Telling My Truth With Tarot (Healing From Sexual Abuse)
Whether you've experienced a one-time incident of abuse, repeat assaults, or disrespect to your body in a sexual way, sex-related offenses leave a lasting impression. They can damage future relationships, trigger panic attacks, fuel anxiety, and eat away at your self-worth.
When your body is treated as only an object to be used for someone else's pleasure, in a situation that demands your silence and compliance, you learn that your voice, and therefore your heart and soul, are to be buried, protected.
Ultimately, I went through the motions of life without letting myself have deep connections with people who I believed could potentially hurt me, and I shied away from physical affection.
Years later, a family member would challenge my recounting of the abuse saying that I "seemed fine back then," even around my abuser. Yep, that's right. I had 6 years of practice learning how to be fine, how to smile and forget, and how to stifle my intuition.
My healing wouldn't begin until 5 years ago. At the time, I had been married for 6 years, had gone through one miscarriage, and was pregnant with my daughter who is now 5-years-old.
I started to experience debilitating anxiety during my pregnancy. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and moderate-to-severe anxiety and depression. I couldn't drive and was having panic attacks with no known triggers.
I started therapy, which was the first step on my healing journey. My therapist and I knew that the loss of the first pregnancy was causing some of my anxiety, but my other symptoms were all common signs of childhood sexual trauma. We worked through it together. I didn't want to be on medication while pregnant, and she wasn't concerned about the anxiety affecting the baby, so I went the all-natural route and began fighting the most difficult battle of my life for the next 6 months.
Every sense is heightened when you're pregnant, and your body turns into a highly-aware fortress of ultimate protection. So, some anxiety is expected to make sure you're more in tune to yours and your baby's needs.
My pregnancy came with the fear that I couldn't protect my baby from future abuse. And my own lack of self-worth convinced me that I would be a horrible parent.
As with any intense negative emotion, there is usually a positive counter-emotion. After anger, there is release; after sadness, laughter; and after anxiety, relief.
In moments when my anxiety would ebb, after my daughter was born, and I knew my baby was sleeping soundly and safely in my arms, I gradually began to allow myself to experience the joys of motherhood. And in those moments, I experienced something new -- visions.
The visions started with my son who had passed -- rich scenes when I closed my eyes, of him speaking calming words to me, of an African woman caring for him. I had dreams where he would reach out to me and calm my anxiety. Other visions were prophetic -- premonitions of my own life that came true or other women telling me about their own abuse or even murder. Some of the women told me their names, and I was able to search for them online and validate their stories.
I became obsessed with praying with these women, in spirit, and calling on them for help with my own fears. I built a spiritual tribe around me of strong women. I pursued mediumship which led to Tarot reading, and I fell into the rescue-net that was and is the pagan community.
Though I (thought I) knew all about prayer and spirituality from church growing up, the ways of the Old Religions taught me why and how prayer worked. They taught me how to rise, to recognize the divine in everything, including myself. Many people in this community worship the power and wisdom of the feminine, with no wish to silence her. I accepted the beauty and joy of the Christian church and the power of Jesus as a teacher and son of the divine, and I equally reveled in the glory of the feminine, my own intuition, and the goddess.
My husband bought me my first Tarot deck. He knew I had been browsing them in the New Age section at the bookstore. I did what most Tarot newbies do, tried to memorize all 78 cards, then learned that wasn't necessary, and dove in head first.
I went to college for design, so I knew how to critique a painting, to dig for metaphors, to find the feeling an artist intended to evoke.
At some point in the learning process, I began to let myself feel the images, to pull from my own emotions. It was like stepping into a warm pool on the darkest of nights. At first, I jumped out. I was scared that I would get lost in the depth of my own soul, until I realized that I was only really fearing myself. I was afraid of my own memories and feelings. I was afraid of myself as a child. To love and remember that small child, who was me, was to experience all the love I have for my own child but, all the while, knowing where that version of innocent-me was headed... toward abuse and a broken spirit. It was too much. At first.
As I became more familiar with the cards, it was like having a daily check-in with myself. Because Tarot deals with life themes and mostly big-picture ideas, it has a way of bringing all my worries to the table, allowing me to acknowledge them, and move on.
When I first asked the cards "Who am I?" there were threads of anxiety in my readings, but there were other huge themes working in my life too: Temperence, Family, Strength, the Empress, the High Priestess. I cried. I knew in that moment that the choice was mine. I could let the negative energy of the abuse infiltrate all these areas of my life or release it and focus on enhancing all the good. I visualized letting go of the hurt and shame. I visualized the strong woman I was determined to become, and I moved forward without looking back.
The biggest lesson I've learned from Tarot is that my inner voice matters. These ancient cards have been used for centuries to help listen to it. With them, I've stood up to bullying and other forms of abuse. I've been able to readily admit when I'm wrong but to fight for what's right too. I've been able to speak openly of my abuse and how I'm overcoming it.
I may always feel like I'm in the process of healing and growing, and I'm alright with that. I know that I have myself as a best friend to turn to and the cards to give me a new perspective when I've lost my way.
Thank you to all my readers and followers on this journey. Your support hasn't gone unnoticed.