A Must Read for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

A must read for survivors of childhood sexual traumaI read another great memoir, and I want to tell you about it. Hungry for Touch, A Journey from Fear to Desire, by Laureen Peltier, is a book that chronicles Laureen’s treatment for PTSD. Let me start by saying that this is not an easy book to read. In fact, some parts are just downright heartbreaking and painful. I found that I had to read it in small doses, and still I became emotional while reading it, more than a handful of times.

So you might be wondering why I am recommending this book, if it’s such a difficult read. The reasons are many: it’s real and honest; it gets to the heart of what sexual trauma, PTSD, and therapy feel like; it’s relatable; and ultimately, it’s hopeful. Those things outweigh the tough time I had reading it, by far.

“How does it make me feel? The memory is so old, almost thirty years have gone by, but it still seems like yesterday. It’s the kind of memory I store in one of those chests at the bottom of my mind, but now I can’t seem to put it back.”

The way that Laureen describes the memory of her childhood trauma, and subsequent breakdown, is so familiar to me. I also had a long period of time where I was able to stuff negative memories far away from my consciousness, and then, all of a sudden I couldn’t do it anymore. That’s when the wheels came off for me, when I absolutely had to deal with the past or let it slowly suck the life out of me.

Laureen’s story is different from mine, she became unable to allow any man to touch her as a result of her abuse. In my own story, I ended up at the other end of the spectrum–promiscuity. Both results stem from a need to feel in control, I think; something that neither of us had previously. But both are destructive to the soul and needed treatment.

Hungry for Touch takes us through Laureen’s treatment, alternating with her memories of the past. Reading of her abuse was disturbing and saddening. No one should have to go through what she did, especially a young child. Her treatment was a mix of traditional EMDR therapy along with some unconventional therapies that she and her doctor collaborated on. It wasn’t an easy road to get started on, despite Laureen’s desperate wish for healing and mental health. In the beginning she said this about not being able to let go:

“But I don’t know how to let go. I only know how to hold on: hold onto the pain, hold onto the fear, hold onto the lies. This is the cage I’ve built for myself. It’s a safe and secure cage. I know every corner of it, and I know I can’t be harmed in it because I won’t let anyone inside with me.”

That fear of letting go is often so strong that keeping ourselves imprisoned in it seems like a better option than risking dealing with it and having an unknown outcome. But, with hesitation at times, Laureen presses on and continues her treatment, striving toward her goal of completing it and letting go of her fear of physical touch.

As I said, this is a book that ultimately offers readers hope. It’s tough to read, but it’s definitely worth it. Keep in mind that it may bring up emotions and triggers if you are a survivor of this type (or any, really) of trauma. Read with care–for yourself and for all of the others who have gone through sexual abuse.

You can buy Hungry for Touch here.

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Getting Through Brief Dips

A couple of weeks ago I had a week that really sucked. Ok, not the whole week, but at least a few days. I was grumpy with PMS, I screwed up some writing I did, my house was a mess, and I was having a lot of anxiety. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and my inclination was to close the blinds, shut down, and hide. That’s not what I did, but it’s what I wanted to do.

I was in a “brief dip,” and I was uncomfortable.

My stepson’s counselor introduced me to the term “brief dip” a while back. It refers to when you’re facing some sort of challenge to the status quo and you have to deal with the discomfort of negative emotions. It’s learning to sit with those feelings, and feel them, without trying to stuff or ignore them. The counselor was talking about them in reference to my stepson, telling us how important it is to allow him to go through these brief dips without us intervening to fix things or telling him to get over it.

The concept of sitting with negative feelings and dealing with them rather thanDip sign stuffing, isn’t new to me. I learned a lot about it in treatment, and I have gotten better about putting it into practice. But, as I sat and listened to the counselor talk about it, I realized that the reason I had so much trouble with it (enough that it contributed to my active alcoholism) was that it was something I never learned when I was my stepson’s age.

When I was a kid, brief dips weren’t really allowed in my house. Either my parents fixed things for us kids, distracted us so we were able to ignore negative feelings, or told us to get over it. Any of you who read my blog regularly know that I don’t have a relationship with my family at all now, and that my relationship with my mom growing up was always contentious. However, I think that she did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time; she just didn’t want any of us kids to be uncomfortable–ever. I get that now. That doesn’t mean that I don’t wish I had been taught to deal with my negative feelings earlier, but I don’t blame my mom for wanting her kids to feel happy all the time, I think that probably all parents want that.

That fact is though, that we can’t be happy all  the time, and I certainly wasn’t a couple of weeks ago. It was a crappy week, and I wanted to check out. The only upside was that now I have a name for times like that–brief dips. I like that because it reminds me that it isn’t permanent, or even long-lasting. It’s brief. And it’s just a dip, it’s not bottomless. I just had to deal with the feelings, continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep going, and I would emerge on the other side. And that’s exactly what happened. Did I suffer a little while I was down? Yes (and I’m sure my husband and stepson did too). Do I wish that it hadn’t happened at all? Yes. But I’ve noticed that my brief dips are not as bad as they used to be, and I never stay down and depressed like I used to. That tells me that I am making progress, and that’s what counts.