This is pretty embarrassing to write, but I desperately need an answer.
I am in my 40s now, female. As a child, beginning at around age 6, I was molested by a step-father for several years. I was pregnant at 13, lived on the street about a year at age 14-15 and was abused/used a lot during that time. The physical and sexual abuse was so horrendous that I had a hard time trying to cope with what all happened in such a short amount of time that I just tucked it all away and put a lid on it. Life moved on.
It seemed that I had gotten over all of these things. Time taking care of all wounds, as it’s said. But just recently, I finally admitted to myself that these things are on my mind every day for huge chunks of time, and that I could probably do with trying to get rid of them. Don’t really know where to start, so I’m just sorting through the most haunting memories, looking at them as an adult, and trying to rid myself of them by merely acknowledging them so that hopefully they will go away.
However, I can’t for the life of me recall in my memory the face of my step-father. I can recall with extreme clarity certain smells, certain feelings, and even the appearance of his hands, shoes, pants, and the way he did certain things. But not one bit of his face.
I don’t know that if I would mentally slap him or just say "I forgive" - probably the latter - but it seems I am stuck because I have no face to slap or to speak to. Truth is that if I ever do recall it, I fear I will be made very scared by seeing it even though he’s long been dead.
Is there an answer as to why I can’t recall his face? And, is there any way to get to a point where I can see it?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Any help would be appreciated.
this is a very difficult thing if i remember correctly the mind tends to remember smells and sounds better then pics and faces it also appears to me that you are suffering from post dramatic stress disorder which continues to hunt you.Now i know thins sounds weird but im willing o help you remember his face but im going to have to mind read to do that would you mind if i did that.
I really feel for you. I know that this is very hard to deal with from personal experience, and that the effects of abuse remain with us until we have had the opportunity to work though them. I imagine that not being able to see his face is your mind protecting you. When we experience trauma, especially interpersonal trauma like sexual abuse, the mind tends to dissociate. There are a number of ways it does this. One is what is called dissociative amnesia. This is memory loss that often occurs with abuse. Your mind is shutting out things that are too hurtful for you to remember. I didn't remember my abuse until I was in my mid 20s.
It is great that you are now in a place where you feel able to process and deal with the abuse. I didn't do it until my 40s but it made a huge difference to my wellbeing and my life in general. It is never too late. What I would caution against is doing this alone. It is really important to do as you most likely have complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) which is similar to but different from PTSD. But doing this work alone can be frightening and potentially retraumatising. It is really important to have support, both of a loved one or friend, as well as a knowledgeable professional such as a therapist or counsellor.You say you don't know where to start. It does depend which country you live in. I am in Australia and here there are Centres Against Sexual Assault that offer free or low cost counselling services for adult survivors of childhood sexual assault. There may be something similar where you live. There are also some great resources on the web. I can't give web addresses but google "help adult child sexual abuse " and some of the more reputable sites will come up. They should give you plenty of information as well as tell you how to access services that can help you in your healing journey.
I saw a therapist privately and this worked really well for me. But I have a friend who attended group counselling for survivors (at very low cost) and she found that incredibly helpful. It can be a scary journey but it is a journey well worth taking. My life is so much richer now, I dissociate less, connect with people more intimately, am generally much happier, and feel my emotions much more intensely. For the first time in my life I feel grounded in my body and in touch with my emotions. Telling your story can be really hard but really powerful. But please do this work with someone who has extensive experience working with adult survivors of sexual abuse. And that person should ideally be working from a trauma informed perspective. If you have any questions just ask. I will follow this thread.
I wish you all the best in your journey. You have taken a very brave step in telling your story and asking for support here. There is support out there. Sometimes it is just a matter of finding it. Take care
Your advice about counseling is excellent ... for others. :-) I tried once to talk to a professional and after I rambled and stumbled and gushed forth about a tenth of the real story, he pulled out a piece paper. On it he drew a “happy cat” face and a “sad cat” face. He said that we choose which one we want to be, and that I had a distorted view of sex. I said, “Okaaaay then,” paid a very hefty cost and never went back. It was so difficult to sit there and admit the things and then be given some scribbled cats to stick on my refrigerator. I won’t say where I really wanted to stick them. :-)
There was one other time that I saw a counselor about a different matter that had to do with what I can only described as very scrambled thinking, more than just having difficult concentrating, etc. She was SO much help and she actually sat and prayed with me. That prayer meant more to me than anything else. When I returned to see her, I was told that: (1) “She’s dead” (put very bluntly and with no sorrow in the man’s voice); and (2) that he, the psychiatrist, didn’t prescribe drugs. Little did he know, that I already had a purse full of prescription drugs. I could have filled prescriptions for him. I just needed a way to see clearly and I believed the drugs were not the way to get there. I never went back.
The first time I tried was in my 20s and the second in my 30s.
The whole story is rather long and I can’t relate it all to anyone because it involves a person I would rather not disparage because I truly believe that the person could not deal with life and was in no position to be of help to anyone at the time things happened. And probably didn’t mean anything done or said to me. Probably was in need of more help than I’ve ever been. It’s been more difficult to deal in my mind and heart with this person than any other person because of relation. I have forgiven (many times over until I finally got it complete), but I don’t want to dredge up particular memories for fear of going back and finding that hurt (which was the worst and cut the deepest).
Multiple gang rapes, beatings that I literally cannot number (some by strangers, some not), and the usual things that happen to young girls on the street, I can overcome rather easily. I believe that the people who did these things more than likely had had a worse childhood than my own. It was being left alone that hurt the most, because after so many of these things happen you just don’t feel them anymore. It really was just another day to look for a place to lie down my head and take whatever came my way. There’s no pain to overcome in these things (except for one that was done by a person I thought loved me, who took me to a house to be tied to a bed and had by his friends) because I was there in body but not in mind. These things mean little to me now.
It’s the face that I need to see. I need to see it. I need to say to it, “I am grown and you suck and I hate you and I forgive you, you piece of c**p; you ruined me and destroyed the tenderness and amazement and my very soul. You destroyed the good things in me with your filth ... and if you had such a horrid life that made you the way you are, I am sorry.” Or, something like that. I may just laugh at what a pathetic face it is. I may run in horror.
I don’t know, Sally. I don’t know why I seem to be obsessed with recalling it. I think it’s because of what I said above, but I don’t know my own self well enough to say for certain. I feel stuck and feel like I can’t let it go because I can’t see it TO let it go.
Funny, sick and twisted. The closest I can come to recalling his features is a time that the movie “Sybil” first aired on t.v. and I was forced to lie next to him (and so on and so on) as the movie played. My sister would then have to be next him. Back and forth. I didn’t want to be next to him, but I hurt most whenever it was her turn. I remember trying to “split” myself like Sybil while watching the movie while he was touching me. Who knows, perhaps I succeeded to some degree and locked away forever that ugly mug of his.
Sally, sweet lady, you have helped me a load by just letting me “talk”. I dare not bring these matters up because those in my life now do not have the ability, nor do I expect them to, to help. It would only hurt them.
As you suggested, I will search out more websites. At this time, I am attempting some self-help with a book I recently purchased. I believe it’s helping me understand because at times I am drawn to it for hours, and at other times I want to throw it out the door and never see it again. :-) It helps and it hurts. I reckon that may just be the ticket, though, due to the emotions it evokes. Can’t say that it isn’t a bit frightening, though.
I’m going to look into the dissociative amnesia and the CPTSD that you mentioned. You have helped more than you will ever know.
God bless you, Sally. Again, thank you so very much for answering and for allowing me to get some things off my mind. This has helped more than any session with a professional, I believe. From the deepest part of my heart, “Thank you for your kindness.”
Thank you for your reply, Likeaboss. Will you please explain what you mean about "mind read" and how it works? Thank you.