This is the journey to become real – to tell you the story of ‘me’ that you would understand who I am now, who I was then, how I got here, and where I go once ‘here’ is gone. Do you understand? Do you know me? This is me …
We all have our journeys in our lives. We all have our tales to tell and our high and low points; we all have our ‘private’ selves and our secrets, and we all have our lives to live regardless of the past. In all of this we often lose track of where we came from and how life became the way that it is. In the thrum of our adult lives we usually give little regard to the lessons of the past that have led us to who and where we are, because we believe we don’t need to. We have learned behaviors that help us cope with the monstrosity that life can be, but we also have learned behaviors that can dog us and cause us issues in our lives. We view the past as exactly that – the past. What if that journey wasn’t what you expected it to be, but that you had simply ‘forgotten’ the past? What if your childhood was hidden from plain sight? What if it started to come back, and in that moment your reality started to fall apart? The lessons learned in the formative years fall into question then, and life seems to take on a slant in the wrong direction. That realization, in itself, is enough to create imbalance, and that is where my journey begins.
I have journeyed hard and long into my past this last five years. I have journeyed back to the past to the things that my mind had hidden from me; to the events that had formed who I was; to the habits and coping mechanisms that had massive negative effects on me, but kept me alive none-the-less; to the memories of events that shouldn’t have happened and a new awareness of who I am not. Now it’s time to introduce you to that journey in the hope that it helps you on your journey, whatever that may be, and in the knowledge that it will help me. I started this journey alone. I am no longer alone. I am no longer weak. I was not responsible; I was not to blame; it was not my fault.
I wrote a four page letter to someone I respect highly. In that four page letter I managed to encapsulate the essence of my journey to such a degree that the next chapter, ‘Path of Discovery’, is based on that letter. I thought it the perfect, poignant way to frame this journey; a rightful beginning to put a face to a monster that haunted my life for so many years yet lay hidden in the darkest corners of my mind. The words are very real, true to the point and true to the memory; a written graphic reminder of what was real – emphasis on ‘was’.
It’s hard to paint a picture when you have no canvas. Without the basic tools, no matter how talented you are, you cannot complete the picture. It will remain in your minds eye, unable to be expressed yet still ever present in your day to day life. In my view, without the nurturing of loving parents it is nigh on impossible to build and grow into a functional adult. The tools to build a young life towards adulthood are supplied mainly by those closest to you over those formative years – more to the point – your parents hold the key. Without them it becomes a guessing game; trial and error. Mistakes in this guessing game could destroy a life, literally and metaphorically. Hence the canvas mentioned in the first sentence of this paragraph is foundation for building your life. What are your views if they are formed on lies?
The learning process for me, getting from then to now, has been incredible, hence calling it a journey. The transition from what I was to what I am is incredible also, almost like day and night, and it continues to morph and grow daily, yet I have a profound feeling that I am the same core person – I can’t tell you how comforting that one thought is. In dealing with the nightmare of my past I have opened new doors to a richer, happier life. I understand the strength necessary to take this journey, it is not easy, and I maintain that all survivors do have that strength they just don’t know how to access it yet. I also understand, with sadness, that there are those that don’t have the will to survive. There are those that either want to die to end the pain, or want to endure the pity of others and live a sad, lonely life. I don’t pity them, I hurt for them and, in my own way, understand them and wish I could give them the strength to make that change. That is not mine to give. Human nature can be cruel at times.
There is something in the core of everyone that yearns to survive and be happy. I believe that there can sometimes be something at the core of us that yearns to be a victim. Maybe that yearning is our subconscious mind playing out coping mechanisms. Maybe that yearning is familiarity, better the devil we know so to speak. Maybe that yearning is a misplaced and misunderstood emotion or response that grips us like a vice. Maybe I have missed the point entirely, who knows. It’s not my place to do anything other than express my own feeling right here, right now.
Who knows how anyone else perceives the world around them. Who knows whether the color that I know as red looks the same as the color you know as red. Who’s to say that my perception of how a life should be is anything other than just that, my perception. In the grand scheme of things, in the myriad dimensions of thought, life and of the universe there is so much that we don’t know, that we don’t comprehend that it almost seems impossible to comprehend the scale of what our minds can achieve – we don’t know – we really don’t know. The scale of that thought is part of what kept me alive during my childhood. The chapter called ‘The Box’ goes some way to explain the scale of my thought.
Reading through the chapter ‘Reflection on What Was’ will give you an idea of where I was when I started this process of healing. It’s brutally honest and to the point and can be somewhat disturbing, even though I still feel I couldn’t adequately describe the gravity of how I felt and what I was going through. Beyond that point in time is the journey in more detail, from a different standpoints and perspectives and, some would say, from a different person. I remain the same core person; my perspective has changed – my life has changed, almost polar opposites. I learned to love, and be loved, and that is one of the greatest gifts that there is. There is hope – no matter how deep the crap is, no matter how thick the fog is we can beat this. Don’t be alone in your pain – do what I did and become a winner.
The content of this blog is entirely my view. This is entirely my perception. These are my words, my thoughts and my experiences. I don’t claim to be right. I don’t claim to be anything other than one man sharing his experiences, ideas and thoughts with those that might listen; no more and no less. To think any different is to misinterpret my intention. To misinterpret my intention is to misinterpret me, and that doesn’t belong with me anymore.
(a letter to a friend)
I would like to share with you my path towards healing and hopefully give you an insight to the spirit of ‘me’ that has aided my journey. It’s not an easy thing to write and it will not be an easy thing for you to read. In understanding my words I hope that you will better understand the real me, my journey, and why the journey means so much to me. The journey is just as important as the goal; the journey is the struggle towards a normal life; the journey is a Path of Discovery.
It’s hard to know where to begin. There is so much information, so much life that I have lived, or not as the case may be. There is a paragraph by Charles Swindoll called Attitude, and a text called Mastery by Stewart Emery that are both so very powerful and pertinent messages and have such deep meaning for me, more so if you have been where I have been and seen what I have seen. In my journey towards becoming whole again I have often pondered the meaning of both texts. Now that I am on the other side of the curve I better understand them. It is easy to read the words and know the meaning. It is not so easy to truly understand and feel the meaning, let alone live by it. Any journey such as mine reminds you of that fact.
In the forty something years leading me to ‘here’ and ‘now’, I have been so many people and seen so many places (yes, I meant to say it that way), and I have been in awe of life itself so many times, but never as much or as such as I am right now, right here in this moment that I am sharing with you. It is time to let loose the past and in doing so, embrace the future. It’s an incredible journey to say the least, and it has left its mark.
In late 2004 I began a journey of discovery. My blanketed past had so many jaded edges that I could not understand, memories that didn’t belong let alone make sense, and flashbacks to events I didn’t even know occurred. I knew that my childhood was hard and I knew that it was not a loving time for me, but I had no real concept of what really went on, just many fast and loud memories that would haunt me in my sleep and shadow my life. Not knowing what they were, they remained in the darkened corners of my mind where they ate at my spirit every hour of every day. To understand them I had to wake up to something I had been denying. To wake up I had to acknowledge my past. To acknowledge my past I had to remember, and I did not want to remember.
As I grew weaker through illness more memories came to the surface. These were disturbing images and emotions that I couldn’t quite grasp. The more I remembered, the harder I pushed my body when training, and the sicker I got. Five hours of surgery served to remind me how frail the human body really is. I was also diagnosed with narcolepsy during this time and the only saving grace of that was the ability to sleep within three minutes of lying down. At least that would mask the trail of memories and cosset me from the sharp edges of my past by giving me some rest.
It was a time of reflection, a time of discovery indeed, but in that discovery laid the reasons for my life mistakes; answers to questions I longed to ask and understand, and memories of events that no one should ever see. This was the truth of where I came from. It was killing me, literally and metaphorically.
I knew the past held something I did not want to remember. I knew that something was hiding in my subconscious and had to come out. I consciously chose to face the past head on. I chose to pull the memories to the front of my mind where I could deal with them. I knew that it would be a trying time and I knew that it would hurt me but I also knew that my survival was dependant on truth, honesty and integrity. I could only give myself truth if I was true to myself and faced the ghosts of my past; faced the true reality that was buried in my past. My very limited memory of childhood afforded me no real clues. That, in itself was a clue.
I couldn’t look in the mirror and say ‘I know you, I understand you and I love you’ to myself. I was living in a world that I had subconsciously created to cushion myself from my reality. As I grew up I had no concept of what was supposed to be real so I did something to help myself. I watched those around me and copied the parts of them that I liked. I modeled successful people. I built my life around what I saw around me and I adapted, added, took away and altered what I saw to adapt myself to my current surroundings. I joined the military at age sixteen and served twelve years for Queen and country. I buried myself in my duty to defend my country. I had purpose and was growing and learning, always knowing that my superiors controlled my life. That was the key, not controlling my own life. Was that a subconscious decision I wonder? I built the person I wanted to be from what I saw and experienced but I knew, still, that I wasn’t whole.
For the longest time the coping mechanism I had forged worked in my favor. For the longest time I thought I was happy and perhaps, in a way, I was; but in reality I was hiding from the one thing that should have been important, and that was the real ‘me’. I could feel the past tugging at me at every corner and the weakness was gnawing away at my mind, my body and my spirit. The only way forward was to go back but it had to be the right time, the right place and with the right people.
I told my closest friends of my decision and of my reasoning. I asked them if they understood because I have tried to face this in the past but I could not do this alone. In the past those around me chose to ignore and rebuff me through their own ignorance, their own fear and their own sense of disgust which was aimed at me even though they knew it wasn’t my fault. Therein lies a truth, it wasn’t my fault. Their fear of my past was aimed at me. In reality I should have known that my true friends would stand by me. They are still standing by me through all the memories that I have had to face since deciding to confront this. This being the faceless monster that has tried to kill me, tried to deface me and had taken away my capacity to love and be loved, and had denied me my self esteem. My spirit was dying and it had to stop.
Through countless sessions with a counselor I furrowed into the memories. Each time I saw a little more and my heart died a little. I knew it would get worse before it got better but I wasn’t ready for the sheer gravity of events and emotions that would follow. Each time I remembered I withdraw from my reality in anger, shock and disgust. Each morsel offered me an insight into why I was the way I was and why I reacted the way I did, and then that same reality stabbed me in the back when I wasn’t looking and tried to steal another part of me away. Each memory was an answer to a question on human nature and a lesson in my capacity to evolve, and each memory gnawed at my reasons for living. Through all this my body weakened and my demeanor became stooped and low. My friends still loved me and tried to help, but I withdrew from that reality and lived a daily existence. All this time no-one really knew the depth of my pain, no-one knew the truth, but those close to me tried to support me. I trained harder still to focus myself somewhere constructive. I knew if I could master my situation I could evolve, learn and move on. I knew that to challenge the past I had to master the present. That would afford me the strength to carry on. I just didn’t know how.
Early 2005 I chose to tell my story to some close friends. I chose to not hide the details from them and I chose to ask for their help in my journey. I asked them all to not share any information, knowing that if this leaked out it would do irreparable damage to my foundation, to my being, to my soul, the very part of me that I was trying to regain; or that was how I perceived it. I risked losing them in my insular knowledge of how others had rejected me from not understanding my past, but I knew it had to be done. None of them flinched or judged me. They are still my pillars of support, my true family and they have stood by me through thick and thin. Through all that has happened I have felt a bond that will never be broken.
Now I choose to open my heart to you and let you see the real me. I choose to share with you the reality of my life, past and present. This I do with my head held high. This I do not only for you, but for me. There is no shame, it wasn’t my fault.
Here I am: my father was a leader in the community and someone that demanded and got respect. My mother was a psychologist in a hostel for wayward teenage children. My father sexually abused me for ten long, empty years, my earliest memory being at age three and last at age thirteen. That was when I finally fought back. Once, he threw me in the deep end of a swimming pool at age five and walked away … I couldn’t swim. The look on his face as he walked away burned into my memory and became my nightmare. He knew what he had done. Had a kind soul not pushed me to the side I believe I would have drowned. He knew that, I saw it in his eyes. If I made any noise during his sexual advances I was beaten for betraying him. My mother would attack me in a drunken rage, sometimes for what appeared to be no apparent reason but, as I found out later in life, she attacked me because she knew what he was doing and somehow blamed me for it. There was too much in this for it to be real I was told, and that is what I told myself. I had a vague perception that I must have been very naughty to be punished this way, and that God must not have loved me to let this happen.
The general perception around me was that there was no way that these wonderful parents would ever be capable of such atrocities. I was called a liar by my family and rebuked by anyone and everyone that I tried to tell. I didn’t live, I didn’t even exist, I just ‘was’. I didn’t cry nor love. I didn’t speak much at all. I was painfully shy, very, very sad and very scared. I had a dream world that I had created to focus myself on. No one else mattered there. I had the place [in my mind] that I went when my father wanted to use me and I went there often to hide. To cope I had to master leaving my body behind. I had to take my mind to a place where it didn’t connect to the real world, that way I felt no physical pain. That way I was safe from him. He could defile my body but he would never get my mind. I created my reality as I went along and believe I survived because of it. I would wonder in awe at the size of the universe and immerse myself in the dream world of science. I saw myself from a distance. My body was on the bed but my mind was in a box, floating in space, free from him and free from pain. I still using similar coping mechanisms today, but only to release myself from stress.
My father had made me feel like it was my fault and that I deserved what he did to me. He had told me that he would love me if I let him have his way so I let him, time and time again, because all I wanted was for him to love me. There were days when I begged God to take me away and make me whole because surely he wouldn’t want me to stay there and suffer. If he took me to heaven someone would love me and I wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. I didn’t realize the impact of my thoughts. I couldn’t fathom the gravity of where I was. I was too young.
The memories surfaced one by one over an eighteen month period. More and more information came forward and from that, more and more pain and anguish in my heart for that little boy. I hated myself for what had happened even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. I felt used and dirty, even in the memory. There have been times when I wished that I could go to sleep and not wake up because in that sleep there would be calm; the noise, the pain and the memories would stop and I would be at peace. It would be an eternal peace. No, it wasn’t suicide or a cry for help. It was a wanton desire to be at peace, misguided by too many memories that occurred too often, and was offset knowing that the world around me, as I saw it, was based on someone I didn’t really know [me]; and that the world around me watched as I suffered at the hands of my parents and did nothing. Not one person stepped forward to rescue that little boy. He was utterly alone and that thought hurt me so much.
I fought through memories that no one should ever see, in so much graphic detail that I almost felt it again but this time the person being defiled was the adult ‘me’. With the help of my friends, and a therapist that refused to let me give up, I faced the past, I lived it again. Every Thursday morning I would enter a room with a therapist and I would fight for my life. I would force myself to recount the horror and then rebuild myself after it. My therapist would walk me through the things I saw and felt and then gently bring me back into the real world. She would never let me face them alone. She never once judged me.
The honest truth is that I nearly didn’t make it. The gravity of the past was so heavy that I wanted to give up. I couldn’t deal with the emotional turmoil that I felt and I couldn’t hide from any of it. I was at an impasse that had no escape and despite the support I had I could see no end to it. The fibers of my life were being torn apart. Someone literally turned the light at the end of the tunnel off. Suddenly that metaphor meant much more than it ever had. My body was failing and my mind was full of self pity. I had cursed myself by trying to face something that was bigger than me, or so I thought.
Through all this turmoil I had to maintain my career, and kept training and teaching martial arts. My sanity was teaching. My mood would break the minute I entered the floor and I was free, confident, happy, and I felt wanted, even respected. I managed my career as a separate entity to the person suffering the past. That way I could detach and maintain, but it was getting very difficult to stop the memories from intruding to both work and training.
I had to rebuild myself in spite of the memories. Everything that I felt was so raw that I suddenly realized that those were the real emotions, and that I had lied to myself about how I felt up until that point. I was new, like a child in an adult’s body. I was a child with an inner adult. I was starting the growing up process again because all that I was up until that point was built around a lie, and was built by a child to protect himself from the pain that was his life. It was finally time to grow up.
My spirit was tested to the end of its limits through all of the memories. I had an inner strength that I didn’t know existed, stronger than I thought possible that grew stronger every day. My friends have stood by me while I fought. My life has begun again. I am learning to love and be loved and I grow each and every day, and evolve each and every moment that I live. I always knew life was special, I just never thought I would experience it. Even as a child I could see it, I could smell it and touch it and taste it, but I knew that I could not have it. Life makes no sense when you don’t have the tools to work through it, tools that are taught with love and nurturing as a child grows up and touches the reality of life.
I have grown beyond the past now. I see it for what it was. I accept it as a part of me and I am stronger in spite of it. Within me the fire burns brighter and stronger than I have ever felt. I forgave myself for the sins of the past, and in doing so released all those years of burden from my shoulders. I have won that battle. I still cannot forgive him. I’m not sure I ever will. I have been told that to forgive is to finally let go – maybe I am just not ready for that finality yet.
In the vain of mastering the present, I give you these words and in giving you these words I bear my soul to you. It is with great respect that I offer you my journey towards personal mastery. I am who I am in spite of my past, not because of it. I learned that the hard way, but learned it none the less. My journey is just beginning and my life is anew. My health returns slowly and my strength builds as my mind matures beyond the past. I am ready; I am willing; I am free.
It’s all about me. In this post it is ‘I’.
I am not old. I am 45 years old at the time of writing, an executive in a fast paced, multi-faceted, high tech company. My career is trying, extremely stressful but is successful and I have a great salary, a beautiful house and a fast car – ironic isn’t it? More importantly now, I have a caring, loving and committed partner who accepts me for all that I am, and all that I am not. That, in itself, is priceless. That makes it all worthwhile. I know I can love, and I know I can be loved. That is huge!
I write music. I use music as a lever to express what I am feeling. I can lose myself in the music and music can affect me; my emotions; my being. I am self taught; I am passionate in it; it is a reflection of me –plus it’s fun of course.
I am a black belt. The discipline of martial arts helps me to control aggression and release it if need be, not necessarily using violence or force. Teaching martial arts allows me to express myself in a forum of control, and I teach with passion.
I’m a geek! I love computers and tech toys. I am the ultimate child when it comes to technology, never growing up, never wanting to grow up. With computers I can write music, I can design graphics, web sites and can express myself in so many ways. It is a form of freedom that is in my control and I can lose myself in it.
I’m narcoleptic. I was diagnosed only a couple of years ago. Narcolepsy is a condition and not a disease. I wonder sometimes if the narcolepsy developed as a mechanism to protect me from the horrors of my past, but there are no facts to support that. During the process of healing, learning and change it served me well. It takes an average of three minutes for me to fall asleep and I tend to stay asleep. There are other symptoms, some of which can be very trying, but so is life.
I’m hyper-vigilant. Day to day my brain is active all the time. I am constantly thinking, analyzing and multi tasking; running scenarios and occasionally daydreaming. It is hard for me to relax; it is hard for me to switch off but I am learning. It has been said that I hear and see more than most. I see it that I am more aware of my surroundings and it served to keep me alive after I left home. Perhaps that is also a part of creativity, who knows.
The journey. My view is that the journey never ends. Once beyond the hold of the past it becomes a process of learning and growing. It can still be painful; emotions seem new and raw, but it is exciting to be so alive without the encumbrances of the past weighing you down and trying to draw you in. The past will still be there and it will still affect me, but now I know what it is and I am well prepared to deal with it.
There’s a child in me. I still believe I look through the eyes of a child. Sometimes my partner tells me that I have a childish quality, good or bad, in an action or reaction. He sees it as an endearing quality, being able to embrace the child that we all hold inside. I believe that we are in too much of a rush to grow up and be ‘adult’, and that the child in us has to have a voice. Denying all parts of who we are can stop us reaching our full potential in life I think.
This is me – so much more than I was!
Surviving was not easy, though in my mind it was what I thought to be a routine – it was normal for me after all. My world did not look the same as everyone elses, or at least my perception of my world. My world was created as a young child without an adequate template to form life skills with. Without being nurtured and loved as a child I had no basis to form normal emotional bonds. My own views, thoughts and opinions had no real grounding other than the perception of what I saw around me, and the adaptation of that. Without being adequately prepared for the realities of the world around me it could be a dangerous and alien place. I felt isolated because I felt I was different, but I didn’t know why. All I knew is that I felt lonely and unloved.
Devoid of love and without a friend in the world [my perception] the reality of it weighed heavily on me, even though I didn’t understand the true nature of what I felt. I remember sadness and I remember loneliness. I remember wondering why no-one liked me or loved me. I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong that made people push me away. I thought I had done something wrong. Maybe I was pushing them away! I was being punished and no matter what I did, I seemed to do it wrong. I didn’t know that my parents had a huge hand in that -until now.
Life without the capacity to love and be loved is bitter and painfully lonely, let alone thinking that no-one could ever love me because of my secret. I was used goods, marred and unworthy of love – or at least that is the feeling I had. Did I need to write it that dramatically? I think so, because the impact on you is never going to be as profound – but you can get an idea of what it was like.
My perception of self helped drill that negativity deep into my being and I truly, truly believed it. Even if one person should deem me worthy enough to hang on to they would drop me like a stone once they realized where I came from, or I would drop them like a stone if they got too close to the real ‘me’; they could never see the real ‘me’. That was the perception I had. The real ‘me’ was unclean. In creating that image I created that reality. I was sealing my own fate but I thought I needed to do that to protect myself.
Along the way I encountered many parts of my being that I didn’t know or understand, almost like it wasn’t me, like it was a nightmare; or that I was playing out a role that I had no control over. I developed separate thought processes for different situations knowing that I could detach that persona to do the task or job at hand. I never saw it as anything other than a different way of dealing with different situations. I would watch that persona do its work, sometimes looking out from inside the mask of the adult, looking through the two holes that showed me the outside world [my eyes]. Detaching from reality was easy and to survive in the real world I had to do just that. Most people can flow from one persona to another – from father to husband for instance, I could not; but then I didn’t know I was supposed to and I didn’t know how.
As I delved deeper into despair my past began leaking into my present. I wrote my thoughts and fragmented memories down and relived them through my words. I remembered them through those words and tried to rationalize them through the tireless efforts of my therapist, and hard work from the real me that was hidden underneath my fragmented life. The old adage ‘it has to get worse before it gets better’ really hit home. Therein lies a question: how well do you really know yourself? You have to wonder at the depths your mind will go to protect you, and to build your life so that it makes a little sense at least.
Integrating this process of discovery into my perception of the real world came at a price. I was always hyper-aware of everything around me. I could hear individual conversations, or feel the hum of the crowd. I could pick out key words from conversations around me. I would see every tiny change in the picture of the world around me. I heard, felt and saw everything around me, and that we very tiring. I hated being around people but I needed people to survive. Later in life I chose to be alone most of the time. It was the only way I could maintain quiet in my world. A locked door was my safety; silence was my solace; memory was my foe. I switched off.
I still harbor a lot of anger inside me. I sometimes still have issues integrating into the world around me. People anger me with their lack of concern for anyone but themselves. It’s a conceited and self opinionated world we live in. I often wonder at the complexity of society against the simplicity of being humble. So much could be achieved, but I suppose that is just a dream. Each day is a new beginning to me and that is how I cope and move forward. I still get hit with seemingly random moods. Some of the stupidest little things will cause a memory to unfold, or a pain to reappear. That is a daily fight that I have grown accustomed to. My life will unfold as I progress through the memories, even as I write this, but I am no longer facing this alone and I am no longer scared of it.
I will try to recount the stories and memories and try to explain them as I go along, as well as my reactions, perceptions, thoughts, fears and emotions. I will share them in the vain they were written because to share them any other way would decry the meaning of that moment, and that moment belongs to me, was empowered by me and in doing this discovery, has helped me heal.
Some of the stories still hurt me to remember but no matter how profound or destructive they are, they have a place in my life, and a place in my heart. The more I see them, the more I acknowledge them, the more I understand them. For that part relinquishes me of blame and helps free me to move on. For the most part there is no shock left in them for me. The fear part is rationalized and the understanding part is in place. I just need practice at being ‘me’.
As I try to rationalize the in-between moments and the thoughts that I don’t yet understand I will write in that moment. Maybe I will be able to win a battle or two just by writing this, who knows. I know this journey will never end because life constantly evolves and changes, and my perception of that also evolves and changes. I learn with every interaction, with every word and with every day. Maybe sometimes those lessons are hard learned, but at least now I am learning. As I said earlier, I am who I am in spite of my past, not because of it. Is that the true definition of surviving?
I find that the word ‘surviving’ can have so many different meanings. It can be the difference between sanity and insanity if you will. To survive in the aspect of a victim of childhood sexual abuse is to exist day to day. It implies no joy, just heartache and pain, fragmented memories and confusion. Yet to survive an accident is a good thing. What I make of it now is that I was the former up until I took control of my life. I had a daily existence shrouded in confusion, loneliness and self pity; obviously counter productive. Now I see the latter. I have survived a bad thing, maybe not an accident but something that I see as just as harmful. Maybe in that knowledge is a reminder that perception can be an illusion, or should that state that perception can be the illusion?
Charles Swindoll wrote a well known text pertaining to Attitude. It’s simple enough to read and it’s quite true in its message. Sometimes when I read it I see the simplicity of it. After all, it is something that we can grasp. It reads:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important that facts.
It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.
I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how to react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.
He is right. There is one thought in my mind though, and it’s not casting aspersions at the text for I truly believe in what he says. Are we really that aware of ourselves that we can apply this thought process? Part of the thought is redeemed in the first line “The longer I live …”. Is this implying that impact of attitude dawns on us with maturity perhaps, or just life experience, perhaps both? I’m not sure if we fully understand the chemistry of thought, bearing in mind that we are told that chemical imbalances in the brain cause moods, depression and such. Are we really in charge of that? Can we control that? I think there is a sub conscious part of us (instinct?) that controls our perception of the world around us and the drive to be a part of it. It’s a feeling if you will; it is a guttural drive, desire, urge, instinct or whatever you want to call it. You can’t fake it, you can’t pretend it, it either is, or it isn’t. Is our spirit strong enough to affect our chemical balance, indeed can our subconscious control it? I think the point here for me is that there are multiple ways at looking at the will to survive. A ‘for instance’ is suicide. It can be a cry for help. Desperation leads to drastic measures that can actually be rationalized by a confused mind. Flip the coin over and suicide for some is the intent. They actually want to die. Maybe that doesn’t make much sense to you, but it does to me. I literally saw both sides of that coin and felt the inner calm of the latter, and I don’t say that lightly. Suicide will make the pain stop – and sometimes all I wanted was the pain to stop.
In essence I really believe that change can be held back by the mind, subconsciously – but I also think there is an element of wanting what is familiar – people resist change. Is it reasonable to believe that I could develop to be more of an adult now that I have rationalized my past? Maybe that is the part that moves beyond surviving. In reality discovering that there is actually a child within me is the revelation. Allowing that child to exist and play relieves me of so much of the stress of what life is really like. Allowing myself the right to feel whatever I am feeling is empowering – knowing that it is real is almost scary. Being able to justify myself to myself is a huge step forward. All of this is surviving, and beyond. There has to be a moment where we say that we are beyond that point. We aren’t surviving anymore, we are living. To say it is simple; to understand the concept is a step forward; to truly feel it is empowering.
I fight with the idea of having an inner child. I have always hated that phrase but not really understood why. It seemed backward to me in that I don’t remember growing up. I don’t have fond memories of growing up, in fact I don’t have many memories at all of growing up. Perhaps that should have been a clue. I thought it was the same for everyone and for a long time I was content to just let that be. As I grew and learned I started to realize that something was not right. My life felt almost staged, as if it was not mine, and I had a great sense of missing something, though I didn’t know what.
I have always thought of myself as being inside the shell that people see. I look through two holes cut out of the front of it. The body that you see is the adult, the part that I was forced to build when my childhood ended, but that was just the physical manifestation that physical age had given me. I had no real perception of my mind maturing and, to a degree, I still don’t. I had no reason to believe it was meant to be any other way. I learned adult behavior and emotions by watching and mimicking, though it never seemed real to me. I grew my outside persona to the point where it was autonomous, an entity in itself that would exist to serve the purpose of assuming the adult role, although I wasn’t exactly aware that I was doing anything different to anyone else. Emotion was something I created when I deemed it necessary. I chose to feel what I thought was appropriate most of the time and seemed to have infinite control over that. As profound as this paragraph sounds, knowing now what is real, that is how I perceived it.
I had a sense that something was missing in my life but never had the notion that I could grasp it. I had a feeling that something was different about me but never could see enough beyond my past to put my finger on it. Occasionally my past would leak into my consciousness, like a dream in the night, and I would be lost in its complexity, not quite understanding what it was or where it came from but knowing that it was profound. It’s hard to explain – I could see the suffering and pain but I didn’t recognize it – I know that doesn’t make sense, but that is how it was.
I had no real concept of self, other than the world around me that I had created; let alone of how to deal with other people and, for the most part of my early years I was totally alone. I was painfully shy and my perceptions was that I wasn’t liked by anyone, merely tolerated sometimes to be the object of ridicule, definitely the victim of bullying at school. I lived in fear of my father and of a violent mother at home. I lived in fear of ridicule and bullying outside the home. I was an outcast. I saw myself as the little boy who was standing on tip toes looking out of a window of a dark room. The world around me was tangible and alive, vibrant even – I could see it, I could feel it through all my senses; I just wasn’t a part of it. It would feel like I was looking in on my own life, not allowed to be anyone, not allowed to be anywhere, silent and alert yet mute and blind. There was a great sadness inside me but I don’t think I was emotionally equipped to understand what it was or how to deal with it. The status quo was, to me, how it was meant to be. I assumed all other little boys had to endure what I went through and that I was weak in not being able to accept it. It’s hard to say that. It’s hard to understand that I didn’t have the capacity to understand the situation I was in. I was in a prison that I thought I had created.
My therapist (yes, that’s how I got this far!), showed me a black and white picture of a small boy on tip toes looking out of a window and it immediately struck me that that was me as a child. It was a metaphor of how I perceived my life. I could see a world around me but I wasn’t a part of it; it felt familiar and real, yet it didn’t belong in that moment. I felt emotion wash over me as a barrage of lonely images flooded through me, memories I had long hidden, thoughts that I had forgotten, and that stopped me in my tracks. It was profound to know that I could see an impression of myself in an image that wasn’t even me, even though it didn’t make sense. At that point in my therapy I thought I had internalized that part of my childhood and accepted it for what it was. I was wrong. I had accepted certain events that had happened to me, but had never probed the thought that I had an existence beyond what my parents had done to me. It was a strange comprehension that another part of the healing process had opened up, but the emotional flood that was attached to that moment was so very real. I had to switch off for a while and try to regroup my thoughts. The learned behavior of turning off mental and physical pain still serves me well to this day, though I have the capacity to deal with it more. It becomes less and less necessary to ‘leave the real world’ now that I have a grasp of real life, and how to deal with it. My personal evolution is so profound – like night and day.
At the same session as being shown that image we heard a helicopter overhead. My therapist likened that to my childhood. There were no search parties sent out to find me and rescue me. I was lost in a life of confusion and abuse and not one person stepped forward to help me. She was right, profoundly right again and I felt another surge of sadness run through me. I could feel her words and that was new to me; the sensation that emotions existed beyond my control was profoundly new to me, and profoundly disturbing. I struggled for control, another wave of sadness washed over me. I fought with it, gained control of it and filed it away so that it couldn’t hurt me outside of the therapy room. I knew I needed to deal with it in the real world but the shock of not having control was a little too real for me. This was just one of my coping mechanisms – beat down the emotion, control it, hold onto it, bury it.
The reality of her words was metaphoric for me, in that I was a child lost in a nightmare existence with supposedly caring people all around me. All the signs were there but no-one saw them, or if they did they ignored them. Or did I pull away from anyone that tried to help? I don’t really know, but it was real none the less. I suddenly felt alone again; one more time visiting the child in the picture; one more time knowing the power of the past; somewhat adrift in a sea of emotions. The child on the outside had suppressed the inner adult and, for a brief moment, I was lost again. That moment was another pivotal moment in my progression. Strange as it may sound I was actually pleased that I had felt something ‘real’. It was a moment when my instinct knew I had moved out of an unreal, self controlling existence and into reality, whatever that may be. There was work to be done to get beyond that point but just knew this was a good thing.
My childhood had not prepared me for real life as it should have. I was missing the foundation for growth to adulthood so I never knew how to grow up. I knew there were rules that I had to live by, especially within the military, so I assumed the role in life that I thought I was meant to be. I developed persona’s that, to me, where separate entities of my personality that I specifically designed to assume a role. I was inside the core and very self aware, looking out at the world and projecting a persona according to the situation I was in, but there was no integration. I used to wonder how that would be possible. I thought that different situations would bring out different responses. I felt like different situations brought out different people – from within me. Another move forward – I noticed the difference!
There is change within me now still. The child is growing up, maturing with the knowledge gained through therapy and through rationalizing my situation – and actually living life. I feel the change and I see the change. It’s physical, mental and spiritual and it feels so good. Now is the right time to grow, I can feel it. Now is the time to integrate the inner adult and the inner child – although I have vowed that the child will always live on.
I count myself lucky to have the ability to write graphically. I express myself through my words and I write as I think and think as I write. With this I can share my experiences with you. My design is that it will help me on my journey to self awareness and healing. My hope is it might help those like me to understand who they are, and that they are not alone, not crazy but more importantly, that they are worthy of hope, love, understanding and life. My desire is that those professionals around us that try to help us will better understand us by better understanding me.
Going back to the chapter title, I see my life as I grew up as the opposite of what normal people would see. Think of the opposite of the phrase ‘inner child’ and that is where I believe I lived. My inner adult had to control my life as my body matured through to adulthood otherwise I would drown in a sea of childlike emotions and expose myself to the reality that my life was. It may not make total sense to you but I saw myself as a child with the shell of an adult. When I realize that thought, my life started to make a little more sense. Gradually, as the process of knowing and understanding progresses I’m beginning to realize the sense of being real; the sense of understanding that it’s okay to have an inner child and an inner adult; that it’s all a part of the mix. I’m starting to see how the integration of different personas can actually work in my favor and can feel integrated. I have learnt to take the person out of some of the interactions for the sake of rational thought. The journey will be a continuous one, such is the dynamic of the world we live in, but at least the journey is happening. I understand the concept of an inner child now, and that should make it easier for you to understand the concept of the inner adult for me. Who said we can’t have either anyway?
During the time that I was trying to come to terms with my past I knew that I had to get help. There was a tremendous amount of fear involved in that decision but I ‘knew’ (instinct?) it had to be done. There was a huge amount of trepidation in involving someone else in my mess. My thought was that this mess was far too large for someone else to understand. There were so many angles and tangents the even I didn’t know were related to it that I thought it impossible to untangle the mess. No-one could surely know what I had been through, nor comprehend the many years of suffering it had given me, not unless they had been there too. If I can’t fathom it and I am in it, how can others? I had tried to face it once before and had failed badly. I was an enigma to the professionals that were working with me. The emphasis for them was to study me and I felt somewhat like a zoo animal. I thought the emphasis was supposed to be to help me? They didn’t take to time to listen to me and spent most of the time asking questions and not listening to the answers. They were intent on making me take medications, and I didn’t want that. I felt more isolated and lost in a sea of people that could never possibly understand. They wanted to document me, publicly, the worst thing they could have done to me, in my mind. I fought the process and I faded back into solitude, and closed the door on the world again – this time the olive branch wasn’t there anymore. During that failed attempt I lost faith in the system that I thought was supposed to be there for me. It wasn’t there to support me. I felt like it was there to get them fame in their profession, or so my mind had convinced me. Inward was the only solace I knew. It was safe, to some degree.
In my mind I knew that whomever I chose this time around had to be female, extremely tolerant and be able to handle some of the sexual issues that I was going through at the time, and had been through in the past. I remember feeling trepidation thinking that no-one had the capacity to understand me, let alone understand my past; that I was going to be judged again by others; that I deserved the past and the effects it had on the present – even though I had the notion that wasn’t the reality of it. I didn’t think it was possible to see the full picture without judging me. I didn’t think it was possible to understand me at all because of my past and because of the mess I had made in my mind. My thought process said that if you haven’t experienced being a victim of same sex sexual abuse, there is no way that you could understand what it feels like, or even know the ramifications of the actions. Shallow that may be, but that is the way it was for me, even though part of my intellect screamed otherwise. I didn’t know that it was normal to feel that way. I didn’t know that you don’t have to have been through it to understand it enough to help. There was a part of me that had to let it out or I deemed I would not survive for much longer. I had no concept that someone would actually care.
An internet search of sex therapists turned up a few names. I called a few – one was not taking new patients; another didn’t return my call and the last two didn’t make me feel comfortable in telling them what I was facing. I’m not saying that was there fault, that was just my perception. I didn’t want to provide too much detail on the first call and I felt like I was being probed. I didn’t feel comfortable talking with them and they didn’t seem comfortable talking with me, or that was my perception. I had left a message for one last therapist.
When she called me I was caught off guard. I had to transition from the corporate ‘me’ to the victim ‘me’ in a place that was not meant to mix the two. I remember walking outside the office to the tree lined street trying hard not to talk too loud in case someone heard me. I don’t remember off hand how I described the situation but I know that the intimation was enough of a clue to let her know what she was up against. She was up against ‘me’ and the vision of ‘me’ that I held for so many years. I do remember that I wasn’t guarded toward her and I didn’t feel prone while she was asking questions. We arranged to meet – could it be that simple?
I don’t have much memory of how we started the first few sessions. I don’t remember how I outlined what was going on. I was intently embarrassed knowing what I had to tell her but she always kept me at ease. I would say I couldn’t tell her because it was so wrong, or perverted, or dirty and she wouldn’t blink, wouldn’t waiver but more to the point, wouldn’t push. I tried hard not to retreat back into myself; I tried hard not to let how I felt show and I tried hard to be as honest as I could. Even then, sometimes, I still hid the truth; I still hid the true impact of what I was feeling. I have always had a sense that I don’t want to burden anyone else with my issues, and that cosseting the truth would take the pain out of the blow. I still do that a little now – but now I know why. Now I know also that she knew I was holding back.
I remember the memories coming more and more to the front of my mind during the sessions, and the feeling of frustration and being a lost cause being more and more apparent to me. I knew it would get worse before it got better but I didn’t think it would hit me as hard as it did. I was wrong. I underestimated the power of the past and its affect on my whole life up until that point. Hidden memories crept forward. Old memories that seemed short or cut off in the past expanded to full ‘scenes’ if you like. In getting the full picture, the full memory, I was killing myself because, after all the years of hiding I had to admit that it did happen and worse still, that there was more. I was lost in a deep, dark place that I thought I would never crawl out of. I could feel the tears inside. I could hear myself screaming on the inside. I was crying inside but the tears wouldn’t come out. A couple of times they would crack the surface and a tear of two would come, but that was it. I wasn’t fighting for control, it just never happened – a learned behavior maybe. Sorting through so many memories and issues, and trying to make sense of emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with seemed to be making it harder to survive each day, and felt like it made it harder to move forward. There was so much to be said and done, more and more as I remembered. For a time I was sure I was going crazy. I didn’t think it could get any worse.
It did get worse, much worse. You will read some of it in the chapter ‘Reflection on What Was’. All through this, through the betrayals I felt during the process; during the times when I wanted the world to swallow me up; during the times I wanted to die to stop the hurting; during the intense sexual acting out, she maintained her approach and stood by me; maintained her demeanor and held my words for me so that I didn’t get lost in them. She touched me in her ability to soften the feeling around me enough for it to be okay. I never felt judged and if I flinched at something she said she would catch it and ask me if she had upset me; or ask me what my reaction was and why. Sometimes she did upset me and I would try to explain why. Sometimes I would lie; always I would try to be honest but still some of the memories hurt too much to say; or the depravity that I felt at some of my actions was so deep I couldn’t tell her. I knew she would listen and I knew she wouldn’t judge me, but still I could not let them go.
The transitions and stages of what I could to see was recovery started to become measurable. I can’t tell you when I noticed it, but I noticed it. I could say to myself and to her that I knew I was healing. I started to see the conditions that I set on my life change and morph and free me to experience the next process, thought, idea or emotion. I had epiphanies about natural reactions, nurturing thoughts and emotions and allowed them to come and go. Without restricting them I could understand the sensations more and emotions more, all within the safety of the therapy. Without that safety net there was a chance I could lose myself in them – I deemed that as dangerous.
As the road unraveled itself, so I noticed that emotions, sensations and thoughts even, were new; new in the sense that I hadn’t let myself feel or understand them before. I had always told myself how I would feel and would act that out. Finding out the true power of emotions was an eye opener, and I felt somewhat like a child learning to control emotional responses again. Some discoveries were intense reminders of how I had controlled not only my emotions, but physical sensation too. I didn’t realize quite how much control I had over physical sensation. I know that my mood would dictate how much pain I could take, but I was becoming aware that I could actually tell myself not to feel pain. It would still be there so in reality I could still feel it, but I would not acknowledge it therefore it wouldn’t hurt as much.
I have come a long, long way since starting this process. I acknowledge that the work was done by me with the guidance of my therapist – just stating that fact took a lot of effort – knowing that fact is intensely satisfying. I acknowledge that what happened to me wasn’t my fault but I also acknowledge that I have faults, just like every other human being. I also know the power of coping mechanisms and learned behaviors and have learned that sharing them with my therapist, no matter how stupid I think they are, helps me to understand them. Letting go of the past a small piece at a time has freed up my mind to experience some new and wonderful things, such as love. I don’t dwell on the loss of who I was in the past anymore because I have many good memories beyond my parents, and I still believe that the core of ‘me’ is the same, it is my perception that has changed. I grew to who I am despite the past and not because of it. I acknowledge that my sexuality is who I am and was not created by the abuse. There were times during the abuse when I would get an erection, and that led me to believe that I deserved or wanted it. I know different now. I know that can be involuntary. There are many more acknowledgments and lessons learned. There are many more to go but I am voluntarily in the game now, and learning and growing with it.
By her care and attention to me and my needs my therapist allowed me to develop beyond my grief, anger, pain and suffering to the person I am now, and am becoming in the future. The core person, the core of who I am is the same. The foundation of ‘me’ never changed. The perception of who I was and where I came from did change. Giving myself permission to be, to feel, to understand and to grow was surreal. Giving myself permission to be angry and hurt at the past was also an eye opener. I’m not sure that the process can be totally defined because everyone is different; each case or circumstance is different, as is each therapist. It is my comfort level that I was thinking about and worried about at the beginning. It was my need to be heard and not judged. My therapist guided me through that process of learning and helped me see beyond my anger and beyond my grief. There were times when I thought that my suffering was hurting her and I would pull back. She would spot that and we would talk. She would accept responsibility for her emotions and would tell me that was her choice. It’s so very hard to want to tell, but not want to hurt others by your words, and it took constant reassurance from her for me to get to a point where I would consider my feelings first. Even now sometimes I will say that someone else deserves happiness, and she will always say that I do too. It’s hard to learn to think about your own feelings when you have spent most of your life negating attention to yourself.
Choosing the right therapist for my needs was hard. Knowing that I had to face the past with a stranger was even harder. First you have to want to heal, and that is a big part of the battle. If you can accept that, you are on your way. The other part of that is how much of yourself that you are willing to put in front of the therapist. I chose a female therapist because of my lack of trust of men. Maybe I even feared a male therapist, who knows. The point is that I chose my therapist because I felt comfortable with her after the first phone call, let alone the first session. She is as much part of my healing as I am because she became my guide, helping me walk through the maze that was my life. She guides and never controls, and that is what I needed.
I’m not trying to extol her beyond the reality of the situation, although my personal belief is that she is the best because she helped me, but it started with me, as it can start with you. You just have to want it! The saddest thing to me is that some victims don’t want help.
I see the therapy room as symbolic to the degree that I believe I used it as a tool. That was the only way I could contain the reality of who I had become and where I had come from inside the room. It’s the place I go where I know I am safe; where I can be in the moment without fear of reprisal or ridicule. It is safe, yet it holds so much of ‘me’ in it that it can feel almost overwhelming. To have a safe place is so very important when I’m feeling vulnerable. To know that I have one regardless, is priceless.
When the door closed on each session I slowly learned to allow the mental barriers to loosen and drop a little. I learned to let my inside world slowly come out. It was one of the most painful things I have ever had to do, so the symbolism of that room in my healing process was enormous to me. Even now I use the image of that room to remind myself that it is possible to let go safely, and that it is possible to heal, learn and move forward. Without the comfort of the symbolism of leaving the hurt ‘me’ inside that room, it would have been near impossible to let out the past and the mess associated with it. A point to note though is that I didn’t intentionally set the room up that way in my mind. It just happened. I don’t know if it was implied – I do know that it was necessary. I don’t know if it was healthy even, but I do know that I used it in what I thought was a positive manner.
The room in the therapy center is simple and became familiar and comfortable over time. There was a routine, of sorts, on entering the room and that familiarity felt safe. Enter the room; remember to push the door a little harder because the lock would stick; walk over to the chair and remove my cell phone and check book, and lay them on the foot stool. Sit in the leather chair and recline leaning to the left, it was always to the left. From that point, and for over an hour I would not move. My chin would be resting on my fingers; my arm and hand would go numb and my posture would tighten, almost like a prearranged drill. Maybe it was a subconscious attempt to brace me for the things to come. Sometimes I would choose an object to stare at. Mostly I did not want to look my therapist in the eye, so I would focus on something in the room. Sometimes it was not intentional. As I remembered things from my past, so my focus was drawn inwards. My eyes would look but I would not see. I would disappear inside a memory, a thought or a feeling.
The room was a safe place, a place where any thoughts I had would be confined to the secrecy and safety of that room. They could come out and go back in without damaging me or endangering me, but that took time to learn. The metaphoric barriers and walls that surrounded me for so many years would slowly recede and let the real ‘me’ out, knowing that I was confined to the four walls of the therapy room. I feared that I might lose control and not be able to recover myself but I learned that some of my inner strength was still there, and a measured approach would actually work. What happened in that room remained in that room. It was a fact that I finally trusted. I use the symbolism of that control today, if needed.
I find it odd that I see the room as neutral though. It seems neutral in a sense that didn’t involve the safety of the room, if that makes sense. I don’t hold an emotional feel to the sense of the room but I do hold a knowing that it was safe. I’m not sure of the significance of that thought but comfort and safety were important. If I couldn’t contain my inner self in the room I had a fear that I would fall apart in my ‘outside’ world. Re-reading this paragraph it’s hard to understand how something can be neutral but also have safety in it. I think the point I am trying to make is that the room was a safety net. I made it symbolic to contain myself inside it, but I didn’t give it an emotion. Giving it emotion is almost like giving it life, and that would just confuse me.
As boundaries were explored and barriers moved, the room would take on my thoughts. In my mind it became a canvas for the series of events to play out on. It was a comfort knowing the familiarity of the room was positive, almost like an old friend that holds onto the thoughts for you, and gives them back when you need them.
Focusing on returning to the real world after a session was done became a routine that became easier with time. I had to think myself back to the present; regroup my thoughts and push back the past. I had to find the thoughts that would hold me in a safe place so that I could leave the room intact. I had to find the strength to maintain an even keel. The total neutrality of the room made it easy to leave the bad stuff, and easier to recompose my thoughts for the coming week.
The sounds about the center itself would always intrude. All my senses seemed hyper-aware of what was going on around me. It was uncomfortable to have a window behind me because I could not see all of what was going on out there in the real world, but the room was at the back of the therapy center, so little usually occurred. Sounds inside the center would scare me, especially if I was in the middle of a memory. Footsteps in the hallway would remind me of my father coming to my room, but the therapy room door never opened; the sounds never intruded and that also helped build a sense of safe being into the room.
The association of calm in the room built an air of trust in me. Trusting an inanimate object or scene sounds a little strange but it made me feel safe and that was very important. Even learning to make the room feel safe was a big thing. It seemed that I had never had a room that I felt that comfortable in. It seemed that the lack of sterility took away the association of ‘hospital’ or even ‘therapy room’, even though the later is what it was. Objects in the room added to the deference of it. A white lamp; a small indoor waterfall; a plant, all grouped together on the floor; three sepia pictures of gateways on the walls – all added to the feel of it, the thought of it and the memory of it.
The room itself was a part of the process, a part of the puzzle that helped me put the ground work together for me to heal. I give it its place in my thoughts knowing that it is just a room, but knowing that it is also what I made of it. My comfort level is what is important, and classifying the room the way I did made me feel comfortable. In that comfort level I believe the groundwork for healing could more easily be achieved, and that’s why I give it so much thought now. It is real; it is tangible; I am real; I am tangible.
You may wonder why I give so much thought to that room, and what would have happened if we had moved to a different room or a different therapy center. To be honest, I don’t know. I think that I could have built the safety net in any room because my therapist was there. I might be wrong. The point though, and this goes to all ‘what if’ scenarios, is that the circumstance did not occur so I do not waste time worrying about what might have been.