The Sexual Healing Journey – Part 2
If you have not read it already, you might want to read Part 1 of this series before reading Part 2.
In The Sexual Healing Journey there are various exercises for relearning touch. Touch, for sexual abuse survivors, can be a very hard thing to deal with. Personally, I have a huge aversion to being touched by men.
When I was out in public, I made sure that I maintained a very large personal bubble. Lines in the grocery store were particularly troublesome. As I was putting my groceries onto the belt, the person behind me would stand too close. If it was a woman, it didn’t present much of a problem beyond minor annoyance that she was standing so close to me. If it was a man, my heart would start racing, I would start sweating, and I could feel the urge to flee rising to the surface. It would take everything in me to continue what I was doing and not scream in fear. Most times I was able to maneuver the cart so that it was between me and the man behind me.
I knew that I wasn’t going to worry about working through the issues I had with men touching me since I wouldn’t be in a position to worry about it for a good, long time. I simply wanted to be able to touch myself without cringing and thinking I was a horrible person. I couldn’t even say “masturbate” – at all. It was “that M word.” Even saying it felt dirty to me.
A journal entry from when I started working through this book:
I’m totally loving this book!!!! I had a huge lightbulb moment this morning while reading. The chapter I’m reading is about reclaiming our sexuality. There are tons of quotes from survivors in here and one woman was talking about hating oral sex. I thought, “Yeah, me too!!!!” Then I really got to thinking about the things that I don’t like. Then the lightbulb switched on. I didn’t like those things with Bubba. I don’t like the things I don’t like because they were things that were used against me, things that were part of the abuse. I am basically going to have to erase all of my pre-conceived notions of what I like and what I don’t like because I simply don’t know. For instance, I hate to have my breasts played with. How many times did I tell him that they were off limits because I didn’t like them being messed with when I had a small child attached to them all day? Too many. Even after Shane weaned, I couldn’t stand it but by that time, I’d been so disrespected that it was just downright icky to me. And that was just a mild example.
The big one is the oral sex issue. I can’t express to you how much I hate that. Abhor is too mild of a word for how I feel about it. It is something I had no say in. I would say, “No. Don’t do that, I don’t like it.” He would do it anyway, even as I was saying no and trying to prevent him from doing it. Eventually, I learned to just lay there and let him do it because he was going to no matter what I said. I would finally just not be able to stand it anymore and then ask if we could move on now. He would heave a great sigh like he was being sooooo put out. Then he seemed very cold and distant for the rest of the time, like he was punishing me for taking away all his fun.
I need to erase everything I think I like and don’t like. Strangely, the thought of finding out with someone else is not nearly as scary as the thought of finding out on my own. Since I realized that I do want to get married again someday, I need to find out who I am first. That includes learning my own body. And that terrifies me. I can’t even say the “M” word. There is a huge mental block there and I don’t know how to get past that. That mental block has been firmly in place since I was 12. I know the book addresses this. I skimmed through the book when I first got it and the author goes very slowly, starting with simply curling up somewhere comfy and mentally exploring what each body part is feeling. That is still a few chapters away, which I’m glad for.
I’m just so impressed with this book. I’m learning so much and though I know it is going to take me going through it a few times, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that I can heal. I’m hopeful that someday I will find that special someone who I can share love and respect with. Hope is a good feeling to have.
I did a lot of visualization exercises while reading through the relearning touch section of the book. I know myself well enough to know it was a good idea to start with visualization only. I wanted to take it slowly so that I didn’t freak myself out.
Over the next few weeks, I would lay in bed and visualize doing all the touch exercises. Like I’ve said before, I have a very vivid imagination so even doing this was difficult at first. I started with doing it for 5 minutes. I eventually worked up to 10 minutes.
The children went for a week long visitation with Bubba. The first evening they were gone, I decided to indulge in a bubble bath. Oh, it was heavenly!!!! There was no Bubba demanding to get in with me. There were no children, knocking and asking when I’d be out. It was me, a bunch of candles, and a good book. I settled in and read for about 20 minutes when the relearning touch exercises came to my mind.
I put my book down and rested my hands on my stomach. When I got used to that sensation, I gently moved my hands up to my breasts. At first I just explored the fullness of my breasts while avoiding my nipples. After a few minutes, I let my palms skim over my nipples. I was absolutely shocked to find that it felt good! I didn’t think I could find pleasure in having my nipples stimulated. I’d hated to have them messed with when I was nursing babies and then it just became a power play with Bubba that I never enjoyed him touching my breasts at all. Now here I was discovering that my nipples were sensitive and I liked the sensations I was feeling.
Next, I started running my hands up and down my legs. I’d stopped shaving when I was with Bubba. I used to say it was because I didn’t like shaving and thought it was ridiculous that women were expected to shave. What I only realized after I left was that I really liked how my legs felt when they were shaved. Not shaving them had been a protective measure. Maybe if I didn’t shave, Bubba wouldn’t find me attractive and he’d leave me alone. It didn’t work.
As I ran my hands around my legs, I’d get ever closer to my core. I tried different touches, different pressures. I was actually enjoying exploring my own body. I’d never touched my own skin like this before. At this point, there was nothing sexual about it. I was simply feeling my own skin, getting comfortable touching my legs, my stomach, my arms, and my breasts. I’d never realized how very soft my skin is. Even applying lotion to my legs was always a mechanical act. I never thought about how it felt – both to my hands and my legs. Now, I was paying attention to every sensation that I was feeling through my hands and on the skin of my body.
Eventually, I told myself to just touch my vulva and see what happened. I had to repeat, “You are okay. You are safe. This is your body and you are allowed to touch it.” like a mantra. I had to convince myself to explore that area of me just like I’d touched and explored my arms and legs.
I was able to explore that area of myself for about 10 minutes. It was very interesting to learn the contours and what the skin felt like – what areas felt better than others. The entire time I continued to tell myself that I was okay. I was almost surprised to find that the world did not explode and life did not cease to be. I was simply exploring what belonged to me – what was a part of me.
There was nothing scary or dirty or disgusting about me. I simply am. Each and every part of me is me. It was a huge moment in my life, forty years in the making.