Last night, I was looking at custom-made double-sided necklaces and going through their symbols. Idly. I had been thinking of getting a rune pendant from etsy and wearing that after we were married because we’re very short on money, and getting a ring later, or something else. But his attention leapt up and it was very obvious that This was the thing he wanted me to have. They had a boar with a celtic design around the outside, and he liked it, so I was looking for something for the reverse sign that would hopefully represent something along the lines of love or devotion.
He liked the flaming heart, which I kept trying to change his mind about, or choose the alternate interpretation.
It symbolizes burning passion, love, desire, ardent affection and burning love. In Christianity the flaming heart is a symbol of sacrifice, higher love, grace and mercy.
I was increasingly uncomfortable. The latter definition is lovely and something I can relate to entirely. But he meant the former, with the latter as part of it (those are traits I work on constantly both as a Buddhist and because it is who I want to be), but not the point, necessarily. Not what he wanted me to wear.
Finally he said, very clearly, “Why are you so afraid of your sexuality?”
It felt like being pinned through the chest like an insect, suffocating in chloroform.
Before I had had any experience with sex, I was raped, and traumatized very badly. Despite that, I wasn’t bothered by not being interested in it, and I didn’t feel like there was something wrong with me. Due to not having any interest in it when I was younger, either, I thought my state was probably not that far off from what it would’ve been regardless of what happened and made my peace with it easily.
It was… quite a surprise to me when I met R. a few years ago and things went from “Hello, how are y–” to crashing into the nearest flat surface. But I thought, oh, all right, I just needed to meet the right person.
Last year, Brand and I both had an atrocious, head-over-heels crush on the same person, who led us both on for months, but was only interested in someone else we knew. My feelings were never sexual. They were affectionate: cuddling, kissing, and so on.
In the winter, he tried to tell me that he was interested in me, and while he made a lot of noise about not minding if I could never do anything beyond that, I was extremely uncomfortable, and felt like I was going to get pressured or like it was very disappointing that I wasn’t interested in anything else. I shut down because I felt trapped, and it wasn’t much longer than that when he and the rest of them disappeared out of our lives, hurting us both badly.
That had a very bad impact on my sexuality. I’ve never really had to deal with flashbacks before, and now I was having them often enough that I had PTSD written on my forehead.
Brand and I have been very close friends for a long time, and situations in our life kept mashing us together more and more until we were each other’s only support system during some of the worst times and the only person we could completely trust and rely on. Brand is an extremely affectionate person, but also extremely respectful, and never invaded my “bubble” unless I were crying.
While I was taking care of him during his ordeal on the Tree, I was sleeping beside him and often holding him. Everything was happening elsewhere, but it was having an outward echo in the form of intense exhaustion and pain, and he was having terrible dreams. No one told me I couldn’t, so I tried to comfort him as much as I could when he was more or less on this plane of existence, or when he was shaking in his sleep.
After that, a lot of things happened very fast.
But there was a particular moment, shortly after he was finished with it, when we got into an argument (extremely out of character, screaming at each other) about how terrified with worry we had been about each other over different things. About how badly I shut down and shut everyone out. About his ordeal and how even his father was worried and I wasn’t at all sure he was going to be all right.
One of our friends side-eyed us and said they had known we were in love with each other last year. We had no idea.
I think – that was a very normal experience, set of experiences, continuum of experiences. Because we know each other in the barely-have-to-talk way and don’t have to negotiate things very carefully, which is very necessary with pretty much anything I do, but which causes me a lot of stress.
This still fit into the paradigm I could cope with. I knew him extremely well, I trusted him absolutely.
But I knew when I met Freyr that he wanted to be with me. I could see it when he looked at me. And I had a feeling like he would be, and the amount that I could say about it was going to be limited. It was terrifying. Loki told me repeatedly that he would never force me to do anything and would never hurt me and that that was absolutely not what Freyr was ever like and that I had nothing to worry about. I was still terrified.
I was terrified over the next few months. He was a little jealous of Brand. Because we were sleeping together? Because of how much I trusted Brand? Both? Since the first can’t exist without the second?
Things happened. Most of the time we spent together wasn’t stressful, but there were times that I pushed myself, and I questioned all of my motives thoroughly. Was I doing it just to make him happy? Because I felt I had to? Because I was afraid of disappointing him? Of him being angry, or leaving? Because I wanted him to stop feeling jealous of Brand? Because I was trying to prove I loved him?
There was a day when a lot of the torturous psychological wrestling was pushed past, like a membrane that had been sealing out oxygen. Things were fine. I was happy. He was happy. Nothing was terrifying. Things were fairly quiet after that, trying to figure out what made that work and what else worked and didn’t, without bounding around too much and hitting the terror.
It could work, maybe.
Very recently, there’ve been lots of nightmares for me. Stress that has nothing to do with him. I don’t want to be touched. I need to be held. I shake and cry for hours.
Sometimes he sits near me and talks to me. Sometimes I can’t hear any of it. Sometimes it helps. A part of me feels extremely distantly (lightyears) bad that I don’t write any of it down. Books’ worth of UPG, told to me to give me a caring voice to try to fix on instead of the hell inside my mind. Stories about his family, things that would definitely interest other people. But, lightyears. The shaking is too bad to type, anyway.
Sometimes he’s been able to hold me loosely in a clothed sort of way with relevant parts not near each other. He had his arm around me last night, or the night before (the days are blurring together) when he took me home with him — around my shoulders, to support me. Beyla tried to feed me, but I couldn’t possibly handle anything like that, and then when I relented about tea, went off to make something sedating. Byggvir said something to me privately that I’ve lost entirely, but I think it had to do with wanting to kill the people who’d done this to me. I don’t remember much. Then we were at the table in Freyr’s rooms and I was drinking tea that had chamomile and skullcap in it, and I’m not sure what else. I was so tired, leaning my head against my hand, while he watched me with a mixture of worry and grimness.
Everything happens for a reason. The traditions we both come from support that idea.
I slept, woke up, slept, etc. Flipped the sign on my door from, “Open, please knock,” to, “Closed due to catastrophic meltdown.” Went to see R.; asked if he felt strange about holding me with Freyr; no, that’s more than fine, get in bed.
So. Triggered very badly, all of the time (“Undertaaaatement~” Brand says over my shoulder). Sex possibly the last thing I ever want to think about again right now. The necklace. Lots of things about passion. Why am I so afraid of my sexuality.
Gesturing at my life wasn’t the right answer.
“Why,” he said slowly, “are you afraid of your sexuality?”
Over twelve hours later: because then I’m what they made me.
“For having a sexuality, or for enjoying sex, and wanting it?” The latter two, outside of extraordinary circumstances.
“So the idea of having a day to day enjoyment of it, a desire, wanting.” I shuddered.
“Did they,” carefully, “make you ‘enjoy’ it by forcing you to–” Yes.
“That doesn’t — you know that doesn’t mean you–” I know.
“In your head.” In my head.
“I won’t change my mind about the necklace. It is part of your power. It is part of your beauty, your mystery, your majesty.” Please don’t use adjectives like that.
“Because nothing about you can be majestic?”
His hand on my chin, “I have the right to tell the truth as I see it.”
“Everything shatters into powder before it gets better,” Brand says, brushing a kiss against my temple.