I was naked from the waist down on a treatment table in a small, sterile room. I adjusted the towel over my crotch—I had forgotten to wear underwear, again—and waited.
My husband and I wanted to have a baby. I was excited and nervous and committed to doing everything I could to prepare my body for pregnancy. I’d heard that acupuncture was great for supporting conception, so I’d booked a session with a practitioner who came highly recommended by a friend.
I had no idea what to expect.
The doctor walked in after what felt like hours. He was ageless, the sort of person who could be 97 or 51, and wore a leather vest over his white lab coat. He gave me experienced medical professional with a side of Mr. Miyagi vibes.
He got started right away.
“So you’re tight in the hips?”
He touched the right side of my belly. The pain was unbearable. He dug deeper. I pinched my eyes shut and squeezed my entire body tight to handle the pain. I had no clue acupuncture would hurt this much. I tried not to scream.
“When did you have sex with a boy for the first time?”
My body clenched tighter. Wait, what?
I was 13.
“Did you feel fear then?”
I held my breath. I’m usually an open book, but I was so taken aback by his direct questions and the pain in my belly that I couldn’t answer. The sensation of his fingers in my side felt like a ruptured appendix, but worse.
He finally let go. I told him I wouldn’t use the word fear but that, back then, I’d definitely felt uncomfortable. Now that I’m older, I added, I realized my body wasn’t ready to have sex.
“You have sex a lot, then?”
My palms got sweaty and my feet curled up. I didn’t come here to talk about this. I came here to talk about prepping my body to conceive.
“Well, I don’t know. What’s a lot? I had a few boyfriends in high school.”
He seemed frustrated with my answers, like he knew I wasn’t giving him the full story.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath in. He pushed hard into the left side of my stomach and asked if I could feel any pain there.
When he pushed into my right side again, my legs jumped up involuntarily. Any concern I had of my pubic hair being visible to him or his assistant flew out the window.
“When you were 14 and had sex, your kidneys weren’t ready and your body went into shock.”
As he kept talking, he kept pushing my right side. Everything in my body did not want to be talking about this, but I knew I had to throw him a bone.
“There was an incident. Later, when I was older.”
He stopped pushing and came closer to my face. Every part of me wanted to get the fuck out of that room, but as he hovered over me, I looked into his eyes and something about them made me feel comfortable. I took a breath in, but I couldn’t talk.
“What did he do?”
Tears streamed down my face.
“Tell me about it.”
His assistant patted my eyes with a tissue.
“I drank too much.”
“No, I just don’t remember. I knew him and I guess…”
“He took advantage of the situation.”
He turned his attention back to the right side of my body.
I was having a hard time breathing. Another half of my brain was telling me to get it together: I needed enough time to talk about conceiving, to ask what type of foods I should eat. That’s what I’m here to talk about. Not him.
He hovered over my face. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, he explained, he does 50% of the work and I have to do the other half.
I told him I’d already worked through it. I even wrote about it, I told him proudly .
“Western society says talk about it and you’ll feel better. But your body holds on; your body is not healed. Your mind may be okay but your body is hurting. Your soul was violated. Your soul is not okay; your soul is not healed.”
He handed me another tissue and came even closer to my face.
“I need you to forgive him.”
I saw the camera flash. The flash that woke me up and made me realize someone was on top of me. Inside of me.
“And this is the hardest part…I need you to forgive yourself.”
I lost it. My tissue had completely disintegrated. His assistant came back to dry my face.
“You need to forgive yourself.”
He must have said it 30 times.
They left the room and shut the lights on the way out. An infrared light was beaming over my belly. My whole body felt tense. I couldn’t bring myself to look at all the needles. Normally, my curious self would have already taken a peek, but I was terrified of the pain I’d experienced in my stomach. I held my breathe and quickly looked over: My right side was covered in needles.
The hypochondriac in me didn’t have time to process the poking, or wonder if the needles were sanitized. Nothing could stop the thoughts and flashbacks.
Why has it been so hard to forgive myself? Why I have walked around with so much shame for so many years?
It was my fault. I drank myself into a black out. I was the one who was out of control.
I thought of all the times I’ve had sex because I was uncomfortable.
The times I’ve had sex to please a new boy.
The times I told myself that sex was how I could get someone to like me.
Of all the times I felt loved by a man when what he was really feeling was lust.
Of the times I’ve had sex to keep a relationship from ending.
I thought of all the times I walked into a bar knowing that sex was my power.
Crying uncontrollably, I realized I’ve been giving away my power for years.
I’ve handed my body and my soul over to someone not worthy too many times.
I saw the camera flash again.
My body holds wounds so deep that I didn’t even know about them. I had to be pushed to a place of extreme physical pain so I could no longer ignore the pain I was carrying around subconsciously.
I may have forgiven him, but I’d never forgiven myself. I’d never dealt with the shame and the guilt that was, quite literally, buried in the deepest depths of me.
I asked my body for forgiveness. Through chronic UTIs, burst ovarian cysts, severe cramps on my right side that have kept me from running, my body has been asking me to pay attention to it. It told me it was hurting. I was hurting.
Your soul was damaged and your body remembers.
This year has been transformational for me. I launched a new business; I’m healing my relationship with my family; I’ve taken off masks; I feel ready to be a mother.
I’ve fully acknowledged my power as a woman by fiercely embracing my intuition.
Lying on the table, covered in needles and tears, it clicked.
I had known him for years and he always gave me the creeps. When he flirted with me I wanted to run for the hills. But I didn’t. I played nice. When we saw each other at social gatherings it felt like I could never escape him.
The hairs on my body rose up every time he made me uncomfortable, every time he said something inappropriate, every time he said my name.
I intuitively knew to stay the fuck away from him.
I fucking knew.
I put my guard down for one night, and what I subconsciously always knew would happen, happened.
And since that night I’ve been carrying around deep, deep shame about having betrayed myself by ignoring my intuition.
That’s why I haven’t been able to forgive myself.
And still, when our editor, Alison, wrote this incredible piece about how we train girls to override their intuition, none of these thoughts crept into my conscious.
It took a kind stranger’s hand jabbed deep into my abdomen to make me realize all the times I had betrayed myself. To make me realize all the times I’d used sex to avoid, to please, to control.
I left that appointment in daze. After a weekend heavy on journaling and self-care, I settled on two truths:
- There is nothing more powerful on this planet than a woman’s intuition. Most of the shameful, guilty stories I’ve carried around have been relics of times I ignored my own.
- Women’s bodies are sacred homes that carry our buried secrets. They are our soul’s messengers, constantly asking for our attention so we can heal our deepest depths.
We’d better start listening.
To all the women who are speaking openly about the emotional and physical effects of these types of raw wounds, thank you for the monumental courage it takes to speak up. Your words and stories have helped me more than anything else. And to all the women who don’t have a voice or are trying to find theirs: #MeToo. I’m with you.