When a family member like my mom or dad kisses me and hugs me, I feel disgusted/nasty/dirty/powerless, etc. probably because I see hugs and kisses as something inherently sexual, so I like affection from anyone who isn’t my family. I cried when a couple hours ago my mom forced me to hug her. I had extreme anxiety when I was a preteen (not as extreme today), and I self-cut a few times in those times. I pick my scabs compulsively. Until I was ten or eleven, I had to sleep with my mom at my side, and even afterwards I slept alone but had to turn on the lights, and often woke up feeling like I was choking (still do). Most of my nightmares were about being persecuted and wanting to hide. Generally I wanted to hide all the time, from anyone i.e. I was in the living room and someone came in and I felt the rush to hide behind the bookshelf. I can’t stand my mom staring at me, and I don’t understand why I take it so much against her when I doubt she did anything. I also feared water on my face (even today I have to press the sides of my nose before getting my face under the showerhead so I don’t ”drown”). For this fear I couldn’t learn to swim. I also didn’t eat much then and had (and still have) trouble swallowing, and often nearly choked on food and drinks. What makes me suspect it the most is that before being even near puberty I used to get my dolls naked and play with them in the shower, and touched their breasts and so on, I also thought sexually of many of my other toys yet I didn’t know much about how sex really worked. I even have a slight fetish for older men although they scare me. I didn’t masturbate so early (probably not til 12 years old) but now I masturbate very very often, more than most girls (twice or three times a day). I well remember being pretty sexual in my childhood and I don’t know when exactly it started or what triggered it. I don’t remember anything that could explain this. Do you think I might have been abused sexually but I suppressed the memory? (age 17,from Mexico)
Thank you for writing in with your question and for including so many details. As much as I’d like to give you a definitive answer, I’m unable to do so. Some of your symptoms could certainly lead to suspicions of abuse, but some could be explained in other ways. For instance, your description of your behavior with your dolls: sexualized behavior in children who should not yet know what sex is can be indicative of sexual abuse, but some sexual curiosity, and even exploration, is quite normal. The frequency of your masturbation is also probably higher than most for females your age, but you may have associated the feelings to self-soothing attempts and reinforced the behavior in ways that others don’t.
Some of the problems you have listed can be anxiety related, such as fear of sleeping alone and in the dark, your fears of water on your face and your self-harm behavior, but again, it could mean that something traumatic happened to you that initiated the fears. I do think it is odd that you have such negative reactions to affection from family members.
I think your best bet would be to find a therapist to work with. Not only may therapy help you explore the possibility of repressed abuse, but more importantly, it will help you reduce the unwanted behaviors and symptoms that you are having.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts