T O P I C R E V I E W
Member # 45568
posted 11-28-2012 03:16 PM
This past week I've been hit unexpectedly with some vivid flashbacks (rare for me), followed by a rush of thoughts about the abuse and the circumstances surrounding it. I've become obsessed with trying to understand why my abuser did what he did and how he has justified it since.
I slowly came to the realization that this obsession is probably fueled by my shame for what happened and any role I played. Looking at it now, the shame has always been there. I feel weak because of what happened and because I'm still affected by it so many years later. It just seems to somehow clash with my self-image. I'm ashamed that I didn't deal with it in a more direct way sooner, and instead let it manifest in self-destructive behavior. I think I will be able to channel all this reflection toward the progress I've been making lately, but right now I feel a little lost. I have an appointment to start seeing my therapist again, but with the holidays coming up they can't get me in for a while. I know this is pretty common for survivors, so any helpful strategies or articles on the subject would be appreciated.
Member # 90293
posted 11-28-2012 04:36 PM
I'm sorry to hear that it's been so tough for you recently, and am really glad to hear you've taken the positive step of contacting your therapist. I'm wondering what kinds of supports and resources you have besides your therapist. Do you have people in your life you feel comfortable getting support from? Are you still getting the flashbacks? If so, how well do you feel like you're able to handle them? I think you know that it's common for people who have been abused to not doing anything directly about it right away. Some people are never able to. That's not their fault, and it's not your fault. Feelings are feelings though, i know, and they defy logic. What are some things that you can do for yourself right now that feel good, or give you some relief from those feelings? Would you like to talk about any of these feelings or thoughts in greater depth? If you'd like to say more about it, I'm wondering about your statement that the way you responded to the abuse doesn't fit with your self-image. Along with that, are there things you can do right now that do fit with your self-image that can help you feel like the person you see yourself as?
Member # 45568
posted 11-28-2012 06:00 PM
Unfortunately I don't have anyone I feel comfortable enough to go to with this right now.
The flashbacks have mostly gone away. Instead I've been feeling pretty dissociated and generally out of it. Ordinarily I'd go work out or skate, both as a distraction and a way to feel more in-tune with my body/self-image. But at the moment I've got an injury, so that's out. I've tried some easy tai chi. It makes me feel a bit more present, but it just doesn't have the same effect. What I meant by my response doesn't fit my self-image is that in the past (and to a lesser extent, the present) instead of seeking help, I engaged in a long list of self-destructive behaviors. I feel like I have completely disrespected my body, and therefore myself. Lately I've been putting a lot of effort towards a more unified body/mind identity, and this seems to fly in the face of all that work. I'm really disappointed in myself. Also, I think the abuse itself went against the way I saw my 9-13-year-old self. At the time when evidence of the abuse came out, I thought of myself as a tough tomboy (not much has changed). I refused to show any vulnerability around what had happened. Maybe because of that, my mom was pretty vocal about her belief that I was equally responsible for the trouble everything caused my family. The truth was that I felt like I didn't fight back, and the very few times I did, I was too physically weak. Therefore, I thought I was partially at fault, and even that it wasn't really abuse. So because I couldn't take that back, I suppose I thought I could preserve my self-image by coming off as unshakable emotionally. [ 11-28-2012, 06:10 PM: Message edited by: polyprotic ]
Member # 90293
posted 11-28-2012 10:09 PM
It sounds to me like you're expecting a lot of your child-self. Whether or not you showed vulnerability then, the abuse wasn't your fault, and I'm sorry to hear that your mother assigned blame to you. No matter how an individual child acts, our society disempowers children to such a great degree that no child can be held responsible for defending themselves against abuse. I suspect that the prolonged experience of abuse was partly responsible for that emotionally distant, tough part of you. Everyone is changed, for good or ill, by their life experiences, and those changes keep on affecting us. So, the fact that you're triggered right now by memories of the abuse is not a character flaw, I assure you. Easier said than felt, though, I know, when you've been told that things are a certain way. For what it's worth, from where I sit, you're handling this in an incredibly self-aware way, which, from what you describe, sounds like a huge step forward for you. I can't convince you not to be disappointed in yourself--both because it would be wrong of me to do so and because it just isn't possible--but i'm wondering if it would be helpful to you to list the positives of what you've done to cope and move forward at this point. Have you read any books on surviving abuse? If not, do you think that would be helpful?
Member # 45568
posted 11-29-2012 01:03 AM
I am determined to grow from all this, but right now it feels impossible to do on my own.
I should mention that I've actually been in a deep depression for the past five weeks after my dad was suddenly diagnosed with stage four cancer. The latest prognosis is good, and I was in the process of pulling myself out of that funk when the flashbacks started after I had to visit one of the sites of my abuse. I think going through something this personal feels really self-indulgent when he's in the middle of chemo. My dad loves to see me succeed academically, but I've fallen behind in my work and my grades are going to reflect that. I think it's another big factor in the shame I'm feeling now. Good things I've done to cope: -I poured myself into academics in high school as a distraction. That got me some sweet out-of-state scholarships, which allowed me to get far enough away that I was able to make a new life for myself. School work I'm passionate about is still a good distraction, and something I can take pride in. -I picked up playing roller derby and doing tai chi. Both gave me a sense of empowerment and greater appreciation for my body. Working out is also another healthy way to keep me out of trouble. -Meaningful body modification, including a large survivor's tattoo. It's allowed me to reclaim some of the body ownership I felt like I lost. -Removing toxic people from my life. -Asking for help from a therapist. Reading books on the issue still seems daunting, because I get a little overwhelmed after reading more than a few pages at a time.
Member # 90293
posted 11-29-2012 12:16 PM
It's not uncommon for people to start having flashbacks or otherwise be affected by memories of abuse when other life stressors are at their strongest. And that's without a specific reminder such as you had from having to visit a place where some of the abuse took place. Yes, your Dad is going through a lot right now (glad to hear that the prognosis is currently good) but so are you--and you went through a lot in the past. No one's pain is more important than anyone else's, and it's a crying shame that some problems are considered socially "okay" to talk about and others aren't. It can be tough, I know, to say that you can't do something on your own. That's a pretty impressive list of things you've already done to cope though, and it's pretty clear (to me anyway) that you've done a lot on your own already. It sounds to as if reaching out, or at least having people know what was going on with you that you needed help with, didn't go too well for you in the past, so I can understand how it would feel vulnerable for you now. As you may have seen, Scarleteen is taking a direct service break starting tomorrow and going until the sixth of December. Here's more information on that. http://www.scarleteen.com/forum/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/19/t/000479/p/1.html#000002 I want to make sure you have resources for folks to talk to during that time should you need. What, if any, other resources have you accessed in the past other than Scarleteen?
Member # 79774
posted 11-29-2012 01:41 PM
polyprotic, I just wanted to ask if your school/college/uni has any academic support service and systems for making allowances for or substituting grades. I know that turns into Another thing to manage, but I wondered if getting any official help with that kind of thing would help you to feel any better. If there is anything like that, you don't even have to mention the really personal stuff if you don't feel able to, as serious illness in one's close family is usually one of the first things that these systems are prepared to recognise.
I think people often underestimate how tough it is when someone in our close family is significantly ill. You're allowed to find all of this tough to deal with, and it's So not self-indulgent to have your own stuff going on too. Serious illness doesn't put the rest of the world on hold. Honestly, it sounds like you've dealt incredibly well with things. None of us are super-human, and it's ok that you're not super-human.
Member # 45568
posted 11-29-2012 05:41 PM
Yes, reaching out in the past did not go well for me. The way things were handled by the justice system and my parents in the aftermath of everything probably makes up about 50% of the trauma I experienced. I'm trying to not let that be an excuse, but it definitely has some bearing on my reluctance to share this part of myself with others. Scarleteen is the only place I've really felt comfortable talking about this. I do have a great partner and a few teammates that have offered support because they know I've been off. While I don't want to address exactly what's going on with them, I do have supportive people in my circle if things get really bad. Redskies- Good thinking. I checked it out today, and I can retroactively withdraw from any class I can't pass. It shouldn't come to that, but it is nice to have that security. Thank you both for your help and encouragement. Enjoy your well-deserved break!
Member # 90293
posted 11-29-2012 06:05 PM
I'm glad to hear you do have supportive people surrounding you.
We're still around until tomorrow morning, so if anything comes up between now and then just come on back. Wishing you the best with school, your emotions, your father, and everything.
Member # 90293
posted 12-07-2012 09:47 AM
I just wanted to check in to see how you're doing.
Member # 45568
posted 12-07-2012 05:46 PM
This past week has been much better. I've done a lot of work in processing all this, and passed my o-chem final. It feels good to have proven myself stronger than I thought.
Member # 95710
posted 12-12-2012 09:26 AM
Polyprotic, I'm so happy to read that you're feeling better. Please take care. And I'm absolutely terrified of chemistry, so congratulations on passing such a difficult subject - a final, no less!