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#466920 - 06/23/14 03:22 PM Taking back memories...request for help...
highflight Offline

Registered: 05/01/14
Posts: 48
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 02:31 PM)

#466926 - 06/23/14 08:55 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
Dave PNW Offline

Registered: 04/03/13
Posts: 129
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 09:16 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
justplainme Offline

Registered: 09/01/09
Posts: 472
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 09:53 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
traveler Offline

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 4231
Loc: resettling in NE Ohio
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,
How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?...
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails....
Habakkuk 1:2-3

#467008 - 06/26/14 12:38 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
highflight Offline

Registered: 05/01/14
Posts: 48
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.

#468275 - 07/31/14 01:08 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
blacken Offline
Chat Moderator

Registered: 08/13/01
Posts: 1910
Loc: Northern Ohio
The place where I was abused was torn down last year. There is no trace of it as even the ground that it sat upon has changed shape.

Though I was happy at the time it was torn down, there are happy memories connected to that area. And now, as the entire street is gone, I find I have mixed feelings about it.

#468276 - 07/31/14 01:39 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 3790

I can totally relate. I had to go back to the place of my abuse, not by choice but to bury my Mom from the church where the abuse occurred. I was an altar boy and one of the priest was kind to me and ultimately it led to something I did not want. Dark days in the church cellar where I was abused.

I had fond memories of the school, which was associated with the church, and even fun times as an altar boy. I have let the bad that happened control my life which clouded anything good or positive.

I was fortunate when I returned to bury my Mom I met a wonderful priest and I blurted out my story to him. He was understanding and arranged for me to visit the church before the funeral so I would be able to make it through the funeral. With my brother I wandered the church to the big brown door to the cellar, a door that haunted me in nightmares and flashbacks. I opened the door and went down the windy stairs, passing the window to the cellar. Memories flooded my mind, I could see him, me there on the floor, leaning over a table and everything that happened. I was in emotional upheaval. The priest was kind and my brother said you could tell this was not his first time helping someone in this situation. It helped me make it through the funeral.

I thought this visit had helped me to move pass the abuse. Well over the next several months the nightmares and flashbacks and dissociative episodes increased. I was hospitalized. I was also going through much upheaval in my home at this time and triggers were being fired constantly.

Fast forward, this past weekend I returned to the town for a happy event. I stopped into see this wonderful priest, who put me in contact with the Diocese--which turned into a positive experience in my healing. He was in the church and I saw him going to the sacristy. I slowed made my way. He was standing with his back to the big brown door. I stared and for the first time it did not haunt me, I did not have fear nor did the memories of the abuse that occurred behind that door take over my mind. It looked like an ordinary door. I now realized what I lived after my first visit to the big brown door had to happen in order to bring me home to the good and positive parts of my days at the school and church.

I do hope your visit gives you that sense of being, sense of ease, sense of the good and fun things that happened there and a sense you are free of the abuse. I also hope after the visit you life is positive. You will have your family with you-they sound like a wonderful support system and this will help you during the visit and after. Support is so important. I did not initially have that support but found it with kind and supportive people.

I wish you a safe journey and visit.


#484911 - 07/02/15 12:00 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
highflight Offline

Registered: 05/01/14
Posts: 48
Loc: Ohio
Adding to this post that I wrote last summer...

Tomorrow I am heading back again to spend 2 weeks as a volunteer. Last year was 3 days (with my wife and kids), this year it will be 2 weeks...just me. Anxious and excited at the same time.

This year I hope to continue to "take it back" as a place that was important to me. I still am angry that the abuse that happened kept me from it for so long. I still will have a couple of support people either there or closeby, so it won't be totally without a safety net. I have found that writing in my journal when I un-earth emotions helps to keep those emotions from rattling around in my head - just being able to see them written helps prevent them from tormenting me.

The change I can see in myself is encouraging (at least to me). Last summer (and the 26 previous years) I could barely talk about what happened without having a panic attack or feeling nauseous. This summer the number of people who know has quadrupled, and the guitar I'm bringing with me not only allows the introvert in me to relax, but also sports a blue string ( and may open doors to conversation with others who may need it.

I'm anxious and cautious, but excited and empowered. Wish me luck. I still carry the small pebble that Dave recommended is my happy place.

#484918 - 07/02/15 06:43 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
Bardo Offline

Registered: 09/24/14
Posts: 321
I do wish you luck! I know it will work out really well and be a new memory to add to all of your old. This time all good. Keep us posted.

Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I've witnessed your suffering
As the battles raged higher

And though we were hurt so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

-Mark Knopfler

#484948 - 07/03/15 08:11 PM Re: Taking back memories...request for help... [Re: highflight]
Bluedogone Offline

Registered: 07/03/13
Posts: 1123
Loc: Southern US
I wish for you the best of luck in this two week new/old adventure. There's probably a little apprehension as you go, but that can only make the experience more meaningful with an "I can do this thing" attitude.

It's certainly gives me courage to know that you're taking back, and are making this former place of abuse, for you - a happy place.

Whether you say, "i can't do this," or say, "I CAN DO THIS" You're Right.

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