#metoo
#metoo

How I am healing myself after a sexual attack,

by Angie Craig 5 months ago in body

facing my past, living my life

How I am healing myself after a sexual attack,
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

How I am healing myself after a sexual attack,

I’m sitting in my little slice of heaven, this little café with its comfortable sofas and light jazz playing in the background, my little slice of heaven where I can sit all day and just write and watch the world move past the windows as people hurried along under their umbrellas. Everyone knows me here, they know how I like my coffee, they even know that I always have a coke and ice and will usually be sat in the same place, in the corner by the large bay windows. Here I feel safe, I’m not watched, no one whispering who’s that lady by the window I’m just accepted. My safe place, but I never always felt safe, there was a time when I couldn’t sit anywhere on my own, enjoying the chilled music over a coffee, there was a time when the very idea filled me with overwhelming fear however, here I am, sitting writing about my most inner thoughts, digging into the deep corners of my mind, but I’m so safe in this place that the words are flowing like rain drops today.

So, how did I start healing myself, it all started with a Tattoo, I love the look and feel of tattoos, for me they are the most relaxing and liberating thing I can do for my body for myself, the freedom I feel is unlike anything I have ever known. Over the years my relationship with tattoos have changed, once they were just a way for my mind to be completely free and be in the moment, that single moment where I had complete control over my body, however in my late 30s, my relationship with myself started to change and with it so did the tattoos. From getting a tattoo just for the sake of getting one, little tattoos without any meaning or soul to ones that had more meaning to me on a much deeper level than ever before. I had given myself permission for the first time ever to go big. Go very big or not to have it at all, and it was with this tattoo that my life started to change, with each piece it felt like I was regaining a piece of my soul back.

Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Before this last tattoo I used to look in the mirror and hate the person looking back at me, I hated the weight that I had put on, other times the weight I had lost, I hated the scares, the hair, there wasn’t too much about myself back then that I liked, the person looking back at me just wasn’t good enough, I had allowed her to become broken and stay broken, I had a mouth on me but deep down other peoples thoughts of the person they believed I should have been, it affected me. it affected me in ways I never thought possible, I treated this woman looking back at me so badly and allowed her power to be taken away. I couldn’t stop other people from mentally abusing her, from abandoning her, god knows I’m not perfect, but I always tried, I don’t always do the right thing and that effects me, every mistake, every failure was edged on my mind keeping me awake at night, and every morning I would paint a smile on my face and got on with my day and I hated myself for that, I hated that I could so easily lie.

It was after I interviewed a couple of tattoo artists about this tattoo I had in mind, the four I went too couldn’t get my vision out of my mind, until I went to the last one, and he understood what I was trying to get across and he spent time with me, he draw over my arm, he got the thoughts out into the open and after a couple of drawing sessions he had the same vision I had had all this time, he wanted to do a template and for this I had to stand in front of the mirror and take a picture of the upper part of my body and arm and it was the hardest thing I had ever had to do, standing Infront of the mirror half naked, taking a selfie was this guy crazy? I understood that he wanted to try and get the template perfect, and he wanted me to truly see what it would look like. But still, it was hard, having to look at myself so intensely, I questioned everything about myself, and then questioned my own mind as to why I couldn’t look at myself.

But I did it and after a few session I could feel the healing, with all the other steps I had started to take those same months I could feel that for the first time I was given myself permission and taking back my body, this body that’s when it all started.

It took a while, but in the end I could stand in front of the mirror and I could love the woman standing in front of me, I could love the bigger hips and bum, because they were shapely and sexy, I could love the now smaller breasts, they looked better and more even, the tummy was going because of my time in the gym and pool and everything had started working out, but when I looked down, when I looked to the area that I hated the most, it wasn’t that I hated it, but I hated what it had become, my vagina wasn’t mine, it didn’t belong to me, it was my abusers, then it was my rapist and now it belonged to my husband, it was the only part of my body I truly hated and I had no control over what happened to it, they took that away from me.

Every time I look down, I remembered at least one assault, or one sexual encounter that wasn’t truly right. To me it was a everlasting reminder that my body never will truly belong to me, and I blamed myself for it. I’m a 40 year old woman why was it so hard to accept that these things I had no control over, it was never my fault that I was abused, I was a child, when that happened he took away my childhood, it wasn’t my fault that I was raped, when that happened I had all control taken away from me, he took everything and I truly thought, that I had put that behind me and move on. How wrong was I because, I allowed my husband to use and abuse me and just accepted that it was right, married people have sex, don’t they? In my 30s the only way I could cope with having sex was to drink, to drink to loosen up to get into the mood because that’s what woman do isn’t it, I allowed my power to be taken away, even by him.

when I had sex, I would really go for it, I see where my head was at now, ever since I was attacked, I had tried to regain control over my sexuality, my body. I didn’t want to be a victim because I was stronger than that, so I put it to the back on my mind and went though my 20s and 30s. but now as I stand in my first year of my 40s I have started dealing with the trauma of it all, I acknowledge the violation over my body, also of my mind aswell. I stopped having sex with my husband 4 years ago, I didn’t want him touching me, every time we did it felt like I was opening up old wounds which only added to the pain of it all, It was too easy for me to become distracted during the day, with kids, jobs, and other family members, I could put the abuse to the back of my mind, but it haunted my dreams, my day dreaming thoughts and I would find myself for a second re seeing their faces, re feeling their heads, or hearing their voices,

However, being sex free, freed me it gave me back my power, it gave me time to work over my pain and deal with it in the first time of my life. In the end I was dressing for me, even down to my underwear, my underwear was for me and for me only.

I watched as my mother battle with eating disorders, alcohol problems and a number of abusive boyfriends, I watched as she gave over her power to other people, I watched as men would come in and out of her life, I watched as they were violent towards her and I promised myself I would never allow a man to have that much power over me, I knew what abuse was, little did I know what abuse of power truly looked like.

it wasn’t until the last few years of my 30s that I realised that abuse is about control, abuse of power and it doesn’t always come in the form of violent behaviour or sexual abuse, its mind games, mental abuse, abuse of power, of trust, financial abuse there’s many forms of abuse and I started working my way through the different forms of terror that I had actually gone through throughout my life. This post isn’t actually about my husband, my father, the man that rapped me or the person who took my childhood away from me, this is about me and how I overcome something I didn’t even know I was suffering from, but it was always at the back of my mind.

I hated myself for the abuse and rape, I hated my body, I hated the fact that I didn’t ever truly belong to myself, that I couldn’t feel like I was my own person I was owned by other people, and the biggest part of me that I felt belonged to someone else was my vagina, first it belonged to my abuser, than my rapist, then my husband, I couldn’t remember a single time that it felt like it belonged to myself,

What made me realise this, a tattoo of all things, I had given myself permission to get a tattoo I had always wanted, given myself permission to go big, so I was sat in my tattooist chair and he was working on one of the trees on my arm when I just felt how good this was, that for the first time I felt like my body belonged to me.

That night getting in the bath I looked down and saw my pelvic bone and an over whelming wave of self-loathing hit me, I hated every time I looked down at myself, this ugly piece of nothingness that belonged to everyone else apart from myself and it was at that moment I realised, this was apart of my problem, I hated myself for something I had no control over, I had to take control BACK!

That’s when I made the decision, I was getting a tattoo down there of something I wanted, something beautiful, something empowering, something that would make me smile and make me feel like I belonged to myself, that no one other than myself and my tattooist would know about, not even my husband.

After talking with my tattooist and telling him what I wanted and why, he listened and worked with me, first the design, the very thing I wanted, the meaning behind it, how big, colours, everything was worked out on paper. Then the drawing session, I’m so thankful for this artist because he has been amazing towards me, the first session, I couldn’t take my underwear off, which he said was fine, I sat in his chair in my underwear and we talked, actually we talked for hours, the next session a few days later, I thought I was ready and I even managed to take my underwear off, but as soon as he started to draw on me I couldn’t stop the flashes of the past and started crying, and he let me, he covered me over, held my hand and allowed me to cry, for the first time ever, someone was allowing me to feel the pain of it all.

Holding my hand, I heard him whisper, your allowed to not to feel okay about this, about any of this, he held me in his arms and allowed me to like a child.

I struggled for so long to feel connected with my own body, I believed deep down that I was a victim its only this past year that I’ve started to see myself as a survivor, a warrior It was at that moment that I realized that my body is indeed my own, but there are times I am forcefully reminded that my body was violently taken away from me.

Obstacles in my way.

I struggled being on my own with men around me, which is crazy because most of my friends are men but: being on my own with a man, on my own with someone I didn’t know isn’t something I can do.

If I saw a man in an elevator, I would wait for the next one, if a man was walking behind me at night, I would suffer with my mind and would end up walking in the middle of the road, picking up my speed, getting out my phone just to call someone, my inner voice telling me to run, run fast. I would fight with my anxiety if I saw a man looking at me, why is he looking, what does he want? Now my life just isn’t that way anymore, I don’t have the same fears as I once had, its been the men I have had around me that have started to heal me of my past, my rape anxiety, because that’s what it was, I was having rape anxiety, but the men around me have shown me that not all men are like that. That most men will be there to hold your hand, and I am so grateful for my male friends that I have in my life, that have shown me that not all men are the same.

Now I can sit and be truly be on my own, with my own thoughts and not be worried about what it going to spring up in my mind, my head is full of what could be, places I could visit, friends, family, and good times I’ve had in my past, when I have a memory I let it happen and no longer fight and lock it away, I allow the memory to take shape and then lay it to rest, the memory is dead, it can no longer hurt me and I will never allow my past, the men in it to have no more control over my mind, my body of my soul, this life, this body belongs to me, and I’m going to enjoy it, they no longer win, I am a warrior, a fighter a survivor.

The truth is, I’m better than my abuser, I’m better than my attacker, I’m better than my father, I’m better than ever man that has ever come into my life and thought they could take something away, abuse their power over me, I’m better than them because they are nothing, a memory that I choose to no longer remember, to have a hold over me. They no longer haunt my dreams or my waking moments. I want to go on and live a good life, I’ve known more love and joy than most people I know, my girls have grown into the most amazing and strong independent woman, I have the amazing friends and while most people don’t know my past they know enough to know that I have lived and have seen things, so when I am not quite myself, they are still there holding my hand and just allowing me to feel even if its only for a moment and then snap me back.

But the biggest thing that’s happened, since trying to find the courage in writing this I have been sending my notes and parts of what I have written and have been sending to my friends, and the feedback has blown me away, from one friend saying, I was reading this and thinking, she’s wrote about my life, so another one saying I completely understand where you are coming from, to a male friend of mine saying I relate on such a deep level. So now I’m sitting here writing this last little bit and wondering, just how many of my friends have gone through this, how many are still haunted by the memories of the past, how many cant look at themselves in the mirror, how many of my friends think they are just not good enough but what is really driving me forward right now, is the thought, just how many of my friends is going to take this pain to their graves?

As I write this last peace, the rain has stopped and the winter sun has started to poke through the grey clouds, even the weather knows that I am drawing my mind to a close, these last thoughts being laid down to rest now and for the first time in such a long time, I feel the weight lifting from me. For a moment I caught myself starring out of the window looking over at the man sitting outside drinking his coffee, he smiles at me and looks back down at his book and, today I just think that he is sharing his happy moment with a smile with me, once I would have had anxiety about this and would tortured my mind, what is he smiling at, what does he want, but not to day. Today I share his smile and move on with my day.

body
Angie Craig
Angie Craig
Read next: The State
Angie Craig
See all posts by Angie Craig