Sunday, May 13, 2018

I'm Still Standing

It has been 17 years since the Mother's Day on which I attempted to take my own life. When I woke up in the hospital they even told me I succeeded. The doctor had given up and called my time of death before the universe spit me back out and the machines started beeping again. At the time I was angry to find myself still among the living. This hadn't been a cry for help, I really wanted to die because I could never have imagined the life I have now. Life is still a challenge and there are days where I wonder if its worth it. Then I am reminded that I have found a purpose in helping other male childhood sexual abuse survivors and that through The ManKind Project and ACA I have people in my life who love and support me. So I choose each day to live, to put one foot in front of the other, and make something of this life that refused to let me go 17 years ago.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Not Worthless Anymore

From the ages of three to nearly twelve I was sexually abused by my stepfather and anyone else he felt like sharing me with. Ten years. Ten. Fucking. Years. Not one relative, not one teacher, not one adult of any kind asked if I was okay, spoke up, stood up, or did one damn thing to save an innocent boy from a childhood in Hell. Fast forward to the thirty-seven year old man writing this post and every day I carry the message that their inaction etched into my mind, heart, and soul. I was worthless. It was the only explanation. No one came to my rescue because I wasn't worth saving. That voice has been whispering, sometimes screaming, to me just how worthless I must be. It has sabotaged my friendships, my relationships, my career, my education, and my faith for my entire life.

For as much damage as that insidious voice has done, it has been a comfort as well. If I am worthless, if I was worthless as a boy, then it makes sense that no one saved me. The thought that it was some flaw in myself that made me not worth saving has been a darkly comforting explanation as to why I was abandoned by those who were supposed to protect me.

Pretty fucked up, huh? When I first started on this healing journey last year, I certainly thought so. Now though, after connecting with other male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I have come to learn that I was not the only boy who received this message or carried it with him into adulthood. Hearing that feeling of worthlessness in another man's voice, seeing that shame in another man's eyes, it struck me how fucking wrong it was that any boy should live with that message and carry it into adulthood. I was fine carrying that message inside of me but my heart breaks for other men carrying that same wound. I won't carry it anymore.

To any man reading this, know that you are not worthless and that this message was never yours to carry just as it was not mine to carry. I have accepted this voice into my life for far too long. I am not worthless anymore. I never was. And neither were you.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Healing Brings Change

It has been almost thirty-five years since my childhood sexual abuse began and almost fourteen months since I spoke that truth out loud for the first time and began taking my first steps to face my past head-on. I genuinely had no idea just how much I was sleepwalking through my life, how much I was letting other people control and dictate my fate whether it was people from my past or my present. Fourteen months ago I began to wake up and really take stock of my life. I did not like what I saw. The trauma from the past really did a number on my present, but now that I can see that I cannot help feeling that if I continued as I was that now I was choosing that life that was forced on me. I didn't wake up to go back to sleep. It is within my power to choose healing. It is within my power to choose the people I want in my life. It is within my power to choose to change my life for the better. So what do I do with the knowledge that I have choices as an adult that I didn't have as an abused child? I choose healing. I choose happiness. I choose purpose. I choose love. And I will continue to make that choice every single day for the rest of my life no matter how much my past tries to drag me back to sleep.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Healing Journey: Down A New Road

This month marks a year since I disclosed my status as a childhood sexual abuse survivor for the very first time. Over the past year, I have been rocked with nightmares, flashbacks, disassociative episodes, and other reminders of my horrific childhood. At the same time, I have spent the past year as an active member of The ManKind Project and Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families attempting to work through the issues I am facing both as a survivor and in my life in general.

While I have found support in MKP and ACA and met many wonderful people, there have been challenges. When I speak about my childhood sexual abuse in general terms, I am met with great support. It is when I attempt to dive deeper into my childhood wounds that I have perceived a shift in the way these people see me. The reactions I get range from pity to disgust when I go past the surface of my childhood abuse. While I judge that most of them mean well, I am left feeling like a circus freak. I see the looks of horror and pity on their faces and I just shut down and my defenses go back up. I am tired of carrying this weight and not feeling like I have anywhere that I can set it down for even a moment without feeling like a burden on the very people I have been turning to for help.

Feeling like a freak who makes everyone uncomfortable has been my default setting for most of the last year. Luckily for me, there are people who love me enough to urge me to continue to seek out resources and support in whatever form it may take. A fellow MKP member and CSA survivor recently pointed me in the direction of a local domestic violence/sexual assault non-profit that is open to male survivors as well. While at first I resisted picking up the phone to call, I finally did.

This morning was my first counseling appointment with a sexual assault advocate. I didn't really know what to expect. I went in full of fear and uncertainty. The woman I met with seemed warm and genuine, but I was still nervous about telling her my story. Once I started though it all came rushing out. And you know what? She didn't look at me with pity or disgust. She didn't go running out the door. She looked me in the eye and said, "What you have been through is not normal, but what you are feeling and experiencing because of it is normal." I was blown away. Those are words that I have longed to hear delivered in a way that made me believe her.

My childhood hell lasted for nearly a decade and continues to haunt me more than thirty years later, but still I have felt impatient like I somehow should feel better by now. The healing journey I have been on for the past year was a beginning, but I am far from the end. I feel like I am standing at a crossroads and working with this sexual assault advocate is me choosing to take a new path. Here's hoping I'm on the right road...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Getting Back On Track

Wow. What a roller-coaster the past two months have been. Just before Thanksgiving my baby brother died leaving behind four children and a lot of unanswered questions. Then the holidays hit which always remind me of losing my father between Christmas and New Years when I was a toddler. To top it off I got hit with a handful of particularly nasty flashbacks involving my stepfather sodomizing me with a giant candy cane and then making me eat it. Fa la la la la la la la la...

All of that hit hard. Really fucking hard. I feel like I have been having one long drawn out disassociative episode for the past couple of months. I got lost in my pain and couldn't see past it. I couldn't see the people who loved me reaching out. I couldn't see the pain of the fellow survivors in my life. A part of me wants to beat myself up over how much I withdrew into myself, but the part of me that has been healing since I first disclosed my status as a childhood sexual abuse survivor last March is telling me that I needed the chance to retreat and to grieve. It wasn't out of selfishness that I withdrew, it was out of self preservation and care. I will never stop grieving for my baby brother, my father, or my stolen innocence; but the time has come to stand back up and get back on my journey to heal and to support my fellow survivors in their healing. The time has come to get back on track.

I know this blog has been pretty quiet, but my mind has not. There are flashbacks I need to process. There are resources I need to share. There are conversations I want to start. There are questions I need to ask. To those of you who have stuck with me during the silence I thank you. Stay tuned to this blog for a renewed sense of purpose and, I hope, writings that spark conversations that need to happen.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Three Weeks Ago Today

Three weeks ago today I attended an information session at a local university to learn more about their Master of Social Work program, specifically the mental health and substance abuse concentration. As my friend and fellow ManKind Project brother and I were leaving the meeting, I turned on my phone and was met with a number of confusing social media messages from family that implied something bad had happened. Then I saw I had a missed call and a voice mail from my mother. My blood ran cold. I hit play on my voicemail and was greeted with the news that my baby brother, my best friend, had taken his own life.

Those of you who have been following my blog since it began this summer know that my history of childhood sexual abuse began the day my baby brother was born and that it was his father who was my primary abuser. Many of the choices I made as a child and as a teenager were made in an effort to protect my baby brother from the horrors his father was capable of.

I was willing to do anything to protect and shelter him, to ensure that he had a chance at a normal life. For a while it seemed like I had succeeded. He had a wife, a home, a job he loved, and four beautiful children that were the center of his world. A few years ago that all fell apart due to the selfishness of his ex-wife. My brother was left alone to raise four children because she wanted to live a life without responsibility. There was so much stress on his life and so much love in his heart. I knew that he had it hard and I did what I could to help despite the geographical distance between us. I thought he had a handle on everything. I thought he was coping. I was wrong.

And now I'm left wondering what else I was wrong about. Did I protect him or did my stepfather get to him too? Did I do everything I could to help my brother in his time of need or could I have done more? What does it mean for my recovery from childhood sexual abuse that I will never be able to share my truth with the one member of my family whose belief would have meant the most to me?

At three years old, my nightmare began. I thought the nightmare was over. Three weeks ago today my nightmare began again and I feel so alone with my baby brother, my best friend, not here to witness the someday where I am healed enough to be the man he always said I could be...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Coming Up For Air

If you have been following along with the blog, you know that The ManKind Project New Warrior Training Adventure was a turning point in my life as it was there this past March that I disclosed my childhood sexual abuse for the first time. It is through the trust I have built with my MKP brothers and the work and tools of MKP that I have begun making progress in coming to terms with my past. Two weekends ago I returned to the site of my MKP NWTA for the first time in over six months. This time around I elected to return as a rookie staff member so that I could support a new group of men in starting new chapters in their lives the way that I had. One of the men was even a fellow survivor who I became friends with through this blog which really lit a fire in my soul to come back and support this work that is making such a huge difference in my life.

In the space of time between March of this year and this month, I have spent so much time diving deep into the darkness of my past as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the shadows that my childhood trauma created in my life as an adult. Considering the decades I spent in repression and denial, I guess it shouldn't have come as a shock that I would dive so deeply into my recovery once I accepted the need. During this month's MKP NWTA though, something in me shifted. The only way I can think to describe the feeling is that after diving deep into the darkness I was finally coming up for air. There was a lightness in my chest and a genuine smile of joy on my face that I can't ever remember being there. I met up with four of the men that had participated in my NWTA at this one and they all told me they didn't recognize me at first because the man they knew in March didn't have the joy that I moved through this weekend with. I was riding the high of that newfound joy for over a week, and then suddenly I began to feel guilt and shame once again.

I spent decades repressing and denying my abuse and the impact it had on me and my inner child. During the first six months of my recovery, I was deep in the past and the shadows. I was reliving my abuse through nightmares and flashbacks that I couldn't control. Somehow my guilt and my shame convinced me that in my newfound suffering I was honoring the suffering of my inner child, of the little boy who endured a decade of sexual violence. In my service to others at this month's NWTA I discovered a lightness and a happiness I have never known. It felt amazing until it didn't. The guilt and the shame came roaring back attempting to convince me that by letting myself be happy that I was somehow betraying my inner child. In a twisted way, there was logic to this that I had a hard time refuting.

Thanks to my mentor and my brothers in my Monday night MKP iGroup, I was able to process this odd sense of guilt and shame over being happy. My recovery is an ongoing process and I have a lot of healing left to do. There will be times where the weight of it drags me back into the dark and that's okay. It's part of the process. But the reality is that I need to let myself come up for air every once in a while. I need to remind myself that sometimes it is okay to be okay. If I can't allow myself to feel those moments of progress, lightness, and joy then what am I working so hard for? Isn't that the goal of working to recover from childhood trauma, to be fucking happy? I may not have had a choice as a child in what was done to me, but I have choices now as an adult. I choose to continue this work to heal myself and hopefully help others on their healing journey and I choose to come up for air every once in a while and to let myself feel pride and happiness for the man I am becoming...

I'm Still Standing

It has been 17 years since the Mother's Day on which I attempted to take my own life. When I woke up in the hospital they even told m...