Archive for July 9th, 2010

On my blog entry entitled Do Child Abuse Survivors Ever Get Over Healing and Therapy?, a reader posted the following comment:

I wonder how are you able to process your trauma while you are by yourself? Do you have other avenues for validation and sharing of your emotions? How can you break the silence if no-one is witnessing your memories? ~ Dawn

Until Dawn posted this question, I did not appreciate that some child abuse survivors do not process the trauma while they are alone. I was aware that some people with dissociative identity disorder (DID) use the therapist as a “middle man” for relaying traumatic memories. I guess I was always processing my stuff long before I entered into therapy. Even my therapist said that I had done a lot of work before I walked into his office. This was my natural pattern, so I guess I just assumed it was that way for everyone.

Long before I recovered any memories of the abuse, I knew that I was fundamentally f@#$ed in the head: I just didn’t know why. I bought self-help book after self-help book and worked through the exercises. Perhaps that is how I learned to do healing work on my own?? I even processed trauma for about a month on my own after recovering the first memory of my mother’s sexual abuse, but I admittedly did not handle it very well on my own. I needed a guide (a therapist) to show me the way.

To answer Dawn’s questions specifically, I will work backward – I broke the silence by posting each memory on Isurvive, which is a message board for child abuse survivors. There is a forum entitled Our Stories where you are allowed to get as graphic as you need to as long as you put up a trigger warning. I wrote an entire book in the forum one memory at a time. Writing what happened and posting it on the Internet was my way of shouting from the rooftops that the abuse happened. I received validation from the members there: they always believed me and were always supportive.

Isurvive was both a place for a validation and sharing my emotions. I also did both with a close friend. Of course, I did this with my therapist as well, but I was only seeing him for one hour a week, and I was processing the trauma for multiple hours every day. I was a stay-at-home mom of a young child, so I held it together when he was awake and then processed the trauma during his naps and after he went to bed.

As for how I processed the trauma – I would invite the memories to come. I would lie in my bed at night in that half-asleep phase and invite the memories to come. I would experience the flashback and talk myself through it. I would go online and post the memory on Isurvive. Then, I would go to sleep. My therapist helped me learn to express my emotions, which would typically come the next day.

Is my experience very different from the norm? I guess I just assumed that others did it this way. Of course, most survivors probably don’t have the “luxury” of lots of free time as I did when my son was little (while he slept, anyhow). I didn’t have a job outside of taking care of my kid.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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