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Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

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Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby WhatSheSaid » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:37 am

I’m not sure if you put a Trigger Warning in this particular sub forum... but this post is probably going to talk about several forms of trauma if that’s triggering to some...

Let me preface this by saying, I know I have suffered trauma. Multiple traumas. But I have always been very detached from my obvious trauma. There is maybe one trauma, the most recent one of 2 years ago, that I actually remember having an emotional reaction to. I argued with my therapist today about it. I told her I’m almost certain I haven’t been traumatized. I’m currently struggling a lot with the SYMPTOMS frequently displayed by those that have suffered trauma, but no FEELING toward the possible situations that may have caused this.. if that makes sense.

My therapist is currently focusing on my dissociative symptoms. We frequently talk about dissociation in our sessions and how it may be affecting me. She has been very gentle, and says that my symptoms point to a dissociative disorder, but that we should take more time to investigate.

I mostly want to talk about HOW I was as a kid, as it baffles me. My behavior would seemingly point to some kind of trauma or issue, is what a lot of people have said. I wonder if anyone can relate.This will be long, so I apologize.

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This is the less important sort of background stuff

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I’ve struggled since I was a kid. I have a memory gap from maybe age 6 or so to age 11 or 12. I remember some things that had to have happened during that time, based on geographical information, but not a whole lot.

My family moved out of my grandparents house and to a small, rural town, when I was probably around 6.

When I was 12 I went through what would be my first recognizable “trauma” and I moved out of my home and in with a 27 year old man who I used drugs with, had a sexual relationship with, and who I got pregnant by. This is something I do not personally view as traumatic, as that man actually seemed to care about me and took care of me unlike my parents. I think my parents were separated at this time and my dad never asked about me or tried to speak to me and my mom met this 27 year old man and had no problem with me moving in with him. I was a nuisance to her anyways. Now that I am actually 27, I see how screwed up this situation really was. I can’t imagine having a relationship with a child, but at the time, it didn’t seem strange to me.

After a year and a half or so, the state found out about this, I was put into foster care, and my parents parental rights to me were legally terminated. This man was charged, convicted, and labeled a sex offender. I went through drug detox from the opiates I was addicted to and my child I had was adopted to another family.

When I went into foster care I actually did GREAT. I hadn’t really been in school much, but I was able to get my diploma and start college and I made very high grades. My group home counselors praised me on how smart I was. We had rules, and structure, and I behaved and did the best I could. I was never angry or violent. One counselor would say, “this girl, as long as she has her CD player and headphones you won’t even hear a peep she’s so well behaved” In foster care, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I asked my caseworker, “doesn’t something traumatic have to happen for someone to have PTSD?” And she said, “let’s just say you’ve been through lots of trauma.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is going to be what I’m actually wondering about

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With all that being said, let me explain what I was like somewhere between the ages of 6 and 11. I’m not quite sure when certain things started, I just know that all of this stuff fits somewhere within that timeframe, after we moved and before foster care.

I started refusing to go to school somewhere around 3rd grade. All I remember is that I was TERRIFIED to go to school. I remember getting ready to go, and then being in the car to get dropped off, and literally screaming and crying and begging my mother not to make me go. I’m not sure why I acted like this. I had a lot of friends and I made very good grades.

I was terrified of certain places and large groups of people. I would have my sister or someone count the number of people inside the library before I could go in. If it was over a certain number, I would wait to see if some would leave. If they didn’t after a bit, I would leave.

I was very depressed. I started self harming maybe around age 10 ish? I was suicidal by age 11. I remember not following through with an attempt once because my dog started to scratch at my bedroom door. I thought to myself, if I’m not here, who will love her or take care of her, they would probably put her to sleep if I wasn’t here to protect her.

I was paranoid. I couldn’t use the bathroom alone. I went through a phase where I couldn’t sleep in my bedroom because I was so scared of it for some reason. Then I went through another phase after that where I demanded a dead bolt and extra lock for my door. I remember I would set “booby traps” at my door, so that I would know if someone had come into my room. This was before age 11.

I became violent. At one point, all knives and sharp objects in the house were hidden, because of me. I mostly directed my hostility towards my mother. I would violently destroy dolls. I loved animals very deeply my entire life. One time my mother did something with some puppies that made me very angry and I attacked her.

I was hypersexual. I’m not sure how old I was when it started... I was watching porn from a young age... masturbating daily since I could remember... between the ages of 11 and 12 I had had sex with at least 4 guys under the age of 18 and 3 guys over the age of 20. That sounds really horrible when I say it. I’m not a sexual person at all now.

I regularly did not spend days at home. Although I don’t think my mother cared or even tried to find out where I was. I remember I would often hide in the woods for hours and hours because I was afraid of my dad, but I’m not sure why as I don’t remember any abuse from my dad, just that I was afraid of him.

Our dad was an alcoholic and our mom was always home or around but I can’t remember having one actual conversation with her. She loved her horses more than any of us. We were very poor and somehow our mother still owned a couple horses and took care of them and bought new bridles and saddles and blankets. But we hardly had food and I had a window that had been broken for years and I was sleeping on a bed with the springs poking out of it.

My older sister did not have nearly the symptoms I did but she also ended up running away to be with a 30 year old man when she was 15. DFCS came to our house before because my sister had told a friend that our dad sexually abused her. My mother said she was lying for attention, so that was what I thought for some time. My sister used to tell me that when she turned 15 she was going to get a workers permit and get a job and she would rent an apartment and she would save us. I was too young to work so I would just do the chores around the house. I try to remember what it was we wanted to run away from, and why we wanted to leave so badly, but I’m not sure. When my sister ran away is when I also pretty much ran away and began my relationship with the older man who took care of me. It’s not like my mom noticed anyways.

In the present, my sister estranged herself from her entire family maybe 8 years ago? She left her husband and daughter and me and at the time we had all been living together. She sent me an email 4 years ago, and it drives me nuts to this day, where she makes some really weird cryptic statements and tells me she loves me but that she doesn’t know if she will ever see me again.

Oh, I also started daydreaming at some point when I was a kid. I would just sit in my room alone for hours and I had an entire other world that I had created. These people loved me very much and took care of me. I had lists of my daydream characters names and birthdays and likes and dislikes. I still daydream today. My therapists says I’m dissociating and that’s probably what I was doing as a kid as well, but I can’t rememebr why I did that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As soon as I was taken out of my family environment I improved. I was no longer violent, I wasn’t paranoid, I made good grades, I went to school, and I was dubbed an absolutely fantastic child by those around me.

This stuff really haunts me to this day. I struggle with the idea that I was just a terrible and out of control kid. Maybe if I hadn’t been such a little $#%^, my mother would’ve actually cared about me. But I started acting like this at such a young age apparently, and it wasn’t a personality thing, but a situational thing, so there must’ve been some kind of abuse that I can’t remember at a younger age...? It seems like my therapists have always felt I MUSTVE been abused at an earlier age which is why I had these symptoms and why I struggle with the memory issues and dissociative symptoms I have today and other stuff I have today...

I’ve spoken to my family for the sole purpose of trying to get some kind of explanation or truth, but my mother will deny pretty much everything that happened, or when pushed she blames my dad. I once told her that I regularly had (and still have) dreams of her trying to kill me, or of her holding me while someone else (like a zombie or monster or something) tries to kill me and she replied, “that’s ridiculous if anyone ever abused you it was your father” which I thought was weird because I never explicitly accused her of abuse and I said, “what” and she said “well he abused your sister” and I told her she had said that my sister lied about that and she then said all she knew was that’s what she told her friend.

My dad broke his hip recently (or I guess this was months ago maybe) and reached out to me guilting me about how I don’t stay in touch and asking me if I had heard from my sister (his golden child) I asked him if he could contribute anything to my timeline I was working on in therapy. He said, sure! I’d love to help! Let me think! And months later I haven’t heard from him, not even when I texted him to ask about how his hip was doing.

Well, congratulations if you were somehow able to read this mess of a post. I know I’m all over the place and I apologize about that. I guess I’m mostly looking for maybe validation that I wasn’t just a horrible child :/ I’m maybe wondering if anyone else had similar issues as a kid....
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby avatar123 » Wed Oct 10, 2018 5:45 pm

I don't think you would need to look much beyond significant neglect by your parents, to explain most of your behaviors when you were younger. Neglect is a form of abuse as well. We tend to think of abuse as negative behaviors that replace the normal positive love & affection for a child, but the absence of those things is itself a major component of the abuse. The negative behaviors aren't necessarily required for the situation to be abusive, just long-term neglect is enough.

Kids respond to this differently, some become withdrawn/disassociated while others act out. They may go through phases of both over time. They may suffer extreme anxiety due to uncertainty about their welfare or future, as they have little or no reassurance from adults. Also due to the absence of structure or direction, which most kids need as they develop. They may also latch on to anyone who displays an interest in them, even in very negative situations, as they crave that attention.

Most of these things are also traumatic for a child, without there being singular traumatizing events. The trauma occurs gradually but continuously over time, until it's deeply ingrained. But in terms of memory, it's difficult to point to any one specific event or cause.

Your description of your childhood has many of the outward signs of these behaviors. Another confirming factor is that when you were finally placed in an ordered & structured environment with people who actually cared about you, you absolutely thrived. You were probably always capable of that (as you are now) but you needed the right environment for those traits to develop and be expressed in your actions and decisions.

So anyway, bottom line is that you deserve a lot of credit for having come though that experience and become a good & worthwhile person. Although it wasn't your fault, you were on the road to disaster for awhile, but you got yourself off of it, going to school and working to be successful. That's really huge. I hope that as you continue in your therapy, you'll keep that in mind and realize what a great achievement that is, and give yourself full credit.

It sounds like your sister found a different path, and I hope that whatever her decisions have been, they have helped her to find some peace. Maybe that is the best way to look at it, and to wish her well as she deals with a similar background to yours, but maybe not in as positive a way as you have.

As far as your parents, it doesn't sound like much has really changed, they weren't there for you then and they aren't really now either. They probably never will be, but fortunately you are strong enough now to deal with it on your own, with some help and support. Again, that's a really great thing, and it says a lot about you.
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby Terry E. » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:23 pm

Wow that is one hell of a life. Congrats on not being institionalised.

I am racing off to work and Avatar has basically said it all but as a survivor that is what you were doing up to 12.

A couple of things. I noted at one point you wondered about yourself how much of these issues did you contribute to. Answer NONE. Normal to wonder if only I had ... but answer is too young to control much of your life, at those ages we are basically passengers on for the ride.

Your sister has distanced herself to protect herself. You disassociated as a means of protection now she needs to lead a new life and not get drawn back even though she may love you dearly. (The get a job and get you out to save you .. terrible responsibility for a young girl to carry, even though that task was herculean and beyond her control when you moved in with that guy she may feel she failed you). Maybe at some time in the future but now let her have her space.

I am not sure you mother could lie straight in bed. It is normal to try and get answers from them but why would people who lied to you the authorities, everyone, suddenly start to give you answers. It happens in Hollywood but not in real life.

Being hyper aware, the door locking thing, the hyper sexuality I will leave to your counselor as he sounds quite good.

As I said Avatar's answer was excellent, just one last thing, .. don't stress too much about this stuff. Answers come back to you over time. They seem to come back when you are stronger and can deal with them better. I am still having dominoes fall, and I am older than dirt. Now they are just another piece of a puzzle there is little emotion attached.
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby TheGangsAllHere » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:51 am

avatar123 wrote:We tend to think of abuse as negative behaviors that replace the normal positive love & affection for a child, but the absence of those things is itself a major component of the abuse. The negative behaviors aren't necessarily required for the situation to be abusive, just long-term neglect is enough...

...They may suffer extreme anxiety due to uncertainty about their welfare or future, as they have little or no reassurance from adults. Also due to the absence of structure or direction, which most kids need as they develop...

Most of these things are also traumatic for a child, without there being singular traumatizing events. The trauma occurs gradually but continuously over time, until it's deeply ingrained. But in terms of memory, it's difficult to point to any one specific event or cause.


Thank you for saying this. I underlined the parts that are especially meaningful to me. I wish this was more commonly known, understood, and believed. Very few people (including in the mental health field) know that a child can develop a major dissociative disorder (DID/OSDD) from prolonged emotional neglect. I have fairly continuous memory since around age 3--I don't have a history of the kind of thing that is generally thought to be needed to develop DID (repeated sexual or physical abuse over many years). What I do remember--the total disregard of my feelings, being treated like an object or a pet, and being used to meet the emotional needs of my parents, was enough. Then I couldn't cope with the many experiences of childhood that wouldn't have been traumatic for a someone who had emotional support--dissociation was the only way I had of dealing with them.
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby avatar123 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 7:08 am

Yes, even professionals tend to look for major defining traumatic events, and for many people those do occur. But there is ample evidence for the long-term trauma of neglect as well. The Romanian orphanage crisis in the 1990's was an extreme example. Those kids were fed and clothed and housed but had no meaningful nurturing from their caretakers. Even as adults provided with mental health care, they are still struggling today. The emotional damage done in childhood is difficult to reverse.

There is unfortunately further evidence in animal abuse. A friend of mine adopts dogs that have been abandoned at birth and raised in shelters. They have significant issues and it can take years before they are not fearful, or even tolerant of anyone they don't know. The effect of nurturing and socialization of the young is profound.

With animals, they are not sufficiently self-aware to hide their behaviors, the problems are right on the surface. However people quickly learn to hide their problems to gain social acceptance. They isolate themselves, disassociate themselves, and develop other coping mechanisms, that allow them to function in society, but not at a full or happy level. They are basically in an emotional survival mode. In many ways that makes improvement and recovery more difficult. I wish that we as a society were more compassionate toward, and accepting of, people who are struggling with emotional health issues.
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby WhatSheSaid » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:13 pm

Thanks for replying everyone.

I know neglect is definitely abusive. I personally can’t imagine treating a child the way that we were treated. From what I do remember, we were just kind of there. We never really seemed like a unit. Avatar, you mentioned animals that suffer neglect and abuse. I am also a huge animal welfare advocate in my community. I volunteer at shelters and we foster dogs in my home and help them find forever homes. If I could relate to a neglected animal most, it would be the dog that’s always left out on a chain outside. Like you touch on, maybe no one hits this dog and maybe he gets enough food to survive, but no one ever really spends time with him and he’s just there... he waits outside for any moment that someone may come to spend with him, but those moments are few.

Like you mention, dogs, or really any mammal I can think of for that matter, that don’t have sufficient intervention from their parent or others of their same species do develop significant problems. The whole way a puppy learns to play without biting too hard is by playing with its parent or siblings. You can see how mature dogs (that are well socialized and understand social structure) will treat puppies that aren’t theirs as well. They will be very gentle and almost over exaggerate their body language, every interaction is essentially a lesson for the puppy. They won’t tolerate rude behavior that will be bad for the puppy as an adult, and you can see they are often stricter with younger counterparts. They also have very specific ways of communicating something isn’t ok to a puppy, one of the most common being a “head bite” where they essentially put their entire mouth on the puppy’s head. They often aren’t so laid back with another mature dog who happens to be rude though. Puppies that don’t get these lessons can grow up without bite inhibition, not understanding social cues or body language, and obviously pretty severe behavioral problems resulting from that.

I felt an instant connection with my special needs dog that I adopted a couple years ago. When she was introduced to me, the vet tech said, “no one is going to want her” and I think that made me want her more. I think this is because of an inner message I retained from childhood, that no one wants me. She has helped me a lot, and ever since getting her, a lot of my more troubling symptoms, like my self harm and suicidal thinking have been more manageable. She adores me and I also adore her.

I worry about my sister a lot. My sister is the one person that I don’t think I’ll ever be angry at, even if I am hurt that she left. My sister was more of my caretaker than our parents were. She used to read books to me when we were younger and even though she definitely wasn’t old enough to have the tools to help me, I remember her being the one that would try to conquer my fears for me. Terry, you mentioned she may feel that she failed me, and I believe that’s true. She mentioned in her last email to me that she felt that she was the loud one, and that she was afraid she didn’t leave much room for me and maybe that is why no one noticed me. She said that she hated to think that when she left was when I spiraled even further downhill.

Sometimes I don’t know if I should be grieving her as if I’ll never see her again, or if I should be trying harder to contact her and let her know it’s ok to talk to me because I would never be angry at her. Sometimes I wonder if she even thinks about me.

I’m mostly NC with my family, but sometimes I feel very guilty for that. There are people in my family who I wish I was closer with, but sometimes by speaking to them, I either get guilted about my relationship with my parents, or inadvertently my parents will hear about me. My mother is the type who likes to boast about what a great woman I am now (like on her Facebook) but simultaneously tell me the reason she couldn’t love me as a kid was because of what a horrible child I was. Her 3rd child is my younger brother. He is 10 years younger, about to turn 18, and he’s autistic. He and I will talk and he will tell me awful things my mother has said about me. I think she tries to turn him against me (but he is incredibly kind and thoughtful and a total mediator) and it reminds me of how I think she may have tried to turn us all against each other when we were younger. She can’t ever be wrong or have done anything bad, so it’s always someone else’s fault.

TheGang, this is what I think I’m struggling with too. DID is the diagnosis that I think that my therapist keeps hinting at. She literally read the criteria in our last session asking if I related to it and then mentions when she feels “something is different about you today” lol I’ve been reading about it to my bf and he seems more open to the idea than I am lol

One of the things that sort of piqued her interest is my daydreaming. That I’ve always sort of had this inner world of other people that I talk to, and I’ve done this since I was a kid. I apparently forgot about it for some time, but I remembered about the daydreaming after I started doing it again a few years ago and then I was like, I’ve always done this! When I try to think back on my childhood, I don’t think I actually had much human interaction, especially when I was pulled from school and my mother “home schooled” me even though I actually just ended up sitting in my room alone all day. So maybe that is why these other people were created... so that I had someone else to take care of me and talk to me when no one else would? It’s really hard when you have a bunch of random pieces but not the whole picture!

I’ve also noticed that even in the mental health field there is disbelief. I had a therapist ask me to “think really hard over the next week of whether or not there may have been ANY kind of sexual abuse” like if only I could remember this potential sexual abuse maybe then I could start to heal. In fact, I feel like most of my therapists have sort of hinted that they believe I was sexually abused somewhere in the time I don’t have a lot of memory from.

I just try not to think about it and I just assume that if something like that happened maybe one day it will come out like some of the other things have over time.

I also had an intake person before essentially interrogate me, or at least that’s what it felt like. When they asked about my relationship with my parents at a young age, they asked, how did you feel about your father? And I told them I was always really afraid of him. They said, why? Did he hit you? Did he say mean things to you? And I’m just like... no I don’t think so... I don’t realky know why... I just was. And I got this feeling from them like I had no right to be afraid of him unless he had done something like this to me.
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Re: Childhood signs of abuse but no memory

Postby quietgirl2538 » Fri Oct 12, 2018 4:43 pm

Hello WhatSheSaid,
It's ok, if you wrote a lot, because otherwise, we, as readers in this forum, couldn't get a clear picture of what you are trying to convey. It's fine. I read your post and all the responses. It's left me hurting for you and others who go through so much abuse as children. To me, even an 18 year old is a child.

I am a mother to 3 girls and one of them is 18 years, so I write that to me she is still a child because SHE is my child. She is young and she deserves the best treatment from every single person. From me and from others. I am mature and older, I don't feel the slights or hurts from others like I used to when I was in my early 20's. That's why I say she is still a child. Even though going by her age, she is old enough to be on her own.

I would venture to offer up a thought about you being afraid of your dad. Maybe he was strict with you and you just feared him greatly. The way I feared my mom. I was terrified of her. To everyone else, she was like this good and kind woman and to me, she was not a good mom. You sound like a really nice, thoughtful, and patient type of person who also loves animals.

As a mom, I could never "not" love my children no matter how bad they behaved. I think, in some ways, you want to love your children who are "hurting" more so because they need you more than the little ones who already feel your love. So, I don't believe that you were unloveable just because you thought you were "bad" as a little girl. Children are children. They are learning how to just be little people in their own ways. I used to have my middle daughter hit my youngest. I caught her doing it once and I disciplined her and tried to teach her why that was wrong. But in my mind, I thought it was cute and funny. My middle daughter was hitting my youngest was just children being children, in my opinion. She hit her with her hand on her rear. They were like 5 years and the youngest about 2 years. She'd also steal her favorite doll from her. At this age, this is normal. Now that they are teens, when my youngest is what I term as "too good," I worry. Imagine that, a mom worrying that her daughter is too good! I don't necessarily want her to be bad, I just want her to be herself, to grow up at her own pace. To see and feel the good in life. I have a strong belief that children should be allowed to be children. When we become adults, the rules change. I am a full grown adult who has responsibilities and I am held responsible for my actions. That's what I mean by that phrase.

Thank you for sharing. My story of abuse is for another day. You have done so good for yourself. Sending you many hugs, if wanted.
“There’s an Asian expression that ‘a burden shared is halved.’"

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