I’ve doubted myself in many ways for as long as I can remember; I just hid it pretty well most of the time. Beginning at 12, I drank and smoked. As I got older, I increased my drugs of choice to include acid and ‘shrooms, which I preferred over anything else.
Two months ago, while hiking a trail I’d wanted to complete for 16 years, the memories began. They came in the sense of knowing specific things (and general things) happened to me and this knowing contained none of the self-doubt with which I was so comfortable. I basked in the serenity this knowledge brought me even though the content was deplorable. The process still amazes me because the following months have brought plenty of self-doubt. One thing I do not doubt: that first experience instilled in me a deep understanding of my past that has not wavered enough to dismiss the sketchy memories.
As a child, I was sexually abused by someone in my family. I know what happened, but I do not know how it happened or exactly by whom. My body holds the memories and releases them sometimes in various ways. As I sit here typing this, my left hip flexor is vibrating. My whole left side is involved in this memory, as are my thumbs and right shoulder. So, I’m not really too keen on engaging my body more than I have to just to get through my day. It also makes sense in a twisted way that I don’t have confidence in my body. It betrayed me in oh so many ways years ago.
I, a former winning track and field athlete, never realized how cut off from my body I was until now. I thought because I started doing yoga over 20 years ago that I was in touch with my body. I guess there was a reason I quit doing it regularly. Having children was the real kicker, as I had quit any use of substances before pregnancy and I had no choice but to be present more than ever.
With nothing to self-medicate with, bipolar kicked in such that I could not deny it. It’s been a long, grueling 20 years but I had no idea I was building my resilience to deal with the final key. I cannot control when or to what intensity I receive the messages from my body but they are not as sketchy and each one further cements the truth in my self-doubting mind. The only uncertainty left in me around them is how I will work, parent, or rise to the day some days. The memory experiences (my limbs suddenly telling a story I did not know) fill my world and take over my mood. While they are quite debilitating, I had thankfully already been practicing mechanisms that work to bring myself calm, compassion, and softness.
I live in two worlds many days: one in which I desperately want to resort to old coping mechanisms for comfort and the other in which I know the only way through is through and that nothing truly comforts me anymore. I am choosing protein over sugar most of the time, gardening over napping sometimes, and breathing over screaming.
I joined a gym with a pool so I swim and take yoga three days a week each. I’m still in the initial phases of this schedule but I’m amazed at my tenacity. I’m beginning to really connect with my body in a way I never knew possible. I can tell this because I know the difference between wanting to stop a pose or take a break swimming for my body’s sake and wanting to quit. I approach these exercise sessions with more gentleness, which I’m not sure I can truly verbalize. But the one clear thing is, I am slowly forgiving my body for the wrongs done by someone else.
Quitting is a branch of self-doubt for me. In the last stretches of a race, if I feel hopeless, I quit. I know I can’t win so why bother or why hurt myself, or something like that (not totally sure on the exact reasoning). Recently, I’ve pushed myself when I hear the quitting song in my head. Sometimes I do need to stop but sometimes, I just need to push through and see what’s on the other side. I’m beginning to feel and know the difference and I’m beginning to not only have more confidence in my body, but to give my body the respect it deserves.