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