I read another great memoir, and I want to tell you about it. Hungry for Touch, A Journey from Fear to Desire, by Laureen Peltier, is a book that chronicles Laureen’s treatment for PTSD. Let me start by saying that this is not an easy book to read. In fact, some parts are just downright heartbreaking and painful. I found that I had to read it in small doses, and still I became emotional while reading it, more than a handful of times.
So you might be wondering why I am recommending this book, if it’s such a difficult read. The reasons are many: it’s real and honest; it gets to the heart of what sexual trauma, PTSD, and therapy feel like; it’s relatable; and ultimately, it’s hopeful. Those things outweigh the tough time I had reading it, by far.
“How does it make me feel? The memory is so old, almost thirty years have gone by, but it still seems like yesterday. It’s the kind of memory I store in one of those chests at the bottom of my mind, but now I can’t seem to put it back.”
The way that Laureen describes the memory of her childhood trauma, and subsequent breakdown, is so familiar to me. I also had a long period of time where I was able to stuff negative memories far away from my consciousness, and then, all of a sudden I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when the wheels came off for me, when I absolutely had to deal with the past or let it slowly suck the life out of me.
Laureen’s story is different from mine, she became unable to allow any man to touch her as a result of her abuse. In my own story, I ended up at the other end of the spectrum–promiscuity. Both results stem from a need to feel in control, I think; something that neither of us had previously. But both are destructive to the soul and needed treatment.
Hungry for Touch takes us through Laureen’s treatment, alternating with her memories of the past. Reading of her abuse was disturbing and saddening. No one should have to go through what she did, especially a young child. Her treatment was a mix of traditional EMDR therapy along with some unconventional therapies that she and her doctor collaborated on. It wasn’t an easy road to get started on, despite Laureen’s desperate wish for healing and mental health. In the beginning she said this about not being able to let go:
“But I don’t know how to let go. I only know how to hold on: hold onto the pain, hold onto the fear, hold onto the lies. This is the cage I’ve built for myself. It’s a safe and secure cage. I know every corner of it, and I know I can’t be harmed in it because I won’t let anyone inside with me.”
That fear of letting go is often so strong that keeping ourselves imprisoned in it seems like a better option than risking dealing with it and having an unknown outcome. But, with hesitation at times, Laureen presses on and continues her treatment, striving toward her goal of completing it and letting go of her fear of physical touch.
As I said, this is a book that ultimately offers readers hope. It’s tough to read, but it’s definitely worth it. Keep in mind that it may bring up emotions and triggers if you are a survivor of this type (or any, really) of trauma. Read with care–for yourself and for all of the others who have gone through sexual abuse.
You can buy Hungry for Touch here.