Those Flashbacks: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
A man who chose to remain anonymous wrote me recently after reading one of my books and said, “It gave me great encouragement through a very tough time last year with flashbacks that I was getting from the abuse that I went through as a child . . .
“I am 42, and I’m not sure when the abuse started, maybe when I was six, and it continued through my teenage years. It was mainly women though men were also involved. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was young and I did not want to be mad like her, and I didn’t ask any questions about what was going on. So I didn’t resist her.
“The two people that I can trust to talk about this, a close friend and a psychologist, are both overseas and will be back at the end of July. I feel shattered and running on empty.
Whether this memory is true, it has such huge impacts for me either way and both of them are scary. I yell to God that I want life to be easy like it was and it is far from that.”
I responded to him with these words: I’m not a therapist, but I have a theory. Those long-hidden memories start to return when we’re equipped to cope with them. I realize you’re having trouble coping, but I also believe something inside you is telling you that you can cope and overcome the pain of the past.
Many of us unconsciously developed a form of amnesia, which is a form of denial. That was our method of surviving childhood. I was almost ten years older than you are when my memories started to return. And they hurt. Deeply.
The only advice I offer is, Don’t fight them. Accept those flashbacks. They’re demanding attention. When mine returned (along with the pain), I finally learned to say, “Okay, what do I need to learn from the pain of my past?”
Sure, they’re painful, and we re-experience the trauma of our past. But there’s one significant difference. Now we’re adults; now we can cope, and feel compassion toward that child.
When I went through the worst of my flashbacks, which hit me off and on for about a year, I said to myself repeatedly, “This is the best I can do at this stage of my development.”
Some days I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t. I kept on.
The really good news is that eventually the flashbacks go away. When our healing has taken place, we no longer need those painful reminders.
Cecil Murphey wrote, When a Man You Love Was Abused and Not Quite Healed with survivor Gary Roe. Murphey is the author or coauthor of 137 books including international best sellers, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story. His latest book is Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor, written with Katariina Rosenblatt. His twice-weekly blog is www.menshatteringthesilence.blogspot.com.