The Intangibility of my Abuse (and Reminders Thereof)

JayBro

Registrant
Bonjour toute le monde,

Since my latest round of therapy (EMDR & cognitive) in this past summer, my flashbacks, acting out, anxiety, and other symptoms have drastically reduced in frequency and severity. This past weekend I was triggered again because I was reading a book about the history of LGBTQ magazine publishing in North America during the 1950’s: completely casually the author mentioned one photographer who would photograph “teenagers” (no specificity on their ages) in the nude and send them off to magazines. Reading this sentence gave me goosebumps and a chill down my spine: I was angry and repulsed and felt dirty and guilty for having even read this in a book. The author described this photographer with complete nonchalance, without judgement, in fact praising his entrepreneurial spirit. I was photographed and filmed nude whilst also a teenager and it has caused me enormous psychological damage. What about his photography subjects? There it was, I was triggered again for the weekend.

Whilst debating what to do with this book (burn it, throw it out, just give it away to someone who isn’t as sensitive as I am), my subconscious was plagued by guilt and “trigger-trips”. I was revisited by upsetting memories of porn websites and other sources like news articles that triggered me. My mind entertained disturbing thoughts about how child abuse material exists online, that abusers chat amongst each other, that law enforcement is so overwhelmed that much of this material remains and is allowed to exist… then it occurred to me: this is the closest “tangible” thing out there of my abuse. It is a “vicarious” reminder.

I often struggle with the “intangibility” of my abuse, with its lack of recourse and closure. Typically, I suffer the effects of c-PTSD and self-hate through excessive guilt (especially when I stumble upon a trigger), yet because my abuse was digital (via webcams) and with countless (semi-) anonymous abusers in other countries, there is a sense that it never happened or wasn’t “real” enough. I find it difficult to comprehend that many of those recordings of me are probably still out there on the web. I suffer the effects of a victim, but rarely allow myself to see me as one and expunge my unnecessary guilt. It has occurred to me this weekend, however, that I find it difficult to accept that child abuse material and other triggers still exist and it is a(n) (in)direct reminder of my own victimisation, which I also struggle to accept happened.

I think I need to accept that - as awful as it is - the past cannot be erased and the current situation of the internet and the abuse of children cannot be immediately eradicated. Not that I need to tolerate it, but in a Buddhism-inspired approach, I need to let go of my “refusal to accept”, I need to stop checking if my triggers are suddenly gone or keep my fingers crossed that one day everything online or in real-life will spontaneously be alright, free of abuse and abusive material. There is no point in continuously torturing myself. I cannot carry the world’s problems on my shoulders, I cannot make myself feel guilty or angry knowing that many websites with abuse material still exist (like honestly, what the hell am I supposed to do about it? I might as well try and stop the Earth from orbiting around the Sun too while I’m at it).

Instead, I need to appreciate the efforts being undertaken to intervene and prevent abuse, hope that those hunting abusers will gain the upper hand, and be thankful for the dedicated therapists, the growing public awareness, the (few) resources for survivors and preventative measures, and be thankful for my own progress and healing. I wish to contribute to efforts to curb the abuse of children (and all people) and the spread of abuse material, yet, it is important to know my limits and know what I can and cannot handle.

Yes, my abuse did in fact happen and indeed over many years, with many abusers, and yes it may still be floating out there online or saved on someone’s hard drive... but that is no longer my problem. That is theirs. My abuse may seem intangible because it wasn’t as common or acknowledged in its particular form for the time that it happened (the 2000’s). That’s because it was such a new product of its century. For better or worse, we will soon be hearing from younger generations of victims who experienced exactly what I experienced. I simply just belonged to one of the “firsts”.

This is what I need to remind myself of ^.

Thanks for reading, this has been a helpful exercise in calming my nerves.
 
Deepest respect for the work you've been doing. I don't ordinarily read in this forum since it has not been part of my journey but for some reason I opened the forum this morning and read your piece. I'm very touched by how you unpack it all. Even though my early trauma is different, the path to healing covers much of the territory you explore so sensitively. I'm sorry you've had to endure what you have but it is inspiring to read what you've done in your own healing with the pain of your past.

I did have a thought as I began reading. I would likely reach out to that author and tell him of my response. You may simply be educating one person, but it is a positive act on your own behalf. But that was what percolated in my mind. Clearly, neither one of us is going to stop the Earth from rotating... or relieve the pain of every child who is being abused every moment of every day. The question eternally is how and where our voice, our experience can be heard. Funny, I recently helped organized a 12 Step meeting with a special focus on Childhood Trauma and Its Impact. I know I did so for me, but I've already seen that others are finding comfort because that meeting exists.

Thanks for sharing this with all of us. It is painful and at the same time life affirming.

I suddenly feel the urge to share a poem by Thich Nhat Hahn...

PLEASE CALL ME BY MY TRUE NAMES

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow
because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second
to be a bud on a spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
in order to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and
death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,
and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time
to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,
and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,
feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,
And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea-pirate,
and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands,
and I am the man who has to pay my "debt of blood" to my people,
dying slowly in a forced labour camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life.
My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hahn
Vietnamese Buddhist Monk
 
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Ceremony

Staff member
Instead, I need to appreciate the efforts being undertaken to intervene and prevent abuse, hope that those hunting abusers will gain the upper hand, and be thankful for the dedicated therapists, the growing public awareness, the (few) resources for survivors and preventative measures, and be thankful for my own progress and healing. I wish to contribute to efforts to curb the abuse of children (and all people) and the spread of abuse material, yet, it is important to know my limits and know what I can and cannot handle.
@JayBro thank you for your post. I too have had some ptsd recovery with EMDR therapy, plus other somatic work. The need to heal my broken self esteem, and any kindness to myself was a very big burden, and triggers had such a massive effect on my ptsd, depression and anxiety. Those have found new processing paths via my reasoning frontal lobes vs my survival mode parts. I needed that decades ago, but I take what is present, and work to manage each episode that my ptsd+ hits me with. I think hyper vigilance is still one of the most distracting and dissociation causing concerns I have.

I'm reading your determination to manage what happened, and those past harms that rise in memories. I'm glad you validate what you've done, and have done so toward standing your ground and personal agency.
 
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