Femmephobia in the Gay Community

So I was reading comments on a Facebook post (I know that’s a recipe for disaster) about a young gay man who was overtly feminine. Well the article wasn’t about his personality but that didn’t stop the haters from spewing their internalized homophobia. In an hour of the posting there were at least four comments about how he was a disgrace to the LGBTQ community and that he was making the “normal” gay men look bad. I was just disgusted and reminded about how much internal homophobia there still is.

Sure I get it. Most of us had to hide who we were for a very long time. We were told having feminine traits was unacceptable. A man loving another man that’s not masculine. Men are macho, drink beer and are womanizers. Society has set this idea of what is and isn’t acceptable for men, as they have with women. If you don’t fit that mold you’re made to feel less. As to not stick out like a sore thumb you go inward hiding who you. The only thing that does is stunts your growth.

Bottom line gay men who look down upon guys who are feminine have deeply rooted misogyny. I’ve always wondered what is so wrong with a man having the traits stereotypical for a woman or man who wears a dress and/or makeup? Why does society tell us that it’s wrong and ugly? Who wrote the book on the rules and guidelines for masculinity and femininity. I have yet to find that book. So why do so many people feel trapped by this to the point they have to prove to the world their masculine by shunning anyone who might break a hole in their false image.

I look at our gay youth and I’m just awe inspired at their courage to be whoever they want. Most of them never had to endure what we did and we should be happy for that. They’ve not had it thrown down their throats that they must conform to the rules of manhood. They can be just as fabulous as they were born to be. Guys who are femmephobic are so jaded and bitter that they must take it out on others. To feel good about themselves they have this great desire to tear others down. The only person that looks bad is them but they don’t care. They don’t even see the elephant in the room.

That kind of hatred is dangerous and toxic. Growing up it was always known that men don’t cry. I would compare myself to other boys and I always felt different. I didn’t like the same things that most boys did. I wasn’t into sports and I loved musicals. When I came out of the closet it was the most freest I’ve ever been. Those chains no longer tied me down but sadly for so many they still are even years after they’ve come out. I can remember a date that I was on in my early twenties and the guy just gave it to me about how much like a woman I was. He went out of his way to shun me. I felt horrible but he was the one with the problem.

It’s so easy to forget what is out there until you’re faced with it head on. I learned this when I started to perform in drag. I had guys who’d tell me that they wouldn’t date me because of it. I even had other gay guys question why I dressed up in drag. Personally I think drag queens are the best part of our gay community. So many don’t see it that way. To get up on stage in heels, makeup and a dress takes nerve in this world. I mean getting on stage is nerve wracking enough. I love anyone who says fuck you to the social norms. Drag for me blends gender and art. So many gay guys look down upon drag queens when in reality they were the ones fighting for equality early on. We have them to think for a lot of the strides we have made today. How a person dresses and/or acts has no relation to who they are inside. How someone dresses doesn’t make them a bad person. A bad person is someone who does bad things including making others  feel less. There’s no strength in belittling someone else for who they are, what they wear and who they love.

I can’t imagine what my transgender brothers and sisters must endure on a daily basis. They’re at the forefront of this battle. So many are judging them for who they are deep within. It’s not surprising that so many transgender people try to end their lives, not to mention the countless murders of trans folks. All because of gender. Misogyny is what it boils down to. From the beginning of time women have been treated less. Like being a woman makes you less of a person. Who the fuck came up with that rule??? I think being a woman is one of the best things in this world. I mean women bring life into this world. If it weren’t for women we’d all be fucked. So anyone that tries to step out of the social norm is instantly an outcast. I mean that’s why people have such a problem with being gay. We’re breaking the rules thus for breaking the ceiling in their hate filled house. I learned this a long time ago with my father. People like this gain a false sense of control by grasping onto an ideology. They’re not confident with it because it’s not real so in order to stay safe they must convince as many people as they can that their way. They will stop at nothing to stop the cracks from breaking them free. They don’t care who they drag down or who they hurt in the process, as long as it keeps them safe and secure.

Life is too short be whoever you want to be. That’s how I approach life. If it’s not hurting anyone and the person enjoys it then more power to them. For the longest time I was embarrassed by my feminine side, as I had been brainwashed into believing that it was an abomination. I now realize that’s the best part of me. I love my sensitivity and the fact that I’m not afraid to cry. It’s taken me a long time but I’m finally proud to be fabulous and I feel bad for those who don’t feel it themselves. They’ve hidden those beautiful traits for so long that the lack of has become a part of their personalities.

Anyone who doesn’t fit that mold is labeled a loser. Guys on this post called him disgusting, not apart of the community. They just continue to spew. They’ve internalized the homophobia cast upon them and in return are doing the exact same thing to others who have the traits that they were scolded for. These types of guys are stuck in the past and are going to be left behind. The youth of today are free from those chains that held us down for so long, at least most of them. They can be whoever they want to be without the fear of judgment.

Our youth have broken the mold of what it means to be gay. They’ve colored outside the lines. There is this young boy who I quite admire. He’s proud of his fabulousness and he’s constantly encouraging me to be proud of mine. To this day I still struggle to be me. Here he is at ten years old (or around that age) and not afraid to be himself. It’s so refreshing to watch his journey. Thankfully he has a wonderfully, loving mother who embraces who he is and encourages his exploration. I mean this kid is already a fashion icon. There are so many young boys just like him. I wish I was able to be like that when I was a kid. I’m not one of these gay guys who are so stubborn and stuck in their ways that they feel like they’ve got to prove that way is wrong. While I’m sad I couldn’t embrace my fabulousness that early I’m proud and happy they have the chance to. That’s all we can hope for, that the next generation will have it easier than we did.

So I’m just disgusted when I read these types of comments because it reminds me of what I went through. I’m very thankful I didn’t let that poison turn me into the person who shunned and judged me. No one should be judged or made to feel less for who they are or who they love. If a man wants to wear a dress who cares. The last time I checked wearing a dress isn’t going to cause the end of the world, though some act like it will. Neither will wearing makeup. Life is tough enough, be what you want to be. There is no normal or a mold that you have to fit in.

One of my favorite poems speaks to all of this:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

We are ALL meant to shine. Who are you not to be? Be fabulous, wear it proudly. We’ve earned that right. So if you want to sashay down the runway, do it! I can tell you that you’ll probably enjoy it. I’ve hid for so many years and not just my femininity. It causes great internal damage. Playing small doesn’t serve the world, it doesn’t help anyone especially yourself. When you’re authentic and free that liberates others. So by being fabulous you’re giving another human being the courage to do so as well.

In the end, I feel sorry for these guys. So lost and stuck that they don’t even realize it. They’re the one with the issue and the only ones making our community look bad. We’ve been put through enough, it’s our time to shine.

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The Meeting of the Minds

That’s what I call my nightly visits with my neighbors. When I first moved into this apartment complex I would notice a group of residents sitting by the pool. They were there every night. They were always so friendly. At first it was a little off putting as I’m kind of reserved and shy. I’m from that way of don’t talk to strangers. Plus if I’m in the middle of a depression/PTSD episode then I’m even more inward. It’s not like I’m unsociable. I just get nervous around new groups of people. If the people I love will hurt me, what will strangers do. It’s that sort of thing. Plus when you’re gay you learn to stick towards people like you.

At first I would just say hello and goodbye whenever I went to the pool until one night I had the courage to sit with them. Eventually it would become a nightly thing for me to do. Regardless of how bad of a day I’ve had I know that I have that to look forward to. Lately my depression has started to fight with me and I’ve struggled to get out of the house. In the past it would be common for me to not leave my house for days, even weeks. Lately I’ve had days where I didn’t want to leave the house but I force myself. Today was one of those days. I’ve not been feeling good physically so that just made me want to stay in but I forced myself into the shower and went down there for the meeting.

Saturday I didn’t make it down there. It was the first time in weeks that I didn’t go but I didn’t let that mood keep me down for long as Sunday I was back down there. I even had one of the neighbors ask where I was. So that made me feel good to know that someone cared enough to miss me. It’s so easy (especially with PTSD) to think that everyone is against you, when that’s always been your experience. I’ve been forcing myself out of that comfort zone and it’s become one of my favorite things to do.

Lately I’ve been opening up to them more. I was really nervous to tell them that I was gay and had a disability. As much as I love them, they do have the tendency to gab. They know everything that goes on at the complex down to who lives where . As you start to get to know people better people start to ask you questions like what do you do for work, etc. They had started to do that with me and it made me nervous. Plus they see me all the time and they have to wonder what is my deal. I know they’ve made reference to other people like me who aren’t working. In the back of my head I wonder will they judge me but I’m at the point in my life where I don’t have time to worry about stuff like that.

A few days ago I let a few of the residents know I was gay. It was brief but I had let the cat out of the bag. Tonight I went even further. I had mentioned that I had a bad experience at  Doctor here in town and they started to ask questions. At first I wasn’t going to go into it but I said what the heck and spilled the bins. Then the whole group (about seven of us) started to talk about being gay,etc. No one verbally chastised me or made me feel less. They were supportive and listened. It was really nice. A few of them said that they had gay people in their family too. It was really refreshing to be around a new group of people and be accepted.

I also know that they were going to start putting things together about my disability. I talked on more than one occasion about going to the doctors and knew they were going to ask more questions. The potential rejection for being gay is nothing new and it’s something I’ve become accustomed to. My disablity on the other hand is something I’m ashamed of. I know I shouldn’t but that’s the way I feel. If I had a physical ailment then I’d feel less like people were judging me. A little later they started talking about one of the residents who use to come around all the time and now has stopped and barely talks to anyone. One of the residents talked about how he’s known him for a long time and referenced to him having a mental illness as being odd.

I started to take it personal. It felt like he was calling me odd. I quickly checked those feelings at the door. Then they started to talk about well maybe he has depression to which I chimned in about my experience, that there were times I would isolate myself and didn’t want to be around other people. I even mentioned that I had PTSD. It was really self affirming to stand up for myself and others in my situation. There is so much stigma still about anything related to mental illness. After I started to open up a few other people mentioned that they had taken anti-depressants in the past. I’ve learned that not everyone is out to get you, nor do they mean any harm. Sometimes people just need to be educated and shown a different way.

We talked about everything for about five minutes and then moved onto something. We talk about everything. They ask me how I’m doing and ask me what I did today, to which I replied not much. Our meetings are a great release as we can talk about our day or what’s bothering us. Cats are often a topic of conversation as we have adopted a stray cat named Mazzie. She always comes up and makes the rounds getting attention from each of us. She’s like our mascot. It took her a while to get use to me but now she comes through my legs and lets me pet her. For the longest time she’d sit at the edge of the pool and stare at me forever.

I kind of feel like this is my own Golden Girls. We all care about each other and look out for each other. One of the residents fell recently while walking and sprained her ankle and broke her toe. She’s not been able to come out with us the past few nights. Every Tuesday the complex has coffee and donuts in the morning. This morning one of my neighbors brought her a few donuts. Another neighbor brought her a card with all our names on it. Just like the Golden Girls sometimes we get on each other nerves. Like we have a Rose of the group. I sometimes wonder what they say about me when I’m not there. lol Though if you’re a quiet one they don’t tend to talk about you. I’ve never heard anyone talk about two of the residents who are a couple I think. They remind me of the Odd Couple. They’re a lot like me we talk but it’s not really heated.

If you’re quirky or a spitfire someone is going to have something to say when you’re gone. Like one of the neighbors is really sassy. I love her. Recently we got the pool maintenance guys a thank you card and she drew obscene pictures on it, well obscene for old people. She’s always picking on other people but in a good hearted way. She’s one of my favorites. She’s always so personable and always accessorize fabulously. One of the ladies is the opposite of that. She’s kind of your typical grumpy old woman types. I mean she’s not grumpy per say but occasionally she will be. It doesn’t occur all the time but when she gets going, watch out.

Since meeting with them nightly I know everything that goes on in the community. Today’s topic was the local Kmart closing. It was brought up numerous times today. Also the local buffet place Old Country Buffet closed on Monday unexpectedly. That was also a hot topic. Who needs a newspaper when you have them. Just because most of them are older occasionally they talk about stuff that make me blush like condoms and vibrators. So anything is game for discussion. Many of the residents don’t have family nearby and this is it for them. People get busy with their lives and it’s easy to get left behind. Many of the residents in my group have lived at the complex for a very long time. Like over ten years. I’m the newbie.

So far we’ve had an indian summer. Today was near 80 and that’s rare for Michigan. I know sooner or later the cold weather will arrive. I’m rather dreading winter for many reasons but mainly because our meetings will be sparse. Winter has always been tough for me in terms of my depression. Any type of forced isolation just magnifies my depression and PTSD. So it makes me nervous knowing I won’t have these nightly visits to boost my morale. I think I might check with the office to see if we can have the clubhouse one night a week for our meetings. If I had my own place I’d open up my home to them.

So it’s been really nice to make these friendships. It’s really helped with my depression and PTSD. I’ve had some very tough weeks and these meetings have kept me grounded. Thankfully I have an intake appointment for therapy this week, so that will help. There’s a depression support group that I would like to check out as well. I just need to keep myself busy this summer. I hope to get a YMCA membership soon. That will help fill the void of not being able to swim. Oh how I miss the pool. It’s such torture to sit next to an empty, covered pool. It was a great summer so I really shouldn’t complain. My neighbors also have helped with my transition of moving away from my family, which was very difficult. So I’m thankful for this place and I love being their neighbor.

My neighbors have helped me blossom up again. I’ve become a lot more social and getting outside has helped me to lose weight. I’ve lost over 18 lbs so far. My blood sugar and bp are back to normal levels. My personal grooming has improved dramatically. So I’m on the right track. I just need to find alternatives to help cope with the winter and the loneliness.

 

Lonely Shade of Steel

Of all the feelings I think lonely is the toughest. You can be surrounded by a group of people and still feel lonely. As many of you know, this has been a very tough week for me. I’ve constantly been living in the land of triggers. I went almost ten years without triggers (at least to this degree) and all of a sudden I’m getting them constantly.

I have the apartment to myself for the weekend and it’s reminded me how lonely I am. The world kept turning as I stay frozen in grief, depression and all that much. The world moved on without me. Tonight as I sat with my neighbors I could hear their loneliness too. They’re in similar situations as me. For many of us the interactions during our nightly get togethers are about the only ones we have. If it weren’t for the meetings most of us would never leave our apartment.

So while I have this strength of steel lately it doesn’t take away the loneliness and it’s not just romantic loneliness, which is a portion of it. Here I have a weekend alone and no one to spend it with. Everyone has moved on without but me. I’m still trying to get my life together. I’m so desperate for human connection that I find myself trying to hold onto our nightly visits as long as I can. I wonder what it will be like once winter sets in. That scares me, thinking I might lose these connections… at least until spring.

Being single and the thought of being alone for the rest of your life is rather frightening. I tried to fill my loneliness with pizza and netflix but it didn’t cover up my loneliness. I love musicals so I watched Rent for the first time in years. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time. Re-watching it again tonight brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings. As tough as that period was for me I wish I could get it back. I was so full of life, ready to take on the world. I want to be in love again.

Seeing Angel and Colin together just added to my sadness. I wish I had that. I’ve certainly been in love but it’s always been one sided. I sometimes wonder if my chance went by and is long gone. I wonder will I die alone like my father said.

Depression deprives you of so much and one of them being friendship. In your darkest days you do whatever you can to push everything and everyone away. The last four years I’ve built this gigantic wall around me and it’s left me with a barren garden. The ground is hard as rock and the briar has grown so thick that you can’t see through it. Granted I’m working on mending my garden but that takes time. Friendships aren’t built overnight and all my good friends live far away. Everyone is busy with their lives (which is understandable) and here I am alone.

There’s this balance of wanting to be seen and wanting to be invisible. When you want to be seen you’re invisible to the whole world but the times you want to be invisible you’re seen. Invisibility is how a survivor keeps safe but it can also cause great harm. It can also leave you really lonely. I wish it were easier to make gay friendships. The options are pretty slim and what is out there is very focused on sex. I sometimes wonder do gay men have platonic friendships and if so where do they meet them? The bars use to be a meat market and now online has become the new, improved meat market. You can find the best new piece of man with a touch of a button or a swipe of a screen. I look online and I see a lot of lonely guys.

Being a gay man in a rural area is tough. We don’t have the diverse population that big cities have. What gay population there is it’s very skewed. Most are just looking for sex and the guys that say they’re looking for friendship won’t even respond to your message. I remember back in the day (yes I’m old) when you could have intelligent conversations online. Many of my friends I met online but that was years ago. That’s the problem when you run from your problems, you leave behind a trail of friendships. Thankfully Facebook connects us all but it’s not the same as having friends to do things with.

I miss having platonic friendships and for me it’s very important to have. Sex complicates things and I enjoy having that off the table. I can’t separate sex and the dirtiness so it’s why I need my friendships to be pure. It’s also why I’ve struggled with love. My last relationship was no different. At first things were great until I got triggered by something that happened to us while out at another couples place. I pretty much watched as my boyfriend (at the time) had sex with someone who was suppose to be my friend. Due to being a sexual abuse survivor I just stood there paralyzed not being able to say or do anything. After that I could barely touch or kiss my boyfriend. Our love had been spoiled and it was never the same. I didn’t realize until a year afterwards what happened. The event sent me in a downward spiral. So that’s been my track record with love. It’s been over six years since I’ve dated. Sometimes I think I’m okay with being single and other times I don’t.

I miss the intimacy and is something I’ve really haven’t had much of. It’s always been so brief and it’s usually been guys after one thing. Being overweight is tough enough let alone being fat in the gay community. Most the guys want nothing to do with you because you’re weight and the ones who like you’re weight only want you for your body. Neither group wants your heart. That just piles onto the feelings of being an object. So it’s been easier for me to stay single.

I miss the friendship. I miss the laughter. I miss hanging out with a group of friends at my place. I miss the get togethers. The nightly meetings with the residents is great but I need more. I can’t talk to them about everything. There is this age gap and they wouldn’t understand certain things. I’ve seen a few younger women who would come out to the pool. I wish I had the courage to befriend them. I miss having women friends. I wish there was a gay best friend app/site, where you can find your fag hag or vice versa. I make a fabulous gay best friend.

I’m usually always down at the picnic table nightly with my neighbors for an hour or two, and I still get lonely. Even though I’ve opened up to a few of them by telling them I’m gay I still don’t feel like I can be my true self. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with telling them about my mental illness. Most of the group is in their 60’s and they’re reserved. I love spending time with them but it’s not the same hanging out with someone who you can be free with and talk about anything. Like they were talking about movies and I mentioned that I loved Ghostbusters. I could tell that it wasn’t their cup of tea. Even one of the residents was like oh those movies. I find myself censoring myself on certain things like anything related to being gay. They were talking about girdles and something about men not having to worry about that. I replied well that’s how I keep my girlish figure and that turned a few heads. I certainly wasn’t going to tell them that I did drag, as they’d probably not understand that. Maybe they would, who knows.

I have this big void in my life and I’m not sure what to fill it with. I feel so isolated from everyone. I really dislike suffering and that’s what I’ve been doing. I miss my family too. So I’m feeling a bunch of stuff this week and I’m trying hard to hold on for dear life. I keep repeating over and over that I’m strong as steel. I had to do that earlier at the picnic table when I was triggered by something one of the ladies said. I had to repeat it over and over, as I didn’t want them to see me triggered. I could feel myself dissociate. Thankfully I was able to use my ground exercises and was able to control it. That’s all I need them thinking I’m crazy. I love them but they love to gossip. They know everything that goes on at the complex.

I really understand what my Mom felt like all these years. She was also very lonely and it was very tough for her after my father divorced her. After my sister and I moved away I know she felt abandoned. I would do anything to go back and do things differently. Though the last years of her life the both of us would spend a lot of time together. I honestly thought she’d live another twenty years or so. I saw us like Dorothy and Sophia from the Golden Girls but that wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

I can’t wait to start therapy again. It’s become very clear that I need to get back into therapy with all the triggers and flashbacks as I have been having. It will be nice to have someone to talk to about the tough things in my life. I don’t have a lot of people to turn to. People will say things like you’re not alone. I get what they’re saying but the reality is that I am alone.

How To Stop Taking Things So Personal?

That’s the question I’m asking. I think the only logical answer is repetition. As a former people pleaser (well I’m working on it) this task can be extremely difficult to overcome. When you’ve built your world around it overcoming it just takes time. Tonight I found myself in a similar situation, where I was starting to take something personal. Boundaries are really important for a sexual abuse survivor and sometimes when you put them up not everyone will respect them. Especially if there a person who doesn’t have any or few boundaries. So when you face someone like that it can be a fight or flight situation. Most the times for me it’s been a flight situation. I hide in the rabbit hole where it’s safe and I wait for that person to leave.

Lately I’ve been doing the opposite. The person I use to be would not only take it personal but take it period. Those days are over. If someone treats me poorly I’m going to stand up and say something. No is a powerful word to a survivor and sometimes you have to continue to use it until the person gets the hint. After a situation put me through that I started to feel bad. Like why did this person treat me this way? Before it was what did I do wrong. Quickly I changed my thought from I’m worthless to I’m strong as steel. Even after you’ve confronted the situation the personalization can still seep in. If will find the smallest of crack and find it’s way into your brain.

If it finds the way in it will light up all the other wires in your brain that relate to that. Every single hurt, every single word it will stir up. So you not only have to fight the current battle but all the battles before it. I’m stronger than ever and I refuse to give into that beast. I won’t let it take me down that road anymore. I deserve more.

I don’t deal with confrontation and I never have. I stay as far away from it as possible. If you’ve been victimized enough it becomes a way to keep stay safe. You learn to surround yourself with people like you. I think that’s only natural. Sure some people will argue that people need to venture out into other circles where people have different viewpoints but for someone struggling just to stay alive you do what you need to do to survive. I’ve lived many years living in an environment where it was brainwashed into my brain that I was different and I was ostracized for my views and beliefs. I was an outcast and you go where all the other misfits go. Maybe one day I can surround myself with other kind of people but today I need to do whatever I can to survive. Peace is very important to me and so is stability.

I’ve surrounded myself with bad people most of my life and I’m working on changing that. I can’t play fast and loose with my life anymore. I can’t take any chances in terms of my healing. I have too much to lose. Plus I really don’t want to be around people who don’t care about the things I do. Like for example, republican gun loving extremists. I’m a hardcore liberal but even I don’t constantly post political stuff. Why would I want to be friends with someone who was constantly feeling the need to boast his views and his way of life.

I’ve finally got to the point in my life where I can accept differences and not feel the need to convince others of mine. I’ve been at the end of that with my Father and his religious beliefs. I don’t want to be like that person nor do I want to have someone like that in my life, at least full time. I guess for me it’s your approach. There’s a neighbor lady of mine who loves Trump and one day she was going on and on about him but she wasn’t trying to get us to love him… nor was she trying to convince us that she was right and we were wrong. Though no one was really engaging her. I know I certainly wasn’t. I’ve done the whole debate thing and the only thing you get from them are headaches.

The person I use to be would  have totally written her off. She’s just like my family. I now see her for the person she is underneath. Now if she starts to disrespect my boundaries that’s a different story. She’s always been so nice to me and I enjoy having her in my life in that way. Now will we become best friends, probably not but it’s nice see her out with the other neighbors.

You get to a point in your life where you want peace and you do whatever you can to keep that. Some people won’t understand that and love to argue but they’re not me. They haven’t lived my life. I’ve had to cut certain people out of my life and I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it can be quite healthy to weed out toxic people.

It’s a fine line of balance. I can see why people feel so passionate about the matters that affect our lives. It’s not always been easy for me to separate the beliefs from the person. Like for example, a person who loves Trump. Here they are willing to vote in a President that will most likely take away my rights, that being marriage equality. How do you go about being okay with that? Many of my family are like that. Not only do they support Trump but they don’t believe gay people should have any rights. Why should I have to sift through the dirt to find out if a person is homophobic? Sometimes it’s easier to not put myself in the same room as that person. It’s like a gay person going into a straight sports bar. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going into one not because I don’t like sports because I know it could put me in harms way or at the very least I would feel like I couldn’t be myself or would watch how I acted. No one should ever have to hide who they are out of fear but that’s the reality we live in.

While I enjoy this neighbor and love seeing her, in the back of my head I wonder about the other stuff. Usually most of Trump supporters have something in common with each other. I mean Trump is pretty anti on a lot of different matters. Rejection is no fun and part of the reason I look for others like me. You learn to gravitate towards people with the same way of living life. Maybe one day I will be strong enough that I will be able to be good friends with a Republican but I’m not promising anything. Everyone has their right to believe in what they want to but it’s when you’re beliefs start to infringe on my rights that’s when it’s a different story. It’s also why sometimes I struggle to separate the two.

Sure my first thought was to try to get her to see why Trump is bad but I realized there was going to be nothing I could say to make her see things differently. It would just be wasted energy. So I just sit back and let her go on and on about him. It’s tough to live in a world where people are so blinded by their fears and discomfort that they’ll put others lives in jeopardy. It goes deeper than taking things personal. Though I do have the foresight now to realize that these people are the ones with the issues, not me.

My Aunt and Father are very much like this. You should see their facebook page. It’s anti-Hillary this, anti-dems this… and not just them but gays as well. They don’t even see how much hate they’re spewing, it’s rather toxic. I look at people like that and I just feel bad for them. They’re so radical in their beliefs that they cause harm to other people and are proud to do it. My Aunt is so blinded by her faith and discomfort she doesn’t realize who she is hurting and people like her are very willing to vote our rights away. They can’t see outside of their tunnel vision. The sad reality there are millions of people like that in this country and I think that’s why Trump scares so many of us. He just doesn’t care about other people and people just love that about him. You can take the whole not caring what people think too far, to the point it turns into narcissism.

I still struggle with letting go of the personalizations, especially with my family. My Aunt is nice to my face but then is posting all this hurtful stuff. How does one not get hurt by that? That’s why I just stay away from people like that. It’s not that I don’t agree with her beliefs, which I do, but that she’s so willing to vote away my rights. Marriage equality gives so many LGBTQ people so many rights and it boils down to safety and security. Taking away the right to marry will harm other gay people. Yet people like my Aunt don’t see it this way. They’re so insecure about their faith that they have to prove to the world their way is the only way and they’ll vote for things that prove just that. I love my Aunt and I know underneath she’s a good person but I can’t have that in my life. It’s too painful. So I stay away. It’s just better that way.

I’ve come a long ways and I have further to grow. One day at a time. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading! Huggs

The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

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I’m Unbreakable!

I had a light bulb moment today, rather bright one too. As I was walking home from my appointment this evening I had thought about some of my tough times. Walking for me isn’t easy. I’m 408 pounds (down from at least 425, probably closer to 450) and my knees aren’t in the greatest shape. So anytime I walk it’s rather painful. Often times I have this feeling of that I can’t make it. Feet turn into miles and I get these hallway moments like you see in the movies.

Tonight I pushed through that uncomfortable feeling as I knew I had to walk almost double what I normally do one way. I purposely planned on doing my assessment for therapy and psychiatry services at the end of my appointment to get blood drawn, as I knew I could walk home afterwards. So rather than have the medical transport driver take me home, I had him drop me off at my appointment. Initially I thought about doing on another day, which meant walking there and back. I figured I was less likely to go as the assessment was just a walk in. So having something scheduled would make me complete it. For someone with a mental illness, not having a therapist is problematic. I had struggled to find a place that took my insurance and thankfully my primary care doctor recommended this place.

It wasn’t until after 4pm that I finished the assessment. I hadn’t ate since 10pm last night, so I was starving. So I decided to walk to the Panda Express which I thought was closer than it really was, which made my walk home even longer than I originally anticipated. I will be honest, my first thought was to take the bus home. As I was eating in the nice air conditioned restaurant I saw the bus stop. It was hot out and I really didn’t want to walk home. Well the bus gods were not on my side today, as the last stop had come and gone. So I reluctantly made the truck home. Thankfully I had a soda to keep me refreshed and I just told myself that I would take a lot of breaks. I don’t do very well in the full sun, it drains my energy very quickly. Fat people aren’t meant to be out in the sun, we’re much like vampires.

I normally walk to the local grocery store, well at least the two times I went walking. One way it’s about a half mile if I don’t take any shortcuts and I usually do. Each way I have to take at least two breaks. By the time I’m home I’m usually pretty beat. So going home tonight I had to go twice as far one way. My first thought was take take a bunch of breaks. It helps to make the trip not so daunting but then I saw the time and it was getting close to the time I meet with all my neighbors. We sit around talking about everything. I call it the meeting of the minds. It’s really my highlight of my day. I wake up looking forward to it. I wasn’t going to miss tonight or be late. So I decided that I was going to cut my breaks in half. It was kind of a challenge to see how quickly I could get home. Each stop I barely sat for two minutes and off I went. By the last stop, which was almost 1/4 of the way home, I was exhausted and wanting to quit. That just wasn’t an option for many a reasons. I started to feel defeated again and then I thought about the hard times that I had endured throughout my life.

That’s when the light bulb exploded. Through all the suffering, pain and hard times I was still here. All those moments that I thought I had broken in two were just an illusion. Feeling broken isn’t something new for me but this last time felt definitive. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come back from losing my Mom. It was the ultimate defeat. I thought I was broken for good and I mean completely severed in two broken. Even in the toughest time in my life I was still alive and well, then it dawned on me…

I’m UNBREAKABLE!!!

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It was the greatest energy boost I could get. The rest of the way I just booked it home. It felt like I was running a marathon and was on the last leg to the finish line. I was determined to get home in time for the meeting of the minds and I did. As I made it to the lawn on the comlex I collapsed on the ground and just stared up into the blue sky and felt great. I took a deep breath and got up to go inside. The person I was two months ago would have never went downstairs to do some more walking in order to socialize with others both due to physical and mental reasons but today was different. I took another quick break in front of the chair. I got freshened up, grabbed my lawn chair and my water and I was out the door within ten minutes of getting home.

I made it on time too. We usually meet around 6:30 pm and  that’s when I got there. I was the first one. 7 pm rolled by and I was still alone. Then a few minutes later one of the residents came by and sat with me. I was so relieved. I thought I was going to be alone and that made me sad. When I don’t get to have my visits it’s a major bummer. So we sat and for an hour and talked. It was really nice. It feels great to be apart of the community. This complex I live at is unlike any other apartment complex that I’ve lived in before. Once a week on Tuesdays the complex has a coffee and donuts gathering in the community room at 8:30 AM. I’m not a morning person at all so today was the first day I was able to get up in time to make it, which was torture seeing all those donuts and not be able to eat them due to my lab appointment at 2 PM. So I took two of them home. It took all the willpower I had to not eat them. I put them aside and took a quick nap before my appointment.

All I could think about today was getting to have a donut. I wasn’t thinking about not being able to eat until evening when I scheduled my ride for so late in the afternoon. So I was starving. Finally after a long, productive day I was able to eat my donut at 8 PM and it was delicious! This football shaped long john donut felt like the reward from my marathon win and I enjoyed it.

Back to being unbreakable. Yes, I’m long winded, this I know. It was a huge revelation to have. This week hasn’t been very easy, well since Friday. Honestly it’s probably been the toughest few weeks in regards to my mental health since 2005. For a survivor of sexual abuse and one that has PTSD having flashbacks is a very common thing. As common they are each one is just as unsettling and jarring as the last one. Last Friday was the four year anniversary of my Mom’s death. Not thinking about what day it was I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day but I didn’t think about it until I was in room waiting for the doctor. Each minute that passed that room began to turn into my Mother’s hospital room. Even the nurses desk reminded me of the nurses station in the ICU unit my Mom was in.

September 9, 2012 was the day a hole was punched through my heart. I spent the last 21 days in her ICU room, rarely did I leave the room. I slept on the small couch in her ICU room, well slept isn’t really what it should be called. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with a loved one in a hospital room knows what it’s like. Still to this day hearing the beeps from the machines send me panicking. The day she died was the worst day in my life. It was also the scariest and most alone day too. She had a rare form of Cancer and we had to travel to Nashville for anyone to help her, which was over nine hours from home in Michigan.

My Mom had stabilized and things weren’t looking good but we still had hope. My sister had just left to go home for a few days as the kids were starting school. Her stats has improved slightly.  There was no indication that things would go the way they did. She was stable and we held onto hope that she would recover. The next day I was awoken to my Mom being surrounded by Doctors, nurses and medical staff. Her one good lung (and that wasn’t the greatest) had collapsed and they had to put in an emergency tube into her chest to inflate the lung again. I was rushed out of the room not really knowing what was going on. They finally were able to stabilize her and I was relieved.

The next morning at 5AM I was awoken again to her being surrounded. This time things were much worse. Her kidneys were failing. They told me that they were going to put her on dialysis and that if things didn’t improve in four hours that she wasn’t going to make it. Again I was in shock but I held onto hope. Four hours passed and she didn’t improved. There was nothing more that they could do and wasn’t sure how much longer she’d live. Here I was in a foreign city, alone and eight hours away from home and everyone I loved. I never felt so hopeless and alone. I had no one to turn to. No one to help me. Normally my Mother was the person I ran to when I needed help and this time the woman who was always there for me was dying in front of me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. I sat behind the nurses station in shock. I felt like I was five years old again. My Mom’s last 21 days of her life she was on a breath machine so she was never awake after she went in for surgery. Never did we think that the words she spoke when she was taken in for her second surgery would be her last but they were. I wish I remember what she said…

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The last moments of her life was probably the most peaceful moment in my life. When she was taken off life support there was no movement or even a gasp. She laid there still as I watched her flatline. It wasn’t like you see in the movies. It felt like I could feel every last heartbeat. It was slow, almost eurythmic. She was gone. I felt so horrible for my sister who didn’t make it back in time before she died. Call it plausible deniability but up until the last hour of her life I still had so much hope. It never dawned on me that she could die from the surgery. I’m the biggest fear of death and I thought it would have come up prior but it didn’t. We anticipated a long road of recovery for my Mom but that wasn’t the case.

The next day we left Nashville but my heart/soul stayed in that hospital room. For over a year I spent every day in that room. I could close my eyes and I would end up back in that room. Even sleeping I would still be in that room. I almost thought I was never going to find a way out but eventually one of the doors was a way out. I was constantly in a flashback. Things got so bad that I had to be hospitalized and that helped me out of that room through therapy and medicine. I’ve worked very hard to stay out of that room and it’s been one of the toughest things for me. PTSD wasn’t something new as I have it with the abuse but this time it almost did me in… but it didn’t. I have spent a good portion of my adult life in and out of the hospital with depression and the PTSD but this time seemed final.

I thought I was broken for good and no amount of tape would put his humpty dumpty back together. I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be fully there for the rest of my life. I had gave up and didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to die anymore but I didn’t want to live either. So for almost three years I was a zombie. I lived in the land of the inbetweens. This year has been quite different (some by force) as I have this resolve and determination that I haven’t had before. A kind of fuck this shit attitude and I don’t mean the kind that you just don’t care about anything. The kind that you do care so much that you’re not willing to put up with the shit you use to. I’ve done my fair share of settling. I guess that’s what I was, I was settled into the fact that I was going to be half a person for the rest of my life.

Well not anymore. I have this willpower that’s intoxicating. I feel like I have on these boxing gloves that won’t come off. I’m kicking butt and taking names. I’m determined to build a better life for myself. A world with stability built on a solid foundation. So tonight I was reminded of all this. Through so many hard moments I was still alive and well, and still kicking. All this time I thought it had KO’ed me but it didn’t… not even close. I didn’t realize this until tonight as I was hot and tired, feeling like I was going to give up. I thought about my current pain and the pain I’ve endured the past thirty years and it didn’t even measure up to what I’ve went through.

I’ve been kicked down so many times, treated poorly and told I was worthless. For thirty years I’ve listened and took it to heart. I’ve believed everyone who has hurt me especially the ones who were suppose to love and protect me. I thought they didn’t love me because I was lacking something but all this time it was them and not me. These moments, those teardrops were all a reflection of them and who they were as a person. They were the ones who were without.

So Friday was a really tough day. I was stuck in this hospital room in a PTSD bubble. I was in full trigger mode. I could feel myself floating out of the room. I wanted to run as fast I could but I had the strength of mind to know that I needed to stay there in order to get the help I needed. So I pushed through. I was put through even more obstacles with the new doctor as he didn’t have the greatest bedside manner. I was already out of the room by that moment and I could feel myself go further away. I started to do some grounding exercises. I started to tap my leg repeatedly so fast it felt like I was in the middle of Kentucky Derby. Thankfully the student doctor was a woman and was very kind. She helped me gain exposure. I was in the middle of a major panic attack, probably the worst one in ten years. Panic attacks weren’t something new to me, as I have had them throughout different times in my life. Though up until a few months ago I hadn’t had one in a very long time. That was part of the reason I was there to see the doctor was for my anxiety. I had started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. Every bad moment in my life was being played back like I was in a movie theatre full of people.

Not only did I push through, I stood up for myself… which hasn’t always been my strong suit. I will take care and advocate fiercely for other people but my own. The Doctor was dangerously uninformed with the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS. He had referred to being negative as being clean… which is a huge NO NO as it’s deeply degrading. You get clean in a shower, not when you’re negative. I let him have it and I even wrote a complaint on the organization’s website. He was also very uninformed with the drug PrEP. It’s sad when the patient knows more about something than the doctor. I had also been fasting as I was hoping to get a glucose test completed because I’m prediabetic. My appointment was at 2:30pm and the doctor didn’t even get in my room until 4pm. So I had waited almost an hour in that room, in a panic attack and deep in a PTSD cycle. It was tough but I did. They kept me waiting so long that I missed the lab hours by thirty minutes as I didn’t get out until after 5pm. So I had fasted for nothing. I was triggered, angry and starving but I didn’t let it defeat me. I just pushed on and did what I had to do. That’s what I’ve always done. I might not be good at many things but I’m an expert at surviving.

Usually when I have a PTSD episode it can take me a week to come out of it but that night I was outside sitting with the residents like nothing had happen. That was new for me and it felt great. I still wasn’t close to 100% but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my nightly visits with the round table, that’s what I call it. While I was aware of a lot that day it didn’t dawn on me that I was still full in the PTSD cycle. When I’m triggered friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. Nothing and no one is safe. It’s like living in a war zone. It’s a horrible place to be. I have had episodes where I have hid underneath my desk at work, or barricaded my door.

Writing for me has always been a great release. It’s like journaling for me. Often times I don’t have anyone to talk to, so blogging helps with that. Therapy is the one time I have to talk and I don’t have that right now. Hopefully that will change soon as I did the assessment today and have the intake on Thursday. As I had said previously lately I’ve been having flashbacks about everything including the sexual abuse. The last ten years the sexual abuse hasn’t been on the forefront of my problems. I knew the pain was still there but it didn’t cause me a lot of problems, well at least not indirectly or at least I thought. Recently I’ve realized that monster has always been there, it was the puppet master directing me all this time. For the past ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse in detail. I could tell people it happened but I couldn’t go into detail it was just too hard. My latest therapist I saw her for one and half years and I never went into detail with her. Trust is huge when dealing with sexual abuse and that takes a long while.

Here’s the thing about trauma and pain, no matter how hard you try to hide it eventually the pain will seep through the cracks. My latest living situation reminded me of some bad times in my life, the early years. So it has triggered the sexual abuse, the mental abuse from my father and the loss of my Mom, and everything hurt in between. As I was writing my last post I began to open the gate and I was flooded by emotion. It felt like I was drowning.

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Very quickly my room turned into the room where I was molested. I was transported back to that time, very much like the other world in Stranger Things except the monster was my cousin. There was no escaping him and when I returned home just like Will I was never the same. So at 5am Monday morning I was back at that cabin on Long Lake in Michigan in the year 1986. I relived every scary, dirty moment. I mean everything. It was like it was happening for the first time. I reached out and could touch the walls. The other times I’ve been so triggered it ended with me being hospitalized. I was almost there but again I pushed through. The next day I felt horrible I didn’t end up getting to bed until noon but I made sure to wake up for my nightly visits with my neighbors. Again I pushed through the pain. It was tough to push through and remind myself that these people weren’t strangers, out to hurt me but I did it!

In the past, after a major PTSD episode I withdraw from everything and everyone. There have been times that I haven’t left the house for weeks. Everything goes downhill. I stop caring about anything including my personal grooming habits. I become more depressed until it gets so severe it snaps me out of it. That’s the worse thing about PTSD often times you don’t realize you’ve been triggered until weeks later. The last bad episode in May of 2013 I was in the middle of a month long trigger and I almost killed myself but yesterday was different. The past two months no matter what’s been thrown at me I’ve dodged every attack and jumped every hurdle. The more that’s thrown at me the stronger and more willful I become.

Tonight I was able to look back at the past four days and see all the strength in between all the bad moments. It’s never been not being strong enough. It’s always been not realizing how strong I really am. Looking back I just saw how strong I always was. I wasn’t the shadow, I was the tree… strong rooted in the earth and fuck anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I don’t believe them anymore. Thirty years of deep suffering and pain, and I’m stronger than ever! It’s taken thirty years to discover that I’m UNBREAKABLE!!! So watch out world, I’m coming for you.

I will do what I’ve always done, get shit done. So if you try to stand in my way I’m just going to jump right over you. Obstacles don’t have a hold of me anymore. It’s not to say that tomorrow isn’t going to be easy because I know that healing takes a lot of hard work. Setbacks are normal and expected but the key is to get back up. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, just as long as you keep doing it you will be golden. It would be nice if I could say tomorrow won’t be as hard as the last but I know that’s not how life works. I have to open back the wounds and heal some more. To get to where you need to go sometimes you have to travel back through the place that scares you the most. I think it’s important to remember that no matter what you endure in the future you’ll never be back to that moment in time. It might feel like you’re stuck in the past but really that’s just a lie. Nothing can hurt me any more deeply than losing my Mom and the abuse did. The flashbacks are bound to happen again and it might be just as severe if not more but I now realize that I have the tools to fight them. I have my sword and shield to battle all the demons. Plus I have my Mom who is now my guardian angel.

So the moral of the story is we’re much stronger than we realize. We wouldn’t have gotten this far if we weren’t. Surviving is the hardest thing in this world to do and once you’ve done enough of it you become a warrior. We are warriors. I’m ready for wherever the universe wants to take me and I will do whatever I have to in order to be happy. Everyone deserves that.

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Escaping the Lion Den

TRIGGER WARNING for those survivors of sexual abuse/assault I talk about my childhood sexual abuse in detail. I also talk about sex in general, so if that makes you feel uncomfortable you might not want to read any further… 

 

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As I listen to Sia’s new song, “The Greatest.” I thought about how I felt yesterday. A prisoner of the sexual abuse. For too long I’ve been a prisoner of something that I didn’t do. It might have happened 30 years ago but I’m still chained to that cement block deep within the pits of hell. Stuck in the lion’s den waiting for it to clinch its sharp teeth into my flesh, ripping me from limb to limb.

I find myself in these situations where I do things that I don’t like. I force myself to do them. I wondered why that is? What is it about myself that I put myself in situations that are ugly or at least feel ugly. I’ve really tried to dissect the reasoning behind it. Yesterday was one of those days. It’s like I relive those days over and over. Am I trying to control the past? Do I think I can fix it? It’s not something you can fix. My mind knows this but my heart doesn’t.

Maybe the why’s don’t matter but I’d like some insight in order to gain will power. I don’t like to be in those situations. It’s pretty common for sexual abuse survivors to have a complicated and complex sexuality, especially if it happens when you’re a child and/or teenager. It’s especially complex if you’re in the middle of puberty. The abuse becomes hardwired into the person you’re blossoming into. So by the time you hit adulthood you’ve based your world on a lie. That you’re worthless and an object for men to use and abuse… however they see fit. You don’t matter. As an I adult I know that’s a lie but as a child I didn’t. I created a universe where I wasn’t worthy of love both platonic and romantic.

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For a good thirty years I’ve let the abuse weigh me down. I’ve become a prisoner to it. The abuse metaphorises into various aspects of my left. I’ve settled so many times that I built a house upon that shaky foundation. A house filled with bars and no doors. A deep pit with no way out. Life has always been complicated for me. I’ve struggled more times than not. Until recently I was bogged down by it all. Tonight I started to go down that road by thinking something negative. This time it was I can’t do this but before I could even finish the sentence I stopped myself. Not today Satan I said. I can listen to those voices anymore. They’ve always led me wrong.

This certainly hasn’t been the first time in my life that I’ve struggled but I’ve noticed this conviction that I didn’t see before. A kind of fuck it attitude. When you stop giving a shit (about the bad stuff and the people hurt you) you release their control on you. So when a new hurdle is thrown at me I clear it easily. Each climb up the mountain I become stronger. Nothing or no one will keep me down. I haven’t always felt that way.

Coping skills are something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always had the toolbox but I didn’t believe I deserved to use them. If you’ve been put through enough in your life you eventually have this WTF moment and say wait a minute. I don’t deserve this. It’s when you become so miserable that you can’t stand yourself. In the past when someone hurt me I would take it personal like it was reflection of who I was and my loveability.

The sexual abuse was the first time I personalized something that someone else did to me. It wasn’t my choice. Being gay and a sexual abuse survivor also presents many complications especially if you’re love life has mirrored that first violent act. Being a victim and an object became apart of my personality. It taught me to give myself to those who don’t deserve it. So it’s not surprising that I’ve gravitated towards those are unworthy of my love and attention.

Acting out sexually isn’t something new for me. I went through a very dark period of my life where I was very sexually promiscuous. Sex became a compulsion. I can remember exactly when I started to go down that dark path. I had fell in love with this man who just used me for sex and put me in harms way. I stayed with him even afterwards thinking I could get him to love me and it never happened. That act reinforced the abuse. When you’re gay and your abuser is also a male it really fucks you up. Love and sex are cemented together. You’re first rejection is your abuser, or at least it was for me. He groomed me to fall in love with him then when I was hooked he rejected me in a violent way. I still have the scars.

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I was forced into puberty before I was ready. It was a violent non-violent act. I guess in a way I was raped. Wow, I had never thought about being forced into puberty. I was ten years old if that. I didn’t even know what sex was let alone an ejactulation. Back then parents didn’t have those kind of conversations about the birds and the bees or at least not that early. I didn’t have the luxury of time. I still remember the first night and the pain I felt. Becoming a man is a right of passage but when the first time is forced upon you then it becomes a nightmare. Prior to that night I never had any sexual feelings whatsoever.

You can imagine not knowing what was happening to your body. I thought I was dying. I wasn’t allowed to have self exploration to decide what I liked and didn’t. Actions turned into words, words into feelings. After he was done.  I waited for him to fall asleep then I went into the shower and tried to scrub the dirtiness off. While I didn’t know what happened I knew it was wrong. There wasn’t enough soup in the world to wash away the shame. I finally gave up and went back into the lion’s den, the bed we were sharing.

You might be asking yourself why would he go back to that bed??? I’ve asked myself that a million times. After I got out of the shower I went towards the room my parents were sleeping. I even went up to their door to knock but I stopped myself. I thought they’d never believe me that my male cousin did what he did. I didn’t even know how to put into words what happen. My family had a tendency to not believe when I told them something, so I thought why would this be any different?

Actually I skipped a step. I didn’t go back into that room right away. I went to sleep on the couch in the cabin we were staying at. Every year my whole family would go on vacation up north in Michigan. Sometimes we would share a cabin. This summer was one of those occasions so that meant kids sharing beds. I can remember that cabin very distinctly like I was just there. Everything from the hallways to the kitchen. I can close my eyes and I’m there. The room especially I remember. It’s probably because that’s what I concentrated on when it was happening. I hid underneath my pillow praying for someone to rescue me but no one came to save me. I remember this small window with white sheer curtains. I can feel how rough the knotted wood walls were. I can see the upright small shower with my tears in the drain. I see it all.

 

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This isn’t the sofa but it’s close. It was firm and not comfortable at all. It has that weird pattern that a lot of furniture had in the 80’s.

I remember the color, pattern and feel of the couch I laid on until sunrise. As to not be suspicious I went back to the monster bed. I had no excuses to give whey I was sleeping on the couch. I woke up like nothing happened but it had. My soul was forever altered. While I remember everything about that night I don’t even remember what happened thereafter. Well until the next night when I had to go back into the lion’s den. I knew my parents would question why I didn’t want to sleep in that bed so I went back. I had thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. It was like that night was on repeat. I would lay down pretending to sleep, hiding in my pillow and it would happen.

Again I’d wait until he was sound asleep. I would quietly sneak away like a mouse to try to shower off the filth so much that it burned. I would lay back down on that couch letting my tears turn into rain. Somehow I knew when to wake up in time to go back to that room. After that night I lost track of when the abuse stopped. Sometime in the week, as our vacations only lasted a week. Each night I would repeat the steps until they became an instructional manual of who I was.

I hid that secrets for over three years. I told a good friend when I was in 8th grade for the first time. I didn’t tell anyone else until I graduated High School in 1995, seven years later.

The bed is suppose to be a sanctuary of rest and relaxation but for a sexual abuse survivor who was assaulted in their bed that turns into hell.

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Thirty years and it just dawned on me that I’m still doing the same thing. I keep going back into the lion’s den because that was what I was taught to do. Yesterday as I was in the middle of a sex act I looked at the person and thought this wasn’t what I wanted. I thought to myself what in the world was I doing. My mind knew this was harmful but I keep doing it. I would initiate the victimization that I was doing to myself. I’ve been reliving that night over and over for the past thirty years.

For the past four years I wanted very little to do with sex. I was rather repulsed by it most the time. I either go from not wanting to be touched to wanting to have sex all the time. There are no inbetweens. Now that I live in place where I can have people over I have the opportunity to act out. Loneliness leads to desperation which leads to sex and usually bad feelings. A good portion of my sexual experiences I’ve showered afterwards just like I did that week. Each time it would never wash away the shame, guilt or dirtiness of it all. More than half the sexual partners I’ve had I haven’t enjoyed nor found the person attractive. I would get myself in the situation and want out but didn’t feel obligated to end it. So I gave the person what they wanted. For a long while I was always in control with the sex but I was still the victim. Two tortured souls using each other. It was still doing the same thing. Repeating the abuse over and over until it resulted into bloodshed.

While I’m not in full sexual compulsion I’m on the outer edge and that frightens me. Those days were some of my darkest. During 2004-2005 most sex acts ended in me being suicidal, and in two circumstances ended with me being hospitalized. I was self destructing in the way of unprotected sex and useless sex. I was giving guys what they wanted. I thought if someone I love was going to use me I might as well be the one giving it away, then no one could take it away from me again but that’s just as harmful… giving it up.

I’m still giving it up. Giving the person what they wanted even if it means harm to me. It usually means giving the person what they wanted in them wanting to get used. I become the monster in their nightmare but they don’t even realize that it’s a nightmare as it masks itself as a wet dream. So many gay men have been hurt and are reliving it daily. So desperate for love that they resort to the next best thing which isn’t.

Love for a survivor is also complicated because at an early age you get an altered view of what love is. I became attached to my abuser so much that I would find myself trying to get myself in the same situation that caused me so much pain. So not only do you have the shame of the abuse happening but the shame of enjoying parts of it. The sexual abuse was all I knew about sex, so therefor I thought that’s what love was. So I wanted the attention and affection that went along with it. I went from complete agony from what happened for the first year to fantasizing about it when I truly hit puberty. I wasn’t allowed to fantasize about the things gay youth do both because of the abuse and being in a homophobic family. So all I had to go by what happened to me. So that just added to the shame. How could I fantasize about something that destroyed me.

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I was a child I didn’t know better. I was groomed to behave the way I did. Even when I grew into my teenage years I still didn’t have sexual feelings for either of the opposite sex, other than my abuser. Each time I would you know what I would feel the same kind of shame and dirtiness I felt when the abuse happened. Each time I prayed to God saying I wouldn’t do it anymore and I would always fail. I took the blame right away when it wasn’t mine to carry. As I grew older the shame and guilt grew with me. It wasn’t until 2000 until I started to deal with the abuse deeply. It was during this time that I began to realize that I wasn’t to blame.

It wasn’t then that I came out about the second part of the abuse where I’d go out looking for it. That I had never told anyone. For many years I harbored so much shame and felt like I was the monster because I wanted it. The first time I tried to get in the same situation with my cousin was when we were a few years older. Our families were on vacation together, this time everyone had their own separate cabins. I desperately tried to find a reason to sleep in the same bed as him. I don’t know how I did it but I did. All I wanted was to be close to him. I wasn’t really prepared for what happened next. Again I woke to him pleasuring me but this time orally. Again I didn’t know what in the world he was doing. I didn’t know what oral sex was. I tried to get him off of me but he wouldn’t budge. Again I was scared until ejaculation happened then it was this intense pleasure.

The next day I felt the shame. I was for sure that I had AIDS, that’s how misinformed I was about sex. I mean I thought people had babies by touching feet for the longest time. I didn’t know any better. I would continue to get myself in similar situations the next year or so. Situations where he’d pretend to be sleeping and he’d perform oral on me. I didn’t realize until an adult that he wasn’t sleeping. All that time I thought I was forcing myself onto him. It wasn’t until my therapist told me that you can perform oral when you’re sleeping. I really thought he was. The first time it happened I didn’t initiate it at all, he did it all on his own doing but after that I was the pursuer. I held a great amount of shame and guilt for that part, I still do.

Once he started High School he was done with me. It was the first time I had my heart broken, how fucked up is that? He got me hooked then he threw me away as I was nothing. I was nothing. What pleasure I had went away very quickly, after the rejection. The personalization of the event grew deeper as I was forced to live in his shadow. Chad was the star of the family and our High School. All the girls wanted him and all the boys wanted to be like him. To my family he could do no wrong. He lived with my grandmother down the street from me. My grandmother didn’t drive so my Mom drove him to wherever he wanted to. It killed me seeing how my own parents were with him. I grew up thinking they loved him more than me. Eventually I believed they didn’t love me at all. That they’d rather have him as a son than me. I barely could get the attention I so desperately needed from my own Father yet my abuser earned it freely from my Father. I wasn’t like my Father at all. I didn’t hunt nor did I play sports but my he did. I cried myself so many nights feeling unloved.

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Growing up I was always bullied, especially on the bus. It was like I was his property coming to my aid but then turning it back towards me. It was like he didn’t want anyone bullying me but him. He had this cocky, better than though attitude. I remember one day he noticed that my fingernails were growing out a bit and he scolded me for not cutting them. To this day if anyone says anything similiar to me I get triggered horribly. I always worry people are judging me on whether my fingernails or toenails are too long. Just yesterday I was hiding my feet from my neighbors as we sat besides the pool talking. They weren’t even that long but they were long enough for me to be embarrassed. That’s how an abuser gets inside your head. No matter how hard you try to untangle the wires inside your mind you always get trapped in them.

I had started to discover that I was gay in my junior year of High School. I didn’t know my attraction towards other men meant I was gay. I remember finding a straight porn advertisement pamphlet on the street and getting excited by the men in it. After then I would try to find anything with naked men in it. I would find the artistic male model magazines in bookstores like Barnes and Noble and stare at their bodies. I was fascinated with their figures and it wasn’t quite sexual feelings. I didn’t really start having those until I was in my 20’s. I would call these party chat lines and listen to the guys talk. I found comfort in hearing their voices and again it wasn’t sexual for me. I longed for the affection again.

Eventually I couldn’t take the lying, hiding and being something I wasn’t. My Mom found the numbers of the chat lines. I remember she confronted me about them before our trip to Disney. She asked me what the numbers were and I acted like I didn’t know. She dropped the issue and I had thought she had forgot about it until we got back from Disney. She confronted me and asked me if I was gay. At that time I didn’t even know that I was so I said no. I then pretended to be confused about girls, which I had never any thoughts about girls in that way but to get her off my back I acted like I was insecure with them. I remember one night pretending to go on a date with a female classmate as a cover. Instead I went to a 50’s restaurant by myself.

The following year my Mom would ask me about how things were going on the girl front and I pretended to like one of my good friends. When I graduated High School I used the money I received from my open house to buy a computer. Living in a rural area I wasn’t exposed to much culture or anyone like me. Being able to get online opened me to a brand new world full of people just like me. It was then when I realized that I was gay. I was also able to find support with other male survivors. I remember this one penpal I had who I had a huge crush on. I never saw his picture but I still remember how his letters made me feel. Finally I was talking with others who had experienced the same thing as me. Up until that time I thought I was alone.

Well my parents began to question why I was online all the time. Again I was confronted with questions this time more sternly. I couldn’t take it anymore and burst out that I was gay and had been molested. The dam had broke and the emotions flooded out. Well that didn’t go well at all. The abuse to a backseat to being gay. I had my internet took away, including my phone. I was forced into isolation and I was shut out of the new world. Shunned, scared and alone. That event just reinforced what I had felt the four years prior with my parents not loving me. I was treated horribly and shunned for who I loved. I was told the friends that I had made online weren’t going to be there for me when I was dying from AIDS in the hospital all alone. My father also told me that I had always wanted to lose weight and that I would by getting AIDS. I was called abnormal. Told I was going to hell. My mother cried for weeks.

If I hadn’t been fully broken that ripped me in half. 

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Originally I wouldn’t tell my Mom who it was that abused me. The next day she forced it out of me. While my Mom wasn’t supportive of me being gay she was finally with the abuse. My Father was a different story. The day after telling them what my cousin did my Father went hunting with him. When my Father returned he saw how upset I was and he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. I still remember that moment as it happened today. It still hurts me just the same. Twenty years and it still pierces my skin, cutting me to the core.

Coming out about the abuse I became an outcast in my extended family. I was the black sheep. In our family we didn’t talk about the sexual abuse that happened to most of the cousins in my family and we had a big family. The adults let the monster walk around in open like nothing had ever happened. My cousin wasn’t the monster. The mastermind of all the abuse was one of my older cousins. Who molested most of the cousins except me. Everyone knew what he did but they did nothing!!! They let him come to family functions and he paraded around like he was the shit. The one other time that someone spoke out about the abuse was my Mother years before I did. She confronted my Aunt (his mother) with what he did to my sister. My Aunt wouldn’t talk to my Mom for over a year afterwards.

Being gay was worse than being a child molester in my family. Now that’s fucked up but that was my reality but I couldn’t hide anymore so I had to live as lepar. It was my cross to bear and they nailed me to the cross. I was the monster for speaking out. How dare I bring shame to the family. I was suppose to be a good little boy and sweep it underneath the rug. My worst fears came true as many didn’t believe me. How could our poster boy for perfection do something like that. I must be lying. My relationship with my Grandmother ended as well and she cut me out. She was another person who was suppose to love me and treated me horribly. My Aunt laughed it off as boys will be boys, like we were playing in a fucking sandbox. What the fuck does that means??? I still can’t figure it out. Child Molesters are okay but being a democrat you’re the evil one to her. You should see her facebook wall littered with so much negativity it would turn Mother Teresa into a sinner.

I finally have the strength to realize that they’re the ones with the issue but it still hurts like hell. Even tonight I started to go down that road looking at her wall. I quickly closed out of the browser saying to myself that was all her, and had nothing to do with me. It felt good to be able to say that. My Father is the same way. It’s hate this and that. How can people live their lives like that. I don’t know how they sleep at night.

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Whenever one of the hurt souls tries to swim to swim to the surface towards the light all the other hurt souls desperately try to pull you back under. They don’t want you opening your wound as they fear they will have to open theirs. That’s how my family treated me. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else. They had to suffer in silence so why couldn’t I?

I use to hate my cousin. I still don’t like hearing his name, nor do I like seeing it written out. I avoid anyone with that name. I don’t trust them. I’ve forgiven his boy self but I’ve struggled to figure who he is as an adult. I realize that he was groomed as well by the main perp. Who still to this day has never had to pay for his violent sins. He destroyed so many lives. I blame the adults of the family just as much. I now blame him for my pain. I still have so much anger. I’ve let go of a lot of it but it still poisoned my blood. Another thing I need to work through.

All these things just reinforced that I was worthless, unloveable and an object. It also told me that I didn’t deserve anything good or pure. They taught me that I deserved less. When you are forced to live in hell you believe that’s all that’s out there. Everything is scary.

So I continued to search for others like the ones who caused me harm. Dating was no different. I went for the guys who were emotionally unavailable who discarded me when they were done, much like my cousin. I was rejected by most of the gay population for being fat and those who did find me attractive only wanted me for my body. Neither wanted me for my heart and soul. It slowly ate away at my soul until I had very left to give. Just lay there and take it. That’s all you’re good for. So I gave the men what they wanted.

I still find myself falling into that trap both inside and outside the bedroom. I don’t think I ever had stability in my life. I can’t run any longer as I’m too old and worn out. I’m so desperate for stability I can taste it. I’m tired of settling but growth takes time. You don’t build a world on lies then expect the new world to grow overnight. It doesn’t work that way.

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Lately my current living situation has mirrored many things in my life both with the sexual abuse and the dysfunctional dynamic at home. So much I’ve started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. It jars you, no matter how many times it happens. In a matter moments you’re transported back to that time and place. You can feel, hear and smell how everything was. Just a little bit ago I could smell the cologne my cousin use to wear. It was strong and unsettling.

You can’t control flashbacks, they just happen like dreams in the middle of the night. Last night was the worst flashback I’ve had in over ten years. The last time I had a flashback(s) this intense it sent me to the hospital. Thankfully this time it didn’t but it felt like I was close. I’m fearful that they’ll continue to grow. All I can do is wait at the battle line with my sword and shield. Flashbacks are very much like a battle in war. When the bomb is detonated you’re left to pick up the pieces and it can take days, sometimes weeks to adjust.

The sexual abuse hasn’t always affected me so deeply. I’ve gone periods where the beast was hibernating. While it didn’t affect me directly it was behind everything that caused me pain. It was the monster pulling my strings. The last ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse at all. Even in therapy recently it was a subject that was off limits for me. I could say it happened but I couldn’t give any details about it. This is the first time in ten years that I have opened the wound back up. Tonight was a sign that I have more work to do. I’ve uncovered a big heap of pain.

Now I see why I continue to lay down in the lion pit. It was how I was trained to be. I was told that I was meant to be torn apart by the lion. I was the meat, the prey. Well fuck that. I refuse to lie down any longer. The next time the lion comes to rip me apart I’m going to take my sword and pierce it’s heart.

“I’ve got stamina. 

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier”

derekredhair

If you’re a male survivor there is a great website for help/support:

http://www.discussion.malesurvivor.org/board/ubbthreads.php?ubb=cfrm

Support for sexual assault survivors (I’ve never used any of the websites below but found them on google and thought I’d share in case they’re helpful to someone). I wish I had a recommended site for Women. If anyone knows of one leave me a comment.

https://www.rainn.org/

http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/

http://overcomingsexualabuse.com/

http://www.aftersilence.org/forum/index.php

and a list of recommended books:

http://www.pandys.org/recommendedreading.html

You’re not alone. There’s a huge network of survivors in this world who know what you’re going through.

If you feel unsafe please consider calling The National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

1-800-273-TALK (8255) , 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/