Monday 14 October 2019

Ask Allison: 'I frequently have flashbacks from my childhood which aren't positive. I've thought about ending my life'

Our resident therapist answers your queries about sex and relationships

Allison Keating
Allison Keating

Allison Keating

Q I'm in my mid 20s and I recently came out as gay. My friends and family have all been supportive. I struggled with the idea of being gay and it took me a long time to admit it to myself. I haven't been in a relationship with anyone, male or female, ever - so I'm a slow starter.

I have some memories from my childhood which aren't positive and frequently have flashbacks from that time. I know who was involved and what they did for the most part - I always feel very uncomfortable when in this person's presence. I'm not sure he remembers as he drank a lot in those days.

Please log in or register with for free access to this article.

Log In

I was seeing a therapist but never told them. I'm not sure I will ever be able to say it out loud. This is for several reasons, primarily because this person is still in my life and the shame I feel is overwhelming. Secondly, I'm afraid of what might happen. I've recently thought of ending my life. Is there any other way to clear my head!?

Allison replies:  Suicidal thoughts are intensely frightening but, they are just thoughts, when they are not backed up with a plan. Always remember there are other ways, options and choices available to you. Put the Samaritans number into your phone. Talk with your GP and get all the support you can from your therapist, family and friends. You can call Connect, a free telephone counselling and support service (1800 477 477, Wednesday-Sunday, 6pm-10pm).

Samaritans app
Samaritans app

Even though it can feel so immensely painful, dark thoughts and crisis points can be the starting point for real behavioural change.

Can you see how you are taking on the responsibility of that person's actions? You were a child, you did nothing wrong, it was not your fault. What they did was wrong, so wrong -whether they drank too much or not - and it has impacted every thought you have had since then.

I'm so glad to hear that your family and friends have been so supportive to you coming out. No wonder you have been feeling overwhelmed. Huge congratulations, I want you to give yourself the credit that you deserve and to see how courageous you are and to see the strength that you possess.

Try to engage with a therapist who has experience with the trauma childhood sexual abuse brings. PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and depression are not uncommon, but with the correct treatment you can work through the shame and disgust that isn't yours.

While you are seeking someone to help, I would like to show you how to self-soothe.

* Write down your five senses. Pick things you can do that will self-soothe; eg sound - soothing music; sight - a walk by the beach; touch - a soft blanket, etc.

* Create self-soothing experiences by combining senses. You could make your favourite meal and then watch a good film, wrapped in a blanket.

Let's look at the burden of shame you are carrying. I want you to imagine holding a huge boulder over your head, with the word 'shame' on it. Write down what the shame is about. Is this shame yours? This is about freeing yourself from the snare of shame that doesn't belong to you.

The reason your head is on fire is because you are ruminating. These dark thoughts are getting stuck and it becomes hard to process the emotions.

You need to catch yourself going into a ruminating thought cycle; it is easier to stop the boulder before it gains speed spiralling down the hill.

Some tips to stop ruminating.

* Distract yourself - through self-soothing or calling someone, clear a drawer, read a book.

* Write down the thought(s) and what can you do differently to change how you feel or react to them.

* Start looking for someone to help you, your GP, or a mental health practitioner with experience in psycho-sexual trauma.

* Work on your self-esteem. Make a plan to see the strengths that you have.

If you have a query, email Allison in confidence at

Health & Living

Editors Choice

Also in Life