One Body One Soul

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My body and I separated in 8th grade. I was 13 years old and at a friend’s whose older sister was having a party. This was my first experience with both drinking and boys, and I had no information about either one. But then I had a drink in my hand and a boy on top of me.

I don’t remember if I knew there would be older kids or if I thought I was just going to hang out with my friend. Did I lie to my family? I don’t know. All I know is that I was young and drinking vodka. I don’t remember what “happened” but I am 99% sure it wasn’t intercourse. I know he was on top of me on a bed. I remember him kissing me, not me kissing him, and his hands were all over me. I was not at all physically or emotionally aware of what was happening. I am petite and at 13 probably looked more like the average of a 10 year-old. I definitely did not even have boobs yet.

I have no memory of how I felt during or after, but I know this was the moment that my body and spirit disconnected. I never could have imagined the profound impact that one incident would have on the rest of my life.

I had already started having crushes on boys and maybe we passed notes. I had a “Bat Mitzvah” boyfriend, which meant we knew we liked each other and possibly danced together at our Jewish milestone celebrations. By dancing, I refer to the awkward, barely touching each other where one could fit a small couch between the two people. It was sweet, flirty, adorable, innocent and appropriate. You know that sensation when you are close to someone and it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.

This was NOT the scene for this experience, which became embedded in the foundation of my beliefs about my body and relationships. It’s as if parts of me went into a shutdown mode that lasted for 30 years.

I look back and want to tell that little girl to scream! Kick! Go! Tell my parents! DO something! I did NONE of the above. I kept quiet. What made the little girl think this was ok? What was I feeling when I crawled into bed that night with my childhood blanket, which I slept with way into my late adolescence, literally holding and wrapping myself in innocence? I am sure my parents asked me how my night was, so what did I say? Is it possible that I thought this was normal? I don’t know the answers to all of these questions and don’t need to. What I know for certain is that it settled in and found a home in my body and spirit, beginning years of self-blame and self-destruction.

Truth is, over the years I had sex without consent more than once. Was it sexual assault, date rape? Maybe. I still try to move on from needing to label the experiences. Spending energy on this aspect permits my “monkey mind” to take the driver’s seat and try to rationalize and fix it. If it has a name, maybe I can study it and solve it? To be truthful, I kind of remember saying NO. I definitely don’t remember saying yes. What I know for certain; I was young and drinking a lot: this combination did not mix well.

I went to boarding school and during this critical developmental phase, I became more disconnected from my body. I also built up quite a tolerance for alcohol. I participated in the boarding school culture of sneaky drinking, drugs and sex. There were over 200 adolescents living together with no guidance. Drinking, sex, and drugs were rampant but never talked about. I worked hard in my studies, was the captain of my sports teams, and acted as a peer counselor. I never got “caught” doing anything “wrong”, which remains incredibly mysterious to me.

There was one time I remember knowing I did NOT want to have sex. I was 16 years old and on vacation with friends. We met a group of guys and were at a bar drinking. I don’t recall the timing of events. My memory is lying in the sand with a condom next to me, thinking that it was okay because he used protection. I am certain I didn’t want to have sex and I remember saying no, but I didn’t scream or cry. I only remember him being on top of me and me doing nothing – frozen and completely disassociated from what was happening; my mind and body checked out.

Did I say no loudly enough, did he not hear me or did I allow this to happen? I know I didn’t feel trust, joy or anything remotely connected to intimacy or love. I did not trust my own judgment and I felt I had no choice. This lack of choice became associated with feeling worthless and getting what I deserved.

It’s like watching a movie and knowing what will happen next: young, intoxicated, and kind of saying NO. It’s beyond disheartening to me that this was how I expected to be treated or what I thought I deserved. I was not being “attacked”. I had mutual friends with some of these “boys”. I dismissed my uncomfortable feelings because they were friends of friends and “good guys”.

Through chatter in boarding school and college, I knew sexual behavior and drinking went hand in hand. Why was this justified? Many chalked these experiences up as, “you were young and didn’t know, and everybody was doing the same thing.” So was I the only one suffering inside?

I wasn’t aware at the time but I was not in control of my body or my life at all. I was stuck, trapped and imprisoned with my secrets. I buried my pain under alcohol, food and taking care of others. The drinking was excessive and often I would pass out; it was easier not to remember. If I drank enough, the fear of being seen or having to feel anything was hidden behind the booze. I was ashamed and scared. I was in relationships and then a marriage that did not allow me to be truly seen. Those unhealthy relationships mirrored what I felt about myself, fueled by doubt, anger and fear.

Imagine feeling like you don’t fit in your own skin. Imagine feeling like everything you put in your body and on your body is a mini invasion. This was my sense almost every day. I couldn’t bear clothing close to my skin, I felt like I was being choked, my stomach was always in pain, I couldn’t ever sit still and I NEVER looked in the mirror. I believe that my “sensitivity” was super magnified because of my experiences.

But here’s what is so fascinating… I still, to this day, believe that people are good and do the absolute best they can. I trust people whole-heartedly.

It was many years before I recognized the shame, fear, confusion, issues with trust, intimacy, food, alcohol and general feelings of unworthiness and self-blame that had settled into my being. I began to share pieces of my “story” with friends, family, and my now ex-husband. Most just wanted me to fix things and be better. I get that! It’s hard enough to carry your own pain, let alone someone else’s. These pieces fueled me until I was ready to awaken to true self-love and healing. The time is now. Oh yeah, I’ve said that to myself over and over through the years. And I will continue to repeat, “The time is now”.

Sharing this piece of me now – publicly – is a vulnerable and courageous leap of faith. There are a few reasons why now is the time: First, it’s healing to have the freedom to choose to let the words flow. Writing and speaking gives me a voice that I did not have before. I won’t speak for anyone else. I only know my experience in sharing my truth and when I have been supported and not. There are profound and beautiful effects when being vulnerable and being heard, seen and held with compassion compared to being judged and dismissedSecond, if there is anyone out there who may feel alone in their story and relates to any of mine, it’s worth it. And third, I am raising a son in culture that has many mixed messages. I envision a community where we guide and model with our truth for our children.

Here’s the truth: there is no fixing and accepting that truth is part of the healing. Surrendering, releasing and trusting is my current path. Through the integration of various modalities: Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), talk therapy, Reiki and yoga, my emotional, mental and physical body continue to release, recover and restore.

Healing is a continuous process and not always easy because the memories will never go away. Sometimes they crash into me and sometimes I observe them flowing by as a river. The dark parts of myself show up, sometimes in a fierce and ugly style. I don’t like it at all. But I allow them in. I lean into the discomfort, ride the wave and crash hard. I allow myself to feel all the feelings. They always subside. With patience and compassion, the emotions connected to the memories flow through differently.

I now practice living and observing in the present moment. Each time I commit to awakening a little more, more light is cast over the shadows and I can choose how to cope and thrive.

I’ve learned to explore and align with my center, stay still and observe myself with care and compassion. By becoming my own observer and witness, I now “see” my younger self and know she did the best she could at the time. I continue to reconnect with her through yoga, therapies and healers. Most important, I have forgiven my younger self and love her for all she reveals. Now, I hold her with compassion and love.

Throughout my healing, I knew I was shattered and traumatized. Did anyone see me? I didn’t see myself. My truth, my divine and most loving authentic self was buried deep. Not anymore. I am free. I am choice. I am love. I am bliss. I am divine and I am beautiful inside and out. My body and soul are one. I am FINALLY finding stillness and working with my body, breath and mind. The shadows and dark will come back but so will the light. And each time the light shines through I am more sparkly than the time before.

Thirty years after that 8th grade encounter, I have been married, become a mom, divorced, engaged, widowed, received a Master’s in Social work, was a school therapist, and am now a therapist, coach, reiki healer and yoga teacher. I am living the beautiful balance of supporting others while caring for and loving myself.

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