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Dear Amy,

I am a 38-year-old woman and believe my behavior is not normal - but I don't know why. I am depressed continually, anxious, angry, finding it hard to trust people,(even my husband), suffer from low self-esteem and the list goes on. I have had a lot of therapy and some therapists believe I have been sexually abused although I have absolutely no idea of any type of abuse at all - and no knowledge of any perpetrator. When I was 11 years of age, I developed a serious fear of growing up. I hated puberty and my body changing. I would cover my body up all the time so no one could see my development. This included wearing 5 or 6 tee-shirts so I could look more like a boy than a girl. I would spend hours in the bathroom cutting my breasts because I hated them. I wanted to be flat-chested like a boy. I didn't want to be a girl and actually envied my five brothers. I hated hearing about sex and when I went to school, I would block out everything I heard about puberty, periods, babies, etc. I didn't want to grow up. I hated any talk about sex and thought it was evil and filthy. I detested boys and men and thought they were evil. I did have a dad whom I loved and brothers who I admired, but every other male was evil and dirty.

Sex was a dirty word and I got angry with my mum for giving me a book on puberty. Mum eventually took me to a psychiatrist at the tender age of 12, but i just sat there and said nothing. I didn't know why I feared my body or sex. Now, today I fear just about everything and anything. I fear going out, I fear being teased, I fear being rejected, I fear going up to the local shop to buy a loaf of bread. You name it - I fear it. My marriage is falling apart. I love my husband dearly but know he handle my anxiety and depression any more.

There are days when I can't trust him or trust anyone. If he talks about sex, I tell him to stop it - and tell him that it is rude. I do have a sexual relationship and most of the times enjoy it, but sometimes I just couldn't be bothered. I feel ok about my body now, but still struggle sometimes. Sometimes I don't eat or go through periods of bulimia thinking that I am fat. I do have a thyroid problem now and have to watch my weight. I do lots of exercise and generally try to take care of myself with natural supplements. I haven't been able to have a child, have had a few miscarriages and been on fertility treatment. I do get down because I cannot conceive easily or carry a child. There is nothing to show why I cannot have a child (medically speaking).

My mum was sexually abused as a child and has told me countless times of what has happened. It still hurts her today. She never enjoyed a sexual relationship with my father - but still had seven children!!! Recently, my brother in law verbally assaulted me. He just doesn't like me and never has. He was quite angry with me and gave me a good dose of verbal abuse. I actually felt sick after this abuse and started hating all men. What I can't figure out though is this. I was virgin up until the day I got married, but sometimes I just craved having a man touch me and want me. Sometimes I crave male attention and don't know why and then sometimes I detest it.

It's like I am two people wanting two different things. I dated a guy when I was 25 who touched me. I felt violated afterwards. I felt dirty and used. But something inside me said "Sex is good, it is natural, God given and it is enjoyable, but then this other voice says "NO it is evil and dirty - keep away - it is not for you.

This is what I find so confusing. I sometimes feel as though I have been through some trauma in my life and must be blocking it to have all these symptoms. Where can I go to uncover this trauma. I need to know now so I can get on with my life - so I can deal with it and move on. It is destroying me at present Is it possible to block sexual abuse as a child. I keep asking my mum about things, but she doesn't know. She said that a lady used to mind me as a child but she was decent and kind and good. My dad was good too, sometimes a little strict but I don't recall him touching me in my private area. I do, however remember he would play this game with me when I was young - he would place his hands on my back and pretend he was a bus driving around and picking people up as he went. I do know that I didn't like it because I feared he would touch me where I didn't want to be touched - but he never did - I would remember this. Would hypnotherapy be good for me - to unravel this trauma?

Thanks I do appreciate your time and help.


Obviously we don't know each other and I am also not a licensed therapist, therefore, I can only offer an opinion, not an answer.

Through Ask Amy and also through my friendships, I have interacted with many people who were sexually abused. It is certainly a common response to retreat and not be able to trust others, not even your self and your own judgment. That said, the qualities and experiences and reactions you describe certainly could hint to that.

But more important is figuring out how to move. Perhaps take it as a given that this did happen and then piece together why it has created this response in you and from there hopefully be able to conclude what it will require for you to move forward. How can you come to trust your current situation/relationships and learn to create a distinction between then and now?

Since you are in therapy, I hope that you can work through this there and more importantly on your own and with those who you do trust.

Good luck and take care,

-- Amy

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