Experiencing Flashbacks in My Day-to-Day Life as a Childhood Sexual Abuse Survivor
If you’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
I’m curled in a ball with tears streaking down my cheeks. I have officially reached a breakdown after months of spiraling out of control. The sad thing is I knew this was coming and have been in treatment for my bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and PTSD since I was a teenager. I could see the signs of a breakdown coming, but I couldn’t pump the brakes. I told my therapist, my psychiatrist and my husband that I felt I was spiraling. None of them could help me in the end apparently.
As a mother to a beautiful 9-year-old, I feel this breakdown in ways I have never felt before. The guilt I am wracked with makes me feel like I am the worst person who has ever lived for not being able to get the heck out of my bed and be a mom. But, I just can’t. No matter how much I want to get out of the bed, there is some demon stopping me from throwing back the covers and making that final step out of the bed.
My husband has had to learn how to be both the mother and the father in this relationship. He has to get her off to school, make sure her homework is done, check her homework over with her, cook dinner, clean the house, do the laundry and more, all after working all day at his job. The unfairness of me being locked away in my bedroom all day is not lost on me. I know how wrong it is to ask all this and more of him, but I don’t know how to make it stop. And even if I could get out of bed with well-controlled mental health issues, there is no telling if I could actually get out of bed due to my physical illnesses either. This adds to the guilt I feel even more and wears me down.
You see, a few days ago my husband and I got into a fight. Not anything abnormal for a typical married couple — it was about my husband falling asleep in our daughter’s bed. You see, I know there is nothing wrong with a father helping his daughter who has had a nightmare fall asleep by cuddling with her, and then falling asleep himself. But, we aren’t a normal family. You see, I am a sexual assault and rape survivor. I was raped and sexually assaulted as a child for years by my much older cousin. So, unbeknownst to me, when I saw my husband sleeping next to my daughter, I had a flashback. I didn’t know I had one, all I can see when I look back at the next couple of minutes is blackness.
So what did I do? What actually happened during my “blank time?” Apparently I screamed, yelled, pushed my husband and then started to punch the wall. Nice, right? Really great top-notch behavior for a mother. It is now the most shameful moment of my life and I cannot remember any of it. I was so distraught and talked over what happened with my professional doctors. Turns out that what I had was called a flashback. A flashback is when you have a sudden and disturbing vivid memory of an event in the past, and sometimes you cannot remember the flashback or anything that happened around you during it after you’ve had one. This is what happened to me.
My saving grace in all of this is my daughter was sound asleep and heard nor saw a word of this.
The flashback was the breaking point for me. I spiraled into a depression I have barely managed to crawl out of as of now. It took me four weeks to get out of the terrible depression I fell into. For the first week, I couldn’t get out of bed at all. I didn’t communicate with my family unless they came to see me in my bed. My husband had to take off work so he could take care of our daughter when she got home from school because I was too unable. The second week, I alternated between days I could get out of bed and migrate to the couch as well as pick up my daughter and days I couldn’t get out of bed at all. The third week, I made it to the couch and to pick up my daughter but still wasn’t able to be a mom the way she needed me to be. By the fourth week, I alternated between having good days and bad days, which I call my “couch days.”
But now, now I think most of my days are good. I get up, I get some coffee, I pick my daughter up from school, I do her homework with her, I help around the house — it’s good. I may not be where most people are, but for me and my family, this is good and our normal. How did I get back to normal? Therapy and medication management. I talked to my therapist and saw her every single week without fail. I talked to my psychiatrist and talked to him without fail and took the medication he prescribed me without fail. I practiced what I learned in therapy at home and used those techniques — including writing — to channel my impulses and feelings into constructive things instead of negative. Sometimes I still feel like I am the worst mother in the whole world. But more than most of the time, I think I’m doing the absolute best I can, and that is all any mother can do. My family agrees with me too, and that — the love and respect of my family — is all that matters to me.
Getty Images photo via kaipong