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Trauma and Memory Issues

answered 10:48 PM EST, Sun November 27, 2011
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I was swarmed and mugged and beaten while walking through a park I was stupid to have been walking through very late at night. I was quite drunk at the time and honestly there is a lot about the incident that I don’t even remember. I remember these guys sort of coming up behind me and I kind of remember being circled and having someone hit me and then my swinging at someone but after that it’s all pretty hazy and I am not even sure how I got home. I woke up in the bathroom the next morning and I didn’t know why I was there. It took me a minute to figure out why my face was covered in blood after I saw myself in the mirror.

I thought I was dealing with it ok. It wasn’t too traumatic really since I could barely even remember what had happened, but the next day (Monday) I was at work and I just started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t figure out why and I went to the hospital and they gave me some valium and said it was a delayed physiological response to the trauma. The whole week too I have just been so irritated with the people around me. I just feel like I don’t want to be with anyone, which is unusual for me because I am usually a very social person who goes out most nights of the week.

At the hospital the doctor who treated me said that if I continued to feel disturbed I should consider getting some trauma counseling, and I have to admit that even now, a week later, I still don’t feel quite right. But what I want to know is if trauma counseling will be effective if I can’t even remember the incident that is supposedly so traumatic to me?

Nan Karl Says...

Nan Karl N. Karl
MSW, LCSW

II am sorry that you had such a violent and traumatic episode. 

Regardless of your inability to remember some details of the assault, I would recommend that you try some trauma therapy. Although you might not consciously remember every detail, the brain has a remarkable way of recording incidents utilizing all five senses. There are probably stored memories of the incident that may be revealed to you in counseling that you can then work through. Neurological research indicates, for example, that the sense of smell is closely related to emotional issues, so even the smell of something that reminds you of that night could trigger feelings of powerlessness and anxiety.

Regardless of the circumstances that contributed to the events of that night, if you don't process them in therapy, they can come back at any time that something in your surroundings reminds you of the assault. Sometimes we store things in our subconscious mind that get triggered by present day reminders of the incident. Many people develop a lot of symptoms of anxiety after an event like this unless it is worked through in therapy. If you have the resources (insurance, an EAP at work, etc.) why not deal with it now? 

Best wishes to you for a quick recovery!

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Nan Karl - MSW, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker/Therapist
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