Even though I’m walking around most days feeling like I have a low-grade emotional flu, it dawns on me sometimes that I’m doing something I’ve wished I could do for two decades—change my relationship to The Bad Thing, get it out of my body, move myself toward a life where I’m not hard, harsh and on the defensive quite so often. I love the idea that that one night when I was sixteen will stop leading me back to itself and crushing me in new and ever more creative ways. It feels like this is the ultimate body adventure and a big part of the point of this story.
Confronting the Bad Thing is a surprisingly physical experience and it’s hard to predict whether I feel warm and open or anxious and coiled up from day to day. It’s hard to imagine whether I might ever be a sex blogger again. For the past few weeks, my sex drive has been superwonky. I still have personal time, of course, but sometimes I’m rattled and upset afterwards, or just restless and vigilant. A couple of times I’ve gotten hives on my thighs or gotten strong urges to find a way to numb myself, especially after anything penetrating.
It seems like as good a time as any to admit that, with some exceptions, penis in vagina sex has been at least a little bit triggering each time I’ve had it in the past few years. As much as I enjoy it, it stirs up a deep anxiety that either leads to too-quick love and clinging or to fleeing, sometimes both at once. It’s sad that something I crave so much could have so much pain attached, and that’s something I hope to at least partly heal. For love and sex not to live so closely with paralyzing fear anymore, that seems like a worthy goal.
This appointment, she had me close my eyes (scary) and go through the story again. I sank further into the story this time, let myself feel where it lives in my body. I realized how much of that night was about not being able to move, that trapped and nauseous feeling. I came close to feeling the sickening humiliation of there being a penis inside me that I didn’t want there, a man on top of me that I was forced to choose. I can no longer pretend that I had any say there, that the sex part was anything like my fault. Even if I had not been drugged, I don’t feel in those moments any sense of agency, any power to consent. I was forced to have sex with him for the twisted amusement of the party, and nobody seems to have even had any fun.
After I told the story and was relieved to have my eyes open again, the therapist gave me the list of words and told me to work through them in whatever way I could. After she left, having high-fived me for our accomplishments, immobilized is exactly what I felt. I got into bed and didn’t/couldn’t get up for at least three or four hours. I hadn’t been to the grocery store yet and I came really close to asking Sweetie to go to the store for me. But I eventually got up and got there.
So immobilized is the one I started with and I immediately recognized its stultifying, sabotaging influence in my life. Even what drove me crazy about Sweetie is what I often described as her “inertia” but oh, how immovable I am on the inside. Part of me, since that long-ago night, has been sitting against the wall on that party’s kitchen floor, unable to get up and get myself away someplace safe. The more I acknowledge its influence, the stronger it feels, like a vice of drugged fear, holding my whole self down. I’ve visited that feeling so often in the past few years, and each time it’s both a horror and a relief.
If my teenage self is stuck on that floor in that kitchen, all I can do is offer my love and support, to tell her that I and all of the people in this story so far (well, the ones she likes, anyway, which is most of them) are there and ready to help, ready to take her hand and help her up and out the door. I know I can’t rescue her or make any cute boys rescue her, I know it all happens no matter what, but I do want her to know how much she is loved, especially by me, and maybe that will take us forward, really forward and not just to the next void.