sexual abuse

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

Silence. Absolute lack of conversation, or “I don’t know.” At this point, I am 16 years old, and usually pouty and angsty enough that nobody really feels sorry for the suicidal pink haired girl, maybe. I don’t know, I’m biased, I was the suicidal 16 year old. I was the one answering every single question from mental health professionals with “I don’t know,” only not to be difficult, just because I didn’t know.

Fast forward for now.

I have one memory.

It shuts off part way through, like a corrupted video file. It shuts off like most of my childhood memories are shut off from the start, from before that. They all were really, until this February, now just most of them are.

I was 23 years old this February.

Another day, another month maybe, another mental health professional. “Your symptoms seem consistent with physical or sexual abuse, have you ever been abused by anyone as a child?” They eye my mom as an afterthought, “we can have this conversation alone, if you’d like.”

“I don’t know.”

So next we fast forward, I’m 17, older but still a teenager, losing mental functioning already but still hopeful that this brutally suicidal depressive episode will end soon – it has to, right? When the memories start, at age 13, when I moved to the USA. Well, technically six months or so before. When my dad moved out. When we started planning the move to another continent, setting up our dual citizenship, myself, my brother and my mother. When my dad wasn’t really around. When things were quieter.

My memory starts and stops. It’s hard to stay on task. To be “together”.

But there’s that question, “have you ever been sexually abused?” and that year, late 2009, when I was 17 and being asked that question and being asked that question and being asked that question.

Let’s write it out three times, for the three psychiatric hospitalizations within days of each other that I had where they asked it upon admission each time, for accuracy. I had to write a list of coping techniques 100 items long to be allowed home after that third hospitalization.

“Have you ever been physically or sexually abused?”

I don’t know. I don’t know.

“I don’t know.”

“That’s not an answer. I need to put yes or no.”

“I don’t know. No.”

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

“I don’t know. No. I don’t think so.”

“Okay…” then they move onto the next question on the computer. “have you had thoughts of harming others, or only yourself?”

“Have you ever been sexually abused?”

“I…. no.”

So now it’s almost November 2016, and my memory has slipped into a state of “it probably has to be there a little bit still for me to even be alive, right?” but not caring at all about any effects ECT could have on me if they ever get around to that treatment, because memory loss doesn’t scare someone with little to no short term memory already.

I have this one memory. Big windows. My childhood home. Curtains? Embroidered darker green curtains. It comes and goes. Something happened, maybe. I shouldn’t have seen that. Then it cuts off. Why are his pants off? Why can’t I remember his face? Why is he approaching me like that, when I remember being young, too young for a memory like that. Is it even real? It shuts off.

I told my mom about it on the phone while in an ER earlier this year, after February. Her first reaction was that the brain can fabricate and alter memories, which while true, is the most invalidating thing you can say to someone who just told you they might have been sexually abused.

I dissociate a lot. I am hypersexual at times. You can trace my cPTSD easily to other abuse, to being raped, more than once. Of course I am a mess. I am such a mess my symptoms and traumas are hard to untangle. I have self harmed by having sex with people I knew I would hate myself for doing it with. I have self harmed in other ways. I have a brain that I can barely keep afloat on a day to day basis, I have monsters to slay every second of the day, but it plagues me in a different way that I don’t know.

I don’t know. I don’t know. I remember too much, I know things I shouldn’t, but there are other explanations for that. I don’t know. He would leave the tv on late and fall asleep with porn on in the bedroom we shared, that doesn’t mean he did anything.

I also can’t say nobody didn’t.

I guess this is less valid than a solid, real trauma I could pinpoint and take all the way to the legal system, if I wanted to. I have traumas I can pinpoint but this is not one of them. However, this also isn’t “was I touched in ways I shouldn’t have been?”

Instead it’s, “How inappropriately young was I when I was first touched in this one way? What about in this other way, without consent, a way that nobody should ever touch someone? How old was I the first time that happened?”

My lack of memories that are of my abuse aren’t evidence that it didn’t happen, I remember other things very clearly that are mostly gone but that I know happened enough times, and probably many more.

Trauma being “blacked out” in memory is a common response.

Why does this one memory start out this way? Why does it shut off?

Why does it shut off? I don’t know. I don’t know. It makes me angry, hurts, I stop thinking about it.

Usually, and in about five minutes, at least.

“Have you ever been sexually abused?” Nobody is asking me any more, partly because I am avoiding care, due to a mistrust of the system built on its deep flaws and glaringly bad history of taking care of me within the past few years. Nobody is asking, but I am asking myself in this blog post. Because:

I don’t know.

putting vodka in your coffee for your ptsd

Three truths.

One: I started drinking vodka in my coffee at 1pm today.
Two: I tweeted at least five times in a row on my private twitter about very personal, sad things and am probably going to lose some followers on that account.
Three: I watched most of Jessica Jones episode one (give me a break RE: not finishing an episode, I can’t watch long things easily), cried at her PTSD scenes, and noted to get something to memorize and list when things get bad in my head.
It’s a technique I’ve seen used before, but only when I saw a tumblr post quoting Hick by Andrea Portes, which I have not read in full, but that section which I saw and read made me cry. Me crying is a regular and frequent thing, but also not insignificant.
I feel like I’m going to vomit. The lines between my PTSD and BPD and myriad of other super fun (sarcasm) diagnoses is a blurry mess but here I am, surviving and writing about it, and how I cope with it. Hopefully this helps someone, whether it be with coping or with feeling less alone in their struggles.
Alcohol, and other substances are one way, but I’m certainly not going to advocate for them as a means of coping with PTSD. They’re really just an escape in that sense, no good in the long run and not healing at all, no matter what some cute stoner bro with long hair says to you about certain psychedelics…they aren’t my area of expertise, but I find one thing that really helps (I’ll go over this again later) is staying present. Not easy with PTSD! It makes such a difference though, especially if you are prone to dissociation (like I am.) Substances are nice, like I confessed above I drank vodka in my coffee because I just didn’t know what else to do, but that doesn’t mean I want to endorse it. It’s definitely not one of my healthier habits, or even one I utilize frequently (also– be careful mixing alcohol and certain medications. Just be careful, okay?)
So here is how I do cope, listed neat, concise and tidy as I am capable of for those who don’t want to read my rambling above from that time (today) that I wrote and almost certainly posted this piece without editing it beforehand, because that feels ??? right now:
  1. I just mentioned this, but it is so important. Stay present. Be mindful. However you wanna phrase it, this is free, and it’s some good stuff – meaning it will most likely be very helpful for you if you have PTSD or BPD. Practice focusing on something and only that something for a bit of time every day. It doesn’t have to be yoga or meditation, although I’m looking into both since I’ve heard they’re so helpful to many and I want to write about them (and help myself get better of course!) You can also learn how to do this in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), which is offered through many service providers as a group therapy or in other forms, and worst case scenario, there are books and workbooks that I use and find helpful that are good for mindfulness, like this one.
  2. Trauma dreams are a thing. High quality essential oils can be very helpful, especially lavender. I like using lavender oil in a diluted dose on my pillow to help ward off nightmares – currently specifically this lavender and chamomile pillow spray with essential oils to help soothe and calm me at night, and to avoid unnecessary trauma nightmares. I am looking into purchasing a therapeutic grade essential oil set with lavender and also a humidifier/oil diffuser to help relax me during the day with water and a few drops of lavender oil or other oil blends, too – updates on those techniques coming because I haven’t tried them yet.
  3. Eating sour candy or spicy food to help with dissociation. Remember to focus on the flavor, even if it’s unpleasant, and to ground yourself with the sensation of the flavor and its intensity.
  4. Journaling and writing things down. Get yourself a nice journal and writing utensil that you’re hopefully even excited to use but at least feel good about using, and write regularly about your life to help keep track of things. I write down everything I absolutely need to remember, because if I do not, I will definitely forget it. Journaling is helpful with dissociation and feeling like you haven’t done nothing over long periods of time – look back at everything you will have written in the future! I blog, too, you can even try that….I hear it’s pretty cool.
  5. This is similar to the above coping technique, but taking pictures of things that are part of your life – and they don’t have to be fancy dslr ones like mine, they can be phone pictures – helps me to stay present and focused on a task, and most importantly, to remember what things I did and when. I don’t do this every day, but whenever I do, I find it so helpful.
Hopefully that short list with some (but not all) of PTSD coping techniques will help someone out there, even to feel less alone.
xoxo
Z