It's been a beautiful day here on the Restless walk from Minehead to Porlock, a different kind of landscape altogether - woodland, high cliffs, moor, craggy headlands and a wide pebbly beach with the biggest waves we’ve seen this week, drizzle and bright sunshine, misty clouds blanketing everything then clear views for miles. We started with a steep ascent that accelerated my heart and breathing rates, made me sweat and my calves burn. There’s nothing like an energetic climb to get me in my body - somewhere that has not always been a very comfortable place to be. It's where the abuse happened, where all the trauma, pain, shock and memories are stored. Over the years I’ve hated my body, picked at it, starved it, neglected it and numbed it with drugs and alcohol. I still do those things sometimes...
Like many survivors my response to abuse was to dissociate, to effectively “leave my body” - people describe this in many different ways such as feeling as if they are floating above or outside of themselves, spacing out on objects until they are all that exist or feeling unreal or robotic. It is a natural response to trauma, a protective mechanism that helps us survive - I used to be cross about it - now I’m grateful. When I’m triggered I still dissociate often - for me recently it's felt like dissolving, my body feels fizzy and I don’t know where the edges of me are.
Being physical really works for me. Connecting with nature also really works for me. Today’s walk REALLY worked for me. It brought me out of my busy head and into my body, into the present moment and able to connect with all the beauty and sensations. For a few miles, I walked barefoot across soft earth, through cold streams, down stony paths and on spongy grass. I ate foraged bilberries high up on the moor and tasted salt tinged blackberries down by the sea. Smelling the gorse flowers. Listening to the birds and the rumbling sea. No traffic noise, not a house in sight. Just me, my body and the glorious landscape (and Fiona and some other lovely friendly hikers)
This is what my body is for. My body. Mine.
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I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.