13 Reasons Why It’s Not About Wanting to Die

****Warning this post is in regards to suicide****

There is still so much stigma related to suicide. It’s a taboo subject that we only talk about when someone commits suicide. Even then there’s a set time allowed that it’s okay to talk about it and it’s never about spreading awareness or helping those in need. It’s the typical response. I didn’t know or I wish they would have asked for help. I find it interesting when people at like there were no signs. That just isn’t the truth. There are many signs but we just have to pay attention. That’s what stigma does it blinds everyone to the facts and it keeps those with mental illness from asking for help. There are always warning signs. I don’t believe that the reason for choosing suicide has anything about wanting to die. It’s about alleviating the pain and suffering that you’ve lived a lifetime being tortured with.

I can’t speak for everyone but I have a feeling that this might be true for many, it’s never been about me wanting to die. In reality death frightens me. You can imagine if I’m choosing something that scares the shit out of me, then I’m desperate and serious. People don’t want to see the things they aren’t prepared for. Others wish away other’s troubles because if it’s out of sight, then it’s out of their mind. I don’t want to die. I just want the suffering to end. I have lived nearly 30 years with depression. Eventually after years of battling your mental illness you start to give up. You learn to exist in a world who doesn’t know you are there. You float as if you’ve become the ghost of your past.

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Last month I was the closest that I had ever been to killing myself. Suicidal idealization is very common for me. It’s one of my biggest coping mechanisms to know that I have an option and I don’t have to suffer for the rest of my life. Eventually idealizations turn into plans and finally into action. After my Mom died in 2012, I lost one of my main reasons for living. She was my light and my rock. No matter what she was always there for me. We didn’t have a perfect relationship but I knew she loved me deeply. My family use to be my light but that light has pretty much been extinguished. My Mom dying broke our family apart and no one has ever been the same since.

In the past, when I got very suicidal I had a reason to stay. My pain and suffering meant something. At least at the end of the day I knew my family would be there for me and I would get to see them often. Now I rarely talk to anyone. It’s no fault to anyone, it’s just life. I’m floating out into outer space currently and I don’t have anything to tether me to a planet. At this point I would take the moon.

I wish I could show people what depression is like. How dark and lonely it gets. How it affects everything in your world. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, deep down to your spirit and soul. Since I was 15, I have spent my life in depression. I have what they call dysthymia, which is also referred to Persistent Depressive Disorder. Basically there isn’t a time when I don’t have some sort of depression. Meaning my baseline for your typical mood isn’t where most are. I have cycled in and out of dysthymia into a major depression, for as long as I can remember. Since 2012, I’ve mostly been living in a major depressive episode. This is the first time that I haven’t bounced back from a depressive breakdown.

I think if people realized how painful depression is and how little relief is out there, others would take those with mental illness serious. At the very least they wouldn’t judge and treat us poorly. So many push those people with mental illness further down the stairs. We live in a world where kicking someone when they are already down has become a fad. Just look at how society treats the homeless. Many of the homeless have mental illness.

Like I said there are always warning signs. Maybe they’re not obvious but if you pay attention you will see them clearly. The supposed sane people fault those with mental illness for not asking help. They don’t even have a clue that they have probably have been but haven’t been able to verbalize it. They ask for help when they start to isolate. You will start to cancel appointments, including spending time with friends and family. You stop communicating like you used to. You leave your apartment messy or spend days in bed. You starve yourself because you don’t feel like putting the effort into making something. You don’t shower or brush your teeth for weeks at a time.

So many friends and family do know that their loved ones have a disease but they don’t believe that mental illness is real. They believe it’s an old wives tale. So when they see the signs above they often times will lash out on the person struggling. People do that out of fear. They feel helpless to fix the person and they end up doing more harm than good. There is this false narrative that you have to answers when someone needs help. Personally I don’t want my problems solved. If it were that easy I would been cured by now. I just want someone to be there with me. I want to feel a little less lonely in my dark and scary world. If you see someone you love struggling just sit next to them. You don’t have to say a word. Others worry about saying the wrong thing so they avoid the person. I saw that when my Mom got cancer. I can tell you that we’d rather you fumble on your words than to ignore us and pretend that we aren’t suffering. That really feels good.

This stigma leads people to suffer in silence. Just look at Robin Williams. He was the funniest man alive and there was darkness behind the laughter. You would be surprised how many people do have some sort of mental illness, many have multiple diagnoses. A lot of the time one leads to the other, like with my PTSD, depression and anxiety.

The only other way people deal with those who are suicidal is to freak out. I get it, suicide is a touch subject but it’s not any tougher than the person wanting to commit it. Thinking about it this way. What you do or say could be the difference between being alive and dying. All it takes is one person, one act of kindness to make a difference in someone’s life. I don’t believe people just snap. There are always things that lead up to the suicide attempt. People don’t always respond to trouble in the same way. Not everyone is showing signs of drowning. Some people sink right to the bottom of the ocean.

I have always been open with my struggles and I have been judged greatly by some of my family. It’s a shame to the family to talk so openly about my problems. I need to be like everyone else. Pretend that I’m okay and be a functioning member of society. My aunts want to act like they are concerned about me when they’re only gossiping about me behind my back. Never once have they reached out for support. Instead they go to my grandmother who confronts me on the subject. Telling me that I’m not an inspiration to anyone for sharing my demons. Well fuck that. My message is not for them. It’s in a language that they don’t speak or comprehend. They think I’m a bird but I’m a fish. I will never fly and I’m perfectly okay with that nowadays. It’s this kind of stigma that keeps those who suffer from getting help. This is a very common reaction for families and friends. A while ago I saw a meme about about two brothers, one who killed himself. The one brother was in denial and pushed away the other bothers pain. Pretended it didn’t exist. No one believed him so he killed himself. People kill themselves because they have no other choice for relief. It’s not been their first thought or plan, or even attempt. They’ve tried a million different ways to heal. They’ve hit their head so often on the pavement that they are brain dead. All they can see and feel is the pain.

Now some would argue that there is always a choice. Mental illness isn’t a choice and suicide is one major symptom of the disease. What is a choice is how you respond to a loved one who is struggling. Will you offer support and be there for them consistently? So many people with mental illness have isolated themselves away from everything. For example, rarely do I leave my apartment. I don’t have too many friends and the ones I have are busy. Which is understandable in the fast paced world we live in. When you’re not in anyone’s radar you become an afterthought. One thing that’s bothered me about being suicidal lately is that if I was to commit suicide it would be days if not a week before anyone suspected anything was wrong. My therapist would be the only one to notice. Honestly that’s the saddest realization anyone can have.

I’m not saying that I don’t have people who love and support me because I do. I’m just not in anyone’s inner circle. I’m like a character in their favorite tv show. Again I don’t fault anyone for that. It’s just a reality for someone in my shoes. The only thing I wish people would do is notice when they have someone like me in their lives. Make an effort to keep in touch with someone like me. Even after a person comes home after a suicide plan or attempt the reason for the choice still exists. There’s not a cure. People will contact you before and during. Eventually the messages fade away and you are alone again. Again you are left alone to the suffering and misery. That’s the only consistent in my life.

If I don’t have a purpose for being on their earth then I’m just being tortured continuously for no reason at all. That was my thought process that led me to being hospitalized in January. Most of my time on this earth has been suffering. The people who are supposed to love and support me instead judge me because I use social media as a way to release the tension. I guess they’d rather me be quiet permanently. In the end, I don’t want those kind of people in my life. Just because I have a disability doesn’t mean that I don’t have great value. When I can see outside of my pain, I can see that it only adds value to my character. The problem is starting all over is a slow and tedious process. You don’t grow a family overnight. As is healing. You can only hold onto the edge of the cliff until the ground crumbles out from under you. Now that I’m awake, I realize that there is no guarantee. The next plan might be my last. I am scared senseless when I start to have idealizations again. I don’t want to go back down that road.

Another realization that I recently came to was that even in death I was thinking about other people. I didn’t want to kill myself in order to protect my family. In my final days I put other people’s happiness over my suffering. I was guilted into staying alive and that’s no way to live either. You might think that’s a strange revelation but honestly it kind of opened up my eyes on how deeply I bend over backwards to make other people happy. I have held onto pain and the people who couldn’t love me the way I need them too. I thought to myself, why am I letting people kill me like this.

So I’m walking alone on this path and it gets so lonely. I crave for connection and yet I’m crippled by fear once I find it. My depression, anxiety and ptsd is still going stronger. The severity has lessened by it’s still pretty strong right now. I’m fighting hard but it hurts like hell. My depression has been pretty bad this week. I just feel off. This is when I start to have idealizations. Everytime I get depressed like this it lights up all the other times I have had episodes. I could handle what I’m going through if I had some consistent connection but that’s not something I have right now. So I must struggle through and that doesn’t make me feel very good. Especially when I’m trying to fight off these deep fears and pain, telling me that I am truly alone and have no one. Living that life doesn’t help to convince myself otherwise.

In the back of my head, there’s always this fear that one day my pain might kill me. So now when I start to go down that road I start to panic and not having a support system makes that tough to turn around. I just hope that I have enough time to make it until I have built the world I deserve. Until then I’m just going to hang on the best I can. Do what’s right for me and not anyone else. Which means sharing my story with others like me who are struggling alone. I am an inspiration and I don’t care what my family believes.

The Snowball Effect of Self Care

Everyone has negative thoughts. I would imagine it’s a pretty common occurrence for many. Sometimes the negative thought or feeling is small. A floating thought like I can’t do this. It comes and goes. Often time that thought turns into a feeling followed by beliefs we have about ourselves. For me, sometimes the negative thought or feeling can be easily dealt with right away. I am able to use my positive self talk to wash away the doubt and bad feelings. The deeper the negativity (or pain) the harder that becomes. The biggest question is how do you stop the negative from snowballing. What starts out as a snowflake turns into an avalanche. There are times the process may seem quick but if I look deeper there are usually factors that are not obvious. I have realized that my self care is at the root of the snowball. I have never taken care of myself. I bend over backwards for other people which leaves me with very little and these days nothing. I’m completely out of orbit and any amount of turbulence sends me flying into the sun. The more self care and love I practice the better I feel. It’s all connected.

This is what I worked on in therapy today. Spiraling out of control and how to manage the snowball so that it doesn’t turn into an avalanche. What I struggle with most is that it’s not always a negative thought, it’s a feeling. A lot of time my thoughts are so buried deep that I don’t experience them until it turns into a feeling. These moments can be triggered by anything, including a positive interaction. It’s much easier to push away a random thought, than a feeling. This is difficult because you don’t always know what the trigger was. That’s been my experience in the past. I have gotten better with identifying the problem but that’s rarely.

One aspect of the snowball effect is that it goes both ways. Positivity can also snowball but the effects are more therapeutic, unless you go into mania. As quick as the negative snowball can spiral the positive snowball rolls much slower, at a snail’s pace it seems. I get so easily discouraged because I’m desperate for relief. For most of my life I have been a zombie, asleep at a wheel. So the chaos of my life hasn’t bothered me as much it does today. I was okay living in a constant blizzard. I got used to the fridgedness and snow. Now that I’m awake and aware I realize it’s much worse. It’s an avalanche. I just want to cut out the depression and pain out of my life but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Medicine and therapy can only go so far. The reality is that I will have to deal with the ups and downs for the rest of my life.

The key to happiness will be in how I prepare for the winter. That is one consistent part of my life. The storm!!!! I won’t be able to get rid of the storm entirely but if I continue to practice self love those storms won’t be as frequent or severe. Instead of tornadoes they will be your typical thunderstorms. Occasionally that storm can become severe. I am learning that if I have a protocol in cause of an emergency I will handle the event better. For example, having a safety place in place. Knowing the options when you have to take shelter from the storm instead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the middle of a tornado. I’m tired of seeing cows orbit me. The witch needs to stay home.

The positive and negative snowball are both connected. The less I take care of myself the easier for the negative snowball to take form. One way that happens for me is my apartment and how clean/dirty it is. One hurdle leads to another. One example is my kitchen. When I’m really depressed I don’t feel like making anything to eat. I go into scavenger hunt, like I’m a mouse on the run. I will eat anything that’s right in front of me, which usually means eating cold soup. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! If the storm has hit my kitchen I’m less likely to step foot into my kitchen as I become a pig wallowing in the mud, at least that’s what it feels like. Being aware my negativity takes form physically. I can see it clearly now and it’s not pretty. It’s the most uncomfortable and annoying feeling ever.

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When my kitchen is clean-ish I’m more likely to make something substantial. Like a microwave dish. If I have energy I might even cook. Which is a complete treat for me because I usually always eat frozen or canned food. Again, yuck! My eating habits also come into play with the snowballing. Eating canned soup isn’t fulfilling. It doesn’t make you feel good, it’s just gross. Now that I have identified that there are influencers to the snowball I can start to investigate better, that’s progress right there.

This is what I have learned about my kitchen research. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is a snowball. The more dishes I pill on the bigger that snowball becomes. Eventually the mess with spill out onto the counter and before I know it I have a mini blizzard in my living room. When it gets this severe I don’t even like walking by my kitchen. Nobody wants to look at a disaster zone. So what can I do:

  1. When I use dishes clean them right away. Don’t leave them in the sink. This can be tough when making a big meal. Often times after I cook a big meal I don’t feel like cleaning. It takes all my energy out of me. One thing that helps me is to minimize the use of kitchen utensils. My crockpot is one example. All I need to do is throw in the ingredients and let them sit for hours. When it’s done all I have to clean up is the crock pot thingy and the dish I used to store leftovers in.
  2. Whenever you buy meat, clean it right when you get home. Prepare it however you normally would and freeze them individually. I buy chicken in the family packs because it’s considerably cheaper. If I leave it in the fridge it will sit in there and I will forget about it. There is nothing more upsetting than expensive food going back. I can only afford so much meat a month. Lately when I get home. I clean and cut the meat right away. I will go as far as cut up the chicken into small pieces. I use to just freeze the whole package but that doesn’t help me down the road when I have no energy. So I seperate the chicken by meals. So when I want to make a dish all I need to do is unthaw the meat and I’m done. All I need to do is throw away the plastic bag. This can be done with any meat, especially hamburger. If you can afford it, you can even by meat that’s already prepared.
  3. Buy paper plates, bowls and plastic silverware. This will reduce the dirty dishes big time. Yeah, I know the major downfall is environmental but you can’t fix everything at once. This is just temporary until you can function better. Now I’m more likely to make food and it’s much easier to clean up. I have also learned how quickly the mess and clutter starts to pile up. Now when the dirty dishes pile up (and they do) I can just toss them in a trash bag.
  4. Trash bags are your friends. I keep a makeshift trash can using an old vacuum box. I keep that in my living room. So when I don’t have much energy to clean I can quickly toss everything in the trash.
  5. I have made a makeshift shower seat using a plastic shower curtain and a folding like chair. Taking a shower takes a lot of my energy and I’m lucky if I wash more than once a week. A big struggle with my energy is my weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 360 pounds. Now that I have made it easier to get clean I’m more likely to use my shower. I keep a cup in there and can take my time. Be careful with your shower curtain. Make sure that water doesn’t leak out from it onto the floor. You will have a flooded bathroom if you use the shower head. If I’m not as winded coming out of the shower I’m more likely to brush my teeth and style my hair. Monday was one of those days. I took a long hot shower and got really clean. This gave me the energy to brush my teeth, blow dry and style my hair, and shave with a razor. I had a full beard too. I would never had done that if I didn’t have the seat. Practicing self care led to one positive step to another. The better I feel about myself the less depressed I become. Not taking care of my chores and personal grooming only increases my depression. I’m learning it can trigger me as well. I can feel decent and look at my mess. I will want to clean it up and feel overwhelmed. My feel good mood can quickly turn sour just by looking at my mess or feeling dirty. Eventually the mess gets so severe I have to do something about it. Whenever I do a deep clean I always feel better and the results are pretty dramatic.
  6. Managing my medicine times (which improves my sleep schedule) is one way I can manage my depression. I have started to set reminders on my phone to take my medicine at set times. My sleep schedule is all over the place, which means inconsistent medicine times which will make my depression worse. No matter what I make sure to take my meds. If I’m sleeping I take the meds and go back to bed. If I’m awake and don’t want to sleep, I take my night time meds…. which include meds that help me to sleep. Eventually the meds will kick in, helping me stay on a schedule. If I go to sleep anytime after 6am more than likely my mood will be affected. I hate waking up in the evening. Having an off sleep schedule also affects my mood. The early I can get to bed the better. So for me, it’s by 4am. I usually sleep 12 hours so that would mean waking up at 4pm. While that’s probably crazy sleeping hours for most it works for me. I have never been a morning person. I’ve set my alarm for 3 am/pm. At night by 5am I start to get sleepy. In the afternoon by 3pm I’m more awake and more likely to stay up when I’m awoken by the alarm. See how one thing leads to another positive change. There is freedom in knowing that the pendulum turns both ways.
  7. Another medicine related self care step is having your medicine put in pill packs. If you are like me you take a lot of meds and at different times. This can lead to missed doses by either forgetting or not feeling like getting each pill out the bottles. Now my pills are separated by time of day. I also have my medicine delivered so that I don’t forget to get my medicine refilled. At my old pharmacy if my depression was really bad I wouldn’t go to get my prescription. If I miss one day of psych meds the mood decreases pretty dramatically. They will also follow up with my doctors if I don’t have a refill or with me if I need to go in to see the doctor. Now I rarely miss a dose.
  8. Being proactive with anything related to scheduling and keeping appointments. I make sure to enter an appointment right away into my google calendar and I set numerous reminders so I don’t forget. If it’s an appointment to for med refills it’s extremely important to make those appointments. One pebble leads to another until my vase is full of stones and I can’t get out.
  9. Transportation is one barrier for me. I don’t have a car and often times my depression keeps me from taking the city bus. Especially if my anxiety is high. Going to various medical appointments becomes problematic because there are a lot of steps. One that has helped me big time is having a caseworker. I know this might not be possible for many but it wouldn’t hurt checking with your mental health department for your county to seeing if you qualify for one. Even if you can’t or don’t want one there are steps that can be taken to make going to appointments easier. Asking a friend to take you is one way. In the past I would cancel appointments because I wouldn’t leave the house. If I have someone come to my apartment complex I will definitely go. It helps to keep me accountable. Some areas even have local buses that are curbside. I know my city does but it doesn’t go outside my city and all my appointments are in Lansing, which is the bigger city near me. My city bus company offers service to people with disabilities too that go outside of the city but the requirements are a lot more difficult to get approved but if you can get a doctor to fill it out and get approved then that will be one barrier lifted for you. I’m looking into it for myself but I would be limited because it’s $5 round trip. So I couldn’t afford it always. Having multiple options is always a good thing. Planning also helps me take the city bus. Knowing when the bus times are and coordinating my trip around those times will make me more likely to use the bus. Limiting my time on city buses will alleviate the anxiety and make my trips less stressful.
  10. Making grocery shopping easier. Going to the grocery store is one source of anxiety for me. It can be very overwhelming to me, which leads to me not going. If I don’t have food I like and can make easily, then I will go hungry and the snowball is formed. I try to make lists now and keep my visits as brief as I can. In the past, I would only go to the grocery store once or twice a month. Which makes for a lot of work. Only limiting myself to so many items helps to decrease my anxiety. I don’t worry about spending so much money, nor does it take me that long to check out. In addition, when I get home it doesn’t take a lot of energy to put away everything. I also keep a list. This will keep me on track. A lot of time is spent not knowing what to get or ever spending, then getting overwhelmed because I have too much. See how quickly that snowball forms. Having a list also decreases the time you spend in the grocery store. This is really helpful if you don’t like crowds. If I want to get some larger items that I can’t carry from the bus stop I can either take my local bus or use the shopping bus that my complex has once a week. Even then I still only make small lists. I’m trying to increase my fiber so getting gallons of water are heavy. Another source of stress is bagging my own groceries now that most places have mostly self check out. I get so stressed out because I feel like I have to rush or people will get angry. So I kill myself to get out of there quickly. Now my grocery store has shop and scan. Now I use my smart phone to scan and bag items one at a time. This helps me keep on budget too. If I spend too much I can easily remove something rather than have a worker manually void it at the register. I can take my time and am not rushed. Which makes a huge difference. If I can’t do this then I will use a lane with a cashier. My embarrassment for using food stamps only gets in the way in terms of my depression. Another tip to making get groceries easier is getting reusable grocery bags. Not only is it environmentally good but you can also carry more. They are sturdy and won’t spill. There is nothing worse than groceries gushing out of a broken bag.

So these are the steps I’m taking to manage the snow in my life. The better I take care of myself, the less depressed I feel or at the very least if I get triggered it will lesson the severity of the episode. Now these steps might not all work for you and that’s okay. It’s a trial and error process. Do what works for you. It’s taken me over twenty years to have the experience and know how to not only come up with this list but follow through on the steps. It’s so easy to only see what you’re not doing or feel the affects from the inaction. A lot of times it only takes a crumble of doubt to cover up a mountain of good. In the past six months I have come a long ways. I have fallen into the trap of not being able to seperate the good from the bad. Now I’m able to see my successes. One is that I have been in therapy since 2013 and rarely do I miss an appointment. I have never stuck out therapy. The only other time was when I lived in Chicago. I was in therapy for a year and a half, until I self destructed and ran away from my problems. I haven’t done that this time. This last year I have not wanted to go to therapy at all both due to physically leaving my apartment and not wanting to talk about my pain. I pushed myself to go every single time. I only was able to do that because I put a plan into place. Like having a regular scheduled appointment and having a ride each week take me there.

The hardest part of healing for me is not giving myself such a hard time. Being so critical just get’s in my way. So I look at this current PTSD episode (that I have been since Jul of last year) as a do what I have to do, when I have to do it. Meaning I allow for imperfections. I expect change to happen overnight. Again the positive snowball starts off with one snowflake at a time. I have so much in my life that I need to work on. Focusing on the big picture only leads to me giving up. So breaking that up in small segments will help me living a more healthy and happy lifestyle. Now I try to not beat myself up when I drink a lot of pepsi or let my kitchen get messy. Pepsi is one prime example. Honestly I don’t need to be drinking Pepsi because of my weight but it’s a big crutch for me. I have so much else going on that I have to work on that I have allowed myself to have pepsi when I want to. I still push myself but I no longer try to stop drinking pepsi. I think what good is not drinking pepsi if I push my mental health the point of ending my life. I have such a perfect idea of what my life should be, usually based off what society says I need to be. Right now my apartment is pretty messy, outside my kitchen and that’s okay. The one good thing lately is that the clutter is starting to get on my nerves. So I can only avoid it so long before it makes me mad. Just working at one step at a time has helped me dramatically during this PTSD episode. Like I said it’s all connected.

The more I work on self care/love, the more relief I get from depression. I just need to practice it to make permanent. Well those are my thoughts for the night. Does anyone else have some mental health life hacks that help manage their depression, anxiety, etc. I always love hearing new ideas. I get amnesia with the obvious stuff. So let me know what tips you have.

The Quantum Leap of PTSD

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So I’m in the second week of my PTSD episode or what I call a bubble… more like a force field. One thing I learned very early on was how to dissociate to keep myself safe. There were two significant events in my childhood where I first learned to dissociate. The first started when I was sexually abused at the age of ten. I learned then that my bed and pillow were the passageway to another dimension. They became my magic carpet into the night sky. The second was a few years later when my parents had separated and my father would come over enraged, threatening my mother harm and trying to knock down the door. Both these instances I tried to float away from the scary and traumatic event that I couldn’t stop. I was scared and alone, so naturally I chose the only way possible and that was to hide. Float away from my body so that I didn’t have to endure the pain.

Once I learned the dissociative trick I started to use it as a coping mechanism, especially when trying to deal with any of the past trauma. It was my escape plan and I used it often in my adult life. Often times I had no control over it. Like a switch it would quickly get switched on and I would float away. My bedroom became this safety zone. It was like this teleportation device kind of like my own Tardis. Though I don’t need to be in my bed to dissociate. It’s just home base for me. No matter how scary and painful my life was I knew that I had my room to escape to. This was true when I came out in 1995. My parents didn’t understand being gay and they tried to change me. As a result it caused even more trauma and it confirmed to me that the only way to cope from traumatic events was to check out of my body by dissociating.

There are times when my dissociation is brief. If I can notice that I’m starting to float away then that helps lessen the time it takes to get back, though that’s not always the case. If it’s an environmental trigger then I usually can just leave the situation. Though a lot of times it will set off further triggers, making it a nasty cycle to overcome.  If you are near me when I start to dissociate it’s pretty obvious. It’s like the air is being sucked out of me and I start to deflate. I go inward like I’m ready to ready to go into a cocoon. This was obvious a few weeks ago during a support group where we had a man come into our safe space and use it for his own motives. I could feel myself float away because I couldn’t handle the situation. Listening to him lecture us was just too much to take and it reminded me of too much of my past with my family. I couldn’t find a way to deflate the situation so the only choice I had was to dissociate. My two options were to confront the man or to leave. Either choices could have put me in harms way of being assaulted. I didn’t know how to handle the situation and worried about him invading my own personal space so away I went on my magic carpet.

The problem with that situation is that I had already started to dissociate prior to that night. So my magic carpet was ready to go to it’s final descent. Once I completely check out then it’s very difficult to get back to my body. It can take months and in the past it has lead to hospitalizations. To cope I take the magic carpet so far away that I get stuck in this void of nothingness. It’s a very scary place to be. It’s like you split in two. I can feel my body but everything else is far away. The whole out of body experience is like watching a movie. I can see and hear everything around me but I can’t really change what I see. I just have to wait until the movie is over. Being out in public like this is very startling. You have this sense of paranoia. It feels like the world is going to end. Everything is dark and scary. Physically I am drained and can feel every move I make. I really feel my weight like this. When I discoatiate my healthy parts go far away, leaving the unhealthy ones to roam free. They take full advantage of being alone and they use my mind as their own playground. Every insecurity and bad thought is pounded in my brain with a sledgehammer. I feel like I’m dying.

Today I had to leave the house for an errand and I didn’t want to leave. The world outside of my apartment is a very dangerous place right now. My friends and family have become strangers, and strangers are now predators. I can’t trust everyone. Everything is in fast forward, while I’m in slow motion. It’s tough to navigate like this but I do the best I can. When my errand was done I wanted to get back home. I couldn’t take the outside anymore. I started to panic as I knew it’d be at least an hour with public transportation. I would have done anything to been able to physically teleport out of there. Unfortunately my magic carpet doesn’t take my actual body. I could feel my anxiety rise as I got closer to home. The closer I got the more it felt like I would fail. Finally I did get home and I was safe again. I laid down and slept for three hours.

The process of returning my body is a slow task. Each day I get closer and there are setbacks. I will get triggered by something and start to float away again. I take two steps forward and one step back. The returning to my body aspect of it is when I feel my physicalness pretty dramatically. It’s why today on the bus it felt like I was going to die. It’s not a natural process to return. It’s a shock to my system. Once the two parts start to unite I can feel everything. The darkness starts to turn to grey but I can still see the darkness in a distance. It’s strange to be able to feel both sides, the good and bad. My mind feels better but my body and spirit don’t right away. I’m less weighted down and start to venture out more. I have to force myself to do things. Though there are things too far out of my comfort zone, like having cavities filled by my dentist. Having any sort of appointment during this period is problematic and often times I cancel like I did today. In my mind, I already have an exit strategy just in case. I go from wanting to go to therapy to not wanting to at all. In the past I would cancel therapy but this time it’s different. I have enough control of my healthy side that I know that I need it more than ever. I don’t want to talk about the pain and struggles but I do anyways. This last session I kept wanting to bolt out of the room. Talking about my problems will only bring me closer to my body and the unhealthy parts will do whatever necessary to stop that transition.

Deep inside of me is that scared little boy I use to be. I wasn’t allowed to heal or process things properly so I locked him far away, where no one could hurt him. I piled trash up on trash on top of him to disguise his location. Now as an adult I’m starting to finally heal. I’m having to pick up the trash, one piece of time. I’m closer to him than I have ever been. I’m in the house where he is at but there is still something blocking my way to his bedroom. It’s like in Harry Potter when Fluffy is blocking my bedroom door. If you’ve not seen the movie or read the books it’s a three headed gigantic dog that is foaming at the mouth and ready to eat anyone who tries to get through the door. That is what I’m up against and I’m still figuring the best way in.

I hope that this might be my last leap but history tells me that it might not be. I’m tired of enduring this process. I hope that as I start to properly heal that it will become easier to identify and control the dissociation. That means dealing with a lot of pain and trauma. I have to feel those horrible feelings that I couldn’t cope with so many years ago. I can’t run anymore. So I must deal with them as they come.

The Judgements From Others Is Not True

I think that most people have some sort of judgment of some kind or another. You see someone do or say something that you think is inappropriate and your first response a lot of the time is judgment. Like for example, a way someone is dressed. Maybe it’s a women on the bus who is wearing too revealing clothing or someone who is big wearing too tight clothing. This week I read about a broadway actress who was judged by the costume she was wearing. The woman who wrote the review was judging the actress on her appearance, comparing her to other women on stage who weren’t big. The review (NYT) used words like bigger and described appropriate attire for a fat person as that. Even after this woman was called out for her behavior she had no clue that she was judging the actress. That’s a problem so many have been brainwashed to judging others that they don’t realize they are doing it or they do but they don’t care.

Just like hate, judgment is a learned trait. I grew up in a family who had mastered the art of judgment. Anytime I tell people I grew up in a Southern Baptist family most people gasp. It’s common knowledge that judgment is a key fundamental in that religion, as is fire and brimstone. God is the ultimate judge and all his followers are bailiffs, or even executioners in many cases. I think judgment comes from fear. Those who are fanatical in their beliefs are comforted when they pass judgment on anything that doesn’t fit into their norms. Some use God and religion as a way to come to terms with life. Rather than floating into outer space they anchor themselves to an ideology. Now I’m not saying that’s wrong, it’s only when you try to force others to fit into your box that’s when it becomes a problem. A lot of people use judgment as an excuse to belittle someone else. If anyone tries to live their life outside of their strict rules then they must do whatever they can to silence them because letting it go will crack their fragile bubble.

It’s when judgment is turned into a form of brainwashing that it becomes very problematic and a lifelong battle of getting away from the trauma that’s caused. Most people think it’s as simple as letting go of the past and I wish that were true. When the judgment turns into poison it’s hardwired into your brain. If you don’t deal with the trauma then it’s covered up and you become injured anytime a future judgment happens. Most the times you don’t have a clue that the feelings that surface from a current judgment has nothing to do with said act, it’s what it triggers from the old judgments. Endure enough judgments like that they it just reinforces the personalization until the judgment is internalized.

I’m struggling to deal with the heart of my trauma, the judgments from my father and family. These judgments were so intense that I took them on as my own and built a world around them. So it’s only natural the next twenty years would be a total shit show. There is no amount of trash that can be piled on top of something so deep, raw and dark to hide it. Doing so just creates a monster that will control you for as long as you let it. Now I have taken control of myself again. Which means I must deal with this trauma like it’s the first time it’s happening to me. I honestly feel like crap. It’s a sickness with no medicine to cure it. You just must suffer through.

So what did I learn from my father, many years ago:

He told me that I was going to hell (over and over) so that meant that I’m not worthy of an afterlife, nor do I deserve to see the people I love again like my Mom and sister. If God is going to let me burn for an eternity for doing nothing that must mean that inside I’m bad. God became the judge, jury and executioner. That is not true.

I was told that I was going to get AIDS (from being gay) and that I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I had made from coming out would abandon me at the end. That meant I deserve to suffer and be in pain. I’m unlovable and not worthy of healthy relationships where I’m valued and supported. Unworthy of friendships that are unconditional and there for me when I need them the most. That is not true.

I also was told that apart of having AIDS that I would finally lose weight, like I had always wanted. That meant that I was a fat slob. That the only way to cope with the pain was to numb it out with food. I didn’t deserve a healthy body with boundaries and limitations. Moderation. I wasn’t worthy of taking care of myself. That is not true.

My father told me that I needed to forgive and forget the sexual abuse that my cousin did to me. This was said to me the day after I came out about the abuse, after he found out that I was upset that he went hunting with my cousin. This confirmed to me that my father didn’t love me, nor was I worthy of his care, love and affection. That my father would rather to have the person who caused me great harm to be his son. I wasn’t good enough. I was too fat, too fem and not worthy of having a loving father. This was the father I deserved. In my mind, I had no way to rationalize someone treating me this way when I hadn’t done anything wrong. So that meant that inside I was missing something. That I was the one at fault. I wasn’t good enough. Unlovable. Laughable. A hideous monster. That is not true.

Honestly I could go on and on with all the things that my father did and said to me. I could write a book. The fact of the matter is that none of these things are true. My father is the biggest liar there is. My brain knows this but my heart is still holding onto these untruths. It’s why I struggle so much when I am triggered. While I have worked hard the last year there are still parts of me who believe him. Thankfully the healthy parts of me are stronger than the pain and hurt. I’m not going to lie it hurts like hell. It physically is draining and feels like the worst flu you can imagine. I have to fight off the voices telling me that I’m hideous and worthless. They are trying to drag me under and I refuse to let them.

I just can’t wait for the day that these voices and untruths no longer have any strength or pull. I don’t want these judgments anymore. People in my life want me to just to move on from the past yet they are the ones that keep bringing it up. I want to be free and it feels like I will never away from this trauma.

I wish people could see the level of pain that I feel, then maybe they might treat me differently. I constantly feel like I have to validate the pain, what others have done to me. I shouldn’t have to explain the pain from someone else. The only thing that I do need reinforced is my value and worth. I just took a shower (I didn’t want to) and I kept having to repeat to myself that I was worthy. So I just need to keep practicing self love, especially when I don’t want to do anything. That’s the part of depression that is tough. Everything becomes an uphill battle. You’re already held down by the pain and then you have to carry it up Mount Everest. So you have everything fighting against you.

This week has been very tough. I feel like I’m playing a game of tug and war. I’m tired of having mud slung at me. I have too much to live for to be wallering in the mud but in order for me to move on I must endure this trauma one last time. I must correct the mistakes and properly heal, one wound at a time.

Nowhere To Go: Managing Your Mental Illness When You are Homeless

 

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My biggest fear prior to being homeless was having to cope with triggers when I was homeless. It’s one thing to have a depressive episode from the comforts of your home but it’s an entirely different thing when you have nowhere to go when you are homeless. There aren’t any safe places. Everywhere you go is a danger zone. This fact kept me in misery for far too long. I have off and on been potentially homeless the last few years. Looking back I wish I had the courage to just take that jump and go into homelessness earlier. Sadly I wasn’t prepared or ready to face the dangers like I am now.

The biggest hurdle to being homeless was the fear and it’s one of the big issues I face with, I always have. Fear has kept me from living since my Mom passed away in 2012. I stayed near my family and didn’t move because I lived in constant fear that they would die to. It was extremely crippling and it made me absolutely miserable. Of course there is a lot more to my mental illness than fear but that’s a biggie. Once I pulled the bandaid off from going to the hospital and then the shelter the situation was no longer as scary. Actually overall it’s not scary at all. Now when things happen like the fight in the day shelter things quickly escalate into frightening but overall it’s not fear or fright that really gets to me. It’s the uncomfortableness and lack of privacy that gets me. You lose all normalcy to life. The first week is scary. The second week is uncomfortable and the third week it starts to get to you.

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What I miss most is the comforts of a home. Today was the first time I have stepped foot into a home in over six weeks and it was only briefly. Today’s temperatures are going to be over 94 with the heat index over 100 degrees. So I had a guy want to hookup with me. Usually I’m like no thank you but today it was hot and he had air conditioning. Plus he picked me up in his nice car that had really cold ac. We get to his house and it was nice. The best part was his huge comfy bed that I lay in for a good thirty minutes. It was like heaven. I felt like I was floating on cotton candy. While things didn’t go as planned with the hookup I at least got to have some comfort for just a little bit. Plus he dropped me off at the library and gave me a cold coke. So I haven’t done a lot of walking.

You start to crave the normal things to life and when you don’t get them it starts to eat away at your psyche. Overall my mental health has been very good since I was out of the hospital last month but this week it’s started to deteriorate as I was starting to get more overwhelmed by being homeless. It didn’t help that Wednesday I had confrontations with two not so nice people. As hard as I tried those two negative interactions left a crack for the depression to seep into. I just haven’t been able to shake this depressed feeling. It’s not one thought either. I just feel depressed and it’s not just because I’m sick. Though I do think that is adding to it. What people don’t understand about depression is that it’s not always an effect of a trigger. Sometimes you just wake up feeling bad. There is something about your brain chemistry that’s off and it sends you into a fog for the rest of the day.

It’s tough to not let things bring you down when you suffer from depression and that’s even more complicated when you have a mental illness. The past three weeks my depression has been okay, it’s not really been at the surface as I had many other things to worry about but now it’s in the mix. It’s overwhelming because I’m having to fight so many other things and now I have to add fighting my negative thoughts and feelings. Add the extreme heat and I just feel like I’m about to go mad. I was dreading today because of the heat. The weekends are the worst because the day shelter isn’t open so you have to walk to get somewhere cooler. On Sundays the buses don’t run until 9am so I had to wait outside for an hour and that is just a miserable feeling. To not have anywhere to go, so you just have to sit in a place you don’t want to. It doesn’t help with how you feel.

Being homeless you are forced to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s even more so the case when you have something like PTSD. Thankfully so far my PTSD has been in check but it’s always a concern. You have times when you are in a PTSD bubble that being around others becomes problematic. Friends and family become strangers and strangers become enemies. You aren’t able to trust anyone. Your world turns into a war zone and there is NOWHERE to hide. So for now that’s in check and I’m thankful for that.

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I think what’s most unsettling is that even though life has been really tough for the past three weeks I have felt the best about myself in a very long time. I have felt so empowered by this experience and it’s lifted me up in some tough times but the last couple of days it’s been a constant struggle. I wake up feeling horrible. Every muscle in my body hurts. It’s tough just walking a few steps. My mind is as thick as pea soup. I feel so defeated and discouraged. I’m worn out with no relief in sight. I hope it’s just the bronchitis because I’m not liking this at all. This will be my third day on antibiotics so I hope I get better soon because this feels unbearable. At times on the verge of losing it, at least it feels that way. It’s these thoughts of not being able to handle life like this.

You just want to scream but no words can escape. They are all stuck in the puzzle of your mind, with jagged little shards of glass poking out. I can handle a lot but it’s the physical pain that’s lately that’s been getting to me. I have to walk. I don’t have a choice. It’s not a fun feeling to have to push through. Feet turn into miles and hills into mountains.

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It’s not helping that it’s taking longer than I expected to get my own place. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment of my own a week ago but the manager of the complex has no urgency. Originally the move in date was going to be the 21st and that’s fast approaching. The main hurdle is getting my Doctor to sign some paperwork to prove that I’m disabled, otherwise I will not being able to move in because it’s only for the elderly and those with a disability. For whatever reason my Doctor hasn’t been getting the faxes and it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s just as frustrated as I am and the lady at the office doesn’t seem to care.

On the 23rd of June will be my thirty days at the shelter, which is the length of stay at this shelter. You can get a two week extension after that but that’s it. So that has me worried because the other two shelters are pretty dangerous especially for someone who is transgender. The homeless shelter is going to pay for the next six months of rent and they need information from the complex manager that she’s not giving. So all of this will just add days to my homelessness and it’s extremely frustrated. In the back of mind I’m thinking, maybe it’s not going to work out. That’s my depression talking. Until I get my doctor to sign that paperwork I won’t be at ease. Without it I won’t get this apartment. It feels like everything is hanging on this paperwork and it’s driving me loco.

I wish they could cut the depression out of me or cure it. If it was always induced by a situation or event then it would make it so much easier. Thinking positive would work like everyone else think it does. The medicine helps but it really just mutes the severity of the symptoms. Being that I have nowhere to run and hide I’m learning to be resourceful. The other night when I started to sob I got the staff person to get me a private place to go. Leaving situations is another thing I have started to do. If I feel uncomfortable I just leave, no matter where I am at. I have days where I don’t feel like walking so I stay in the day shelter but then something happens and I’ve bolted at the door. When I realize that I can control things it improves my mood dramatically to know that I have choices. I’m not stuck anywhere, even in my mind.

I just want to get the heck out of the shelter and into my own place. It’s so close but so far away. After eight years I will have my own place again and it’s a freedom I miss deeply. This time will be different because I won’t lose my place when I spiral into a deep depression and can’t work. In the last fifteen years I have moved over twenty times because of that. That is no way to have stability and I’m desperate for it. It’s the instability that’s played havoc on my body both physically and mentally. I will finally have a safe place that I can call home. One where I won’t fear losing due to the inability to pay my rent. I can have friends over and I can lay in my comfortable bed all day if I choose to do so. I’m ready for some relief. I’m ready for a break.

 

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Living in a War Zone: What it’s Like to Live with PTSD

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TRIGGER WARNING: Please be advised that the topics in this post are related to sexual abuse/assault and my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor.

After the past couple of days being triggered by the Weinstein situation I thought it might be helpful for others to be able to look outside in on someone who suffers from PTSD. Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year.

Unless you’ve experienced PTSD it’s probably tough to imagine what it’s like living with PTSD. I describe it like living in a war zone. You know that you’re surrounded by danger and at any given time bombs could be dropped around you. There usually is no warning or signs it will occur. Once the bombs start to fall you frantically search out any way to take cover. This is very problematic when you have an episode out in public. Years ago when I was working for Xerox I was triggered during work. Thankfully I was working overtime and no one was around me. I felt so unsafe that I got underneath my desk for protection. That is what it’s like to suffer from PTSD.

Depending on the trigger and how extreme the fallout is from it will determine how quickly it will take to come out of that PTSD bubble. Often times I don’t even know that I have been triggered. Weeks later I find myself extremely depressed and feel like it’s the end of the world. It’s at my worst that I realize that I’m in a PTSD episode. I know that I have had a trigger but don’t always know what has triggered me… and I don’t ever find out. Occasionally if the trigger is profound enough I will know right away. Like for example, the whole me too phenomenon on Facebook. When the trigger is that profound it can push me over the edge.

Like I said most of the time I don’t know the trigger and it’s not always specific to a trauma, even though it’s probably somewhere there deep inside. Then there are times that the trigger corresponds to the traumatic event that caused me to have PTSD. When the trigger is related to the traumatic act it puts me into dangerous waters. This was true with me being triggered by the news of Weinstein and people sharing the phrase “not me” on social media. I have spent a great amount of time in PTSD bubbles that I have a better understanding of each episode of PTSD but it never makes it any easier.

My PTSD is centered around the sexual abuse that occurred when I was in my early teens. Most the time I’m not able to talk about it as it becomes too much. I’ve lived with it long enough to know that I need to be careful with who I share this information with, at least the details of the abuse. I can say that I’m a survivor but if I get asked questions about it I will put up the floodgates. Sometimes it’s just easier to not say anything, as most people will want more information out of curiosity. I control when and what I say when it comes to the sexual abuse. When you get triggered I don’t have that choice. It’s like opening pandora’s box. Once that lid has been lifted the flood water starts gushing out uncontrollably. It’s very much like in Alice in Wonderland when she starts to cry, it’s very easy to get washed away.

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It’s easy to push away a few articles and not have to know the details. When you are on social media anytime something big like the Weinstein news hits everyone knows pretty quickly. I started to see a few “me too” posts in my feed which wasn’t trigger as I could easily scroll past them and they started off being just those two words. Once it caught on my whole feed was filled full of victims admitting to have had some sort of sexual abuse. That’s when it started to be overwhelming. I learned a long time ago that I’m a sponge when it comes to others pain. It’s easy for me to get taken under from it, as the person becomes a mirror and I see my own pain.

I couldn’t get away from it. Once you’re triggered you can’t flip that switch back off. It’s just not possible. For me, when I’m triggered by something relating to the actual sexual abuse I get transported back to that time and place. So by Monday evening I was in the cabin that I was sexually abused in. Every door I tried to open would lead me back into that cabin. I could close my eyes and see every aspect of that cabin from the wooden walls to the musty cabin smell. I have a photographic memory of that cabin in all senses. I can hear the band that was playing in the messhall. I can feel the fabric of the sheets. When I close my eyes I can even walk through that cabin.

Once I’m transported back to that cabin then I start to have flashbacks of the sexual abuse. This is what really pushes me over the edge. The images are persistent and extreme. I relive every moment of the abuse. My mind races like I’m in a race to the finish line. It’s unsettling and alters every aspect of your life when you are in the belly of the beast. You try with all your might to get the images out of your head. In the past when I get this triggered it’s ended with me being hospitalized as it takes me to dangerous levels. I either become suicidal or feel like I’m going crazy… that’s how intense the flashbacks are.

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When you have a flashback you relive not only the physical assault but the feelings that arise because of the evil act done to you. Deep feelings of shame and guilt. A dirtiness that no soap will wash away. I didn’t just get triggered by the sexual act and the feelings that were attached from it but the rejection that occurred when I finally told my family seven years later.

At first I was triggered just on the size and scope of those affected by sexual abuse. People started to share personal stories. I couldn’t escape it. I was spiraling out of control already when I started to see some women question the validity of men also saying me too as well. One article I read said that male victims should just sit down and listen, that this movement wasn’t about them. These comments just stoked the fires of my PTSD. Each comment reminded me of a pain that occurred when my family didn’t believe me when I came forward about the sexual abuse. I was hearing my family tell me again and again that my pain and feelings weren’t valid… that I should just go back into the closet like a good little boy.

This is what it’s like to be triggered. You start to live these moments over again which I have done in the following paragraphs below. Once you start down this path you fall down the rabbit hole and can’t stop it until you come to the end. So if you don’t want to go through the gory details scroll to the end to finish this blog post.

It was then I went into the danger zone. I went seven years without telling my family. I didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because I didn’t think anyone would be believe me. Those seven years of my life were complete hell. Each day that passed chipped away any self esteem and self worth that I had. I remember crying myself to sleep at night because I didn’t think anyone loved me. My abuser was my cousin, who lived down the street from me with my grandmother. I couldn’t get away from him. All that time I knew this dark secret that I couldn’t share and I had to watch my parents love him. My grandmother didn’t drive so that meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted to go.

My cousin was the start of the family. Everyone loved him. He was the stereotypical jock. He was the captain of the Football and Basketball team. All the girls in school loved him and all the boys wanted to be him. I on the other hand was not. I was the boy who always wore sweat pants. I was the sensitive one. I didn’t fit my family’s mold of what a boy should be. Chad (I hate saying/seeing his name still to this day) was the son that my Father had always wanted. He hunted and fished. My father and him would go hunting all the time. Each time destroyed me. I so desperately wanted to tell someone but the fear was too much. He could do no wrong. This wouldn’t change when I came out about the abuse to my family. My worst fears came true.

While most of my family didn’t validate or believe me my Mom did… She never once doubted me and when she found out who abused me she wanted nothing to do with him. My father was different. He believed me but he didn’t care. The next day he went hunting with him. When my Father found out I was upset he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. The rest of the adults of the family chastised me. Being gay was worse than being a child molester. How dare he spread shame onto the family and say such horrible things about their beloved Chad. My Aunt told my mom that boys will be boys like we were just playing a game.

I wasn’t the only cousin in my family who was molested. I was just the only one who spoke about it. To make matters worse is that the adults of the family knew of the abuse and did nothing. When my cousin sexually abused me he stole my innocence and left behind the belief that I was unlovable and worthless. I became an object that he could own. I was bullied in school pretty frequently and whenever he saw someone bully me he would stop it… but then he’d turn around and bully me. I was his property.

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When my family rejected me they confirmed that I was unlovable and worthless. I had seven years of practice and by the time they were done with me I was left broken. When I came out about the abuse I also came out of the closet. While my Mother believed the abuse happened the news of me being gay took precedence. I lived in Southern Baptist family which was all about fire and brimstone. Being gay meant burning in hell for eternity. So you can imagine how my parents reacted to the news that I was gay. My Mom cried for weeks. I was called abnormal. Told over and over that I was going to hell.

The brunt of the emotional abuse was by the hands of my Father. He used the bible as a weapon. God we the jury, judge and executioner. The words he repeated and over brainwashed me into believing that I was going to burn in flames in eternity. If I had any self esteem left my father extinguished them that day. I was told that I would die of AIDS, that I had always wanted to lose weight and I finally would get that chance. He painted this picture of me dying alone in the hospital from AIDS. His words and voice are forever in my ear…

The next year was pure hell for me. I was cut off from everything. It almost destroyed me. Before I came I out I bought a computer. Living the rural Midwest there weren’t anyone like me nearby. The internet was a great refuge. I not only was able to connect to other gay people but also sexual abuse survivors. Well when I came out they took away that connection. I’ve never felt so alone and scared in my life. My father was right. I was living in hell. I got the typical responses like how do you know you are gay? or why don’t you at least try… My parents proved that their love had conditions and just furthered my beliefs that I was unlovable.

Finally things went back to how they were before. It was like I was back in the closet. Everyone knew but no one talked about. It ate away at my soul. I was never kicked out or forced into a conversion camp but how my family treated me would forever alter me. I would spend the next twenty years getting myself in similar situations which would further damage me.

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I’ve gone through periods where I would get triggered so deeply about the abuse that it would end with me being hospitalized. The first time was in 2000. It was the first time that the abuse sent me spiralling into a nervous breakdown. Pain is like putting air into a balloon. You can only put so much air into the balloon before it either explodes or goes flying around the room like a chicken with it’s head cut off. I couldn’t take the trauma anymore and went cray cray. I went from not being able to say his name to obsessively repeating his name over and over. I couldn’t stop saying his name. I was in the hospital for about a month and when I was released I went back to pretending like I was okay.

I went back to work and everyday life while deep inside I was dying. I wanted nothing to do with talking about the past so I dug a hole into my chest and buried the pain. Fast forward to 2004. I finally was free from my past. I had moved to Chicago, away from the rural nightmare. I was surrounded by bright lights and gay people. It felt like I was in heaven. I finally found my home but my past caught up to me. No matter how much success I achieved and the happiness I found would equal to the beliefs that I didn’t deserve anything good. I slowly started to self destruct because the good things I had finally achieved scared me senseless. I had the greatest job I had ever had with equally great health insurance. My manager at Xerox was also the best I had ever had. When you work in customer service often times you are seen as a number. You’re a robot to management. If you are great at what you do they run you into the ground because the rest of the employees don’t value the work quite like you do. I finally had a boss who saw my potential and appreciated my hard work. I was even on track to get a promotion to be a trainer. I had even gotten involved with the LGBT group at GE, as a leader.

I had the most friends I had ever had. I was happy… really happy… I had my own apartment. A beautiful garden apartment. Like I said the past started to creep up on me and I started to unravel. I had never lived in a city with such a large gay population. I felt like a kid in the candy store. When you’re violated sexually it’s easy to feel like an object. My dating life up prior had only confirmed those feelings. Most men wanted only one thing from me and that always was sex. So I gave them what they wanted because I was brainwashed into believing that was my purpose. The lines between sex and love were welded together. The harder I tried to pull them apart the more entangled I became.

When your life is filled full of heartache, disappointment and pain you learn to numb out the pain anyway you can. When I came out and struggled to find someone to love me I desperately took anything I could. Something was better than nothing. Prior to moving to Chicago I fell in love with a man who just didn’t have the capacity to love me back. Though he made it seem like he could until he got what he wanted. Once I served his purpose he was gone. He was just another man who used me and then rejected me. My cousin was my first rejection and each rejection after that instilled the idea that I was property deeper. It was the final rejection before I gave up on love. I thought he loved me. About a month later he had a secret to tell me. He had an STD and didn’t tell me because he was afraid I wouldn’t be interested in him. I foolishly believed he meant for love but instead he meant sex. When my feelings for him because too much he ended things with me. He just used me for sex. The last time I felt such devastation was when my cousin rejected me. You see once he found that women could give him what he wanted he threw me away like I was trash. I forced me to love him like a painful addiction. He got me high on his attention and then left me to detox. He was my first love and my first rejection.

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This man who I loved put me in harms way because he wanted to have sex with me. I stayed with him even after he told me because I thought he loved me but he did not. Afterwards I gave men whatever they wanted. I couldn’t take one more rejection and trust being lied to, so I gave men what they wanted.

The internet was both a blessing and a curse for me. What giveth taketh away as they say. The abuse taught me that from pain comes pleasure. I was desperate for attention. Sex gave me that. If I could find guys who wanted to have sex with such a hideous beast like me then that must mean that I’m attractive. The pleasure from one night stands were intense but they didn’t last. I would leave through their door and into the cabin that I was abused in. I fell into this cycle many times. Sometimes I would spend hours even days looking for someone who would have sex with me. The longer it took to find a hookup the more desperate I would get.

Because I didn’t think I deserved anything good and had no value to my life I started to engage in risky behavior. My Father told me that I deserved AIDS so I did whatever I could to contract it through unprotected sex. It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I was so worthless that I didn’t deserve to live. I was so miserable that even in my subconscious I wanted to die. Whenever I would hook up I would immediately feel dirty. I would always shower afterwards like I did when I was sexually abused. Each time I relived those moments over and over again. Then I would become suicidal which led me to be hospital again.

My time in Chicago was the first time I started to process the sexual abuse and everything that occurred because of it. I found an amazing therapist and started to open up slowly to her. I even joined a survivor group for me. I was making progress but it wasn’t enough to take over the bad. I couldn’t break the broken record of hooking up because deep down inside I believe that was all I was worth. I did what I always did and ran away. That was always my solution when life got to be too much. I went back into hiding. My time in Chicago included both the best and worst times of my life.

2006 was the last time I dealt with the sexual abuse. The abuse was a book that I put back on the shelf… I knew that it was there but I didn’t dare look at it let alone open it and read the pages. I went back to life and tried to survive like everyone else. I failed miserably. I moved to another city and got into a relationship with an abusive man. The abuse was always emotional but it was starting to lean towards the physical. I almost stayed because I didn’t think I could find anyone else… that was what I deserved. The last straw was when he tried to hit me in the head with a big stick. It was fight or flight. What could have been a wonderful life turned into turmoil because I invited the beast into my life once again. This time I didn’t wait for him to leave me, as it could have been my death.

Again I went back to faking it. I moved back home to Michigan. I struggled but I did what I always did and I survived. That came to a screeching halt when my Mom got Cancer in 2012. We found out the horrible news in April and by September she was gone. My worst fear had come true. While our relationship was flawed I knew she loved me. Through it all she was always there for me. She came to accept me being gay. She would even ask me about my dating life. One of the last memories I have of her is her standing up for me to a homophobic cousin of hers who did the typical he’s going to hell and needs to be saved. She let her have it. To have her stand up for me meant the world to me. I often wonder if she knew she was dying.

My Mom had a rare form of Cancer called Carcinoid because it was so rare not many doctors were able to treat it. We couldn’t find anyone in Michigan to help her and had to go to Nashville to get her help. She needed to have the tumor removed. We drove down to Nashville for her surgery. It never dawned on me that she wouldn’t return home alive. Sometime that first week after surgery she got an infection and had to have an emergency surgery. After the second surgery she had to be sedated and put on life support. The last 21 days of her life were in an ICU. During that time I didn’t leave her room. I couldn’t leave her side. I was a boy once again desperately holding onto the woman who gave me life. Up until the end I didn’t lose hope.

The last day of her life I was awoken in the early hours of Sunday morning to my Mom surrounded by Doctors, nurses and other staff. The only lung left had collapsed and her vitals had reached dangerous levels. They put her on dialysis and i was told if her numbers didn’t improve she would die. Hours had passed and her numbers continued to drop. She was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop. I stayed by her side until the end. I held her tight as I sobbed. The person who was always there for me to comfort in my hour of need was slipping away from my grasp. I had no one to turn to. I was alone in a big city, hours away from home. She was taken off life support. My tears drenched her hospital gown as I watched her flatline on the EKG machine. It was slow, one heartbeat escaping at a time… she was gone… I lost the one person who truly loved me.

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Life as I knew it was over. I couldn’t imagine a world without my Mom. Once again my mental health spiraled out of control. I had struggled with depression most of my life but I was always able to snap out of it. This was the first time that didn’t happen. Suicidal thoughts were pretty common for me when I was at my worst but this was the first time I had a plan. I didn’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t take the grief. No matter how hard I tried to escape that hospital room I couldn’t get away from the grief. I was drowning in tears. I had the pills in my hand ready to take. That’s how close I came to killing myself. Thankfully I put a desperate plea for help on Facebook. That was the only way I knew how to ask for help. Losing my Mom was another traumatic experience that added another level to my PTSD.

Again I was hospitalized but because I didn’t have insurance I was sent to a halfway like house. While I didn’t quite get the help I needed it did start the process of me getting the help. I was put on medicine and when I was released I was setup with a therapist. The next four years I stayed on my medicine and continued therapy. The past four years haven’t been easy by any means. While the medicine helps with the helplessness I still cycle in and out of deep depression. I’ve tried really hard to live on my own and start a new life one where I treat my mental illness like the disease it is. I never stuck with anything for very long. Stability wasn’t a luxury that I was given. I gotten use to having to pick up everything and moving. In fifteen years I had to move twenty times.

I’ve been on medicine since 2013. I’ve also consistently been in therapy even when I had to find a new therapist which I had to do four times in four years. The person I use to be would have given up after the first time. Trust is huge when opening your wounds to a stranger but my life hadn’t gotten so bad that I knew I had to keep pushing forward. So I kept jumping hurdles. In the last year I’ve had to move three times, not by my choosing. The last move was to the town near my family. Finally I thought I could settle down but it was not meant to be.

I recently discovered that while I’ve made a lot of progress since 2013 I have not been living. I have just been surviving and miserable at that. I’m homeless and have nowhere to go but a homeless shelter. Whenever I start to think of going to live in a shelter my mind goes to dangerous places. Lately my depression has been very severe. I go weeks without showering. Everything is a chore. Even brushing my teeth is like climbing Mount Everest. No matter how horrible I’m feeling I make sure to go to therapy every week. No matter what I know that I have therapy. It’s the only consistent thing in my life.

This is where we go back to the present day. We are outside the PTSD bubble, at least in the blog post. Sadly in real life I’m still inside the bubble trying to find my way out.

So life was hunky-dory (well not really) until a few days ago… This is what it’s like to be triggered. You get transported back into time. It’s unstoppable. It hooks you like a fish and drags you under the current. I already had a lot on my plate already. Homelessness doesn’t suit me. It doesn’t suit anyone actually but it’s the situation I’m in.

Since the trigger has started I’m trying the best I can to not lose my mind… It’s not been easy. I come in and out of conscious constantly. Just when I think I have escaped the abuse is replayed in depths of my mind. You’re talking about the worst feelings you could imagine. At the heart of the pain is scared, little boy. Who is damaged and hurting. It’s like Voldemort when Harry Potter destroys the last horcrux. The forces trying to keep me down are just as scary and dangerous. The pit is the darkest of night. There is no light. There is only misery and suffering. These forces are always at my doorstep waiting for the first opportunity to drag me under.

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I might be weak. I might not be able to run any longer. I might be slow but I’m still moving forward… crawling… I’m fighting harder than I ever have before. I’ve not come this far to have some trigger do me in. For now I’m okay. I’m outside the cabin but I know at any moment I will be back in the bedroom where this all began. That’s the bad thing about being in a PTSD episode it’s like being lost. You have no map to guide you home. Sometimes the only way out of an episode is through a hospitalization. That’s where I’m heading. It’s where I must go if I ever want to make this a go. If I really am going to live I must go to the place of unknown. It’s scary to have to venture home in a land unknown. It’s like walking in the darkness. You don’t know if your next step will be your last.

But you gotta keep trying. Sure deep down inside I still believe I’m worthless and unlovable. Yes, I’m in a PTSD bubble and it’s unknown when I will find my way out. I have all of this fighting against me. It’s held me behind for too long. I’m tired of giving into it. I can’t do that any longer. It’s slowly killing me. I might be at the end of my rope but I still have hold of it. So I will continue to fighting and speaking out. I might not have a lot left but I have my voice… My will to fight… and my family…

I matter. My mind knows this. I’m aware that there is a disconnect between my mind and my heart. The darkness has my heart trapped and the path destroyed. I feel it deep within. It’s what’s kept me alive. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I know I want more out of life. I deserve so much more than the life I have lived. I somehow gotta learn a new. Start on a new path because I know the world needs me.

I might not have had the support and help I desperately needed so many years ago but I can ensure that others do. I will do this by continuing to speak out and share my story. My life has to have meaning and purpose. I know what it’s like to be rejected, cast out. To have others not believe you. To have your suffering go unvalidated.

Others might argue that the me too movement is not the time for male survivors to come forward. Some might think we should just sit back and listen. While the experience of male victims might look differently than a woman the pain is the same. The same thing is stolen from each gender. If you start comparing pain in terms of number and strength is when you start to slip down the slippery slide.

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Predators don’t stop with women. Men can fall into the power trap too. I understand that women have had to take the brunt of the abuse and have been most visible but to disregard another genders experience because of that doesn’t help anyone. If the rules of society will ever change then we must look at all aspects of sexual abuse. There are gender norms and rules that we must overcome. Misogyny is the symptom of the disease that is toxic masculinity. The cycle of abuse repeats when the victims stay silent. To silence male victims won’t break the full cycle.

Whenever is the right time to talk about abuse. People are arguing that by including men in the conversation will take away from the experience of healing but if things will ever change doesn’t all parties have to be involved. Sexual abuse is only talked about when something big like Weinstein comes to the surface. It’s talked about for a while but then everyone goes back to normal and nothing ever changes. We need to have ongoing conversations about sexual abuse. Predators are expecting us to stay silence. That is where they get their strength from. There are more of us than there are of them. Power has controlled them and they feel like they own the world. It’s up to us to stand up to them using our voices to remind them where they belong.

If people don’t want to talk about men who abuse women then they certainly won’t when the victims are men. I learned this from my family. Homosexuality is the ultimate break of the gender norms. Why else would so many have a problem with it? If society won’t accept consensual same sex attraction then nonconsensual doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why I believe it’s important that all victims be included because if we waited for our time it will never come. You can honor both experiences without taking away from another.

These gender rules are ingrained into our social consciousness. I was watching the Big Bang Theory the other night. In the episode Howard is freaks out when he finds out he’s having a boy. He freaks out because he’s afraid that he won’t be able to teach him to do the things that men do. The character was comparing himself to the gender norms of being a man that all men are sportsmen. Howard doesn’t fit the gender norm. Sure it’s a fictional situation but it shows the pressure that men have to endure. When you fall short in comparing yourself to the typical male then it’s very easy to feel less than. To those who take advantage of power they believe in the rules and will do whatever they have to enforce them… to keep them alive. These men feel like they own the world and can do with it however they see fit. I’ve been around men like this all my life.

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While many of the cases of serial predators like Weinstein victimize women there are enough cases where the victims are boys and men to take notice. One example are the countless priests who molested many boys. That’s the ultimate betrayal to be violated by a supposed man of God. Just like the Weinstein case the Catholic church knew about the abuses for years. Think about all the boys lives who were forever changed. Being violated as a child is something you just don’t get over. I was molested before I hit puberty. I didn’t know what sex was. I had my innocence was stolen. These boys were abused within the same power structure. Another example is the Sandusky case. Here was another man in power who sexually assaulted young boys. The abuse went on for years and many people were aware of the allegations. Like the Catholic Church those involved in the football program at Penn State didn’t do a thing and they knew about it for years.

Boys who don’t fit the masculine mold grow up feeling less, many of them are bullied. They’re called names like sissy and are seen as subservient. Many of these boys attempt suicide. Toxic masculinity sets up boys and men to fail especially if you are GBTQ. Many boys who are GBTQ are kicked out and end up on the streets. To survive these boys are forced into prostitution which leads to sexual abuse including rape.

Researchers have found that 1 in 6 men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18. Prevent Child Abuse America states that sexual abuse of boys is common, underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated. Sexual abuse of girls has been widely studied, leading to awareness of the risk factors and prevalence. Unfortunately, there have been relatively fewer studies done on sexual abuse of boys, leading to inadequate knowledge about the facts related to this topic. Some of the studies that are available have a high degree of subjectivity, poor sampling techniques, and poor designs with few control elements. Underreporting is a result of many issues. Boys are less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of fear, the social stigma against homosexual behavior, the desire to appear self-reliant (boys grow up believing that they should not allow themselves to be harmed or talk about painful experiences), and the concern for loss of independence. Furthermore, evidence suggests that one in every three incidents of child sexual abuse are not remembered by the adults who experienced them, and that the younger the child was at the time of the abuse, and the closer the relationship to the abuser, the more likely one is that the child will not be able to recall the event.”

Men are also not exempt from sexual assault. Male rape victims are less likely to come forward those who do are usually disregarded. Rainn states that 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male. They further state that 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.

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Sexual assault in the military are also significant. In 2014, ten percent of the 18,900 victims who came forward were male. Male victims are also less likely to come forward due to the stigma attached to toxic masculinity and military culture. Men are supposed to be tough. They don’t talk about their problems. Jim Hopper, a psychologist and researcher, and Russell Strand, a retired Criminal Investigative Service special agent, spoke about an aspect of sexual violence not often discussed: sexual assaults on men. There is a reluctance in men reporting assaults. So 87 percent of men attacked are not reporting it and “these are real men in real pain,” Hopper said. The pain is compounded by shame. Being sexually assaulted brings additional feelings of shame to a man because it works against the ideal of what it means to be a man, he said. Men who have been sexually assaulted believe they are not worthy of respect, Strand said. “Most people who sexually assault adult men are heterosexuals,” Hopper said. “And those same heterosexual men who are assaulting men are often the same men assaulting women.”

Many males won’t get help, he said, because they feel they won’t be believed, understood or supported. “Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to ‘a real man,’” Hopper said. They are also afraid of their friends or teammates finding out what happened to them, he said. They believe they will be looked at as less than a man, that they will be ostracized and shunned. And, many victims see the assault as the death-knell to their careers. So while the numbers might not be as high as the victimization of women the numbers make no difference in the trauma and long-term damage to the victim. To silence male victims for that reason only furthers the narrative that men won’t be believed or validated.

The likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after sexual violence. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public. Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. Long term effects can include guilt, self-blame, low self-esteem, negative self-image, problems with intimacy, sexual problems, addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Not all experiences are the same for all victims. Each survivor has a unique set of challenges to face afterwards. Toxic masculinity plays a big role in the male victims in coming forward and getting help. That was the my reasoning for not coming forward. I waited seven years to speak out and when I did I was faced with rejection from my family. I’m not alone. I’ve heard men get laughed out of police departments when they try to report a rape. Many men hold onto these secrets into their forties and beyond all due to stigma.

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Sexual assault can hit men in all aspects of life including at home and in the workplace. According to a recent survey, about one-third of all working men reported at least one form of sexual harassment in the previous year.  Of the 7,809 sexual harassment charges filed in 2011 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), 16.1 percent were filed by men. By 2013, this had risen to 17.6 percent. Again many male victims don’t come forward due to the stigma attached to male sexual abuse victims. I personally was groped at one of my previous jobs and management didn’t do anything. I ended up quitting because of it.

I’m not able to see how including men in the conversation about sexual assault takes anything away from women who are victims. Unless your argument is that all men are to blame, that somehow all men are inherently sexual deviants. I get it. I really do. Personally I don’t trust men, especially straight men. When I go shopping I pick the lanes that the cashier are men. I avoid eye contact with men. I have always felt more comfortable with women. Growing up all my friends were female. The men in my life who were suppose to love and support me were the ones to treat me poorly. This left me with a negative view on men. This was no different with gay men. I’ve been used for sex more times than not. I understand why women have the attitudes they do about me. This is why it’s important that I speak out and give me experiences on sexual abuse. Stigma leads to further victimization. It prevents victims from coming forward and getting the desperate help they need. Sexual abuse forever alters the lives of the victims. It’s not something you ever get over. You will go the rest of your life having to deal with the ramifications of being sexually assaulted. You’re outlook on life is permanently changed.

Men like Weinstein abuse others out of power. Toxic masculinity gives them permission to treat anyone like their are goods. In order to break the cycle of abuse we must talk about sexual abuse in the open. Doing so helps to extinguish the shame and guilt that occur because of the sexual abuse. As complex as sexual abuse is, the solution is multi-dimensional. If you argue that it’s a woman issue to you silence all the boys and men who aren’t accepted in the all boys club. Doesn’t separating the victims further adds to the power structure. When was the last time you saw a public campaign for male sexual abuse like the me too movement. The answer is probably never.

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What some probably don’t realize is that many of the men who had the courage to say me too were doing so for the first time. To speak out publically takes a lot of courage. It could have been the first step in them getting the help they need. Trust me male survivors are thrown a lot at them when they do come forward. If it could save one person isn’t it worth including all victims? Keeping male victims silent won’t stop these abuses from happening. The question that always comes up whenever a sexual assault scandal is publicized is how others can make a difference. I don’t have all the answers but I do believe that education and prevention early on will make a difference, at least in how quickly someone comes forward. The less stigma there is the more likely someone will come forward. Children need to learn about respect for their bodies and others. When I was sexually abused I didn’t even know what sex was and that was one reason I didn’t come forward earlier. If society only discusses sexual abuse during these scandals nothing will ever change.

Gender norms are harmful to those who don’t fall within the spectrum. Boys and girls grow up feeling less than. They hide who they are to fit in. Sexual abuse is just one symptom of toxic masculinity. Children who are judged unfairly by these rules often develop low self-esteem and self-worth. This only furthers the cycle of abuse. The longer it takes to get help the more damage it causes. The stigma attached to sexual abuse can lead to further abuse down the road when victims put themselves in dangerous situations because they believe they deserve it. Our society has the tendency to blame the victim. When you’re sexually assaulted you have a part of you stolen and it’s something that can’t ever be return. The abuser plants a seed in you that you’re worthless and unlovable. They manipulate and convince you that you’re an object. How society often treats the victims only confirms that the abuser was right. Often times there is no vindication for the harm caused. Many abusers get away with their crimes. This only adds the false beliefs inflicted upon the victim. The rejection from others, when you do come forward, only adds salt to the wound. It further damages you. I think how my family treated me did just as much damage, if not more. I went eight years digging my grave and building my coffin. By the time I came out about the abuse I was already laying down in it. My family put the nails in my coffin and buried me alive. When you have to dig your way out of the ground it forever changes who you are. I’ve spent twenty plus years trying to dig myself out of that grave. To this day that empty grave still remains ready for me to catch me when I fall.

That’s why it’s very important to speak out about all injustices. Those who are strong enough to take a stand are able to liberate others who aren’t able to. It takes a great amount of courage and bravery to come forward. Victims face a lot in their life and it can lead to a very isolating life. The sea of me too’s are a reminder of the strength in numbers. There are more survivors than there are abusers. We must stick together if we are ever to change anything. Pain is universal. Sexual abuse doesn’t save anyone. It inflicts poison into everyone the predator abuses. Someone’s gender doesn’t exclude them from damage. No one is spared from that damage.

Not everyone will understand all of this. My message is not for everyone. I learned that along time ago. When I told my secret I was liberated and got my voice back. While NO is a simple word in terms of vocabulary the strength behind it is more powerful than any other word in the dictionary. Speaking out is my way of saying no. Every day I’m alive I say no. To my abusers. To society. To family who didn’t believe me. To those who try to silence me.

To the stigma attached to sexual abuse. I hope to remind others that they’re not alone. No one should have to suffer alone or feel left behind. Others are consciously choosing to disallow male victims in order to control their emotions. While that might seem like a natural choice does it really make the pain go away and who does it help. It only makes people feel left out and forgotten. The more we speak out and stand up for these injustices the chances are better to prevent further lives being forever damaged. The ultimate goal should be to protect children, women and men. I can’t go back in time to stop the abuse from happening to me, nor can I reverse the damage entirely but I can use my voice in the hopes of saving someone from the pain and misery I have lived.

If you are looking for help here are a few resources:

http://www.malesurvivor.org/

https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

 

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