experiencing skin boundaries.

      I see a lot of autistic people on Twitter recommending weighted blankets (also helpful for anxiety).

      Autistic kids are often given tight clothing — I think it is made of neoprene — to help create the sense of boundaries.

      The best place to obtain suitable kit for this may be retailers of kink gear. Unless it’s available for autistic adults too.

      I’ve often wondered if there’s a connection between autism and kink (no offence intended to either kinksters or autistic people, as both are awesome).

  • SharonJayne

    I did a lot of head-nodding as I read this. Waking up to being dissociated, and finally having a word for our experiences, is an interesting – and sometimes confusing, surreal- time. Gradually coming to inhabit our bodies after ongoing trauma, when we’ve been dissociating for decades in order to survive, needs to be a slow, gentle journey. I hear you.

    • Nimue Brown

      Thank you for sharing that and some sense of this being doable!

      • SharonJayne

        It IS doable. Just not quickly. My craniosacral therapist (who I met on a training weekend in polyvagal theory) speaks a lot of that edge – as indeed we explored on the course. As for me (Us – I am plural) parts definitely dont all inhabit the body. More so than a few years ago, though. The journey can be exciting at times, too!

  • Meredith

    Perhaps a silly question, but um, do most people… experience themselves as knowing where the edge of their body is all the time? Like, the proprioception just tells you where things like your legs are and you don’t have to look at them? or poke them yourself? or have a dance?

  • Sexy at Beltane | Druid Life

    […] sensual, as well. This has been on my mind a lot this week, I’ve posted about dancing and about skin, and I’m currently exploring how to be in my skin more fully as a living being. There are so many […]

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