Is it better to remember details of abuse or not?

David1959

Learning
Now that I have an appt with a new T my biggest question / concern is do I want to remember? I know these memories are inside me but do I dare build a bridge in my mind to allow them out? I kept my secret for over 45 years and now that I have been forced to face the abuse, I am confused.

Part of me wants to make sense of the visions and flashbacks but there is a part of me that is terrified to let out all the memories. Might the clear understanding destroy me with endless horrible images and feelings instead of the 1 second flashbacks I currently have? I am not sure I am strong enough to survive the full knowledge and visions of details of my abuse at the hands of a professional pedophile. Also, all that information coupled with my willingness to participate for 2 years and to never seek protection is horrifying and will remake me into something I can not accept.

My question to those who have already traveled this road is simple, "If you had it to do over again would you want to remember or not?"
 
In order to heal, you need to talk about it. Keeping the secret is what is killing you.

Everyone wonders if they're strong enough. Yet, everyone is. Humans are amazingly resilient. Nothing will destroy you more than you are destroyed right now.

You have a lot of falsities associated with the abuse. One big one is that you participated willingly, which you did not. We all think the same of ourselves, but no one did. Only by talking through it and, yes, uncovering new information, can we learn that we are believing lies. Therapy will help you to stop believing those lies.

I have to tell you that it will probably get worse before it gets better. That's the nature of it. But the honest truth is that you will persevere, and you WILL get better. You have this place to lean on when it seems like it's too much.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
There is some good evidence swirling around my family that my sister came onto my stepfather and encouraged sexual activity between them. This seems to make some family members feel that the years of sexual abuse between them were actually her fault.

I don't feel that way at all for 2 primary reasons. First of all, she was 7 when the abuse started and should not have been taken up on any offers of sexual relations with an adult for another 11 years. Second, she still has flashbacks and nightmares and I have a pretty good hunch that he does not. The fact that her alleged advances started well after he had begun molesting her isn't really evidence that she was not to blame but it seems to spark interest among people.

You were a child. Whatever you "allowed" is secondary to the fact that you were absolutely off limits to adult hands. Children are raised to try and make adults happy with them. It puts them in a very bad and confusing situation when a sexual predator shows up. This has nothing to do with character, worth or blame. You are automatically cleared as a victim in my book if you were touched in a sexual way by an adult when you were a child and I believe with every fiber of my being that this is the right and only healthy way to see it.

For me, therapy itself has recovered very few memories. I have been in therapy for well over 15 years now and I worry about the possibility less than I did in the beginning as it seems very true that the brain will protect us from things we cannot handle. To this day, my memories of sexual abuse and memories of seeing my sister abused are tiny and unorganized and certainly would not hold up in court. I have, nevertheless, gained a lot from therapy and my anxiety and trauma responses have much improved over the years.

I do, however, remember a great deal more about my trauma in general than I did in the beginning and the answer to your question for me is, absolutely. I would do it again. Having all the shame, guilt, circumstances, situations and whatnot trapped inside of me was a recipe for social isolation, pain and inability to connect with other people. Those things were unbearable. Healing has been slow for me but having it start to happen has been the greatest part of my life.

I hope that you are able to get past this shame quickly. It is excessively unfair to you that you have been made to suffer and take on the self-abusive stance that you deserved it and should suffer more for it.
 

David1959

Learning
Thank you to all. I hope with my new T that I will be able to heal. My 10yo self does not understand this. When I had a severe mental collapse 5 years ago I finally emerged with therapy but as I look back on that time it really created more questions than it answered.

I don't generally cry over anything nore do I allow myself to feel too much. By the same token I could drink a bottle of liquor (I actually rarely drink) and while I would be quite drunk I would remain in control because I will never allow myself to be out of control. It is a terrible thing knowing that you are screwed up but not able to differenitay=te between those feelings that are normal and those that area fantasy caused by my abuse. I really do not like being confused.
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
I really do not like being confused.

I think most of us create ourselves to cope, cope and cope some more without regard to the damage that has been done because stopping to feel can be terrifying and it can break us into pieces. It's hard to be confused and afraid.

Kudos to you for taking steps to make peace with that little boy and move forward with answers about yourself and your life. You deserve some healing after all these years.
 

shimmerz

MyPTSD Pro
I had to know. I was driven to know. I had many, many arguments with my therapist back then because she stated I was retraumatizing myself, which I think was a valid concern. Something inside me said I had to know though, so I went with that. It has all worked out somehow but those were very dicy days. Two of my psychologists said I was walking the line between sanity and insanity due to my drive to know.
 

Friday

Moderator
Now that I have an appt with a new T my biggest question / concern is do I want to remember?
This is a super useful thing to bring up with any potential therapist from Day 1. As a whoooooooole helluva lot of trauma therapy is stabilization / skills to handle current symptoms as well as mastery of those skills picking Pandora’s box and shaking it upside down.

Because, no matter how bad things are now? That will make them worse. And then better. Going after the root cause that’s causing symptoms is incrediably effective, but a person can also manage all their symptoms down to nil without ever touching their trauma. That “just” comes along with the risk of playing whackamole as new things start coming up (the root still growing weeds), &/or it all ramping back up again, as bad as it ever was if there’s new trauma, stressor(s), or loss of coping mechanisms <<< happened to me. Virtually asymptomatic for a decade, and SHAZAAM! back to square 1. For all the traumas I hadn’t actually processed. I had processed a couple, and those? Crickets. Nothing from them in the 10 years everything else was quiet, and nothing from them when everything else in my life went sideways and my past came rushing up to meet me like a sledgehammer.

But it doesn’t really matter how much better your life could be, if when things get worse you kill yourself. Or homeless, jobless, nonfunctional, unable to even feed yourself, much less do trauma therapy.

Stabilization + Skills = ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS first.

That can take months to years, depending on how f*cked your head &/or life is, if meds help you in the short term or not, and a lot of other factors.

So whether or not you actually want to remember is a good thing to bring up / get on the table from Day1... but it’s also NOT a decision you have to make right away. Give it a few months, at least, get really comfortable with managing the symptoms you have now & the stress/stressors in your life, & to know of this T is someone you really want to work with... and revisit the question once you’ve got a better understanding of how this is playing out for you.

This got long, so in 2 parts! :)
 

Friday

Moderator
My question to those who have already traveled this road is simple, "If you had it to do over again would you want to remember or not?"
Simple Q, complicated answer. I’ve a different trauma history than you, so it may or not be useful, but here’s my experience.

((TLDR? Just read the bolded parts))

All of my trauma was in my adulthood. My biggest problem, when I went symptom hot for the second time (15 or so years later...after 5-7 years of being f*cked sideways the first time) was that I couldn’t stop remembering.

What started out with a couple years of “f*ck me. This? Again???” gradually increasing “fairly sourceless” (Meaning there was no obvious link to old trauma, in the beginning, although clear as day links in retrospect... I couldn’t protect someone I loved; first came the reactions, then came the memories. But for the first few years?) “fairly sourceless” panic attacks, anxiety attacks, nightmares, insomnia, shakes/shits/pukes, less and less manageable emotional dysreg, & dropping in and out of old rule-books?

((That I blamed entirely on my divorce. Spent a year trying to sort it on my own, then wasted a year in therapy insistent on WHY this was happening and WHAT I needed was help recompartmentalizing... whilst my therapist was like, “Noooooo. That’s NOT why this is happening, and NOT a good idea, even if it were possible, which it’s not.” We DID agree that since I’d unf*cked my head once, already, I stood a damn good chance of doing it again... we “simply” disagreed on why & how that was to happen. In retrospect? He was a pretty badass MFT to a) recognize what was going on and b) keep trying to refer me to a Trauma Therapist c) not make shit worse in the meantime by attempting trauma therapy his own self. There’s a reason why trauma therapy is a specialty that takes years of extra study! He was actually getting certified in several trauma modalities (which is probably how he recognised what was up with me), mostly focusing on sexual trauma, but it would be 2 years before he was qualified to handle simple cases, a few more years before complex trauma was in his bailiwick))

So 2 years of increasing symptoms, but I was still very functional. As soon as the memories and flashbacks hit? I became very nonfunctional, very quickly. Almost overnight. Looking back I theeeeeeenk the actual time between struggling but alright, and completely f*cked? Was about a week. I had a LOT of warning things were going bad, a couple years worth, but when things actually went bad? It was that fast.

20+ hours a day LOCKED in memories & flashbacks, with the occasional week spent asleep or staring at a wall completely unaware of the passage of time.

These weren’t memories I’d forgotten. I was very well aware of that entire time period. They were “just” locked away. In a box. Down the hall. Down a disused elevator shaft. Past a sign that read; “f*ck this noise. It’s ancient history. Keep moving forward. Don’t look back.”

The effects of that time period had been leaking out for years. Like tiger piss. The tigers (memories) came later. Once the box wasn’t just damaged and leaking, but shredded past all repair. And then they shredded ME.

So in answer to
My question to those who have already traveled this road is simple, "If you had it to do over again would you want to remember or not?"
I would do it differently. More controlled. Less tiger bait.
 
My T says I don't have to tell her things for them to be true. She says I don't need to spend energy remembering, keeping them anymore and I can let them go. She says I can heal without telling her or anyone ftm.

Would I want to tell her? Maybe cos nobody else knows and it's lonely feeling there isn't another human out there who can handle it.

But I am still at the unable to forget stage.
 

David1959

Learning
My T says I don't have to tell her things for them to be true. She says I don't need to spend energy remembering, keeping them anymore and I can let them go. She says I can heal without telling her or anyone ftm.

Would I want to tell her? Maybe cos nobody else knows and it's lonely feeling there isn't another human out there who can handle it.

But I am still at the unable to forget stage.

The issue is that there is a part of me that feels I need to know but another part that will not let me?
 

RussellSue

MyPTSD Pro
The issue is that there is a part of me that feels I need to know but another part that will not let me?
My sister and I get into conversations constantly that are designed to unlock some of the mysteries of our missing pasts. We both remember things that the other does not and we are both highly driven to remember everything at times. Nevertheless, we often spend a little time talking and then rush out of the conversation, not to discuss it again for a long time. I think there is a battle between different parts of the brain. One part has the job to keep us protected and the other is a curious little monkey.
I think what you are going through with this is extremely common but I think that if you move forward with therapy without trying to force anything to the surface, you should gain some skills that will be helpful if/when clear memories arise. Therapy should help to teach coping skills and ways of thinking that will be available to you should a difficult memory come up. If you focus on forgiving yourself and learning new skills before you make any major attempts to remember, you will probably be doing yourself a big favor since you will be better prepared for the emotional discomfort at that point.
 

David1959

Learning
If you focus on forgiving yourself
I guess this gets at the crux of the issue, forgiveness. I have always had a problem throughout my life of being able to forgive people but I suspect this is rooted in my inability to forgive myself for allowing the abuse, not telling anyone. It may have happened between the ages of 10-12 but by that stage I was developed enough to know this was bad and wrong and still did nothing. The fallout from this has touched every part of my life and I believe the realization of this is what is pushing me into deeper depression. At the end of the day regardless of what anyone says, this falls on me :-(
 
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