transpersonal living thinking and living beyond the self

Breaking Down Walls: One Woman’s Journey

By Anonymous

My 35th birthday fell on Father’s Day this year. I’ve been watching Brene Brown videos on youtube every time I get restless and am in need of a breakthrough. I’d been thinking about walls and coming out from behind them and vulnerability and all of the things that Brene Brown says spurs creativity and change and happiness. My life coach recently told me that I have packed a lot of living into my 35 years. I’ve been actively deconstructing what those 35 years have taught me in order to live the next 35 years even better.

You get to a certain point in your life and realize that what you risk in staying behind your walls can be just as big, if not bigger, than coming out from behind them and being vulnerable. Think about it, the longer you keep your walls up, the longer you are alone, without any true connection to the outside world. Experience ingrains in us that letting down our walls leads to hurt. Which brings us to the question: what hurt caused you to put up that original wall? How old were you when that happened? Are you walls still intact? Are they thicker? Are there cracks that you can peak through?

I was lying in bed one night, determined to figure out the mystery of my own walls. For me, it was never as simple as recognizing the thing that hurt me as a child, acknowledging it, letting it go, and moving on. There was another layer to it. A primal layer. I had to get underneath the knowing of what had happened to me. And yet, my walls are still up. 35, single, overweight. Sure, it’s easy to say: you were hurt by a man when you were younger, and so you’ve put up a layer of fat to protect you. But I’ve always been aware of that cliché, and have always known there is a deeper layer.

And it dawned on me. I was lying awake, thinking of ‘normal’ families, and remembering the difficulty of doing something simple like a church retreat with my family when I was younger. I remember when the kumbaya moments, when we were supposed to come together and forgive and be whole. This was when I sought my father’s attention the most, when I thought that he had to behave because the minister was watching, and I could approach him with the least amount of reproach.

It was while remembering the oddity of these moments when I realized when my first walls went up. They went up for primal reasons. As a child my father violated my boundaries. He abused me. He created the hostile environment in which I grew up. Though it wasn’t his abuse that sent up my walls.

My walls went up as a result of having “betrayed” my father by having told, changing my life forever. I was seven. Once I told, I was kept home from school for two days, I was locked in my room with a bucket to pee in, scant food brought to me. My parents were more concerned with keeping my father’s record clean than they were with how he’d abused me. I became persona non grata in my own home. I had betrayed the family unit and I was threatened with expulsion – to go live in foster care, or a Christian group home as punishment. The rejection, knowing that I could be so easily sent away and not being valued enough to protect, was a difficult pill to swallow, so I fearfully clung to what I knew.

From a sociological standpoint, when a person commits an act worthy of being expelled from the tribe, this is akin to a death sentence. At one time, people depended on the village to live – being sent into the desert meant the end of you. This fear, this knowledge that exists in the pit of our gut, is hardwired into our DNA. And thusly, I was confronted with a primal fear at a very early age. Once having experienced a virtual threat of death, if we manage to escape it, we self-correct in order to avoid having to experience such a thing ever again. This is often why victims of abuse are often not able to acknowledge that they were abused, especially if this abuse occurred within the family unit, until they are older and independent, free from the those that once provided for their needs. As long as you’re in a position to depend upon the family for your survival, even if you are being abused and it seems counter intuitive to not tell, you will do what it takes to protect your family unit – your providers.

From the time I told on my father, I was ostracized by my parents – my brothers were kept in the dark though certainly they knew there had been a violent shift in the way I was regarded within the home. I remember the daily shame I felt any time I had to enter a room knowing my father was in it, or be in a car with him. I remember his lack of eye-contact. I remember the subdued tone of his voice when he managed to speak to me like I was a human, instead of yelling at me (yelling was his primary distancing tool). Never did my father say he was sorry; sorry that I’d ever think he’d do that to me – sorry for what he did. His reaction towards me was that of a guilty man who’d been betrayed. I am certain by telling I managed to put a stop to his grooming in it’s tracks. I lost my father’s touch, good or bad, the day I told. Most likely, I also stymied future attempts at something worse.

As I became an adolescent, my body puffed up from the twig I had been, and as my womanly features began to blossom I learned to walk with my chest caved in and my shoulders hunched. Any exhibition of my femininity would result in hostile behavior from my father, first leering and then screaming at me to distance himself from his own guilt. Sickly, I still wanted his love and competing with my brothers was the only way I knew how to get any kind of safe attention. I began to starve away anything feminine about myself until my doctor tested my thyroid and asked about a possible eating disorder.

Though it was never spoken of again under that particular roof, the incident of my telling hung over me until I got out of that house. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I was able to utter again what had happened to me without fear of disastrous consequences. I spoke of it first with a therapist. Second with my mother, who apologized profusely for having not believed me and having taken part in the denial of my father’s sickness. Their divorce which took place in my teens helped bring her to terms with the reality of what had happened. Having shared with a counselor in second grade about my father’s molestive machinations had done nothing to benefit me at the time. I’d had no motivation other than to tell the truth. I stood to gain nothing, except to have it stopped; to make a claim on my body, and to know that it was mine and that no one, not even the man who made me, had a right to touch it.

April Alienation

And today, as I reflect on vulnerability I think of how hard I have worked to restore connectivity within myself, and I know that it will manifest itself outwards. These walls have brought me to where I am today, they have served their purpose: I have survived. And now they are falling – it was self-preservation that put them up and it is an act of self-preservation to dismantle them.

*Post Script: I have shed 40 pounds from my highest weight, I wear make-up and fitted clothes and walk with my head up. I date; and each new experience I have with a man, in bed or out of it, chips away at the walls I’ve been working so hard to tear down. Healing caresses or naughty spanks are both enticing – the simple ability to explore these primal things with a partner is a reflection on how far I’ve come (no pun intended). I’m no longer the girl who starts shivering and shutting down when a man draws near. I’ve learned that my sexuality and ability to connect were not stolen from me; they were mine all along – to embrace and to be shared, on my own terms.

 

 

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