My story, in the grizzly details or in broad strokes, has the same outcome. I was shattered. Crushed and betrayed by those who were supposed to protect me.
My mother tried to kill me when I was about 3 yrs old. She relented. Pushed too far for her ability to cope. She kept me confined in places. Tied me up sometimes. I would wake up tied to my bed. Wrists and ankles bound to the bed and a cloth gag in my mouth.
She taught me in my earliest memories that I have no right to live. No right to want. No right to be. Even though the worst of the physical abuse stopped after I turned 7, the message was clear by then. And it didn't stop completely. Enough to remind me that I was to be seen only. Tolerated. A burden.
From seven to thirteen, I was in a kind of limbo. A ghost of a child. Split between what I showed everyone else....school, family, etc. And what I kept repressed inside. During that time I was bullied horribly at school. On the bus to school. It started my kindergarten year, at 5yrs old. Called horrible names by the 11yr olds. Every day they said the cruelest things they could think of. Pushing me around. And no one did a thing to stop it. And I knew without a doubt there was no help for me. At school or at home. I was alone, helpless and totally undeserving of anything better.
I knew in my soul that the pain was destroying me, so I killed it somehow. It went with that scared toddler. Tied up. And I could survive. The one I was expected to be emerged.
I can remember the night it happened. I was probably about 9 years old. Angry over being punished harshly for something slight. Anger at what "family" was supposed to mean according to what I saw other places. Just horrible pain, fear, and anger that I couldn’t take anymore. It was a gaping hopelessness that threatened to swallow me. As soon as I realized that I was in mortal danger; it was gone. I wouldn't let it win and I felt serenity like never before. A numb resignation to live through it. I just couldn't feel it anymore. I would ignore the fact that they despised me. Keep trying not to be a burden (and get punished). Be seen and not heard. And endure.
That worked for several years. But the inner child still hungers for compassion and unconditional love. So, I turned to god and religion. Here was something that I thought of at the time as real and loving. Would not be fickle with love, dependable. Constant. Unconditional love.
At age 11, I was a model Catholic. Hungered to learn all about the saints, the purpose of all the rituals. Meditated and prayed the Vespers at 12yrs old. God was very real to me. Literally a savior. Life is pain but he would be with me all of my days until I went to heaven. And I found a purpose; a reason to survive. I would serve God.
When I was 13, I entered a boarding high school seminary. And that's where I met 'him'. The priest that was supposed to be my "Spiritual Director", my counselor.
At first, it was wonderful. He was listening to me and I opened up about my past abuse. That was very, very hard. I was letting my guard down for the first time ever and confiding in someone who seemed to genuinely care about me. And he was very warm. For the first year. During the second year the abuse started and by my senior year, the relationship with him had become something evil.
The process was a bunch of head games and mixed signals. At the seminary, I went from a D student to a 4.0 because I felt people believed in me. I began to realize my own potential for the first time ever. I rationalized the abuse as best I could. I "zoned out” during the episodes and afterward told myself that he was supporting my healing. Each episode occurred in the guise of a counseling session where old hurts were brought out and addressed. The episodes consisted of kissing and fondling that I endured as part of his "comforting my pain". He would wear loose clothes and grind against me, getting him off. And there was a strong part of me that wanted closeness. That kept me quiet, because I needed him. After finally opening up to someone, I had to trust that he could help me deal with all that pain that wasn't walled off anymore. At least someone seemed to love me, I thought.
This continued for two years. In my senior year, though, he screwed up. All our previous “sessions" occurred in his room. Late in the first semester, he came to my room one night. And he wanted to screw me. That had never happened before either. Perhaps the change in environment helped, but when he crawled in my bed and started, I just realized that this was wrong. I couldn't see it before this point. But now I did. I didn't want this and never did. Not this. As soon as this realization hit, I was gone. Completely disassociated like that 3yr old tied up in his bed. My body was an abandoned shell. He didn’t love me. He was a bastard using my weakness to get what he wanted. I couldn’t trust him. I was betrayed in the worst possible way.
I came back to myself when he was gone. I resolved never to see him again for a “spiritual director" session. Even though they were required at least one per month, and I never did. He didn't raise a stink for obvious reasons. When the rector approached me months later and said, "You haven't seen your spiritual director for a long time." I simply told him, "I know" and walked off. Nothing else was ever said.
And I was a walking robot again. A very good actor going through the motions like nothing was wrong. I talked politely to "Fr Feel-me-up" every day for 6 months in class and around other students. And I got out. I graduated.
That tight wrap on my wounds lasted another 8 years. I was married. In grad school at a Baptist seminary focusing on a pastoral counseling degree. I got married to prove to myself I wasn't gay. I became Baptist to rationalize my "calling" with my being married with kids.
But I ran into a wall in my counseling training. I couldn't deal with client’s pain because I was totally separate from my own. I was terribly separate from who I really was. And it was obvious to one of my professors. She held me back one day and called me out about a particular role playing exercise I didn't do well on. And I told her only about the fact that I was abused as a child. She was a professional therapist and referred me to one of her mentors for treatment.
That was in 1991. And letting that genie out of the bottle was not pleasant. My inner war was building up to that point. I knew I couldn't go on being two people, but I had no idea what I was doing to myself by avoiding it. And I ended up in the hospital for a breakdown. Among other things, they put me on a high caloric diet and horse vitamins because I had been running on coffee and obligations.
At that point, I really was in danger. I was suicidal. Flashbacks were awful each night. I could rarely sleep in anything resembling a bed. Usually on the floor. I would have tactile memories where I could feel the restraints from childhood or "his" hand touching me. And my hand would just jerk seemingly possessed at random moments. Or my head would turn violently away from the remembered touch of his hand because of a gust of air or a scent trigger. Imagine trying to keep a job like that? But I had a great therapist. And a very good psychiatrist prescribing anti-depressants and tranquilizers. And I needed the drugs at that point and I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit it.
After the shock of what I was enduring wore off a little, and with therapy, I came to realize that this was my way of putting the pieces of me together. It wasn't going to kill me and it wasn't going to last forever. I began to think of the nightly flashbacks as taming a wild horse. I could ride out these jerking muscles. These remembered terrors. Each time I rode it would be one less time I would have to. And eventually they became less and less severe. I don't remember how long those acute symptoms lasted. But they did fade.
During that time, I had to admit to myself and my family that I was gay. That was a big piece of what I was trying to deny. And my wife took it very hard. But I was avoiding the sexual abuse because that was part of it. It was imprinted on me that my desires didn't matter. Pleasing others meant survival.
Therapy wound down after the symptoms subsided. And my therapist moved away. The new one just wasn't the same. And the crisis was over. Life took over. I focused on work and raising my kids. I never dated anyone after my 1st year of coming out. It was just easier to take care of others. From 2001 to 2008 my job was to take care of two disabled adults in my home. Kind of like adult foster care. Their medical care was very demanding, and without realizing it, I had slipped back into being what the people around me needed me to be. Putting my own needs out of mind.
In 2008 they both died. The economy sucked, and like a lot of people I was struggling just to pay the bills. I didn't deal with their loss as there wasn't time, and hey, I'm used to putting that kind of thing off till later.
The reason why I'm here, now, on this board, is that "Fr Feel-me-up” got in touch with me several months ago. It was totally unexpected and took me completely off guard. He wanted to ask for forgiveness. He wanted to know how I was doing. And I was forced to take stock of that. Where am I now?
Well, I still isolate myself. When I'm honest, I have to admit that my self esteem is crap. And I don't allow myself to run the risk of falling in love because deep down I don't trust anybody. Frankly, that realization pissed me off and I wasn't going to let it stand.
I'm back in therapy. And I'm breaking the isolation some by speaking out here. Here, where I know there are souls like mine. People who understand without the explanations. Thanks guys!
Some of the flashbacks have returned a little. Although I can sleep pretty well. And I smoke more than I used to as I approach this next step in healing.
If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be where you've always been.
Edited by pufferfish (10/01/11 09:32 PM)