I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Flashbacks

(This is a letter Philip wrote to Cecil Murphey.)


I read your book and it gave me great encouragement through a very tough time last year with flashbacks that I was getting through the abuse that I went through as a child. You answer questions that no psychologist or counselor (I have seen a few over they years) have given me. No doubt because you relate it all back to God, and that is how we can get meaning through this madness. God did not do this to us, was crying when we went through it, and he rejoices when we see his plan through this even though the acts we suffered was evil.

I am 42, and I'm not sure when the abuse started, maybe when I was 6, and it continued through my teenage years. It was mainly women, though men were also involved. I didn't remember the abuse. I knew there were gaps of time, and I had lots of questions about these gaps.

My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was young and I did not want to be mad like her, and I didn't ask the questions about what was going on.

I blocked people out and kept to myself. I haven't been in relationship because of a fear that for a long time I did not know that was there, I just accepted that I was strange.

Since 2005, I have experienced flashbacks off and on, and I've been on different medication to help me cope. I hide away and don't talk to anyone, or return calls, or develop close friendships.

I have accepted the flashbacks. It's in the long term past so that I can deal with because these gaps of time don't occur any more.

Now my question: How recent in the past do the events that produces does flashback, intense memories and emotions of sexual experiences need to be?

Right now I'm as scared as I have ever been because of intense memories and feelings of sexual experiences that I have no memory of. I have zero memory of those events and as a result I seriously think I am going mad. I take no drugs and very rarely drink alcohol.

I don't know what to do with this, and I restarted taking medication because I am struggling to concentrate and to be happy. All I seem to do this week is to have the memory in my head while I talk to people and this is full on because it involves both men and women. I know the medication is not going to fix it, but I need a break from this. It's getting difficult to drive a car because I get distracted so easily.

The two people that I can trust to talk about this, a close friend and a psychologist, are both overseas and will be back at the end of July. I feel shattered and running on empty.

If this memory is true or not it has such huge impacts for me either way and both of them are scary. I yell to God that I want life to be easy like it was and it is far from that.

(Here is Cec's response. We welcome your comments.)


Thanks for writing to me. Flashbacks are normal.

I'm not a therapist, but I have a theory. Those long-hidden memories start to return when we're equipped to cope with them. (I realize you're having trouble coping.) Many of us unconsciously developed a form of amnesia, which is a form of denial. That was our method of surviving childhood. I was almost ten years older than you are when my memories started to return. And they hurt. Deeply.

The only advice I can offer is, "Don't fight them. Accept those flashbacks." Because you sound like a praying man, here is where you learn to rely on divine help.

The flashbacks rarely come in complete form, but usually in fragments. Or as you say, you have gaps. I still have them. Even today, I can't give you details of my sexual assault, but I know the events happened.

Be kind to yourself, Philip. I don't know if this will help, but when I went through the worst of my flashbacks, I said to myself repeatedly, "This is the best I can do at this stage of my development." Some days I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn't. I kept on.

The really good news is that eventually the flashbacks go away.

1 comment:

Andrew Schmutzer said...

As a survivor, I can recommend a few things that may help you: (1) try writing down key memories in a notebook and let your counselor/psychologist help you piece them together, (2) join a men Support Group where you can talk with other men who have had similar experiences, (3) consider an anxiety medication along with regular sleep. If you're having that much trouble driving/ functioning, you need to address this head-on, (4) seriously invest yourself in a new hobby or new activity...something you've not done before. Even an exercise can be really helpful. It doesn't 'replace' the horrible memories, but a new enjoyable activity can distract your mind in a constructive way.

Hang in there, you are not alone!
Andrew