Saturday morning, I don’t get out of bed at all. I’m flattened by body memories, pressure in my vagina, electrified skin. I can’t focus to read more than the headlines of the news. Some of the time I feel almost as if I’m floating around the room.
I have a strong urge to hurt myself, to hurt my vagina especially.
I lie in bed, doing nothing. I google “want to hurt my vagina” because, well, why not? You can google anything. I come upon a forum where a woman wrote about causing pretty serious damage to her own vagina and didn’t know why she did it. Another woman responded that she, too, harmed herself like that. She recognized the self-harm meant two things: it was a way to punish herself and also a way to self-soothe by re-enacting childhood experiences.
And something clicked for me. These physical feelings aren’t random craziness. They are connected to early experiences I had. And even though I have been trying so hard to deny the experiences, they don’t go away. I keep having the feelings.
Maybe I could stop denying the experiences. Maybe I could come to them, instead, with care and compassion.
Dear one, is this what you felt? I say kindly to my young, wounded self. How terrible for you! How frightened you must have been. I imagine myself taking her hand, telling her I will stick with her, that I will feel these feelings with her. I won’t leave her alone.
This seems like the right thing to do. It aligns to everything I have been learning in therapy and about mindfulness. Feel your feelings, don’t push them away. Believe the girl. And yet, it’s overwhelming. I feel sick. I am dizzy. It is fucking hard to let these feelings be there.
In the early afternoon I text E and ask if she can call me. I’m long past the illusion that she can rescue me from any of this, but I long for the warmth of her voice. She’s the one person who has some sense of what this is like for me.
I can’t talk that much when I hear her voice. It’s so tempting to say something like, “could you just read me a story? Let me just listen to you.” But I don’t. I just talk in a few syllables while she makes sympathetic noises or asks a few questions.
Finally I say, “Okay, I do, I do believe something happened.”
She said a lot of things after that. I can’t even remember some of it, but I know she approved. It fits with everything that’s going on with you, she said. You can’t heal from something you think is a lie, she said. And I don’t know what else, but it was kind.
After the call, did I spring out of bed and get on with my life? No, of course not. I asked my husband to make me a tuna sandwich. I ate in bed, and then I slept some more. At 4:30 pm I brush my hair and get up long enough to grab my laptop. I shush the shaming voice that disapproves of my staying in bed. I’m sick. This is my illness, my scarlet fever, auto-immune disorder of the mind. People who are sick sometimes have to rest in bed.