Today I had the most painful massage of my whole life.
A few years ago I added massages to my self care routine. It was one of the most therapeutic things I had ever done for myself. As someone who has been touched when I didn’t want to be and “massaged” by dudes as a way to coerce me into doing more, I was so wary of my body being touched by someone—even when I was doing it for myself. Over time I began to soften, to let go of the connection between touching and violation. It’s been almost 4 months since I had gotten a massage and I needed one badly. It has been an intense, almost overwhelming summer filled with lots of stress and reliving of trauma. Going back and confronting past sexual abuse in my teens, pinpointing the places where I started dissociating. All of my muscles have been aching for relief so today I got the chance to go, but it was so hard.
The masseuse was a nice woman who gave me a deep tissue massage and I was shocked at how much it hurt. I have always had a high pain threshold (probably because I can “jump” out of my body at any moment) and deep tissue has been my go-to for massage therapy, but today it was as if my entire body was covered in knots. Strong, resistant knots that wouldn’t release me. For the whole hour we worked on my neck and shoulders and barely made it through even the slightest layer of muscle. The whole time I kept thinking “Why can’t I let go? Why can’t I relax?” I wonder if I can feel the pain now more than ever and with such intensity due to the work I have been doing. Maybe I have always been in this amount of pain the entire time but never let myself feel it before. I wanted soooo badly to let it go. I kept visualizing myself putting down heavy backpacks filled with heavy stones. I cursed those who hurt me for making me carry the weight for so long. I felt disappointed in myself for feeling the pain at all. Like I wasn’t allowed to feel the pain. Like the pain was something that I “shouldn’t” be feeling.
Truth is, this body of mine has a story. It has many chapters. I don’t always open the book and read the passages but even when it’s placed on the shelf, it speaks. It tells me the story is not over. That under the layers there is something soft still there. That the knots I collected are armor I have constructed out of necessity. And there is that person I’ve been protecting underneath there. She is that girl. That little heart deep within myself I hid away. She wants to be free. She wants the drawbridge to the fortress I have built around her to unfold. She is the one who was never scared of anything.
“Little one” I whisper. “Little one, soon I will let you out. I am afraid for you. I know what dragons exist in the world beyond these walls. But you deserve to fly. I have weighted down your feet with these rocks. I have kept you hidden for all of these years. Forgot you were even there at all, but you deserve the sky.”
I deserve the sky. I deserve peace. I deserve relaxation and happiness and joy. This is mine to accept into myself. No more pain. No more hurt. No more strength at my own expense. I feel it all now. The letting go. The process. I welcome it. Every sensation. Be what it will. I am grateful.
Choice. This is the challenge
Choosing when the days are
Glass in your mouth
And all you want to do is swallow
To know that it will destroy all your organs
With a simple gesture
Hope is what keeps your shredded tongue
The blood you can feel between your teeth
But you know it is better
Than the alternative
This is hard work
This is the work of vigilance
Of every day drama small
Things piling up
Hope is what I carry
When the burden feels too weighty
The straw back breaking last bit
In the shoulders
Hold this column
Hold this house up
You are strong enough to be this
You are better than the rubble
You are the foundation.
I’ve gotten to a place where I feel like my trauma no longer serves me. It was a consistent companion throughout my whole life. The last two weeks I came to the understanding that I needed to go back and confront a few instances and relationships that created the blueprint for future traumas. EMDR didn’t work on me, but this is working better. Having new interpretations of my experiences as a teenager–no longer feeling responsible for the pain I experienced, as it was never the cause of peers, rather the adults that surrounded me. For 20 years I’ve been punishing myself for these things. These things that were not my fault at all.
I have felt broken beyond repair for most of my life. Too fucked up to love. Too fucked up to matter, or have an opinion about what I needed or wanted. Those were patterns placed by others. I do not want to carry it anymore. It’s too heavy. And it’s not mine to carry.
This body of mine holds so much. It’s been exploited and abused and manipulated and lied to. It’s been assaulted and coerced and groped and taken advantage of. It’s so painful to acknowledge the realities, as I created stories about those experiences that made them “ok” to live with. I had to. I had to get through them somehow. I was young. I thought that’s how life was.
I grew up in an environment that left me vulnerable to abuse. I see this. I recognize this. I feel like a statistic. I know I am not alone in that. I know that my story is not unfamiliar to many.
I am so ready to heal. To bury it. To burn all of it to the ground and start over. This is the most stable I have ever been in my whole life and it feels like it’s time to finally let it go. I regret that it’s taken 35 years to get here but I am grateful to be here at all.
This is the process of change. Bloody and raw and trembling.
I am ready.
Sometimes it’s what we leave behind or what we give away. What do you regret losing? Is it the toys sold at the garage sale now worth thousands on eBay? Is it the person you promised forever to, then crept away from in the moonlight? Write your losses in permanent ink on your forearm and try to scrub them away. Notice how long they still stay with you.
Name every version of yourself throughout your life. Ask yourself where they went. Offer to have them over for dinner, discuss your time together. Go through old photos of the strangers you once were.
What have you shed? Become the season of harvest. Of autumn. Know that letting go is never the end. Notice what you still hold on to. Be the serpent who lives to transform. Who slithers into your skull whispering “You will survive this”.
Create a collage of the people who left. The ones who died in front of you. The ones who are still living new lives in new lands.
We are losers. All of us. Write the failures down. Make a list of lessons and acknowledge the ways are you going to win. How are you learning to accept the concrete forever lodged in your skin?
Failure is making space for the holy to enter us. Where are you still waiting for the light to shine through? When will you become the cathedral window casting shadows through your rose-colored lens?
Take every stumble you have fallen in love with hold it. Hold it close like the purple-bruised child you once were. Remind with affirmation “It’s going to be alright. It’s going to be alright”.