Memories Can’t Be Buried
Horrific memories, nightmares, and other forms of PTSD burden survivors of sexual abuse. Memories of violent sexual abuse become too painful to endure. The natural response of those overwhelmed by horrific memories is to bury the memories, cover them up, ignore them, push them away. Many try to flood the memories in drugs and alcohol to dampen the pain and anguish. These approaches attempt to keep out the harmful memories, but they can’t be buried.
While we may not consciously remember the sexual abuse, the emotional memories are present—always. This gives rise to other emotional effects such as depression, low self-esteem, fear, anxiety, etc. Sometimes we are not aware of the impact of the unconscious memories. Sometimes we cannot get the emotional baggage out of our conscious, day to day, activities. Sometimes these memories can attack us in terrifying nightmares.
CHILDUSA points out that memories of violent sexual remain buried until the average age of 52! This delayed emergence of memory is especially true of those sexually attacked as children. My view is that memories of our abuse surface when we have the strength of character to face them. In my case, the most violent and horrific memories did not surface until I was 63.
I believe that the best path forward is to acknowledge the memory, incorporate them as part of who we are as a full person. It is an incredibly difficult process but a process that will eliminate the imprisonment of memories that controls our lives. It can be liberating.
Several elements ensure the success of the integration of harmful memories. It is a challenging journey, and gathering support is necessary. The first is to embrace those closest to you and seek their support, such as family or close friends. The second is to engage with a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma. The third is to participate in a support group through SNAP, a local rape crisis center, or find an agency of support.
I had great success with using the therapy practice of EMDR. (Wikipedia definition) It requires courage and strength. The benefit is that you bring include all your memories to become your true self, the good and bad.
I do not say that the burdens of PTSD and depression won’t disappear. But it does give us hope and the ability to thrive.
No longer will memories control our future.
About Tim Lennon
President, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, survivor, advocate, activist, volunteer, twin daughters, power yoga @SNAPnetwork #MeToo #ChurchToo