Are Your Toes Out?
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Back in 1993, I felt I was doing fairly well in life. I was married, working part-time, raising five children, and volunteering at church, the kids’ schools, and in the community. I was happily pregnant, and late in the year fulfilled a dream of mine: as a surrogate mother, I gave birth to a healthy baby for another couple. From most people’s perspectives – and aside from a very difficult marriage – “I had it all!”
Early in 1994, I read an interesting magazine article that touched a chord in me. In response, I decided to seek private therapy to specifically work on how the violent childhood sexual abuse I'd experienced might still be affecting my every day life in ways I wasn't recognizing.
The article was written by a woman who had read an article written by a woman who... it's complicated. I'll start at the beginning.
A woman learned that an unusual quirk of hers was actually quite common and shared by many sexually abused children: she had to keep her feet - at least her toes - out from under the covers at night, no matter how cold it was.
She wondered, if the CSA was affecting her in that sub-conscious way, what other behaviors and feelings was she experiencing, which she thought were difficult but normal or just part of her personality, but were actually from issues she could (perhaps should) work on in therapy?
Counseling helped her greatly, as she dealt with long buried traumas that were still affecting her negatively without her even realizing it. She wrote and published a story about how the simple realization of how she had to keep her toes out led to a much more peaceful and happy life.
Another woman read her story, and realized she ALSO had to keep her feet out from under the covers, no matter how cold it got. She had also been sexually abused, and so began to wonder in the same way; she also went to counseling and unexpectedly found help and healing.
This woman wrote a magazine article about how she had read a story about having to keep toes out from under the covers, her own powerful realization and the positive changes in her life.
A third woman read the magazine article about the story, and guess what? She also had that quirk of "gotta keep my toes out, no matter what!" The story resounded for her as well, and she wrote a magazine article about how reading a magazine article about a story had also led her to seek counseling... see where I'm going with this?!!!
The article I read was written by another woman, who had read an article about an article about an article about a story about having a quirk, which I ALSO shared.
I felt I was in an emotionally stable place in my life, and if ever I was going to explore these highly emotional issues in depth, it should be then. I was ready and willing to truly face and work on my past (and present), and the counseling brought me life-long and life-changing differences.
When my marriage ended in 1995 and my ex abandoned us, I was dealing with the still-new effects of a brain and spinal injury as well. I survived it all (at least in part) because of this eye-opening therapy.
One immediate change was I started NOT having nightmares. I thought it was normal to be terrified every single night by dreams about being killed, about my children being kidnapped and/or killed, about screaming and screaming and crying out for help and no one being able to hear me.
I didn’t even bring the subject up in therapy until a few months in, when one week I slept peacefully for two of the seven nights. I happily told my therapist, and she asked me, quite perplexed, “you have nightmares?”
I thought they were normal! You know, the same way that when my children were at someone else’s house, even though I knew they were perfectly safe, I’d be sick to my stomach with worry, and sleepless and shaking with anxiety… normal for any parent, right?!
So here is MY story about the article about the article about the article about a story about a quirk that made such an impact on me, and led me to a better life.
I still sleep with a leg or my feet – at the very least, my toes – out from under the covers (no reason not to). However, many aspects of my behavior, both the destructive and damaging as well as just plain weird, have changed for the better. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m on my way!