Posts Tagged ‘mother does not believe I was abused’

On my blog entry entitled How to Work through Memories of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

my major problem is owning he memory. How can you own it when the memories are so unreal? Alot of my memories are about rituals and torture, and sexual games, trying to tell yourself this was your life you just don’t remember it is so unreal. How do you believe the memories and work through them when they are so evil and weird that your mind couldn’t even think such things let alone believe them? ~ Kelly

On yesterday’s blog entry, I focused on the bigger picture of believing your own memories. Today, I am going to focus on believing the “unbelievable” memories – those that are too horrible, sadistic, etc. to be believed.

I have had to work through “unbelievable” memories more times than I can count. If you have read my story, then you understand why. I had to work through the reality of what I endured, and my reality happened to be “unbelievable” in many respects. I did not choose to be abused, nor did I choose the types of abuses that I suffered. The “unbelievable” element of the abuse I suffered is not under my control, but I always have a choice to believe myself.

One of the comments to my blog entry yesterday summed this up nicely:

It sounds as though the path to healing is the road of acceptance. I had not realized it before, but what you said about getting better when you accepted your memories and getting worse when you denied them, is exactly what has been happening to me. hmmmmmm…. sounds easier then it is. ~ Barbi

Healing from child abuse really is that simple – unfortunately, simple is not the same thing as easy.

The key is to stop fighting yourself. When you experience a flashback (recover a memory), you are releasing some of the trauma that, up until this point, you have been using an enormous amount of energy to repress. This is a natural part of the healing process that will go much more smoothly if you will simply accept the memory at face value. Yes, it will be shocking and upsetting, and the release of the memory will come with the release of emotions related to that incident. If you will choose to embrace the memory as “mine” and express the accompanying emotions, then you will not spend too much time dealing with that particular trauma. Accept and release it, and the flashback loses its power.

If you spend a lot of time questioning whether this could have really happened and/or fighting the memory and emotions, the process is going to move a lot slower. The natural process of healing to is release it all, but you are acting as a roadblock by fighting it. The more you fight the natural flow of healing, the more pain you will experience for a longer period of time. It sucks, but the only way over the pain is straight through it.

Once you choose to believe yourself, no matter what comes up, the process gets significantly easier – still painful, but easier. As you learn to work with yourself, you will develop strategies to get through the most “unbelievable” memories.

For example, I recovered a memory of being forced to perform sexual acts on my younger sister. At first, I fought it because it was “unbelievable.” I had never heard of this form of abuse, and it made no “sense.” I thought child abuse was about the abuser getting sexual pleasure out of the experience, and S (my most sadistic abuser) was present and forcing this contact but seemingly got nothing out of it (was not a participant). I finally recognized that I needed to believe myself, even if I was “wrong.”

Then, I moved into fighting it because I could not handle it. If I was my sister’s abuser, then I really was “one of them” and just wanted to die. My own healing process dispelled this fear by releasing a montage of mini-flashes of my sister being forced to perform sexual acts on me. I “knew” at a heart level that neither of us were the abusers – both were being forced by S (and others). This freed me to accept the memory and deal with. Processing the guilt, shame, horror, anger, etc. was excruciating, but I was able to release this, which brought an enormous amount of healing.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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On my blog entry entitled How to Work through Memories of Child Abuse, a reader posted the following comment:

I am wondering the same thing as Kelly…it’s so unreal … how do I believe memories like those, let alone “work through them”? Will I ever really know that they are real and I”m not just crazy or sick…I do have some physical issues but no scars…unless I can actually uncover photographs or the people involved actually confess these same memories to me, independently of me telling them about them? Is it ever possible to be really “sure” when you’re working purely from “memory”? ~ Lilo

I, too, had a very hard time believing my own memories, especially in the beginning. First of all, I did not believe in repressed memories. I thought that people would remember anything that had ever happened to them, so I must just be crazy. Second, my first memories were of my mother sexually abusing me, and “moms don’t do that.” I could recall ever hearing about a mother doing that to her daughter, so how could those memories be true?

Next, I did not believe the memories because they were from an out-of-body perspective. How could I possibly remember the back side of my body? How could I have a “from the ceiling” perspective of the abuse? Also, the memories were so amazingly detailed and clear – How could that be possible? How could I possibly remember that I was wearing pink pants during a particular incident that happened when I was only three years old?

These are all questions I threw at my therapist, and he kept telling me that my experience was normal! I was certain that the next “proof” of my own insanity would be enough for him to commit me, but my therapist kept validating me over and over again. He even told me that the “insane” patients try to convince you that they were abused, but the child abuse survivors try to convince you that they weren’t!

In the early days of recovering memories, I desperately wanted proof. I found the validation I needed in small ways, such as recovering a memory in which my mother wore a particular hairstyle and then verifying that her hairstyle did, in fact, look like that when I was that particular age. Another time, I recovered a memory of hugging a toy dog after being abused. I found a picture of me at the same age holding that dog.

I am fortunate to have a sibling who has been able to verify many of my memories. We endured many abuses together, and we both have the same memories of what happened – sometimes with a different focus but still consistent memories of the same event. We also suffered many similar abuses separately, which was also validating.

Now that I am seven years into my healing journey, I see the validation in other ways. I see it when I learn about how old (pre-therapy) friends and doing and realize just how amazingly f@#$ed up most of them are today. (Thankfully, there are exceptions, but most of them are people who have been through therapy like I have.) If not for my choice to heal, I would likely be in the same place.

I also find validation in recognizing the degree to which I was broken, including the many aftereffects I have dealt with (eating disorder, self-injury, insomnia, night terrors, etc.). Further validation comes from seeing how much more emotionally healthy I am versus seven years ago. If I simply made all of this stuff up or was mentally ill, how is it possible that I am now so much healthier than I used to be?

Confession time – I have never received an official diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder (DID) from a therapist because mine is not big on labels. He did use the label of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for a particular reason that I won’t go into now, and he knows about all about the alter parts, but his focus was always on learning how to love and accept myself and my experiences rather than on labeling me. I would sometimes question whether I really had DID, even though I “knew” that I did.

I received that validation from fellow child abuse survivors at Isurvive and here. If I did not endure the memories that I have recovered and never had DID, then how is it that my words resonate so deeply with other child abuse survivors? Why do they understand me so well when most people in my life haven’t? Why does my advice help so many other people?

I have found validation in many ways over the years, but the most important validation came from myself. When I chose to believe myself, I healed. When I chose not to believe myself, my symptoms grew worse. Choosing to believe my memories meant releasing myself to the natural process of healing.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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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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