Complex PTSD i cant remember what happeneded after I rescued my sister from a suicide attempt?

I was 14 my sister approx 16 or 17. She tells me she is going to kill herself by gassing herself in the bathroom. She ignores my pleas not to go ahead and she goes onto the bathroom locks the door and I hear her turn on the gas. I'm pounding on the door for her to come out. She doesn't so I call my father who I most probably knew would react the way he did. Which was breaking down the door and belting her. I cant remember anything after she came out, and got belted. Maybe she blamed me for calling my father, but I don't remember. I am 67 and 20 months ago my partner of 18 years threw himself of a cliff, killing himself. His suicide has opened up memories of my sisters attempt and I am stumped as to why I cant remember anything after she was rescued. We have never got on over the years and for me she triggers old stuff and its stressful for me trying to relate. It like I don't trust her and I feel like she is superficial with me, and she doesn't want to talk about the past as I now realise how ot affected me and I feel quite traumatized by what she did and cant talk to her about it to get some resolution.

Also can't find from her as to what happened after she was rescued. Is this called disassociative memory and why does one not remember?

Any help appreciated

10 Replies

  • Since there are three years of my life I cannot remember at all, and I've been talking to someone about this only recently, I feel obliged to respond to you here.

    I don't know the name of it, though I am told it is a protective thing we do to shield ourselves from our surroundings; memories which hold us back, sights which stop us in the street, we block out. The earlier we do it, the more likely it is we will continue to do it as we age.

    For you it appears to be the case where you've witnessed your sister's breakdown, and the follow up which came from a lack of understanding on your father's part. Whilst his reaction may or may not make sense given the climate of how things were during your youth for both your family and the country as a whole - because laws change over time, that's a given, back then your father may have been doing what was considered the right response, whereas now we can view it in a different light - it has clearly left you with a mental scar which has recently reopened due to what has occurred with your spouse.

    One thing it may be useful to consider is whether you want to know what it is you do not remember, though you must not feel pressured into having to know the truth. It may simply be that you felt your sister's emotion that day, and it stuck with you. Blocking something out doesn't always equate to something terrible, simply that it was better for you at the time to forget what occurred in order to survive. Bogging oneself down with memories is not progressive, and your fourteen year old self knew that in the same way that you would know not to touch the stove; it's a reflex thing. You don't think about doing it, but it's the best thing for you to do.

    Naturally I do not know of your relationship with your sister today, or if your father is in contact. Personally, I believe it would be a good idea to talk to one, if noth both of them about it. Either of them could have their own recollections which may affect how they do or don't get along with you today, and airing the memories and questions may help to break down that barrier. What you don't want to do is think too hard, because you'll leave yourself with false memories and that will make things harder for you - I was careful not to say X or y could have occurred, in order to not plant false memories. Alternatively there may be some inexpensive therapists who may carry out a Skype session with you to help you see back to the time surrounding your sister's attempted suicide. I don't know if this is possible yet, but I'm not it is worth a try and something I will be trying myself; I want to remember, and so I'm going to find a way how to. For yourself, if you want to know whether out of curiousity or to relax...whatever reason, if you decide you want to know, the best way to get the truth is to talk. To a therapist or to a family member there that day. My biggest recommendation is to not ponder on it for too long, because then it will become a far greater deal for you than it already is, and you will have to talk to someone regardless. It's best now to decide what it is you want to happen, and then to do so whilst the choice is there, providing that makes sense to you.

    Good luck with this.

  • Thanks Leaping Lizard for your reply which is helpful. I agree with points raised and looking back there was so much I didn't understand. How she felt how my father felt and why he reacted the way he did. I think he most probably suffers from PTSD himself as a he went through a lot as a boy adult himself. He was refugee immigrant and no family support himself. At the time I can see now all I was feeling was how abandoned I felt by her breakdown, and it was shocking to me that she wanted to die.

    My father eventually shot himself suicide when I was I think he may have had an untreated mental illness same for my sister, I could be wrong but she don't want to speak about it, and over the years we have been estranged which is where we are at now. So I will work on myself at the moment I feel I am making progress and do see a counsellor. I think somehow she blamed me and what I am finding out is how easily I have accepted people putting stuff onto me and how I have been a Miss Fixit. Thanks a lot

  • Your sister being superficial.she probably feels you betrayed her...even thou we were trying to save her...the outcome was she got a spanking...for crying out for help was met witj shaming.

  • I have just recently come to same conclusion, after almost 54 years of wondering what on earth I did to her, to receive the cold shoulder from her. I've had so much pain from her rejection and somehow she had a lot of power over me. I now see she as 16 year old, was met by further pain and rejection from my father, she didn't get the love and support from him that she needed and I was the person who got him and was complicit. She cant see I was caught between a rock and a hard place. But I think I cant remember her reaction to me cause I think she blamed me and I was somehow overwhelmed by that. Cause now since Mark died I am throwing blame back at people who are negative and I am finding that hard!!

  • Hi Nessa3 just thinking about the betrayal. I would have betrayed myself if I hadn't tried to save her. Its hard for me to get my head around this as I agree with you that she must have felt betrayed by my actions in getting my father to break the door down. So my conclusions are that she really wanted to go ahead and I should have done nothing? She feels betrayed when she's rescued? She has told me about het intention, made me an accomplice to her suicide and then feels betrayed cause I prevent het carrying it out. I don't know how serious she was, but it certainly traumatised me, and how much I am only just realising. When I spoke to her last time I had contact I tried to speak to her about her motivations re her attempt. She got angry and told me that happened 50 years ago get over it. Cheers

  • A few thoughts in response to your question:

    Often the psyche will do what it needs to protect us, so it may cause us to dissociate in the moment(s) of trauma if it feels we're about to be overwhelmed.

    Trauma affects the brain which can impair memory consolidation which can cause there to be gaps in memory. (For more about this watch part one of this webinar series:

    I understand that resolution would be ideal and it can be frustrating not to get it from your sister. Do know, however, that healing can happen without remembering everything, so it's possible to move ahead in other ways.

  • Thanks Michele I listened to your talk on shrink rap radio with Dr Dave. I am blown away by how trauma can affect us and as I have just opened the lid on mine cant believe how emotionally stuck I had been. Even my relationship with Mark was like a band aid! He was lovely person, but Its like I had to go through another suicide to get answers on how to get off the treadmill of running from feeling my pain? Can you point me in the direction of how to get resolution without remembering. I believe you have written some books, I went to our library but they didn't have your books, so I think I may have to try another source? Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.

  • I just checked link. I will buy podcasts cheers

  • You will looooovvve the podcasts. Those are my 6 favorite experts and they go deep into what happens during trauma, why and, most importantly, how to fix it.

  • Yes, I have written three books about trauma, PTSD, how trauma affects the brain, how trauma alters identity, and how to heal. The books are all available through bookstores and also here:

    Resolution without remembering can happen in so many ways, most successfully, in my personal and professional experience, when facilitated through alternative processes.

    For ideas of relevant techniques see here:

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