Sometimes victims of child abuse will block out any memory of the events, or not even realise what was happening was wrong until they leave home. Going to university or getting your own flat, job and or steady relationship may suddenly stir your memory. Dealing with the emotions then can be difficult – especially if you can’t remember much.
What are common symptoms following child abuse?
You may experience some of the following:
- Flashbacks and nightmares You may find memories of the abuse will suddenly appear be it during the day or in recurring nightmares.
- Shame and guilt You may blame yourself for the events; suffer from low self-esteem or feel too embarrassed to get help. The pressure of the memories and emotions may lead you to become severely depressed.
- Intense anger Often directed at the abuser, this may appear out of nowhere after you haven’t seen them for a while. You may wish to confront them or completely avoid them. It may be more general.
- Problems with intimacy You may find that you avoid intimate relationships and are unable to trust other people. On the flipside, you may tend to form very intense intimate relationships, which can be just as damaging.
- Fear You may wonder if you’ll ever be able to hold down a normal relationship; you may struggle to enjoy sex, and even fear becoming an abuser yourself.
- Loneliness You may feel completely isolated by the events of your past, alienated and expecting to stay that way.
How can I deal with it?
Take care of yourself: The fact that you were abused as a child can’t be changed. What happened was not your fault, though, and so try not to punish yourself. Now is the time to look after yourself; treat yourself with respect and care and try to heal. Seeking help and support at any time is not something to be ashamed of, but to be embraced.
Get angry: If you’re full of anger for the way you were treated in the past, try and find a way to vent these feelings. Talk to someone, either a close friend or a counsellor. It may be easier to tell a complete stranger what you’re going through. Or you could keep a diary. One of the best ways to get anger out and make yourself feel more positive is through exercise.
Let yourself grieve: It may sound strange, but your experiences stole your childhood and you have to allow yourself to get sad about this. You need to let the feelings out and not worry about how long your grieving process will take. By allowing them out, you should begin to feel more in control.
Photo of girl with photo by Shutterstock
Updated on 25-Sep-2012