Psychiatry & Psychology--General/help me


QUESTION: I have always had a kind of bad family situation. My mom is well I guess the closest word to describing it would be crazy and I met my dad once when I was about 6 or 7 I think and haven't seen him since. I was taken away from my mother when I was a few weeks old because she wasn't taken care of me and I was then put in my grandparents care, well mostly my grandmothers because when I was about 5 my grandfather had a stroke and suffered brain damage leaving him with the mentality of pretty much a child.Living there my mom would come by every once and a while sometimes stay for a couple days and then leave for weeks. When I was about 10 my grandmother found out she had breast cancer, she went through the chemo and surgery but she was just getting worse and was unable to take care of me and my grandfather anymore so I was sent to live with my cousins that I had spent a few weekends here and there with.
My grandmothers house wasn't really a good place for a child, with my mother there talking about people taking her wheels and saying she was going to take me "home" when she got a place, and with one of my uncles(now deceased) who was homeless and a druggie, there was people coming through that house that weren't the best for a child to be around.
My question has to do with, I have this strong feeling that one of my other uncles let's call him Bob, I just don't know why but I have this strong feeling that he did something to me, i'm not really sure what exactly, either him making me touch him or him touching me or what. I just remember when my grandmother was in the hospital I was just mean to him specifically when he would tell me to do things such as come and eat dinner or go to sleep and I just had this strong feeling against anything he said.
Well I am 19 now and my cousin/mom was talking with my cousin/dad and he was like there were so many bad people going through that house when she was living there, how do we know that she wasn't sexually abused, and she told him that well if she was she might not even remember it. She told me about this and I was like yeah I don't remember anything really but I was also so young that I don't remember a lot of stuff from when I was living there. I think that is what has got me thinking a lot about it.
Also most of the time after me and my boyfriend have sex, I just feel really sad afterward and I just want to curl up in a ball and lay there.  Also if we are in like the middle of something, and he does something accidentally that makes it hurt I just try to get away from him and face the wall but I have no idea why. He recently asked me why after we have sex that I always want to like curl up in a ball and I was like I don't really know, I think that has also got me thinking that maybe it has something to do with "bob".
I guess the question is really is there anything you think I can do to determine if anything really happened? Maybe I remember since I have such a strong feeling against him maybe my mind is just blocking out any of those memories because of how bad it was and is there anything I can do to maybe unblock it? Maybe you have an insight on it being about something else rather than abuse?

Also I can't talk to my uncle "bob" about it because he is in jail for stabbing a woman and there isn't anybody left really from my childhood that I can talk to about it because my mom was rarely there and my grandparents and uncles are now deceased.

ANSWER: No, what happened, if anything, will remain unknown and I hope for your sake forgotten. Kids experience all sorts of mishaps, accidents, and frights, but rarely do those affect their lives. Maybe that's the reason it's impossible to recall more than the odd memory glimpse from our early years, and there's no established procedure for unblocking it (assuming there is something blocked).

Sexual molestation of children is a serious and unforgivable crime, which I am by no means defending in the least. But that does not necessarily mean that to the child (in the absence of injury of course), improper touching or being touched is necessarily all that different from other negative experiences. My point here is that your present thoughts about it -- now that you understand what sex is -- may be more troubling than the reaction was -- to whatever might have happened -- at the time. If it were bad, I think the memory of the abuse or at least of your reaction to it would be more vivid.    

Many kids also live through bad environments, you much more than most, and I congratulate you for seeming to have overcome it -- you sound quite healthy, intact, and normal. I don't mean to be flippant but you may have heard the saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

As for your other concern, it's not unusual for girls to feel sad after sex, especially young ones and you are still a teenager. So even if you were molested, there could be other reasons for your feelings. And, of course, assuming that the worst did occur, your boyfriend is not your uncle.   

I hope I've answered your quite sensible questions, Faith, and helped put your mind at ease. But if you have any follow-ups, for instance about therapy options, don't hesitate.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you for your quick reply to my question. You mentioned towards to end of your answer that if I had any follow-up questions, such as about therapy option to not hesitate to ask. I would like to take you up on that offer what therapy options do I have?

Glad you asked. First some generalities.

-"Psychotherapy" sounds like a procedure in which something is done to you, but it's really just talking to someone who is trained to listen, and help you arrive at coping strategies that work for you.  
-California is full of every flavor of mental-health therapists, the most qualified of which are psychiatrists, psychologists, and clinical social workers.
-The procedure may be a waste of time and money for you, but many people with concerns such as yours have found it quite beneficial, so even though there are no guarantees, I'd suggest you give it a try.
-I don't know your financial situation or the availability of assistance in your jurisdiction, but that's one of the first things you can discuss.
-There should be a good "fit" between therapist and client, and it may take a few visits to decide if you're in the right office.
-It's a good sign when, fairly early on, the therapist focuses on what the objective is, how you'll get there, and how you'll know when you're achieved it.

Now the options. I think your best bet would be a clinical psychologist. They are numerous, their rates are not as high as psychiatrists', and they tend to be reasonably available. You can find one online, in the Yellow Pages, at a local mental health clinic, or perhaps through a recommendation by their professional organization that I think is called the California Psychological Association. If you want, you could start at the first visit by presenting a printout of your question to us.  

The best of fortune to you. You've been through a lot, and you deserve some help at this stage.


Psychiatry & Psychology--General

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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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