I have a seven year old son. Since he turned seven years old, I have had many flashbacks to my own childhood and the horrors that I had to endure at that same age. Even though I know he is safe, I have so much fear inside that something will happen to my son. So much fear, because it happened to me.
I was sexually abused for many years. I have never told a soul. This is obviously something that I have struggled with throughout my life, however, the flashbacks and this recent experience of depression has really felt too hard to work through alone.
Do you have any advice for me?
Thank you for your courage in writing your message and sharing your truth. It is never easy to speak out nor seek help, particularly when it involves a deep secret that you have carried all of your life. The bravery you have demonstrated just by raising this issue, is an act of helping others that are or have been in a similar situation.
It is only natural that the horrors of what happened to you continue to haunt you, especially given that your son is now of the same age as when your abuse began. Your experience of flashbacks is highly likely an element of your post-traumatic stress disorder following your abuse. The fear that has ignited within you indicates the love that you have for your son and your need to protect him. It also signifies the fear you experienced at that age, which still lies unresolved. Some of the most common symptoms experienced by adults who were sexually abused as children include;
* Post-traumatic stress disorder
* Substance abuse
* Suicidal ideation
* Intimacy issues
* Impaired sleep
* Low self-worth
This moment can absolutely mark the beginning of your healing journey. It will be a long road and therefore I do strongly suggest that you find therapeutic support to assist you. The process of therapy and counselling sessions can support you through your trauma, as well as providing you with specific coping mechanisms that target your flashbacks and fears.
Remind yourself daily that you are not alone. The reality is that child abuse is so much more common than any of us realise. A recent study in America details that one in six males are sexually abused as children. One in six. And that is just the men. Rife in the media at the moment, are the revelations that huge mega stars from the past, were molesting children at the height of their fame. People capable of abuse have the capacity to hide in plain sight. Often in positions of absolute trust, be they family members, friends, teachers or priests.
Tell yourself each and every day Ian, that what happened to you was not your fault. So often people who have been abused carry guilt and shame, emotions that only the perpetrator should feel. It is this sense of guilt and shame, that we carry close to our hearts and it is these destructive emotions that fester at the centre of the secret you have clung to since your abusive encounters began.
You are so much stronger than you know. Everybody’s experience is unique and for this reason you must take one day at a time. Confide in people when you feel ready. As well as therapy, I would suggest that breathing exercises when you feel that sense of fear rising within, as well as walking or other forms of physical activity that you enjoy, will help to calm your mind and retain a sense of control. At times when you experience flash backs, it does help to write in detail what it is the flashback depicted. This may prove very difficult to begin with, but often, the act of noting down what it is that you have seen helps to process the recurring memory over time. Do not hesitate to visit your doctor if you feel that your depression is too hard to combat on your own. Take extra special care of yourself at this time Ian, be sure to prioritise your sleeping routine and your diet.
Best wishes to you,
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