Just starting to piece things together, possible triggers

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jm387

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Hi everyone,

I looked at this site months ago and it has taken me some time to get to a place where I feel like I can post and share a bit about what is going on with me. When I first started looking through this site before, I actually had what felt like dissociative symptoms while reading, but time has passed and more has come to light for me which I've been processing and working through slowly. I thought it would be helpful to share and get some feedback maybe about ways that might be best for me to proceed.

I had a difficult childhood, and used to think that at most my parents were alcoholics, and that the abuse and violence was "only" emotional/verbal. My mom would get blackout drunk and would be incredibly scary. My dad was scary when sober. I have bits and pieces of memories from my childhood, but big gaps, and no real cohesive narrative. Since leaving home when I was 18 (I'm 34 now) I've slowly started to recover in a way which has led me to believe that I was severely traumatized, and that the abuse extended beyond what I had originally thought. I've had profound changes in consciousness which have been positive and permanent. To sum up, I would say that I have gone from perceiving myself as a "not self" with a disposable/non-essential body and personality to perceiving myself as a "real me" with a "real body." I have been profoundly dissociated and split for most of my life and mending those splits (which I think has happened sometimes somewhat spontaneously as I regain a sense of safety) has also felt... both profound and terrifying.

A few years ago, I was in therapy and decided to share this inkling I had that I may have had a sexual abuse experience when I was younger. I have a very brief memory of being a little boy, 1 or 2 years old, and being naked in front of someone and for some reason feeling an intense feeling of shame. The memory is funny because the setting is unclear... the adult that I am with, unclear as well. I did talk to my therapist too about this increasing awareness that for a long time, since being a little boy, I've felt in some sense like a perpetrator. In elementary school, I spent time with another little boy, a year or two younger than me, at a basketball game and kept giving him quarters. I'm not sure why, I guess it just felt like a way of being a friend. His mom saw him with all of these quarters in her hand and looked immediately worried and asked who had given them to him. She relaxed when he said it was me. I remember again, this feeling of shame, as though I had done something "dirty" even though nothing had happened and I did not think I had intended anything to happen. I do remember, though, more concerning things like being in elementary school and coaxing other boys to show their bodies to me, in subtle ways, asking them to lift up their shirts and feeling guilty for asking. I also had sleepovers with other boys where I would try to undress them while they were asleep. I have memories, too, of playing dolls with my sister and "acting out" a bit - having dolls touch the groin of male dolls. This all, of course, feels very concerning now, especially as I piece together and try to figure out my history. Through working with my therapist, and through a very intense transference process, I "came out of" having an unconscious identification with a perpetrator which I assume I must have been carrying within me for a very long time. I did leave therapy, because everything in me said it was too much, and I intend to go back I think when I have more inner resources. By too much, I mean, to give an idea of it, at some point while processing some of this and coming out of my split state, I went blind... it lasted for three minutes, me on the floor at home with my eyes open, but not being able to see anything. I also went through what felt like a very intense psychosis. It is tough to tell a doctor, "Yeah... I actually went blind for a bit at home," and to hear, "OK, let me know if it happens again." I think I'm very good at presenting as OK, even when in other ways I am really suffering.

My narrative is pretty messy, because I'm really unsure what happened. So, I apologize for that. I started to remember a few things, however it was difficult to tell if these memories were real or symbolic? A real memory: being in the bathroom, being 5 or 6, with my father while he was taking a bath, and staring at his naked body. I thought for certain, too, that I remembered him maybe touching himself when I looked at him, and at some point, maybe even taking a bath together and asking me if I wanted to touch him. My dad would pee with me in the toilet when I was a kid, when he was drinking, probably around the same age as I am in this memory. This doesn't seem abusive to me, but was just something I wondered about. I remembered also, a real memory, y mom bathing me with my neighborhood friend, maybe when I was 5 or 6 years old? I have the impression that this happened more than once, but I only have one memory of us being in the tub together and being silly, hiding ourselves with the bubbles from the bath. I never thought this was weird, because I never associated it with abuse, but I think now I'm unsure if she might have touched us during the bath or if it is odd to bathe two boys that age together. He would spend a lot of time at my house, would sleepover, sometimes for multiple days, so I understand why she would want him to be clean and also why she would not bathe him alone.

My memories of my parents are messy. My dad had an explosive temper. There were times he tried to start physical fights with me. My earliest memories are of my sister and I hiding together in her bedroom while my parents fought. My mom would often sleep in bed with me, sometimes while blackout drunk and after being extremely scary and abusing my sister in front of me (throwing her things on the ground, calling her a slut, things like that). One time I got sick from her behavior, and she blamed my sister and abused her more because of my getting sick. It is very probable that she had undiagnosed borderline personality disorder. I recognize those mechanisms at work in her. There was also definite enmeshment and narcissistic abuse from both of my parents. My relationship with my mom now is better. She has mellowed out a lot, she drinks much less, she has taken more ownership of her life. But, not a lot of apologies, just a moving forward. My dad is not a presence in my life, really. He seems to project a lot onto me, puts all of the burden of relationship on me, and I noticed, too, that he would only really speak with me on Facebook, in a public "good dad" sort of way... but would never call or check in privately. He also lies on Facebook, posts in groups about how close he is with his grandchildren (he does not have grandchildren), I'm assuming he thinks that his friends can't see his posts, and he is just... living a bit in fantasy.

Anyway, I did ask my parents, maybe a year ago or so, if it was possible that something might have happened to me when I was younger, and I think this is the piece where I would appreciate feedback based on their responses and my own response to what they said.

I asked my mom, first, if she thought that it was possible that I might have gone through sexual abuse as a child. I asked her if she remembered anything or had any suspicions that someone could have done something. At every family member I asked about, including my dad, she said "no." Regarding my dad, she said, "He wasn't a nice man but he wouldn't do something like that." I asked her if she might have done something, and she said, "I'm not like that, in my family, no one was even allowed to talk about sex." And she said, "I would even take a lie detector test." It just felt... odd. She did say, suddenly, "Well, you were an altar server..." and when she said that, the entire top of my head started tingling. It felt really weird. I erupted then, and said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," over and over. And then said, "I'm sorry," because, for some reason, I felt guilty. I don't have any memory of being an altar server, however, I did go to Catholic school and it turns out a priest who lived at the school at the time has been listed as having confirmed abuse allegations against children. I called my best friend who also said she did not remember me being an altar server, however, she called another girl who said I "definitely was." I really don't know though, and my mom said she only thinks I did it for a week or so and then wanted to stop. As a little kid I was very religious. I had rosaries, bibles, etc... I do have a memory of my sister wanting to be a priest, but when I talk to her about it, she says that she definitely did not want to... and a part of me wonders if that is a sort of false memory, that it is me that wanted to be a priest, but I'm projecting it onto her in some way as a memory, to keep it distant? Another weird thing is that before my mom even told me this, for weeks, I would randomly smell incense. Also I think a part of my coping with trauma has been fantasy that is very religious in nature (which is still very slowly falling away). I'm still trying to figure out if I may have been an altar server, but also feel hesitant in some ways... and, one thing I am very curious about, too, is that after I hung up the phone with my mom, I went to my room and suddenly felt an intense panic at "not wanting to remember." My body erupted into sweat and I kept yelling, "no, no, no!" And then it stopped. It is weird to have your body respond in those ways, but not know why. My mom, though, tried to change the subject a bit during the call... and afterwards said, "Do you want to be hear about my trauma at work?" while simultaneously acknowledging that this was inappropriate for her to say. I also have a boyfriend, though I have funny feelings about being gay. It is hard to tell if that is internalized homophobia, or what. I have never really been physically interested in women, but I have this nagging feeling sometimes that I am "not gay." Not long after I went blind, too, and had that experience, I was sitting with my boyfriend and felt younger and asked him, "Would you still love me even if I wasn't gay?" It was weird, and I don't know why I did that. I'm assuming it is some content from the past, but I don't know what.

I asked my dad about some of these thoughts, too, and he said I was not an altar server, that we didn't go to church, but that he "does remember being at church and wanting to leave to go watch football." He has a lot of suspicions about my mom, and said that he and I did not take baths together, and that it was inappropriate for my mom to bathe me with my friend. He made our call a lot about him "being a good dad now," so, he sort of immediately started to call me and check in (and he kept saying things like, "I can't get this out of my head!")... but that turned into, not calling, and, during my last trip home I gave him a lot of notice that I was coming... but he still didn't make any time to spend with me, and hasn't reached out to me in months or even returned my last call to him. My mom did say that when I was very little, my dad would watch me by myself while she worked... which I don't remember. You can see, maybe, how this narrative and my figuring things out is a bit messy and all over the place?

I kind of threw myself into working 7 days a week, two jobs, and just recently decided to take an easy job that pays a bit less but that will give me time to actually feel and process a bit. It has felt good, and even allowing myself to do that, more memories have come back. Some I know are real (I've noticed that I have no memory at all of 4th grade, everything feels frozen, but after writing a bit this last week a memory or two from then, and good memories, have come back). I did have what felt like a flashback, just a few days ago. I woke up, sort of frozen, and felt my head tingle, the top of my head felt fuzzy, and also felt (and I'm sorry for writing this) like a man had just finished in my mouth and was moving my legs up, and I felt terrified and again this feeling of, "I don't want to remember," and "no, no, no." I also had what felt like a flashback where my face contorted, and I felt almost autistic, and had this sense of my mother sobbing uncontrollably next to me, like it was some frozen memory from my past that I was feeling in my body.

For me, I'm wondering if the suspicions I have regarding my family (because these suspicions are moving through every adult person in my family, in a way I am trying my hardest to just remain objective about) is a way of my mind processing a violent event that was perpetrated by a stranger or someone outside of my family at a very young age? I also did not grow up in an environment that felt safe. There was betrayal, in different ways. It is just supremely difficult to not know the answers here. The kind of state that I have been in, that I am coming out of, makes me feel like there was early abuse that was very sadistic in nature? My sister also has profound memory loss from childhood. She hasn't gone through the same things as me, though, in terms of feeling as though she is coming out of an extremely traumatized state. She seems to be doing OK, I hope that she is OK, but she remembers even less than I do.

I talked to my mom yesterday again, and again asked her more about if she might have done anything... or my dad... or anyone. I asked her if she had more details about me being an altar server. There wasn't much new that was said. I do try to talk to her in a way that is understanding, because I'm not trying to cause more chaos or harm, I think, but just want answers so that I can understand my story. I don't know if it's possible that she did something or that she witnessed or knows something, and maybe has split her awareness of it off because it was traumatic for her, too?

I know a big suggestion will be, therapy, and I will. It is difficult, I think, being in this spot and having all of these conflicting narratives, and unknowns, because it makes everything sound imaginary and makes it sound like I am seeking out victimhood. But, I know the feelings in my body were very real, and I know that for most of my life I have not "been here." It is so hard to talk to a counselor and say, "I didn't even really have consciousness of my body for what seems like over 30 years"... because unless if you have had that experience, have been traumatized in that way yourself, it... makes no sense and just sounds like fantasy, it sounds empty.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and any responses/advice anyone has for me here.
 
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