Today I sat near-paralyzed, forcing myself to breathe deep breaths while my physical therapist moved my cervical vertebrae and their associated nerves, one by one, a little bit closer to their proper places. It was excruciating and disheartening. This is the treatment I spoke of in my previous post More than Surviving. The neuralgia is bad and the process necessary to reverse the damage intense. This isn’t the first time I’ve been at this stage.
Five years ago, this is the pain that held me prisoner in a marriage I didn’t want to be in. This is the pain that rendered me so helpless I couldn’t survive without my then-husband. This is the pain that held me sexually obedient to a man I didn’t want to touch me. I was completely dependent upon him because I couldn’t take care of myself. I was trapped.
I recognized today that I am facing alone pain that broke me five years ago, that forced me to give up my right to both be and feel safe. Certainly, we all want caring for sometimes, but today as I drive home, I relish in being the only one in my car and in going home to an empty apartment. Enduring this pain on my own, this is my freedom. It isn’t pretty, but it is not paying for care with sex. Sex as currency.
My ex-husband liked it when I was helpless and sick, when I needed him. He treated me better; he was kinder. My paralysis was his power.
Shame is having sex with your husband just so he’ll take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself.
The first time the neuralgia was this bad, I thought it meant my body belonged to someone else. I didn’t believe I had a choice. I feared my survival depended on my ex-husband’s benevolence, and his benevolence on my willingness to submit—and maybe it did.
I want to say that I was wrong back then, but I’m not completely sure. I don’t know what would have happened if I had denied him my body, what I thought was his right as my husband anyway. As long as I had sex with him, he was gentle and loving and helped me. When I denied him, his love was cold. If he had abandoned me—or if I had left then—I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to take care of myself, never mind my kids.
I don’t know if strength is inborn and growth the result of recognizing it within ourselves, or if strength is something we gain as we go through life, building it out of necessity and desire. But it nevertheless seems to increase with time and experience. I see that in my life and in my children’s.
As I face my pain alone today, I can see how far I’ve come. I’m so much stronger than I was, stronger than I ever knew I could be. It’s a victory in every way.