Sufferer PTSD from childhood abuse (now I'm in college)

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Sorry for what you have been through.

Survivor of childhood abuse too. Took me till my 40's to fully acknowledge what happened, so you are 20 years ahead of me!

It's hard with friends (and I would say that it is hard at my age too, and with my partner). I think people do care and want to help, but they don't know how. It's natural to shy away from hard things. So whilst it can feel invalidating, silencing, that they don't care about this massively important part of what happened to you and how that has shaped the person you are: they might be coming from a place of misguided support. They might not want to upset you. They might not know what to say.
My partner asks me to talk to my T about certain things rather than her. Not because she doesn't care and isn't considerate (although those are the messages I hear), but because she doesn't know how to help.

Is there a friend or two that you can explain what you need when you need their support? Would they be able to listen and then change how they respond to you?

You sound a strong resilient person. Making that decision to go no contact with your abuser shows your strength of self.
 

OakTree123

New Here
Hi!!! Wow we are about the same age (I’m 21) and i understand where you’re coming from, i have opened up to the ppl close to me and they haven’t responded in ways that made me feel heard or understood, and for me that’s a big issue because it makes me feel as tho they’re not actually listening - even tho they are if that makes sense. Like they’re unable to empathize because they haven’t experienced what i have. And because of this is typically isolate myself as well (which ends up intensifying my anxiety and depression). Have you experienced nightmares too?? That’s something that I’ve bee struggling w too lately. Nightmares, insomnia, and yes grief. Paranoia too.
That totally makes sense. I'm sorry that you aren't getting the support you need. And I'm sorry that your anxiety and depression are intensified because you feel the need to isolate. I can totally understand all of those feelings!

It definitely makes me feel like the people I've opened up to aren't listening. I have been isolating myself too. Currently I feel like I have to isolate myself from my friends. I feel like if I don't isolate myself, then I have to pretend that everything is okay when in reality I feel like I'm in the worst mental health state I have ever been in. But I feel like I have to pretend that I'm okay, because when I open up to them I don't feel like I'm being supported in the way I want. It was beginning to damage my friendships, and so I started isolating myself from them. It's like a bad cycle - isolation, feeling upset, trying to re-connect with friends, getting hurt, isolation. Maybe you can relate to all these feelings?

I'm sorry you've been dealing with so much! Ugh, yes, I get nightmares all the time. For whatever reason, I have a lot of nightmares that are not necessarily about what has happened to me, but instead are just a lot of frightening things that have nothing to do with what happened. Like I have a lot of supernatural nightmares (like with possessed people and haunted houses) and nightmares about people I don't know dying...but I rarely dream about my abuser. At night, I get really anxious before bed. I'm not sure if it has to do with the fact that I get nightmares so frequently or if it's because other portions of my abuse. It's so exhausting; I'll be tired all day and then, once night time rolls around, I am wide awake and can't sleep and often times become really anxious. Do you feel that way at night too?
 

OakTree123

New Here
Sorry for what you have been through.

Survivor of childhood abuse too. Took me till my 40's to fully acknowledge what happened, so you are 20 years ahead of me!

It's hard with friends (and I would say that it is hard at my age too, and with my partner). I think people do care and want to help, but they don't know how. It's natural to shy away from hard things. So whilst it can feel invalidating, silencing, that they don't care about this massively important part of what happened to you and how that has shaped the person you are: they might be coming from a place of misguided support. They might not want to upset you. They might not know what to say.
My partner asks me to talk to my T about certain things rather than her. Not because she doesn't care and isn't considerate (although those are the messages I hear), but because she doesn't know how to help.

Is there a friend or two that you can explain what you need when you need their support? Would they be able to listen and then change how they respond to you?

You sound a strong resilient person. Making that decision to go no contact with your abuser shows your strength of self.
Thank you so much for your kind words. Your response really means a lot to me since you have had experience with dealing with relationships after childhood abuse. I'm sorry for what you have been through too.

Yeah, that totally makes sense. I can definitely understand that my friends may just not know what to say or that they don't know exactly how to support me. I try to remind myself that because I don't want to blame them. I know my friends care about me and it's really not fair to ask a couple of 20 year olds to become trauma-support experts.

I told my two best friends (vaguely) about the abuse and starting trauma therapy. They were nice about it, but eventually one of them texted our group chat to ask me how it was going. I told them the truth, that I'm going through a really hard time. And neither of them responded to me. I was really hurt by that, because I felt like I had opened up a part of me to them that I wouldn't tell anyone I don't completely trust. Later, I told them that I wasn't looking for advice, and that I knew they probably didn't know what to say, but that I was really just looking to talk with them and have them be kind and understanding. I suppose I was looking for reassurance. I gave them some examples of things they could say if they were really at a loss - like "that's difficult" or "I hear you"...you know, stuff like that. And I told them if they really weren't sure, they could even literally ask me what do I need. At first they seemed to be understanding but they kind of left the conversation like "we aren't really sure what to say to you". I took this as a nice way of them saying they would rather not talk about it because they don't have the resources to help me in the way I want.

So it has left me feeling like it's better off not talked about. I feel like it's more hurtful for me to open up and not get a response than to just remain silent about everything. But it's also very difficult to stay silent because I feel like this is an encompassing part of my life now. I have just begun to accept that my childhood was abusive. I feel like I'm doing a complete 180 and realizing that I had a completely different life than I originally thought. It's like I just woke up in a new life and found out I have a totally different identity, if that makes sense. And so, to keep this part of me from my closest friends, also feels weird. It's like they don't know me at all. Maybe you can relate to that feeling? And maybe it will go away with time? I'm having such a difficult time balancing understanding my friends but also knowing when to stick up for myself.
 

RussellSue

Not Active
I am trying to find a place for feeling close to my friends while not putting pressure on them to support me...while also trying to figure out if some of them are just unable to support me vs. people who may actually not care very much for my wellbeing, if that makes sense. It's a little bit confusing.
It sounds like you are applying a lot of patience and thought to the situation. Unfortunately, large difficulties often do have the effect of weeding people out of our lives. It feels very unfair because a lot of us face these losses while already feeling we are stretched to our emotional limits.

I hope that you are able to have healthy and good relationships through this, wherever they may come from.
 

Elsewhere

Learning
I’m glad you reached out, Oak. I think it’s very important to have someone to share your story and the resulting fear/grief/frustration/anger with. We humans are wired for connection, and most of us need it to some degree. I agree with you that hiding your trauma and consequent struggles from your friends feels like hiding an integral part of who you are as a person from them, and that this can get in the way of trust and a sense of closeness. I can also vouch that having someone react in an uncaring way can be very invalidating, and I have found that to be somewhat (perhaps surprisingly) traumatic in its own right.

I’m over twice your age, and over the years, I’ve developed a tendency to mostly keep these things to myself. I‘ve taken this path partly in the interest of my own wellbeing, since it protects against potential invalidation, and partly so as not to “burden” others with tough stuff to hear about. It’s true (and understandable) that the average person is not well equipped to comprehend the devastation of childhood abuse, and the fact that its reverberations can echo well into our adult years. Furthermore, keeping quiet about your history saves them from feeling bad when they believe that they cannot help. Of course, sometimes just being heard and receiving some empathy can go a long way (but they probably cannot understand even that).

I have opened up here and there to a small number of ppl and later regretted it (e.g., to a former bf, who actually slammed me for it—I know, right?) But I’ve also opened up to my current partner, and he has been very compassionate, and his love has helped me somewhat with healing. It’s a mixed bag. I think the best thing to do is save these discussions for ppl you’re really close to, feel you can trust, and whom you believe you have a future with, and resist the urge to share with others with whom there’s less of a connection. It’s good you’re in therapy and that you also have that relationship as a source to let it all out. That’s healthy!

BTW, I also cut my abuser (my father) out of my life around your age. He died years later, while we were still estranged (I didn’t even know he’d been ailing). I don’t regret the estrangement, because I had spelled out to him as soon as I’d left home how the things he‘d done had affected me, and he didn’t show the slightest concern. In other words, I’d given him a precious chance, and he blew it (yet again). When I realized that any ongoing relationship between us was going to consist of us continuing to sweep all the ugly stuff under the rug, so that he’d never have to feel discomfort about his atrocious crimes, I threw in the towel and got on with my life. It was MUCH better without him. My sibling (his only other child) did the same. I would have been willing to have limited contact if he had at least acknowledged the abuse, but he couldn’t even do that for me. Good riddance. (I know each situation is different, but that’s my own story.)

I wish you strength and serenity, Oak. Please continue to reach out to this community for support. We all need support.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Maybe you can relate to that feeling? And maybe it will go away with time? I'm
Totally relate.
You're finding yourself. You're expressing yourself. You're discovering things. You want to have a voice. Particularly as our voices and our autonomy were stolen from us when we were abused. Of course we want to talk and express. So it is so upsetting and rejecting and deflating, and another thing to contend with, when those we want to talk to about this respond in ways that we don't find helpful.

I have found that some people (and it has surprised me who these friends are as I wouldn't have expected it!) really are very confused when confronted by abuse. They just don't know how to handle it. My partner doesn't want to really hear some details as she gets very upset about it, and then she has no outlet for it.
All of that doesn't help me, and I have to navigate it. But I suppose that is relationships? Friendships or otherwise. We have to work out the strengths in those relationships and the limitations etc.

That's where good therapy comes in. It can help to navigate that. My T and I have worked a bit on my sense of needing to talk and who to tell. Particularly as I was thinking about reporting to the police.

I think the need for people to know this part of you changes when you exmain precisely what the need is and where it comes from, and maybe other outlets for it.
 

OakTree123

New Here
It sounds like you are applying a lot of patience and thought to the situation. Unfortunately, large difficulties often do have the effect of weeding people out of our lives. It feels very unfair because a lot of us face these losses while already feeling we are stretched to our emotional limits.

I hope that you are able to have healthy and good relationships through this, wherever they may come from.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It does feel unfair at times.
I’m glad you reached out, Oak. I think it’s very important to have someone to share your story and the resulting fear/grief/frustration/anger with. We humans are wired for connection, and most of us need it to some degree. I agree with you that hiding your trauma and consequent struggles from your friends feels like hiding an integral part of who you are as a person from them, and that this can get in the way of trust and a sense of closeness. I can also vouch that having someone react in an uncaring way can be very invalidating, and I have found that to be somewhat (perhaps surprisingly) traumatic in its own right.

I’m over twice your age, and over the years, I’ve developed a tendency to mostly keep these things to myself. I‘ve taken this path partly in the interest of my own wellbeing, since it protects against potential invalidation, and partly so as not to “burden” others with tough stuff to hear about. It’s true (and understandable) that the average person is not well equipped to comprehend the devastation of childhood abuse, and the fact that its reverberations can echo well into our adult years. Furthermore, keeping quiet about your history saves them from feeling bad when they believe that they cannot help. Of course, sometimes just being heard and receiving some empathy can go a long way (but they probably cannot understand even that).

I have opened up here and there to a small number of ppl and later regretted it (e.g., to a former bf, who actually slammed me for it—I know, right?) But I’ve also opened up to my current partner, and he has been very compassionate, and his love has helped me somewhat with healing. It’s a mixed bag. I think the best thing to do is save these discussions for ppl you’re really close to, feel you can trust, and whom you believe you have a future with, and resist the urge to share with others with whom there’s less of a connection. It’s good you’re in therapy and that you also have that relationship as a source to let it all out. That’s healthy!

BTW, I also cut my abuser (my father) out of my life around your age. He died years later, while we were still estranged (I didn’t even know he’d been ailing). I don’t regret the estrangement, because I had spelled out to him as soon as I’d left home how the things he‘d done had affected me, and he didn’t show the slightest concern. In other words, I’d given him a precious chance, and he blew it (yet again). When I realized that any ongoing relationship between us was going to consist of us continuing to sweep all the ugly stuff under the rug, so that he’d never have to feel discomfort about his atrocious crimes, I threw in the towel and got on with my life. It was MUCH better without him. My sibling (his only other child) did the same. I would have been willing to have limited contact if he had at least acknowledged the abuse, but he couldn’t even do that for me. Good riddance. (I know each situation is different, but that’s my own story.)

I wish you strength and serenity, Oak. Please continue to reach out to this community for support. We all need support.
Thank you so much for all the support and for the thoughtfulness you put behind your response. It really means a lot to me! It's nice to hear some of the journey you have taken with your friendships/relationships, though I'm really sorry to hear that they were not always supportive or even kind. It makes sense to only open up to the people that there is really a connection with. I think I'm still trying to figure that part out. I know I'm pretty young still and I think that I would like to think that some of my friendships are going to last a lifetime...but in reality that might be a little bit naive.

It's also really good to hear that you cut off your abuser and that you didn't regret it. I currently don't have any feelings of regret about cutting her off but sometimes I worry that in the future I will regret it. It's really, really reassuring to hear that you never regretted it. I think sometimes I feel like I have lost someone because I have severed this connection with my mom. My parents are divorced and I lived with my mom growing up...and it felt like I had lost my mom. But I know that I am primarily mourning for the relationship I wish I could have had with her, not the relationship I did have.

When I cut her off, I originally said that I would contact her when I was ready to do so. I told her it was because she was abusive and I needed time away from her if she wanted to have a relationship with me. I also told her that she needed to get therapy and work on herself (not really something I thought would work, but I thought why not say it since I had her in the hot seat?). Since then, she has contacted me every couple months. Which has been so frustrating. Every time, I have responded to say that she was violating my boundaries and that she was not allowed to contact me. Finally, I told her that I wouldn't speak to her ever again if she contacted me. She's contacted me twice since then. I haven't responded. I hadn't originally planned to go no-contact forever. Even for the time being I'm thinking of it more as a "waiting period" to see if I ever get into the place where I think we can have a relationship again. But every day I think I get further and further from wanting a relationship with her.
 

OakTree123

New Here
Totally relate.
You're finding yourself. You're expressing yourself. You're discovering things. You want to have a voice. Particularly as our voices and our autonomy were stolen from us when we were abused. Of course we want to talk and express. So it is so upsetting and rejecting and deflating, and another thing to contend with, when those we want to talk to about this respond in ways that we don't find helpful.

I have found that some people (and it has surprised me who these friends are as I wouldn't have expected it!) really are very confused when confronted by abuse. They just don't know how to handle it. My partner doesn't want to really hear some details as she gets very upset about it, and then she has no outlet for it.
All of that doesn't help me, and I have to navigate it. But I suppose that is relationships? Friendships or otherwise. We have to work out the strengths in those relationships and the limitations etc.

That's where good therapy comes in. It can help to navigate that. My T and I have worked a bit on my sense of needing to talk and who to tell. Particularly as I was thinking about reporting to the police.

I think the need for people to know this part of you changes when you exmain precisely what the need is and where it comes from, and maybe other outlets for it.
That all totally makes sense. It's a good idea to maybe bring this up with my therapist. There's always so much to talk about...I feel like I could use a session every day, haha. It's good to hear that you think the need to tell people will change over time, especially as I figure out what it is I need. Thank you for sharing your experiences; I really can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
 

Elsewhere

Learning
. I currently don't have any feelings of regret about cutting her off but sometimes I worry that in the future I will regret it. It's really, really reassuring to hear that you never regretted it. I think sometimes I feel like I have lost someone because I have severed this connection with my mom. My parents are divorced and I lived with my mom growing up...and it felt like I had lost my mom. But I know that I am primarily mourning for the relationship I wish I could have had with her, not the relationship I did have.

When I cut her off, I originally said that I would contact her when I was ready to do so. I told her it was because she was abusive and I needed time away from her if she wanted to have a relationship with me. I also told her that she needed to get therapy and work on herself (not really something I thought would work, but I thought why not say it since I had her in the hot seat?). Since then, she has contacted me every couple months. Which has been so frustrating. Every time, I have responded to say that she was violating my boundaries and that she was not allowed to contact me. Finally, I told her that I wouldn't speak to her ever again if she contacted me. She's contacted me twice since then. I haven't responded. I hadn't originally planned to go no-contact forever. Even for the time being I'm thinking of it more as a "waiting period" to see if I ever get into the place where I think we can have a relationship again. But every day I think I get further and further from wanting a relationship with her.
It sounds like you’ve done a good job of communicating the issues and boundaries with her (and she’s flagrantly ignoring them, which is not uncommon...)

I‘m not sure if you’d be interested in advice (if not, please ignore), but it might be worthwhile for you to imagine the situation where you find out 6 months from now that she has passed away without warning. Do you think you’d have any regrets, not (just) about the estrangement itself, but about how you handled it? Is there anything you haven’t yet said or done that you‘d end up wishing you had? I’m not suggesting that I think there’s anything missing (only you can know that), but this might be a worthwhile thought exercise for you to either do in private or work into therapy.

I suggest this not because I regret my own choice to cut ties (like I said before, I don’t), BUT there is something I would have done a little differently, mainly in the interest of my own sanity, had I known that he’d end up dying with no real closure for either of us. In my case, I don’t lie awake thinking about it, and it’s not a really big deal for me, but it wasn’t exactly the best imaginable ending. I guess I wish I’d more clearly articulated what I would have expected from my father, but I kind of left things hanging without offering him a crystal-clear path forward. I doubt he would have done anything differently on his end even if I’d done that, but because of my own failure to be explicit, I ended up robbing my future self of ever truly knowing how he would’ve responded, and that’s unfortunate. He died fairly young, and it blindsided me.

Just some food for thought, in case it can be helpful to you
 

OakTree123

New Here
It sounds like you’ve done a good job of communicating the issues and boundaries with her (and she’s flagrantly ignoring them, which is not uncommon...)

I‘m not sure if you’d be interested in advice (if not, please ignore), but it might be worthwhile for you to imagine the situation where you find out 6 months from now that she has passed away without warning. Do you think you’d have any regrets, not (just) about the estrangement itself, but about how you handled it? Is there anything you haven’t yet said or done that you‘d end up wishing you had? I’m not suggesting that I think there’s anything missing (only you can know that), but this might be a worthwhile thought exercise for you to either do in private or work into therapy.

I suggest this not because I regret my own choice to cut ties (like I said before, I don’t), BUT there is something I would have done a little differently, mainly in the interest of my own sanity, had I known that he’d end up dying with no real closure for either of us. In my case, I don’t lie awake thinking about it, and it’s not a really big deal for me, but it wasn’t exactly the best imaginable ending. I guess I wish I’d more clearly articulated what I would have expected from my father, but I kind of left things hanging without offering him a crystal-clear path forward. I doubt he would have done anything differently on his end even if I’d done that, but because of my own failure to be explicit, I ended up robbing my future self of ever truly knowing how he would’ve responded, and that’s unfortunate. He died fairly young, and it blindsided me.

Just some food for thought, in case it can be helpful to you
Thank you very much for sharing that. That makes a lot of sense. It probably would be good to think over if there is anything I wish to articulate more/differently/etc. I like that way of thinking about it because it's not something I would have necessarily thought of...like that I may regret not explaining exactly what I'm looking for. I'll definitely think about that more.
 

Lionheart

Sponsor
Welcome to the forum @OakTree123

I am an adult survivor of child abuse. I am sorry for what you have gone through. No one should be abused and especially not a child. I am happy that you found your way here. This is a healing place, I am blessed to know some beautiful souls here. I am sure you will get to meet them if you haven't already. Congratulations on posting your introduction, it a big step in my humble opinion. I think it takes guts and determination to heal and I admire that.

I wish you the best on your healing path and hope we get to chat sometime, (if you want).

See ya around the boards,
Lionheart
 
Hello and greetings!

One thing in your comments that caught my attention was the opening up to friends and their reactions. For me, when I was first diagnosed and in the 'discovery' phase, I chose very specific people to reveal this part of myself to because I knew they were the kind of people who although they couldn't picture it for themselves could at least understand the theory/psychology behind it. They were helpful in helping me find a great therapist, helpful with research about PTSD, and just generally pretty good support when I said "I'm having a moment". There were a couple of others who didn't want to participate in the negative aspects of my life, so they don't get to participate in the positive ones either (they've been cut out).

The way I think about it is that by revealing your diagnosis, your history (good and bad), your symptoms, the ways you need help from others, etc, these are all ways of gifting a part of your soul (for lack of better word). You wouldn't want to give part of yourself to any random stranger because you have no idea what they'd do with it and it's a very precious thing.

In the same line of thought, who needs to know? Why do you need them to know? What do you expect from them if they did know? And, how much do they need to know? Some examples from my own life:
  • My husband (was diagnosed literally 1 week before we met) needed to know because he needed to understand that I'd be triggered from time to time and that it's not his fault. I expected a level of understanding that went both ways: he knew he could tell me if I needed therapy sessions, to up my drug dosage, to find something new - I knew he would support me when and how he could but not to expect him to be my therapist.
  • My boss ended up needing to know because I had a panic attack at work (full blown, hiding in corner of dark server room, crying, shaking, etc). I expect/ed from him some support in the workplace to have the rest of the day off (and got so so much more because he really is #1 Boss). He didn't and doesn't need to know the reason behind my diagnosis, but he wanted and does know that I can be triggered when someones walks up behind me, so now I have a desk with my back to the wall.
I'm not espescially (reliably) active on the forums but I do read an awful lot of posts. One of the great things about this forum is the sheer volume of information and SUPPORT. So much support. Here you can just say "I'm having a rough time" and everyone offers a virtual hug. If you reveal/gift parts of yourself in these forums, everyone treats it like a crystal vase (don't drop it! it's precious) and will nod with understanding.

Sending lots of love and lots of support from here to you <3
 
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