My Journey Through Incest into Selfhood and Self Love
I share my story so that people looking to work with me, whether they are looking to heal abuse or not, know that I am real, and have been there, survived and learned to thrive!
I had always thought that I was different from everyone around me.
I had my own little internal world that I existed in, that felt separate to everyone else.
I lived in a continual state of anxiety and thought that this must be just my existential angst, something that everyone dealt with. It took me most of my life to understand that not everyone did.
I didn’t realise it then, but it was very scary for me to get close to anyone else, because my experience of being close to others was one of being abused.
The extraordinary thing was, I had no idea about the abuse for the first nearly 60 years of my life. I had suppressed its memory so well it took the hormonal changes of menopause to bring it out, which is a common experience of incest survivors, I am told.
My abuse was incest, by my father, for the first 13 years of my life, starting at 3 months of age and finishing when I started menstruating and my mother said no more. It was never mentioned in my family of origin and I believe that it was suppressed in them too.
My father and my mother had both died before I gained this understanding so I was never able to speak with them about it to see how much of it was “true” at a conscious level.
Implicit memories are memories held in the body and the unconscious mind, rather than the conscious mind. Unlike conscious memories, which we can actively recall, implicit memories only arise under certain circumstances eg. in response to a trigger, or in a therapeutic situation.
I have learned to trust my body implicitly in what it has revealed to me, despite the challenging nature of many of its implicit memories. The reason I choose to believe my implicit memories is that they make my whole life make sense, why I have been the way I have. Why life has been such a struggle for me. And especially why my relationships have been such a struggle. Even after years of training in relationships, couples and sexuality training, I could never sustain the wonderful places I found in them.
A Shock Discovery
When I first “uncovered” my abuse I was in shock. It was in a kinesiology session I had gone to in response to Graeme’s comment about my seeming “frozen” to him in our relationship. The reason his comment got my attention was that I had a body reaction that told me he was right. I could this frozenness. After going round and round in years of trying different approaches to relationship and self understanding this felt different, because I could literally feel it in my body. I had had my first ever kinesiology session 3 months earlier and had uncovered the sense of carrying a big secret, a secret relating to my family. During the session I recalled walking in on my parents having sex and thought that discovering the existence of sex, and of my parents doing it, was the big secret. I guess this was my psyche preparing me for what was to be revealed later in my second session. In the second session I mentioned this frozenness and said it felt to me like it was about some kind of shame. The kinesiologist asked me if I knew what this could be related to and I told him of my older cousin tricking me into touching his penis when I was 10 or 11. He then said, no, it’s something earlier, around 9 years. Immediately I felt my father on top of me, having sex with me, which was a total shock, I can tell you! Although ironically, it felt equally a relief- now my life made sense!
The Relief of Understanding
I saw why I’d had lifelong anxiety, a low self-worth, constant feelings of inadequacy and sensitivity to rejection, an ability to naively trust everyone and a chronic inability to trust myself. As my father’s plaything I saw why I had no sense of self, always looking to everyone around me to know how to behave, continually ‘managing’ my behaviour to fit in. I had a fear of being myself, because doing so made me feel at extreme risk- which it was- the extreme risk of having my own identity, separate to my father’s needs.
The wounded personality I did develop was one of the caretaker, being there for everyone else’s needs when I was brave enough to get involved with people, as this was a familiar place for me. Even though I am reasonably intelligent I tries to play dumb, to not stand out, I found it easier to be shy and hide, to be self-protective rather than open. I became a “good girl”, a perfectionist forever trying to hide her shame and be loved and accepted, whilst constantly on the lookout for any signs of disapproval from others, including seeing it when it wasn’t there.
I spent half a lifetime being bulimic, trying to eat and vomit away my unseen trauma. I had a disordered body image, always feeling much fatter and less attractive than I really was, and feeling ashamed of myself as a result.
How I ended teaching Tantra only God knows!
I developed a very unhealthy relationship with authority- either fearing of it or being overly trusting it in others. Anything but trusting myself. My only personal authority was trying to covertly manipulate others, which I have done a lot of, especially with Graeme, as he, being a male, is where I saw the power lay. I could be easily triggered into feelings of powerlessness, shame, frustration and anger, that I would mostly turn on myself, or sometimes lash out at others from my child mode.
I had momentary visualisations on a regular basis, whilst driving, of other vehicles crashing into me and feeling the resulting trauma, never knowing why this happened.
I had an unending interest in reading stories of child abuse, particularly of young girls, especially by their fathers. I see this was my psyche trying to get my attention.
I had a belief, unsurprisingly, that all I had to offer men was sex.
Most people saw me as a particularly vulnerable child.
After my discovery I spent the next few days in a state of shock, wondering whether to believe this or not. I came to realise that if I made it wrong, I felt like I was literally crazy. If I chose to believe it, I felt sane in a way I never had in my life up until this point.
I went through all sorts of rationalisations about my father’s behaviour, which I know now is a common thing. My mother had told me that it was hard for my father when she had had a total hysterectomy after a difficult birth having her last child. So, I thought maybe my father hadn’t been able to control his sexual needs and had gone there with me once (or twice) out of pure frustration. “I can understand that” I thought to myself.
Trying to get my head around it all I spoke to a couple of rape counsellors, one of whom wisely said, if my father had been sexually frustrated, why hadn’t he handled it by having an affair with another adult, or seen a sex worker? Why had he chosen to have sex with his daughter? This was another nail in the coffin of my denial.
I saw the kinesiologist for a third time and revisited that moment when I had walked in on my parents. This time I saw that the big secret I was carrying wasn’t about my parents having sex. It was about the thought that burst out of me “She’s (my mother) taking what’s mine!” This extraordinary thought made me realise I had a sense of ownership about my father’s sexuality that couldn’t have come from a one off experience. That my father’s incest was likely to be of longer duration. This was another layer of shock to deal with, on that I couldn’t rationalise away.
This rationalisation continued as each new implicit memory made its way into my consciousness. Another shock was a memory of my participation in oral sex. Yet another was seeing the abuse happening in daylight hours. How could this be possible in a house of 4 children and two adults? I had the sense that it didn’t happen often, but it happened over a long period of time. I learned how sneaky abusers can be.
It Wasn’t About Him
I didn’t understand my father’s behaviour. I had some knowledge of the situation he had grown up in that may have led to this kind of behaviour and read up, first on pedophilia, then incest as it got more personal, everywhere I could. I also learned that my father threatened me into silence by telling me no one would believe me.
But I didn’t want to concentrate too much on my father, or my mother’s part in enabling his behaviour, I wanted to clear what I was carrying in myself, I knew this was the way through. I guess this might have been different if they had still been alive, I don’t know. I definitely would have wanted at least a conversation with my father where he would admit his behaviour, but more than that I had less interest in. There were moments when I would have readily shot him dead, and I did keep a tortured effigy of him in our garage for a few weeks, but as I became more healed these became less relevant. In those first few months of realisation I became suicidal. I been suicidal occasionally in my life but never really seriously. It felt like a relief to be so now, like I had been waiting to be there all my life and now I was, though it was a concern for Graeme and my friends who knew about it.
A Challenging Time
Once the blinkers were removed from my eyes the implicit memories started coming thick and fast, my body triggered by the least little feeling. I started therapy and thought that with all my skills I would be able to move through this quickly and get my life back. I knew enough to trust my body, allowing me trust myself for the first time in my life, even if no one else agreed I knew what my truth was. I knew too, to focus on what my body was feeling, rather than on the memories that came up. I would acknowledge the memories and then breathe my way through the feelings attached to them. Each time I did this I got to a better place. I got to know the “abuse trauma feeling” very well and would know when a trigger had activated me into it.
Well, my skills have definitely seriously helped in my survival and my thriving. But it took me a good 18 months to know I would get through ok. It took another 18 months to feel really clear of it. Even now I have moments of trigger, of another layer to clear. Eventually it stopped being about the trauma moments and became more about what growing up in that dynamic did to my individual sense of self identity. And how it impacted my life in all areas, especially my relationships. Though I guess this is not really that long considering how long the incest lasted and how long I carried it, feeling it’s impacts without knowing where it came from.
Graeme was a huge support during this time. My realisation was a relief to Graeme in a way as well, as it made his experience of being in relationship with me make sense as well. We were a good pair, both dealing with severe childhood trauma that began at a very early age, the most challenging type to heal from. But heal we have been determined to do.
Me in Relationship
I experienced years of dysfunctional relationships due to all of the above, especially in my bulimic years with my husband. I worked very hard to make them functional, mostly by over focussing on meeting my partners needs and trying to be perfect whilst never having any needs of my own.
I was too often a follower rather than a leader due to my lack of sense of self, getting it right just often enough to confuse me or let me think there was nothing hidden.
I spent years wanting my partners in my incest styled enmeshed way, wanting to disappear into them, unconsciously being like a little girl and forcing my partners (especially Graeme because he really got into my heart) to be like my father, and not understanding why they would pull away and not be able to give me what I thought I wanted.
I spent years trying to heal my painful and unsatisfying sex, being able to clear it but it would always come back, towards the end worse than ever.
Whilst attending a cuddle party, which is all about consensual, non sexual touch, I realised I didn’t know what non sexual touch actually was! Then understanding that as much as I wanted it, was desperate for it, I was actually afraid of sexual touch.
I was hyper sensitive to moments in lovemaking when I believed my partner wasn’t seeing me, which triggered the terror of my fathers’ unconscious actions. I became desperate for my partner to “see me” so I could stop hurting (even if he was doing nothing, or just reacting to my unconsciously pushing him away). This deeply impacted the quality of my relationship with Graeme.
For a time after I discovered my incest, making love was difficult for me. I could feel my fathers’ presence when in intimacy with Graeme, as if he existed in the middle. When Graeme sensed this (or even if he didn’t) he experienced nausea, terror and tingling in his body when being close to me. As I have become more integrated and connected to my real self this has thankfully now cleared.
Love and Trust Abuse
One of my biggest challenges was less to do with the sexual abuse and more to do with what I call “love and trust abuse”. I believed my father loved me. I both relied on and gloried in his love and his need for me. He singled me out for special attention- 1:1 time with him, he called me his “pet”, which I loved, not realising until much later that this was probably how he dehumanised me in order to do what he did. I loved my father with all my heart and all of my being, even to the point of not existing in order to be with him. So much that I gave up my chance to have children of my own, because that meant that I would need to grow up and I could no longer be “his little girl,” something I regret still to this day.
In sex I wanted to surrender into such a state of bliss that my “I”, my sense of self disappeared. I endlessly searched for this state of being. Discovering a spiritual path helped me discover some of this bliss, especially tantra, as it included sexual bliss as part of its offerings. It was a perfect trap for me. I didn’t know that this was because of my abuse conditioning- where I was so enmeshed with my father’s love that I already had no sense of self, so enmeshing myself with spirit felt both familiar and desirable to me.
Through a combination of body focussed self healing, some very potent and healing conversations with Graeme, working with three different psychologists, each with a different approach, a tantric bodyworker (who was very clear in his boundaries!), sexual healing and the use of therapy assisted MDMA, psilocybin and THC I have made huge steps in my recovery in a very short time, approx. 3 years.
I am now connected to myself above all others, I celebrate myself and stand up on both feet regularly and wear a ring to remind me. I love my shamed and abused little girls- ages 3, 6 , 9 and 12 who suffered so much and waited so patiently for me to grow up, and tried so hard to be the adult until I did. I now know what it is to feel safe in my body, safe and loved in a healthy way. I can fully inhabit my body, feeling vulnerable, open and powerful at the same time. I rarely experience trauma triggers and when I do, I know how to clear them. I am able to identify my needs and express them, and am able to meet them myself when needed. I no longer mentally beat myself up, instead I have a deep understanding, love and compassion for myself. I connect deeply with others without losing myself. I am no longer suicidal, I wake each day looking forward to what the day brings. I regularly experience moments of joy, gratitude, happiness and contentment, and I can laugh heartily. I am able to help others when I can, yet not take over responsibilities that are really theirs. I have become empowered in myself in what I am able to be and to achieve.
I am able to self pleasure and love my body whilst experiencing the bliss within myself that I used to long for with others. I can embrace my sexuality in an empowered way, and I can also surrender and open without disappearing. I experience great pleasure rather than pain. I can feel my Goddess aspect in my own body.
Tantra has offered me many pathways to what I have both wanted and needed over the years and I am grateful for that. Mostly I am grateful to it for learning what healthy love, experiences of spirit/magic beyond the logical mind, unlimited and blissful pleasure and moments of deep connection are.
There are days when I have forgiven my father and days when I cannot. When I do forgive him the love flows again and that is very dangerous territory for me. I can love him from a distance, but anything else is too much and I am ok with that. I am not grateful for my experience of incest abuse, but I am very grateful for the skills that I have, the insights that I have gained and the integration of my personality that has occurred as a result. I am particularly grateful for what I have learned from my past when working with women. It doesn’t need to be working directly with abuse, it can be simply around becoming more self empowered because the extremity of my experience and the depth of my healing gives me very clear guidelines around what is possible for us in order to be whole, happy, sexual and empowered.