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Archive for October 4th, 2010

On my blog entry entitled Flashbacks in the Form of Dreams after Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

i am at present having therapy for sexual abuse when i was younger…there has always been that knowledge in the back of my head that something happened..not sure why but it has always been there. last year something happened to my eldest son who at the time was 18…it brought back loads of flasbacks/nightmares. Some of which i can relate to but others i dont actually remember happening in my childhood. This has confused me so much as if the nightmares/flashebacks are real then its just disgusting what happened but if they are not real why is my head making something like this up?? Not sure which is worse to tell you the truth. ….I Think the hardest part is getting someone to believe you! Even down to my mother when i told her see slapped me and told me to stop being disgusting…my first partner of 22 yrs didnt believe me… ~ pebbles

I have been where Pebbles is now, and it is a tough place to be. I stayed in the place of “Will anyone believe me? Can I even believe myself?” on and off for a good year, and I still cycled back to that place on occasion over the next few years. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. As abused children, we dissociated away most of the abuse because we could not handle it. We said in our own heads, “This isn’t happening to me.” We ingrained this in our heads since we were little, so it makes sense that we would struggle with the reality of our experience as we start to “undo” all of the self-induced “brainwashing” of repressing the memories.

My first flashbacks were of my mother sexually abusing me. I could not recall anyone talking about mothers sexually abusing their daughters (although I remembered later that Sybil was sexually abused by her mother) and feared that nobody would believe me. I was afraid even to tell a therapist. I thought he would say that mothers don’t do that and then have me committed for being insane. To avoid this, I screened the therapist by phone and asked if he had ever heard of this happening. If he said no, I was going to hang up. Fortunately, he said yes, which was the first step toward feeling believed and validated.

Having a therapist believe you is huge because this is a professional telling you that you are not “crazy,” and that professional opinion carries a lot of weight. After talking with your therapist, I would not recommend talking with family members as your next step. For ongoing child abuse to happen, there has to be a certain level of denial in the family, so reactions such as what Pebbles described by her mother are common among family members, especially those who were in the position to protect you but didn’t. I also would not go to my partner first because anyone who is having sex with you is going to have his or her own issues to deal with in processing what happened to you.

My other go-to person was a friend. It was hard to tell her, but I needed the childcare while I went to therapy, so I took the risk. She had been abused herself (which I learned later), so she “got it” in a way that many other people would not. It is so important to choose the right people to confide in at the beginning because you are so vulnerable yourself. Until you fully believe yourself, it is damaging to have to “defend yourself.”

For me, the detail and disgusting nature of the memories helped me recognize that the events must have happened because I am not creative enough to come up with this stuff. I never saw a TV show or movie, nor did a read a book that included many of the sick abuses that I suffered. As my therapist said, “Why would I make this stuff up?”

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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