Stuck in the Past

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

So I have been trying to deal with a lot lately. I have tried counseling and have been to two therapists who have made me feel horrible about myself rather than better and I’m beginning to think there is something wrong with me. That whatever is wrong with me makes it impossible for people to care about me, i can’t even pay people to help me. I want to scream. I started talking to an old friend of mine last semester who told me she thinks I was molested as a child, and my very graphic sexual behavior and my other behavior as a 7 yr old suggests that something did happen. I have some memories but I don’t want to look at them to closely. I guess I’m doing the ignorance is bliss thing but I can’t stop thinking about it. I tried to talk to my last T about it but she made me feel like I was stupid. I was in an abusive relationship three years ago that ended with him raping me. He still contacts me and sends me photographs that I didn’t know he had taken. Every time I block him he just invents new accounts it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even want to open my emails. I feel so disgusting about it and so guilty, I stayed with him for so long and I feel like this is my punishment for letting him do what he did. I keep telling myself that the rape was no big deal, I was lucky during most of it because I blacked out and all I can remember is the beginning and the end.

Know matter how much I try to make myself feel better I seem to be stuck dwelling on it over and over, i hate it, i feel so weak. I managed to go three years with out dealing with it, why is it coming back to me now?? I have been struggling with the urges to drink again, i had a problem last year but I was able to over come it for the most part but the more I keep having nightmares and getting emails the more I want to drink. I just keep getting overwhelmed with all the thoughts of the past and I can’t seem to live in the present, I keep getting flashbacks and I am horrible to live with I’m so grumpy. I snap at everyone and I don’t feel like I am connected to anyone. I don’t know how to get myself out of my own self pity and hate, I was hoping the counseling would help but I didn’t have any luck and now there is no one in my area left to help me. I would really appreciate any advice you could give me. Thanks.

A. You have described two main issues that you want help with: difficulty with therapy and the inability to deal with abuse by an ex-boyfriend.

With regard to your ex-boyfriend there are several issues of concern. The first concern is that you said he raped you. If he did in fact rape you then he committed a serious crime. It would be a mistake to believe that a boyfriend or a husband cannot “rape” their girlfriend or wife. If an individual forces their partner into sex this type of abuse is sometimes phrased “intimate partner sexual assault” (IRSA). In the case of a spouse, it’s called “marital rape.” It is always against the law to force a person to submit to sexual intercourse.

The second concern is that (and I am not sure you’re aware of this) your ex seems to be exhibiting stalking behavior. It is not normal behavior for an ex to send you pictures of a supposed rape and to be continually harassing you. His behavior is demented and potentially dangerous. It’s understandable that you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed. Your ex is harassing you on a constant basis about a horrific incident. I would strongly encourage you to go to the police and report the rape and his stalking behavior immediately.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, part of why it’s difficult for you to deal with your past may be because your ex is constantly reminding you of the incident by sending you disturbing photos. Another reason why it’s difficult might be because you’re suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals with PTSD describe feeling overwhelmed with thoughts of the past. They also have flashbacks of the incident, something you have described experiencing. If the mental health professionals you’re in contact with have not mentioned the possibility of PTSD (they should have based on what you have described) I would suggest that you bring it up in your next session.

If I could speak to you in person I’d want to know more about why you feel “horrible” about meeting with your therapists. What do you mean by horrible? What don’t you like about those visits? Knowing more about what went wrong for you in those therapy sessions would be helpful. Without those details it’s difficult to give you specific advice about how to improve your counseling sessions. It could be that your “issues” are so raw that when a therapist tries to help it’s too emotionally difficult for you to engage in the discussion. As you said you snap at people and at this time, you’re finding it difficult to connect with anyone.

My suggestion with regard to therapy is to keep trying. Don’t give up. Therapy can be difficult. Actually it might be very unpleasant but a good therapist can help you dramatically improve your life. Generally with each therapy session you should feel a little better. If that is not your experience then you may need a new therapist. It would be a mistake to give up on therapy now especially when you’re feeling so overwhelmed.

If you do search for a new therapist consider working with an individual trained to help individuals with a history of trauma or PTSD. I cannot know if you have PTSD but you have described some of the symptoms.

Thank you for writing and please strongly consider going to the police about your ex-boyfriend. Based on what you wrote in your letter he raped you. Now he may be stalking you. Please do not minimize the seriousness of his behavior. Stalking is a sign of a potentially dangerous person.

Please consider updating me on how you are doing.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Jan 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Stuck in the Past. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/01/26/stuck-in-the-past/