Dealing with Flashback of First Abuse and Why Therapy if so Vital

Healing trauma is hand work whatever method of therapy you choose you choose. It is a long road full of pot holes. Some sessions you feel you feel like you are taking two steps back for each step forward that you make. There are weeks when you just think “I can’t go to therapy this week. I can’t go through a session again. I’m too vulnerable. There have been too many flashbacks”. These are the EXACT weeks when you need to go to see your therapist and push through. This has been just such a week for me.

I have been assaulted by flashbacks of abuse. The best way to describe it is that is it’s like one of those old-fashioned black and white movie film strips where abuse and rape after rape flash before my eyes and I re-experience them. I am paralysed and unable to move when they hit but they just keep coming without stopping. I was the victim of a paedophile ring organised by my parents from the age of four to eighteen when I was then thrown out of home and lived on the streets of Dublin until taken in by The Salvation Army. My saviours. I will be forever grateful to them. They organised for me to immigrate to Australia and educated me and I am now a Lecturer at a University In Australia.

Weeks like this though, I cannot work. I am housebound as when the flashbacks hit I fall to the ground and curl up into a ball and dissociate. If I have means to self harm I will. My family keep me as safe as they possibly can and they do a sterling job. Their support has been unwavering for the last four years since I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder. That is when the memories came flooding back. We are surviving and through the support of a genius of a Psychotherapist and EMDR and a good Psychiatrist managing my medications, a good clinic I can go when suicidal we are healing but as I said earlier some weeks like this one I feel like I am going backwards.

I went to see my Psychotherapist yesterday. We did not even need to do EMDR. The flashbacks started in the sessions. I was on the floor, curled up in ball with her arm around me, reassuring me I was with her now in her room in 2017. She kept repeating that. Saying my name. Encouraging me to tell her what was happening. Urging me to reveal what I was experiencing. I began to talk and the re-experience that I told her about was of the first time I had been abused. We had talked of this many times before but more in context of the grooming that had taken place and the betrayal by the family friend and the shock it had been. There never had been any tears from me, just complete shock at the ravaging physical pain and complete, total lack of understanding of what was happening. This was the first time that I actually told of the actual rape. I broke down and wept, wracking sobs. She held me for some time and just let me cry. Then I resumed my seat and asked my “Why, why did he do that?” “He was evil Erin, a sick evil man hungry for power over you, Rape is all about power not about sex. This is probably hard for you to understand this now but it’s all about control, their desperate need for control”. I heard her words but couldn’t take them on board. As she says to me often “I will say these words to you and they will rattle around in that brain of yours and sink in eventually”. True. Often she said things to me which at the time I didn’t understand but they made sense a week or two later.

Still, nothing can explain to me the rape of a child. I cannot accept it happened to me and until I do I won’t heal. I know that. I cannot forgive. I do not believe those men and Priests or my parents for that matter deserve my forgiveness and if that is what it is going to take for me to heal well I have a big barrier to overcome. Firstly I have to come to terms with what happened. It did not happen to my siblings. There was a massive age difference and they were all in boarding school and University by the time I was born and are not aware of what happened to me. I have not told them anything. It would seem cruel to destroy their memories of their childhood and I doubt they would believe me anyway it is so far removed from their childhoods. Why mine was so different I’ll never know. My parents are both dead now, both dying in the last six years with the answers. I went into total suppression so did reconcile with them in my twenties and they met my husband and children and nothing came back to me. It was the advent of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse here in Australia and hearing witnesses statements that caused my breakdown and Complex PTSD. My siblings just think I had a breakdown.

Hopefully, now that the first rape has been processed with my therapist I can move forward at least on that issue. No doubt it will take more sessions to deal with it completely but at least I have brought it out into the open in a safe environment. I cannot stress enough the need for a safe environment for someone suffering from PTSD. It is vital and crucial. A lifeline.

I will move forward and today being Monday hope that this week is a better week. It’s been good so far. So it’s looking promising. 

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