On Your Mind: Childhood trauma has led to issues in adulthood

on your mindNOTE: The question below reached us through our “online hotline” button which lets anyone send a question to a local counselor at Ozark Guidance — in a completely anonymous way. The email comes in with no email address and no identifying information. We set it up this way so women would feel free to write about anything on their mind.

 I grew up in a dysfunctional home and suffered sexual abuse from an older brother for about two years. I was also exposed to pornographic magazines that my brother had laying around and also saw some pornographic videos my dad watched late at night when he didn’t know I was awake and watching. In high school I told my parents about the past sexual abuse from my brother but nothing was really done about it. My parents were very strict with me and I rebelled by getting in trouble, running with the wrong crowd and eventually dropping out of high school. I’ve gone through a series of bad boyfriends, one of whom was also a porn addict. I would smoke pot and sleep a lot to cope with how I felt. I constantly feel tired, anxious and unable to connect to anyone. I don’t know how to help myself. What should I do?

Response by Kristin Lehner, Licensed Professional Counselor at Ozark Guidance

Childhood sexual trauma can have a large impact on the victim’s life, continuing to influence one’s life in many difficult ways even in adulthood. The effects can be even more significant if the abuse happens in one’s home by a trusted family member.

When children “reach out” to their parents for help and protection from an offender, and the parents fail to do so, that child may be left wondering who can be trusted and who will ultimately protect him/her. And, without intervention, that distrustful and fearful child can then become a rebellious, troubled teenager, and later then he/she may become an anxious, detached, and depressed adult who self-medicates and has difficulties forming healthy and meaningful relationships.

It seems that for your own journey you have reached a point where you are ready to get professional help. Fortunately, there are people in the community who are empathetic and knowledgeable about your past and current struggles and who are experienced at working with people who have had abuse occur in their pasts. I think you would benefit from finding a mental health professional that has experience working with individuals who have been sexually abused.

I do feel obligated to inform you that trauma work is a difficult therapeutic process, but the process does work if you are able to trust the process and your mental health professional. So there IS hope! And I commend you for taking the step and asserting yourself and your needs in the midst of a very difficult situation.

I also wanted to share some tips for things you can do that can help. Deep breathing techniques can help you relax during times when you feel especially anxious. Meditation and mindfulness practices can make you feel more “in control” and can also bring you more self-awareness which will be beneficial to you before, during, and after doing your trauma work. This increased awareness will also assist you in establishing clearer emotional and physical boundaries with others that will also heighten your level of felt safety. Support groups also exist both online and in person, whether they be held in churches or by other establishments.

I commend you for your bravery in asking for help with a difficult situation, and I hope the very best for you.

Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.

Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.