Trigger up: Broken, tied, and tamed

07/06/2011

Hello reader! Another day, another potentially triggering subject. This is triggering for discussion of rape, abuse, and trauma. Please click away as you feel the need and take care of yourself, you’re worth it! Love and light, RD

“And can you put the bite back into the beast you’ve broken, tied and tamed?” – Blood Brothers

Surviving abuse and neglect as a kid meant learning how to separate mind and body, act like hunger was happening to somebody else, not me. Surviving rape meant learning how to just get through it, separate into my mind while somebody else fucked my body without my consent. There’s a lot of ways to survive, and I figure out as many as I can.

When somebody breaks an animal, they’re teaching the animal who is boss. I’m the pack leader, I’m the boss, my friend explains about her dogs and the training process. I don’t disagree with her approach–but people aren’t animals. Sure enough, though, abusers will try to break us to their wills. Abusive actions say My wants/needs/wishes are of sole importance, and yours don’t even exist without fulfilling them. For some survivors this creates a coping mechanism that I will refer to as depersonalization.

One of my primary abusers as a child (let’s call them “MD”, okay?) withheld food unless they determined that I had fulfilled their ever-changing requirements for accessing food, and even then they either ensured it was an unpleasant experience or would make themselves inaccessible so that I would have to wait until it was convenient (read: high metabolism + scarcity of food = days and nights of cramps/dizziness). I was 12 years old and rail thin, though up until then I had been lucky enough to have relatively secure and guilt-free access to healthy, plentiful food. I suspect that I should have been growing, but I stopped the year that I started living with MD. Ostensibly, their heavy-handed control over the food supply was to prevent the other two children in their care who were “fat” (seriously? it was baby fat!) from gorging themselves**.

Do you listen to your body? Do your HUNGER ON and HUNGER OFF switches work properly? If not, you’re certainly not alone. Recent scientific inquiry suggests that these signals are irrevocably screwed up for many USians, causing people to misconstrue or ignore these vital messages from the body. A lot of people would argue that this has to do with changing portion sizes and calorie-laden, nutrient-deficient foods, but I would also like to set aside the “obesity crisis” debate (which is frequently incredibly fat-phobic, ableist, and body-shaming) and focus on depersonalization’s roots, causes, and effects. I will focus more on the practice of re-integrating one’s self to the body in some later writing.

When MD refused me access to food, they were training me. My well-being comes before yours. I am the pack-leader, the boss, and you are just a dog, and you must learn to put my needs before yours. So I did. I learned how to depersonalize myself, ignore all the things my body was telling me, in order to fulfill the wishes of the pack-leader first. And thru further training from other abusive forces, I learned this lesson over and over again.

The distancing of my brain from my body is hard to illustrate but in vague examples–thinking that everything else is more important than taking care of my self, from body to psyche. I block out the pain of rotten teeth, forget to eat till I’m dizzy (tho I’m learning to hear my body when it says kale!), can only sleep to escape but struggle to sleep when I need to rest (everything else seems so much more important).  I was taught that my body was not important (this is why I was raped–my rapist’s will was more important than what me/my body did or didn’t want) and that my brain was the safest place to be (10 feet above my body at all times), so I try to stay there (which is part of what makes me so fucking anxious all the time, where do I put the body when I’m all brain?), tho I am learning ways to put them back together as appropriate.

Broken, tied, and tamed. Tamed animals are not meant to fend for themselves in the wild, they have been taught to subordinate to the will of the master. Who holds the reins now? It is in healing that I fumble and sometimes even find them.

*yeah, a teenager is a kid, okay? much as I hated to admit it then and hate to say it now, and it doesn’t mean teenagers can’t make decisions for themselves or don’t have to deal with fucking heavy adult shit.

**but hey, I gotta say here: shame and insecurity do not healthy consumptive habits make. This is true of anything, from food to love to drugs, y’all.

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