Memories Can’t Be Buried

Memories Overwhelm 

Horrific memories, nightmares, and other forms of PTSD symptoms can overwhelm survivors of childhood sexual abuse and become too painful to endure. The natural response of survivors overwhelmed by horrific memories is to bury the memories, cover them up, ignore them, push them away. 

Many try to flood the memories in drugs and alcohol to dampen the pain and anguish. These approaches attempt to keep out the harmful memories, but they can’t be buried. While we may momentarily bury the memories of the sexual abuse, the emotional impact remains—always. 

Even buried memories evoke emotional responses such as depression, low self-esteem, fear, and anxiety. The emotional baggage of those memories acts on our day-to-day actions and emotional well-being. 

We may not be aware of the impact of the unconscious/buried memories, yet these memories threaten our lives. 


Bring Memories Forward 

CHILDUSA points out that memories of sexual violence remain buried until the average age of 52! This delayed emergence of memory is especially true of those sexually attacked as children. 

I believe that memories of our abuse surface when we have the strength of character to face them. In my case, the most violent and horrific memories did not surface until I was 63. 

The best path forward is to acknowledge the memories and incorporate them as part of who we are as a complete person, combining the good and the bad. It is a very difficult process but a journey that will help free us from the imprisonment of memories that can continue to control our lives. The success of the integration of harmful memories is a challenging journey; gathering support is necessary. 


Three Steps Forward 

One of the first steps is to embrace those closest to you and seek their support, such as family or close friends. The second is to engage with a therapist who specializes in sexual trauma. The third is to participate in a peer support group such as SNAP, a local rape crisis center, and support agencies


True Self 

I had great success with using the therapy practice of EMDR. The process of incorporating even the most painful memories takes courage and strength. We can become our true selves, embracing all of who we are, both the good and the horrible, enabling us to become complete human beings. It can be liberating. 

The burdens of PTSD and depression will not disappear. But it does give us hope and the ability to thrive especially combined with therapy, support of friends, and peer support groups. We can move into society where memories will no longer control our future. 


August 31, 2020