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AIBU to think my mind is blocking memories of being abused?

(42 Posts)
SugarfreeMe Wed 13-Mar-19 05:04:40

AIBU to think I've blocked out memories of abuse, or am I thinking there is more to it than there is?

My Mum was always a very friendly & incredibly naive woman, in our village there was an elderly man ex solider who walked with a limp he looked/smelled like a vagrant & she befriended him.

My primary school was about a mile from home & from 8 or 9 I used to walk on my own, A group of boys from school had taken to bullying me, as we had moved from another area and I had a weird accent, so I used to hide waiting for the bullies to give up and go home.
I guess for me at least it started pretty innocently. I remember seeing him walking down the road and I guess I saw a ‘safe’ adult and walked with him to prevent being bullied, this turned into what I think was most days he would be waiting outside school and walk me home & sometimes he would have one or 2 other men with him & they would buy me sweets.
My Mum knew I thought it was safe!
The memory I have is one day skipping along and my school skirt came up, he commented on my knickers and asked me to show him them again! I remember being unhappy/uncomfortable. I didn’t tell my parents about it.
Now as an adult I have had ‘memories’ of his house - which was next to the park! It was dark and you went in via the back /side door and there was a broken window. All the local children were scared of the house, if the ball went over etc. no one would want to go. I definitely didn’t go there with my Mum so shouldn’t know what it looked like inside.

About the same time the walking me home was going on I started getting severe vaginal infections, that the doctors couldn’t get to the bottom of, I was put under general anaesthetic for them to do investigations as to the source, however as far as I’m aware no cause was found.
Again around the same time I became really aware of my body, & if I was normal- it may just have been a normal stage of development but it seems odd that it would stand out in my mind.
Oddly enough my infections stopped when I moved up to senior school & no longer had contact with this man.

It’s been really playing on my mind recently, I think because I have a daughter who’s that age now. I also remember his name which is incredibly odd in itself as I don’t remember friends names from back then!

I have no memory of being abused or being taken to his home other than him asking to see my knickers & I don’t really want to open that up if my mind is protecting me but it does concern me that I may have suffered this and not told anyone or even that I may be jumping to conclusions. He definitely won’t be alive now so the concern of protecting others isn’t there.

What do you think?

DaisyDuvetDays Wed 13-Mar-19 05:12:25

I think you'd probably remember that something had happened, if not the details. Mentioning your knickers sounds like the sort of creepy thing some people used to think was ok. I was wearing a tshirt with a small logo on one side when i was young and A person I trusted asked me what was the name of the other one. I was creeped out that he thought it was ok to say such a thing.

DaisyDuvetDays Wed 13-Mar-19 05:13:57

Having said that it's very creepy to have been waiting outside school. What a shame the school didn't notice/act.

SugarfreeMe Wed 13-Mar-19 05:30:29

He used to wait at the end of the school drive which was quite a way from school, also my mum was ok with it!

If it happened in this day & age I'm sure other parents would have raised concerns about it.

I tried to talk to my Mum about it as an adult and her response was that he was just a lonely old man.

I hope that I am overthinking it, and good has come out of it as I've taught & continue to teach my children to feel comfortable saying no, the PANTS rule & about secrets.

Thank you for responding

CarpetGate Wed 13-Mar-19 05:44:33

Be very careful here. I'm a neuroscientist, and the idea of repressed memories has been thoroughly debunked. Read up on Elizabeth Loftus's work - she produced a huge amount of evidence in court cases disproving this type of thing. It's just not how the brain works.

toomuchtooold Wed 13-Mar-19 05:45:33

I know someone who repress ed memories of childhood sexual abuse. IIRC the memories started resurfacing when he daughter was the same age as she'd been when the abuse started.
Since he's long dead, you're right I think to consider whether it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie. How is your life generally - are you happy? If it doesn't seem to have affected you, then maybe the best thing is to leave it. But if you want to look into it, you could try the child abuse charity NAPAC or look for a counsellor that specialises in childhood trauma and sexual abuse. I'll find the link in a minute.

toomuchtooold Wed 13-Mar-19 05:47:55

There we go - The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

SoaringSwallow Wed 13-Mar-19 06:33:45

Carpetgate I had repressed memories. It does happen. As a neuroscientist I guess you're aware we haven't yet discovered everything about the brain, never mind how how mind works. My repressed memories were actually confirmed later by some diaries of the time.

My brother remembered nothing from the time before he was 11.

To come on a thread where someone is concerned they might have repressed something so utterly overwhelming for an adult, never mind a child, and tell them repressed memories don't exist is harmful. There are people who theorise they don't exist, but they can't prove that definitively. Equally, nobody can definitively prove they do.

OP If you want to look into it, do it with a trained, certified therapist who can see you for more than 6-8 sessions. If you're not sure, then you don't need to. If you start having memories come back that trouble you or flashbacks then do go to the GP or find a therapist.

Soontobe60 Wed 13-Mar-19 06:44:58

Past memories are strange things. My mum, sister and I have totally different memories of the same events from our childhood. I don't know what I think about repressed memories. But what I do know is that if something awful happened to me when I was a child that I have been able to forget, then why would I want to try to remember it? Self preservation is a good thing!

Regarding your post, if you had recurring infections that were investigated by examining you so thoroughly, then any sign of trauma would also have been seen.

Averyimportantperson Wed 13-Mar-19 07:33:18

Please be careful with this though. I know someone who suffered a trauma as an adult and went to counselling. The counsellor dug up 'repressed'. Memories of being abused as a child. This did not happen. She accepts this herself.

What they think happened is the recent trauma warped with childhood memories and created false memories. The events in her childhood memories happened but not the abuse of that makes sense. The counsellor themselves may have planted the idea. She can't be sure.

If you do decide to look into whether you have repressed memories then please be careful who you get your help from.

SugarfreeMe Wed 13-Mar-19 09:03:14

Toomuchtooold thank you for the link to the support charity,

It's very much a difficult thing to deal with and I don't want to drag up things, that currently don't cause me distress - further than wondering if something did happen!

When I think about the situation it certainly causes me great concern, that a disabled man in his 60's/70's would walk a mile to school to meet a child he hardly knew and walk her home most every day & would sometimes bring other men to meet her & buy her sweets, it's definitely something I would never allow with my children & I know the 70's/80's were different, but it smacks of grooming to me!

Thank you all for taking the time to read and respond I wondered what other people thought about it, sometimes we can build things up in our minds.

I don't think I will go down the counselling route unless I start to remember more & it becomes an issue, if I have blocked it out & it's not affecting my life I have a wonderful husband and children.

@Averyimportantperson thank you for your word of caution, sadly like in all professions there are bad & good, if I do need help I'll be incredibly careful.
My son had some counselling at school and it made his anxiety and anger problems much worse, so I'll definitely be cautious.

Thank you

Nutmeg5 Wed 13-Mar-19 09:20:59

I was sexually abused when I was 5/6yo then again by someone different at 8yo I had no memories of this at all till I was 18/19 until someone said something to me about my abuser and it just came flooding back I just completely blocked it all out. Iv never heard of repressed memories before.

HeyCarrieAnneWhatsYourGame Wed 13-Mar-19 09:31:30

My Dad has some repressed memories of violence from his childhood which he only uncovered much later after therapy. He was very young at the time though, like under three.

SugarfreeMe Wed 13-Mar-19 10:31:43

@Nutmeg5 I'm so sorry you had that happen you, I hope that your abusers have been prosecuted for what they did to you.

@HeyCarrieAnneWhatsYourGame how scary for your dad!

The 'professionals' may say that repressed memories aren't possible, but I've heard of many people having them, including your stories, there is so much we don't know about how our bodies and minds work when I hear 'professionals' say "It's just not how the brain/body works". I immediately distrust them.

Princessmushroom Wed 13-Mar-19 10:33:27

Hi OP, sorry to read and run, but hypnotherapy brought up abuse that I literally had no clue or memories of. I went private, £70ish per session. Well worth it. Now working through it.

Chipbutty67 Wed 13-Mar-19 11:18:32

I’m so sorry about the confusion you’re feeling right now. I appreciate this is just my experience, but I’m claustrophobic and always had a particular dislike of/ anxiety around one place in my grandparents home (a small store cupboard). I’m in my 30s and my DM recently told me I’d been locked in it for a long time by someone at 2 years old and was very distressed. I had forgotten or ‘repressed’ the memory, so I think it is possible to be affected by a memory you’ve forgotten.

MarieIVanArkleStinks Wed 13-Mar-19 11:35:56

It IS possible to repress painful memories, I'm a curious case, but I'm willing to share my experiences in case you recognize any of this about yourself, and it helps you.

I was raped by two men at 15. I 'forgot' this had happened for two years. My mind completely shut the incident down A trigger brought it back to me when I was in the middle of a row with my (abusive) father - mainly as a mechanism to fend him off - and the memory came tumbling out. And boy, was that a mistake. First he victim-blamed me and then said he didn't believe me anyway: the two responses sexual assault victims fear most (and self-contradictory to boot).

I was recently diagnosed with cPTSD (as a result of this and also my father's abuse, amongst other contributory traumas). What I learned about my strange period of memory lapse is that there are three responses to traumatic situations: fight, flight, and freeze. My father had the habit of pinning me against walls and there was nowhere to escape to, so my mind had perfected the art of 'freeze' (allegedly a death-like experience where you shut down in order to shut out the trauma). This is why I reacted this way as a response to rape; tthe memories of which even now are still montage-like and fuzzy. My mind had been trained into doing this. I was used to closing down and shutting out horrible situations when there was no other means of escape for me. And actually, typing this out and seeing it in bald black-and-white is making me extremely angry on my own account. how dare those bastards do that to me? And I'm still incredibly angry, too, that they got away with it (darling daddy included, who is now dead).

I don't know whether any of this is relevant to your situation or a complete aside, but it can help to explain how and why our unconsciousness represses things, and I understand this better now that I know it was part of a pattern.

My memory was unreliable: any defence counsel would have demolished me on this basis using the 'false memory' argument (plus it would have been two men's word against mine). But I know for a certain fact it happened. If you can recognize any similar patterns from your past, it might help you to make some sense of the situation. But I agree with others: exercise caution about the kind of therapy you choose, and who delivers it. EMDR has been life-changing for me.

Sending you flowers flowers

Halloumimuffin Wed 13-Mar-19 11:45:07

You have to be very careful with the idea of repressed memories. In the vast majority of studied cases, they have been shown not to exist. In fact, trying to 'remember' things like abuse can cause false memories to be implanted. In the past, therapists working with people with repressed memories, actually caused the patients to remember abuse that never happened. Hypnotherapy in particular is notorious for this. Studies showed that when under hypnotherapy, people could be completely convinced that they remembered events that the therapist suggested to them when in trance.

The brain is such an unreliable source of information. You cannot rely on even your strongest memories.

ButterflyBitch Wed 13-Mar-19 11:49:30

My mum abused as a child and blanked it out until she suddenly remembered when I was around 18 months old. She said she was thunderstruck as it all came flooding back. So it can happen.

Halloumimuffin Wed 13-Mar-19 11:52:07

Also as a note - you seem to want to try and 'remember' more things and dig out the truth. I have OCD and this is an absolutely classic symptom of that and other anxiety disorders. As part of my illness, my mind creates memories of things that never happened. They can be hazy or they can be very strong, as clear as this morning. My mind then starts to look for supporting evidence to prove or disprove it (such as yours - you remember being in a house, well at the same time you had vaginal infections) and the memory becomes stronger as you feed it. You try to remember more - well why don't I remember going into the house? And then bam! You suddenly do. In pops an image of going into the house. Whatever problem you come up with to try and dismiss the memory as false, your brain finds a solution to fill in the gap.

I don't want to minimise anyone's experiences, but I just wanted to offer my insight as someone who suffers with distressing false memories and has a lot of knowledge of how they work.

BoobiesToTheRescue Wed 13-Mar-19 11:58:31

It might not be repressed memories.
Someone give a rape drug doesn't have repressed memories of abuse. They have wiped out memories of abuse, it's totally different.

OP something similar happened to me but as an adult.

I was given some cocaine - or at least I thought it was, and the next thing I know I'm back in my hut (Thailand) with a vague memory of the inside of this German mans appartment with him pulling my top down.

That's it.

Nothing else.

That's not a repressed memory, that's me having been drugged.

PettyContractor Wed 13-Mar-19 12:01:32

Now as an adult I have had ‘memories’ of his house - which was next to the park! It was dark and you went in via the back /side door and there was a broken window.

I would think it completely normal for my brain to invent details like that. I carry a map of an alternative version of London in my head, essentially the bits I know joined together in ways that aren't quite right. Well, I think I do, I've woken up more than once with the same places fading from my minds as I wake. My mind has also made up all sort of other semi-fictional places, that I've repeatedly visited in dreams, though I don't remember details.

PettyContractor Wed 13-Mar-19 12:03:17

Often in dreams I've dreamt about real-life places and people, and realised as I was waking that they aren't even in the country I was in in the dream, so clearly all this is being invented by my brain.

KismetJayn Wed 13-Mar-19 17:02:39

Okay so I know upthread Elizabeth Loftus has been linked to and she's right, that kind of repression doesn't exist however it is normal for a 'period of forgetting' to occur following childhood abuse. This has also been proven in a study whereby children brought into the ER for sexual abuse injuries were followed up on throughout their lives. A significant portion did indeed have a period of forgetting.

It is possible, just let your mind do its thing.

I have dissociative identity disorder (something that neuroscience is now finding evidence of! Which might be why they disproved 'repression'- it all depends on which identity state holds that memory- or indeed the compartmentalisation of trauma memories- also considered valid)

I was also raped in my late teens and 'forgot' it until after my exams when the stress was off and then the memory came back in full clarity. It was bizarre- friends knew I went to the person's house but I would forget he existed until they asked if I was still seeing him. Then I'd go, oh yeah, and half remember sexual activity then forget it as soon as the conversation was over. Someone asked if I had slept with anyone during that time during a truth or dare and I couldn't remember, genuinely couldn't. Exams finished, that week I went to the person I had started dating and blurted it all out.

I was was observed dissociating in a mental hospital. Literally no idea why at the time.

I had tons of symptoms- and no idea about the cause- and then my daughter was born shortly after I moved out and I started feeling a sense of unease about my childhood. Things I had always remembered but thought were normal I realised were really not normal. And then, gradually, I remembered things. I went to therapy and the identity state that lived through the abuse is processing it.

I spoke to people I knew at the time and got confirmation of a lot of things. My boyfriend at that time even remembers a conversation over MSN where I referred to my dad doing things- he brushed it off then (we were teenagers, not like he knew how to handle it!)

I know memory retrieval therapy, hypnotherapy etc is thoroughly debunked and honestly dangerous, but you can't tell me this didn't happen, because it did. I have proof both of it happening and of me not remembering while I lived with my parents. There are numerous psych notes from hospital where I denied an abuse history. And there are documents, testimonies and photographs of me being abused. So... Yeah.

It's possible.

However! I've learned in therapy remembering isn't necessary for healing and you need to focus on the incorrect lessons you learned far more than the events. I don't remember certain things I am told happened. Things I remember starting- and then a big dissociative patch. But that's okay. I have a full life and am stable and I've reworked the lessons- which is what counts.

KismetJayn Wed 13-Mar-19 17:05:34

Here's the study for fact-checkers...

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