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.

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Ready…

I’m ready for a new start… something different. I’ve been hiding for a long time. It didn’t just start when my Mom died last year, I’ve been doing it for as long as I have known and it’s gotten old…

I’ve put up with a lot in my life and tolerated less in my life. I have had enough and can’t keep tolerating less for myself. Expecting that everyone will let me down and then allowing those feelings from taking risks and putting myself out there. It’s a fact of life that people will let you down, they will hurt you and nothing you can do or say will ever stop that. If you put people up on that pedestal they will always fall.

A long time ago I put other people as my center and no wonder I crumble every time I am hurt!!!

Either way I am harmed. At least when I am out in the world I am enjoying life but staying in this cave just brings me more misery. I think I continue to hide as a way to punish myself. I think the only way I could rationalize certain things happening to me, like the sexual abuse, is that I deserved it. Like why would God let something like this happen to me and the only way I could rationalize it away was that I deserved it.

So I have lived most of my life feeling like I deserved the bad things that happened to me to the point when good things would come into my life I would go running away like I was on fire.

I’ve lived life like a victim.

Now I feel like I have nothing left to lose. I’m ready to move on from the past and all the bad feelings that go along with it. The biggest lesson has been that I deserve a lot more than what I have lived. I’ve allowed other people to hold me back. No one else but me did that. It was me and it will be me who allows wonderfulness back into my life.

Losing my beautiful Mother in a way was a wake up call for me. At first again I thought God was punishing me by taking the one good thing in my life but I realize now it was my Mother’s greatest gift for me. She always saw the best in me, even when I felt the worst.

I’ve realized that I don’t need my Mama to hold me up anymore because I am strong enough to do it on my own. No one can tear me down any longer and I can do whatever I desire… to my heart’s content!

There’s so much I want to do, so much I’ve wanted to do and I’ve realized I can do it all and then some. I just have to let the energy flow and allow the wind to blow me where ever I’m meant to go.

So I have to be patient and understand that everything is a process and getting out of this cave will take some time. I just have to remember that I’m doing what it takes to get out of this darkness once again and hope that the next time I feel like hiding I will fight with all my might to not allow the darkness to pull me under, once again…

Waiting for a Man to Love Me

When I came out of the closet in 1995 I had this idealistic view on relationships and love. I had my life all planned out. Many guys go through a phase of not wanting a relationship but not me. I knew early on that I wanted to spend my life with one person, even before I knew I was gay. It never dawned on me that I would have such a difficult time finding that one person.

When you are gay you’re already start off with a disadvantage in regards to love but add to the mix your weight it makes it even more difficult. I remember when I first started to date I would lie about my weight, as I didn’t feel anyone would want to meet me if they knew the truth. It never occured me as to what would happen when we actually met. It only took one disaster of a date for me to stop lying about my weight.

I can remember early on in the days of gay.com chat rooms others feeling the need to berate me because my size. They would private message me and say horrible things to me, all unprovoked. I was already insecure and that only made things worse.

I’ve gone all my life thinking that there had to be a reason why men didn’t like me or love me. It all started with my father. I grew up believing there was something missing inside of me that made my father treat me the way he did. As an adult guys that I have dated have only mirrored that.

I have attached myself to guys that are emotionally unavailable because I believe that is what I deserve. I haven’t realized that when guys reject me they aren’t really rejecting who I am but it is hard to see that when your heart is breaking. The more a guy is distant, the more I try to get him to like me… like I have to convince him.  I have even looked past red flags that I realize afterwards that I shouldn’t have. All because I didn’t think I was worthy of more.

I didn’t realize I was finding myself around other people who were like me in the sense that they felt they were broken or even worse they didn’t realize it but still lived their life as such. I couldn’t see that they too had their own baggage, all I could see they didn’t want me and it was all my fault. I think the problem was that I’ve lived life thinking I was broken and that is what I showed the world. I grew tolerating bad situations because I had to and it sunk into my conscious. I thought that was what love was.

Being an emotional person I have had my fair share of scaring guys away. I took it all personally. Many times I wished I could be like everyone else and turn off my feelings but I learned quickly that wasn’t an option for me.

Every heart break… Every rejection was like I was setting up a domino, one guy at a time. When one domino falls, they all fall and I relive each past hurt all at once. You have enough dominoes fall and you become very gun shy… to the point where you just give up. Loneliness usually would get me to venture outside my cave but every time I would get hurt and run back into seclusion.

Each time I meet someone I really like, which isn’t that often, I have this little spark in my mind and think is he the one… then I wait… patiently… I’m always so afraid of scaring the guy away I tend to walk on eggshells. I have often wondered when will I ever be enough for someone? When will someone see my gifts as strengths, and not as weaknesses?

I recently found myself being very fond of a guy I was getting to know. He was unlike most other guys I have met. He was charming, sweet and shy. It was the first time (in a very long time) that a guy didn’t make me feel like an object. I knew that he wasn’t ready for a relationship but that didn’t stop me from liking him in that way. I mean how could I not, he is a wonderful guy.

In the past, I haven’t asked for what I wanted… I usually let it slip away, so I let him know how I felt and of course feelings weren’t mutual. It hurt, deeply but I was willing to work through those horribly feelings to keep the friendship. Though it caused him to distance himself, to the point where I barely heard from him. Of course I took it personal. It was one thing to not want to be my boyfriend but another thing to not want to be my friend.

Five months passed and we started talking again. I found out that he was dating someone and again a domino fell. I started to think what about me didn’t he like. I knew I was his physical type because he liked bigger guys but other than that it was unknown… I even asked him about it and he couldn’t give me an answer. He said he hadn’t saw me in that light, which really hurt. It is hard to not think things like I am not good enough. If I was only that and this… and so on.

I catch myself falling into old habits of taking everything personal. I learned early that I can’t make people love me but that certainly doesn’t stop me from trying and waiting… I’m tired of waiting. Tired of feeling that I’m not good enough because I am. When you surround yourself with pain and hurt, that is all you can see. It stops you from looking into another’s world to realize that they have their own issues, baggage and drama.

My biggest fear is that I am going to grow old alone. Why should I expect anyone else to fight for me, when I won’t fight for me? Every man has kept me at a distance not because of something I lacked but something I possessed… and that being a big heart. People have come to question love and have to find a motive for it. Many people feel they don’t deserve such a degree of love.

I’m learning to adapt to a world that doesn’t crumble with the idea of being single. Just watch a few movies on the Hallmark Channel and you will have yourself convinced that you can’t live without someone else but in reality we can… and often it happens. I also have to realize when you date that each person brings their own baggage to the table, whether they want to admit it or not.

I have waited so long for a man to love me and in the process I stopped loving myself. It all chipped away at my heart and ruined my self worth and self esteem. Loving myself is very tough, especially when their are still parts of me that believe I don’t deserve it but I am going to keep at it. The good thing about being treated poorly is you realize what you don’t want or deserve, sometimes it takes breaking that record.

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.

Insecurity is the root of my self destruction!

So tonight I watched this weeks episode of Project Runway. I am not going to say who went home as not spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet but I will say that the person sent home really caused a lot of emotion for me.

As I sat down the computer I broke down into tears… I am still struggling to keep it together. While I am upset that the person was sent home, I know the reason why I am so upset is that it has triggered something inside of me that I relate to.

This designer has shown that he/she a lot of talent and creativity but their self doubt got the best of him/her. Tonight’s episode reminded me how self destructive insecurity can be. It can twist and turn you until there is nothing left to give.

That is what my self doubt has done to me. I literally wanted to yell at the screen to get this person to snap out of it. I was so angry that he/she was blowing his/her chance. I was wanting to yell at myself.

I am my worst enemy. I have been the one standing in the way of my happiness and success. All me. 100%!!! I didn’t believe in myself or my craft. You can have a hundred people tell you one thing but all it takes is one voice to drag you down.

Well I am done with that shit. I am done self destructing. Done listening to the voices that tell me to give up. The ones that tell me I am not good enough. Ugly. Fat. Worthless.

Fuck it, I am fabulous. I’m beautiful damn it, as Bette Midler says!!!

Sure I’ve been knocked down, kicked around… It was my choice to stay down. Well I am getting back up. It is my time to show the world what I have got. As it is for the designer that was eliminated. We are not our failures. They make us stronger, give us the fight to do better next time. One of the many things I have learned from the death of my Mama is that there is still time to make my own, find my way.

I am doing it for me and my Mama.

These voices in my head that drag me to the ground, I am evicting them. Your rent payment bounced a long time ago and it is time to leave my head!!! I have a new tenant that believes in me and wants to see me succeed. Someone who will lift and hold me up.

I am strong, not weak like the voice has made me believe. Strong enough to say enough is enough. It was really interesting to watch Project Runway and see myself up on the runway. It was like I was the one being sent home. I felt so defeated. It was like I was watching my life unfold on that stage. The television became a mirror.

The good news is that I now can see the culprit for all my crash and burns. I have been able to look myself in the eyes unafraid. Once you can look your fears, failures and disappointments straight in the eye, you have nothing else left to fear.

I feel my fight growing stronger than ever before. Before I allowed hurt and pain to set me afire, burning me to the core… Now I am learning how to use that aggression, despair, anger, pain, disappointment and agony as fuel. Fuel my passion… my determination… my strength… will to fight… Rather than turning that flame into unhealthy choices, I am finally turning them into positive ones.