The site was down last night due to me not paying my annual fee on time (oops) so today shall be what I was going to write last night.
I went to an AA meeting yesterday as a lay person (they have these yearly open gatherings for AA members and lay people). It was interesting to hear the stories of the individuals that shared. I won’t go into detail about that as that’s not the focal point of my wordy rambling today. Myself and my 2 friends sat at the back of the room and there was an extra seat next to me that was put there for a dog-owner but she decided she didn’t want the seat and, I think, left quite shortly after that (I don’t think the 2 were related, but you never know…maybe she had a phobia of red plastic chairs?).
And then it happened…I saw a man in shorts swan into the room and make his way over to the empty chair next to me. internal screaming. I pleaded that he would sit in the seat that was 4 rows in front of me. All he would have to do was shimmy in front of 5 interested listeners to make it to his seat. Alas….this did not happen. I could not take away his human ability to find the quickest solution to comfort and he did the inevitable…he sat next to me.
My body tightened and is shuffled myself ever so slightly towards my friend who was sitting to the right of me. I was trapped.
Now is the time that I disclose to you that I am deeply uncomfortable with people touching me or being physically close to me unless I know them and I feel safe enough to allow them to hug me. I’m usually OK with women being next to me, but men…whoa!! That’s a whole other matter. It’s not all men that I get this reaction from (one of my best friends is a man, but that might also be because he is gentle, introverted and just gets it). I had a reaction once from a man that I shared some of my past with that hadn’t touched or hugged me at all until he thought that since I disclosed this bit of information that we had crossed some kind of barrier and it was acceptable for him to touch me without my permission. I have these boney lumps on the back of both my hands (I don’t know what the sciencey name for them is but it’s not a thing that needs medical attention…I think it might even be genetic) and he was clearly interested in them and he reached over and touched my hand. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to prepare myself or tell him that I need permission first. My body tightened, I started to sweat, my vision went blurry and my world suddenly became very dark. My mind was racing but I was frozen. I could barely get any words out and every sound I made took an insurmountable amount of energy. I was terrified at that very moment. It took every ounce of my being to stand up and go to the bathroom. It was the only place I felt safe in this man’s house. It was the only place I felt that I had privacy and to collect myself. I looked at myself in the mirror and I was sheet-white. My palms were clammy and my underarms were swampy. I breathed and took some time to collect myself. I was having a trauma reaction and I just needed to breathe my way through it. My head was fuzzy and I felt very tired. I eventually left the bathroom and made my way through to the living room where he was sitting. I sat next to him (with enough distance between us so that we weren’t touching, not even clothes) and said with a shakey voice, the words I had been practicing in my head in the bathroom,
“I need you to ask for my permission before you touch me.”
I had a reaction because my gut instinct had warned me before this event that this man was not good for me. It took me 2 years after our first meeting and naively getting romantically involved (twice!) with him to recognise that this man was dangerous for my mental wellbeing (I won’t go into the details here about the things he said and did, but what I will tell you is that he is a covert malignant narcissist) and cut him out of my life forever.
So…back to this man in the plastic chair next to me. He had this bumbag that he was wearing and he kept shuffling it around himself. He took out some lotion stuff and rubbed it on his hands. It smelled so strong (I think it was that deep heat stuff) and the camphor was radiating up my nostrils. I could feel my body stiffen as he reached down the space between us. Urgh, I hated that he probably brushed himself against my clothes. I had this image come in to my head during this whole time that I had a bubble around me, a protective bubble you might say. I imagined it was being squashed by this man and his bubble was pressing against mine. I inhaled and exhaled and imagined my bubble pushing against his and I felt it grow. I refused to let this man’s bubble invade mine. It got so big that I could sit at ease and wasn’t affected as much by his presence. It got to the end of the meeting and people started to hug and shake hands. This man stood up and reached his hand out for a handshake. I put both my hands against my chest (palms facing outwards) and said to him that I don’t touch people. He turned away and didn’t seem to care, but it was a win for me. I hugged my 2 friends (I know…my statement to him is hypocritical but fuck that, it’s how I protect myself) and I told them all about it outside. I felt so proud of myself. Just because everybody else seemed to be doing it, didn’t mean that I had to. It’s a boundary for me. The thought of touching that man’s hand and his skin touching mine feels like a violation and disgusts me.
I don’t know who that man was…he might be a nice guy for all I know, but just because I can assume something about someone, doesn’t mean I have to suffer through something that will send me into a trauma spiral and do what seems to be so “normal” for others around me. I don’t have to tolerate something that makes me uncomfortable, just because my mind tells me to do it so as not to offend. FUCK YOU VOICE!!
I feel so empowered. I can say “no” and not owe any explanation.
I had 2 of my favourite women by my side who listened, understood and shared their similarities with me.
I am a human woman who, through no fault of my own, was subjected to physical and emotional cruelty from a young age. My mind is further healed than my body. My body still remembers the unexpected assault of the flesh.
My body instinctively knows when someone isn’t safe. I’m learning to listen to it before the barrage of voices fill my entire being with doubt. I am saying “no” before I say “yes”.
I am a proud and empowered human woman.
Love and hugs x