Diane Langberg’s book, On the Threshold of Hope, is full of wise and healing advice. So much so, that I couldn’t actually get past a particular chapter.
Turns out, there are things even I would rather not face head on.
What a lot of survivors won’t tell you is that we fight a seemingly endless battle against ourselves. Sometimes, it manifests in ways that are particularly embarrassing. So, as someone who started this to bring things like this to light. Here goes:
As a survivor of sexual abuse, I struggle with hygiene.
I used to think that I was weird and gross and that there was enough deodorant and mouthwash to make up for it. I didn’t see my unwillingness to bathe more than (yes) two or three times a week and stints of un-brushed teeth as anything more than a personal quirk. Furthermore, I didn’t think it had anything to do with my inability to develop healthy eating habits or structured work out time. I just considered those things, well, American. Except, I restricted my food intake instead of eating too much too often.
Then Diane set me straight.
There at the beginning of a chapter (I’m not telling you so you can’t skip it), was an answer I was not expecting or looking for.
Survivors often struggle with healthy self-care because they blame their bodies for the abuse.
“If I wasn’t a girl, it wouldn’t have happened”
“If I wasn’t _____ I could have stopped it”
“If I wasn’t wearing ______ I would have been left alone”
“If I didn’t look this way, I wouldn’t have been abused/assaulted/raped”
I was hoping to coast through life unwashed and rarely shaved and poorly nourished because it was just a thing. Not a-thing-that-comes-from-abuse.
Turns out I’m not weird for getting super anxious about showering or washing my face. I’m not peculiar for forgetting to brush my teeth. I’m not uncommon in the world of women who have survived.
I need to forgive my body. It didn’t betray me, my abusers did. They preyed on me. What I look like made little difference. I wasn’t sexy when I was four. I wasn’t asking for anything when I was assaulted as a young adult. It isn’t my fault, it isn’t my body’s fault. It doesn’t matter what I was wearing or doing when I was abused. I didn’t choose to be raped, someone chose to rape me.
Someone else made a decision about my body.
There. If you are a survivor, don’t feel weird anymore. You aren’t alone. Baby wipes will never stop being your friend. I’ve even abandoned covering my hairy legs in the summer.
Setting a healthy routine is difficult. But it’s okay. Talk to someone about it. If you are a caregiver, ask the person you love if they are feeling weird about this stuff.
You aren’t alone.
This may seem like a smaller problem than flashbacks or nightmares or panic attacks, but that doesn’t make it less important. It’s just one more way that you aren’t by yourself in this and another thing to help you get better and not just get by.
Forgive your body. It isn’t to blame and neither are you.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/doug88888/4489411222/”>@Doug88888</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>