Los Angeles Times

Diving into traumatic past

- Send questions to Amy Dickinson by email to ask amy@amydickins­on.com.

Dear Amy: I am a successful woman in my early 30s.

I am currently happy in my life. I have a good job, I have both accomplish­ments in the past and aspiration­s for the future, I have a loving husband, I take care of myself and feel cared for in my day-to-day life.

But I also have some demons from the past that try and creep into the scene. I experience­d sexual abuse when I was a young child, had some rough relationsh­ips in my young adult days, and most recently was in a very abusive relationsh­ip while I was in graduate school, five years ago.

I have gotten distance from these events, and I’m proud of the person I am today. But at the same time, I experience this incredible cognitive dissonance between these images of myself as a proud, confident, successful woman at the top of her game and this helpless, depressed, insecure woman at rock bottom.

I see a therapist every week. But most of the time I am so ashamed to bring up these things, even though he is well aware of them, that I focus on my forward thrust, rather than my ugly past.

Where would I even start? Is it better to focus on the positive in front of you, or delve and dive into the ugliness behind you?


Dear Afraid: This is such a great question, and you could start by asking your therapist a “process” question: “Do you think it is better for me to continue to focus on my forward motion, or do I need to dive into my past trauma? It scares me to do that.”

You are hard on yourself the way survivors often are. It goes with the territory.

Please understand that your therapist is offering you a place of safety where you can be brave, frightened, unsure, upset, confident, confused and emotional.

All of these feelings and reactions are completely legitimate because they are authentica­lly yours.

Self-awareness and selfaccept­ance will allow you to soften, and although it’s something of a cliché, “making friends” with the vulnerable and hurting younger version of you will help you to close the loop and move forward as a fully integrated person with a tough past and a very bright future.

Dear Amy: Is it rude to yawn while talking to someone if you make an honest effort to hide/stifle it, and apologize or say, “Excuse me”?

I suffer from depression and often don’t sleep well. I also have sinus issues that can make it difficult to breathe.

My boyfriend knows these things, yet he still becomes irate when I yawn during conversati­ons.

He says it is dismissive and rude, even though I use verbal and physical cues to show that I’m still listening.

I don’t think it’s any different than sneezing during a conversati­on. What do you think?


Dear Tired: I agree with your boyfriend that seeing someone yawn during a conversati­on is off-putting and seems dismissive and rude in the moment.

However, your boyfriend knows why you do this. He should understand that your yawns are a frequent occurrence and bodily function that you cannot control.

You could probably understand that it might take him some time to adjust to this habit of yours, but he should not become irate or lash out at you when this happens.

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