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Posts Tagged ‘healing in layers’

This post is part of a series in which I am providing an overview of my healing process from child abuse. The story begins here.

When I entered into therapy, I thought that the mother-daughter sexual abuse was the only form of abuse that I had suffered. It was very difficult to come to terms with having suffered from this form of abuse, but I took solace in “knowing” that at least I had never been abused by, much less penetrated by, a man.

After I had completed a lot of healing work on the mother-daughter sexual abuse, I had another flashback. This one was of other women sexually abusing me. This threw me into a tailspin. I thought that only my mother had abused me, and I thought that this tied into her mental illness. (My therapist is convinced that she is schizophrenic based upon the symptoms I told him about.) What did it mean that other women hurt me, too? Did my mother know about it? Did she enable it? Was the fact that I was the common denominator proof that this was somehow my fault?

As I came to terms with having been abused by more than just my mother, I started recovering memories of being abused by S & L, my most sadistic abusers. They were a married couple, and our family spent lots of time at their house. Those memories at first only involved S (the wife). None of them involved her sexually abusing me directly, but there was a lot of sadistic torture, including being forced to kill a kitten.

Next came the memories of S forcing me to do sexual things with my younger sister. The first memory just about broke me. I wanted to die right then and there because I believed this meant that I was one of my sister’s abusers. Fortunately, the memories also revealed that my sister was forced to do things to me, too, and I certainly did not hold her responsible for those actions.

Then came the ritual abuse memories. I did not know exactly what to do with them. They were so “out there” that I feared that nobody would believe me. Heck, compared to them, even the mother-daughter sexual abuse sounded more believable. Those memories were very hard to wrap my mind around.

Finally, I recovered the memories of being sexually abused by men. The only thing I had held onto throughout 18 months of therapy was that I had been spared vaginal rape. My first sickening awareness that even that had not been spared threw me into such a deep depression that I did not know if I could survive it. Accepting this truth was the last piece I needed in order to integrate from dissociative identity disorder (DID). I have written about that experience extensively here.

I do not know why I recovered the memories in the order that I did. I recovered more after this, but those were the big pieces. For the most part, I seemed to recover them roughly chronologically, while I know other people who recovered the least traumatizing memories first and saved the most traumatizing for last. I guess we recover our memories in the way that seems best for our own healing.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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