**TRIGGER WARNING** (for anyone with a history of abuse or self injury – stay safe)
I am slightly hesitant to write this blog post…
I had my third Thai Massage today.
Last week was such a difficult week that I felt like I needed Thai Massage. I needed help processing everything that had come up in therapy: anger towards my abuser, yes, but also anger and shame towards myself. This week, I am trying to get to the other side of that. At the very least, I am not suicidal anymore, and I’m no longer having intense urges to cut.
I had taken some time prior to today’s massage to work on “showing my younger self compassion.” My therapist had suggested I write my younger self a letter extending her compassion for where she was, what she had been through, and the behaviors she was exhibiting. I couldn’t do it. After 30 minutes and not a single word written on the page, I gave up. I decided to just write about all of the reasons I hate my younger self and why I shouldn’t show her compassion.
I walked into my Thai Massage with my mouth still heavily numbed from my dentist appointment this morning and my head spinning with self-hate. My tummy was anxious, my wrist was burning, and I just wanted to feel better. I was hoping I would find and release hatred, anger, and shame during this massage. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I did that. First of all, I realized during the massage that I didn’t need help finding the hatred and anger. I found anger for my abuser last week when I wrote 8 pages in my journal about how much I hate what he did to me, and then read it aloud to my therapist. If you missed that blog post, you can find it here. That anger is real. And real deep. I also have plenty of anger towards myself, so there’s no need to “find it” – I’m pretty sure that anger consumes me on a regular basis. Perhaps my intention was a bit off today.
If you read about my second Thai Massage (Post 1 and Post 2), you may remember that I had several flashbacks during the massage, but left feeling better. I left feeling like my younger self was safe and ok. It has been about 3 weeks since that massage and I have only had a small number of flashbacks. This is a very big deal for me! I haven’t even had flashbacks during sex!
The only flashback that really stands out over the last 3 weeks occurred during yoga class. Coincidentally, it occurred during a class led by the same instructor who does my Thai Massage. Last Thursday, at the end of the vinyasa class, she walked around and gave an assist during Savasana. I was totally fine with the assist; actually, I welcomed it. I needed someone to show me physical care and compassion that day as I was seriously contemplating the point of my existence. Towards the end of Savasana, a song played that had chimes in the background. I was instantly transported to 6 years old. No longer in the yoga studio, but on the big veranda with wind chimes clinging in the background. It’s the very first memory I have of my abuser putting an object inside of me. I hate this memory the most because I can’t help but feel like had I told someone then, had I just said what he did to me, the 5 years of abuse that followed that moment wouldn’t have happened (or so I hope). But I didn’t. I didn’t tell anyone because I was 6 and he told me that this was how we played doctor. He told me that it was fine, even though it wasn’t. And I was so afraid of getting in trouble that I just didn’t tell.
In Thai Massage today, this is the only full flashback that I had. A couple of other snapshots of memories came and went, but nothing major. Thai was different today than the previous two sessions. There were a lot less flashbacks. My therapist thinks that in my last session, the massage helped my body to file those memories away. This would explain the drastic decrease in flashbacks these past three weeks.
What stands out to me today is the thoughts and emotions that I experienced during Thai. I cried way less this time. There were several times where the tears came but wouldn’t fall, and only one time where I really cried. Today, Thai Massage felt good. If your mind just went to vibrators, I’m going to stop you there. That’s not the “find what feels good” that I’m talking about. It wasn’t the kind of “feels good” that I am constantly searching for as a result of my abuse. Thai today “felt good” in a relaxing way. In a lot of ways, I felt safe and calm and ok. And I felt like my younger self was ok too.
And that is where the problem was…
Throughout the massage my mind was screaming at me, “You don’t deserve to be touched with compassion and care.” It was a constant battle in my head. I found myself getting frustrated with the inner dialogue. I was apologizing in my head for the actions of my younger self: everything from the abuse to the suicide attempts. I’m so so sorry. I’m disgusting, bad, and gross. The words are engrained in my brain. Disgusting, bad, and gross. All of those things sum up what I think about my younger self this week, and that is what came up in Thai for me today. I took countless cleansing breaths, and I can’t really tell you if I released any of it or not… I guess we’ll find out as the week progresses.
I went to therapy immediately after my Thai Massage – just a fluke thing in my schedule. As I was describing my Thai experience to my shrink, we got on the topic of “The N-Word”: Neglect. I still refuse to acknowledge it. I cannot come to terms with the fact that I was neglected as a child. Left to fend for my own needs, cook my own breakfast and dinner, take care of myself and my younger sisters… I cannot accept it as neglect. Yes, if I were made aware that a five year old kindergartener were a “latch key kid,” I would probably call and report it. However, I feel like it’s different… because there was no one home to take care of me, I must not have deserved to have that safety. I also cannot accept the emotional neglect that was very much prevalent in my life growing up. And this is where Thai was helpful. I have now made the connection that one of the reasons I feel like I don’t deserve to be touched with compassion and care is because I was neglected. Those needs for compassion and care were not met when I was little. Learning to be open to accepting those gestures now as an adult is challenging. It is another hurdle that I have to jump. Just because the compassion and care wasn’t there when I was little doesn’t mean I didn’t deserve it. It doesn’t mean that I am “disgusting, bad, and gross.” It means that the adults in my life at that time were not capable of meeting those needs. Thai Massage allowed me to work on being open to having those needs met. While today it was challenging to accept the care and compassion I was being given, I am hopeful that maybe we’ve successfully rewired at least a small part of my brain.
I did ask my yoga instructor towards the end of our session if she was going to work on my arms like she had done in previous sessions. She indicated that she wasn’t, but then asked if I wanted her to. I wasn’t prepared to answer that, but I did want her to. I had spent the previous week mutilating my arm, scratching it with my fingernails during intense urges to cut; not treating my body with compassion. I didn’t cut, but I didn’t treat my body with kindness either. Today, I wanted to feel the care and support that I should’ve shown myself last week. This time, instead of having flashbacks and crying as she worked on my arm, I felt a huge sense of calm wash over me. I am ok. My scars do not define me. My therapist told me that this is an indication that we are indeed rewiring my brain through Thai Massage! How fucking amazing is that?! 3 sessions in and we’re already rewiring some pretty intense things!
Tonight, I am left feeling drained. My head feels jumbled – full of emotions and memories… trying to work through the concept of “The N Word.” One day, I would love to be able to show compassion towards my younger self. I would love to not hate her. I would love to feel like she always deserves to be touched with compassion and care. Today, I am not in that place. And that’s ok. I am working on it. I am working on believing that I deserve to be touched with kindness.
I have spent my evening curled up with my bolster, writing this. Here’s to hoping more relief and enlightenment comes in the following days…