Warning, many will find this blog entry very disturbing as it has to do with Child Sexual Abuse. However, I felt it important to talk about this as it affects more young children and teens than we’d like to believe and perhaps this can help a fellow victim. I’ve used different names and the the story has been changed just a bit, the the basics are true and I do have the permission of the patient to post this.
Feel free to skip this post if you are sensitive to this topic, or if you would find it upsetting.
Julie was a 18 year old teen who came to one of my Fibromyalgia workshops suffering from pretty severe Fibromyalgia. She had all the symptoms, horrendous pain, fatigue, insomnia, all kinds of stomach problems, she had constant headaches, was very depressed, could not think well and she was barely able to speak. She was just not able to get the words out of her mouth. She barely squeaked through High School and college was out of the question.
She came to to one of my workshops with an older gentleman who was about 60 years old and was introduced as her High School teacher. They both made an appointment to speak to me at more length in my office and they showed up a week later on a Saturday. Julie took me aside and asked if she could speak to be alone, without the escort (teacher) who had driven her to the appointment. As she was 18, I replied, certainly, as she was legally an adult. We discussed her Fibro symptoms and I explained the treatment options available to her. Interestingly enough, the Teacher seemed “bent out of shape” at not being allowed to sit in during the consultation, yet I just wrote it up to his caring for her. I explained to him that she was an adult and the choice was hers.
Julie started treatment about 6 months later and was totally Fibro free after 8 weeks, really a new person. No pain, no fog, no insomnia, she was articulate and very very bright. Now it must be understood that when a patient finishes treatment in my office, I have them return monthly for about 6 months just to check and make sure that all is well and they are adjusting quite well to being Fibro free. This is exactly what happened. Julie maintained her good health and all was good, that is until I received a call from her about 12 months after she finished treatment. It should be noted that Julie was no longer living with her High School Teacher but had been taken in by a family who was taking very good care of her and helping her in many ways.
I received a call from Julie about a 4 months ago and she was in a panic mode. I was able to ascertain from her rambling that the High School teacher who had taken her in when she was 15 years old had really held her captive and repeatedly sexually abused her. The abuse consisted of unspeakable actions and I was mortified as she rambled on. He had originally taken her in as Julie’s parents were physically abusive which most probably triggered her Fibromyalgia in the first place.
Being that Julie was 15 when this abuse first began, I immediately called the police and reported this incident. (by law I have to inform the police, however I would have done this anyway). The report was taken and the investigation began. As you can well imagine, the investigation and court trial were traumatic for Julie but with the help of a good therapist, she was able to get this this challenging situation. To jump to the end of the story, the High School Teacher was convicted and sent to prison for the rest of his life. During the trial, it also surfaced that Julie was not his first victim, but he had preyed on many vulnerable teens for more than 25 years. He was a true “Pedophile, a real Predator”. Julie is now in the process of rebuilding her life however this trauma will stay with her for years, if not for ever.
So, you may ask why I’m telling you this story.
One of the triggers of Fibromyalgia are continuous trauma’s and stresses. From speaking to so many women with Fibro for so many years, the above scenario is much more common than we’d like to believe. Physical, mental and sexual abuse is rampant. Many of these incidents go unreported due to shame, embarrassment and fear of retaliation. In fact it is estimated that only 1% of abuse ever gets reported.
According to the Centers for Disease Control abuse is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 25 million American women. Also approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.
I cannot emphasize how vital it is to get help. Counselors, psycho-therapists, psychologists, clergymen have the training to help you to put your lives back together. It’s very difficult, if not impossible to do this on your own. You must be able to talk about these incidents, feel the emotions and process them so that these traumas can be left behind. It is also important to have a good friend or two with whom you can talk. A true friend will understand and be there for you.
One of the after effects of abuse is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). this can manifest as:
- Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time
- Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
- Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Avoiding activities you once enjoyed
- Hopelessness about the future
- Memory problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty maintaining close relationships
- Irritability or anger
- Overwhelming guilt or shame
- Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much
- Trouble sleeping
- Being easily startled or frightened
- Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
There certainly is overlap between the symptoms of PTSD and the Fibromyalgia symptoms, so dealing with this trauma is one way to start helping yourself. You must come to terms with this! It probably will not cure the Fibro, but it is a step in the right direction.