This blog post was originally published on July 15th, 2019.

Deep breaths.

In, out, my eyes closed behind my Warby Parker sunglasses.

I wore them to try to hide the bundle of anxiety wrapping itself like a snake around the base of my stomach. Sitting on the bench outside my date's apartment, the warm sun mingling with the tension of self-consciousness and lust, I wasn't sure if he was actually real for a brief moment until his tall, lanky frame towered in the doorway and gave me a cheery hello. All I could really find to distract myself with was the fact that he was wearing black socks with light brown shoes as he walked up the stairs in front of me. 20 minutes later, the warmth that tingled my skin had melted into my muscles and wove itself into my breath as I kissed him deeply, my legs wrapping around his hips, trying to focus on not leaving my body like I've always done when the pleasure I crave wants me just as intensely.

I laid on the bed, my eyes closed, inhaling my sensitivity and exhaling anxiety as I struggled against my body's desire to release the tension of trauma that had embedded itself into my bones. "This is just supposed to be fun," a part of me said aloud as a stern reminder in my head, "Don't cry, you'll kill the mood, he'll think you're weird. Crying is creepy. It's weak. We're not weak, it's this meatsuit that's weak." And then the familiar refrain emerged not far behind: Don't feel it. Let it go. Float away. Self-nurturance curled itself into a ball in my throat, choking me as I moaned reflexively into the feeling of climax rising through my soft, round, stretch mark adorned belly. My eyes somehow managed to catch my partner's in a brief moment as his hands and mouth explored me intimately with ease, gently coaxing, mixing and mingling with the atmospheric beats of the music rolling in the background. Panic shot through my spine as I felt my thigh caress his face, and all I wanted was to find a way to be anyone but the someone this body belonged to. But I felt for his hand as I languidly stretched out my spine, and my fingers intertwined with his for a sense of something solid as I let myself truly, deeply feel that my pleasure came with no consequences.

No one ever told me that pleasure is a skill, one that requires consistency, conscious choice, and practice. There is a post that has circulated on social media naming 15 behaviors that are manifestations of self-harm, not including intentionally depriving yourself of sleep, and I have engaged in 14 out of 16. I have sabotaged beloved hobbies, ruined my own orgasms, and destroyed my own ambitions. I have dehydrated myself and starved my hungers - literal and metaphorical - for fear of taking up more space. I sublimated the feelings of body dysmorphia into the dissatisfying medium of baggy clothes and aesthetics that made me feel even more alien, and repeated the refrain that I was introverted when the truth was that the anxiety crawled all over my skin and agoraphobia lurked in its shadows. I don't know when it all began, but I do know that I've both been made feral and chosen to be feral, to abstain from the civility of thoughtful selfishness and practiced, bountiful, and well-nurtured pleasure because part of me thought I wasn't worthy of anything more.

I don't have a snappy conclusion, or an artful take here. As I sit writing up these final paragraphs, I am coming to the slow realisation and acceptance that this is the medicine I was actually meant to carry in this life. That I will always be deeply dissatisfied, that I will always have to work to lift the weight of trauma and to release myself from the judgment our society imposes around the morality of healing. Maybe my task in this life is to just bravely face my disconnection, my disfigurement, and my depression and work to hold my beauty and softness at every turn. I have discussed at length my feelings of being alien, and of being alienated, and in a world that is locked and loaded with the chaos of destruction of the familiar, I am starting to realise I am at the advantage. There is a degree of pleasure in spiteing the efforts to aid my demise and that I have defied expectations to even live this long.

Goddesses can be ugly, gritty, injured, and unkempt, too.

I am no less divine because I haven't learned how to not panic when I'm touched.