In The Water
The tension in my body vibrating, I attempted to lower my naked shaking form into the water. The temperature, the sensation of smooth water it hitting my skin, the hard surface of the tub. All of it simply another hard-hitting blow of “too-much” in my amplified state of overstimulation. My nervous system was screaming, shouting, using every tool to rouse me awake. To make me recognize that something wasn’t okay. That my body wasn’t permanently fused in a fight because of the present circumstances of safety, but because after years of torture, abuse, and decay it could no longer sustain the normalization. It could not/would not deny reality anymore, and it was using anything it could to persuade me to believe it. Believe that what we were feeling, this devastating allodynia, wasn’t a result of the water, the tub, or the temperature but a result of the trauma. The truth. My reality.
I plunged myself into the water, turned off the lights, and sat in the dark breathing. One hand on my chest, the other resting on my stomach. My hands, even my own touch, firing panic and bile-inducing nerve pain. Warning me that I was hurting, I was in danger, something wasn’t right. This nerve damage disease I have suffered for 12 years is the clearest and most potent marker of my trauma. A disease that takes even the most innocuous stimulation and turns it into torture. A disease that is medically founded to be the most painful chronic illness on the McGill Pain scale. A disease that could simply, plainly, have a tagline that states, “Do not touch me, it hurts.” I work every single second to reframe that the touch of my fingers on this keyboard, the clothes on my back, the swallow of my throat, my feet on the ground is not a cause for panic. Restoration of the skewed and off-kilter reality that my body used as evidence to tell my brain to run.
I often say that when we have something to feel, and we’re safe enough to feel it, we will. That our powerful bodies will use anything from the colour of the sky to the plant in need of water to trigger that emotion until it gurgles up to the surface of us. Driving us into the belly of the emotion, not out of cruelty but for the sake of our freedom. For the power of our healing. That does not always, nor may it ever, feel like a welcoming experience. Especially given the traumatic reality of restoring the connection to our sacred emotions post-needing to skew that connection in order to survive. My body’s disease is a mirror image of this. I turned off feeling sensation in my body in order to endure the endless rapes, beatings, drugging, and agony. These past 12 years of living with RSD are my body’s path to restoring sensation, and because of it I now exist in a constant state of high-sensitivity. A life-long meditation, if you will, of breath and choice. I don’t want to live with screaming agony, but when everything makes my body scream in agony, I get to choose whether or not to relearn how to live by partnering with it instead of fighting against it.
The water, the tub, my hands burning and electrocuting my skin. The inhales displaying the chronic inflammation of my chest wall due to costochondritis, as I cough. The dim light my only reprieve, so I focus on that. Whispering safety and love into my overstimulated, over-tired, and overworked body; my abused body. It’s in that instant that my stomach and chest drop inward, a sensation of falling off a cliff. The bile in my throat no longer from the nerve pain, but from the truth of what my body needed me to hear. I don’t seek this, I don’t demand it, but I do not deny it. I’ve had the privilege to reframe memory recollection with professional aid, and I do so with compassion and lack of demand. Fulling knowing that the fragmented images my mind can infer are not as important as the truth my body reveals. Believing that is what I focus on now, even when I want to refute it.
My hands move from my wet skin to the outside of the tub, my toes curl, my face scrunching. I gasped back a sob, taste salt from the number of tears flooding down my cheeks and feel his hands inside me.
I believe you body.
I am in this with you now.
We will restore and reclaim our nervous system together.
My chronic illness a result of my chronic nightmare, and now I get to take up the task of healing in order to live. To relearn living instead of re-live suffering.
I stand beside you in your decision to do the same.