This post is about healing from childhood sexual abuse. It is not graphic. However, if this is a trigger for you, simply delete. The text begins below the photograph of me, taken at age six.
Two years ago, during a counseling session, I broke down and wept with a depth that simply didn’t match the event that triggered the crying. My head was between my knees, and my nose and eyes were pouring. And BOOM! There was a clear visual of what had happened fifty-nine or sixty years before–the person, the place, the event, the feelings of powerlessness, betrayal, fear, and the loss. I had been sexually abused around age five or six by someone who had worked for my parents, lived on the property, and had befriended me. This early experience significantly increased my sense of separation and feeling that life wasn’t safe.
I raised my head and stared at my counselor. “You knew, didn’t you,” I said.
“I suspected so,” she said, gently.
I felt so much gratitude to simply know the truth. Some puzzle pieces of my life clicked into place, and I felt whole, perhaps for the first time. There had been pointers, but without direct memory, I saw no reason in hanging on to them. For example, I used to be terrified when my parents left town and left us in the care of others–even after that particular couple no longer worked for our family. I never took baths, only showers, until we had a hot tub. I don’t like to wear dresses, and when someone asked me thirty years ago why, the response that fell out of my mouth was that I didn’t feel safe in dresses. News to me! That thought had never coalesced before.
When I arrived at the hospital this Wednesday to have a women’s-only procedure, waves of that old feeling of powerlessness rolled through. On a feeling level, dread–with all the attendant thought patterns stuck to it–settled in my body. Tears filled my eyes. Brought to a little cubicle to give up my clothes and don the gown (large enough to fit a four-hundred pound man), only made the dread stronger. I knew that my job was simply to welcome these decades-old feelings that had been tamped down for so long.
Then the intake nurse greeted my husband and me. I could feel her heart. After thoroughly reading my chart, she looked up and asked if I had any spiritual or religious beliefs or traditions that I wanted the hospital to know about, so they could make me feel more comfortable.
I met her gaze, and after a thoughtful pause replied, “I don’t know. This hospital might not have an understanding of my tradition–it’s not well known. I hold the non-dual view.”
The nurse broke into a wide smile. “I’ve been a Dzogchen practitioner for over twenty years,” she said.
“Those are some of my favorite readings!” I replied, stunned. (Dzogchen are the pinnacle non-dual teachings of Tibetan Buddhism) We had a fascinating conversation while she readied me, put in the I.V., and showed us how the “bear hug” warming gown worked. The gown, it turns out, is like a large hair dryer hood, with warm air flowing in. Wonderful not to be cold. It was hard to say goodbye to her, and the sense of loss of control only grew as my gurney was pushed down the long, fluorescent-lighted hallways.
Next, I met the anesthesiologist. In the past, I have not found people in this specialty to be particularly open-hearted, but this man broke the mold for me. We decided together, that because I have painful shoulders and a compressed low back, it would be best if I were still awake so I could position myself on the table. “Okay,” I said, “but I’m going to want valium in my I.V. I’m horribly anxious.” Tears rolled down my cheeks.
“I’m happy to do that for you as soon as we get in the operating room,” he said in a gentle tone.
The surgery staff–except for the anesthesiologist, were all women–including my surgeon, Jeannie Pflum. I briefly mentioned the old source of my dread, and did not apologize for the stream of tears. Jeannie spoke softly about how respectful they are, keeping the body covered whenever possible during surgery. Every step of the way, I was met with deep kindness and care. One nurse wiped my tears. They allowed me the dignity, little step by little step, to meet these old feelings fully. Once met, they washed out of long-term storage in the body, and away.
Old patterning, finally released. Grateful. Very grateful.
© Amrita Skye Blaine, 2013