Overcoming Scars of Abuse

Today I am reposting a story of one woman’s recovery (still in progress) from her traumatic ordeal of childhood sexual abuse. This story comes from HumanitysDarkerSide, and I hope it might help others.

By HumanitysDarkerSide

Broadblogs wrote an article called Why We Have Sex based upon the findings of CM Meston and DM Buss at the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas. These two researchers wrote an article called Why Humans Have Sex in 2007. In their article Meston and Buss cite 237 reasons that students at UofT had listed as their reasons for having sex.

I commented on Georgia’s post and ended up being asked if I would like to write something about my own experiences and the effects of medication on myself.

One of the reasons being listed for having sex in Meston and Buss’ article is force. Sometimes sex isn’t a voluntary thing and in my case the force happened at a very early age and seriously messed up my head when it came to anything sexual. Well, not just that, as anyone who has run into PTSD will attest to.

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress syndrome is a strange thing. It is basically a severe reaction to trauma expressing itself in as varied manners as re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal—such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.

In my case I experienced pretty severe nightmares and hypervigilance (and probably some anger). As I was 7 when the whole thing started, this was normal to me and I thought most people experienced life the way I did. Turns out they don’t. Some who get PTSD as adults remember life before and a state of non-PTSD. In some ways I would imagine that could be worse (although maybe not). Depends on the trauma and the psyche of the person struck down with it.

I would guess that most people would see me as a boring person with a weird sense of humor. It is that strange sense of humor that has carried me. After the awkward teens and early twenties, I came to realize that life was just one gigantic joke and the only defense was to laugh at it. Laughter has been my friend throughout my life, laughing at myself and the world and it has gotten me through some rough spots (my psyche).

Anyways, I got married and when I met my husband I was a virgin (well except for CSA that is). I’d seen some porn, read books with sexual content and talked to people. But, you know, people just don’t talk about sex and death – the two great taboos in life. I didn’t get that sex could even be pleasurable and was afraid during sex. I wanted it, got horny and all of that, but when it came to actually doing it, well.

Thankfully, my husband is the kindest, gentlest and most patient person on this planet and he worked with me and tried to make things good for me. But you know, there is only so much you can do on your own. Poor guy, living with a CSA survivor is not easy. No matter how optimistic a person is, having trouble with your sex life just hurts both parties.

I tried psycho-therapy. Hah, what a joke. Talking through the effects of PTSD as something that was supposed to help. Sometimes I wondered if I or my therapist was in need of help.

Then I found my psychiatrist – my voodoo queen – magician galore. Granted, it took years and years before I did find her, but this is my miracle person. We used three tools in getting acceptance of myself into my mind, heart and body. Cause you know, CSA people just don’t have a healthy view of themselves.

Tool one was cognitive therapy. Folks, this stuff actually works. It really does. What happens is a re-wiring of the way you think of yourself and the world. Yes, it is an ongoing process and some parts will probably have to be a life-project, but it works. I can now do this all by myself because I know how it works.

Tool two was EMDR. What the hell is EMDR, you ask. Before I tried it I put it in the same category as homeopathy. But it’s just a kind of hypnosis light. It should be tried with a therapist that knows what on earth they are doing and it does not work for everything. However, research in Holland and Germany shows that it is good with PTSD. Just do a search on Google for Dutch and German research on EMDR and you will have plenty of articles to choose from.

Tool three was medication. People, you know this, but it cannot be stated enough times. No new psychological medication without therapy. There are side-effects with every bleeding medical product out there and you might need help coping with them.

At first we tried beta-blockers. My god. The first time I tried them this super-tense feeling in my chest lessened and I fell asleep from sheer relief. I’d walked around being hyper-alert all of the time and that really isn’t good for you. My world changed, but tension around sex was still high. No wonder, as this was my major trigger.

Then a miracle happened. And I am serious about this. A major miracle happened. My psychiatrist suggested that I try something called venlafaxin – an efexor depot medication. Instead of being scared every time I had sex I was loving it. Sure, it had taken years for me to get there and my husband had had to endure my pain for a long time, but I have actually gotten to experience the joys of having sex. How cool is that? And we all know that my husband has been having the time of his life along with me.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on November 16, 2012, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sex and sexuality, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I have gone through a similar experience to this, but I was so young and never got to learn I was abused until far later on after it happened. I honestly feel like it didn’t affect me because I never knew what it was until a few years later when I practically forgot about it. That was when I was mad at myself for letting it happen but I didn’t know any better. It affected me when I started getting into serious sexual relationships. I now feel like I can’t ever be truly happy in a relationship, and I am too embarrassed to say how it has made me think. But I feel this post has opened up doors of hope for me.

    • I am so sorry to hear that. Maybe talking to a counselor will help. You need to know that it’s not your fault and that you should not blame yourself for not stopping it.

  2. I am glad you found the help you need. When you have been through something like that, it can really mess with you. It is very life changing to gain freedom. I was abused too, and there were times where certain things were more difficult for me. As time went on, fortunately, things got better for me.

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