Embodied Anatta (sexual abuse and the “self”)

This morning while I sit
The memories come again
It has been a while
But I can feel their approach
More than I can see them
Helium in my head, neck, shoulders, chest, arms, and hands
The top of me warmly expanding and rising
Lead in my abdomen, pelvis, thighs, legs, and feet
My lower half weighted and sinking
The center of me staying put and wrenching
I am splitting
This time I do not escape to breath
I let the memories come
I watch and wait
I do not brace
I breathe and feel
And then the memories are on top of me

Suddenly I cannot breathe. I am small and he is heavy, too heavy. If I breathe out, entirely, I may never be able to breathe in again. Shallow and quick is best.  Short breaths just might keep me from passing out, keep me alive.  His face is so close my vision blurs.  I cannot see…what is happening.  His hot breath on my face, and his mouth, too close. The pillow behind me keeps me from backing up.  I cannot turn my head.  His hollow mouth is on me, so big and gross and slick and swallowing me alive.  How do I breathe?  I CANNOT BREATH!  My chest cannot move air, my mouth and throat cannot move air. Is this what it feels like to die? I have to pee.  What am I supposed to do if I have to pee?!  I want to cry.

Just wait, hold it, hold on, look up, look away.  Move your eyes.  Look right, up there, a window.

There is sky, clouds, and a tree.  I go outside.  I forget that I cannot breathe.  My mind relaxes.

I am out there.  My mother is out there somewhere. Maybe she will come home soon.

Yes, she will be home any minute.

NO!  She will be home ANY minute! Panic again.  Help!  I can’t breathe! How flattened can my body get before it dies?  I want this to stop.  I want him stopped!  I cannot make it stop.

Look up girl.  Look to the right. Find that window. Go back to that breezy blue sky, that sturdy tree.

I go there again.  I am outside.  I will stay outside, where this isn’t happening, whether anyone ever comes home or not.

The bell rings
I am still here
I did not die or disappear, yet
I notice
My  breathing
Is deep and even
My cheeks damp
My body steady
I am upright
I am not shaken
I let those memories in
They do not now seem the enemy
But part of me
And I can breathe, feel, and let them be
My self in its entirety
Not empty

I have known suffering

I have been no-self

I have gone to emptiness

I have experienced non-agency

I accept impermanence

I choose embodiment!

No sacred space but where I sit

Sometimes passion, sometimes rage

Sometimes grief, sometimes joy

Sometimes peace, sometimes a fight

I’ll take The All and live it while I am

–by me


Full of Memories by Helena Wierzbicki

~ by April on March 24, 2013.

11 Responses to “Embodied Anatta (sexual abuse and the “self”)”

  1. Powerful. So sorry.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting…that’s pretty brave of you. Most people I think would rather not read it, much less comment. No need to be sorry, but I appreciate the sentiment. It’s just a part of me, but one that sometimes needs a voice too. Much respect to you for reading.

  2. The only way I can relate to this is from my own experience… I have never been sexually abused but other forms of abuse certainly… from teachers, priests, my father, when I was very young other boys…. the physicality of what you describe brings back snatches… the way an older boys body could almost suffocate you and render you powerless… humiliation.. for being stupid, shy, sensitive, slow, timid whatever… I’M almost 60 but the memory still sometimes makes me want to sit down, piut my head between my legs, draw breath and weep.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your painful memories/experience. I appreciate it more than you know. I am so familiar with that feeling of wanting to curl up and weep. These memories are why the idea of no self has to be approached so carefully with survivors of childhood abuse. We know how to leave our bodies and be “no-self” don’t we? I could write so much on this topic, and probably should. Thank you again for reading and sharing. I am sending you thoughts of peace and grace.

  3. I love you and am so sorry that you had to endure that and still do so.

    • Thank you. But, no need to be sorry. It is done, and yes I live with it…some days more than others, but we all have suffering to bear. This just happens to be mine. Some days it is very difficult, but most days it is just my past and I am able to incorporate it and grow stronger.

  4. I am so sorry, but also, as you commented above, so happy that you have been able to encompass rather than outcompass it: namaste

    • Yes, it seems that you get it. I can only go through it not around, if I want any chance of living a full life without dissociation. Thank you.

  5. I return to this piece every time I pass by your site – it is a beautiful gift you have made to the world

    • It is wonderful to imagine that my little blurbs of honest reflection might actual help others. What a gift you give to suggest it. Thank you.

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