When I was in my last year of middle school, I had this teacher who always acted strangely toward me. He would always make strange/flirty comments with sexual undertones. He did this throughout the entire year, and on the last day of school myself and one other student stayed behind to say goodbye. I had very low self esteem and was just happy that someone seemed to be paying me attention, and so I didn’t think about how wrong it was. The teacher hugged me goodbye, and I remember looking over his shoulder at the other kid, and he just looked so disturbed. Then the other student left, and we were alone. I don’t remember the rest so much except I showed up to art class late. I have struggled since with depression and anxiety. I frequently think about the encounters we had, and wonder what they meant. Since coming to high school, I have encountered the teacher twice and nearly had a panic attack each time. I cannot sleep past 4 am, and am constantly exhausted. I think about rape a lot, and frequently imagine scenarios in which it happens to me. Is something wrong with me, or did something happen either on the last day of school or during my childhood?

A. Sometimes, people repress traumatic memories. It’s possible that something did happen with your teacher and you don’t remember it. That might explain why you panic when in their presence.

However, repressed memories are difficult and in some cases impossible to verify. The latest research into human memory suggests that it is very fallible. In other words, our memories can be unreliable and distorted. People can think that they remember things that actually did not happen. Innocent people have spent decades in prison because of false memories.

It is fruitless to spend energy on attempting to remember a potentially traumatic event that may or may not have happened. Your efforts would be better spent on treatment for your depression and anxiety. You are suffering on a day-to-day basis. That need not be the case. Your symptoms are highly treatable. I would recommend finding a local mental health professional who can help. Choose a professional who specializes in trauma. They would be in the best position to help you. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle