The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 3

SexualHJ_03_3

Today I am going to finish chapter 3. This part of the Sexual Healing Journey is about “remembering sexual abuse” and “telling others about the sexual abuse”. And I think I’ll jump right in.

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Remembering sexual abuse

Like many people who have been sexually abused, I have memory issues. It’s quite amazing to consider it, actually, but after sexual abuse having been a daily (I think) part of my life for 15 years, after I had gotten removed from my family, I forgot about it. Thinking back I find that creepy, that I could just forget it, like it never happened. My sexual behavior was still way different than what’s normal for 15 year old girls, but I managed to forget that I had been abused. The memories only resurfaced lots of years later, many months after I had come to live with my family. I started having flashbacks and memories returned.

Even so, I still don’t have coherent memories of the abuse to this day. I have memory fragments, a collage of a plethora of memory snippets, but I have a hard time determining what goes together, a hard time putting them in order and sometimes even a hard time really making sense of the fragments, because they are so small and isolated. Some of the fragments consist of visual memories from my own perspective, some appear like scenes from a movie, from an outside perspective, some consist only of feelings and a vague sense of something happening and no real visuals to go with them at all… it can be quite confusing.

Usually I do okay with the memory fragments that I have. Sometimes, however, something scary happens. I suppose it’s some kind of flashback thing going on. Then memories will appear before my mind’s eye, and I feel like I am seeing a memory clip of sexual abuse happening under a stroboscope light, so that rather than smooth movements I see rapid successions of pictures, along with the eerie feeling that goes with the strobes effect. It feels like not being able to breathe properly. It’s a really fucked up thing to happen.

So I guess I have memory issues and remembering sexual abuse properly is a challenge. The book says that’s okay, though. It also says that while it can be helpful to retrieve and make sense of the memories, it’s not absolutely necessary for healing, and that the mind probably knows best what to remember when and that it can’t and shouldn’t be forced. I like that. And what I find important is that the book says to trust memories or feelings of abuse when they do appear. Sometimes I get visual snippets of some seriously sick shit, and I don’t know if those are to be trusted or if they are just my own imagination being really sick. But I am working on trying to trust them. A little.

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Telling others of the abuse.

Okay, so remembering was one thing. Telling others of the memories is another. The book says that often people don’t tell anyone of the abuse that happened. That can be

  • for fear of others not believing us or downplaying it
  • because we feel ashamed
  • because we don’t want to be seen as victims
  • because we were told not to tell
  • because we’re afraid the other person can’t handle it

and probably various other reasons, too.

I think I am at least partway lucky (if you can speak of luck in such a context) insofar as I don’t have memories of being told not to tell. I was told it was normal, something all good little girls had to do. As a child I would have never told anyone because I didn’t want to call anyone’s attention on me, did not want to give people ideas, and most of all, because I would have felt way too embarrassed and exposed to ever speak about it. I think I tried to pretend the sexual abuse didn’t even exist the best I could, so acknowledging it was indeed real by telling someone else about it? No way! To my mind there was nothing I could have told anyone, especially not nosy teachers who were concerned about me.

But on the positive side this means I don’t have to struggle with disobeying anyone now that I am older and can tell someone of what happened. Even so, at first I still struggled with all those feelings I knew from when I was little, after memories of the sexual abuse had come back. I didn’t want to tell mom because I was ashamed and felt exposed and vulnerable and like she might come to see that I’m nothing but a sleazy whore after all, causing her to abandon me because she doesn’t want someone like me for a daughter. Yeah, so that caused me to act out quite severely, which in turn caused mom to be all over me, so that in the end I didn’t know which was worse anymore and ended up telling her.

I’m still her daughter, so all is well, and very slowly I learned that it’s okay to talk about the abuse in appropriate contexts. I’m speaking about it right now. So I guess I am doing okay acknowledging the abuse, even when my memories are still upset and there still are things that get in the way, like my feelings disappearing when I talk about the abuse, or the opposite happening (especially when I talk about it with mom).

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Okay. So with the acknowledging chapter behind me, I think it is time to go on tomorrow. I’m a little sick and tired of acknowledging, to be honest. So tomorrow I will deal with “Identifying the Sexual Impact”. Stay tuned if you want to learn what it’s about! 🙂

And I think a thank you is in order to everyone who is following my journey, who leaves kind comments and words of encouragement. I really appreciate that. Thank you. 🙂

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Missed the past episodes of the journey? Here they are:

A project for 2013
The Sexual Healing Journey Begins, Chapter 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 2
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 1
The Sexual Healing Journey, Chapter 3, Part 2

 

Book source:
MALTZ, Wendy (2012): The Sexual Healing Journey. A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse; Third Edition; Harper Collins. New York.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vwoopvwoop
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 15:09:13

    i too only have snippets of memory, and i still don’t feel like i “trust” them. last night i had a new snippet, and it goes against a lot of what i’ve thought so i don’t know how to process it yet. my instinct is to believe it’s just a misunderstanding in my head.

    i really wish my sister had someone who could be mom to her, the way yours is to you. you seem to really thrive with her unconditional love and appropriate boundaries. i feel sad that my sister has no one who can be that for her in her life, and i am not willing or able to be that for her. it also strikes me as odd that my instinct is to feel bad for my borderline sister not having a present mother while neither did i, but i wouldn’t think, wow i wish there was someone like that for me. the difference is that my sister is looking for a mother figure in everyone she meets, and i gave up on the idea of “needing” a mother a very long time ago. just different i suppose. because probably everyone “needs” a mother sort of person.

    i’m glad the book says to trust the mind and not push for memories. you sure are moving through it quickly! be sure to take breaks from it too, okay? i worry about you getting overwhelmed.

    • Lola
      Jan 05, 2013 @ 17:36:18

      Aren’t the snippets of memory that go against something you thought (or were brought up to believe) really hard to deal with? My memory snippets are fairly incoherent and all over the place. Some even seem to contradict each other, which is unsettling and makes me feel insecure and doesn’t help me with trusting them. Then I never know if it’s ME being fucked up, or really stuff that happened and WAS that fucked up. But the book said that if we have a certain feeling or memory, chances are we have it for a reason, and that it’s important to keep in mind that WE are the most important judge of our past. Not family members, not therapists, no friends – NOBODY can tell us for sure what happened or didn’t happen to us, so it’s up to us to trust our emotional, physical, sexual, etc. reactions and our gut feelings. Not the easiest thing for me, that much is sure, but I think the book has a point there.

      I really wish for your sister that she had someone who could be a good mom for her, too. I think the mix of genuine love and safe boundaries, conveyed in a gentle, yet firm way, make a big difference. But yeah, as my mom repeatedly points out, it takes a healthy and mature adult with understanding for the nature of the issues to do that, so you’d definitely be the wrong person to provide your sister with that. But I agree, while you have chosen a different route than your sister, one that entailed not “needing” a mother, everyone needs a mother sort of person. Or to develop a healthy mother kind of attitude towards themselves, probably, if no real person is there to do it. But I know I have such a hard time with the latter that I think having a real person there is the easier way.

      Hm, and I guess you are right and I am moving quickly with the book. Although I don’t feel that way, strangely, but more like it’s taking forever. I think at the moment I’m still fairly okay because I am, at least in large parts, okay with the whole acknowledging thing, because that’s what I’ve spend quite some time doing with mom already, when memories and stuff came up. I think it will be harder thereafter. Or should new memories surface. We’ll see. But I thank you for your concern. I’ll be extra careful.

  2. prideinmadness
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 16:53:34

    I once read that people with good memories are more likely to suffer from PTSD because of their ability to recall the memories. My horrible memory is probably partially a coping mechanism but what I lack in visual memory I make up for with great emotionally memory (which is good and bad).

    • Lola
      Jan 05, 2013 @ 17:49:51

      Kind of makes sense that people with a good memory would suffer from PTSD more easily. But then, maybe people with a good memory originally start to lose it as an attempt to cope with the trauma, so that afterwards it’s hard to tell if the person actually had a good memory or not? I know my memory is terrible. Brain = sieve. I can imagine that a great emotional memory can be both good and bad. I find that I often remember only one certain area, either visual, or emotional, or some other sense, but lose the rest, so that often I have visual memories but my emotions are disconnected, or an emotional memory, but no clear picture, etc. Which is probably a way to prevent the memories from becoming too overwhelming, but sometimes it’s really annoying because it always feels like a large part of the memory is missing.

  3. lostservice22
    Jan 06, 2013 @ 19:58:59

    I have very similar memories of my abuse. it did not go on as long but I have the small flashes that are out of order, or the view of a 3rd person watching like a movie. I know how that makes looking back on anything in your life, even stuff not connected to the abuse. I can’t remember most of my child hood any better.

    the thing that really freaked me out was once I realized that I had created a fake memory. I love to read it was my escape from everything when I was younger. I read all kinds of books. one day when I was about 17 I cam across a book I remembered reading and loving when I was about 8 years old. I re read it to see if how it still made me feel and at one chapter I came across a scene that I had thought was something that had really happened to me. in my mind I had replaced the characters with my self and my family and had come to believe that it was a real memory of mine. it scared the hell out of me. I had to face the fact that some of my memory could not be trusted. it caused a lot of insecurity in me for a time trying to find out what was real and what wasn’t.

    luckily in part of my healing I have learned to accept that what happened in the past is just that, in the past. nothing I can do will change it and all I can do is become a healthier and happier person from now on.

    • Lola
      Jan 06, 2013 @ 20:55:10

      The think about fake memories creeps me out, too. I mean if you can’t trust your memories, what can you trust then? But then again, I suppose that even if you create a fake memory, the psyche probably creates it for a reason, because it is meaningful in one way or another, so maybe that’s what’s worth paying attention to. I don’t know. I’m sorry you have similar memories of abuse though. 😦 But glad it didn’t on as long. And I certainly know what you mean about the 3rd person perspective. Especially when I see scenes with the strobes effect, I see the pictures like from the outside, too.

      Yes, and I suppose it’s good to learn to accept that what happened in the past, is the past, and nothing we do now can change it. It’s about getting a good future, after all, not changing the past.

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