I update my story from time to time as I remember more of it. So here is the story as I have recalled the memories so far.
This is my story, probably a condensed version. Who can tell everything, right? I don't know. It's a funny experience to write my story and revise it. I sometimes wonder how all of this can be real—and how I can have survived it—but it is real, so there is no point in my denying it. Denial feels safe, but it's really harmful. Reading stories from other men has encouraged me to share my story, too. After lurking here a long time, I'm finally going to try to get real and talk about some of this stuff.
Before you read further, know this MAY TRIGGER powerful reactions. I know it does in me! PLEASE take good care of yourself first!!!
Although this is the third or fourth major revision of my “survivor’s” story in writing, I am still having a very hard time putting it into words. Can you believe that? Just to remain mentally present as I write these words is demanding a surprising effort to stay focused; my mind wants to run away, far away, from this task. The only thing that helps me return to this writing is the knowledge, from my earlier experiences of writing my story, that the writing itself is a real part of the healing process. Even saying that the writing process is healing seems strange. Somehow, though, by acknowledging the experiences and the details about them that my memory continues to reveal to me, and naming the experiences and their effects on me and my life, I become less afraid of the memories and better able to respond to them in ways that do not harm me further.
Anxiety is arising in me, too, as I write these words. It’s always like this. It hasn’t gotten much easier even though I’ve gone through the process a few times. The knot is back in my stomach. My breathing is becoming shallow. I will take a break before writing more. Now that I have taken a break of a few hours, I am ready to continue.
Like you, I, too, am a survivor of sexual child abuse. In my case, the abuse was perpetrated by people outside my family when I was ages 1-11. It is important now to share the story of my abuse in a safe place. As I write this, I still feel like I am crazy. Sometimes I even have trouble believing that it all happened, but I know it did. I know that my attempts to talk myself out of the reality of my pain is just another way of trying to protect myself. As intense as the pain and memories are, I am doing my best to stay with them.
The pain from that experience has been devastating in my life. Every so often, I get a glimpse of just how devastating it has been. Severe anxiety, depression that has been nearly disabling on many occasions, panic attacks, dissociation, depersonalization, and reactions of shock to certain music have plagued me regularly since my early 20s.
For example, I couldn't even listen to any music by Chopin until I was 35 years old because one of my abusers used to play Chopin's Fantasie-Impromptue! At one point, when I inadvertently heard that particular composition, I nearly fainted from shock and had to put my hands against the wall to hold myself up. I remember it well: I was in the locker room of the athletic club where I was a member from 1990 until 2007, and a recording of the Fantasie-Impromptue was playing on the radio. I had to get out of there as quickly as I could. I was worried about having a panic attack. Yet, I had no idea why until several years later when I recalled that one of the perpetrators used to play that particular composition as the popular twentieth-century song, “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” Somehow, I reckon my subconscious mind knew the original composer had been Mr. Chopin and had steered me clear of all of his music until I was a man in my mid-thirties who felt strong and capable enough to protect himself from harm; then, my mind let me hear and appreciate the music.
Memories of the abuse hit me very hard when I was probably most vulnerable and destroyed my relationship with the woman with whom I was most deeply in love and to whom I was very close to proposing marriage. How hard it was to let Cindy go! Learning after the fact that the breakup had led her into a suicidal depression made it all even harder for me. Happily, she took Prozac for six months and recovered her normal mood, but learning a year or so later of her plans to marry was very painful for me.
When I add to those things, the tens of thousands of dollars I have spent on my recovery through 17 years of therapy, more than 10 years of psychiatric care, and the lost productivity, income, and opportunities, I see that the economic costs have been huge, too. I guess this is pretty much the same for everyone here, so I think you'll relate to what I am saying.
Knowing that others suffer similarly eases the pain of aloneness and isolation, but it does not ease the pain of the abuse itself. I am still working hard on that. Perhaps healing that pain will be a lifelong endeavor. As a way to stay focused and recover, I try to focus on the good things like educational and career success.
Yeah, I managed to put myself through school and even managed to become a lawyer and a businessman. I feel blessed because I am able to earn part of my income through writing—something I enjoy doing. I feel like a whiny little snot sometimes, because I know things could be so very much worse. But I'm not happy. My relationships with women have been failures. I'm not earning anything like what I feel I should be. I'm anxious most of the time. To be honest, most thoughts of sexuality are gross and repugnant to me. Almost everything seems like a struggle.
Despite all of this, I refuse to consider myself as a victim. I won't give away my power that way. Nor will I hate anyone, even my abusers. I won't let the abuse continue to harm me by prompting me to hate others. As tempting as it has been to hold on to rage and anger, I just can't do it anymore.
I often wonder what life would be like if I had not had those experiences. Sometimes, I still feel as if I'm in denial, like it really did not happen. The memories and the surrounding circumstances are so crazy, it's like a f***ing dream!
However, denial is no longer an option. I am a lawyer. I’m trained, licensed, and experienced in the arts of persuasion and of evaluating and presenting proof based on evidence (facts), rules (law), and logic. I am not just dealing with my own memories. Too many facts have come to me from too many independent sources and have been corroborated too many times—pretty much with no effort from me—for me even to attempt denial anymore. I don’t like the fact that even the defense mechanism of denial has gone away from me, but maybe that will be for the best. Maybe, if I practice enough, I will be able to acknowledge the full power of the pain and learn to surround it with a vast equanimity. I hope I will be able to do that.
Even as I write this message, I feel like I am dissociating from the whole experience. What a mess. What an awful, unbelievable mess! Still, this "mess" is part of my life, a part that has caused profound consequences. No, it’s not the totality of my life, but I cannot ignore the fact that it is a huge part of my life. Let me begin to tell more of the specifics about how I have gotten to this place.
My sexual abuse went on from ages 1-11, perpetrated by people outside my family. The first perpetrator was a family physician (yeah, go figure!) and the second perpetrator was my sixth-grade teacher, my only male teacher in elementary school. There may have been other perpetrators, but I don't remember any others. If there are any others, at this point, I really don't want to remember them. My innocence has been shattered enough times already. Indeed, I don’t know if I could bear learning that there had been any more abusers; even wondering about that possibility is terrifying. I know I cannot entirely trust memory—there was a long time during which I did not remember any of the abuse—but I can only work with what I know right now. I am not going to seek additional trouble. If there is more to remember, I am content with letting it lie dormant indefinitely.
My parents cared a lot for my brother and me; they loved us and continue to love us now that we are adults. Sadly, though, there was so much crap going on in the extended family and with my mom's own illnesses, that any subtle signs of the abuse got overlooked. The chronic extended family chaos included my uncle's numerous psychiatric illnesses. He's my mom's brother and has been disabled from psychiatric illnesses as far back as I can remember. He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. That was really scary stuff, too—lots of delusions, extreme paranoia, turning off all the electrical appliances in his home out of some irrational fear, violent behaviors, extended stays in state hospitals, accusing my brother and me of being “spies” for our mother (when my brother was about 9 or 10 years old and I was 10 or 11), and so forth.
Unfortunately, my uncle continues to suffer greatly from his illness, but I have had to “let go” of his condition. During the spring and summer of 2007, I tried very hard to be helpful to him. I lost a lot of sleep during that summer, lost a major client whose business was worth several thousand dollars, and experienced a lot of stress. It’s a sad case, but my uncle does not cooperate with his medical treatment and, therefore, becomes abusive, paranoid, hostile, and threatening.
I can recall having seen that kind of behavior from him when I was a boy. Seeing it again is a powerful triggering experience for me: it generates flashbacks of the abuse experiences. For tht reason, I need to let go of my uncle and his problems. I did not cause them, I can’t change them, and I can’t cure them. While I have tried to be supportive, he has responded to me with cruel abuse. I won’t take that anymore.
My mom has had her own illnesses. They included an erratic and rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, addiction to pre>