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.

Healing and EMDR

A survivor named Phil gave me permission to post his email to me. In it he refers to EMDR. I heard about this only two years ago when I worked with Katariina Rosenblatt, a survivor of sex trafficking, for the book Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor. She found immense help in using EMDR.

My understanding is that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) emphasizes opening up and healing the disturbing memories of PTSD. The theory is that those traumatic memories have (obviously) not been processed and are stored in the brain.

If you have used EMDR treatment, I'd like to hear your response to the treatment. At best, it's called a "powerful new process" and at worst, it's said to work as well as cognitive therapy. I've read nothing that says it's been harmful. 

* * * * *

I was referred to your blog by another survivor. I have been struggling with recovering my own childhood for 10+ years. I discovered after EMDR that abuse had happened, but to this day, 10 years later I have been unable to recover the memories.

People ask me "why would you want to even have those horrific memories?" I tell them that along with those memories, I shut out a significant part of my self (the child inside me that has not only fear and anger but also compassion, empathy, and longing to connect in a deep, meaningful way with other people).

I have twice built my life to a point of apparent success (job, wife, house, circle of friends) and twice had it crumble to the ground. I both pick the wrong people to be close to but also run when things get too close. I am now divorced with two wonderful teenage kids (one in junior college and one in high school). I put everything I have into being the best dad I can to them. Yet I know I am not complete and it is not possible right now for me to bring my entire being to my relationship with them regardless of how hard I try.

I know I will not be able to have a fulfilling life going forward without knowing who I really am.

If you have any recommendations about how I can recover that younger part of myself and the memories of what happened, I would like to hear them.

I loved reading your blog and really appreciate your open approach to talking about these tough issues.


Larry Clemson said...

All stories are not the same but we do seem to have many things in common. For me on my road to healing - I prayed! I said,"Lord I don't remember but I know something happened." A while later as I let God answer as in trying to listen I did start to remember something. My friend & I sat on a couch with a board game in front of us. We were offered something to drink - It was kool aid then the memory and then then a few other small things but I will not go into it. I then realized that the drink had some kind of drug in it. I was drugged! I most likely wont remember what happened but to know that I'm not crazy & that it did happen. This helped me to voice it for the first time to my Pastor & tell him that something happened to me. Maybe we aren't given full memory of it but maybe just to trust God with it. He knows what happened. He wants to heal us! I really believe he does. So for me I trust him with my memories of my abuse. I should say I'm learning to.

Roger Mann said...

I suspect that our mind knows when it is time to release the memories. I have a fog, an occasional snapshot of my childhood below 10 years old. I know there were bad things, I can feel it but I simply cannot recall and for decades I just assumed that it was a good thing. Maybe it is, I don't know.

Still there are times when I will get a memory, once a flashback and all I can feel it fear. Still when I am ready perhaps I will remember. EMDR has helped others I know of heal by recalling and processing the memory and connecting it with the feelings. They have said that after there was a sense of wholeness. I don't know because I have never done that. I am at peace for the most part now and that is sufficient for me right now.

I would only suggest you do this with a professional who is familiar with CSA survivors and knows what to expect. Don't do this with just anyone. I wish you well. There is life after such a childhood assault. It is worth it.


Cecil "Cec" Murphey said...

Kevin sent an email with these comments:

I underwent EMDR a few years ago.
I had thoughts that I was abused at a catholic seminary.
Under EMDR I was able to remember some more about the rape and now I no longer think it happened. I know it did.
For the next 24-36 hours my body did react to the memories. My anal sphincter spasm-ed which it did when I was raped I am sure.
But other than that, I cannot say it was not worth going through it.
I hope this helps.

Mark Cooper said...

For years I was tormented trying to remember what happened, who, why, etc. A turning point came the day my counselor said to me "Mark, what do you have to remember, in order to heal?"

That question helped me to realize that what I know right now, is enough for the place I'm in, in my healing journey. That has helped me to slow down and be more at peace, both with my past and with who I am, right now.

Since slowing down and relaxing a bit, my understanding about my abuse, its impact, and my responses, has actually increased.