Trauma is something none of us likes to think about, but is tragically common. The road to healing can be long and winding, and as unique as the person walking it. The following is not a prescription for everyone, it is simply my story.
As an abuse survivor, I have had a complicated relationship with my body from an early age. See, besides the hurt, shame, and fear that the abuse caused, it also sent me some pretty clear messages.
Abuse told me:
My body is not my own.
My body exists to be used and abused by others.
My feelings don’t matter.
My body has betrayed me before, and will betray me again.
My body is a tool used to hurt me.
I am voiceless.
Some of these messages were easily identifiable; others are subtle and have taken me years to chip away. They are messages deeply ingrained and seemingly confirmed by repeated experiences. I have lived these lies. They have shaped me. It makes sense that truth must be experienced in a similar way before it begins to make an impact on a wounded heart and psyche.
Engaging in healthy relationships has been one way I’ve experienced healing and truth. Participating in support groups and having an active prayer life are others. But perhaps the most unexpected balm of healing on my journey has been practicing natural family planning.
Sound strange? Stay with me, I’ll explain.
Natural family planning is the practice of avoiding or achieving pregnancy using knowledge of a woman’s cycle. It involves learning to observe and chart a woman’s signs of fertility in order to identify the short window of time in each month when it’s possible for pregnancy to occur. A couple can then use this knowledge to either abstain or come together during the fertile time, depending on their family planning intention. NFP is quite simple, but it’s not always easy. It requires communication, unity, cooperation, trust, self-control, delayed gratification, teamwork, and a desire to honor the other person.
Contrary to abuse, the practice of natural family planning has taught me:
My body is my own, a gift to lovingly give and a means to lovingly receive.
My body exists to honor God, myself and others.
My feelings are of vital importance.
My body is trustworthy.
My body is beautiful, a vessel of life and love, and a part of my being.
I have a voice, and my voice is both heard and respected.
NFP has gently guided me as I learn to appreciate my body. Now when I give of myself, I feel empowered and loving, not used and depleted. I feel connected with my created design. This has spread to areas of my life beyond sexuality, as I learn to speak my heart with confidence, and to tenderly and gladly serve others.
Healing is a journey, and probably one that will never be complete in this lifetime. But I am deeply grateful to have come this far. Other than healthy relationships and deep faith, I think that natural family planning has helped me more than anything else. I share this in hopes that someone will find NFP to be the graceful balm and patient teacher that it has been to me.
Do you remember your middle school or high school reproductive health class? When I think back to my education about periods and “How babies are made” my memories are brief. I can remember short parts of videos or awkward condom demonstrations and disgusting pictures of STDs. Does this sound familiar to you?