Childhood It's just questions all the way down ...

goblin

New Here
I'm suddenly the owner of 10,000 brand-new uncomfortable memories of my childhood and I don't know anything about anything. I have questions. A lot of them. And I'm aware that the answers might not matter. I don't want to waste time and energy ruminating and trying to solve unsolvable, irrelevant puzzles. I am also aware that many of my questions come from parts that want to minimize and dismiss, poke holes in my stories, and ultimately prove it all wrong. I'm willing to bet that's all Very Normal and par for the course to be drowning in questions. Maybe I should just bring it all to therapy? I don't want to waste my therapist's time. I don't know what's worth talking about. Aaand, I kind of want to know how people who *aren't* paid to validate everything I say might respond to these things.

Behold, a list of questions about childhood crud arranged in the approximate order that the crud occurred during my pre-adolescent childhood:

  1. In pre-school, a little boy my age used to pull me into a big toy chest and basically "play doctor" with me. I remember knowing it was something we could get in trouble for, so I didn't tell on him. Telling on him would've been like telling on myself since I was there too. I don't remember any sensations or emotions because I just tuned it all out. It was dark in the toy chest, so I would always pretend I was sleeping. I didn't seek this activity out, but I didn't really care when he did. Heck, maybe I *was* sleeping. I even think we called this "game" Sleeping Beauty. When I did mention this to my therapist, he said he's, like, 100% sure from how I describe this that "something else was going on" with me at home or something. I don't know. Why might a therapist (who is usually very insightful) think that when I don't remember anything about it?
  2. Between ages 5 and 7, some boys I went to school with got really into torturing girls on the playground. Some of the boys were a few years older than me, but they were no older than 9, themselves. I have a bunch of memories that involve being chased, shoved to the ground, held down, and disrobed. Sometimes, there would be forceful groping and sometimes unwanted penetration. I had no idea that there was anything sexual about it. In fact, I don't think there really was. It was just their way of being terrible. At least one of the boys made me put my mouth on his penis, but I probably had no idea what a penis was at the time and I don't know if this even really bothered me beyond feeling like those particular boys were stupid and gross. I would just think, "I lost at a game of boys chase girls." We all went to school together through high school, l and I never worried about them after that "game" stopped. Maybe this is normal? Maybe it's ... fine? It really wasn't anyone's fault except that the aftercare supervisors were really bad at their jobs. What do I do with that? Can I lump all of those events together and think of them as a single, like, long-term incident? I don't think I'm haunted by this at all, just ... I know my therapist might give me the side-eye if I left this out of my narrative.
  3. When I was 8, a camp counselor who was teaching me to swim would press my body up against his erection in the swimming pool. Sometimes it was through his swimsuit and sometimes not. So *that* guy was a pedophile and I'm not disputing it. But I wasn't freaked out by it. I was very polite. I didn't want to embarrass him. I totally pretended I didn't notice. Neither he nor I ever acknowledged it. I remember feeling like he would be mortified if I told him what he had done. I honestly thought it was accidental. So ... I think I wasn't traumatized by that because I wasn't quite savvy enough to know he was doing it on purpose. Is it possible for stuff like that to happen and *not* matter? Like, can I just skip this one because it didn't bug me?
  4. The first time something happened that I know for sure was some kind of sexual abuse, I was already going into middle school. The boy was older. I remember a TON of details about this situation, but also there is a lot of missing pieces. Do the missing pieces matter? Am I just going to drive myself crazier trying to put the puzzle together? Why can't I stop trying to remember *more* about this when, at the same time, I don't want to remember it at all? This is the earliest thing that happened which I can get pulled back to by triggers. Doesn't that mean the earlier stuff wasn't traumatic? I feel like this is when the whole "story" should start.
I know this is a crazy long post. I haven't told or written about any of this before and I guess I'm trying to hide it all in a sea of words. I don't even really know what my questions are anymore. I guess maybe it all boils down to WTF happened to me and why does it matter? Arggg. Sorry.
 
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ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
It’s okay to write sea of words. After all, these things are charged in details and emotions. They’re detailed, but not infinite. What you describe is a background where sexual abuse and sense of persecution is normalized by the absence of any form of repression and the fear of breaking the silence. That you’re taking a form of responsibility towards the feelings of that pedophile is par of their manipulation tactics, and I’m saying "tactic" because it doesn’t necessarily needs the awareness of a strategical plan to produce expected results.

What you describe is traumatic not only because it has opened this hole of insecurity, but also because nothing has been done about it. I’m sorry this happened to you. It does matter. Reasons why, you can look into the deep history to try to understand how we managed to become so impulsive and aggressive, especially towards women.

You’re more than welcome to write as much as you want. What you write is clear. Writing is a good manner of investigation and sharing. I appreciate your generosity in questioning and articulation of what happened to you. And it’s also okay not to know and be confused.
 

mumstheword

MyPTSD Pro
I can relate to quite a lot of your early experiences @goblin. I went through some similar early childhood and late childhood abuse.

As I get older and am finally not dealing with so much in my here and now, I reflect and realise how such experiences were formative and harmful.

I can make peace with conclusions I came to as a young person, based on my treatment, and temperament, and messages I received loud and clear about my worth and what I meant to other's.

Quite painful, yet over time the hurt dulls and the acceptance grows.

I, personally, don't see this kind of thing as gendered, though. Plenty of male children get sexually abused and brutalized too.

I think that children are vulnerable. As children we need a lot of protection and caring attention and we don't always get that.

When we don't get consistently protected and attentively cared for, we get messages that we are not valued, valuable and cherished, instead we can easily be corralled, and treated as objects, and that can get ingrained in a harmful way.

That's what happened to me, anyway.

It's taking me a lot of time to appreciate and actively embody my sense of "mattering" and recognise that my feelings matter and I'm not less valuable, I don't have less intrinsic value than other's, because I was definitely objectified and neglected and exploited and not treated like a person by numerous other's, children and adults.

I was a very frightened child that didn't have adults to go to for comfort and safety.

I think these kinds of formative sexual and abuse-y experiences objectify us and I think they can teach us that that's what we are, just objects for other's use. They made me numb and shocked and horrified and ashamed and humiliated and demoralized and I didn't get any real sense of safety until recently (the last 10 years), when I finally met someone who truly loves me and has my back.

So I don't know if you can relate, if not, please disregard as irrelevant and I apologise for any threadjacking.

In any case, I do empathise, a great deal, and I feel for you @goblin. Those were not kind or safe or healthy or positive experiences.

I am coming to realise, in very recent times (I'm 48) that mine were really very subtley, insidiously, harmful and had the effect of being quite "groom-y" experiences, over time.

And I wonder if it might be like that for you?

My earliest memory was at 3, but, I suspect there was earlier. Then there was bullying, drowny dunking and physical assaults at 7 (that
are remembered coz I have LOTS of complete blanks for large portions of my childhood too), and after school care dacking (Aussie for the "disrobing" you mentioned), and penetration at 9 by another child, a slightly older boy. Then being groped by an adult man at 12.

The main thing that, I think, harmed me, is that there was no one who I could tell or expect comfort, advocacy and support from.

It did lead to me being vulnerable to more sexual abuse in adolecence and long term domestic abuse throughout most middle adult years.

I also wanted to welcome you, too, and say I'm glad you found some kindred souls here and I hope it really helps.
 

goblin

New Here
Thanks so much for both of your responses. I'm processing on overdrive right now with a burst of energy I've never had for dealing with my past. I'm able to look at it from different perspectives without getting immediately frozen or exhausted where, before, I couldn't think about my past with any sort of connection at all. Now I can get a good half hour or forty-five minutes of building up discomfort until I can't stand it anymore. Enough for a journal, enough for therapy, enough to really appreciate the support and wisdom you're sharing here.

That you’re taking a form of responsibility towards the feelings of that pedophile is par of their manipulation tactics, and I’m saying "tactic" because it doesn’t necessarily needs the awareness of a strategical plan to produce expected results.

I hadn't even considered this ... my whole life. Like, how this young man had his own reasons for not acknowledging what what happening. That just because I was plenty embarrassed and assumed it was an accident, that doesn't mean that it was. He likely knew or sensed that I was very shy, quite alone in life, and that I'd never say a word. He had to know that. Anyone would've known. "Tactic" is such an evocative word. It's hard to accept that, well, a predator predates. As hard as it is to accept that a 16-year-old who messes with a little child is, in fact, a predator. But you're right. It's a tactic. And I'm going to keep thinking about that. I don't know a lot about how really bad people think, how they work. Stupid question ... are there books or resources about it? About the ways the people who do these things do them? I don't want to dwell on the dark side of humanity or anything, but I think I might have benefited (or maybe I'd still benefit) from knowing a little about some of the scarier patterns of behavior that end up with them hurting someone like, well, me.

I am coming to realise, in very recent times (I'm 48) that mine were really very subtley, insidiously, harmful and had the effect of being quite "groom-y" experiences, over time.

And I wonder if it might be like that for you?

YES. When I look at all of my childhood stuff together, it really does seem like a bunch of events that taught me over time to accept sexual violence as pretty normal, or as something no one would ever say a peep about if I pretended nothing happened. Perhaps I also learned that no one was paying attention. And I learned, for some reason, that if I told someone, somehow I would be in trouble for it. So I didn't tell. And I was "fine" and the adults around me were "fine" and everything just kept on going. So, maybe when abuse in my life escalated -- when things became more dangerous and traumatizing -- I was already the perfect victim. I was compliant, skilled at dissociating, and I didn't have the slightest instinct to tell anyone what happened. Crazy. Scary.
 

ruborcoraxxx

MyPTSD Pro
... are there books or resources about it? About the ways the people who do these things do them? I don't want to dwell on the dark side of humanity or anything, but I think I might have benefited (or maybe I'd still benefit) from knowing a little about some of the scarier patterns of behavior that end up with them hurting someone like, well, me.
I don’t know much about books, but there is a subreddit named something like "adults survivors of csa" and there you can find mostly stories of people but also a list of reference texts. In a more general note about trauma, a lot is said of early child abuse in Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score. That one is so important in recognising what’s going on emotionally and how we can be triggered and projecting ourselves in the past without ever knowing. It helped me to accept my suffering as entirely valid and not something that makes me defective.

Here also there is a list of books that debate of the question mostly from a mental health and statistic viewpoint. I think you can pick the ones that reverberates the most with you. Adults abused as children: a reading list - Lantern Project

There are also the writings of Pete Walker on CPTSD. I found it useful for dealing with the aftermath and help yourself to build good relationships for you and managing harsh emotions.
 

DharmaGirl

MyPTSD Pro
I didn't remember most of my childhood abuse until my mom reminded me of a bit of it. That started a cascade of memories that left me completely disabled with PTSD. I was highly suicidal. It was like the stuff was happening all over again. After the 1st few rough years of therapy, I found I would have snippets of memory, and if I discussed them in therapy, I would be able to remember more. I was able to hold the worst at bay until I could process the bits I did remember, so this ended up being really helpful for me.
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
I just read the op and i got like an instant headache. Not a real headache its an expression? Add onto the list, I’m angry and lonely if you aren’t approaching me ‘that way’. You mean, that’s not love? It wasn’t a waste of time to arrive at all this. Talking about it with the therapist changed things. Changed things enough? IDK.
 
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