I'm not sure how much I want to share though I have been sharing more and more and I know it helps me.
I first started having body memory flashbacks in my 20's. These were where I would have a strong sensation of having my hands pulled back behind my back and the feeling of choking, moving my head side to side. There was no emotional feeling attached to this, I was fascinated by it. It would come up during Cranio Sacral Therapy which is what I was having to sort out an injury to my arm.
At the time I had also been working with some shamans and doing some Journeying which i found incredibly healing and helpful though i was bemused by the response of the shamans - they seemed to see something in me when we journeyed which they wouldn't tell me. I understand this now and think they were probably right. But i out the body memories down to a past life experience, told myself a story about having been force fed during the first world war - not impossible and quite a convenient way to explain the unexplained.
These physical sensations stayed with me for many years, not distressing and no real emotional stuff attached to them. I struggled for many years and still do sometimes, not to feel numb, neutral and totally deadpan. Do i want a tea or coffee? Either is fine as they both taste the same to someone who is living without sensation. I can now see that I lived for long periods totally dissociated from my body, total blockage starting at my throat down.
I had had a sexual relationship with my older brother which ended when I was 7 and he left home. He was 16 at this time. I remembered this only vaguely at first when as a young adult I started to think about this and this caused me a lot of distress but when I investigated the feelings and memories attached to this experience I realized that these were not bad memories. It had mostly been playful baths together with me obsessed by his genitals and pubic hair. I was a very sexualised child often being naked and pulling/tearing at my genitals in front of family. I remember this being the case from a young age.
My family was divided because my mum had left us when I was three after what I can now see was years of abuse from my father - always this was control and manipulation, psychological abuse. She has never recovered from this and I can see how her own family environment had made her vulnerable to this. I was the youngest of 4 children and we were all starved of love and grew up in a toxic environment which looked great from the outside. Even after my mum managed to leave my dad was held up as a brilliant father for taking on the task of raising four children and my mum was demonized for abandoning her family. My siblings still cannot see this.
I was an angry child. Furious at everything that was happening. My fathers response was to make me less angry. Angry Child = bad unlovable child. Compliant, quiet child = loveable cared for child. I learnt pretty fast to shut everything down, to put on a mask that pleased those around me. I still find this nearly impossible to take off after 40 years - gradually it is slipping and i am drawn to those who can show me what an authentic response is like. My father was always right, always knew best. Just thinking of him now I have an image in my mind of a faceless child with arms hanging limply by his sides. I felt totally powerless in response to the strength of his character - he didn't shout, he spoke quietly and with authority crushing my self determination so that I became totally lost in who I was. He died two years ago from a heart attack and it was such a relief even though as an adult I had found a way to be with him. I would not have been able to care for him if he had become unwell. I didn't grieve for him but I did wake up with my first crippling attack of Gout the day after he died: I don't believe this is unconnected.
I didn't think that my dad had been physically violent towards me though more recently I have been having flashbacks where he hit me round the face repeatedly. It was also totally normalized for me that he would hit me and my brother around the back of the head - a friend started to do this as a joke a few years ago and this totally freaked me out. In some ways I remember this touch as being important, a sign of love as a child. This indicates to me how hungry for love I was a child.
Jump forward now to my teens. We had moved to a farm in a remote part of Wales. A new life which made me very happy in many ways. I loved the animals and the wilderness and the solitude of farm life. I would spend many hours on my own from a young age and still long for solitude. But I was so hungry for love and stability, the feeling of having a family, that I joined an evangelical house church when I was around 11. I loved it and it gave me such a feeling of belonging, of care. At the centre of the church was a big family of 6 children who all lived on a dairy farm. I adopted them and spent a lot of time there. The feelings that I got from being part of the church, being accepted and cared for were so powerful. I do not know who I would be today if I had not had this experience. I know most people will be expecting me to say that they abused me or brainwashed me but this is not true.
However I started to realise and accept that I am gay at around the age of 12. I still fantasized about girls but mostly it was men that attracted me. When I was 15 I started having lots of sex in public toilets with anyone who would have me, pretty indiscriminately. In someways this was a normal phase for a horny teen though my self esteem issues came to the forefront - I made a connection between feeling loved and having sex particularly when I didn't really want the sex/wasn't attracted to the person. The ultimate act of self sacrifice for the pleasure of another. This became heightened when I was first offered money for sex. I don't think I could believe that someone as unattractive as I felt myself to be would be paid for sex. I have had recent flashbacks of some of these sexual transactions, feeling forced into having sex as a 16 year old and an intense experience of dissociation as I experienced the pain of what was quite a violent incident. Sex as a way of dissociation became an intense feature of my life for many years. When I was 16 I started answering ads in the back of Gay Times for older men looking for houseboys which of course was for sex. Fairly quickly I had arranged to go and live in France with a man in his sixties who I had sex with three times a week in exchange for a tiny amount of money - I thought it was loads of money at the time. I have very few memories of this, it was surreal.
Once I started having sex I had drifted away from the church. I knew or thought I Knew, that they would reject me if they knew I was gay so I abandoned them before they found out. I didn't want to be healed of my sexuality and I felt strongly that god didn't want me to be any other way. But I was sad to cut myself of from the security of the church family though this feeling felt very familiar.
My choices confused me for many years: after my mum had left my dad had formed a new relationship with a woman who I came to love deeply: she had chosen to be my mother, to love and care for me and is still close to my heart even though she died many years ago now. But I can also see now that our relationship was unhealthy - I played the part of an adapted child who would do everything I could to please her, to meet her needs, and make sure she was happy. She was a loving woman but temperamental and unpredictable and I was often on tenterhooks unsure of what response I would get. Her character was stronger than my fathers so he was unable to control and manipulate her in the way he had my mother - I think this is what he had wanted as a partner, someone who is more in control than himself and I think this replicated his relationship with his own mother.
It confused me for years how I had been a child from a relatively stable home (certainly compared to peers of my own age) who had rapidly moved from a church going teen into being a rent boy and live in sex worker by the age I was 17 years old. I continued sex working for a few years always fascinated by the experience of being paid for something that I felt was of no value - my body. I worked on the streets of London, in a brothel, as an escort earning £140 per hour. I felt really unattractive, would make myself vomit to lose weight, would do anything for anyone. I also during this time lived with a man who was 30 years older than me. We had met through an ad, had sex a few times but what he wanted was emotional relationship: this became toxic pretty quickly as he was terrified I would leave him even threatening that he would kill himself if I left. This totally fed into my trauma and I couldn't leave for 5 years despite being desperate too. I was so hooked into pleasing him that i was completely trapped.
I knew I had had very early sexual experiences with my brother. My sister had also told me that when she was a young teen she had been sexual with me though I have no memories of this and have been too embarrassed to ask. None of it felt as though it made sense. But then the body memories started to become stronger the older I get.
So what has been happening for me now as a man in his early 40's. I have had some therapy specifically for sexual abuse and finally things are falling into place. I am acknowledging that I experienced pre-verbal sexual abuse - that this took place before I was 3 years old. I do not know who the perpetrator was - it could be my father, my uncle who died before I was two years old but who lived with us for a period before he died, Justin the son of the baby sitter who I stayed with for a time after my mum left whilst my dad was still working (I have some distinct memories of him being abusive though not sexually - he would lock me in a cupboard under the stairs and hurt me), or maybe my siblings. My other brother who is three years older than me I am fairly certain was also abused: he is a 44 year old very distressed man, angry, repressed, depressed and dysfunctional. All of us are traumatized by our childhood but we have not managed to leave it behind.
I am having EMDR and new memories are crashing back - but I welcome them. I now understand why bathroom fans have made me so anxious all of these years and I now have fleeting glimpses of how I watched the window fan spinning as I was being abused - I was very young at this time. I can now have mine on and not feel anxious without knowing why I have had this reaction all of these years. I still jump a lot and notice myself doing this - I appreciate this for what it is, a life of anxiety and a classic symptom of PTSD. I am still very watchful but can watch myself being so. Overall I have come to see that I am generally anxious.
I still struggle with trying not to please people around me, my partner, my manager, my friends - it is very ingrained that they will not love me if I don't do what pleases them - as a result I can only really relax when I am on my own which doesn't make for good relationships. I still dissociate but now I have a way of understanding what has seemed like a mystery my whole life: gradually this is less the more I understand it. Life can be exhausting though I am hopeful that the light I am shining into my life will relieve me of this burden over time. Conditioning is very hard to undo especially when pleasing others is promoted as a virtue and not a disability. I am working also with a fantastic male survivors group where we share our stories and help to heal each other.
I sometimes wish I had got to this point as a younger man though I can see that this was not possible: I in no way was ready for this. I feel sad that I have not achieved more in life in my relationships, my career. Others would see me as successful in my career though I know I could have done so much better if I had not struggled with anxiety and low self esteem for so many years: my career is also built upon the act of caring for others and I'm not sure if I am able to continue this. I have no financial stability, no security for the future and this worries me. I am still addicted to pleasing other above my own needs - sometimes I wonder if I will ever be cured of this.
But I am hopeful, I have hope for a peace, inner and outer that is within my grasp.
This is me, I did not realise that I would write this today. Thank you for reading.