It’s Not My Fault

Today in therapy I had the realization that, after thirty years, I still blame myself for being sexually abused. Behind that blame is a lot of shame. While I knew there were still part of that blame still within me I didn’t know how deep and raw it was. I also didn’t realize how much remained after all these years. The last time I worked on blaming myself was in 2004. I spent almost two years working hard on the trauma. Prior to that time I had never really dealt with the abuse. During that time guilt and blame was something that I dealt with in length. I thought I had moved past it but I couldn’t be more wrong.

There were certainly signs but it wasn’t something on my radar.  Lately I’ve struggled with flashbacks. I haven’t been able to hide from the abuse. Each year my Mom’s family would go on vacation up north in Michigan together. Usually that meant sharing a cabin with my Grandmother who raised my cousin. I can close my eyes and i’m in the cabin where I was abused at. I can feel the walls of the room. The couch I slept on each night after my abuser took what he wanted from me. The shower where I couldn’t wash the shame. The band that was playing next door. I vividly remember it all. My memory is horrible but that week is crystal clear. I remember and can feel the guilt and shame… the fear of not knowing what had happened but knowing it was wrong.

Walking up to my parents door, ready to knock, to tell them what happened but turning away when I feared that they wouldn’t believe me. Not knowing how I would tell them that my male cousin had just sexually abused me. Instead I turned to that aqua blue couch with the old fashioned cloth. I can feel the patterns and how uncomfortable the couch was. I remember waking up in a panic early in the morning fearing that my family would question why I wasn’t sleeping with my cousin. How could I tell my parents that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed? So I went back into the lion’s den and waited for my cousin to get up. The next night I thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. I would wait for it to happen… and then wait for him to go asleep… I would shower and sleep on the couch until the sun came up. Somehow I knew when to wake up. For the next week I repeated this pattern.

You are probably wondering how any victim could blame themselves and unless it happens to you it will seem illogical. My brain knows it wasn’t my fault but the other parts don’t. Guilt is a common occurrence for sexual abuse victims. It’s even more complicated when you are gay and your abuser is a male. Abuse is welded into pleasure and self-worth at an early age. When you reinforce these early beliefs for decades it becomes extremely difficult to pull apart that spider web.

It was during puberty that I became an object and my adult years confirmed that to be true. When I was abused I didn’t even know what sex was. I use to think that a woman got pregnant by touching feet with a man. That gives you an idea the frame of mind that I was in. My sexuality from the start was tainted. The abuse was the only thing I had to go by. I didn’t get to go through the typical thing teenage boys do. When something painful becomes pleasurable it becomes a vicious cycle. That’s where the guilt and shame stems from. If you find it pleasurable then you must have wanted that. Society does a good job of victim shaming. My family did when I finally told them eight years later. If enough people repeat these message then eventually sinks in. I was right to not trust my family the first night, which just made me feel even worse. Though I will say my Mom was different. She never doubted me and supported me fully. The rest of the family, including my father, were different.

My cousin was the star of the family. I was the black sheep. For eight years I held this dark secret and was forced to see my abuser often as he lived down the street with my grandmother. I grew up believing my family didn’t love me because of how close they were with him. My father loved my cousin because he hunted and played sports. I did not. I wasn’t worthy of his attention or affection. My grandmother didn’t drive which meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted. It killed me to watch and not be able to tell him. Many nights I cried myself to sleep.

The day after I told my father that I was abused he went hunting with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset he told me that I had to forgive and forget. All of this just furthered the dialogue that I deserved what happened.

This might sound fucked up but my cousin was my first love interest. I was groomed to fall in love with him. I didn’t ask for it. He took my heart. When he was done with me I was left with rejection, shame and guilt.

I blame myself because I didn’t stop it. That’s the problem with trauma from your childhood, it stunts your growth. So while my body and mind grew up the hurt part of me didn’t. Inside of me is that ten year old boy. So while I can verbalize it’s not my fault to my therapist, I don’t believe it.

I don’t want to believe it. I wish I didn’t. That belief has affected every aspect of my life. When good things happen to me I believe I don’t deserve them so I run away from them. My two years in Chicago were some of the best days of my life. I had my own place and a good job with benefits. I had the most friends that I had ever had. I was involved with the LGBTQ community. I had all of this and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t deserve these wonderful things so I self destructed. No amount of therapy could stop that and I had an absolutely wonderful therapist. I didn’t deserve her either. I tried really hard to be a productive citizen who didn’t have a mental illness and I failed miserably.  While my time in Chicago was some of the best times it was also some of the worst. I was hospitalized twice. I had never stuck with any job longer than a year. My job in Chicago lasted 1.5 years but I was on short term disability twice. Life became too much and I returned back to the only thing I ever known.

I was groomed into accepting the bad as the truth. The darkness is comfortable. It’s all I have known. What will it take to overcome these beliefs? I’m not sure. There is a part of me that wishes I could just put the lid back on pandora’s box and pretend like nothing is wrong. Unfortunately that’s not possible. Once the abuse is out in the open it takes a long while to process. The flashbacks are troubling and I can’t control them. I wish I could deal with the trauma without them. It’s not as easy as wishing them away. It’s not a thought that you can make go away. A flashback is so much more than a thought, it’s an experience that uses all the senses. Very quickly you are transported back to that time. Every door you open leads you back into that room.

Others might think that I’m falling apart but honestly I’m doing great considering what I’m going through. In the past this type of awareness would have meant hospitalization. So far I haven’t had to go. I certainly have had moments where I was close to that but I have been able stabilize myself. I don’t think I have had this level of awareness. What makes this time different?

I think for starters I have stopped comparing myself to others. At least to the point where it prevents me from moving forward. I’ve stopped trying the person that others needed me to be. I will never be the typical person who works full-time. I have tried that for the last twenty years and I have failed every time I tried. I have started to take my mental illness serious for the disease that it is. I must manage the symptoms like someone with Diabetes. Each time in the past when I would try to work full-time I would crash into a downward spiral of depression. Workplaces only allow so many sick days before you’re fired. They don’t understand that with PTSD that there are just some days you can’t be convinced to leave your house. Each job that I lost would cause me to lose my insurance and housing. The instability of the last twenty years has also contributed to the deterioration of my mental health.

So what is different about where I’m at today? For starters I have medicaid which allows me to receive continued treatment. I won’t lose this for not working. I know that many people won’t understand my decision to go for SSI disability but they’ve not had to live my life or endure what I have. I’m trying really hard to break the cycle. Going back to work would be a short term solution that would end with me quitting from a nervous breakdown. The next one could be my last and I can’t risk that. If I lose my insurance then I was certainly have another breakdown.

I’ve been in therapy since 2013 and have been on medicine since then as well. This is huge for me. I have never stuck anything out like this. It’s honestly my lifeline. Being on SSI disability will allow me to become more healthy. I won’t have to worry about losing my healthcare (that’s if Trump and the GOP doesn’t take it) from not being able to work. No matter what I know that I can go to therapy and get my medicine. Those two constants have become my stability. SSI will just add one more aspect. I’ve never had stability. Honestly I don’t think I have ever been this stable emotionally.

I have a therapist now that I really like and trust. I have seen various therapists the last four years and this is the first time I have been able to trust someone enough to talk about the sexual abuse in length. Today’s session was tough and I was able to get through it to the point it did put me in dangerous water. So that’s definitely progress.

My stability has allowed me to open up more about the trauma. Being able to recognize that I still blame myself is huge. I just need to continue what I’m doing. Keep moving forward. My therapist in Chicago told me that healing is like an onion, there are many layers. I really feel that I have hit the core or at the very least really close. As tough as it is to be aware of the abuse and the trauma it’s allowing me to heal.

I am able to verbalize that it’s not my fault. A month ago I didn’t even realize that I still blamed myself. Awareness is half the battle and I’m one step closer to believing that I deserve good things. I will continue to process the trauma until I don’t have to anymore.

I was a boy. The responsibility is not mine to own. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I was groomed. I deserve love, respect and happiness. I have to stop letting my cousin and others control my body and happiness. I’m not an object. I wasn’t meant to be used or have things taken from. For the very first time I’m taking care of myself and able to see things more clearly. It’s allowed me to have some difficult realizations about myself and admit that I never really stopped blaming myself for the abuse. This was a huge step today and hopefully will allow me to heal. I’m one day closer to believing that I didn’t deserve the abuse, that it’s not my fault. It never was.

It’s not my fault.

Advertisements

The Devil Within Me

monster_in_the_darkness_by_jutamahmud-d7vn8gf (1)

*******TRIGGER WARNING: POST INCLUDES TOPICS LIKE SEXUAL ABUSE******

If people could see the beast that lives in you then maybe they would take mental illness serious or at the very least treat people differently. I see depression as a monster. A force that pulls you under no matter how hard you fight it. Sadly the beast is invisible. No one else knows it’s there but you. That’s the trick and the game it plays. Depression feeds off isolation, fear and control.

For a long period of time I thought I was the monster within me. I wasn’t able to tell the difference between me and the beast. The lines blurred to the point of no return. At least what I thought.

The beast controls me. I have no control of over him. I could be skipping along (okay I don’t skip) and it’s hand comes out from under the ground and it drags me to the depths of hell. My father use to tell me that I was going to hell. What he didn’t realize that I often live there.

While in the grasp of the beast I can’t see anything but darkness. I’m isolated from everything good and pure. Light is a million miles away. The beast lies to me and most of the time I believe it for a period of time… until I get tired of feeling horrible then I start to fight. I haven’t always fought my way out of depression. Sometimes it gets to the point of psychosis and the only escape is through the doors of a hospital.

Currently I’m in the middle of a depressive episode. This time I was able to notice that the beast had me. Most of the times I don’t realize until days if not weeks later. The longer I’m under the control of the beast the harder it is to escape. Even when I do it can be weeks until I fully escape.

Imagine living in a world where a monster constantly follows you. How would you handle living with this for over forty years? I guess most couldn’t handle even a day. This is what it’s like for someone living with depression. You constantly live in a horror film. Each day you wake up the movies starts all over.

I feel things so deeply that it’s painful. It becomes a burden to love so deeply. With love comes loss and that loss is just amplified with depression and empathy. At times I wish someone could cut it out of me. I’ve begged God to take it from me. I’ve begged God to take me from this world.

Tonight I was able to face that monster. Each time it’s just as difficult as the last. It’s very convincing. It’s voice pierces my ear drums and most the time it just whispers. You’re a horrible person. You are a loser. No one loves you. You are the monster. Unlovable. Worthless. These are all the words out of the beast. For a very long time I just believed him.

I no longer do.

While I’m fighting harder than ever it still hurts like hell. It doesn’t ever get any easier. It’s just as frightening to. There is nothing more lonely than being where I’m at. To know that you’re alone with the beast. Even when you’re surrounded by a bunch of people. It’d be easier if people could see him.

A while ago I was asked what the beast looks like and I couldn’t answer. I never really see him. It’s the absence of everything good. Something deeper and darker than a shadow. Larger than anything in this world. It doesn’t take shape either. Though I do occasionally see him when I look in the mirror and that’s probably the problem. The beast lives within me, it’s never exterior.

People see what they want to. This lovable, laughable human being full of life. They expect that 24/7. It’s frustrating when one day you can be the life of the party and then the next you’re debbie downer. People just can’t grasp the contrast. If you can be happy one day then you can the next. Just chin up. Cheer up. Think positive. If only it were that easy as smiling. If it were that simple everyone would do it and depression wouldn’t exist.

I use to hide the beast. Pretend that it didn’t exist. For many years I tried to do it alone. I might not be able to escape the beast but there are things that I can do to control it… keep it at bay. One way I do this is by taking my medicine daily. Another is to see my therapist regularly. Sadly there is no cure to get rid of the beast. He will always live within me. I have come to terms with the fact that he’s apart of me and it’s something that I will have to manage for the rest of my life.

To have the strength to look the beast right in the eyes is freeing. I have to must every last ounce of willpower that I have to fight off the beast. It’s a battle that’s gradual. Tonight it took a few hours to notice that I was in a depressive episode. I started to feel absolutely horrible. It started by staying in the dark. I didn’t want to turn on any lights, other than the tv. Tonight it was a song that woke me up.

I’m not sure what it is about this song but it speaks to me.

So here I am sitting at the table late Tuesday night feeling drained. Overcoming the beast is very tiring. I feel very off. I will probably feel this way for the next few days. While it’s freeing you will never be free. I know all well that it could return any minute it doesn’t take much either.

I have struggled the past few months with getting triggered over the whole metoo movement. It’s caused my abuse to resurface which just feeds the beast. It’s fuel. I can’t get away from this feeling that I deserved the abuse. That I still deserve that kind of abuse. Opening these wounds is like opening pandora’s box. Once you’ve unsurfaced the pain it’s tough and almost impossible to put back… at least right away.

I hate feeling worthless. Dirty… No amount of soap will clean up that nastiness. Pure filth. Muck.

In the past I would act out sexually. For the most part those days are past but I still go through the motions and sometimes I do act out but not to the depths as in the past. For some reason I try to recreate the abuse. It’s tough when the abuse becomes something that stimulates you down the road. That’s the thing about sexual abuse that part or all is pleasurable. For me it wasn’t pleasurable until I hit puberty. Most boys fantasize about normal things. I fantasized my abuser. As a teenager that ate away at my soul until I was left with very little. I have grown up into an adult and have found myself in similar situations that further damages me.

Sexual abuse destroys you. It leaves a mark on you. It’s like a horcrux. When the sexual abuse happens around puberty those beliefs learned from the abuse are hardwired into your consciousness. I grew up hating myself and my body. I felt great shame that I could find pleasure in something so horribly dirty. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that I had fallen for my abuser. He got me to love him and to feel lost without him. Him leaving me was the final rejection. My abuser took what he wanted and then left me to pick up the pieces. I was humpty dumpty and no amount of glue would ever keep me together.

No amount of time will make the shame and guilt go away. It lingers long past the days when it occurred. Once triggered it’s tough to get out of it. So while I’m out of the depression episode I’m still in the ptsd bubble. I have been for months. That’s the problem when you get triggered related to the abuse. I want something meaningful but that seems impossible. To find someone who will value me for who I am inside and not my exterior just seems out of reach.

I’ve given up trying to find someone. I’ve accepted the fact that I could be single for the rest of my life. Right now I’m just trying to survive. So it’s really not on my radar. Though it’s always in the back of mind that there is still this chance. It’s why I keep apps like Growlr still on my phone.

I am desperate for connection and apps like Growlr are the wrong places to find that. Most are after sex, even the guys who say they’re just looking for friends. It this giant trap and I think most don’t even realize that they’re in a spiders web. I have gone periods where I remove these apps but I always reinstall them. My sexuality falls into two categories. Obsession and Repulsion. Two extremes. Even in the obsession stage often times there is some sort of repulsion and that usually surfaces when you know what happens. It’s pure guilt and shame from the sexual abuse.

I don’t have Growlr on my phone for sex. I don’t look for sex and most the time I don’t really want to have sex even when I feel like I do. My profile is very g-rated but that doesn’t stop guys from propositioning me. I have this exterior that’s just an illusion. My stature and size put me in this false narrative of being the aggressor. I can’t escape it and I try. For whatever reason many gay men want to be used and abused. For years I gave them what they wanted and it almost destroyed me. I reversed the roles and became my abuser or at least that’s what I felt. This only made the beast in me stronger and larger. I finally got control over the abuse but it was just an illusion. While the sex was consensual it was still using someone else. I was doing to guys what was done to me… but they were wanting it and asking for it.

Guys seem to only want me to for sex. No one ever seems to be able to look past my size. One group wants nothing to do with me because of my body and the other side only wants me for my body. No one seems to want my heart and it just reinforces the feelings of worthlessness. For the longest time I gave men what they wanted. I went a period of two years where I was very sexually compulsive. I felt some sort of attention was better than nothing. I now realize that’s not true.

I still fall trap to that lifestyle but I’m no longer the abuser. I’m the victim. That’s what it was all along. I was reenacting the abuse in the eyes of my abuser.

I wish I could just delete these apps forever but I’m chained to them. Very few people on here want anything meaningful. Finding friendships on there is like finding a unicorn. No matter how hard I try to get away from the illusion that I’m the aggressor, many just see me in that light. I can’t hide my stature and size. I can’t tell you how often guys proposition me wanting me to the dominant one. It just makes me feel awful.

I’m a teddy bear. I’m not a grizzly bear. Most guys just see the grizzly bear and that hurts like hell. When they do see that I’m a carebear then they want nothing to do with me. It all just reinforces that I’m just an object. Useable.

So I haven’t been able to escape the feelings of being an object since the metoo. Honestly it was always there I’m just aware of it now. I wish I could put it back on the shelf. I don’t like feeling this shame. It’s hardcore and raw. I’m constantly hemorrhaging. I don’t want any more. My existence has been wrapped up into being an object. So it’s not been easy to overcome. I’m trying though.

I guess that’s half the battle. Well I guess that’s it for now. I didn’t quite expect to go down this road when I started writing but here I am. It’s all connected…

sweet_halloween_dreams___P_by_begemott

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

bigstock-ptsd-symbol-isolated-on-white-33431585

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.

tumblr_mv8jcaq1fc1r8o9n0o1_500

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.

main-qimg-e08c91def28d7da2ebf2007e816bb83e-c

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.

male-rapez

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.

someone-once-told-me-that-being-in-the-closet-is-like-living-in-a-vertical-casket-perfect-quote-1

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.

Landfill

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.

flatline

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.

babadook

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.

a97d759507a0c3858ec73efaebbfe175

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.

gender-roles

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.

160326170728-08-survivor-stories-adam-tease-super-169

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.

male-victim-111215

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.

toxic-masculinity

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

 

cropped-athena-moberg-bobbi-parish-nomoreshame-project-brene-brown-quote-1

Boys Will Be Boys: The Cycle of Abuse

****TRIGGER WARNING****

One thing I’ve heard over and over in regards to the news that Harvey Weinstein sexually abused women for decades is why it took so long for the revelation to come out. More so why others involved didn’t step forward sooner. When people learn about something outside their comfort zone the natural thing is to question it. It seems illogical someone would hold a secret for so long. They use words without knowing the background and experiences of living with such a secret. Our society has a history of blaming the victim. It’s ingrained into our culture and everyday life. The messages are clear, that men are superior which makes them invisible whenever they use their power to abuse others.

If you look deeper than you can see that many of the victims in the Weinstein case did try to speak out and were usually silenced in some way or another. One victim of the abuse even went as far as reporting it to the police. There is even audio proof of the abuse but even still he was never prosecuted for the assault. This speaks volumes as to how victims are treated. When the victims do speak out they’re met with opposition both from the abuser and the public. They’re shunned back into silence. Secrets eventually find their way to the surface. People can question the credibility of all the victims because they’re privileged to do so. They’ve not had to live through the pain, guilt or shame. Often times how others respond to abuse is just as damaging. It reinforces the shame and guilt from the assault, echoing the voice of your abuser in your ear.

Another thing I see people questioning is why so many victims come forward at once. As if the more victims they are the more likely the news isn’t true. When you speak out about something as tough as sexual abuse you liberate others who have gone through something similar. So many of Weinstein’s and Cosby’s victims were silenced. It’s tough enough to face the abuse let alone a judgeful world that will most likely blame you. When someone is able to break free from the shame, guilt and public pressure it gives all the other victims strength. There is strength in numbers.

Predators like Weinstein get away with these crimes because of rules of society. One that blames the victim. The victimization from Weinstein was so widespread and lengthy that it became a legend in Hollywood. It’s the ultimate plausible deniability. Just look how our culture treats people like Woody Allen, Bryan Singer, Hugh Hefner, Casey Affleck, etc. We reward them with admiration and awards. The evidence is always there. Unless the evidence is too massive to overlook oftentimes the victims are disregarded and overlooked. For example, the Weinstein company. They knew about the abuse for years and tolerated it until the secret hit the press and the public. It was then that they cut all ties because it hit their bottom line. How many more predators like Weinstein are there in and out of Hollywood. Harvey Weinstein justifies his horrible deeds by brushing them off to a time that was different. Wrong is wrong, no matter how long it has been.

Using the excuse of well I didn’t know better is bogus. It’s how you reflect accountability. Regardless of the time in our history, the difference between right and wrong has always been clear. The lack of judgment and being a horrible person in the past doesn’t exempt you from taking the heat when you’re hold accountable years after. So while Feinstein might not treat women like that anymore (which I find hard to believe) it doesn’t erase all the years of abuse. The damage caused to the women he assaulted will last a lifetime. When you’re sexually abuse your soul is split into two. You will go a lifetime having to deal with effects from the trauma.

While women take the brunt of this abuse it occurs frequently to boys and men. There is this boys club where people justify the horrible deeds of men. It’s the boys will be boys mentality. I lived in a family with that philosophy. Being gay was abomination when being a child molester was not. If you don’t fit in with society’s rules of what it means to be a man you’re seen as less than and worthy of abuse. What it boils down to is misogyny.

When I spoke out about the sexual abuse in my family, many tried to oppress the revelations through denial and disbelief. Boys will be boys is how my Aunt responded to my Mom. As if sexual abuse was a pastime. The sexual abuse in my family was rampant and widespread. For years it was this dirty secret that everyone in the family knew. It was an unspoken rule to be like everybody else and not say a word. To talk about the abuse was to bring great shame to the family. The impact of shame completely outweighed the damage of silence. I was ostracized and made to feel less than because I was speaking the truth. I was rejected and blamed. I became the black sheep of the family. I was trying to break out of the cycle and everyone including my cousins tried to silence me anyway they can.

For years we pretended that the dark secret didn’t exist. It was swept underneath the rug with all the secrets. We were brainwashed into believing that sexual abuse was acceptable and common. The years passed. Family gatherings such as our annual Halloween party went on. We had a predator in our family and the adults knew that the abuse was going on. They did nothing. They were complacent and did just as much damage for trying to silence us all. The adults of the family didn’t stop it and more children were forever damaged by one person’s sick game.

Prior to me, there was one other person who tried to speak out… my Mother. She didn’t know my secret but she knew someone else’s. When she spoke out she was chastised and shamed back into silence. Her cries were disregarded. My Aunt whose child was the predator didn’t talk to her for years. There was no way that her golden boy was a child molestor. How the family treated my Mom sent a clear message to the children to shut up. To be good little children. Be seen, not heard.

The predator would strut his stuff at family gatherings like he was the top dog. He knew that no one would stop them and could do whatever he wanted. He terrorized my cousins. We lived in a big family. By the time he was done he’d sexually abused most of my cousins. He didn’t stop at our family and started to branch out to other children in the neighborhood. Eventually he got caught molesting a girl next door. The lawyer his parents hired ended up getting him off.

To this day he’s never been prosecuted for the many crimes he committed. He’s never received help. He’s what you call a serial child predator. It haunts me to know that he’s probably out there abusing children and there is nothing that I can do to stop him. I had even heard that years ago he was coaching a boys basketball team in the same town we grew up in.

To my knowledge no one in the family has ever confronted him… Most of my cousins grew up damaged in some way or another.

When you try to speak out about a secret those who are trying hard to hide them will stop at nothing to keep them hidden, including those who were damaged from that secret. I was 18 when I first spoke out about the sexual abuse in my family. I had went eight years of hiding my secret and wallowing in my shame and guilt. I couldn’t hide my pain any longer.

You can only put so much air into a balloon before it explodes or goes flying around the room like a chicken with it’s head cut off. I couldn’t take it any longer and exposed my secret to my parents. I was free just for one moment. The secret was free but the shame and guilt remained.

I didn’t just come out about the abuse that day. I had another secret, I was gay. The fact that my abuser was a male was of great shame to me. It was one of the reasons I waited so long to tell anyone because I was worried that they wouldn’t believe me. I remember walking up to my parents door the night I was first abused. I was about to knock on their door before the shame set in. How could I tell them about the abuse when my attacker was my male cousin. So I showered and pretended like it didn’t happen. To this day I still remember the couch I took refuge in that night. I can feel the fabric. I can see the pattern.

My Mom never doubted me. She always believed me. The rest of the family did not, including my father. Well he believed me but he just didn’t care. The next day he went hunting with the cousin who sexually abused me. He told me that I needed to forgive and forget. This was the same man who told me that I was going to die in the hospital alone from AIDS because I was gay.

There is a lot of stigma still attached to sexual abuse. It’s a subject that so many don’t find acceptable to talk about in the open. It’s easier to talk about when something big like the revelation of Weinstein happens. We need to start talking about abuse in the moments in between. Silence deafens the cries of victims. It continues the cycle. If we don’t speak up and out about these horrible deeds these perpetrators will continue to hurt more people.

Until society stops blaming and shaming the victims nothing will ever change. There is never an excuse that justifies a crime. Sexual abuse has never been acceptable. The difference between the present and the past is that more people hold the perpetrators accountable today. We have more courage and strength today than we did yesterday. This happens when victims become survivors by speaking out and giving a voice to others who aren’t able to speak.

When you’re sexually abused you lose your voice. The ability of saying no is taken from you. Your body, mind, heart and soul are violated. There isn’t an aspect of you that’s not affected. I was ten years old when I had my innocence taken from me. It was stolen and it’s not something that can be returned.

I’ve not always had my voice. I’ve not always been able to say no. There are times still that I lose my voice. I have to fight daily against the demons of my past. When I am finally able to verbalize the world NO, I am free. The strength behind this word is powerful and doesn’t match the smallness of letters.

When I feel like I can’t speak it’s the strength of other survivors that inspires me and reminds me that I still have my voice. I know that the other side is loud and persistent. They expect us to be silent. They’re depending on us to keep our mouths shut. I refuse to remain silent. I know that the words that don’t escape my belly are the ones that could open the door for more harm to come at the hands of a sexual predator. I share my story in the hopes that I might reach someone in need. It’s so easy to feel like you’re alone when you’re dealing with this sort of trauma. So many victims continue to be silenced. They oftentimes have no one to turn to so they go anywhere they can whether it be addictions or suicide. If you’re able to come out on the other side it becomes pivotal to stand up for those like you. While I didn’t have the power to stop the sexual abuse when I was a child I now have that power returned. When I share my experiences, both the good and bad, I liberate others to do the same in return.

Giving Survivors a Voice!

482399_10153467127565438_1978003269_n

As a survivor of sexual abuse it’s common to feel like you’ve lost your voice. Saying a simple word like NO becomes very complex and difficult. Often times you are so desperate to scream out those words like STOP and only air escapes your mouth. It’s easy to become helpless and hopeless.

Coming out as a survivor is never easy and at times even as difficult as the traumatic act itself because often it’s clouded with doubt and negativity. In a perfect world a victim survivor should be embraced with love, understanding and validation but often the opposite happens. Shame is a common and occurring feeling for the survivor. This is only amplified when other’s discount the trauma you have endured.

For a male survivor this is very true. We live in a world where society tells us that Men can’t be rape or victimized because we are suppose to be strong and invisible. When your abuser is also a male that can really make the event even more traumatizing, especially when you have to tell others what happened. The shame of having another male abuse you might bring you to secrecy to cover up the abuse because what it might mean to others that you allowed another man to abuse you.

That was the first thing that crossed my mind after I was sexually abused, what will other’s say that another male touched me in that way. Honestly I didn’t think anyone would believe me, so I chose to hide it and the longer I hide the abuse the more shame I felt. The shame grew until it was taller than Mount Everest but secrets have a way of coming undone. After trying to climb that horrible mountain I grew tired and weary, to the point where I couldn’t climb that mountain anymore.

The risk of coming out didn’t come close to the pain of holding it in. Just like a balloon I couldn’t hold in anymore shame and finally one day I exploded, and everything came gushing out.

 

Yesterday I saw an article posted on Facebook about Project Unbreakable, an initiative to increase awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and encourage the act of healing through art. As I read and viewed the pictures the tears began to swell up and gush down my cheeks like a river overflowing.

Project Unbreakable has featured over two thousand images of sexual assault survivors holding posters with quotes from their attackers. As I read each picture in the article I began to think about my own sexual abuse and wondered what I would say in my picture. Instantly I was stumped because my abuser never said a word to me because everything done to me was when he thought I was sleeping.

As an adult I beat myself up for not standing up for myself. I’ve wondered a million times what would have happened if I would have let him know I was awake and why did I return to that bed each night knowing what could happen. I blamed myself over and over again, until it became my fault because I coulda, woulda, shoulda stopped him!!!

For a moment I thought I didn’t fit into Project Unbreakable because I couldn’t write his words but then I remembered it wasn’t his words that hurt me, it was his actions… and then I realized I had every right to be apart of Project Unbreakable. While he never verbalized his words what he did to me spoke volumes and I had filled in his blanks with words he was saying to me by taking my innocence.

“You deserve this!”

“You’re weak!”

“You’re powerless!”

“No one will believe you!”

“I will beat you up if you tell anyone!”

“I’m God!”

“You don’t matter!”

“You’re an object!”

I could fill a book with everything he said to me…

For eight excruciating years filled full of pain, silence, secrecy and a victimization. I didn’t know there was another way, nor did I believe I deserved anything else.

When I came out of the closet about the abuse I was met with anything but compassion. Those eight long years were only enforced that I should have stayed silent. I think how others in my family handled the news traumatized me just as much as the act itself.

My father made it clear of this by going hunting the next day with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset, he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. Here was someone who was suppose to love and protect me telling me that I had no reason to be traumatized and that I should just move on with my life. His words cause me to relive the shame and hurt from the ripping of my soul.

When you are sexually abused the person rips a hole in your soul. It is the attempted genocide of a persons soul. A child without their innocence grows up feeling less, vulnerable and unprotected. They grow into adults without being able to shed that clout of shame, fear and ugliness. How others respond to their trauma can only add to all of that.

It has taken twenty years for me to realize when other’s respond to your abuse with dissent, disbelief and negativity it’s their own shame that they are trying to hide. It’s much easier to cover the abuse up and pretend that it never happened, than it is to face it and bring it to daylight. They are blinded by their own guilt and shame, and the fears what others will think about them. They do everything they can to protect the families reputation. I call it sweeping it underneath the rug.

There is still so much stigma in regards to sexual abuse, making it very important that we continue to spread awareness to help protect others. Bringing the abuse to the light of day will only help the healing process and give survivors the much needed voice. It will also give others the courage to stand up and use their voice that previously they didn’t know existed.

We are not alone. While there will always be others who will try to silence us, doing whatever possible to keep the secret hidden, there will always be others who will give us a platform to use our voices. Those who offer healing, love and understanding.

If you are a survivor and would like to share your story by picture you can send an email to Project Unbreakable.

tumblr_moda8k9gXE1r65rllo9_1280 (1)

Prisoner in My Own Body

I’ve discovered recently how deep my self worth (or lack thereof) runs and how it connects to everything I touch. I have known for years that I suffer from poor self esteem and self worth but I didn’t realize how much of an impact it had on my life.

With depression and PTSD, for me, there comes this crippling isolation. The more depressed or triggered I am the more I crawl into my cave. This isn’t a new concept for me as I have been doing this for year. The closest people in my life become strangers, and strangers become monsters. It is a scary place to me. I lose all sense of reality and often I don’t even recognize myself.

I woke up early this morning (which is rare for me) and instantly felt the need to cleanse myself, as in take a shower. It will have been almost a week since my last shower. I wish I could say that was the longest I have been without bathing but it comes with the territory. The more worthless I feel the less likely I am going to care about staying clean. For most taking a showering is a no brainer but when I am in the low place it becomes like Mount Everest.

Every time I shower, especially if it has been a good while since my last one, I feel so clean and fresh. Pure. That doesn’t last very long, usually less than an hour.

Every time I was sexually abused I tried to wash off the dirty with soap but no matter how long or hard I scrubbed it wouldn’t wash away. My outside would be clean but the soap couldn’t touch or reach the dirty deep inside. So it makes sense when I feel the most worthless I allow my body to stay dirty because this is how I feel inside.

When I am depressed everything goes to hell from my personal hygiene to my eating habits, and everything else in between. You should have seen some of the apartments I have lived in, you would have thought it was a disaster zone. I would leave dishes in the sinks for months to the point where I would have to throw everything away. I haven’t gotten better about that but I still allow my living area to go out of whack. Whenever I would have anyone come over, I would go into a panic trying to clean everything. I couldn’t let anyone know the chaos my life was in. I had to give the appearance that everything was okay.

Today I realized that my body is a prison cell. I started to think my mind was the prison but in reality it is my whole body that is the prison. Certainly my mind has it’s own great big, dark cell but everything is contained inside the walls of my prison body.

I desperately want to break free from this cell but I have struggled for years doing so. I have been off my diet since my birthday (july 3) and I have struggled since to get back on track. I use to really struggle with compulsive overeating. There would be times that I would try to medicate my bad feelings with food. I would eat myself into oblivion until all I noticed was sickness from being full. Sweets and soda were my fair weather friends. This week I have noticed myself pigging out to the point where I just don’t care.

The more worthless I feel the more the need to make the horribleness go away, anyway I can. I become very compulsive and I have noticed an increase in my compulsion recently. Food and sex were two ways I used to compensate for my self worth, both always lead me down a dark road.

Sex has also been a struggle for me. I saw myself as an object for many years and gave the people what they wanted. It wasn’t always that way. I grew up believing I could find someone who loved and accepted me. I had dreams of having a family and spending my life with that one person. When that didn’t happen, I took what I thought was the next best thing… not realizing the damage it would cause. When I am triggered my mind tries to go down that road again.

I have been celibate since April 2012, which is the longest I have ever gone without sex. It is one of the few things that I am proud of. I have taken back my body in regards to sex. For me it’s a reminder that not all of me thinks I am worthless. Now that’s not to say that I haven’t had temptation or have had moments where I have tried to look for sex but thankfully I quickly snap out of it. I have caught myself thinking what the heck am I doing??? I don’t want to give my body up for one night of pleasure. I realize not only will I lose all that time of purity but afterwards I will feel like crap.

I went through a period of heavy sexual compulsion. I didn’t care about the risk, I just wanted to feel good but every time I would feel dirty… just like after the abuse. Every time I would run to the shower and try to wash the dirt away and every time I would fail miserably. Usually it would end in my feeling suicidal. With acting out sexually, I’m not proud to admit, I engaged in some very risky behavior. I was playing russian roulette with my health, body and life. I am thankful that to this day I am hiv negative, so many others haven’t been so fortunate.

I’ve thought long and hard about why I didn’t care about the risks of having unprotected sex. Obviously it’s connected to how I feel about myself. When I couldn’t find a man to love me, I gave up and resorted to taking any kind of attention I could find. I didn’t feel I was worthy of love, care and attention so I gave men what they wanted. I learned very early on that a mans needs came before my own. The abuse taught me that my needs aren’t important. Obviously my mind knows that isn’t true but it’s something I still struggle with daily.

It’s amazing the lies your brain believes. Like you deserve AIDS. I didn’t go out looking to become positive but I certainly didn’t turn it away… nor did I want it. Every time I would get tested for HIV I would go into this panic. You would think that being tested negative would scare me straight but that only lasted so long before I started acting out again. I think in part having risky sex was my psyche trying to commit suicide, it certainly was extremely self destructive. I have often wondered why I wanted HIV. Maybe I thought it was the only way for someone to love me and show me attention? Was I so desperate to lose the weight to think having HIV was the only way to do so? Did I really want to die? I certainly wasn’t a bug chaser (someone who actively wants to become hiv positive) but indirectly I had to be trying.

The only correlation to all of this was when I came out of the closet in 1995. One of the many hurtful things my father told me that I was going to get AIDS and that all my friends wouldn’t be there when I was dying alone in the hospital. He also told me that I had always wanted to lose weight and that getting AIDS that would finally come true. Am I still holding on to the hope that my father will love me in the way I need, to the point where dying from AIDS he’d come to my rescue??? It’s been eighteen years since I heard my father spew his hatred towards me and it still feels like he just said them to me. I’m just thankful I have turned down another road but I fear when I get these urges that I will turn back around down that road…

Even recently I have started to walk down that road. I even created a couple of sex accounts, which I quickly deleted… I know that that road is a slippery slide to some dangerous behavior. Thankfully I have realized that is not the life for me, nor the one I want. That is the struggle with being single and feeling lonely. I miss human contact, intimacy. I watched a movie recently about this gay couple and I watched in awe as they made love to each other, as this is something I have always dreamed of but have never obtained. I’m realizing that something isn’t better than nothing. Nothing is better than something that will hurt me, it’s just learning to cope with the indifference.

While I have been able to fend off the sexual compulsion, I haven’t been so lucky when it comes to food. Food is my biggest battle and my biggest addiction. Food has been my biggest friend and defense. I have built this physical blubber of a wall to protect myself and it’s killing me. It makes sense to me that I have been struggling lately with eating healthy. This is really the first time since January that I have struggled this long. I believe in part is that I am getting to the core of all these bad feelings and untruths about myself. All this time I have seen it as digging a tunnel to my core, when I have been digging my escape route to expose it all. They say it gets worse before it gets better. This is the first time in my life that I have been actively working on my body. I am facing the truth in my own time, doing what I need to do to heal… going to therapy, taking my medicine, etc. I might not be moving as quickly as some feel and want me to but I am moving at my own pace… and I will get there. The road to taking care of myself is bound to be bumpy. I have to realize that occasionally I will fall off track, sometimes I will even take the wrong road but the key is to always get back on track… regardless how long it has been.

I’ve been living in darkness so long, that it’s only natural the dark force will try to pull me under. I have been living so unhealthy for so many years, so I must realize the road to healing isn’t going to be perfect. I will fall. I will get scratched. The difference I am no longer in that hurtful place, it is all an illusion. A way to keep me from what I deserve, which is love and happiness.

So I am going to keep moving forward and as a little fishy once told me… I am going to just keep swimming.

Trapped

So I recently realized during my last therapy session that I have always felt trapped in the abuse, as in I don’t deserve anything good in my life. This realization has allowed me to look back at my life and see the choices I have made and why I have allowed my life to go for less than deserved.

During that week when I was sexually molested I learned very quickly who I was and my purpose. The years afterward only helped bury those beliefs even further in my grave.

I have always known that I have a low self esteem. I have also been aware the havoc the sexual abuse has had on my life but I never was able to put everything together.

The worthlessness arrose those nights when I was scared for my life, hiding underneath the pillow… praying for the awfulness to stop. When it didn’t I was groomed into believing I deserved it. I also grew up believing I didn’t deserve anything whole, pure or right. My body was something that anyone could take, even a family member.

It was about that time that I started to gain weight. My outside could finally match the way I felt inside and that was ugly, dirty and used. For many years these horrible feelings were buried deep inside of me but I don’t have that luxury now. I wish there was an easy fix to cure a self esteem. I dislike feeling worthless like I do.

When my therapist tried to tell me that I deserved good things, I started to float away and became all glassy eyed. I didn’t believe her. My mind does but my heart doesn’t. This is only confirmed by the various heart aches I have had in life.

Good things are taken from me and I am left with the bad. Inside I believe if I was a good boy I wouldn’t have been abused.

Now I am trying to get my life back, when I still hold onto many of those bad feelings. I think that is why I have such a severe need to hide. I still think I am that worthless, helpless, little boy. I don’t deserve love or happiness.

It’s been brainwashed into my psyche that I have to have someone else to be happy and that has only lead me to heartbreak and major disappointment.

I told my therapist I feel trapped… stuck… and I can’t get out. I have conditioned myself to believe I deserve to be miserable… deserve to be treated less.

I am thirty seven years old but I still feel like I am in that old cabin in the woods up north all those years ago, when it first started. I can still smell the damp old wooden walls. I close my eyes and I am in that bedroom again. I open my eyes and I am still there. No amount of soap will wash away the filth.

I want to feel safe again but that seems like a million miles away.

I want to be whole again. I want to be happy. I’m tired of feeling less and tired of feeling trapped. I just want to run… until I can’t run anymore.