I need to say that this past weekend at Playground was so incredibly awesome and I am still processing much of what I heard and thought about my time there. I have many, many posts brewing about my experiences – a lot of firsts, boundary-pushing, perspective expanding and paradigm-shifting goodness.
But I need to start with the hard stuff first.
I attended the panel on Sexuality for Survivors. I knew, after what I went through, not quite two months ago now that it would be hard but I feel/felt like I need to push and drive my healing process forward. So I pulled on my big girl panties, as I like to say, and I went.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Ruthie and included Andrea Bredbeck, Julie Veilleux, and Stef Woods. I promise to write about what was said in a later post because it was all incredibly brave, powerful and empowering for these women to offer to share their thoughts and experiences about sexuality after trauma.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I hesitated to even attend the conference for a myriad of reasons, none of them about the conference itself. Much of my hesitancy stemmed from worrying about being at a sexuality conference and not feeling remotely sexual since my rape. Actually these days anything more than a hug through layers of clothes makes me anxious and afraid. I was worried that listening and talking about sex would be uncomfortable or difficult but it wasn’t until that panel.
As I was listening to the panelists share their struggles, I was trying to take notes. I had to stop at some points. As I listened I had a physical response I’ve experienced only once before when I finally spoke out loud about my rape with my social worker for the first time. I started to lose peripheral vision; the edges of my vision were cloudy and I could only see clearly what was in front of me. I got flushed and anxious. I felt hypersensitive like every word spoken was echoing in my head.
Both types of trauma – rape and breast cancer hit close to home for me. When I was little I’d watched my aunt slowly die from breast cancer. It’s something that haunts all the women on the maternal side of my family. It can be so devastating and to hear Stef talk about her experience brought up a lot of memories I’ve tried to forget. Julie, Andrea and Dr. Ruthie’s words about sexual trauma tore open my own newly bandaged wound.
Listening to them, I felt exposed.
As the discussion went on, I became more raw, more vulnerable and more emotions started to come to the surface for me. I wanted to run out of the room but I was rooted in my seat, hanging on their every word.
I stayed through to the end of the panel. Once it was over, I took a breath and approached Dr. Ruthie. I swear my intention was simply to say thank you for offering up such a powerful discussion. And as soon as I got the words out, the tears came. I was truly overwhelmed. I don’t cry in front of people, certainly not a stranger but there I was blubbering my way through (or trying really hard to) why I was so emotional, what I appreciated hearing, why I was glad I’d been there and my fear that I will not get my sexuality back. I have no idea how coherent any of it was (poor Dr. Ruthie) but she listened, offered me kind words and extended the offer for me to contact her. I am grateful we had those few moments to chat – it gave me enough reassurance to stick out the rest of the afternoon and spend time in the wrap up.
Julie said that the message that she wished she’d received was, “it takes time to heal”. I needed to hear that because I want so badly to just be over what happened to me to never think of it or deal with it (even though I am thinking of it – often – and dealing with it in therapy). I want to push myself to heal to move forward to move past it and it doesn’t happen like that. So thank you Julie.
As difficult as it was for me to sit in the ballroom listening to this discussion, I am so incredibly glad I did.