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Question
Posted by: Smallheart | 2003/02/23

Desperate to talk about past sexual abuse.

I was gang raped (at 6) and sexually abused for some years as a child. I just can't seem to 'get over it'. It was this BIG secret for years (the first time I told was when I was in my twenties!). I have seen a shrink and received more than a years counselling. BUT I still seem to struggle - especially with relationships / friendships. I also get these times where I might be watching a movie or someone says something - and it just triggers something in my head and I just withdraw or become really tearful. It doesn't even have to be sexual. I'm also really uncomfortable with physical contact - and won't touch people because I always feel as if it is sexual or might be perceived as sexual. I have really loving friends and people who really care about me - but only 2 people know about my past - I always feel as if I have to avoid the topic of sexual abuse with them at all costs. That we've talked about it and that there's nothing more to say and that I must now just get over it. This causes me more stress. Is it normal to want to talk about it? I often remember something or after I got upset about something triggering me - or I feel like I've really come to understand some part of what happened - and I want to talk about it - whereas only a year ago - I cringed away from it and pretended it never happened, etc. I often feel that my experience and how I struggle to deal with it - might be helpful to someone else.

Is it a positive stage of 'healing' that I've reached - if I want to talk about it? When is it ok to talk to someone about what has happened to you? How will friends react if I told them? Would they still talk to me / feel akward around me?

Thanks!

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Dear Smallheart,
Of course it's normal to want to talk about anything that is important to you. But there may be issues of the appropiateness of the person you choose to talk to, the time and the place. One of the reasons why counselling is important is that it provides a safe place and a special time and person with whom you can talk through anything that bothers you --- and with someone who is capable of understanding and making helpful suggestions.
It probably does represent a positive stage of healing that you now fel able to, and want to, talk about the experience. But again, this is mainly what counselling / psychotherapy is for. Talking to friends may feel overwhelming to them --- you would be distressed, and talking about awfully distressing experiences ; and, having normal human feelings, they would be disturbed and bothered by what they ehard--- and feel the urge to help in some way, more than by simply listening, even if that might be all you actually wanted from them. Feeling incompetent to do anything useful or appropriate in response to what they heard, many people prefer to withdraw from the experience, because it is very uncomfortable to feel useless in the face of such distress. This, again, is where a counsellor / shrink is able to handle the experience in the way that ordinary friends often cannot.
And, an extremely important task which the shrink has, is to help you not just spend months or years spinning your wheels in the mud, merely talking ABOUT what happened, but talking it THROUGH --- working through the events and the conclusions you have drawn from the experiences, revising these conclusions and assumptions about yourself and others, so as to be ale to move on, free from being shackled to events of the past, and free to get on with enjoying the rest of your life to the full.

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Sister | 2003/02/23

I'm very sorry about what happened to you. I'm not sure if what I will say will help you but I'll share anyway. I was in an abusive situation as a child myself. I had to tell my boyfriend because I had 'phases' of sudden depression. I still do but it's much better now. He was very understanding. I also spoke to friends and yes they accepted me. Our friendship never realy changed. The only thing that offended me is when I got a feeling that some people actually forgot about it. I was offended when friends hired a movie that had an child abuse scene. I felt that they had forotten what I had been through. A couple of weeks later I realised that it was better that people didn't treat me any special - like be extra- sensitive around me.

I also found that after I had spoke to friends most of them felt free to come share their different pains with me.

Reply to Sister

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