How to Reconnect with Your Body if You’re an Abuse Survivor (or Trauma Survivor)

by | Oct 4, 2019 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 13 comments

How Can Abuse Survivors Stop Dissociating from Their Bodies?
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When you’re abused, a common defense mechanism is dissociation–when you mentally “flee” your body and try to be anywhere but here.

That helps you live through trauma.

But it also creates a whole heap of problems down the road when you’re trying to get healthy again.

This week we’re talking about the “figuring things out” stage of sex, and one of the big elements of that is dealing with past trauma. It’s great if you can do this in the early years, but if not–do it now! And so I wanted to find a way to talk about this huge issue about how trauma impacts our sex life.

Then I found Megan Cox on Facebook. I read something beautiful she wrote about learning how to talk to her body and be nice to her body, because her body deserved it, and nobody had ever done that before. And I asked Megan if she could write something for me, because it was so raw and real and I know that people need to hear this.

Maybe you’re not an abuse survivor or a trauma survivor, but as you read this, you can learn what these women (and men) go through. Or maybe you’ll recognize yourself in her words, even if you’ve never been able to name it yourself. So here is Megan, from Give Her Wings:


It is amazing how long it can take for a person to process trauma.

For me, it has been over eight years since I left my abusive (seminary-attending, pastorally-called, charming) ex-husband. And seven years since I started Give Her Wings, the Christian non-profit that comes alongside single mothers who have left abuse. At first, I was just trying to “scream” with whatever shaking voice I could muster about the problem that Christian marriages are having with abuse and the lack of training and guidance found within the Church walls. I was doing everything I could desperately do to try to raise awareness of how bad theology about marriage was creating bad, bad generational fruits. Now, it seems that awareness is there and I can breathe a bit. And heal some.

Even after all of these years, I have known that I needed to heal from unspoken sexual abuse that I have not been able to even verbalize until now. I knew that it was bad.  I knew that sex hurt and I hated it. I could speak the words because I did not know that it was different for other women. I did not have the language.

The other day, I was rushing to get ready for work. I needed to iron a new skirt that had those “fold marks” from being crammed in a package from Amazon. Getting dressed, I knelt down to plug in the iron and promptly hit my forehead — HARD — on the corner of our dresser. It seared through my mind, pulsing throughout my head and I fell backwards a bit. I sat down, holding my face as I felt a small welt emerge the size of a a lemon drop.

Then, I sobbed.

I sobbed like the world was coming to an end.

It was a little bit out of proportion but  I exploded out all of my current frustrations . . . all the efforts I have put into so many projects and people . . . I sobbed for things my family is suffering . . . I sobbed for my overwhelming, but temporary, mark on my face now. I sobbed until my eyes were puffy and I knew that no amount of make up would cover that hot mess for days.

I parted my hair on the other side to hide the mark, only to reveal the Harry-Potter-shaped scar that was normally covered by my swooping bangs. A scar obtained 25 years ago through a bout of skin cancer and a string of 36 stitches.

I cried again.

As you can imagine, it’s kind of been a rough day.

However (and please try to follow my thinking here), it is a sign that I am connecting to my body.

For abuse survivors, there is a strong tendency to completely separate our bodies from our souls and minds, further isolating us — even from ourselves.

Total and complete isolation.

I’ve been in yoga lately and I have started kind of talking to my body (so weird). Does it make sense that, every time I connect with my body, I weep? Like, I’m getting reacquainted with it? Last week, in yoga, I did a great job on the “tree pose”. After holding the balance, I looked down at my right thigh, gave it a love pat and said, “Good job, leg.” Then, I wept. Right there in yoga (I’m sure it didn’t help that there was a soft rendition of that song from “Beaches” playing in the background). I think I am the only person who has been kind to this body that has been through so so much. I’m showing compassion for my body for the first time. (As an aside, it is almost always ridiculous to me how many layers there are in healing!)

So, for those of you who might not understand, I got really good at dissociating during pain and during sex, which started going hand-in-hand on our honeymoon. I tried to do what he wanted and needed — whenever he wanted and needed it. I felt used, as I’ve mentioned before, kind of like a prostitute. I’ve heard that same phrase from other women, as well — I felt like a prostitute.

I swear, I could disassociate from my body right this second, if you asked me to. It became second nature. I would say things to myself like, “Anyone can get through anything for an hour.” “Anyone can get through anything for nine months.” “Anyone can get through anything for x-number of years . . . ” until I couldn’t. And then I just stopped feeling. Numbed out. Dead inside.No one cared — not even myself.

So, here are some of the things that I want to say to my body:

  • I’m sorry, body, that you were in so much pain on your entire honeymoon and had to keep taking baths to try to lessen it. And then give your body up again and again to a man who did not know how to be kind to you.
  • I’m sorry, body, for each little bruise, scrape or cut you sustained at his hands. I see things on my hands, my arms, my thighs. I see those marks and it wasn’t fair.
  • I’m sorry, body, for not giving you enough rest. Like, ever. I’m trying to do better now.
  • I think you are incredibly strong for carrying four babies and having four C-sections in way too short a time. You, Megan, carried diaper bags, pushed strollers and had babies on your hips for years. Yoga has helped me to see how much you stoop over and did not even use muscles in your shoulders, stand up tall and look at people squarely. You were always hunched over . . . beat down.
  • I look at the scar from hip to hip from last year’s restorative surgery on tummy muscles that had simply given out. I tried to lovingly put vitamin E oil and care for that wound for months. Because I am worth it. I know that now. I’m trying.
  • I’m sorry for not giving you enough food and nutrients when you were a young woman trying to compete with porn stars and the other women that your ex husband thought were beautiful.
  • I’m sorry for openly criticizing you for so many years and thinking you weren’t enough. All you’ve done is serve this soul well.

My hair has been pulled — more than I care to admit. I’ve been smacked. I’ve been pushed into the wall and into the shower door, more than once. I’ve been cornered; I’ve been used; I’ve been scarred. I had four large babies who took up residence in a smallish body. There was a lot of joy there but also a lot of vomiting and a lot of breast-feeding. There was even limping as I was barely able to carry them. Then, there was the split from the muscles, which caused me to wear a (very warm) brace with that last pregnancy. While I’m very proud of my births and young-motherhood, I felt like a baby-receptacle for a while.

And since no one else seemed to care, I did not think I was worth being cared for.

The doctor during my very last C-section:  Mrs. Penner, we have to tie your tubes. You cannot keep doing this. Let me take care of this. You have to be there for your children. They need you.

I felt like someone cared.

I wept then, too, and consented right there during the surgery. If I was not going to stop myself from repeating this torture on my body, this doctor was. Oddly, that was the kindest thing anyone had done for me for years.

Now, I just won’t have that. I don’t want my hair pulled. I don’t want to be hurt during sex. I want to be present when I’m touched. And it is taking me a very long time. But I think that I would be cheating myself if I don’t try. But, trying is hard. Because it is easy to be deprive myself of sensation. But, then I would lose. And I’m so over losing.

But this is part of being a warrior-princess, right? Facing all of those things. Crying during yoga. Giving my thigh a high-five. Being OK with my markings and softly touching my lemon-drop lump because no one else will.

Oh, friends. Sometimes the bravest things are things we are trying to do that no one else would ever see.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of my very personal journey with you.

Love,
Megan

Megan Cox is the Founder of Give Her Wings, Inc. She has a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling, recently finished her CPE Unit 1 training and is certified in Crisis Response with the AACC. You can find out more about us on Facebook.

Megan Cox

Give Her Wings, Inc


If you are a trauma survivor, I encourage you to seek out qualified counseling to help you process that trauma and learn to reconnect with your body, as Megan did. Please do not just go to anyone who calls themselves a counselor, because, as Rachael Denhollander said about abuse survivors, she has yet to know one who went to biblical counselors (different from those with Master’s in Pastoral Counseling) who has emerged less harmed. When counseling is not properly trauma informed, it can do more harm than good. Here are some posts on helping you identify good counselors:

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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13 Comments

  1. Lindsey

    😢 Such a poignant message. No deserves abuse. No one should be married to someone who doesn’t care how he/she is hurting them.

    Reply
  2. Phil

    Megan – so sorry you have gone through such awful abuse. I am so glad you are healing. PEACE to you sister.

    Reply
  3. Natalie

    I don’t know why this made me cry so much. I’m literally balling right now. So much of this I related to and I’ve never even been abused. I should probably go to therapy myself & figure this out. 🙈

    This line broke my eyes’ flood gates: “I’m sorry for openly criticizing you for so many years and thinking you weren’t enough. All you’ve done is serve this soul well.“ I think that’s applicable to some degree for probably all women on earth.

    Reply
    • Phil

      Natalie – Professional counseling is always recommended. However you want some healing now? Search up Kristine DiMarco It is Well and sing along. Sing hard. Believe it with all your heart. I have been struggling with bouts of depression. I just cried super hard while doing just that: I am worthy. I am well. So are you.

      It Is Well

      Grander earth has quaked before
      Moved by the sound of His voice
      Seas that are shaken and stirred
      Can be calmed and broken for my regard
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And through it all, through it all
      It is well
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And it is well with me
      And far be it from me to not believe
      Even when my eyes can’t see
      And this mountain that’s in front of me
      Will be thrown into the midst of the sea
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And through it all, through it all
      It is well
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And it is well
      It is well
      So let go my soul and trust in Him
      The waves and wind still know His name
      So let go my soul and trust in Him
      The waves and wind still know His name
      So let go my soul and trust in Him
      The waves and wind still know His name
      The waves and wind still know His name
      And it is well with my soul (sing it everybody)
      It is well with my soul
      It is well with my soul
      It is well
      It is well with my soul
      Oh it is well with my soul (’cause of who you are)
      Oh it is well with my soul
      It is well with my soul
      It is well
      It is well with my soul
      It is well
      It is well with my soul
      It is well
      It is well with my soul
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And through it all, through it all
      It is well Lord
      And through it all, through it all
      My eyes are on You
      And it is well with me

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Thanks Phil 😊 That’s a beautiful song. So true.

        Reply
    • Meghan

      I’ve only recently gotten to the point where I actually like my body…most days. A few weeks ago I was lying in bed and used my foot to bring the comforter up from the bottom of the bed where my husband had kicked it when he got too hot. Caught a glimpse of my thighs and said “holy guacamole my legs are RIPPED! Honey look at those muscles!” I kid you not, I almost cried when I stopped and thought about what I had just said.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s so awesome!

        Reply
        • Meghan

          I can’t tell you how helpful exercise had been for my body image. I’m getting stronger, running further and faster, and basically seeing myself as an instrument rather than an ornament. I’m slowly learning how not to hate the body I have.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That’s wonderful!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I know! Isn’t that lovely?

      Reply
  4. Arwen

    Megan, Thank you for sharing. Therapy is so important to the healing journey. It took me 10 years! Therapy and Jesus. Two of the best things that happened to me and i assume for you also. May you find peace going forward from the Prince of Peace!

    Reply
  5. Melanie

    Thank you Megan for sharing your story. I hope many women in abusive situations find it. You’re giving a voice to many who don’t have one yet. Trauma can take away a voice. But healing and Jesus can restore it.

    Reply
  6. Diana Winkler

    What a beautiful post. What a beautiful person who are too! So many things in this post I can relate to, even though my abuser never hit me. He hurt me with words. Still healing from that too, but I have come along way.

    Reply

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