"I don’t remember"
Three simple words which made me break down whilst talking to my therapist (M) last week. M has been great over the past six months. I’ve got further with her and healed more than with anyone else. I’ve been reconnecting to a large number of memories from my childhood before the abuse happened. I’ve been stabilising emotionally and talking about my abuser and different aspects of the abuse. So imagine M’s confusion when I told her “I don’t know if I was abused or not”. I was in bits sobbing my eyes out because the words “I don’t remember” felt more like “I made it all up”.
I didn’t forget either. I never knew.
What I knew after the abuse in 2001 was not enough. The handful of memories I had were very misleading. The rest were already lost in The Confusion. Actually what I did know back then made me look pretty awful and my abuser look like some knight in shining armour. But that’s another story. Needless to say I have suffered for years and not known what was wrong with me.
So how did I find out?
Somewhere around 2007 I saw something on TV which described the effects on victims. I related so much to it while blaming myself so much I actually wondered if it is possible to cause those symptoms yourself… if it is possible to abuse yourself. Dismissing that as silly I didn’t really think about it again until in 2013 I read the Hunger Games (Suzann Collins). I connected with the “Victors” so readily and when somewhere in the third book (Mockingjay) it became clear that there is a connection between “Victors” and abuse “survivors” I realised I needed understand. I read a bunch of different pages on abuse, child abuse and abuse against men trying to find anything that seemed to apply to me. Some did, but a lot didn't.
In 2014 I joined the After Silence forums and once again found myself connecting. When described from victim's a perspective and not from a psychologist's perspective; PTSD and related illnesses made much more sense. I still didn't know if what happened to me was abuse or not. I could barely remember it. After weeks of braving The Confusion I managed to get a series of bullet points down on paper. Then posting these bullet points on the AS forums I asked what these all meant. Being told I was abused made me cry with relief. Thank You my friends. I don’t know why I never said it properly before. Thank You.
So I know what happened now?
Yes and no. The trouble with these memories is that The Confusion still has them. It’s difficult to describe this horrible dark place in my mind. I sometimes think of getting lost in The Confusion is like getting lost in a forest where the trees keep moving around. I’ve built my whole life outside and around the edges of this forest but entering it is still dangerous. Getting lost can leave me locked in depression for weeks. Worse, getting lost can let the trees take over the clear space surrounding called “my life”. Trying to follow the thread of these memories is also dangerous. It’s like blindly following a butterfly into the middle of this same evil maze-like forest. These memories flutter by but I mustn’t follow them.
To avoid constantly blundering into The Confusion I tell myself little white lies like “I know I was abused”. All I have is the question I wrote on After Silence forums and its responses. I know every word of what I wrote is true when I re-read it. I know all those who read it tell me I was abused (even sometimes I tell myself when I read it). But the memories don’t stick, the idea feels alien and ultimately the whole thing slides back into The Confusion. I just have to trust that what was true yesterday is still true today. I was abused.
My little win for the week:
I re-read my original AS question. I got three quarters of the way through calmly remembering what happened without triggering. The last quarter made me cry a lot and it took me an hour to calm down. But this is progress, big progress. I even remember some of what I read!