I don’t feel well

I looked at the clock – 5:27 a.m. I’ve lost nearly 90 minutes in this flashback. The screaming woke me up again. My nausea alternated between a 7 and a 9. When it finally settled down to a 3, I started crying. I thought to myself, “I don’t feel well.” Then, a memory unlocked of a conversation I had many times with my mother when she came to wake me up for school.

“Are you awake?”

“Yes.” I would pause. I always paused. “Mommy, I don’t feel well.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

She would come over and feel my head. It was never hot.

“Well, you don’t have a fever.”

“My head hurts.”

“Well, I’ll give you a Tylenol.”

“It’s not that kind of hurt.”

I couldn’t explain it then. I never could. I am 53 years old. I just figured it out this morning. It’s hard to even type the words onto paper. Back then, I didn’t know the words flashback, rape, assault and a whole host of other words I’m not going to list right now. I couldn’t describe it. I only knew that I hurt.

“Then, you need to get up and get ready for school. Do you want a Tylenol?”

Sometimes, I took the Tylenol. Sometimes, I didn’t. It never worked for this kind of hurt.

All trauma is preverbal. It is processed in our brains as pictures first. It also doesn’t get encoded in our brain in order, which is why you don’t remember traumatic events in order.

I now know what I was trying to explain to my mom was a flashback of being raped. I didn’t have the words, only pictures. I couldn’t convey the information to her. It only came out, “I don’t feel well.”

I also see in pictures. If I retell a story, such as my trip to see the Big Buddha in Hong Kong, I am not just telling you it, I’m seeing it as I tell you about it. If I describe a tree I once saw, I see it in my head as I describe it to you. Now, take that information and think about how hard it is to talk about the things that happened to me as a child. It’s a delicate balancing act every week in therapy.

I don’t feel well today. I now know why. It’s still hard to explain.


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  1. I didn’t have the words either, to explain I was being molested as a child. When you can’t say what is happening at that age, yes, it stays with you, that feeling of being powerless to tell what is happening to you, what happened to you even as you grow older, but the memories never do. I truly get this post, in a way deeper than these words can say.

    • Irene

      I am sorry that happened to you as well, Annie. I’d like to hope any adult today would recognize something is wrong and ask questions and get a child help. It does stay with you forever and I think that’s something a lot of folks don’t understand.

  2. AJ

    I am so sorry you these things happened to you.
    They affect you greatly, and I hope you can find some therapy and peace in your writings.
    These memories are not your fault. I hope you don’t blame yourself for it being hard to explain.

    • Irene

      They do affect you for the rest of your life. I find my posts end up being therapeutic for myself, but I also write to let others know they are not alone. Admittedly, those thoughts do come up from time to time that it was my fault, but I am usually able to quickly push those negative cognitions away. When I spoke to my therapist about this I immediately put the blame where it lies – on those who did this things to me. This was a realization for me as well because I thought, “yeah, of course I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know how.”

  3. Jina Red Nest

    Hi Irene I’m just now feeling a little better, I was reading your words and it’s never good that we as children didn’t know we could tell on the people that took advantage of our innocence. I didn’t know what was going on and I look back on it as closed chapter. Are you feeling better at this time, I think you’re a positive loving person and we need a visit.

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