Submitted anonymously to the website Nov. 29, 2015
I didn’t think my first attempt at Writing as Healing would impact me as strongly as it did, mainly because I wasn’t planning to address any serious baggage right away. But I think that’s the madness behind the method: we all have our baggage, our secrets, our little demons inside us, yet most of us, if not all of us, try to go on with our lives without wholly addressing these problems.
Here’s an analogy: we’re standing in a room with a creature in the corner that we are trying not to look at. We know it’s there, but we don’t want to acknowledge it. We try to live our lives ignoring the creature in the room, thinking that ignoring it and continuing with our lives will make our lives easier. But what we don’t realize is that we spend a lot of energy ignoring it, it drains us, it adds stress to our lives, and it will never go away on its own.
My creature looked like a little black puff-ball, only its fur wasn’t puffy, but razor sharp. It breathed heavily, expanding and contracting, drooling, green eyes flashing, low growl tingling my spine, a constant reminder that it was always there behind me. Even when I didn’t look at it, I knew it was there.
I was abused as a child by my father. For a long time after he died, I didn’t think about it or talk about it. Now as an adult, I am slowly coming to terms with it more and more. I am still learning about how those experiences have affected me throughout my life and how they still affect me now.
After I read the research and practice of this method, I wrote for 20 minutes. I knew I needed to choose an experience that haunts me and write about it. However I didn’t feel like I could write about something too traumatic on the first try, so I chose an experience I had a few years ago that I still wonder about:
‘I remember feeling really excited and nervous about being with him. I felt so attracted to him and wanted to sleep with him. We had been dating long enough. But when the moment came, I felt scared. I felt doubt. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, even though I’ve done it more times than I can count. All of my fears rushed through my head: What if I’m no good? What if he regrets sleeping with me? What if he doesn’t like my body? What if he loses interest in me once we’ve done this? What if this is all he wants from me? What if he’s thinking about his ex the whole time? What if he regrets sleeping with me? What if I’m no good?
As the moment came closer, he paused and asked me, “What do you want?” Could he sense my hesitation? The question felt confusing in my conflicted brain. I had no idea. What did I want? I wanted him. I wanted to have a physical, emotional, spiritual connection with him. I wanted to sleep with him and not feel regret. Not feel disgusted with myself. Not feel self-conscious. Not feel scared.
I felt pressured to answer in that moment, but didn’t know how to answer. Suddenly I was embarrassed about my fears, about my weaknesses and imperfections. As I lay there in the dark trying to sort out my overwhelming feelings, I wondered if he could see me. I didn’t know what to say because I didn’t know what I wanted. So I asked, “What?” He responded with a laugh (of disbelief?) and rolled off me.
To this day, I kick myself because of that moment. I hate myself for being so afraid. For being so damaged. For ruining what could have been something amazing and life-changing. For thwarting myself in my own pursuits.
I look back, wishing it could have gone differently. What would I do differently? I ask myself. I don’t know. I don’t know how to change my fears. I don’t know how to stop my father’s abuse from haunting me and filling me with doubt. I don’t know how to stop ruining these moments that mean so much to me. I wish I could have a second chance, to do it better, but I don’t know what I would do differently.’
I chose to write about this moment because I thought it didn’t affect me much. But as I sat writing, I began crying, not even three sentences into it. As I wrote, I realized how scared and messed up I felt all those years ago. I realized that I wasn’t ignoring just one razor-sharp creature, but many creatures in that room with me, and this was just one of them.
Trying to piece together the effects of child abuse feels impossible. Do I freak out about sex now because I was abused by my dad? Was I promiscuous in my early 20’s because I was abused by my dad? Did I have only a few serious, intense relationships because I was abused by my dad? Did I have many short, casual relationships because I was abused by my dad? Do I question everything about my relationships with men because I was abused by my dad? Why are all these razor-sharp creatures growling at me and will they ever leave me in peace?
In the days following, I wrote in a journal intermittently. Now focusing on my very conflicted feelings about sex, I tried to come up with solutions for myself on how to deal with this in the future so that I can have a meaningful sexual relationship with someone I care about. Without letting my fear obscure me.
Two days later I was shopping for new clothes with a few friends. Women tend to be extremely complimentary when friends look good in new clothing. However, historically, compliments roll off me without penetrating the interior, and I often shop alone to make clothing decisions without having to participate in the compliment exchange. I was a person who didn’t believe compliments given to me, didn’t hear them, laughed them off. Compliments never changed the way I felt about myself. If anything, a compliment from a man often made me suspicious, and a compliment from a friend just showed me that someone cared about trying to make me happy. And then I carried on feeling pathetic and hideous.
However, on that day, when my friends told me I looked amazing, that a dress fit my body perfectly, that a friend wanted me to model clothing for her, I found that I actually believed them. I felt attractive, worthy, significant. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt worthy of a compliment, that it felt genuine. Their compliments, for the first time, had an effect on me, but the difference wasn’t in the people giving the compliments or the compliments being given. The difference was that I actually believed them.
When I journaled about it later, I tried to imagine that creature in the room with me again. It still felt like my creature was there, but it was beginning to change shape. Its fur was softer, with a blue tinge. It didn’t hiss, it purred, and sometimes it will lay on my feet to keep them warm. My creature is starting to comfort me.