Child Abuse, Emotions, PTSD

Getting clean

Austin has written a recent entry on not feeling clean after taking a shower.

This is something I struggle with constantly. I can rub and scrub all I want. I can use that horrible lava soap. I can have the water blistering hot. But I just don’t feel clean. I can see there is no dirt on my body. But I don’t feel clean.

I know the purpose of taking a shower. To get the physical dirt off the physical body. But no amount of rubbing scrubbing is going to get the dirt out of my mind. I know the only way to do that is by doing what I’m doing right now. The writing. Seeing my therapist. Doing my homework.

I’m finding with my shower therapy that the feelings of being dirty after finishing a shower are lessening. It’s getting easier to be in the shower. The panic doesn’t hit within seconds, but rather minutes. A few times, I’ve managed to take an entire shower (all 5 minutes worth of it) without the panic hitting at all. To me, that is a huge step forward. I’m also staying in the shower a bit longer. So a bit more progress.

But those feelings of being dirty… they just don’t go away. The feelings are worse after a shower and when I wake up. They diminish during the day. But they always seem to be there at a low level.

I can intellectualize the feeling dirty thing all I want. I understand why it came to be. But somehow that doesn’t help when I stand in the shower scrubbing until I’m raw.

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7 thoughts on “Getting clean”

  1. I understand your reality. I understand and experience myself the feeling of being dirty. it is so horrible to feel that way. It is a mess in our body. But there is no easy way to clean the inside of our soul, mind and body. You are on a good path with your writing, seeing your therapist and doing your homework. The journey may be long but the result is more than welcome. HUGS

  2. Hello *hugs*

    I don’t quite know what to say – I’ve never experienced these feelings myself, which surprises me – as usually I can relate almost exactly to what you are saying…

    What I can sort of relate to, is that (I’m thinking) your feelings come about as the shower is a trigger to how you used to feel when these things happened to you in the shower when you were younger… That I can understand with agonising empathy.

    But I don’t think I have to understand in a truly empathetic way, in order to understand that you’re hurting and that you’re taking great steps to heal and move on with your life,

    So as ever, lots of sympathy and admiration to you,

    well done, x

  3. Thank you both… Your comments are always enlightening and uplifting for me.

    nadcesca… It helps to know that I’m not the only one who feels like this. I know that when I was in grad school and taking a clinical psych class we talked about this. But it was so removed. It was hard to believe that other people actually felt the same way I do. Hearing it from another survivor is so much more powerful.

    natasha… I’m quite certain that my father’s showers play a large role in why I feel the way I do.

    And thank you both for the hugs.

  4. Like Natasha, I totally get the panic that sets in when bathing.

    I don’t get any relief from the feelings of being “yucky” by taking a shower… actually, I think it hadn’t really occurred to me to try. A lot of that is because a big part of the “yucky” feelings come from my experience with race growing up (biracial in an all-white family) and I understood pretty young that that would never wash off.

    I’m really amazed at your strength in coping with the anxiety in the shower. You’ve worked really hard at that, and it seems like you’re making good progress.

  5. JA… Thanks for your kind comments. It doesn’t always feel like there’s any strength inside of me. I *know* in my head I wouldn’t be alive if I weren’t strong but it doesn’t *feel* like it.

  6. intellectualizing we can understand so many of the things we all do but those darned emotions and emotional side will not be subdued. they are so strong and do not go away from “knowing” or “understanding” because of the emotions involved which are so very difficult to dispose of. and then when we are asked how we are we reply “I’m fine”. sorry couldn’t resist, but it fit in so well.

    peace and blessings

    keepers

  7. Yeah. I know that feeling. My family always said I wasn’t strong, was too sensitive, stuff like that. So if I can survive anything, obviously it’s not too bad, because I’m not strong. It’s taken a lot of time to begin to think they might be wrong.

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