It amazes me that as I heal I am more needy for touch than ever. Many years have gone by that I did not understand the strong reactions people had when touched. It may sound odd that as a massage therapist for 8 years that I was befuddled and curious why my touch had such a profound affect. I noticed not only body reactions but also could smell the physiological changes.
I never seemed to need touch in fact I had little reaction to it. I shied away from anything that might lead to sexual touch. Even in massage school I was unprepared for the panic attacks that happened when receiving touch. My first occasion to experience touch lasting more than a few minutes was in the first week of massage school. The class ahead of us were testing out of the reflexology section. The only part of my body revealed were my feet. I couldn’t tell you even how it felt to have my feet worked on. I was concentrating on breathing and trying not to pass out.
Later in the program, I was face down on the table and the young guy working with me in class brought my hand behind my back to work my shoulder blade and I came unglued. I started yelling for him to let go of my damned arm while he tried to reassure me that I was alright. I was not in pain; I was in terror, for what I did not know. That night as I lay in bed a bit ashamed of my outburst in class I remembered being 5 and being held face down in the sand. I had been
dropped of early to school and one other boy whom I only remembered seeing once before. The next thing I knew I was face down with sand being shoved in my face with the threat that I could not get up unless I admitted to being gay. I had hair two inched past my shoulder in this inward curl bob looking thing I hated, but I knew that I liked girls. I refused to say something I felt was a lie.
I have noted that in order to receive pleasurable touch one has feel safe. I realized that even in marriage, touch was not welcome nor did I feel safe. I cannot say it was directly related to my wife, but it was not eased by her either. Women have need to feel a connection and a compassionate giving. When one has not experienced that for himself, within himself he cannot
provide it to anyone else.
A man has a greater challenge in connection than a woman in most cases because men are not allowed to safely feel their feelings. I have found that I could not feel my own feelings on a deeper level and by extension I could not feel on a physical level either. My earliest notion of feeling was by sharing the womb with a twin; one that did not make it to full gestation. Around six months of that journey I was alone. So what? Many children are born and they never shared the womb. The point here is, as I see it; after becoming alone that truth is pronounced. As a child I was unaware on a conscious level that I had had a twin, but I distinctly remember feeling many times that there was somebody missing, that I expected to be on my right side.
Upon reaching full term I decided to make my arrival over Labor Day weekend. My mother arrived at the hospital where they immediately began pumping her with drugs to delay the delivery as long as possible to allow the doctor to finish his vacation. After so long a time my mother informed a nurse that someone would be hurt if they gave her anything else. Within a short time it was obvious that I was in distress and had to be removed as soon as possible.
The nurses had to perform the delivery. As both patients had been severely doped and the pitocin levels had been retarded by the drugs, full dilation had not occurred. The nurses were relegated to the forceps as bracing themselves against the table and my mother had not availed them of my holding place. As they squeezed and pulled my face and head became mangled leaving me deformed. When my father came to the window to view me he was all but sure that he had been the universal brunt of a joke, the father of a downs child.
My next affront came by way of a disgruntled nurse, one who used quick jerking movements under bright lights to bring my slight behind up briskly clamp it, and diaper it. Continuing with harsh movements she return me swaddled and fearful to the plastic bassinet. This was the way I was handled for the duration of my stay in the nursery. To add insult to injury I was separated from my mother long enough after the traumatic birth that neither did her milk come in, I was also unable to latch on.
As many are aware the bonding time between mother and child is important during the months that follow. The months where the two rise and fall with inhale and exhale and the rhythmic movements during feedings become second nature to both mother and child. That was not my reality. I was born to extremely poor parents that could not afford formula and I was force fed water. To this day I still have difficulty drinking water. Emotionally it feels like punishment and more than once I cognitively have felt that I was not worthy of something better than water.
I did get on with a bottle eventually and once while visiting friends my father decided to place alcohol into that bottle. It was grand fun for two immature males who laughed wildly as I struggled to walk and repeatedly tripped over my own feet. It was not enough that I had the misfortune of being born pigeon-toed and bow-legged, I was humiliated in public by my own father.
Of course the abuse did not stop there, I was thrown over a coffee table, kicked into a wall shoved down the steps, burned from a brazing gun, beat brutally with a belt, leaving welts from my ankles to my check, besides the constant verbal bashing demeaning me as a male. I cannot say my experience with my mother was much better because she used me as her emotional generator. My feelings and need were unimportant so long as the "man" of the house was satisfied. That never happened. My father was an abusive alcoholic who fed off of other people.
No amount of attention could quell his quest for power over others. As each child came into the family more and more attention had to be provided to the children by me. Our father was more and more insecure. Our mother working ever harder to fill his excessive need for affection and attention. I became the object of his hatred because he saw that I provided my mother with her need for positive male attention and boost her energy reserve so she could keep dealing with the energy vampire.
As time progressed the attacks to me and my character became more intense although the physicality of the abuse ended when I threatened to have my father arrested if he ever touched me again. It became necessary for him to create stories and lies to spread to my siblings and towns folk because in reality he had little to complain about in reality. The only thing he could say is I didn’t like him and if he told people that he might have to tel them why so it was better for him to make up believable lies and did that ever work.
I spent so much of my youth and young adulthood overwhelmed with worry over who believed I was gay because the was the favorite character bashing of my father. Made no difference to him or anybody else that the fear of being gay was intensely his and not my reality of myself. I am not going to say I am perfect. There are things I did in my youth that were not healthy and I take responsibility, however, I did not earn the severe angst, spite, jealousy and character assassination that was forced upon me.
At age 14 I shut down and became unable to feel my feelings as most people do. I was able to stand the multitude of traumas life dealt me. I thought I was feeling my feelings and I didn’t care that I was not receiving touch. I did not feel deprived; I felt relieved that I was not having to touch anyone, let alone be touched. My experience with sexual touch when married was quick, emotionally painful, and depleting. I avoided it as much as possible because it made me feel like less of a man because I believed that "real men" were devoted to the conquest and completion of sexual subjection. From my teens on as each trauma built upon the one before it there was this tower of ground zero, like a cylindrical tube that the grief kept growing, pushing through the top with no option except for emotions to bubble forth and spill over and I assumed that I was "feeling" the negative sensations, and I was not. Looking back I think I would have broken down much sooner had I had the ability to even feel 50% of the trauma. I was so blocked from my expression of my true feelings that until I had a nervous breakdown I did not begin to understand both the physical sense of feeling and a deeper sense of emotional feeling.
I am now working on making sense of all the feeling bodies that I missed in my 41 years. I understand far less than what confuses me and it remains difficult to give touch in the form of massage when I myself am devoid of a constant source of compassionate connection via a committed relationship. I have faith and hope that I can reach that place with assistance from a woman who is willing to put on her hip waders and go along with me.