My Body, My Betrayer

drawing of woman stepping out of her skin representing my body's betrayalI couldn’t stop my body from betraying me. It was so beyond my ability to control. Trust me, and if I could have, I would have. As a part of that betrayal, I realized that I couldn’t control anything, not even my body. My body reacted in ways that were against what I was wanting. Try as I might, my body would, time and time again, betray me. 

Once I realized that I have little to no control over myself, there is no going back to the way things were. I spent years trying to control what reactions I could.  But many things happen without conscious awareness or thought.   

Even as an adult, I can’t let go; I can’t let my body go with the flow. My movements are stiff. I feel like I have too many limbs that I don’t know what to do with what feels like eight arms.  I don’t trust my body to be that free. Who knows what it will do? Instead, I pull myself together, as tightly wound as possible, and I hold on as best I can. All of these feelings lead to how I felt I had betrayed myself time and time again.

That is one of the shittiest things about growing up abused; I have no idea how things are supposed to feel or how things are supposed to be. Every single person, including myself, betrayed me. Who do I trust?

Be Very, Very Quiet

I also don’t like making noise, both in movement and in vocalizations. I like to be silent because that is how my family raised me. My parents didn’t consciously raise me to be quiet. I learned that as a survival skill. And my parents did reinforce it in their way. If I could make myself as quiet as possible, then they wouldn’t know I was there. That was generally a good thing.

Now, as an adult, I prefer the quiet. I don’t like talking loudly, and I definitely do not like making noise. Whether that noise comes from my shoes squeaking or fabric that rubs together, neither is acceptable and will drive me to distraction. I learned how to be better about being silent in the military. I was one of those who enjoyed making sure I made no sound. I would tape and re-tape my gear to make sure that I could move around without anyone hearing me.

The betrayal of my location by the sound of gear rattling, pants rubbing together, zippers clinking, all of those things betrayed me, my presence as a child. In a world where I tried so hard never to be seen or heard, those noises were my enemy. Yes, I could and did wear different clothes or pants that are different fabrics (corduroy pants are the worst at making noise). But when the betrayal comes from within yourself, there is nothing that can fix that.

 

Stepping Out of My Skin

I am stuck with the body that I have. I can’t wear a different skin. I am not Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, nor am I inclined to do that. I can’t rewrite the biological reactions into my body. It is impossible to do those things. There is no way to control those bodily reactions. The mechanism for triggering those buried within neurobiological wiring that try as we might, we can’t control those things. 

As women, our bodies have been used against us time and time again because of our biological reactions. In cases of rape, there was a belief that a woman must like it because her body reacts to the penetration. It is not her desire that leads her to respond. It is a biological reaction that she has no control over. How can one be blamed for their biological response? Society blames women for things that they have no control over. 

I believe that any instance of sexual abuse results in feeling that our bodies betray us. I grew up hating my body. I hated the way it looked, the way it felt, the way other people around me made me feel. I didn’t want anyone to touch me. I didn’t want to think about the fact that I inhabited a traitorous thing that I could not escape.

Stepping Outside My Body

The attempt at control, though impossible, is still an attempt. When it doesn’t work, that is when withdrawal needs to occur. I can’t stand to be within myself either, though. So where do I go? I go someplace else, within my mind, or sometimes I imagine that I am floating away. The need to be someplace else is so strong and so alluring that I will do whatever I can to keep that feeling. 

Anything is better than being within me, having to figure out these sensations that I know that I don’t like, but my body does not. And there is nothing that I can do. There is nothing I can do to stop the world, to control what is happening to me. Nothing. I feel that I can turn nowhere, no one to turn to, and nothing to do except accepting my fate. 

The floating above is only a minor respite, and I can’t stay away for long. People notice. I want to stay in that safe space. The one my mind has created keeps me from shattering into a million pieces. But within that place, the outside world creeps in. It has to because I can’t fly away forever. I am beholden to the body that has betrayed me time and time again.

The (Seemingly) Inescapable Betrayal

My body is my betrayer. The inescapable situation that I was in has created the hate relationship that I have with my body. I am tense I am all the time. All the time. No wonder my body can’t relax. I am always a body of muscle knots, and my head hurts, and I have so many other physical issues. I drank to numb the psychological pain, yes. I also drank to numb the hatred I felt for myself. 

When I stopped drinking, my body started to tighten up around me. One of the reasons I drank was to release that tension. However, I am sure that alcohol does the exact opposite. Once I stopped drinking, all of that anxiety and hypervigilance wrapped around my body. It was suffocating at first. I felt like I couldn’t move, that I couldn’t breathe, and I felt so stuck.   

Now that I don’t drink, and I never dealt with the feeling that my body was my betrayer years ago, I am back at the beginning. I was inhabiting a body that I don’t trust. I am working on how to trust my body again. I am developing a strategy to work through my feelings of betrayal. The method includes moving through my body’s betrayal and the betrayal of myself and others. It is a prolonged process.  

Beginning to End My Body’s Betrayal

Yoga has been helping me to learn to be okay feeling my body. I have to be in a place of awareness in the space that I exist with my body. It was a struggle in the beginning. I don’t know the moves of yoga, and I am not a flexible person. 

Now, I am about sixty days in, and I am beginning to feel more comfortable. I can start to sort of feel okay inhabiting my body. I am beginning to relax. I have a long way to go, but I can see how yoga helps. It also helps me make sure that I take the time for myself that I desperately need. Those moments of reflection propel me forward.

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