A character on an American satirical TV program was disclosing to his Mom the fact that he was a homosexual; that he was gay.
Trying to put the best face on this news he added:
"Lots of famous men were gay, Plato was a homosexual."
To which the Mom responded, "Mickey Mouses dog was gay?!!"
That episode of 'Soap' stuck with me I'm sure because of all the trouble I had telling people that I was gay; and all the misapprehension that seemed to go along with it.
I had my life divided into people and situations who knew I was gay; and others who didn't. That involved lots of juggling--something I did a lot of, but never seemed to get better at.
None of those in my life knew the facts about me being sexually abused. That was a secret that I had buried so deep that I barely mentioned those years in my life, preferring to live as if they had never occurred.
As a gay man, I have had at least two disclosures, both painful and difficult, but necessary for my sanity, that I have had to make.
First, I had to quit the double life I was living and disclose that I am a gay man.
After many more years, I finally had to let go of the secret of the sexual abuse.
In both cases, the disclosures came about only as the result of incredible pain. It had to get more painful and difficult to keep the secret than to let go of it.
Both disclosures acted as dividing lines in my life. In both some of my family and friends were able to accept me and believe me. And some were not.
I had an incredible amount of shame about both being gay and the sexual abuse for most of my life. Those years I lived with that were a nightmare of guilt, secret self-loathing, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual degradation and fear.
Once I came out of the closet about being gay, I really expected for most of that to go away.
But it didn't.
It would many more years for the pain of that wound so deep inside me to grow so acute that I could no longer stifle my cries. The pain of being sexually used and discarded; the burden of keeping the secret of what happened when I was 15 and years beyond.
I never had told anyone about the abuse and that shard of truth lay buried inside my heart, festering, aching, piercing me.
Later in life, I wondered why it hurt me so much to get close to someone. Why I had to numb myself out with booze and drugs even when I was supposed to be happy.
Why did it hurt me to want to feel love?
The final straw in this dilemna came when I was 43. I had been sober for 5 years, reconciled with many people, and learned to be more comfortable about being gay and living without drugs and alcohol.
But that familiar sharp torturing pain was still there; hurting me now even more intensely. It seemed to be just below and to the left of where I imagined my heart to be.
I described to my first therapist that is was if a sharp piece of metal, wrapped in rusty, dirty barbed wire was embedded in my flesh; turning and moving and continuously inflcting misery on me.
It is then I realized that people were not hurting me, but that I carried the hurt around with me, inside me. Like a splinter that is burrowed inside a finger that only hurts when shaking hands.
Just prior to being finally able to disclose the sexual abuse, it became impossible for me to pray. Getting closer to God hurt just like getting close to humans had been.
I began to cry uncontollably, especially at night, before going to bed. I had no idea why.
I cried so hard, never knowing why, that my stomach would hurt the next morning from the racking sobs. I was mystified and told a good friend, "I cry at least once a day, and if I don't then I cry twice the next day. I can't figure it out and it hurts so much."
I finally was forced to see a therapist.
And then was able to start the process of disclosing to the world, little by little, the truth of the sexual abuse that had continued to corrode the fabric of my life.
There was much more crying ahead, but a different type of tears. These were more than tears of suffering from unknown causes.
They were tears of healing.
Disclosure to me means tears, of pain, of healing and then relief, joy and finally gratitude.
I guess maybe all those salty drops of liquid were needed to soften the way for that long buried pain to leave me.
Disclosure for me was never an event but a long drawn out process. While ultimately healing and beneficial, it was also painful, sad and difficult.
Today I practice 'disclosure' at a different level. I try not to let those splinters of reality get stuck in my psyche where they can fester and infect.
I try to keep myself right with myself, with God and with other human beings. It ain't easy. The old habits of just ignoring things until they get too painful to bear hasn't gone away over night.
But it does get better as I continue to get better.
The most important parts of my recovery have always occurred in connection with my fellow survivors.
I could never have done it alone, so thanks for being here and reading this.
Regards to you all,
"Poke salad Annie, 'gators got you granny
Everybody said it was a shame
'Cause her mama was aworkin' on the chain-gang"
-Tony Joe White