This is something that is in the back of my mind quite often, although I don’t speak of it too much or write about it very regularly. Doubting our feelings during trauma recovery; did I really experience this, did all of this stuff really happen to me the way I think it did?
I got some inspiration for this post after emailing a fellow survivor that I connected with via my blog. I will not mention their name but as we were chatting, one of the feelings that continuously rang through in our conversation was the idea of having doubts about what really happened.
Having these doubts doesn’t mean that what we experienced didn’t happen, yet our mind can drag us into that direction before we realize it. Once we start questioning ourselves, everything that we thought we knew can start to unravel. Before we know it we feel like we are hypocrites and liars.
Who are we to be sharing our story, seeking help, or be validating others if we aren’t sure what if our abuse was real. Talk about an anxiety rush!
I admit that I have a very creative mind and a vivid imagination. In fact, I think that’s one of things that got me through my childhood and early teenage years during the bullying and narcissistic abuse.
Escaping to my safe place, or simply using my imagination to distract myself from whatever was ailing me at the time, well let’s just say that had I not done that who knows where I’d be today.
I bring up the imagination and creativeness to make the point that even as wild and elaborate as my mind and thoughts can be, there’s no conceivable way that I could dream up being sexually abused as a child. There’s no way that I imagined the bullying, or the mother wounds.
In talking to my friend, her husband told her the same thing and it really hit home for me.
It’s OK to have doubts in trauma recovery. I mean after all our abuse wasn’t exactly a day at the beach or weekend getaway to our favorite destination. It was horrific, terrible, tragic, and affected us to our very core.
In many cases, like mine, I was groomed to not tell anyone what was going on. I was made to believe that it was cool let a teenager perform disgusting acts for his own pleasure. I believed that if anyone knew they’d never understand and I would never get a chance to be with the cool kid again.
Therefore ruining my opportunity to finally be accepted by others.
For many survivors they were threatened that if they told anyone, there would be hell to pay. So they stayed silent, in fear of something worse happening than what already was.
Fear, Dissociation, Grooming, it all works together to make us question everything about ourselves. Why did we keep going back to our abuser, why didn’t we just run away, why didn’t we take the chance and tell someone?
Or, why is that when we did tell someone; family member, friend, teacher, whomever, they didn’t believe us. Or, they made us feel like it was our fault that and if we told anyone else we would be hurting the family. So therefore we would be selfish.
But what about our hurt, our damaged minds and bodies? Didn’t that count, wasn’t that real, didn’t we matter? Weren’t we worth enough to reach out for help?
When you’ve survived abuse of any type, domestic, emotional, ritual, sexual, you question so much that even with years of therapy you still often wonder…is it all really true?
I’ve been at this survivor journey for just under two years now, as I am writing this post. For all the progress that I’ve made and the healing that I’m experiencing,
I still wake up questioning many things about my past.
Dissociation plays a big part of that for me, and as is the case for countless survivors everywhere, our minds took us away at the time of the abuse. It did this save us because our brain knew we weren’t ready to handle being fully present during those horrific acts.
It’s normal to question and we shouldn’t shame ourselves for it. After all, fighting through these questions and memories, trying to piece them all together, is part of our growth and recovery.
We still carry the emotional scars of what happened. Over time and with putting in the hard work to heal we will come to realize that our doubts during trauma recovery are a direct result of the grooming, invalidation, and the abuse itself.
I asked for my friends’ permission to use this in validating myself and in my writing, which she happily agreed too. Thank you my friend!
image courtesy of airjordanikefr.eu
So very true Matt. As I read this I wonder if we could say that we’re on the recovery journey from the moment of our first abuse. When we cut ourselves we mop up the blood somehow, anyhow we can. In my case I’ve been on that journey for 51 years.
I have now come to believe it’s not a journey with a destination. It’s not about going somewhere. It’s just a random ramble. I feel healing is in an inadequate word, because what we have is permanent open wounds which we learn to manage without getting them infected too often!
Now I’m accepting there is no destination and no healing — just radical acceptance it’s easier.
I’ve been learning more and more that it’s a journey. To me the destination is almost a myth, in the sense that we don’t fully ever arrive at Healing. However the journey teaches us how to care for ourselves, to continue to be compassionate, to treat ourselves better, to understand ourselves better. To give ourselves a break, some credit. To deal with anxiety and stress in a more positive healthy way. These and so many other things are what we learn as we put in the hard work to feel better and have the life we want. Embrace the journey, which is the ultimate destination.
Wow Matt, I can definitely relate to this post! The fear, the dissociation, the grooming!
Why is it that people that suffer abuse are so similiar? Is is because we’re so compassionate?
Thank you for sharing and helping me to continue validating myself as well.xo
Thank you for validation as well Davina! We are compassionate! We know what it’s like to suffer. Knowing we aren’t alone helps keeps those doubts in check.
I struggle with thinking I imagined all my abuse. I told that to my therapist last week and she said because of dissociation that is very common. I have some kind of fear that I am lying, making it all up, and I have even told some people that, in the past, that none of it ever happened. They didn’t believe me.
Thank you, this is one of the things I struggle with the most these days. I would rather think I was crazy at times then that this was true, these things I remember.
Thank you so much for sharing. It can indeed be so difficult to trust our feelings and trust our memories especially when it comes to trauma. Admitting to ourselves that we experienced something so traumatic means that we have to be vulnerable both with ourselves and with others. Working through these feelings and memories is so beneficial though, and you are certainly not crazy.
I am so relieved to come across this blog. I have been having doubts – thinking maybe I am simply crazy and made all of this up. Reading your blog, now I think it’s the primal part of my brain not wanting to talk about my traumas in therapy because I was threatened. Instinctually, I believe something terrible will happen if I talk. Because I go to therapy anyhow, I think now my brain is trying to trick me into not talking by doubting any of it really happened. Thanks for helping me to feel normal in the midst of the often hot mess that is PTSD.