Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Terrified Of Body Contact

It wasn't that long ago that I struggled with being close to other people.   I wanted touch so badly from others, but I was terrified of it.  I knew my body had been violated, but I never pieced it together in those moments.  I was so very terrified of body contact.

I kept people at a distance from me.  I didn't let people touch my back, touch my arms or anything else.  The touch was terrifying.  It would make my skin crawl as if ants were walking up and down my body.  It would make me nauseous.  It would make me angry.  I would feel helpless and almost like I was being abused and raped and violated all over again.

People often think that unsolicited hugs are a good thing.  To someone that hasn't been violated sexually and physically, they most likely are.  However, in my case, they are not.  You had better be someone I completely trust and feel safe with or you will be giving me the heebie-jeebies.  You had better ask permission or I will be left feeling like you had just physically assaulted and tortured me.  There are few people who can readily hug me and I feel safe and warm and loved.  Even for the people I feel safe with, they know to check in with me before just attempting to hug me.

When I first met Jeff, any touch or physical contact between us for a time was horrendous.  I would feel like puking my guts out.  We had to work with all these things and the best form of help I found through this was the ability to just say "NO, Don't touch me"!  We always honored that in each other and it helped me heal this in many ways.

Going to massage school began helping me to accept touch, but I swear that for the first couple of months at least, I wanted to escape my body.  In fact for a long time, I could not feel the touch of another classmate.  I numbed out.  I disconnected and became an observer seeing the touch, but not sensing it.

Then I found Unified Therapy with Dr. Paul Canali and soon began to learn that touch could be healing and helpful, but I was still terrified and horrified.  I felt out of control.  I felt at times like I was experiencing the trauma all over again.  Fortunately Dr Canali had a safe touch and he had done the work on himself that he needed to do, so inherently I knew I could trust him. 

I struggle when I am in crowds.  I pick up so much about people around me and when people start coming in contact with me physically, it is information overload. This is part of the reason I shy away from crowds.  The more rapid the pace of movement in a crowd, the more I am overwhelmed.

From Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score, he states the following about trauma survivors being terrified of body contact.

"The most natural way for human beings to calm themselves when they are upset is by clinging to another person. This means that patients who have been physically or sexually violated face a dilemma: They desperately crave touch while simultaneously being terrified of body contact."

What he says, makes perfect sense to me.  I remember uttering some of those same thoughts over the year that I craved touch, but was so terrified of it.  I wanted people to love me, but any body contact left me feeling abused once again.

He is right though in his book that in order to heal trauma, you must begin to connect with your body and sensing your body.  This is not easy, but counseling and talking will only bring you so far without the body component.  It is when we begin to feel our bodies that we become connected to them.  The more we become connected, the less terrified of body contact we are.

I'm still a work in progress and while I have come a long ways in this healing part of my life, there are still times when I put the "DO NOT DISTURB" sign on my body.  I now realize that what I went through takes time to fully heal.  It isn't a get healed quick scheme, but a progression of freedom from the layers that built up early in my life.

Blog Post And Images (c) 4/29/15 by Don Shetterly

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