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Awakening: How Occupational Therapy Uncovered Hidden Trauma

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

It was March of 2018 and my third attempt at medication in three years. To try to ease my troubled mind. I had tried drugs before — prescribed or not — but this time, I was more desperate than usual for one to work. Because it wasn’t just myself I was trying to save, it was my marriage. My husband and I had recently experienced another incident. Another episode of me unconsciously going after him. Attacking him.

• What is PTSD?

Followed by me attacking myself. Another menstrual cycle had come and gone, and I still didn’t understand what came over me each month. Making my body do things I didn’t want it to do. Like I was possessed. Cursed. Under a spell.

I had sensed something big was about to happen. It was like my life was unfolding and I was holding my breath, waiting to see what the finale would be. I was 37 and didn’t know what was wrong with me — even after decades of doctors and medications and therapists and meditations — and I didn’t feel any closer to figuring it out.

Worse than that, I doubted I was worth the trouble. That’s what decades of trauma will do to a person — it takes away the will to survive. But as it always seemed, this daunting feeling of wanting my life to end mainly happened during the last week of my menstrual cycle each month. Right before my period arrived. Bringing rage to my front door. When I’d unconsciously attack my husband. And then the realizations of my actions would pour over me as I began to bleed. Giving me ample time to punish myself further. It was a cycle I could only think of one way to break. But a part of me knew that death wasn’t the answer. Maybe it’s because I’d sensed that whatever it was that had been haunting me would follow me into my death as well.

On my way to meet the integrative psychiatrist for the first time, I could still feel the ache where my head smashed into the drywall during my latest episode. The feeling wrapped around the top of my head — as if there’d been a crown of thorns. And my husband had threatened divorce again. It wasn’t the first time he said he’d leave me if I didn’t get better, but it felt like it could be the last. Possibly ending our five years of marriage. He said his well of sympathy for me had run dry. And I couldn’t even cry about it. Both of us were empty.

I was sent to the integrative psychiatrist by my regular psychiatrist since the medication he’d prescribed me a few years prior had caused my intestines to bleed. It only happens to one percent of patients, he’d informed me, but it meant all SSRIs would do the same thing. I’d never met with an integrative psychiatrist before, so when a petite, pixie-like blonde came to escort me back, it felt more like I was entering a fairy’s den than a psychiatrist’s office. Her office was filled with sunlight and plants, and I felt hopeful she knew some magic. She took my entire medical history into account. From if I was breastfed to the first day of my last period. To which treatments and medications I’d been prescribed. To what problems I’d had. She reviewed my previous medical records, specifically the results from a hormone test showing which of my levels were imbalanced. When she asked me why I was there, my goal was clear: to stop going after my husband and smashing my head into walls at the end of my menstrual cycle. To save my husband and me from myself.

She prescribed me a hormone-balancing supplement and a tea for my premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that, along with the list of supplements I’d already been taking, were supposed to help me. Supposed to subdue my levels. So my violent outbursts would subside. And for the first few months, it gave me a hope I hadn’t felt in the decades I’d spent trying to get better — the hope I actually would. Along with my new supplement and tea, she also gave me the name of an occupational therapist (OT). Someone to help with my sensory processing issues, which, aside from attacking my husband and myself each month, were my biggest complaint. Smells would make me so weak I’d need to lie down. Touch would make me nauseous and cause my skin to hurt. And sounds would send me into an altered state. Triggering the fight-or-flight response no doctor in over 23 years saw I was living in. Something the OT saw right away.

Hesitant to begin another therapy as I was already struggling to keep up with everyday life, I put off making an appointment for months. Then one Monday in the beginning of June, before I settled into my morning meditation, the need weighed heavily on my mind, so I made a note in my planner to call the OT. Meditation completed and seated on my cushion, I checked my email from my phone and noticed one from a woman whose name I recognized. She stated she’d read my article on living with sensory processing disorder and thought she could help. I jumped up from my cushion and ran to my planner and there was the same name for the woman I was planning to call that day. The OT my integrative psychiatrist had recommended was the same woman who had just emailed me. I took it as a sign.

Located in the basement of an old building, my OT’s office was dark and mystical — an alchemist’s cave — filled with scents of essential oils and translucent colors of sensory lights and toys. First she reviewed the online assessment she’d had me take. Which had prompted me to rate the intensity of my sensory experiences, like how often I felt overwhelmed in a crowd, all of which for me were, “Almost Always.” Then she examined my restricted physical movements. The stiff muscles and crevices where my body was stuck. Frozen. I was told to come back once a week. My OT looking almost excited about all the work we had to do.

I think you have PTSD,” my OT exclaimed during one of my initial visits. I was stunned because it felt like she was starting to get me. Like we were picking up some momentum. Besides my psychotherapist (whom I’d been working with for four years at the time) and my new integrative psychiatrist, my OT was one of few who seemed like she could help me. She explained I’d been dissociating — leaving my body — when I was attacking my husband, which is why I couldn’t control it. That my body had lived in a fight-or-flight state for so long, it had become my body’s go-to state when upset, angry or overwhelmed. I’d fight or I’d flee. Or my mind and soul would flee and my body would have to stay and fight for me. It’s also why I’d lose track of time. So much time. And why my sensory processing was disordered. My brain had developed grooves around this state for decades, she explained. Groves that rerouted sensory information. Mixed signals. Things I’d read about since my sensory processing disorder (SPD)* diagnosis in 2014 when I’d also received obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD) diagnoses. Now there was the possibility I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) too? I couldn’t help but wonder, from what? 

Over the next few months, I followed a sensory diet my OT helped me determine, incorporating scents and movements and sounds and touches into my daily routine, and I went for my weekly visit where she performed craniosacral therapy — a technique that works with the craniosacral system and with tissue memories. During each craniosacral session, sensory memories began surfacing. Always from a bird’s-eye view. Because I had been hovering above my past self, looking down. Only, while my mind was learning each memory for the first time, they felt like ancient history in my body. I was 5 and felt sick from the smell of hotdogs at my babysitter’s house. Sixteen and frightened by a sound that others appeared to be unaffected by. Twenty and nauseous and reeling from an unexpected touch. Then I realized that, as these new memories were unlocking from my body’s tissues, I was having them as my present, 37-year-old self. I wasn’t reliving them the same way I was reliving the things I was addressing in psychotherapy. Things my psychotherapist kept trying to get me to detach from. Only I never understood what she meant. And it made sense now why I couldn’t. It was something I had to be back in my body to be able to do.

With my interest peaked about my sensory processing, I signed up for a sensory conference, which would take place in Atlanta, Georgia that October. I hadn’t been to Atlanta since I was a kid when we’d stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house. They’d since divorced and my aunt had moved back to Michigan, so we had no family to visit, but I was looking forward to returning with my husband. Then as soon as we landed in Atlanta, I had a bad feeling. I couldn’t shake how dirty everything felt. It was a grimy-sort-of-dirty. The kind you can’t wash off. When we got to our hotel, things still felt that way. And it didn’t help that the hotel room refrigerator hadn’t been cleaned. That there was someone else’s rotting food inside. I could tell by how much this bothered me that my thoughts were getting unhealthy. A sign my mental health is slipping. But it was right before my period, so I wasn’t surprised.

The hotel itself was overwhelming. Sky-high ceiling and no windows. Multi-colored lights randomly changing the mirrored walls’ colors. A sensory nightmare at a sensory conference. While attending each conference session, I was quickly overstimulated by the fluorescent lights buzzing overhead and the 300 or more people in the room. Definitely not a conference designed for me — sitting there in my sunglasses and earplugs like a lab rat, showing signs of all the symptoms they were describing. And even at night when my husband and I ventured outside of the hotel to get dinner, something wasn’t right. The first night, I got diarrhea. The second, neither of us could stomach our meals. Then, on the third night, our Uber driver was taking too many risks in her filthy car. We wanted to get out but there were traffic cones everywhere. So we were at her mercy. Then, as my husband yelled, “Watch out!” she merged into a lane of oncoming traffic and another car almost crashed into us. I couldn’t shake the dirty, dangerous feeling that was following me the entire time I was there.

When I returned, armed with the knowledge I’d gained of my SPD at the conference and wanting to learn more about neurological disorder, I read about every type of disorder I could find. I started learning about neurodiversity too and began wondering if I was autistic or aspie as a therapist had once suggested. Then, I came across an article on dissociative identity disorder (DID) where the girl being interviewed described many of her sensory processing experiences, which were similar to mine. She had separate personalities and had suffered sexual trauma, though, so even though there were some similarities, they were outweighed by the differences. So I kept searching. Something still felt like it was missing.

I hadn’t attacked my husband since taking the hormone supplement, so we were relieved thinking I’d finally been cured. Then one cold, rainy night early in December, we drove to see some friends, and on the way home, things took a turn for the worse. It was immediately following the Ford-Kavanaugh trial and coming off of the Me Too movement, so sexual assault was the most openly discussed it’d ever been. I’d become engrossed in the trial as I often do when something lights my investigative fire. And sexual assault cases lite my fire. I’d even been watching the trial again as I got ready to leave that night.

The fact that a man who had forced himself onto a woman, no matter how long ago, was now going to be in one of the top nine positions to show mercy and to determine other’s fate, had me enraged. I couldn’t hide from how it was making me feel, so when it was brought up at our friends’ house that evening, I felt personally attacked when both my husband and friends didn’t seem to understand where I was coming from. Sure, I’d been drinking and had my period, but I couldn’t handle my emotions. And they became more intense on the 40-minute drive home. My husband stuck to his point, but I didn’t know what his point was. I wasn’t able to hear him clearly. I was somewhere else entirely. Already watching from above.

I was sobbing and he was yelling. Tired from driving and from trying to get his point across. From feeling unheard. We arrived home safely, but my body was screaming that something wasn’t right. I pleaded with my husband to make it better as I so often did. To make it stop. But by this time we were soaked from standing in the rain, and he was over dealing with me. He walked from where we were standing in the driveway up to the house to try to go inside. But I followed him close behind and then hit him hard with my umbrella. Sobbing and begging him to stop. But he wasn’t attacking me. It appeared I was the one attacking him. As he pushed open the door to the house, he also tried to push the umbrella out of my hand so I couldn’t hit him again, but he got my water bottle instead, sending water flying everywhere. Soaking me further and startling me enough to make me stop.

Over the next few weeks, I fell into a deep depression. Defeated that the medication didn’t work once again. Most days took everything I had just to get out of bed. Thank goddess I was already teaching online. So I could work from bed if I needed to. Having a boss who finally understood my mental health needs was the only way I was able to keep my job that semester. I was miserable, and we were only a few weeks away from Christmas. Historically, a very difficult holiday for me. But then again, what wasn’t difficult for me. And now knowing I wasn’t cured and I would have my period again during Christmas, I was terrified.

The semester ended and, having some time off from teaching, I went about my days trying to find new ways to get better. And trying to forget what I’d recently done. I saw a chiropractor again for the first time in years. My bones tending to pop out of alignment on their own, I’d been seeing chiropractors most of my life. This time, I went because my right hip kept slipping out of place. Granted, I had been running again, trying to leave my anger off elsewhere, but my hip pain was so bad, I could barely walk. This new chiropractor conducted a full-body assessment instead of giving me an adjustment. So not only was I in his office for two hours, but I left with my hip still out. He’d informed me I was flexible everywhere except my hips, which I knew. I had already been to a pelvic specialist for a blockage in my right hip that he said was probably scar tissue from my endometriosis. But why no one could help me solve the mystery of my stiff, scarred hips was what I wanted to know. Desperate for answers, I went to a psychic. To learn the answers to questions I didn’t know how to ask. She told me something big was about to happen, but I was too afraid to ask about my marriage. Too afraid that this time was the last time my husband could take it. That he’d leave me now for sure. Even amid the holiday season and having time off from work, everything lacked joy.

It was the week before Christmas, and I couldn’t snap out of it. In an attempt to soothe myself, I took it easy. I read books and took baths. And I even watched a movie during the day one day, something I never do. I came across, “Sherrybaby,” randomly, but instead of feeling relaxed, I felt disturbed. I watched the entire time rooting for highly-troubled, but sweet Sherry to kick her drug habit and to get custody of her daughter again, but when it was revealed Sherry was being molested by her father, which is what caused her to do drugs, I lost all hope. Looking for any sign I could get better, this crushed my spirits. It was a dark feeling. The same dark feeling I’d felt when I’d watched Netflix’s, “Amanda Knox,” and learned Knox’s roommate had been raped before she was murdered. The same dark feeling that came over me the night I hit my husband with the umbrella. I told my psychotherapist it felt like something was tapping on my shoulder. Begging to be acknowledged. And then during my next visit to my OT, I found out what that something was.

While my OT conducted craniosacral therapy, hands hovering above me, I lay with a weighted blanket covering over me — to help keep me grounded — and I focused on releasing pain from my body. Eyes closed, I saw a flash of the craft show I went to as a cheerleader in high school when I was 14. Establishing my age. Then I saw my grandmother’s sewing room in what was my grandparents’ house. Showing me a memory of a safe place to help keep me grounded. Then, I heard a man’s voice say, “No one has to know,” and my body was pinned onto a bed and he was putting his hands on me and inside of me. I saw it from where I was hovering on the ceiling, watching from above. The memory was fleeting. Like it was moving so fast, I couldn’t keep up with it. Like all I was catching was a glimpse. My heart raced. I felt like I was going to throw up. My OT told me to breathe and observe. Needing to know who it was, I made myself scan all the faces of the men in my life at the time. My dad. My grandpa. My cousins. My cousins’ friends. Then, when I got to the face of my former uncle, the one who had lived in Atlanta, my body began to convulse and that same dirty feeling I’d had during my recent visit to Atlanta swept over me. I felt the same darkness as when I’d learned of others being molested or raped. And now, I knew that the darkness I’d been feeling was because I’d been molested or raped too.

As I lay there in shock, my OT told me how releasing this trauma would help me become the person I’m supposed to be. About how, without this having happened, I wouldn’t be able to become that person. How I needed to see that this is how I am becoming that person instead of focusing on what happened. That I need to see my strength. She asked me what kind of person I see myself being now that this memory had come back to me, and I said being someone who is strong. And who speaks up for what is right. Regardless of the potential downfall. Then she felt in the fatty tissue above my heart where I was feeling a lump — where she said our fear response resides — near my left shoulder that had been spasming throughout the week. She asked me what the lump looked like: to see inside my body. Something she’d had me do before: always a color and a shape. It was white and round. Interwoven like a ball of twine. She asked me to sit with it to see what it needed. I was told I need to talk about what happened. That keeping it in is what caused it to be so big. And as soon as I said out loud, “I need to talk about it,” I felt it shrink. She told me that in order to protect myself, my body had stayed in fight-or-flight mode. And kept me from knowing what had happened. She told me not to go back to what happened but to see the good I can do now moving forward.

Before leaving, I told my OT about my dream the night before. How my great-grandaunt came to me as an old lady. There was an alligator ready to attack in the house I grew up in and, as I corralled everyone into the garage, she wouldn’t leave the house. As the alligator got closer, she said, “Let it take me,” and I yelled, “Get your f****** a** out here!” But she stood there, frozen.

That day I drove right from occupational therapy to psychotherapy, but I was unable to process anything I’d experienced. My psychotherapist explained it as somatic trauma — trauma that is of the body, not necessarily accessible by the mind. She said that once our body chooses to hide certain information from our consciousness, that all other parts of the body are affected. Like our digestive and reproductive organs. Which answered so many questions I had about what started happening to me around the time I turned 15. The age I fell ill for months, to the point of hospitalization, for reasons doctors couldn’t explain. The age my menstrual cycles became so uncontrollable, I was bleeding heavily every two weeks. Developed severe digestive issues and allergies. Began fainting. Started having to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist — because I was telling my friends in school I wanted to kill myself. The age when my seemingly happy life became dark and unbearable overnight.

The next day, my husband and I attended our friend’s father’s funeral. Still in shock and not yet having told my husband, I sat in the back of the packed funeral home with my dark sunglasses on — in mourning of my own — and our friend’s 8-year-old daughter came running from the other side of the room to give me a hug. I asked her if she was OK, and she shook her head yes. She sat on my lap and comforted me. During her own grandfather’s funeral. I still couldn’t tell my husband until a few days later. By that time shame had set in — a feeling I consistently had but never knew what it was — and I was repulsed with myself. As I shared the memory I uncovered, I watched my husband cry for the second time in our eight-year relationship. He held me on his lap and we sobbed together.

Christmas was a blur that year. Although I had my period, my rage that typically surfaced was overpowered by my shock and shame. I took pictures but was in none. It was as if I didn’t exist. Even what I wrote were fragments. Pieces of my thoughts. Gingerbread crumbs on the trail leading back to myself. On Christmas Day I wrote:

Having a baby could be healing.

I’m not ready to talk about my body. I hope I can forgive it. Odd how you can be angry at your protector, but when they shield you from what you need to see, it becomes a complicated relationship.

I can’t tell if all I feel is God or if I feel nothing at all.

The next week, my husband and I went to see his martial arts Guru who had pulled him aside a few weeks prior and told him something big was coming that he needed to be prepared for. Just like what the psychic had told me: be ready for something big. When we went to see the Guru, he knew what had happened to me without me having to tell him. He could tell I was trying to leave my body — dissociating — as we spoke of the uncomfortable things that had surfaced. He told me that what had happened to me had been happening in my family for generations. Since before my ancestors came to America. It made sense. I wasn’t the only one in my family with a history of acting strange. Prior to finding out, in an attempt to figure out what was wrong with me, I’d charted all my family members’ medical conditions, realizing that most of the first-born children (myself included) have neurological disorders. There appeared to be a pattern. Then Guru introduced me to his wife who teaches yoga, specifically to help women heal from sexual trauma. She became my spiritual guide through the darkness as more memories surfaced. The worst of which was yet to come.

It was 2019, a new year, but not yet entirely a new me. I had no doubt my journey to learn to listen to my body had been long. But I knew there was more I needed to know, so I poured through books on women’s health. Christiane Northrup’s, “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom,” became my bible. And I realized I was also going through the stages of grief. A process I was unaware I’d become so acquainted with. And best of all, I started to trust that I could have a child. That I could be a mom. With this big secret out of the way, I was beginning to see my truth. I was beginning to see myself again and the idea of having a family — of creating a home full of love and flowers and babies and kisses — opened up to me. It was like I could see a whole new world. One I thought only existed in fantasies. It was like the spell had been broken.

But one spell broken does not a curse end.

It had only been a few months, but I was starting to trust my senses again. Specifically my sixth sense — my intuition — that beautiful indicator that something isn’t right. What I was taught to stifle my entire life. Now, I was learning how to look within again, but there was still so much pain blocking my intuition. Preventing me from seeing things clearly. Something all my therapy was helping me unblock. Then through craniosacral therapy, I was introduced to so much more. While fantasy had never been my favorite genre (because I was trying so hard to be present on Earth), I was beginning to see different places during each session. New lands. Curious realms. Only, it wasn’t my imagination I was accessing them from. It was someplace else entirely. It was as if my body were in an old world. The underworld. The place where trauma hides. And doesn’t wish to be found.

During my next craniosacral session, I saw a dragon lying over my abdomen. Coiled up and resting her slitted black eyes. Her long, large, beautifully-shaped eyes. The ones she wouldn’t let me see through when my OT asked me to look. Almost like she was protecting what was on the other side so fiercely, she would breathe fire on me if I got too close. If I poked the dragon. She sat there with her reddish-purple scales keeping all her secrets in. And keeping me out. I laughed with my OT that I even saw a dragon. That the Dragon Time essential oil I was using each month to help with my menstrual cramps was somehow summoning the dragon within — a creature I’ve since learned has been said to symbolize incest — but something told me I could trust her. That she had something to do with information I had not yet received. With what needed to be acknowledged in order to be let go.

Aside from seeing my psychotherapist, occupational therapist and spiritual guide — my healers — once a week, I didn’t do much during that time. My course load had been cut in half due to low enrollment, which was a gift because I couldn’t do much. Though I did manage to wash my hair most weeks. To eat and to exercise. To pluck my eyebrows. The acts of self-care that used to feel like added stressors to my week were now my only respite. It felt like self-care was helping me find the pieces of myself amid the wreckage. Something my healers kept trying to get me to see. I learned I was retraining my nervous system and to be patient with myself. I was recording my thoughts and dreams and even began thinking about my writing again. Then around mid-March, I had an interesting dream. One that would soon mirror my own reality. In the dream, I was at a bar alone, surrounded by strangers, and there were men trying to open the door. I tried to keep it locked and they kept fighting to get in. They didn’t look like they had good intentions once in. Then someone started shooting the top of the door hinge to knock it down and someone else yelled, “Not the rape door!” I yelled for help, but I couldn’t keep the door closed. Then, a football team worth of men rushed in and all the women and children were cowering, knowing a fate harsher than death was awaiting them.

My hip was already in pain the next time I went to see my OT because my husband had merely touched it the night before. My body had been more sensitive than usual since finding out. And with my period on its way, everything felt worse. So when my craniosacral session began, it was the first thing my OT noticed in the vibration from the bottom of my feet. She said there was an energetic wall around my pelvic area, near my hips, that extended out about a foot from each side of my body. She asked me if I could put my hand on the place it was hurting and said she would put her hand over it to help guide me. Then, as if my pelvis were a portal, I was transported to another land. I was shown a castle and a moat with no possible way in. Then I was shown the dragon, the same reddish-purple-scaled dragon, circling above the castle. When my OT asked me if there was a way I could get in, I asked the dragon if I could hitch a ride, and then she came down and the castle door opened and we walked in together. It was only by asking the dragon for a ride that I got into the castle. An odd sensation. For it’s not that I was picturing the drawbridge opening, but it was my body feeling like I was inside. Like it was somewhere I had been before. In the underworld. Seeing the darkness. Hearing the shrieks and the screams. Feeling the evil.

I couldn’t see well because it was so dark, but there were pictures inside the walls of the castle. Images of people so horrifying, I could feel their fright. Then with my dragon following me, I went into a room where there were two people sword fighting. Their faces were fully covered and they were dressed in white (well, at least one of them was), and they were fighting in front of something they didn’t want me to see. So then I started taking deep breaths and pushing the breath toward that part of my body. As if my dragon were blowing fire on the sword fighters. Then I saw it. It was me at the age of 14 again. I was in the bedroom of the house I grew up in. The same house from my dream with the alligator and my great-grandaunt. The bird’s-eye view was as if from the top of a skyscraper, indicating how far I’d fled my body. I saw myself on my childhood bed and someone on top of me. Inside of me. Abusing my body. Ripping out my soul. Then, my body let me know it was my former uncle, and this time, I could see the back of his gray-haired head above my flowered bedspread. After, there was an explosion of bright white light and then the image was gone. And so was the pain in my hip. The pain that got deeper as I got closer. The pain that made me wince and squirm because of how much it was penetrating my side. The pain that was causing my hips to be stiff and scarred. The fascia that had stayed frozen in time. Then my attention was drawn to another pain in my pelvis. To another room in the castle. Most likely another memory. I was tempted to go, with my dragon in tow, but my OT told me I didn’t have to. So I didn’t go into the next room.

At least not that day.

When it was over, my OT asked me what my body would’ve wanted to do in that situation if it were able to move — if I hadn’t been frozen — and I said I would’ve wanted to kick. She asked me if I wanted to actually kick while lying there, and I said I was afraid I may hurt myself — I’d felt the power of my own strength before — so she told me to move gently. As I did, I managed to kick the air enough to get some motion in my hips. To move the energy around. Like an unchoreographed dance. Breaking up the pain. Moving the fascia. What my spiritual healer would eventually have me practice every day. My OT told me the pain I was feeling was tissue memory, and I was being shown these memories for a higher purpose. That there’s a reason I’m doing all of this and that all of my hard work will pay off. At the time, I had no idea what she meant. I didn’t have the slightest clue how to trust that this was all for a reason. I’d been questioning how much I could even trust myself.

After, I was in a state of shock more intense than before. It was like the attack happened for the first time all over again. The attack I’d later discover happened on Christmas Eve — late
into the night — just hours before opening presents on Christmas morning — when I was nestled all snug in my bed. I began having flashbacks. Nightmares. Wondering if this was going to be the new pattern. If I would grow stronger from one memory only to have another one surface. If they’d keep getting worse. If this would be the cycle until all the memories were exposed. Until all the tissues healed.

Uncovering that I had been raped was the missing information I’d been searching for most of my life. It made all of my neurological disorders, all of my imbalances, all of my health issues make sense. And I was beginning to understand how the memories had stayed buried for so long. I’d spent decades not listening to my body. Searching for healers to help me and being fed pills instead. Living in a society that promoted covering up my truth rather than helping me understand my pain. I was put on the birth control pill at age 15, shortly after I was raped, because of how severely my body was reacting to the trauma. For decades, doctors prescribed me the birth control pill as a remedy for my physical and mental health issues. I’d tried to get off of the pill many times throughout the years, but every time I did, the pain and frequency of my periods became unbearable. My mental health suffered more severely. So I’d get back on. But then, around the age of 30, after taking the birth control pill for 15 years, I’d sensed that tricking my ovaries into falling asleep each month probably was not good for my body. I’d finally realized that my pain was actually what I was supposed to be listening to, not suppressing. So a few months after meeting my husband in 2010, I stopped taking the pill, and all the other medications I’d been prescribed, and started looking for more natural ways to heal. To look deeper within.

And it was only after finding out I had been raped that I was able to learn how to stop attacking my husband. To see him before being taken by the underworld. The world where I was fighting for my survival. Where I couldn’t see reality clearly. Where my body felt like my husband was my attacker. Within the first month after finding out, I became triggered during my period and lunged at him, fists raised. But he saw me. The real me. Not the shell of myself the trauma made me appear to be — someone he used to reference as the third person in our marriage. His love saved me. Pierced through the surface of the realm and pulled me out of the underworld I had fallen into so many times before. It took his love and the acknowledgement of my trauma to release me. To force the underworld to spit me out — casting me back into reality. And even though I relapsed once during lockdown — sinking back into the underworld and taking him down with me — he is learning to trust me. So we can work as a team to stay present. So we can begin to trust each other again. And so we can break the trauma cycles of our lineage — the intergenerational trauma cycles — before having a child of our own. So the trauma patterns do not repeat into the next generation. So the suffering ends.

For the next six months, working with my healers helped me learn to function like a well-oiled machine. I had guidance for my mind, body and soul. Making me process everything I was learning. Move. Release memories and trauma. Connect back to myself. Learn to hear my Higher Self. And I got my brain back. My heart. My courage. And returned to my long-lost home within myself.

Memories from childhood began flooding back to me. Reality lifted the dam and they poured into my mind for the first time. I began remembering who I was. I began seeing who I am. So many things in my life that never made sense started to transform right before my eyes. Like magic. Like how some of my rules were actually boundaries. Put there by me to protect myself. To keep me safe. Things like not wanting others to touch me. Warding them off when they did. Being vigilant after hearing an unfamiliar sound. Looking out windows — needing to find the source of the sound to know I was safe. Checking locks on doors multiple times to ensure they were secured. Keeping things organized. Orderly. In their place. How having things out of place meant someone had been there who wasn’t supposed to be — an intruder. The same reason I can’t sleep if the covers become out of order on the bed. Why I’ll wake up from even the deepest sleep, panicked. Because orderly covers mean I’m safe. Unorderly meant I wasn’t. It meant someone had invaded my personal space. Crossed a sacred boundary. Thrown me into the underworld. The place I lived for over 23 years. Disconnected from myself. As if I were asleep.

But I have been awakened. Awoken. I’ve surfaced from the underworld, and I am starting to see everything in my life for what it really is instead of what I once thought it to be. The magic of the land has begun unfolding itself to me. Opening up to show me the beauty and the joy that didn’t exist in the other world I’d been left in. A world of pain and trauma and survival. Full of illusion and fear. The underworld where centuries of pain dwell. Where my family has lived for generations. Possibly even forever. Now I’m starting to see the world of fearlessness and trust. Of love. I see my husband for the man he is — my prince — who’d searched to find me. Slashing through the thick vines that had grown up around me. Facing my dragon.

The nightmare of my past is beginning to fade away. And I’m beginning to accept my reality. I’m realizing that while I may have been powerless then, I can step into my power now. I’m learning how to save myself from going into the underworld. By moving through the discomfort. Passing through the realm without getting sucked in. Allowing me to feel self-assured as I wake up. Working through the pain. Letting the layers of evil melt away. Releasing them from my body. Sinking deeper into myself. And letting go. Letting the pain seep into the ground. Growing strength from how much I’ve overcome. Grounding in my roots. Realizing all that I’ve weathered. All that I’ve survived. All that my ancestors probably survived too. And now, almost two years later, I’m learning to live consciously. To live safely in my body. Becoming reacquainted with my soul. Retraining my brain to form new grooves. New pathways. Letting go of the disordered paths that once protected me. Veered me off track from things I was not yet ready to see. And I’m realizing I have so much to live for. Because in so many ways, my life has only just begun.

*Since sensory processing disorder (SPD) is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the official diagnosis I received in 2014 was for sensory overload. 

Originally published: December 23, 2020
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