After I was sexually abused at 15, my developing sense of sexuality stalled out and took a back seat. In actuality, it was more like I’d decided to drop my sexuality off on the side of the road while the rest of me got back in the car and continued on my trip.
For years I tried to figure out how people met each other and fell in love. No one had ever explained my changing body to me or taught me how to date. All through my late teens, twenties, and most of my thirties I watched my friends date and fall in love. The whole thing seemed like magic to me! I absolutely did not get it. I didn’t even think I was meant to have a boyfriend. I had no idea that my sexuality was a birthright, and that I deserved love and a healthy sense of sexuality.
I was starving for healthy touch and desperately wanted to experience dating and romantic relationships, but the idea of being desired by someone disgusted and terrified me, so I became sexually anorexic and confused about my orientation. I went days and weeks without touch, and years without sexual activity, keeping my body and sexuality hidden from anyone who might show interest in dating me. My feeble attempts at dating amounted to nothing more than a series of sexual encounters which were confusing, emotionally overwhelming, and often dangerous. I confused sex with love and didn’t know how to ask for what I really wanted – an emotionally and physically intimate relationship built on a foundation of friendship and healthy non-sexual touch.
At this point in time I’ve worked on my recovery for 17 years, but I wasn’t ready to start down the path of sexual recovery until six or seven years ago. After growing up in an emotionally and physically violent home, I was filled with shame and had internalized a whole set of lies that I was disgusting, untouchable, and unlovable. I’ve spent many years of recovery healing parts of myself that were interrupted by trauma while grappling with mental illness and the constant need to leave my body using drugs, food, and other forms of dissociation. Early on, there was no room for dating or a healthy sexual self in the nest of thorns I lived in.
With the help of a skilled sex therapist, I’m now learning how to date for the first time in my life. I’m learning how to ask people out and be selfish in a positive way. I am constantly learning how to maintain healthy boundaries and use the most important words in my world: “no” and “yes”. I still work on issues such as compulsive dissociation, regulation of emotion, and body image, but I’m finally at a point where I can balance all of that with a couple of profiles on dating sites and a few coffee dates every month or so. I’ve even been rejected and dumped outright, and lived to tell the tale.
At the fantastic age of 40, I feel incredibly fortunate to be experiencing things I never could have imagined at fifteen. It’s scary and thrilling all at the same time, but I know now that I am attractive and lovable, and my sexuality is a beautiful part of my true self!