Sexual Assault Very confused about my childhood

Biana

New Here
Hey... I'm new here. I'm not sure how this works, but I'm looking for an answer and maybe somebody over here can help me...?

I was sexually abused from the age of 10 up until my late teenage years by my brother. I have C-PTSD, but I've never had recurring flashbacks or nightmares. The more I think back, the more I realise I can't remember ow old I was when we started, or any exact events of abuse. It's like he washed away every single memory of when he did stuff to me. I know what we did, and I know we did it at least once a week for about 7 years, but again, I can't remember when it started, or any exact events. I've had other PTSD symptoms, but my question is, I never knew what we were doing was wrong! Maybe I made myself believe it wasn't a big deal, but when I tell my therapist what he made me do, she says this was abuse and trauma.

My trauma got triggered when I turned 15 and I started therapy straight after that trigger. Ever since, it's gone downhill. So now I'm considering EMDR because everybody says it's very effective.

But I don't know if EMDR is right for me, because I don't have recurring nightmares or flashbacks, I don't feel my alarm bells going on when my brother is around, I don't even remember most of the details, I don't even feel anything. It feels like I'm living in bubble wrap, or under water, y'know, when your ears are filled with water and you can't hear anything? I barely cry, I barely feel sad. I always joke about my situation, although I'm self harming and I take a very lot of unprescribed medication to feel "in the clouds".

So a few questions:
1. Do I have trauma?
2. Why don't I have flashbacks or nightmares?
3. Why, after 5 years of therapy (various therapist, I've seen my current one for 3,5 years already) is it still difficult for me to work with a therapist, and do what I have to do, open my mouth and TALK???
4. I'm always scared I made it all up because I barely remember any concrete details, and I don't get haunted by memories, so what if.... I'm just crazy...? I'm very worried about that... Yet somewhere, I know it really did happen, but then why don't I remember anything?

I realise I sound very naive and stupid, maybe it is the inner child in my writing this. But I don't work with therapists. It's not what I do, I don't need therapy. But... I do need these answers...

Please, would somebody mind helping me?
 

Charbella

MyPTSD Pro
1. Do I have trauma?
2. Why don't I have flashbacks or nightmares?
3. Why, after 5 years of therapy (various therapist, I've seen my current one for 3,5 years already) is it still difficult for me to work with a therapist, and do what I have to do, open my mouth and TALK???
4. I'm always scared I made it all up because I barely remember any concrete details, and I don't get haunted by memories, so what if.... I'm just crazy...? I'm very worried about that... Yet somewhere, I know it really did happen, but then why don't I remember anything?
1. YES
2. probably because your still not quite ready, or you don’t recognize them. How were you diagnosed?
3. my guess as someone else who is silent, shame, though that could be a me thing.
4. highly unlikely, who’d choose it? Pretty sure if you were making something up you’d go with a wonderful childhood. The brain is wonderful and infuriating, it would be great to forget, but that nagging something isn’t letting you.

I'm curious what your therapist says?
 

Sideways

Moderator
Welcome to the forum.

Sexual abuse definitely counts as traumatic, even if we dissociate from our feelings when we think about our own personal experience. It's pretty typical of us ptsd folks to minimise our own experience ("it wasn't that bad", even though we can see that, if it happened to anyone else, it was that bad).

You might find our article on PTSD Diagnosis helpful. Scoot down to the section on "Intrusive" symptoms (B). Nightmares and flashbacks are only 2 kinds of intrusive symptoms that can occur with ptsd.

You're not crazy. And even though recovery can be a really slow process, it is worth it. For me personally? I can't see myself ever being able to chat with a therapist easily and openly about my trauma. But that's okay. Moat of my recovery is about how coping with here and now - my trauma is what caused my dysfunction, but my recovery is mostly focused on "so what do I do about it...?".
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
1. Do I have trauma?
2. Why don't I have flashbacks or nightmares?
3. Why, after 5 years of therapy (various therapist, I've seen my current one for 3,5 years already) is it still difficult for me to work with a therapist, and do what I have to do, open my mouth and TALK???
4. I'm always scared I made it all up because I barely remember any concrete details, and I don't get haunted by memories, so what if.... I'm just crazy...? I'm very worried about that... Yet somewhere, I know it really did happen, but then why don't I remember anything?
1. Yes.
2. Because everyone is different. And perhaps your mind is still protecting from it. I blocked everything out in my mind until I was 24 and things started to come back about what happened in dreams and I thought I was making it up. As before then I would have said I was never abused. Traumatic memory is stored differently in our brains.
3. Putting things in words and saying them is really hard. I mostly refer to 'events' rather than saying the words of what happened. And I'm 3 years into therapy. Sometimes I can say the words like rape and the words where in my body the rape happened. But mostly I say 'that event'.
4. Totally relate to this. And this is where understanding how traumatic memory is stored really helps to believe yourself. I also have a 'knowing' despite fragmented memory or barely any memory. This is ok, normal, common.


I'm always going on about this book, but it helped me so much and I go back to it time and time again: healing the fragmented selves of trauma survivors by janina fisher.
She writes about memory and how parts of us split off to protect us from the trauma.
 

Biana

New Here
probably because your still not quite ready, or you don’t recognize them. How were you diagnosed?
What do you mean, not quite ready? How do I know when I'm ready? I thought no flashbacks or nightmares would mean I've processed the trauma already, but that bothers me very much, because although I WANT to be healed - but when my brother is around, or somebody touches me, or I feel unsafe and anxious, and my alarm bells don't go on, I get very scared that I'm letting myself forget what happened to me, or that I'm getting over it and it won't bother me anymore, and I musn't! I can't! Sometimes I wish I could feel the pain and see the memories again and prove that it really did happen... And I will never forget. Which is weird, because I WANT to get healed...

I can't see myself ever being able to chat with a therapist easily and openly about my trauma. But that's okay. Moat of my recovery is about how coping with here and now - my trauma is what caused my dysfunction, but my recovery is mostly focused on "so what do I do about it...?".
But do you have that urge to cancel every session? Do you sit in your therapists' room, totally silent because you don't know HOW to talk, and you just CAN'T? Why after 3,5 years of seeing the same therapist, can't I just sit down and WORK with her?? Is it a trust issue that I have? Is it, as @Charbella says, shame? Afraid to be vulnerable? Or is it that I can't heal what I don't let myself feel...?

Because everyone is different. And perhaps your mind is still protecting from it. I blocked everything out in my mind until I was 24 and things started to come back about what happened in dreams and I thought I was making it up. As before then I would have said I was never abused. Traumatic memory is stored differently in our brains.
That makes a lot of sense... But I'm aware of the abuse and trauma, I'm in therapy for it. So then why haven't I been triggered? Why would my mind wait a few years to let my memories be triggered?
 
I don't have a lot to add, most people explained way better than I could at this moment. I just want you to know that I feel the same way. Blocked from talking about my trauma, don't really remember, I thought it was once but was told it was more often. I too have blocked memories and things I don't know if they were real or a dream. I am 53 and was always triggered by things, I just didn't realize it. I had no alarm bells around him until 4 years ago. But also remember that the behaviour was normalized so why would you have alarm bells? Especially if you didn't know it was wrong. I thought I had a normal childhood. In the last year of looking back I feel horrified by my childhood, like I'm covered with this gross ooz.

I want to cancel every session. My current therapist was actually helping me so I found even though I wanted to cancel, going always left me feeling better. I don't think I'll keep this one as he did something completely unprofessional and my trust for health care providers are at an all time low. But at least now I will know within one or two sessions wether or not the therapist is right for me. He presented different perspectives and made me question my own while explaining WHY I have those perspectives without having to even get INTO any details of my trauma. I agree with @Sideways , for me it's about coping with what the trauma left behind. Some day, maybe I'll be able to face my trauma.

So glad you are reaching out! So proud of you for questioning things and looking for answers. Another good book is The Body Keeps the Score. In chapter 4 he talks about how the brain works and how trauma affects it. So far it's answered some questions, I'm just on that chapter now.

Sorry for the events that brought you here but welcome to the board.
 

Sideways

Moderator
But do you have that urge to cancel every session?
Yep. It's pretty shit. Recovery is damn hard work.

But that's the rub. That's what gets me into the therapy chair, still, more than 10 years into treatment (that's my journey - not saying it's gonna take you the same time). I want to heal. And I've committed to doing the hard shit in order to get there.
Do you sit in your therapists' room, totally silent because you don't know HOW to talk, and you just CAN'T?
No, my coping strategy is avoidance in therapy. I very often find myself waffling on about everything and anything that's irrelevant and easy to talk about.

I use writing stuff down a lot. I write it down in advance, and take it to therapy and get my T to read it. That's surprisingly difficult, but at least I'm not forced to say the words out loud.

A lot of folks use that strategy. Some people will ask their T to look away while they read, snd occasionally I ask to leave the room altogether while they read. But it gets the communication happening, in situations where that feels too distressing to do by simply talking.
 

Friday

Moderator
But I don't know if EMDR is right for me, because I don't have recurring nightmares or flashbacks
No prerequisite.

EMDR was designed/invented/discovered for trauma. But it’s actually EFFECTIVE on a wide range of disorders with no trauma whatsoever. IE none of the symptoms of trauma attach (like nightmares and flashbacks).

But as has been said? Nightmares and flashbacks are only 2 symptoms (neither required) amongst dozens of possible symptoms of PTSD. Just because you don’t experience nightmares & flashbacks? Doesn’t mean EMDR won’t be effective for you.

But do you have that urge to cancel every session? Do you sit in your therapists' room, totally silent because you don't know HOW to talk, and you just CAN'T?
I have. Like my jaw is wired shut. I physically cannot talk, and if I attempt to beyond some kind of crazy predefined limit? Imagine a 2yo throwing a full body tantrum. None of my trauma was from my childhood but that’s still the …state… I end up in. Break. Some. Shit. Right f*cking now. It’s violent, and overwhelming, and very tightly controlled only by long experience. Sex & drugs are pretty much the only things that bleed that energy out and away with no effort on my part.
 

Biana

New Here
No, my coping strategy is avoidance in therapy. I very often find myself waffling on about everything and anything that's irrelevant and easy to talk about.
I do that too....

I just spoke to my mentor, and she told me that I seem to be giving off the vibe of hopelessness, despair and "what's the point of even trying". And the only one that can change that, and want it, is me. Maybe it's because I feel like it's all being forced down my throat, maybe it's because of the lack of control, maybe it's the shame and vulnerability involved, or maybe all of those or none of those. But honestly, I'm not sure it matters. The switch to decide to allow myself to be helped is one only I can make. And if I say that doing it for yourself will never happen, then maybe I can do it for my future self - the one that would like a say but isn't getting one. Or for the people I'll be able to help and support if I actually make the change. Or even for the people here and now, who care... But the point is, no one else can push/force/nudge me to do what I need to/should do for myself. Because even if they do, it will backfire, like it has for over three years. I stayed with someone knowing she couldn't help me, because I didn't want it in the first place. And now I have someone who might be able to help me, but until I take the active decision to choose life, nothing will change. It's up to me...

And I can't choose life!! I can't choose working in therapy, I don't know how... I'm in such a panic of the thought, it scares me..... I don't know what to do...
 

Mach123

MyPTSD Pro
Hi I don’t have any advice just to say I've been there. Now it’s five or six years later and I quit therapy. Actually I’m probably switching therapy.

I got through it and I hope you do and it gets easier and it’s the hardest thing I could ever imagine.

You are to be congratulated for what you’re doing, this is the work. It’s brutal though. : (
 
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