My body is a minefield, a map of memories and hurt and pain. I can’t look at my own body, I can’t even let myself connect with my body without that pain coming to the surface. It’s so often assumed that the pain of exited women is all mental and emotional, which a good chunk of it definitely is, but similarly to other survivors, we also have to live with the, often permanent, physical ramifications of trauma.
Living with these permanent reminders is one of the hardest things for me. Each time my knees give way or suffer a particularly violent shot of pain, I’m reminded of exactly how they were broken, exactly what caused them to be so weak and left me needing regular physio. Same when I suffer a migraine or a fibro. flare-up or when my shoulders are especially painful. I was naive to think that the pain would stop upon exiting.
In a lot of ways, I’m lucky. My body isn’t quite as much of a mess as it should be, considering what it’s been through, but living with those permanent reminders, whether they be physical scars or pain or old injuries flaring up gets harder and harder each day. And it’s not just the direct results of trauma, it’s the indirect results too – it’s the fibro., the migraines, the UTI’s, the IBS and possibly even the asthma.
Studies show that all the above conditions, as well as many others, have very, very strong links to trauma. That the body holds just as much trauma as the mind does and it doesn’t respond to it overly well. Between the physical remains and the chronic conditions, my body is constantly trying to remind me of the trauma I went through and whilst it’s vaguely possible to escape your own body with dissociation, it’s not always. I can never escape the pain and trauma of prostitution.
It’s hard enough living with the mental effects of trauma, but having to live with the permanent physical reminders just makes life so much harder. I can’t even walk without being reminded of what they did to me. I can’t lift up a cup of coffee without risking dropping it from nerve damage. I can’t lift my shoulder too high because of an old dislocation.
And I’m not the only one. Whether it’s a direct result of injuries, old scars or the chronic health conditions that we’re left with as a result of trauma, I’m not the only exited woman to live with constant reminders, constant pain. It’s not just the emotional and mental aftermath we have to deal with, it’s the physical, too.
So often survivors, and especially exited women (because it’s just a ‘choice’ and therefore can’t possibly be traumatic) are told to just ‘get over it’, to just ‘forget it’. But we’re not just fighting the emotional aftermath, it’s the physical, too.
And that’s not even considering the effect that the physical aftermath has on our emotional states. Besides the sheer levels of dissociation we have to reach to distance ourselves from our bodies and thus the pain, we also have to deal with the associated depression, memories of trauma, shame and humiliation, deal with the crap people with invisible disabilities deal with and deal with the extreme levels of body hating that exited women are able to reach. Whether we respond to this body hating with self-harm, starving ourselves, binge eating, purging, over-exercise, body modifications, hiding our bodies with big, baggy clothes, dissociation or any other numerous responses, the root cause is still the same – hatred of our own bodies. And can you blame us, can you blame us for hating our own bodies so much? Our bodies were the source of our trauma, the vessel, the ‘thing’ it happened to. And then it feels the need to remind us of that trauma each and every single day with the pain and the scars and the injuries and the body memories. Of course we want to dissociate right out of our bodies, of course we want to destroy our bodies, change our bodies, take control over our own bodies. Just anything, anything to make the pain of trauma finally stop – even if it takes years and years and years after trauma for it to finally stop – and with the ever lingering fear that it never, never will.
(Please note, I’ve been too ill – I’ve ironically had migraines all week whilst writing this post -to actually read the links provided above in full, but they show a relationship between the mentioned conditions and a history of trauma.)