“I just thought you should know what’s changed,” she said.
- “I’m not scared all the time anymore. I didn’t even realize I was scared all the time until [the fear] stopped.
- I’ve learned about hypervigilance, and how to appreciate my intuition.
- I’m not scared of the grocery store or the shower anymore.
- My stress/anxiety level has gone down enough for me to consider trying things that make me anxious – I have room for them now. Most significantly, this had led to my ability to go to school and work, and in the process, find my calling and my passion.
- I am better at accepting compliments. I can usually look people in the eye and say thank-you.
- I realized that I’m not broken. In the same vein, I recognize how many of my difficulties are related to events beyond my control, and are therefore not my fault.
- Upsetting images of my dad don’t pop into my head unbidden anymore.
- I stopped having a recurring nightmare that I have had for nerly 10 years.
- I had sex for the first time in my life without dissociating.
- I am more frustrated with flashbacks than I am scared by them.
- I dissociate much less often, and usually can readily identify the trigger.
- I rarely obsessively research scary things anymore.
- I believe that I will someday no longer be afraid of [my perpetrator]. I can say his name out loud. I believe that he hasn’t entirely stolen my capacity for healthy anger, and that I can learn how to be angry without fear.
- I have learned to set emotional and physical boundaries, and am usually able to.
- I have experienced what it is to be fully and unconditionally accepted and respected, and am becoming more comfortable with this.
- I have discovered the deep disconnect that exists within my body, and am taking steps to reconnect and be fully present.
- I have hope for the future and confidence in my abilities. Most anyway. I have aspirations.
- I have not drunk or cut myself in over a year.
- I believe I can continue growing.”
This beautifully written letter brought tears to my eyes. It’s confirmed for me why I do this work.
But in order for you to more fully appreciate its meaning, you may wish to know where we began. A year ago, when we first met, Gloria reported some the following symptoms and history:
- 2-3 panic attacks a week
- A history of cutting
- A history of substance abuse
- A history of incest, rape and ritual abuse
- An inability to work or hold a job
- Fear of everything
- An inability to have intimacy with anyone without dissociating
- No clear sense of direction or future
Reflections for those new to SE
A childhood of sexual abuse set her up for further abuse as a young woman. She learned to dissociate from her body, and its primal instincts for self-protection, as the main strategy for survival. If no one’s home, and the doors go unlocked, who’s to keep the burgulars away? Dissociation doesn’t work so well as strategy for living one’s life at choice.
As her nervous system became more and more disregulated, it became harder to settle on her own. She turned to cutting and substance abuse as would so many others desperate for pain relief.
What unfolded over the year of working together using somatic experiencing, is that she has been able to build an alliance with her body’s innate capacity for balance, protection and healing. As she heals, her life becomes more coherent, connected and whole.
‘Liberation is possible’ (Twig Wheeler). It’s there for all of us.
What an incredible privilege to be in the presence of such miracles!