My body remembered before my brain did.
I woke this morning and my bones felt solemn but light. My skin wrapped warmly around me. My hair, once lopped off at the chin in protest that it had ever been touched by him, tendrils past my collar bones and shoulder blades again.
It has been two years, and I have grown.
Last year on this day, I wished myself a happy first anniversary. On this second anniversary, I’m just going to enjoy being more comfortable in this body. A walk to the river with my son. A little yoga. Bear hugs for everyone I love.
The most pivotal moment in my healing to date has been the realization that our bodies will always tell us the truth, if we listen. The best book I’ve read on the topic is called The Body Keeps the Score.
You might believe you’re over something, but how does your body feel when you think about it? Is your throat tight? Your stomach in knots? Do your pressure points ache? Do old injuries become exacerbated when you’re feeling particularly down?
An anxiety or panic attack is a visceral thing. It isn’t just the maddening mental loop of worry-begets-worry; it’s also shortness of breath, a tight chest, a stress headache, and any number of other symptoms. For me, it’s a clenched jaw, a stiff neck, and unconsciously holding my breath. And when the loop starts going too fast, it’s nausea and dizziness, as if I actually am on a tilt-a-whirl. I have to sit down and put my head between my knees. I used to wish I could just stay that way, folded in half and kind of fetal, the way a person does when she can’t take anymore and has to try to sleep, or is fending off blows, protecting major organs and her face…
I haven’t had a panic attack in six months.
My body has been coming back to life after trauma, and it’s been telling me that, when the mental and emotional stuff gets too heavy, I can concentrate on stretching, moving, balancing, and centering instead. I can hold plank for a minute without shaking and remember that I couldn’t do that last month. That feat tells me all I need to know about my returning strength.
I still struggle sometimes, with both mind and body stuff. I sustained injuries that haven’t healed properly (I hear you, body), and I’m having a hard time getting myself to the right doctors/specialists because that means acknowledging abuse in a very real way that I haven’t yet done. But the ache, the effect on my mobility? Present. Whether I want to acknowledge it or not. Because the body keeps the score.
Still, when I swung my legs out of bed this morning and wondered, why this curious surge of power in my limbs? Why the half-smile before 7 AM and a first cup of coffee? Why the tingling skin?—I remembered: oh. It’s because I’m alive, two years later. I got away. That’s why.
I might be alive, but 50 people lost their lives last weekend. And hundreds more this year. And countless others in years past. All due to hatred that drives people to violence that is both the same as and different from what I experienced. Love and light to everyone who is hurting. Stay safe and strong.