I was born 35 years ago. With this body. This body that is a little too short and a little too plump. This body that sags in all the wrong places and looks the age it is, not the age I feel. This body that has produced two healthy children and enabled me to watch them grow. This body has been with me my entire life.
With every breath, ever step, every torture, every fall, every mishap, my body has been there. And it has survived. Through three miscarriages, cervical cancer, womb infections, Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction, and untold other genealogical issues, it has survived. It has been with me through my abuse, during every rape, through every molestation, while every act of neglect was inflicted. And it has survived.
But I am at war. I am at war with my body.
This isn’t a simple issue of self-
I hate it as much as I hate living the life I do: because it makes me live the life I do. I hate it with pure venom because it is female and because it looks female, no matter how hard I try to hide it, no matter how hard I try to stop men noticing it.
I hate it because it is weak and because it was weak, because it betrayed me, responding to abuse with conflicting sensations of pleasure and pain. And I hate it because it is in my life, because it plagues me with the reliving of traumatic experiences, because it impedes me to the extent that it becomesnoticeable.
But most of all I hate it because I do not want to be the victim that I was, a victim of a past from decades ago. I do not want to have had the past I had at all. But my body makes me that victim. My body makes it happen to me.
So I am living my life on a battlefield between my body and me. I startle with shock when it explodes with pain and reminds me that it is still there. So I numb myself from its presence. I desensitise myself to its demands and deaden my thoughts to its history. I am disconnected from it, holding myself in a dissociative oblivion so that I can ignore the internal devastation of my past and continue the fight to live as “normal”.
I have one single thought that drives me on, regardless of the fatigue, the pain, the hunger, the ache: I must keep going. This war between us, between my body and me, isn’t in spite of the sensations it creates but because of them. I-
This is a fight to the death. My death. When pain detonates in my body, when doom and panic crunch my guts, when I am crippled with fatigue, I retaliate. I ignore its demands to be fed. I disregard its need to rest. I punish it, overwork it and inflict pain on it. I exact revenge on it for reminding me that my comforting denial is a string vest, not a bulletproof jacket. I dread its constant reminders. It penetrates my “I’m-
This body feels now less than human. It is corrupt and polluted. I look at it only with shame: shame of how it responded during my abuse; shame of how it reacts now. I am ashamed that it allowed me to survive at all. The independent me, the self-
It doesn’t feel safe to have a body that shouts Victim! or Help me! or Comfort me! It feels like an invitation to abuse. My body is inviting abuse by having needs. So it is not me. I disown it, reject it, pretend that I don’t have a body at all. I don’t eat when it rumbles. I don’t rest when it droops. I don’t treat it with compassion or concern when it spasms with pain or illness. If it experiences pleasure, I punish it. I am trying to drive out of me these basic, human reactions. My body is not the me that I want to be, so I don’t treat it kindly. It is my enemy because I exist trapped inside it, imprisoned within its treacherous pit of needs and wants. It betrayed me back then, and it might do so again. Therefore I will destroy it now so that I can live again.
Somewhere in the twistedness of my upside-
But my body isn’t to blame for the abuse I endured. My body isn’t a separate, less-
And my body is normal. It shivers when it’s cold. It sweats when it’s hot. It flinches when it’s in pain. It responds when it’s caressed. It responds without logic or thought. Perhaps I have to revoke the sense of consciousness that I’ve given it, the reasoning which is in fact only reactive. I have given it an individuality like a child giving thoughts and personality to a stuffed toy. I have given it the guilt and consequences of my past: the shame of that belongs somewhere else, and to someone else. It’s not mine. I may not want to notice my body, feed it and reward it, but perhaps I need to.
I am at war. At war with the fact that I am human. At war with the fact that I do have a body. A human body. A human body that works as it should. A human body that remembers the torment and confusion of my childhood, the abuse that I need to remember if I am to heal. Ultimately, though, I am at war with acceptance. Because who would ever want to experience what I did? But does denying it, does punishing it, does neglecting the very thing that survived make the past change? Does destroying the thing that keeps me breathing help me live?
My body is just a body. Maybe it’s time for a ceasefire.