Last night I had a triggering but surreal experience. We were out walking and decided to stop into a bar to have a quick drink. The bar was crowded. We found a small table, sat down and began to talk. Not in a rush. There were TV’s everywhere, shows of all types from sports, news to dramas and comedies. We ordered and my eye caught a show—Law and Order SVU—all close captioned. I try to avoid that show because some of the story lines are too close to home. But I started to wander back and forth between our conversation and the show. The show was about male students sexual abused at Rose Manor, a private school in NY. I must have become engrossed in the show. I have days when I can calmly handle hearing stories about CSA and other days when I cannot. Last night was one of the latter. I became emotional, more visible than I would have liked, and the person I was with began to rub my back gently. She did not speak and let me have my moment. Out of nowhere this man came over and asked if I was alright. I said yes, he said he was watching the show and understood. I said how did he know and he said my body motions.
We began to talk and he told me he had lived it. He was sexually abused his 55 years ago. He sat down and asked how I was doing. I told him much better now after two and a half years of therapy and support groups. He laughed and said he had been at it for 19 years. He asked if this was my wife, I said no. I told him I was divorced and this woman was a wonderful friend and person. He told us he was with his third wife. We talked, then moments of silence. His wife came over and I could tell she was a kind person. He told us his first wife was a generous and happy person but he had issues from the abuse. They had a daughter. His second wife was a different person and they had a son and daughter. He said their marriage was not the best. She always had to have the children in their arguments and fights and there was no “we” time or personal issues did not remain between the two of them. He asked was I close with my children. I said at one time I was but no longer. He told us he was close with his daughter from his first marriage. He credits this former wife, because she believes children needed to be close to both parents and kept her feelings and their issues between the two of them and did not share with the child. But his second wife was different. He said he was sad he did not have a close relationship with his children from his second marriage but was sadder the children have been unable to find happiness or achieve what they once talked about achieving. He said no one can be happy when surrounded by bitterness and guilt. I said I understood. We continued to talk and I felt at ease. We must have talked about 25 minutes. He became a therapist later in life and laughed after all those years in therapy he had more insights and knowledge of people’s emotions and thought processes than he realized. When we were leaving I realized how little the women talked, instead they both were comforting and listening to us as we talked.
We left and as we walked back I was silent. She just asked was I alright and I said yes. We smiled
I now know there is no shame for showing emotion for feeling the pain of the abuse and I am not alone. Strangely I always was scared someone would know I was “damaged” by the way I looked or acted so I was always on guard. Now I realize they only see it because I have let the abuse out of the bag to the world, I am no longer ashamed to share my emotions. There are so many of us out there who have suffered CSA, and we are sensitive to each other and can see the pain in others. I guess if one looks around and if the stats are correct there is 1 of 6 who has lived the abuse. There are also wonderful people out there who are here for us. We cannot dismiss them but rather we should embrace and thank them. I only hope one day I will be able to not have triggers, like a TV show, make me so emotional. But my friend said maybe it is a good thing. Maybe she is right.