• A recent traumatic event can trigger painful feelings from the past

  • Here Michele shares her experience of therapy to help her deal with present and past trauma

  • If you are struggling to come to terms with something that has happened to you, find a therapist

In August of 2017, I was stranded in Hurricane Harvey in Houston, TX while there on a vacation to celebrate my birthday.  After finally returning to Florida, Hurricane Irma came the following week, and once again, I was planning for devastation.

A week after Hurricane Irma left, I started to have nightmares of people drowning. 

But after a week or two of hurricane images, I began having nightmares and flashbacks of unresolved childhood sexual abuse. I was abused by five different people over a period of ten years. 

I started therapy through my company EAP program, however, they did not accept my insurance. So after my three visits, I was on my own again.

My next selection of a therapist literally came from a random selection of an online website. I was looking for a Christian counselling facility and that is what they advertised.

I was assigned a therapist who I call Ms. A. My first few visits with her were pretty pointless. I had had therapy in my early 20s and it had not been a good experience. In previous therapy, we never addressed the details of my childhood sexual abuse. When I started with Ms. A, I was dissociating from the minute I walked in the door until I left. I am diagnosed with CPTSD (Complex post traumatic stress disorder). 

She was very patient with me. Her voice is so soft and kind. It took me about six months to reveal to her a “real” detail of one of my abuses.

Only a few people knew of one of the abuses and my parents blamed me for that one. I never ever told anyone about the other four people and I was determined to keep those secrets until the end of time. Slowly, one by one, I revealed them to Ms. A.

Before every session, I have a lot of anxiety. Usually when I arrive, my heart is pounding. I’m usually sweating. I always tell her, “It’s so hot in here”. I currently am still in therapy twice a week. We are just beginning to talk about the details. Up to this point, it was too hard for me to stay connected. I always trusted her but never trusted myself enough to really explore the details.

One week, I asked her if I could sit on the floor.  (For some reason, the couch makes me feel like I’m in an office. I have such a hard time leaving my office personality behind.) She said, “of course”, and then got down to the floor with me. Since that point, I have felt more comfortable and more at ease, when the subject matter is difficult, to get in the floor.

My therapist has been nothing less than encouraging and positive through each of my omissions and confessions

We have explored lots of different ways of getting me to open up. I send her emails, we have played “Feelings Uno”  I ready my journal, etc. I have at times brought a friend to therapy with me. I have a support team of friends, who are willing to do just about anything for me and with me when I’m at my worst. My son also goes with me.

My most difficult challenges are trust and staying connected. In the past two months, I have asked her to “push” me more and not let me just disappear during each session.

It feels so defeating when I leave a session and haven’t been able to share even one thing that’s been bothering me. She always says I’m way too hard on myself, and to give myself a break.

In the beginning, it was also very hard for me to be honest and not omit details of just general stuff. I was so afraid of her judging me and/or not wanting to see me again. But she has been nothing less than encouraging and positive through each of my omissions and confessions.

I have learned that therapy can be a great experience. I have also learned that I do have positive traits, even though I still have a very hard time accepting it. I’m learning how to give up some control while in therapy and trust this person who is looking out for my best interest.

I plan to continue in therapy until I have been able to disclose all of the abuses and begin to live again. But this time, without the secrets and all the masks.

I am now blogging my experiences along with my memories of the past. I want to bring hope and courage to others with similar experiences. My goal is to become a speaker and advocate for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse.  Ms. A is very encouraging and is cheering me on with each accomplishment.

Find a therapist for trauma here

Further reading

The impact of childhood trauma

What is learned helplessness?

Which type of therapy is right for me?

Why are millennials coming to therapy?

How therapy can help CSA survivors