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Oct 03

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Sexual healing

You know how people talk about “the first day of the rest of their lives”?  Well, this kinda feels like that because I’m about to share some things I’ve never spoken about publicly before.  And it’s big.  Really, really big.  And I’m doing it because I’ve felt like I was alone in the shadows for so long…and now that I understand how untrue that is, I want to talk to those of you who feel like you’re alone in the shadows.  Because there are a lot of us.

Buckle your safety belt.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

*Deep breath*

Wildly inappropriate

I’ve spoken at some length here about the emotional abuse I experienced as a result of my father’s alcoholism and general jacked-up-ed-ness.  But there’s another piece of the story that’s not so easy to talk about.

It’s about how he interacted with me around sex.  He told me he would break the kneecaps of any boy who dared to touch me and that he would lock me in my room until I was 30 – leading me to believe that it would be unsafe to be in a relationship with anyone.

While it was unsafe for me to be sexual with anyone else, it was my father who was sexual with me…he spoke to me sexually about my own body; he spoke to me about his sexual relationship with my mother; he spoke to me sexually about women other than my mother; and he spoke sexually to women other than my mother in front of me.

It took a long time for me to come to grips with the fact that this was, in fact, sexual abuse.  It didn’t (for the most part) include laying his hands on me sexually, but it was wildly inappropriate sexual contact with a child.  In the years since, as I’ve learned more about this type of sexual abuse (which has a variety of names including emotional incest and emotional sexual abuse) I’ve learned that a lot of counselors and therapists consider it particularly insidious because there’s nothing concrete for the child to point to and say, “That’s when and how I was abused.”

The child is left feeling like they are the one that is crazy. We carry the aftereffects of having been sexually violated without the actual event of having been molested.

I have felt this sense of debilitating confusion around sex since I can remember.

Getting it “over with”

My entry into the world of sex came quite late. Between depression, fear, and a destructive self image, I was certain that no one would ever want to be with me.

Finally, at age 23, I entered my first serious relationship. It was deeply dysfunctional from day one – he was numbing out with marijuana multiple times a day and I was so depressed that I couldn’t see beyond my own nose.  Neither one of us was capable of having a grown-up relationship.

When I thought about having sex with him for the first time, I wasn’t anticipating something beautiful or meaningful…it was about “getting it over with” so I wouldn’t be the oldest living virgin anymore.

It should be no surprise that with that attitude, it wasn’t beautiful, meaningful, enjoyable or satisfying.  We stayed together for close to two years and I cried when we had sex.  Every. Single. Time.

I desperately wanted to have a good sexual experience, so I kept trying.  I tried to bring creative new ideas that might help me/us, but nothing did.

At some point, he started telling me that I was broken.  Specifically he said, “Your father broke you and now it’s my job to fix you.” He told me that I wasn’t very good in bed.

Now, on top of feeling afraid and unsafe, I was broken and a bad lover too.

When I finally got the courage to walk away from that relationship I was convinced that I was such a bad lover that no one would ever want to have sex with me.

Trying to prove myself

Sex had become so fraught that I rarely engaged in it.

Over the next twelve years, I only had sex with two other men .  In each case, I felt like I had to work extra hard to overcome how bad I was in bed, but I was also immobilized by fear.

I frequently initiated things, trying to be spontaneous and fun and exciting, but once we got started, I would lie on my back and wait for it to be over.

Sex became something that I both craved and dreaded.

A tentative break-through

In 2011, six months after starting The Miracle Journal, I met Mr. Blue Eyes.

For the first time, I was able to be fully present.

Part of the difference was him – never before had I felt so completely seen and adored for who I am, and that made it easier to show up.

But a big part of the difference was me.  I had shifted my perspective to looking for the good instead of fixating on the bad.

For the first time, I had a fulfilling orgasm…during intercourse!  I still didn’t believe I was a good lover, but at least I felt like I wasn’t the world’s worst lover.

Until the day when he started to withdraw from me sexually.

It confirmed all of my worst fears.  Not only did I feel rejected, but I felt like I’d been set up by the Universe – I’d gotten used to feeling worthless, and just when I began to feel like maybe I was okay, the whole thing came crashing down around me.  Then he told me he wasn’t in love with me anymore. It just added fuel to the fire of all those old beliefs.

(Without going into any details, I now understand that his withdrawal was about his own dysfunction, not about my performance.  But that’s Monday morning quarterbacking – I definitely couldn’t believe that at the time.)

It has been almost two years since things ended with Mr. Blue Eyes.  Until a couple months ago, I couldn’t think about sex without putting his face on it (meaning, to be blunt, that I couldn’t fantasize about sex because it made me so sad.)

I’m not that kind of girl…oh wait, maybe I am!!

A couple months ago I met a guy. It was pretty clear that we weren’t well suited for a romantic relationship, but we had great chemistry.

On our second date, I had to make a decision – listen to the voice that said, “I’m not the kind of girl who has sex outside a relationship”… or a new voice that said, “Why not?”  I was ready to have some fun that wasn’t so fraught with expectations.

For the first time ever, I had sex on a second date and outside a committed relationship.

And it was great!  I had fun!  I wanted to do it again!

A new side of myself was emerging – one that is willing to ask for what I want; one that is confident enough to believe that she deserves it; one that isn’t willing to entertain disrespectful behavior.

come-out-of-the-shadowsAnd a fascinating dynamic developed with this guy – one in which I became the leader with someone who wanted to explore and wanted some guidance. The feedback I got from him didn’t include anything about me being broken or bad in bed.  In fact, he’s vocally appreciative of our time together.

When I look inside myself, I see someone who is feeling stronger, more empowered, and more womanly.

Sexual healing

Which brings us to last week. I got a message from that long-ago boyfriend who had told me I was so terribly broken, asking if we could talk on the phone. We haven’t had a conversation in over a decade.

I have carried a huge amount of anger at him.  I have been SO angry that I made him into an ogre in my mind.

But as I anticipated our phone conversation, something BIG shifted. I realized just how much I contributed to the dysfunction of that relationship.  I was so convinced that I was damaged and broken that I chose a partner who continually affirmed that for me.  In fact, I couldn’t have had a relationship with someone who treated me well because I didn’t believe I deserved it.

When we got on the phone, an astounding thing happened – we were able to reach back through the years and acknowledge each of our roles in that relationship and apologize to each other.

I spent most of last weekend feeling like my head had exploded.  How to reconcile 12 years of believing someone is the devil incarnate with a single conversation that shows that he’s just a man who’s been dealing with his own demons?

But it gets even more mind blowing….

The other day I got another message from him.  It read in part, “…even though our sex life was super dysfunctional you were actually a very good lover because you cared, you tried and you were adventurous. Those things were important to me and I appreciated it.”

Things aren’t always what they look like

Wow.

I based my beliefs about my safety in sexual situations on incomplete information from my dad.

I based my judgments of myself as a lover for the last 15 years on incomplete information from an old boyfriend.

And we all know that the largest sexual organ in the body – the one that governs our ability to feel and engage and respond – is our brain.  My brain was so filled with incomplete information and other useless garbage that there wasn’t room for healthy sexual encounters.

The fear of being broken and unlovable started very young and followed me through my life.  No one person is the bad guy in this story – I just used everything I heard from them to confirm what I already believed.

But it was compounded by the fact that I was too scared to talk about any of it.  I kept quiet so it festered.

I wish I could reach back to that 7 year old girl, and the 12 year old girl, and the 17 year old girl, and the 23 year old young woman, and all the rest and tell them – you are okay.  There’s nothing wrong.  You are not broken.  The only thing that needs to change is what you’re thinking.

If you take away one thing from this post…

I hope it’s that no matter what your version of sexual fear/dysfunction/discomfort is, you’re not broken.  You are still reliving some old messages, patterns and beliefs that you picked up somewhere along the way…but you are entirely capable of releasing them.  And you will when you’re ready.

You are not alone.

We are not broken.

Men are not the enemy.  Parents are not the enemy.  Society and TV and magazines are not the enemy.

The enemy is this: SILENCE.

It’s time to start talking about our sexuality.  It’s time to start sharing our fears and experiences. It’s time to start supporting each other in finding our power and strength as women.

It’s time to start being proud of our sexuality – not so that we can flaunt it in everyone else’s faces, but so that we can feel proud of who we are and worthy of the love and respect we deserve.

Because we are women and we matter.

Let’s start the conversation here.

About the author

Leah Carey

Leah Carey is the Chief Miracle Officer of The Miracle Journal, where she writes about the large and small miracles that happen in her life every day. She is a life coach, speaker, journalist, freelance writer, and lover of life. In all of those pursuits, she works with people to identify what’s already right in your life so you can build an even more joyful and fulfilling daily experience from that foundation. You can find her on Facebook, , Twitter, and YouTube.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.themiraclejournal.com/2013/10/03/sexual-healing/

18 comments

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  1. Susan

    Leah, thank you. You are courageous. I thank you because I needed to hear this. I have been digging back through my first sexual encounters and identifying the incomplete information that has fed my judgements but I didn’t have the words to articulate it this way. You have helped me to understand what I need to dig through and why.

    You wrote “I wish I could reach back to that 7 year old girl, and the 12 year old girl, and the 17 year old girl, and the 23 year old young woman, and all the rest and tell them – you are okay.” I believe that you can reach back and tell them. They are waiting to hear from you!

    As always, admiring you with love,
    Susan (Morse)

    1. Leah Carey

      I agree, Susan – it’s funny, I’ve actually been talking to my “inner children” more naturally in the last few weeks, which probably has eased this whole process. In the past it’s something I’ve only done it as part of a structured process; but recently I’ve found myself quite unthinkingly rubbing my heart area and talking to them…usually starting with, “It’s okay Little Leah. We’re okay.”

      I’m so glad this spoke to you where you are as well, Susan. Sending you a big hug!

  2. Christian Peck

    I know I am not a female but I would like to share my story anyways. When I was 13 years old I was raped by a stranger in the woods. I went home and told my parents, we went to the police, reports, composite scetch, stake out ….. After that nothing was ever said about it. My sister decided to tell my friends about my dirty little secret which I’m sure didn’t help me much. I don’t blame them for how they handled it and have talked to them about it in recent years. As a shy 13 year old boy going back to school not knowing who knew about it, I’m sure it did some damage that formed who I am today. I look back at the direction my life took and some of the choices I have made over the years and can only wonder how much of this was effected by that one day. How much running did I do? Is that why when I moved from home I went 2000 miles away with no plan? A 15 year marriage filled with sexual regection didn’t help much either I’m sure.
    They say time heals all pain, well “they” are full of s@#$. 32 years after it happened tears are still streaming down my face as I think of it. I’m not sure how this has formed me over the years and I guess it doesn’t really matter. I find myself now, as a single father with custody of my 2 daughters. One of which is a teen. How do I deal with sexuality with them? We have very open conversations about sex but I’m sure they sence my anger when we discuss how to handle someone trying to violate the boundries they have set. How will I be able to handle it when they bring a boyfriend home? Should I ever tell them?
    I need to take a break.

    1. Leah Carey

      Dear Christian,
      You have reminded me of something really important – that it isn’t just women who suffer from sexual violence and sexual shame. I thank you and apologize for my oversight as I wrote this.

      I am really touched by your bravery in sharing your story publicly and I hope that it has provided some relief of pent up emotion to do so. Letting go of those emotions can be painful in the moment – so I totally understand your need to take a break – but it’s like venting the pressure in a system so it doesn’t explode.

      It’s unfortunate that when you were a child the others in your world didn’t respond in the way that you needed/wanted them to, but now you have the opportunity to treat yourself with the love and support that you wanted from them. You also have the opportunity to treat your daughters with the love and support that you wanted from others at that age. It doesn’t make up for what happened to you, but it allows you to bring a level of empathy and understanding that many men don’t take the opportunity to access and explore.

      I hope you can take away from this that you are NOT broken. There is NOTHING wrong with you. All of those things happened to a young boy who didn’t do ANYTHING to deserve it.

      Sending you a hug and all my love,
      Leah

    2. Jen

      Dear Christian,
      You are not alone and you are not broken. Thank you for sharing your story with us. That takes great courage and is a large part of the healing process. Ihope you can seek out some kind of support for yourself. I know your girls are blessed to have you to support them. You will find your way because you are ok right where you are for now.

      Sending you more hugs and love,
      Jen

  3. Mama

    Again, thank you for being COURAGE in action!

    Witnessing your courage encourages & nudges me to be & do the same. I love how you frame & express your stories. I can sense all of the emotions woven into this story. You are so right about how those inappropriate encounters/experiences leave us paralyzed with all sorts of negative & violent self talk. Your reminder, I am not broken is so essential to begin the healing process. Continue living blessed & being the light.

    Peace & much love,

    1. Leah Carey

      Thank you Mama!!!! I am so grateful for your support and love. You are a Godsend.
      All my love…

  4. Chara

    Leah, I so respect your honesty and self-healing! It seems that in our culture, with its odd and mixed attitudes toward sexuality, just about everyone needs sexual healing at some level, whether it’s minimal or massive. Good for you for finding a higher level of wholeness and joy!
    Chara recently posted at their blog…You are invited to “Repair the Earth, Heal Yourself: 4 Actions for Mutual Flourishing”

    1. Leah Carey

      I agree, Chara – it seems like very few people in this culture gets through life without some level of sexual shame.
      Thank you so much for your feedback!

  5. Belinda Phillips

    Hi Leah! Interesting, how we all are connected. I loved being part of your several week writing workshop in Plymouth a number of years ago- how time flies. I felt we connected at that time but have had some kind of discomfort with your recent writing, besides feeling I’d found my own “salvation” over time in other areas. But there’s always been an itch or something about you that had been in the way of accepting your comments fully. I should have gotten it- my heightened sensitivity from my own life story- but there was always something NOT said that bugged me! And here you are, validating my largely unconscious suspicions! I was not sexually abused, but emotionally… and almost never told the truth about important things, and at 73 I’m having flashbacks and realizing that it makes me crazy when people withhold significant parts of themselves, their sexuality, their fears, their imperfections, their truths about who they really are.

    Again and again I withdraw from folks who are hiding their essential selves with all sorts of walls and coverings and distractions for “protection” against revealing who they really are . And so the work continues…. kudos and love to you for giving lots of us permission with your own revelations…. to see and weed out our own useless impediments to full living!

  6. Rena

    Beautiful, poignant, and powerful, Leah. I am in awe of you – your journey, your raw honesty, and your message. Thank you so very much. xo
    Rena recently posted at their blog…Get your mojo back

    1. Leah Carey

      Oh Rena, thank you! I really appreciate your feedback.

  7. Jenny Deupree

    Dear Leah, thank you so much for your courage and willingness to speak out! love, Jenny

    1. Leah Carey

      Thank you Jenny.

  8. Beth Mueller Jacob

    I was so moved by this post! It may be the best one yet (and that’s saying a lot!) Thank you for your bravery in sharing. It’s obviously already helping people on their journeys. I can relate to much of what you said and I think it’s incredibly difficult to sort through the messages we get as children about sexuality and shame. As I approach 40 I am finally- FINALLY! – feeling like I’m taking some of my power back in this area (love what you said about your being *that* kind of girl!! Go Leah!). Also, raising 3 boys has really helped me think through the messages (implied and explicit) I grew up with, what the media perpetuates and how I want my boys to think critically about that, what responsibility both sexes have in a respectful relationship. Great post on a great topic.

    Sending you big hugs-
    Beth

    1. Leah Carey

      Thank you so much, Beth. Sending you big hugs and love back to you!
      ~L

  9. LisaL

    Dearest Leah,
    I am so proud of you. Your honesty and bravery have always and continue to inspire me.

    Dear Little Leah,
    You are braver and stronger than you think and there are amazing things in life that await you, even greater than your imagination can reach!

    1. Leah Carey

      Oh LisaL, how wonderful you are! Thank you so much for your message. Sending you all my love.

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