is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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alriune
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is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by alriune »

hello,

for most of my life i remember experiencing lots of emotional difficulty to the point where i've had multiple teachers in elementary, middle, and high school express concern about my behavior. as i've mentioned several times on this forum i have a lot of struggles surrounding sexuality.

i keep wondering if i was somehow abused as a child that would warrant this kind of response, and while i've definitely experienced emotional abuse/neglect it's definitely not anywhere near a degree that would warrant the kind of severe emotional response i have to many things. just going to the gynecologist is an emotional ordeal for me. i have literally zero memory of physical or sexual abuse from anyone in my life save for a few instances of sexual harassment and catcalling in middle and high school, but i don't recall ever being touched. my sister has diagnosed DID and has a trauma response to being yelled at, but she doesn't recall any specific instances of abuse either from what i know.

i can't make heads or tails from this. like i said, some of my earliest memories involve being incredibly anxious and neurotic and prone to meltdowns and i have no clue if this is just "how i am" or if there's some major piece of the puzzle im missing. this might be above the pay grade of the people here (i have a therapy appointment coming up soon) but even a little guidance would help
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Nicole
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by Nicole »

Hi alriune,

First, I am really sorry to hear about what you've gone through. From my knowledge, it's common for victims of childhood abuse, or any abuse, to not be able to remember much or anything at all of what they've gone through. I found an article from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies that explains this further, I'll link it here. It expands a lot more on my limited knowledge.

Although, as you kind of stated yourself, some of the instances you mentioned could just be part of you being you. It's not uncommon for people who have not been sexually abused to have a difficult and emotional time at the gynecologist or struggle with their sexuality. Also, the emotions you've been experiencing (anxiousness, meltdowns, etc.) could very well be from the emotional abuse/neglect you endured as a child.

With all of that being said, I think it would be best to look into this with your therapist. I can also ask my fellow staff members and volunteers for their thoughts since I'm not the most educated on this!
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi alriune,

I want to chime in to second what Nicole said about a lot of the things you're describing having many possible explanations other than sexual abuse that you have zero memory of. Unless there are things that you're starting to remember that indicate there might have been abuse (and those would 100% be things to raise with your therapist), I would start from the place of assuming these have other causes that you do remember or that you're in the process of figuring out (for instance, if you've always been anxious or nervous, then it may be you have an underlying anxiety disorder).
alriune
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by alriune »

hi everyone, sorry for the late reply since i didn't really know how to respond, but an important clue is that i recently discovered that i apparently have an anxious-avoidant attachment style. i realized that all types of intimacy is overwhelming for me and tends to make me panic, and i instinctively, sometimes even unconsciously, reject anyone who tries to get close to me. sometimes even purely fictional depictions of romance and intimacy freaks me out. i think this would help in explaining some of my issues with sexuality
[walking down street pointing at everything i see] Need. Need. Cope. Need. L. Cringe. Based. W. Need. (sees own reflection in storefront window) aaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUGHUHUGHAUHAUHGUAHGUHAGUHGUHGUA
Sam W
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi alriune,

It does sound like you've identified a significant component of why you might have the reactions to sexual things that you do. I will say it sounds like that realization, along with some other things that might be going on in your life, including underlying anxiety, are a far more likely explanation for the reactions and patterns you mentioned in your initial post in this thread.
alriune
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by alriune »

hi sam, once again apologies for the delayed response but i also learned something very interesting the other day.

don't remember how many times i've mentioned this, if at all, but when i was about to turn 14 i had surgery for a (benign, noncancerous) brain tumor. before then, i'd had repeated hospitalizations throughout my childhood (including two christmases in a row). i don't remember much of the details of those hospitalizations except for one when i was about 4 or 5 years old and obviously the brain surgery.

the point is, i have fairly extensive medical trauma though it didn't really start showing until years after the brain surgery (and i know that showing signs of trauma years after the event is fairly common). i've never liked needles (who does?) but after having all sorts of needles and tools inserted inside me needles have become near unbearable for me, even for routine procedures---i also wasn't squeamish before then but realistic fake gore in movies and such can be triggering for me now (especially in hospital settings). just to give some examples

medical trauma isn't a very widely discussed type of trauma, even in trauma advocacy, i rarely see mentions of it even when it comes to serious, life threatening illnesses. so the other day on ao3 of all places, i learned that apparently it's not uncommon for people with medical trauma to have issues with intimacy, sexuality, and their bodies similar to victims of sexual violence.

and when you think about it, it makes sense because both involve invasive violations of a person's bodily autonomy---though there is a major distinction in the fact that sexual attacks are violent and predatory in nature while invasive medical procedures are often lifesaving and necessary. but even with no perpetrator/criminal to blame it doesn't change that the experience of having a very serious and very invasive procedure is violating, despite its necessity. all forms of trauma leave those impacted feeling vulnerable, but i think sexual trauma and medical trauma both share the feeling of your body's physical integrity being undermined and acute awareness of how fragile human bodies are (medical trauma also tends to create an awareness of your own mortality too. which isn't to say that it's worse than sexual trauma of course, just comparing and contrasting)

i think this explains a lot of the problem, though i think other psychological factors are at play too (like the aforementioned attachment style). i also was emotionally neglected for pretty much the duration of my childhood and for a long time i thought romance and love were trumped up and exaggerated for the sake of movies/books/etc as a storytelling device because i pretty much NEVER saw any displays of romantic intimacy between my parents, which i think subconsciously contributed to my concept of love/romance/sexuality even at a young age when i didn't even really know what those things were. i also thought for a while that not feeling any connection to your family was normal and was another thing trumped up for storytelling purposes, but that would be going on a tangent
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Latha
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Alriune

Honestly, what you've said makes a lot of sense- I think you have a pretty coherent understanding of what might be influencing the anxious behavior you described in your first post. Given this, is there anything we could discuss that might help you? Therapy isn't necessarily for everyone, but it may be useful to look into therapy or exercises that help you connect with and feel secure in your body.

P.S. Don't worry, you don't need to apologize for replying late here.
alriune
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by alriune »

Latha wrote: Sat Nov 25, 2023 1:57 am Hi Alriune

Honestly, what you've said makes a lot of sense- I think you have a pretty coherent understanding of what might be influencing the anxious behavior you described in your first post. Given this, is there anything we could discuss that might help you? Therapy isn't necessarily for everyone, but it may be useful to look into therapy or exercises that help you connect with and feel secure in your body.

P.S. Don't worry, you don't need to apologize for replying late here.
i think finding ways to feel more at home in my body is a good starting point, but i'm not sure how to do that since i have issues with dpdr. if you have suggestions, they would still be appreciated though
[walking down street pointing at everything i see] Need. Need. Cope. Need. L. Cringe. Based. W. Need. (sees own reflection in storefront window) aaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUGHUHUGHAUHAUHGUAHGUHAGUHGUHGUA
Latha
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Re: is it possible to have absolutely zero memory of abuse?

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Alriune,

By DPDR, do you mean depersonalization-derealization disorder? I can't say I know that much about it, but based on what little I've read, I've heard that grounding exercises can be pretty helpful.

Here is a list of grounding techniques from r/dpdr. Quite a few of them focus on physical activities that you can try, which might help you feel more at home in your body.
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