“…A morning of tears, remembered fears
Withering looks from the past
Cut the heart, tear you apart
Pain racked soul heaves your body
Causing you to tremble and shudder
Cruel words spoken with loathing
With no care for the innocent soul
Who listens carefully
And believes this to be truly
The way things could be…”
– Marie Williams, Damaged People
Some days are darker than others.
Perhaps we have had an oppressive dream, now half-remembered. Perhaps an icy rain is falling, sharp as knives, and the weather determines our mood. Perhaps a misplaced word pierces our already injured psyche or our blood chemistry is off or the stars are misaligned.
Whatever the reasons – internal or external, identifiable or not – for abuse victims, particularly those of us suffering from depression, the most innocuous thoughts and observations can quickly morph into self-criticism, calling up faults and failures, real and imagined. No mistake is forgiven; no oversight on our part – however slight – is laid to rest for good.
Hour after hour, our criticism is unrelenting; our self-assessment, merciless. We may be able to defend ourselves against a single assault, even a dozen. But we cannot dodge the falling knives forever.
The pain is searing. Old wounds are re-opened; new wounds, inflicted. What may seem insignificant to others can trigger repeated emotional flashbacks with childhood traumas not merely recalled but relived, re-experienced emotionally, again and again.
Minimizing the Abuse
To those unfamiliar with abuse, this description may sound overly dramatic. Surely, victims must be exaggerating. Actually, however, the opposite is true.
It is not uncommon for the victims of childhood abuse to downplay their suffering. Some will make excuses for their abuser, assuming liability for the abuse which is not rightly theirs. Why this tendency to minimize the scars of abuse, to downgrade the brutality of a traumatized mind and body?
Minimizing is a form of denial victims utilize in an attempt to deal with their trauma .
In denial, the brain tries to protect the psyche by refusing to admit the reality of trauma or abuse . Details of the abuse may be shielded from the victim’s consciousness. The horror is diluted; the trauma processed in manageable, bite-size pieces. The victim is still adversely impacted, but not completely immobilized.
Fear, Shame, and Family Secrets
Victims may fear they will be overcome by the intensity of their feelings, should they accept the full extent of their abuse.
They may find it too painful to admit a loved one would treat them so callously. They may feel responsible for keeping family secrets. They may have difficulty connecting present day problems with past trauma.
In particular, incest victims, the victims of sibling abuse, and the victims of clergy abuse may prefer to avoid the shame (and possible publicity) they anticipate will be heaped upon them when the abuse is revealed, the unfounded challenges to their veracity, and the blame inappropriately placed on them for their abuse.
Not surprisingly, some victims of trauma or abuse will expressly deny having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD . Victims may mistakenly equate PTSD with weakness. In the military context, acknowledgment of PTSD can be viewed as career damaging. A security clearance or job specialty may be placed in jeopardy.
The Consequences of Trauma
Unfortunately, denial is not a permanent solution. Trauma (whatever form it takes) has consequences, even when not acknowledged. The long-term symptoms of trauma may include isolation, impaired relationships, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, drug abuse, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction .
Deferring treatment only makes matters worse. But there is hope.
“But, if you suffer from PTSD [have been abused] or not, you always have value, you are always constantly being created by love in the image and likeness of God.”
– Dr. John Zemler, PhD
 The Healing Place, “Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse”, 10/2/11, http://www.thehealingplace.info/adult-survivors-of-childhood-sexual-abuse/.
  Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle, Adult Health, “Denial: When It Helps, When It Hurts”, 5/20/14, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/denial/art-20047926.
 PTSD Spirituality, “PTSD Spirituality: Why Deny the Possibility of PTSD?” by Dr. John Zemler, PhD, 1/12/13, http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2013/01/12/ptsd-spirituality-why-deny-the-possibility-of-ptsd/.
My thanks to Marie Williams, together with whom these two posts were written
This series will conclude next week
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