I live with the memories of what happened to me. There are times when my childhood memories are painfully present; having been triggered by current events and bringing up feelings from long ago. There are emotions welling up inside me, seemingly random. Except, they are not. Nor are they so easily dismissed as they once were. And lately, it seems my strongest feelings are about feeling ashamed. For no real reason, it’s my predominate response to just about everything. It’s a struggle to lessen the intensity and effects of shame. The only way seems to be through examining my feelings in my everyday life.
I pay particular attention to how my feelings of shame are reflected in my physical body. Shame stops my mind from thinking, locks up my vocal chords, flushes my face and makes me watch the ground. My eyes could give away what is going on inside me, so I protect myself, by avoiding eye contact with others. I feel raw. My breathing becomes shallow. Sometimes I space out.
Shameful feelings make me feel dirty and ugly.
To be willing to see the truth of why I was raped, I had to be willing to examine the details of my memories, remember exactly what happened and what he said. And more importantly I had to know how it made me feel. Believe me, just surviving was hard enough, it took me even more courage to go back and relive it again. Even though I don’t believe I am all that courageous, I was determined to get back what was taken.
He explained to me, it was because I was beautiful that he had to have sex with me. Had I been an ugly child, he said, he would have left me alone (by the way, that was a lie, he would not have). It took along time for me to identify that I felt ashamed. It came in an unlikely way, through my career choices.
To most anyone, it’s not surprising that I would want to become a counselor. Even though I completed my education and part of my licensure, I never really practiced. I became a Massage Therapist during my University studies. I didn’t quit doing massage until this year. From my experiences during massage, I learned to be able to feel safe with someone else touching me. I learned good boundaries, giving and receiving non sexual touch. I learned how to be present in my body and recognize what my body felt like. And then after quite a bit of time passed, I made another career choice, to practice Esthetics. But at the time, I didn’t recognize it was to heal my issues of beauty and shame.
I intend to write more details about my issues of beauty and shame, and how they were healed through the practice of esthetics. There were specific experiences that helped me to move past the shame of being a woman, my belief of being vulnerable to harm because of how I look. Through the last few years, I have edged closer to feeling like I am able to protect myself. I learned there is plenty of beauty in our world, and it doesn’t make it a target for harm. I am making the best of what I have and learning to love what I have been blessed with. I have a admiration for beauty, just because it makes me feel good. What is the harder emotional work is discerning the differences between receptive feminine energies and victim behaviors disguised under people pleasing. They are closely related for me.
But there is also a darker side to working in the beauty industry that I never suspected. There is a competitiveness between co workers that is sometimes cruel. We betray ourselves and other women, our customers and our moral code with artificial standards. Also, the needs of vanity, and the cruelty we subject ourselves to in the name of “looking good” is exceedingly harmful to us. Because of my intense examination of my own beliefs regarding beauty and vulnerability, I feel freer today, more than I have ever felt. I have a growing curiosity about what is next in my healing process.
It’s humbling to stand in all this beauty surrounding me. Even though I have been raped as a child and even though my body is getting older I do have moments of feeling beautiful. It’s not much. But another step in my healing has happened. I have felt a sense of peace. This growing peace is what helps me to go on and make my way through these memories. I have chosen being alive, instead of deadening and denying what happened.
Another choice I make is being consciously committed to being truthful. Because of the dishonesty so necessary for childhood sexual abuse to occur, I don’t have a good relationship with recognizing truth. I told myself and others lies, to protect myself and to protect the perpetrator. It’s important to be truthful for real healing. So, I write about being able to see both sides both good and bad, light and dark of what ever issue I am dealing with. Its one of my ways of identifying if I am being truthful with myself. It seems a more complete picture. I don’t know what it would have been like to have grown up in a truthful family.