Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 3)

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Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 2)

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Protected: The Sexual Healing Journey, Discovering Triggers (Part 1)

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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.

Making Good Childhood Memories

Maybe one thing I like best about my mom is that she is an undeterred optimist. Not in the sense that she sees everything through rose tinted glasses, and doesn’t acknowledge of really crappy shit happening – on the contrary, she is aware of those things and is not one for sugarcoating stuff that’s fucked up. But to her, as long as there is life, there’s always hope. There’s always room for improvement.

I remember I hated her positive outlook. How could someone who’s seen so much shit still be so optimistic. When it’s in your face day and night for a long time, though, it becomes contagious. And I want to believe that she is right, too.

my childhood

So one thing she says is that it’s never too late for happy childhood memories. That we can still make them together. Not to pretend the crap ones never happened, but to give them a counterweight. To add happy memories. Only when we’re in the mood, because it works only when we get a special mojo going. It’s impossible to do on command, just by going to the motions, but at the right moment it can be awesome.

So what do we do?

She reads children’s books to me. I was never one for reading, but she can read in a way that’s fun to listen to. She makes the stories come alive. I can actually sit still long enough to listen. I snuggle up to her when she reads. I love that.

We watch children’s movies together. I mentioned it yesterday in the random questions already, my most favorite film in the world is “The Children of Noisy Village”, which is an old film (from the 60s, I think) about six Swedish kids living on three farms next to each other and their childhood adventures. Not adventures in the sense that there’s drama and they need to overcome bad obstacles, but just little adventures like getting to care for a lamb, sleeping on the family’s hayloft, trying to see a water spirit or rescuing a dog. I love this film. I can’t count how often I have watched it. Watching it is like experiencing a tiny little bit of the innocence of being a child with a happy childhood.

Mom encourages me to make childhood experiences. One day I found my siblings old swing and she put it up where it used to hang from a big branch in the front yard so I could swing. It was silly, but it was fun. And I now have a memory of my mom putting up a swing for me, and of swinging while she watched and took a picture because she wanted to keep the memory for later.

We play games together. Board games and cards. But also clapping games like Miss Susie and Sevens. We often play “I Spy” when I’m bored. And sometimes hide & seek. And when I’m really lucky I can get her to play tag with me, in the garden. My sisters play it with me when they’re home. I know I’m too old, but it’s still fun. It’s making happy childhood memories.

We take time to do childhood things. I never carved a pumpkin for Halloween in my life before I came to live with my family. I never dressed up as anything. I never helped decorate the house for Christmas when I was little. I never got to help with baking and decorating cookies. I never got to have a fort under a table or between chairs by hanging blankets over stuff. I never got to play with a squirt gun in the Summer, when it’s hot, hiding and ambushing someone, or having a squirt gun fight. I had no memories of anyone playing ball with me in a way that’s fun. But now I have memories of all those things.

We laugh. I would never have thought something simple as this is a childhood memory thing, but it is. Sometimes my mom is silly or funny, for no other reason than to make me laugh. And it works. It’s not easy for me to just laugh in a way that comes from inner happiness or silliness, but when it happens it always makes for a good memory.

There’s more, but it’s hard to think of everything.

What I feel is important to add is that even the happiest memory can be painful, or at least bittersweet for me. Like all good stuff happening, good memories can be really hard to cope with. Ever so often a happy moment will suddenly change into me crying or getting angry and hating everything. The happy stuff can be terribly painful. But mom knows. She will just stop what we were doing, and gives me room to be sad or angry in a way that’s safe, and once I let her, we’ll talk about it. And even when it can be hard, at the end of the day I find it helps to have happy childhood memories. Even when I only made them now.

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