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#466920 - 06/23/14 11:22 AM Taking back memories...request for help...
highflight Offline

Registered: 05/01/14
Posts: 6
Loc: Ohio
So, we are making a family trip this summer. One of the places I have arranged to visit and spend a couple nights is at the camp where my abuse started.

I became a member of the camp staff and absolutely adored / admired / idolized a much senior staff member (7 years older). How couldn't you? He was charismatic, and the guy your parents all wanted you to grow up to be (mine still think he's great). Problem was, that charisma could quickly turn into manipulation. Recently in therapy, I've realized that one of the qualities I admired in him - the ability to successfully and calmly solve problems with leaders - was nothing more than manipulation. Funny how his grooming of me was simply manipulation as well. Why didn't I see that at the time?

Regardless, his grooming worked. He made me feel special, important, etc. Convinced me our “relationship” was something to be desired and admired. That I shouldn’t let anyone know how great it was because it would just make them jealous and want to end it. That the sexual part was mutual and felt great…that I was a contributor and a full party to all.

The abuse didn’t all happen at the camp (it lasted for 4-5 years, off and on), but for whatever reason, I’ve realized that I avoided the place for almost 20 years. He robbed me of the happy memories of some of the most fun years (or at least summers) of my life. That camp formed my character, built me into the person that I am. He stole me away and I hate him for it.

So, I want to go back. To introduce my wife and kids to the place I have such fond memories of. I want to remember all of the great friendships, and great times.

One person still volunteering there knows of the abuse, specifically perp and person “x”. But I have been in contact and let him know that person “x” and I have a lot in common in regards to perp. He told me that me and my family are always welcome to visit. I replied that “it may seem hard to understand, but for a very long time I have not wanted to feel welcome. Maybe it’s time.”

He replied, “Yes it is. Come home.”

So I’m excited to visit. But I’m worried about triggers and flashbacks. My wife is very supporting, but what do I need to have her watch for? How can I prepare her to be my support? I hate worrying about the worst case scenario, but at the same time my desire for control makes me want to have a plan.

Any recommendations would be appreciated.

Edited by highflight (06/26/14 10:31 AM)

#466926 - 06/23/14 04:55 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
Dave PNW Offline

Registered: 04/03/13
Posts: 111
Loc: Pacific Northwest

I am sorry that this important place in your young life has this powerful and negative connection. I am glad you have the courage to push past that and are going to reclaim this place with the help and support of your family.

I understand that it is likely you will experience some negative memories and flashbacks from your abuse over the days you are there. Sounds and smells can be powerful triggers. That is a part of how we are wired to keep us alert to new dangers, part of our primal security alert system. Something you might find useful, if you don't already use it, is to learn some mindfulness meditation practices to recenter and calm you down when these memories surface.

I took your question with me on my walk this morning to think about what you are doing. It occurred to me that you might want to think about this from the perspective of reclaiming a sacred space in your life. You spent several summers there and the good parts of it helped to form the boy into the man you are today. It was likely one of the first and longest times away from home for you. For you this sounds like it was a big part of your transformative journey and growth.

So what I was thinking is that if I was you.... I would make sure in the course of your visit to set aside some "me alone time". Schedule it in advance with your wife to make sure it happens. Use it to connect with the very basic elements of the place. You might stay up late on a clear night to look at the stars. Immerse yourself in whatever waters that are there... let them wash over you, purify and refresh and make new. Try getting up before sunrise and see the place in the growing morning light and mist. Taste the berries and the wild mint. Smell the pine sap and earth and mud. Let the sun cleanse and warm you. Create a space to feel as fully alive and in touch with your senses as you can. The boy in you will help remind you how.

All the while tell yourself "I am here to reclaim this sacred space in my life." "I belong here!" Before you leave find a pebble to take away with you. Use it to remind you when you are far away of this special place that helped to form you. This is about YOU and not about him. I wish you well on your journey my friend. Take care. Sincerely Dave.

#466927 - 06/23/14 05:16 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
justplainme Offline

Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 270
The only reason i would go back to the place where i was abused would be to burn it down.

"Survivors need an opportunity to define their own sexuality in their own terms, rather than in reaction to the abuse, so that they stop allowing their offenders to have power over them sexually."

#466930 - 06/23/14 05:53 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
traveler Offline

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 3320
Loc: back in the USA
highflight -

i think the fact that you want to make this pilgrimage says much about your progress in recovery. Dave had some good suggestions. i'd like to add mine as well.

i did something similar last summer. i found my real father's grave - that i had never visited as either a child or adult. (his death was what led to mom's remarriage and the introduction of the abusive step-dad into my life.) i went back to the house where we had lived before she met and married the step-dad. we went to the house we had lived in when the worst of his abuse happened and the elementary and middle schools that were scenes of more mistreatment and bullying from peers and older boys. it was an amazing journey and i am so glad that i did it.

there were several things that helped me stay grounded and in the present. i tried to observe as much as possible and open all my senses to the whole environment - consciously noticing sights, sounds, and scents. i made a point of touching trees, rocks, buildings, fences and other objects and noticing the textures and temperatures.

i went with my wife - who knows my history - and kept up a spoken commentary - telling stories about what we were seeing. it was harder to isolate or dissociate with that going on. we held hands a lot of the time and the pressure of her fingers helped.

i took pictures and looked at the places from different angles and perspectives. i was intentional about comparing my memories and past impressions with the present appearance and impressions. the differences helped emphasize the fact that things had changed - in the physical world and in my emotional and psychological state.

at my Father's grave my wife gave me some alone time and i talked to him. that was helpful.

i also talked to my younger self while in the scenes of abuse and reminded him that he was no longer alone, that we could get through tough times together, that he is now safe, that i accept and respect him for what he endured, and other positive affirmations.

it is good that you have a contact person there who seems to be supportive and understanding. that should help. i would guess that you will meet with him, too.

please don't feel like you have to keep up a strong and happy facade the whole time. If you haven't yet told your kids what happened to you, maybe you should decide in advance, what you should say and how to word it. you don't want to be caught by surprise by overwhelming emotions and be at a loss as to how to explain it.

after visiting the significant places, be sure you have some down time to process it all and reflect - however it works for you. maybe just think it over, maybe writing, maybe talking about it with your wife or someone you trust. i was glad for long drives in the car between some of the spots, when i could just be quiet and rest and be myself without excuses or explanations.

this is likely to be a very profound experience but try not to let expectations get in the way of what happens spontaneously.

it would be wonderful if you could share later about what you gained and learned.

wishing you all the best,
We are often troubled, but not crushed;
sometimes in doubt, but never in despair;
there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend;
and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.
- Paul, II Cor 4:8-9

#467008 - 06/26/14 08:38 AM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
highflight Offline

Registered: 05/01/14
Posts: 6
Loc: Ohio
Thanks for the advice, Dave and Lee. I appreciate the insights, and will definitely keep some of them at hand. I will try to journal down what I can to share after the fact.

justplainme, there may be a campfire, but I don't want to burn the place down... just want to burn the memories of him.... All of the rest of the memories of the place are significant to the good parts of my life.

thanks fellas.


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