So, I ended up telling my friend a bit more specifically why I couldn’t participate in the retreat activities fully… she was understanding, and supportive. So now there are maybe 5 people who know more about it.
Tag Archives: sexual assault
Woke up with body memories again. I’m getting tired of them. I keep reminding myself that they are from the past, but it’s uncomfortable and difficult to sit through the sensations of being touched all the time… at least L is home today. That’s helping me ground simply because I have to be mindful of her presence.
I’m trying to get through the day without bugging Dr C. It’s mothers day, and the weekend, so I’m going to do my best to keep muddling through.
We need to talk more about the sh tomorrow, and the body memories…
Sometimes, I “remember” things that at other times I’m positive couldn’t have happened… but in the moment of “remembering” they feel so real I could taste and touch them.
I know exactly how it feels on my lips. I can taste the mix of sweat and cigarette smoke… in that moment, I know what’s playing in my head was a real event. But then the moment passes, and I can list a million reasons that event could have never happened…
I know the difference between my imagination and reality. I know those were never my fantasies… but what else could they be because I also “know” they are not actual memories. I should have remembered them all along. I should have know. I would have known.
But… ugh! I know they are at once real and fake. I know they are not only a cry for attention, but also a plea for attention. I know this, but I don’t.
I never talked more about duckboy at the time because I “knew” I consented by not fighting, by not screaming, by not pulling away, by obediently doing what I was told (MY had argued the point over and over again. She convinced me that a situation like that was consenting in its lack of resistance. The people that had experience with sexual abuse disagreed with MY, but her stance was easier to swallow. If it wasn’t abuse or assault, then I had nothing to worry about)… but why was I so compliant? I know I had learned somewhere that to simply do what I was told, or let him do whatever he wanted, meant that it would go easier and faster. I knew what it would feel like, I knew what to expect from my body. At the time, I couldn’t tell you how or why I knew this, but I knew.
When I first “remembered” the other stuff, it felt like an elephant kicked me in the chest. It took my breath away. I was driving home from therapy and I had to pull off the highway. I remember calling De in a panic and begging her to tell me all the reasons why what flashed through my head and body wasn’t actually true…
I repeat those same defenses against its truth to myself often: it was something I saw on TV or read in a book, It’s my imagination, it’s the stories of my clients’ pieced together and told with people in my own life…
And at the same time, it can feel so damn true. I know things because “I just know.” I don’t know how I know, I just know… I feel things for no reason other than I have a very active imagination; I’ve pieced together different events and written them with all new characters and story lines. I have a really good imagination. My body plays along with that amazing imagination to give me a better fantasy life… yeah. That’s it.
In the shower today, I remembered something, but it quickly gave way to something I know for sure is not a memory (feels different, and was drastically embellished from the actual events. I think I do that as a defense and a means to keep distance from the other stuff)… but now I’m not sure if the start of it was actually a memory, or just a play going on in my head. I can’t even really remember the beginning part anymore, just that it was disturbing and felt very real.
How can something feel so real and so fake at the same time? How come I can’t talk about it even in vague terms outside of therapy?
…I want to write something about Monday’s therapy, but I’m still processing it. It wasn’t overly heavy, but it’s still churning in my head.
We talked more about the impact of abuse on a healthy, adult sex life. It certainly has a ton of impact. I mentioned to Dr. C that I found it easier to fully immerse myself in the experience without flashbacks when we are not at home. At first I had thought it would be different after the move because these walls held no memories, but it turned out to be just as triggering here as it was in my childhood home. She mentioned that it seems to be a “thing” for people with a sexual abuse history (at least in her experience)… I’ll have to look more into that. Maybe it’s something about associating home with unsafe situations? I dunno…
She also pointed out something I’ve know for a while, but she tied it to the self-harm: the most effective schedule of reinforcement is random-intermittent reward. Translated to plain english; giving in to the urge to self-harm even just once-in-a-while reinforces the connections making it a stronger habit… We also talked about easier ways to step away from the concept of self-harm being soothing. She suggested I work to find other skills that I can randomly toss into the mix. She said it would be easier to build-up other habits than to work at breaking the reinfocers for the sh. We didn’t really come up with other options, but I’m again tasked with working other coping skills into my bag… On the plus side: I have not cut recently, so I have not reinforced that habit lately…
I had started wiring this yesterday after therapy, but got distracted. I don’t really know what else I was going to write. There was a thought about it a few hours ago, but I wasn’t able to take notes. I don’t remember what it was anymore. Guess that’s the story of my life: have a thought, don’t have a chance to write it down, forget the though…
They say insight helps move you forward. But what if you have all this insight, and don’t know what to do with it? It doesn’t magically change things. It still takes a lot of work, and struggle, and… I’m tired of having insight and not knowing what to do with it.
I called TM and left a message because I realized that my pattern was to crash if I didn’t reach out. So I told her I needed to reach out, and I was hoping just leaving the message would help. It did in the moment, but now I want to crumble again… knowing the reason for the “crisis” isn’t helping to avoid it right now. And having alternate coping skills is not making much of a difference. I guess it’s the small victories: I made it out of the house for a bit. I put off crashing… I guess that’s a positive. And I called TM in hopes of heading off a bigger, harder crash (so far it’s working). Only what happens next week when she suggests an iop again? And what happens when she refers me out even though we have maybe a month left? 😦
I hate that trust comes so hard. I hate that I need to find a paid someone to trust and reach out to. I hate that it always ends so soon. I’ve seen more therapists than I have been in years of therapy. There have only been 3 I was able to see for more than 10 months (and 3 out of the last 4 I only saw for about 4 months each)… JF was an intern when I started seeing her, but she got hired on to keep working at the clinic, so I saw her for 2.5 years (until I graduated). LKB was the first private-practice therapist I saw. She ditched me after 2 years because I was too acute… then Dr C I saw for 2.5 years until I moved. Everyone else was an intern, except De & TM, who were/are limited by agency policy.
There was JJ, DJ (saw her one year during two of the school breaks, so maybe 10 times total), B, CS, JF, TB, JG, LKB, SC (dbt), Dr C, BGR (iop), L (dbt), Dr GD (the center), D, JP, De, TL, and TM… I’m missing a few because last count TM was #18 or 19… who am I missing? I hadn’t included therapists I saw fewer than 5 times, or any psychiatrists, or clinicians associated with hospital programs who I would have only seen a very few times.
Anyway, yeah. Trust is hard, but I seem to have to get around to starting again every few months. It gets tiring. It makes it really difficult to get anywhere. I finally get through the “data dump” stage and it’s time to switch again. That’s why I’m so stubborn around trying to tackle more stuff with TM before our time is up. I need to get further in all this… and I am not sure I will find a therapist I trust would know how to handle the blowout from the sexual assault stuff. I know Dr C tried to get me to deal with it, but I couldn’t get over the shame. Maybe if I can get back in with her, it wouldn’t be so hard this time, but I don’t think she will be around… and I’m still not sure I trust her not to think horrible things of me. There’s some safety in TM working for the sexual assault clinic. She’s likely heard it all, or her colleagues have heard it all, and the judgement would be less… I still have trouble telling TM some things because of the shame involved, but I think the chances of her having heard the same thing before are higher than with Dr C… I dunno. I really miss Dr C though… and JF… and Dr GD… and De. They felt safe. TM feels safe when I’m not caught up in walls and transference… I miss TL, but more in a colleague sense than a therapist sense. She kept me in a more professional head-space during sessions. She was the first to be able to keep the more adult side of me present more times than not. I think it came from her expecting me to be more “professional” and aware. There was something about the transference with her that allowed me to be competent as an adult and a professional. I don’t really know how to explain it…
…I hate that the emotionally safest relationships are all paid ones. But I guess that contributes to the safety. If it wasn’t so one-sided and professional, I would be seeing the judgement and emotional reactions to my crazy, and I would be walking on eggshells with them to the same extent I do my friends and family. I still walk on eggshells with therapists, but it’s not as careful and distanced as it is with people who could really hurt me with their reactions…
Anyway, I digress again. Trying to avoid being the drama queen De saw me as. Trying to pull out of the crisis cycle that is threatening to come barreling in full force. Trying to put all this insight to use. Let’s hope it all works.
saw this on fb tonight and thought I would share.
Ever since these new memories have surfaced, I have questioned them. I’m still incredulous about having not remembered anything about these events prior to last year, but on the other hand, they make sense in context of some other unanswered questions.
My original search started in an effort to find the description on rainn.org of body memories. I remembered reading it once and finding it was not the same context in which I was using the term when trying to describe what I experience. I couldn’t navigate back to where I found it (and my memory of the content is very vague), so decided to try a general Google search for a definition of the term “body memories”. It was through this I stumbled upon everything from websites describing the role of body memories in trauma, to websites refuting the claim that body memories even exist. In all of these websites, I think I found a small handful that used the term in the way I use it. I guess I will have to be specific when talking to anyone new about what I mean when I say I experience body memories: the physical sensations associated with an act or occurrence. For me, body memories are generally experienced as the feeling of hands or other body parts on or in my body. It’s not limited to that though. I also experience body memories of instances of self-harm (cutting or burning). While the body memories of being assaulted/abused trigger cognitive memories of the assault as well as the emotional effects, the body memories of the self harm often bring about the same relief that actually engaging in the self harm would. I get the rush of relaxation, the slowing of thoughts, the release of bodily tension, and respite from the flashbacks or suicidal thinking. The “flashback” of the self harm is experienced the same way as a flashback of any of the other negative stuff that went on in my life. It holds true to the experiencing of the self harm and its emotional aftermath. Honestly, I wish I could induce the self harm memories whenever the flashbacks of the assaults became too overwhelming. It does the same thing as the cutting, but I don’t get in trouble for it… and maybe if I mastered control of the self harm flashbacks, I could master control of the assault flashbacks.
Anyway, I had mentioned coming across sites that try to refute the concept of repressed memory and body memories. I read through two of them, as well as a few websites that sided “with” the concept of body memories. I must admit, the ones “for” it were somewhat better written than the ones “against” it… one “against” site sounded like it was written by someone with a personal, vested interest in proving the concept false. There was no explanation of their terminology, no references (on the page I read), and lots of teenage-like bashing. I must point out I did not explore the rest of the site beyond reading most of the linked page. I found the “interview” transcripts a frustrating read since most therapists I have had the pleasure of meeting are more well-spoken than what was presented there, but again, that’s my own bias. The other site simply pointed out the dangers of unfounded allegations and offered a few references. That said, one of the pages I read “for” repressed memories and body memories offered real scholarly evidence and critical thinking around the topics. It also pointed to several other articles both supporting and denying the claims that repressed memories of trauma are valid. I would like to point out here that none of the pages talking about the validity of repressed memories actually gave a definition of body memories, used the term “body memories” very often, or described them in any detail beyond calling them a physical re-experiencing. Most of the pages spoke about flashbacks without separating out the physical re-experiencing of the events. I am unsure why this is, since as recently as last year, I was able to find this info quite readily. Perhaps it is related to the controversy around body memories and “false memories”, as well as the lack of research on the topic.
Some other sites I found that would be good to read through:
- a WordPress site I’ve linked to before: https://faithallen.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/what-is-a-body-memory/
- remember Wikipedia can be edited by anyone at any time, but also offers more pros/cons about body memories in one place: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_memory
- seems legit: http://www.trauma-pages.com/ (hosts the previous link)
- I dunno, this title looked promising but I didn’t get much from the page itself: http://www.survivormanual.com/2011/11/what-are-body-memories-and-how-to-heal-them
- the TEDTalk by Elizabeth Loftus on the unreliable nature of memory
I could not find the second page refuting body memories this time around (didn’t think to save any of the links the first time I went through my search yesterday afternoon). I’m sure it exists out there, and that there are more, but I cannot find it at this moment.
Anyway, it’s got me again questioning the validity of the memories attached to these flashbacks. The above mentioned well-gathered page for repressed memories cautioned that anyone wanting to tackle previously forgotten trauma ask themselves a few questions, including:
“Why do I want to recover (more) memories?”
“What do I hope that recovering memories will do for me?”
“Why do I wish I could know for sure whether I was abused?”
“What problems and suffering in my life now do I believe will be changed by remembering abuse?”
I know for myself, I simply want the flashbacks to subside. I want to be able to stop experiencing the sensations of being assaulted over and over again. I want my life back. I want to function again. I hesitate to tell anyone close to me the details because I am aware that newly discovered memories can be misleading. I want to talk about it with a neutral third party (therapist) so I can explore it, get it out of me, and hopefully move on from it. I don’t necessarily want to discover more memories because honestly, this is plenty, but I do want them to stop popping up. So if there are more locked away in my brain, bring it on and let me deal with it so I can stop being so strongly and adversely effected by it. I also want to figure out how to be ok without ever knowing for sure if these memories are accurate. My only goal in dealing with them is to make them leave me alone already.
All that said, I think I have a slightly different take on what body memories are, at least for me. I’m not sure I believe that we remember specific incidents at a cellular level unrelated to the brain. I think the memories are stored in the brain, but just separated out from the conscious, cognitive remembering. Muscle memory is the concept that our muscles “remember” frequently used motions and can return to it at any point in the future, even without much practice or conscious thought (the rough definition paraphrased from here). In school, we learned about muscle memory in relation to fitness, learning to play musical instruments, repetitive physical activities, etc. I would hazard that what I am experiencing as body memories are actually just muscle memories (which I would say are more subconscious memories, rather than ones actually stored in muscles, but I have no evidence for that). Anyway, my personal theory is that traumatic events or ones causing great stress can also cause “muscle memory”. If we go with the theory that traumatic events are more salient because they allow us (as a species) to survive and avoid such traumas again, then it makes perfect sense that we would store those memories in a number of ways for quick access. Think of it this way, you’re walking along in the wilderness and stub your toe on a rock. It slows you down, you’re not able to get where you are going, and you may be sick & hungry for a while. Once you heal, you notice your toe still kinda hurts sometimes, but not all the time. You pay more attention to it when it hurts. You then start to notice that the hurt really only comes when you are in a place with more rocks around. You begin to pay attention to the rocks in order to avoid stubbing your toe again. I think body memories are quite valid. I also think they evolved as a way to enable us to pay better attention to the things around us to which we need to pay attention either to make life easier, or to spare our lives. With PTSD and flashbacks, this all somehow got kicked into over-drive. Our brains are desperately trying to protect us, so it throws this stuff our way. It is also trying to make sense of stuff that doesn’t compute well with our conscious thoughts… Take PTSD theory, toss it in a blender with muscle memory, and you get body memories that accompany the flashbacks (after all, most flashbacks also include a physical re-experiencing of an event)… I think the intensity and salience of “negative” body memories can be explained with the same theory that explains the intensity and salience of negative cognitive memories. Afterall, most people do not claim to experience “flashbacks” of really happy times. I have not yet heard of people being randomly triggered into remembering their happiest moments in the same full-on, 3D, THX, IMax experience of traumatic memories. There are no anecdotal stories of people re-living the good times to the intensity of the really bad ones. There’s no body of research on the spontaneous re-experiencing of strongly positive experiences, so why is the argument against body memories centered around the lack of body memories for positive experiences? Just some things to think about.
(on a side note, and only marginally related to all this, I’m kinda frustrated/pissed/angry/sad that Dr. Glenn Doyle seems to have disappeared from the blogosphere and the internet in general. I was trying to link to the post where he described flashbacks as 3D, THX, IMax experiences, but his blog is gone. His fb page is inactive, and his practice seems to have moved according to psychologytoday.com. I worked with him very briefly while inpatient in DC back in 2011 and really liked his style. He has a similar sense of humor, but writes much more eloquently than I do. I hope he is well, and I hope he reappears again soon… I miss reading his thoughts on things).