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5 Ways Surviving Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects My Everyday Adult Life

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When I was 18 years old, I told my therapist I was abused as a child for years. It took 18 years for me to utter the words. I moved far from home and thought I could run away from the memories, but it wasn’t true. I was living life with a generalized anxiety disorder, and facing my trauma was the only way to face my disorder. Since I have started on the road of self-acceptance, I have am seeing the small ways my trauma still affects my everyday life. Explaining my “strange” habits to others has always been uncomfortable and painful, but it is something I am learning how to do.

1. Jumping at unexpected touching. The other night my best friend was sitting beside me at a table and her leg brushed mine. After knowing her for five years, I still jumped quite suddenly. I hoped she didn’t notice, and I hoped she wouldn’t see it as a reflection of my feelings towards her. Even something as simple as an unexpected leg brush still sends my brain into panic mode. As safe or as comfortable as I feel around a person, I will always shutter when I receive any unexpected touching from others.

2. Finding excuses to end relationships. Keeping up a romantic relationship over three months is a big challenge for me. After just a few months, I typically get to a point in a relationship where the person just gets uncomfortably close. It often happens after the person has seen me in a vulnerable way, something I hate to show. Finding reasons to end relationships that are going seemingly well has become my specialty, and it is a hard habit to break.

3. Running from my past. My past trauma is not something I enjoy sharing. Even getting close to the subject brings up anxiety and memories I’d rather forget. The best way I’ve found to avoid it all together is simply not talking about the first 18 years of my life. Since moving 2,000 miles away from my hometown, I’ve visited home twice, and it has been incredibly painful. Even though I know it is impossible, I still find myself trying to leave those stories and memories behind.

4. Harboring resentment. Forgiveness is freedom, and it is something I am trying to find, but some days I just can’t. It is hard to not to blame the ones you expected to protect you from hurt. It is a struggle to not turn my pain into anger; it is a uphill battle to maintain relationships with my mom and dad.

5. Avoiding anything that remind me of him. I won’t listen to the Beatles, and I won’t eat oranges. Those were his favorites. When I traveled to Liverpool, my friends wanted to visit the Beatles museum. I made an excuse that I didn’t have enough cash. Facing something that gives me a flashback could send me into panic mode. Life after trauma for me often involves strategically avoiding flashbacks.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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Thinkstock photo by moodboard

Originally published: April 22, 2017
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