Healing from Religious Trauma

I’ve spent the last couple years trying to resolve what has turned into chronic pain in my neck, shoulder, and lower back. First I was working with my chiropractor, but it kept getting worse. I couldn’t turn my head enough to check my blind spot when driving. I couldn’t stand for more than a couple minutes without my lower back seizing up. I started seeing a physical therapist weekly. After more than a year, he’s got me lifting weights regularly to strengthen my core and my back. 

I got a new chiropractor who was much more helpful. The massage therapist couldn’t make a dent in all the knots between my shoulder blades, so I paused for a year on that until physical therapy relieved some of the tension. I get Acupunture once a month.

I saw the orthopedic specialist and got x-rays and CT scans in both my neck and lower back. This resulted in trying out various drugs like Lyrica, then a cortisone shot in my neck. This did very little to help. 

I began working virtually with a somatic therapist who specializes in religious trauma to start working through the trauma that resulted from being brought up with Christian Fundamentalist parents and my subsequent marriage to an abusive partner. I also found a local somatic therapist who could do body work in person, as she could work more hands on with the energy that is stuck. As Bessel van der Kolk explains in his book – The Body Keeps the Score.

Both somatic therapists asked me what I do to release my anger. I felt my answers were inadequate. And so I looked for a better way. That’s when I took up Muay Thai.

For the past three weeks, I kick, punch, knee, elbow, and block my way through a one hour class with super friendly people. I leave utterly exhausted both mentally and physically and feeling so good about it. Jessica, my therapist, told me to note how my body feels when I’m punching and kicking. I feel like my kid self, defending my space in a crowded home of nine family members. I feel some release. But I feel like I’m only scratching the surface. I’m hoping this 48-year old body can hold out long enough to stay in this for a while because I’m really enjoying it. Even if I’m usually the oldest person there.

I left Muay Thai last night feeling pretty pumped. It wasn’t as exhausting as usual. I’m feeling more connections with the people I’m working with. It’s a good community, very friendly. 

Marriage as I Experienced it

I just saw a picture of this sculpture by Beth Cavener and it hit.

This is marriage for the Evangelical woman, for the Fundamentalist woman, for those who buy into complementarian ideals.

This was marriage for me. I imagine it’s marriage for many women.

The White Hind by Beth Cavener
The White Hind by Beth Cavener

I photographed a wedding a while back. The bride and groom’s interactions reminded me of my wedding 20 years before. I tried to describe this to my assistant as we drove home. The way he leaned away when she tried to kiss him on their wedding day. The absolute poison of trying to meet the expectations of the parents, the patriarchy, the church, the “Bible clearly states” folks…

So much effort went into that laced veil of purity. It was the death of her.

High School Graduation

I grew this kid in my body. It took the better part of a year feeling like there was an alien taking me over and another year supplying his nourishment. What an incredible privilege. What an amazing human he is! When he was just a few weeks old, I walked past a neighbor’s house across from the elementary school where he would spend many days. This stranger warned that before I knew it, my little baby would be graduating from high school. 

That was yesterday. 

How did we get here so fast? 

When he was little, I heard “The days go slow and the years go fast”. And wow! They went fast. He’s everything he should be at 18, with good friends, a loosely formed plan for his education and career, a passion for justice and treating people with love and understanding. He’s full of joy, loves music, and he’s fun to hang out with. I like him so much and I’m so proud of him. 

I keep breaking down in tears because this milestone marks the end of a certain phase of parenting which I’ve found deeply fulfilling. I’ve loved raising this kid. And I’m so excited to see him spread his wings and fly.