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When PTSD Makes It Hard to Discuss Childhood Sexual Abuse

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I spent years not telling my story. As a child, I knew I wasn’t allowed to tell. As an adult, I felt I couldn’t share what happened. I was sexually abused as a child. I was stuck in a violent home and spent a lot of my time scared. I was not about to talk about it to anyone. The shame was too much. I didn’t feel worthy of help or compassion.

• What is PTSD?

But eventually something changed. Eventually, I sought out therapy and began to make headway. I found a safe person to talk to; someone trained to listen to it all. Someone I was paying to do so, who was prepared for it and wouldn’t be blindsided by my admissions.

This wasn’t the end of my talking it though; it was just the beginning. I’d opened a door which I couldn’t close again. I didn’t want to close it either. I joined a support group for survivors, as I wanted to speak to other people who had had similar experiences. I also began to become a bit more open about my past with my boss at work, considering how my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was affecting me at my job. It wasn’t as simple as it sounds though, as I soon discovered I couldn’t just “talk about it” now that I wanted to.

Every time I opened my mouth to talk about the abuse, my head would become jumbled and foggy. The words became mixed up and sat somewhere in my throat, not willing to move up any further. My brain felt like a shaken up can of cola, full of bubbles and foam with no route for them to escape. Particular words became difficult to say. I stammered over them and often couldn’t even make a sound as I tried to get them out. I felt helpless in the face of wanting to talk, but being unable to. It was like being a child all over again — when I had wanted to tell, but knew I couldn’t. Only this time, it was my own brain holding my words prisoner.

Sometimes, people would take this as a sign I didn’t want to talk about it and, with well-meaning intentions, would reassure me I didn’t have to tell them any more of what happened. I did want to talk about it though! I so wanted to be able to explain and let the words out. The only words willing to pour out of my mouth would be, “Sorry, sorry sorry” 1,000 times over. All my mind could manage was to apologize for being an inconvenience.

I worked hard on my trauma. I began to be able to open up more. My support group saw me move from a shaking, curled up woman who couldn’t get her words out to someone able to sit up and share her story. I began to be able to tell trusted friends about my experience. Sometimes my words still get stuck in my throat. Usually when I least expect it, my trauma takes over and won’t let me speak. But most of the time, I can say what I want to say, to who I want to say it to. I’m still very private about my past, but I am happy to be able to share it when I feel I want to. I am in control.

Getty Images: Big_and_serious

Originally published: October 9, 2019
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