You know that feeling that busts into the forefront of your consciousness when someone asks “how are you?” when you’re having a bad day? (or really any day) You know the socially accepted and generally expected answer is “Good! And you?!” —and this is to be said with an upbeat tempo.
That answer feels like lying—you’re not doing well but this isn’t the appropriate time or person to share that with.
Ugh. I know.
At an old job a colleague and I decided we wouldn’t ask each other that question unless we actually had the time to listen. Instead, we’d greet one another with some version of “it’s good to see you!”
As I sit here writing, wanting to be warm and real, I’m also aware that you might have some real questions about me and how I got to now…and I don’t have a smooth formula for weaving it all together. I’m feeling the complexity.
The Body Sovereignty Project is a labor of love and my process of healing.
Our society has a deficit of Truth-telling spaces. That’s precisely why I am both a provider and client of therapy and why I’ve created The Body Sovereignty Project.
One night in February, I was robbed of my Body Sovereignty in a very violent way, a gang rape that changed nearly everything. And I’ve spent years in therapy trying to walk my way back to it.
From that day, nearly all the papers I wrote (I was a college sophomore when the rape happened) had to do with sexual violence—the origins, the morality, the systemic oppression that grants more safety to the rapist than the victim, the healing, the way we talk about it, the way we don’t talk about it. I was searching for the answer to two questions: will this pain ever go away? if so, how do I make that happen? It was on my mind constantly and I thought that if I just read enough articles and interviewed enough people, I’d find answers.
You can’t reason your way into healing.
It wasn’t the pile of A’s on assignments that got me through the remainder of college. It was my best friend sleeping beside me because my nightmares were terrifying and my professor who didn’t try to fix me but sat with my pain and questions. Distancing myself from my emotions helped too…until it didn’t.
One Tuesday morning, a professor showed a TED talk in which Brene Brown declares that vulnerability is the birthplace of everything good in life—joy, creativity, passion, love, etc. And I lost it.
In that moment, I knew I was being called to be a therapist, to walk with other people into the Truth of their stories and into liberation from their pain but I also knew I was a mess. So, naturally, I continued distancing myself from my emotions as much as I could and I applied to graduate school. I pushed forward—took the classes, rocked the internships, networked at conferences, held down two side jobs, and ran marathons—and I felt fine until I got my first job after graduate school, moved across the country (for the third time), and fell apart.
Being busy is detrimental to healing.
I had been so busy in graduate school that I barely noticed how I was having body memories throughout the day every day and my hyper-vigilance seemed like it made sense since I was living in Boston and often walking (or running) alone and not always in the safest areas. When my life slowed down after graduate school, PTSD burst out and brought me to my knees.
trauma wants to be seen
The first step to healing is acknowledging the trauma.
I’m often asked “how do I start to heal from my rape?” (or other trauma) and I asked my therapist the same thing at the beginning. There’s no ‘hot-to- guide, no 12-steps of healing, no manual. I do know the very beginning of the process is in gently holding yourself as you acknowledge how what happened was traumatic for you. Denying it as traumatic or questioning if it was “bad enough to count as trauma” protects you from feeling how bad it was, but it also keeps you from moving forward.
Acknowledging that you were hurt and it was out of your control is acknowledging that your sovereignty was stolen. Putting these pieces together, doesn’t mean you’re “broken” or you need to be “fixed,” it means