I have been sober (alcohol) for over 17 months. I have made some changes in my life and have been trying to get a grasp on some things that I am really unclear about from my past. I am 46 years old, the youngest of 4.
All my life I have suffered from depression and anxiety, i have always had self image issues, and for a long time now I have felt as though there is some sort of abuse from my childhood. I do not remember my childhood, even when family talks about things we did like holidays or vacations, I can't remember the events they are talking about. I also have had doubts and questions and issues with my sexuality, only recently accepting that I am fairly certain I am a lesbian, possibly bi sexual.
I have talked to my therapist about everything, she is the one person I hold nothing back from. Recently I experienced something that I am looking for other advice or input on. (Wont be able to talk to her about this until my next appointment a few weeks away).
Today I am watching a live trial on television, and as the woman is giving the account of an attempted sexual assault she experienced I began to have a serious panic attack, my chest was tight, my breathing became labored, my body felt hot and i got a bit light headed. My stomach was upset to the point that I wanted to vomit, but I didn't. And I couldn't speak.
Now, I have had panic attacks for years, recently I have been really getting better at dealing with them and haven't needed to be on medication for it. But this instance took me by surprise. Why would I have this sort of response to something I have nothing to do with, nothing that I have heard or known about until I flipped on the tv and this woman started to give her testimony?
Could this be my body responding from a past experience, or is it just a form of empathy? Could I have empathized with her and felt the panic? I think I have had other smaller incidents like this in the past, but this one really sort of startled me.
Does anyone have any ideas about this? Or has anyone had success in figuring out if there is something in their past, like from childhood, about memories? I am not looking to blame anyone for anything, I just want to figure out how to get past this and live my life without the hindrance of the negative feelings I carry with me. I just want to move on, I just want to get over whatever I may have in the past and be able to move forward and be happy on a more consistent basis.
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  • @scwerl thank you for trusting us and laying the above out here. Also, congrats on the 17 months of sobriety. That is a huge accomplishment, so be proud of it!

    As for your concerns about potential repressed memories brought by listening to someone else, that is hard to say, and probably best left for a pro. Maybe it was just empathy. Hearing someone's direct and blunt trauma can shake someone to their core, even if they haven't experienced themselves. Maybe it is an indication of a repressed memory, or something similar that brought about those same intense emotions.

    I guess the only thing I can say is, between now and when you can talk to your therapist, what can you do about it? Not saying that you should ignore it, but what can you do now to help yourself out? Further, even if you get to the root of the problem, how will that help you get happier on a more consistent basis? What answer would help you, which one would hurt you more? If the answers to those questions aren't helpful, then maybe trying to put it out your mind until you can talk to the therapist is the best option. Probably not satisfying for you, and maybe someone can come up with a better solution, but that is all I can come up with.
  • @scwerl If you want answers...and make sure that you really do because you can't undiscover or unhear something that may have a major effect, but I would ask your therapist, or even regular doctor to refer you to a therapist that specializes either in hypnosis or EMDR therapy.

    My quick story about discovery of repressed memories is that when I was 3-5, I had some abuse happen and carried that trauma. Those years of my life were absolutely the most terrifying...until my mid-30s when my professional and personal lives were imploding because of porn and alcohol addictions. I returned to that place of terror for the first time in 3 decades and that started to cause the memories to return. I needed to get a specific kind of professional help to unpack a) what those memories were and b) the role they played in creating my coping mechanisms and survival skills. It was very hard, grueling work, but I don't think I would be this far and deep into recovery without it. I would urge you to find out if something is really there. If not, you can move on. If so, at least you can develop a strategy for dealing with it.
  • @Leaker Thanks for your response. I have brought this up to my therapist, she wants me to go look at pictures from when i was growing up and see if anything sparks. And maybe talk with family about the stuff, but that will be hard. My siblings and I don't get together very much and my parents are both beginning to have some memory problems (both are over 85) so I can only do so much there. Plus, my mom has a habit of smoothing over the facts to make things look like everything is just fine and there is never a problem. *sigh* I can only do what I can do, like you say.
    I have a habit of burying things, and then I usually get forced to deal with it. So, if I can find a way to stop doing that, even without the possible memory or not a memory from long ago I hope I could do better interacting with people and taking responsibility for myself. I feel like I am always trying to catch up to myself, trying to figure out the next right thing, but then I put it out of my head and I forget it altogether. Or avoid it I should say. Even my best friend doesn't really know me, she will admit it and wishes she could help me more. But I just can't get away from feeling like I am living in the past. I actively work on redirecting my thoughts, but I don't always catch myself and I get sucked into the wormhole.

    @JoshuaShea I am sorry to hear about what you went through. I have thought but this for a long time, and at the moment I guess what I want to get out of it is that if there is something to be dealt with, I want to deal with it so that I can stop making the same mistakes. I have looked into EMDR, but without a basis to work from they don't do it, because of not knowing where to start I guess. I would really like to know IF there is something there, that too would give me a direction to go. Either way, i just want to understand and heal and move on. I find myself in a relationship, friendship or intimate, and I generally screw it up and push everyone away from me. I have found myself sitting in my own little corner, looking at everyone else in the room while I am afraid to engage. And I don't understand why. Even when I try to be part of anything, i am so stupid awkward that I thing I make people uneasy. I feel like the creepy friend that people just sort of put up with because I can be funny.
  • @scwerl sounds like you have a multi-step process to work through. One of the next steps might be figuring out why you keep things to yourself and don't want to share them, especially with friends. Are you afraid to be embarrassed? Worried what they will think of you? Concerned they will judge you? Or that your friendships will be altered and no longer as pleasant? Do you not want to think everyone is whispering about you behind your back or just out of hearing? Getting to the root of that would probably help a lot, in my totally not a medical person opinion.

    From there, getting comfortable opening up and talking through some of these things might be helpful. I mean, I was terrified of admitting I was an alcoholic. But, I got forced to do so, and then I started talking about it to others, and my fears were unfounded. There was no, "Wow, you are stupid" or "How could you let that happen, I thought you were better than that!". Maybe you will have the same experience. Obviously with the right, trusted people.
  • @scwerl I second the idea of EMDR. I'm 37 and carried repressed memories of sexual abuse around with me till the Brett Kavanaugh story came to light. I mean ,there were triggers, and I put it down to empathy, being a HSP, but I had this sudden fascination with stories like these, and the more I read them, the more I had to accept that it MUST have happened to me too, only... having no memory of the event fills us with doubt.
    I was already doing EMDR therapy for other things, and had made great progress with that. I had only just told my therapist that I was feeling great and that I could space out the appointments by three months, and I called her a week later, in a heap, spiralling, telling her that I needed help. It started off with the sentence "I don't know why or how, but I just get the feeling that when I was young, very young, somebody somewhere molested or raped me, but I have no idea who, no memory of it, and no clue if it's even real.
    It's real. Your body stores this shit up and spits it out when it thinks that you're ready to deal with it.

    There's a book called "the body keeps the score" by Bessel van der Kolk. it's really interesting and at the heart of this issue. Every trauma is stored up in our bodies at a cellular level.
  • @zozzie. I will check out the book. I have had similar things, like being so drawn to true crime shows and stories. It's like I personalize the stories, not sure why omi would need to do that, but they get inside me sometimes and I have to work hard to not fall into a depression. For as long as I can remember I have done this. When someone talks about what happenenednto them I have now developed the reaction of sort of backing away so that I dont take it on. But I still feel it in my chest.
    Anyway, I have asked my therapist about EMDR and the place I go says there has to be a basis to start with. Since I dont have a solid memory they can start. At least that's how I understand what was said. Can I go some6else and not say anything to my current therapist. It took me so long to find her that I dont want to make waves. I actually trust her and can open up entirely with her. I've not had that before with anyone anywhere.
    Thanks again.
  • @scwerl I've processed things based on a body memory alone, based on a feeling of heat that rises in my chest when I think about something, based on a simple phrase that someone said, or based on a very recent trigger that will, during processing, bring it all back.
    Maybe she is not yet certified in EMDR and doesn't want to put either of you at risk by using her training when not sure of herself.
    If you see another T, they will spend two or three sessions on grounding, getting to know you, and making sure you're doing this for the right reasons, so it might seem lengthy, but it's worth it.
    At it's very best, the magic of EMDR is that you don't need a whole lot to start with, and that you can tell as much or as little to your T and still process. You don't have to give them any information you're not comfrtable with. A T that insists otherwise is not a good fit.
  • @zozzie. Thanks, I'll bring it up again when I see her and figure something out.
    It's amazing how my day can start good, but a feeling of drowning can take over so easily.
  • @scwerl,
    how's things going? Have you had any luck in getting into EMDR?
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