The Quantum Leap of PTSD

QuantumLeap-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Pitch Black, No Light in Sight

S2E21_Red_eyes_glowing_in_the_pitch_black_shadows

So I’m in the deep pits of depression hell. I haven’t felt like this in a while and it’s unsettling. Words can’t describe how horrible this feels to be this depressed. Everything you see is pitch black, with no light. This isn’t just another depressive episode as it’s connected to something deep and painful.

I had to force myself out of the apartment today. I didn’t want to leave the darkness but I did anyways. I even brushed my teeth. If it wasn’t for Pokemon Go I probably wouldn’t have left. There was a challenge that gave a dragon Pokemon, that’s rare. So I ventured out into the light. I already am noticing changes in my mobility. I’m back to it hurting to walk, though it’s not as bad as before. I get to downtown and my phone starts to act up. I realize that my data plan had lapsed and it meant a wasted trip downtown. I tried to use WIFI but the phone I have is horrible. Even when I have data it doesn’t always work well. I was able to get wifi to work to get the challenge but wasn’t able to do anything else.

I’ve been compulsively eating, which is something I haven’t done in a long while. It’s part of why I feel so low. I have been beating myself up for falling back to my old ways of drinking Pepsi. I’m having mobility issues again and so far it’s not been enough to stop drinking Pepsi. Yesterday I was frustrated with my lack of mobility and I was determined to stop drinking Pepsi. Well that was until I got frustrated by not being able to play Pokemon Go downtown and all I wanted to do was pig out. It’s all I could think about. Screw it if I couldn’t walk and play Pokemon Go then I was going to numb out my bad feelings with junk food. So I went to the Dollar General and got twenty dollars worth of junk food.

As I was walking home I had very obsessively, loud thoughts. I repeated out loud that I was a loser, among other things. Deep inside I feel completely worthless. I still have parts of me who believe that not to be true but it’s fading away. I’m trapped in this trigger and have yet to find my way out. It’s like walking in a maze in the darkest of nights. All you can feel is dead space.

For me, there are various stages of my depression. There is the typical generalized depression. It’s low grade and manageable. Then there’s a more situational depression that’s caused by my environment or situation. It’s more moderate and can dip into severe depending on how stressful the situation is. Finally there is the depression episode that I am currently in that is triggered by something painful (usually the emotional or sexual abuse) in the past. It’s severe and crippling. While the first two stages I can get through in a couple of weeks the latter stage can take months to find the exit. It affects every aspect of my life. It’s like walking through the muck in fog as thick as pea soup. You’re lethargic and have no energy. It sucks the life out of you and everything you enjoy. I’m struggling to find joy in Pokemon even.

This stage of depression I start to pull away from everything. I don’t want to do anything including going to therapy or take my meds. Everything becomes a chore and it’s easy to lose track of time. I sleep a lot. I go to bed really late. My bed becomes a safe zone and stepping off that cloud is like walking through lava. Once I’m triggered I become vulnerable to any and all pain in the past. A sexual abuse trigger can stir up some other trauma in my life. My dreams have also lately been a cause of discomfort as well. I have been dreaming of situations in the past that have caused insecurity and hurt feelings. Like not getting the part I wanted in a play. Single rejections that don’t seem significant but added together become an avalanche of self doubt and insecurity.

This level of depression has you coming and going. You become paranoid and your mind is taken hostage by the pain. You drift off into comforts that you really shouldn’t be considering like suicide. Sometimes it’s the only relief, knowing that you have that option if it gets too intense. You won’t understand this if you’ve not suffered from depression. For me, it has nothing to do with wanting to die. I just want the pain to end. You just get tired of constantly suffering. People start to get panicky when you start to talk about suicide. Their first thought is to call the police. Why doesn’t anyone ever think about being there for the person. The police should be the last resort. It certainly shouldn’t be the only action. Trust me if I was really suicidal I wouldn’t be talking so openly about this subject. It’s just another stigma that keeps people from getting the help they need. In your mind you think I can’t talk about this or someone will call the police, so you keep it hidden and it only snowballs to the point where you can’t verbalize the pain anymore.

The toughest part of this stage of depression is the isolation and the one struggle with living alone. I have very little interaction with people. I have no one I see regularly, other than the neighbors I walk past. I’m not talking about people to reach out to, which would be nice, but just people to talk about regular stuff with. To get outside of your mind and into the normality of life. The deeper you go into isolation the harder it is to come out of it. I’m on my second week of isolation and I’m starting to crack. You would think I would be on cloud nine having my own place but that’s mental illness for you. I feel very detached right now. I can look at my apartment and see it’s nice but I can’t feel it.

I think what adds to this level of depression is dissociating. It goes hand and hand with PTSD. In the past, I have had to cope with trauma by emotionally leaving the situation. The further I would float away the safer I would be but now the complete detachment just makes me worse as I can still see what’s going on. It’s like watching myself on tv. I see everything that I’m enduring like the overeating but it’s so out of control that I can’t stop it.

So some how, some way I gotta get myself out of this level of depression. I hope I get some relief soon because I really want to get my life back on track. I have come so far and want to start enjoying life. Not be bogged down by the pain of my past and the people who hurt me.

 

Trapped in the Conundrum of Illogical

bipolar-obsessive-racing-thoughts

As I write this at 3am in the morning I am wondering something… will I ever be free from my pain, struggles, depression, etc. I thought having my own place would be a cure and I couldn’t be more wrong. Maybe this time will be different and I sure hope that is true because I’m getting tired of cycling through this kind of suffering. I don’t want the pain any more. I wish I could rip it out like an unwanted organ.

I know what others will say. That this too will pass and it will but not for long. I can cut out the people who hurt me (my father) and the pain is still there. I want the pain gone too. It keeps repeating me like a constant heartburn. No amount of tums will cure this acid reflux.

Often times I feel like the worlds left me behind. People keep spinning past me and I’m struggling to keep up. It all becomes a blur and I get lost in the shuffle. I’m sure people are tired of my woe is me routine. Trust me I know that I am but these are my feelings. Depression is something that can’t be controlled. Once the cycle starts you must finish the rotation. It’s like getting on the ferris wheel and wanting to get off once your car takes off. You have to wait until the ride is done to get off. I mean you could jump off but that won’t be pretty.

I hate the suffering. Just when I think I’m getting through the deepest part of this depression cycle I’m taken to even lower point. I went outside for a little bit and it felt good but that moment was fleeting. I feel so very alone.

Sure I’m glad to have my own place but this bout of depression has forced me to face the hard reality, that there is no cure for depression. Living with depression is something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. It’s a burden that I don’t want to bear anymore but what choice do I have. I wish I could make people understand what it’s like to suffer from depression. Words don’t come close to describing the reality. I might as well say blah, blah, blah.

I just want to be free and I wonder if that’s just not meant to be. I know that I don’t deserve the suffering, no one does. That realization doesn’t do anything to calm the storm. I just hate feeling like I’m not in control especially when I’m drinking Pepsi again. I feel like I’m slipping to my old ways and I’m fighting to hold on. I can already start to notice my mobility to suffer. My need to numb is more severe than the physical pain. Why else would I put my body back through this? So this just adds to my depression and misery.

How can you in one moment give in to your urges while fighting them at the same time? I’m drinking Pepsi like crazy but I’m still brushing my teeth every day. I’m even showering regularly but I still feel god awful. It just doesn’t feel like enough, at least not enough to numb it all out. The Pepsi isn’t cutting it, though it does taste delicious but it does in my body.

So this living on my own hasn’t gone as I thought it would and I’m struggling with living alone. I’m here in my apartment alone with my thoughts and it’s scary. Now you might not can understand this. How could he not be happy? If you are questioning my logic then you probably don’t have a mental illness. That is the conundrum of mental illness. You get trapped in the illogical. That’s where I’m at currently. I want to get out of this mess that is my mind. It’s been over a week and I’m still suffering a great deal. I was hoping to have some relief by now. I thought because I was aware of the trigger my symptoms would have lessened but that’s not the case.

My grandmother ripped open this wound and it’s oozing poisonous pus. I feel wide open, exposed. I’m trying to stuff as much gauze in that gaping wound as I can but nothing is stopping the hemorrhaging of blood. Now that’s probably a graphic illustration that you wish you hadn’t been given but imagine being me right now. That’s what I’m enduring. I gotta wait for the poison to run dry and then maybe I can move on. Right now I’m not so sure…

The Judgements From Others Is Not True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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