Hello Ed,

Well, I'm 25 but I pretty much do the same thing as you. My abuse occurred between the ages of six and ten, and I kept everything bottled and hidden until I started seeing a therapist when I was almost 21.

My abuse never got any further than oral sex or my cousin (who was the perpetrator) masturbating in front of me, but the complications within that really screwed me up. Back then, I saw him as a very close friend and like the brother I wish I had, and whenever he would ask me to go down on him or if he could go down on me or whatever, it was always "well it's normal between people who love each other". I thought, "Well I love all my family members, so I guess it's no big deal".

As I got older I realized there was difference between familial and romantic love, but I have totally shut off any part of myself from recognizing that. I am 25 and although I have had crushes on girls that I've worked or gone to school with, I have never allowed myself to get close enough to wonder if I loved them. There are so many other feelings that complicate that.

Even now, if I'm approached by other women who are attracted to me, my initial reaction is nervousness or a feeling of "this woman can't be talking to me". Either that or I get "fight or flight" reaction where my heart starts pounding and my palms sweat and I get super tense or nervous. Makes me wonder if I'm just afraid of sex, or afraid of intimacy, who knows.

The last few times I did have sex, my girlfriend at the time noticed I was shaking (I was very happy to be having sex, but could not stop shaking, and it was enough to be very noticeable). Some time after we broke up, I had sex with a girl who was a friend of a friend. We both had a great time, and she was really nice. So what did I do? I pulled the hump n' dump and left immediately after and never spoke with her again, which I deeply regret because she was (still is I'm sure) a sweet girl. It's been three years now since I had sex, and before that it had been four years. Most of my friends have that much sex from one night out and can't understand how it is that I've gone so long without having sex and haven't gone insane. I keep telling them that it's not that I don't like having sex, it's just that I don't feel like I NEED it.

Any girls I was ever close with who I ended up telling about my abuse? No matter how supportive they were (and in my case they were super supportive), I'd distance myself from them immediately. I think it's because by revealing that part of myself to them, I've allowed myself to be vulnerable. Because of my abuse though, I see vulnerability as one of the things which got me in to the whole situation in the first place (although really it was naiveté from being six), and I try to not allow myself to be vulnerable.

Anyways, enough with me, the fact that you recognize what's happening means now you can take steps to get help if you feel you want it. EMDR therapy was a huge help for me, but there are some people who feel like they can't deal with the process of it. In my case I arrived at a point where it was "I'm either going to get therapy to try and be able to live my life again or I'm going to eventually end up killing myself, because this is unbearable". It's difficult and painful to try and heal from this stuff, so I wish you the best.