Oh, Life is a Struggle

So I’m going on my first month in a massive PTSD episode. We’re talking full on trigger mode. There are times in my life the trauma surfaces so severely that my mental health goes into system failure mode. I’m not talking about your typical depressive episode. It’s the kind of episode where you feel like you are losing your mind. It’s one thing to feel down about life and everything you see is darkness but another thing when you feel like you’re drifting into madness and everything is out of control. Regular episodes I can usually work my way through within weeks, sometimes days. Episodes like this one can last months if not over a year. In the past, they have led to multiple hospitalizations and I fear that is where I’m heading.

Most people won’t understand any of this. I’m speaking a different language than them. They just see someone constantly complaining, aka always being negative. If you think I’m being negative you should get inside my head and you will see the real negative. It’s a dark pit of loneliness, regret and sorrow. It’s like constantly gasping for air. There is no water but you’re drowning in misery. That’s what I am currently feeling. It’s like the atomic bomb of panic attacks. It’s non-stop. It just goes on and on. I will have a few days where I feel like I’m going to die, then I start to feel a little bit better for a day or so. The depression, anxiety and paranoia aren’t far away. The past month they continue to follow me and possess my body. I can’t help the triggers. That’s the problem when I have this type of massive PTSD episode. Not only am I flooded with emotion and pain but I’m forced to relive the trauma through flashbacks. I can’t get away from it.

Now it’s followed me into my dreams. For weeks I have been having these horrible dreams about real pain, fears and insecurities that have occured. The cast of characters are always the people in my life. I don’t dream about past actions. Instead I dream of new scenarios where I experience the same pain behind the actions. Like for example my Mom dying. Many nights my dreams are about her dying in new ways. Last night I dreamed that both my Mom and Dad were murdered on a family vacation to Walt Disney World. In High School my parents (when they were still together) took my sister and I to Disney. It was the greatest memory I have of us as a family. Pure happiness, joy and fun. In my nightmare that trip turned into a horror story where my parents disappeared while we were down there. In the dream, I’m desperately searching for my parents and trying to find my sister. I don’t realize that they’ve already been murdered. I’m also there with a boyfriend, who ends up leaving me during this situation. He just used me to get a trip to Walt Disney World. So imagine waking up from that dream today???? I woke up disoriented feeling like the world was coming to an end. I felt like my Mom died all over again. My dreams took one of the few happy memories of my childhood and destroyed them.

In regular ptsd episodes I never really feel like I’m losing my mind, as they’re not really based in major traumas. Usually they are environmental based like not getting out of the house. At first I was handling the dreams but they’ve been non-stop. One night I woke up every couple of hours. Everytime I fell back asleep the same nightmare started again. It was like someone was had put pause on my nightmare. When you tell people that you’re having bad dreams most people relate to it but I’m not talking about your typical dreams. These are like night terrors. I wake up feeling like I’ve been shaken or hit by a cement truck. I woke up at 5pm and I’m still feeling shaky at 3am. The first two hours were hell. I get in this paranoid state where everything is off, like I’m drugged. I’m frightened by everything. I went out to my park for a Pokemon Go raid and that was very problematic. It’s like being a lost child looking for his Mommy. It’s that feeling when I go out into the real world when I’m triggered. Everyone is a stranger, including friends and family. I had a good friend at this raid and even he I couldn’t trust. I describe this as friends and family becomes strangers, and strangers become enemies. You can’t trust anyone. Everyone is out against you. It’s like coming out of a sensory deprivation tank, that you have be trapped in for years. Everything is hazy. You lose all sight of your senses. Lights are too brilliant and sounds too piercing. Your skin crawls and you walk on pins and needles. Now you might be understanding why I feel like I’m losing my mind.

If it was just one trauma or emotion then I might could adjust but I’m being hit with everything at once. It’s like a family reunion of pain, trauma, rejection, loss and sorrow. On top of this all I’m coming upon the sixth anniversary of my Mom dying, which is one big factor in why I’m so triggered. So not only am I having to deal with the grief but I’m also reliving the other traumas in my life like the sexual abuse when I was ten. As well as the emotional abuse my father and many other rejections in my life. So think of all the bad things that have ever happened to you. Imagine having to relive them over and over for a month or longer. Most couldn’t handle a week. There were four big traumas in my life altered who I am. First the sexual abuse. I don’t need to explain that one. Then it was when my father left my Mom when I was in Middle School. That was when the emotional abuse started with my father. It’s when I started to hide in my bed out of fear and safety. The third trauma was coming out when I was eighteen, which were also related to the first two traumas. My father was extremely emotionally abusive. Even my Mom, who’d always been my protector, turned against me. The final major trauma was when my Mom died in 2012. In between those four big events were other traumas usually stemming from one of those traumas like getting in an abusive relationship. The smaller traumas would just reinjury me in the same ways. They reinforced the damage and negative view of myself.

I already was in a trigger from the sexual abuse, which started when the me too movement started last year. I have been working on those issues with my therapist. I had started to talk about the core of that trauma, which I haven’t done in over ten years. Then I had the whole living in a homeless shelter experience, which was one of the minor traumas. Finally what really opened pandora’s box was the lunch I had with my Grandmother a month ago where she shamed me for not having a relationship with my abusive, toxic father. She pushed every hurtful button there was. It’s like she dove a dagger into my heart and kept digging. No matter what my father did or said was justification for not having him in my life. That was the past. I needed to forgive and forget like my father told me many years ago when he found out that my cousin molested me. He said that the day after he found out, when I got upset that he went hunting with my cousin. It didn’t matter, it was of great shame to the family that I was acting like I did. Especially being a fucked up human being. I was told that I wasn’t an inspiration. She took a weedwacker to my soul and I have been struggling ever since. It brought up every wound I had. Especially the ones where I started to believe that I deserved the pain and that I deserved to be treated that way. So of course, I’m starting to think of trying to have a relationship with my Dad because I deserve the abuse. These are the things going through my head right now. Did I mention I had a dream where I was forced into a sexual experience by him????

So yeah my brain is a bit scrambled right now and I’m trying to hold on the best I can. I have virtually no one to turn to. Thankfully I have made a couple of friends playing pokemon but I can’t turn to them in this way. I have no one checking up on me. I’m not on anyone’s radar. People see my cries on Facebook and all they see is noise. The only family I have left is my sister and she’s in her own hell currently. That’s what makes this whole episode horrible, is that I don’t have my Mom to turn to for comfort. I see children with their Mom’s and it kills me. What I wouldn’t do to be able to see her in person and get a hugg from her but that will never happen again, at least not in this lifetime. So I must learn to suffer alone. If it wasn’t for Pokemon Go I would go weeks without seeing anyone, other than my therapist and my neighbors who I just see in passing. I had started going to a transgender support group monthly and even this month’s meeting triggered me so nowhere is safe.

My triggers are creeping into every aspect of my life and they’re affecting me deeply. Nowhere is safe, not even my dreams. I’m living in my own world war. Will this be the day when the monsters come knocking at my door. I’m doing all I can to cope with this all. I’m sticking with therapy, even when I don’t want to go. I continue to talk about the things I don’t want to but the pain is endless and there is no relief. The trauma and feelings from that trauma have me in this torture chamber. It’s using my new awareness against me. They know that my wounds are wide open and they can push their pointy little fingers into the flesh of my gaping wounds. The beast uses its claws to tear through my wounds, like nails on a chalkboard. There is no pain killers to dull this level of torturous pain.

I just wish others would acknowledge the pain and not try to cover it up or pretend it’s not there. I gotta get through this. There is no easy fix. Taking a hot bath won’t solve this problem, nor will any amount of positivity. The one person who would check up on me is dead. I have no one looking out for me. I don’t really even have anyone to be around, especially on a regular basis. I go days without seeing anyone. I am locked in my solitude. Lately I don’t even want to be in my apartment. Right now it’s just a bedroom. I don’t have a couch. I have nowhere to relax. I have a tv and no way to watch anything on it. So right I just see an empty space, where I’m left to deal with all this pain and trauma.

I just wonder when things will ever change. I sure want them too. I hope I’m really at the core of my problems. Maybe that’s why I’m struggling so. I just worry that it will get so severe that the pain will take me over completely. Right now I have the sense to be able to write it all out in this post but tomorrow could be differently. My life is in turmoil right now and that’s not on anyone’s radar. I’m dying inside and no one is invested enough in me to know this. The clues are all over my Facebook and after a while people just unfollow and tune you out. You become apart of the fake news on Facebook.

My father use to tell me (over and over) that I was going to Hell. He was lying, I was already there. Ever since I have been desperately trying to get out of it. I’m locked inside my own misery and I haven’t found a way to escape. Every door I open leads me back to that room, where the pain lives. That is where I’m at today. I keep fighting and pushing through. I keep trying but I’m so tired and so lonely. I just want people to be around. I want people to care that I’m dying inside.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Devil Within Me

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*******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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.malesurvivor.org/

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

 

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Boys Will Be Boys: The Cycle of Abuse

****TRIGGER WARNING****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Meeting of the Minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Stigma of Having a Disability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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