I just started reading a book called The Sexual Healing Journey; A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz. Our couples therapist recommended it awhile back, and I am just now feeling strong enough to delve into it, although there have been a few times when I have just had to put it down and cry. Right now I am reading a section about "learning to be in your body" which is something that I really struggle with. The author talks about how many survivors of sexual abuse cope with physical and emotional pain by "leaving" their bodies during the attack, tuning out body needs and disowning parts of their body as a way of surviving the abuse. This was something that I did while I was being raped, or anytime that I would experience flashbacks of the abuse, and at the time it definitely served a purpose. Unfortunately, this has become my automatic reaction to sexual intimacy, and as hard as I try to stay present, I am yet unable to do this. It is something that I want to change, but at the same time, it terrifies me to think about changing something that is a form of protection. Sadly, why do I need to protect myself my husband, someone that I know would never purposely hurt me?
One of the exercises for "learning to be in your body" is to look at yourself naked in a mirror, and I can tell you right now, that this one is going to be hard! The author says that "because of abuse, many survivors fail to get the message that your body belongs to you, and internalizing this concept is essential to sexual healing because it is a way of undoing the false, learned self-concept that you are a sexual object." It is part of reclaiming your body as your own, which I understand is important, and something that I want and need to learn how to do. I tend to look at myself in bits and pieces, failing to take in the whole picture. In a way, it is how I also remember the abuse. I see it in fragments, because to piece together the incident in all of it's ugly entirety is just too painful.