I hurt for a long time because of childhood sexual abuse. Now I want to provide a safe place for hurting men to connect with other survivors of sexual abuse. Talk to us. You don't have to use your real name to share your experiences or ask questions.

Looking Backward

This post is excerpted from Cec’s new book, More Than Surviving, which will be published this week. It’s available through Amazon and many other retailers. 

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When I was living in Africa, early one morning I watched an African with his ox pulling a plow through his fields. The lines were straight, and for the twenty minutes or so I stared at him, his gaze never focused anywhere but straight ahead.

I thought of that after I read an inspirational message that urged us not to look backward. Looking backward means going backward, the person implied.

Sounds like good advice in farming, but I’m not sure it’s helpful with wounded people like us. We need to look backward. That’s where our problems began. Unless we go back to the source, we stay so busy moving forward—but our childhood injuries stay unhealed and keep pace with us.

Going back to that damaged childhood isn’t easy. And it takes courage—a lot of courage—to re-experience those wounds. But as one authority said, The only way out is through. He meant that if we want release—true healing—we have to push ourselves to revisit that pain. The big difference is that we can accept our pain and let it help us move forward as mature adults.

We can learn to say things to ourselves like this:
  • I didn’t ask for that. I didn’t want it. 
  • I was a kid with no way to defend myself. 
  • That bigger person overpowered me and stole my innocence. 
  • I felt unloved and unwanted and someone took advantage of me. 
Those statements aren’t cure-alls, but they can help us feel tenderness toward that isolated child. Here’s a statement I’ve said to myself many times when I’ve revisited my childhood: I did the best I could.

For me, that statement means that I took care of myself through innate-but-immature wisdom and survived. No self-blame or recriminations. Being a six-year-old kid with no one to help him, I remind myself that I handled myself the best I could.

Now I can walk—and run—along the healing path.

Lord, instead of condemning my childhood, 
teach me to say, “I did the best I could.”

The Shock

(This post is from Roger Mann.)

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I still remember the slow creeping shock that came over me when I first began to realize (or maybe I should say accept) what had happened to me as a boy. I had this fantasy of such a wonderful childhood that I clung to all my life. Clung to so desperately that it made my chest ache at times. Every time I heard about someone else’s wonderful childhood, I’d get angry and irritable and not know why. I should have been happy for them, but I was confused and angry and just wanted to go away.

I lost so much.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad and betrayed I felt. It took me awhile, going from weeping to rage and back to weeping for a week or so. I guess it was a grieving process, and I’m still not done. I’m almost 69 years old now, and it still stings. I’m tempted to list all of the might-have-beens that go through my mind still today, but I won’t.

It doesn’t matter. It is what it is.

Since the death of that denial somewhere back in early 2000, I have spent my life reluctantly but sincerely reaching out to others hurting from similar wounds and betrayal with sympathy and encouragement that I admit sometimes I didn’t feel myself. I share what was shared with me when I came looking for help with the pain. I share my experience as one who has traveled a well-worn part of this journey, pointing out pitfalls and traps that can keep one stuck in a particular sadness.

And I know those places well. I’ve had to learn how to recognize that I’m stuck and learn how to get unstuck and move on, even when I wanted so badly just to stay and wallow. And I’m not against a certain amount of wallowing. I earned it in spades.

But to heal, I have to crawl out of the pit and move on, which usually means climbing the ladder of forgiveness one more time. I sometimes hate that ladder, but it’s the only route for me to freedom and moving on.

Just my thoughts.

Roger

From a Wounded Man

This comes from Tommy, who gave me permission to post it on the blog. I think it would be wonderful if some of you would comment words of encouragement to him. (Cec)

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Through my wanderings searching for help, I found you on the internet and am about halfway through Not Quite Healed.

I am 58 years old, successful, married for 34 years to a terrific woman who I am crazy about, and absolutely devoted to my Boston Terrier who helps keep me sane because he loves unconditionally and is with me nearly all the time.

I have known for many years through a vague and foggy memory that I was severely physically, emotionally, and verbally abused. And yet every psychiatrist I saw asked the same question (paraphrasing): “Do you remember sexual abuse?” I didn’t. But when I read the characteristics of men who had been abused as boys, I met 17 or 18 of the 20 or so bullet points. And then my mom passed away, and as I was going through her things, I found a semi-pornographic picture (for the 1960s) of me. And I felt a flood of memories that were new but still the same fog and vagueness.

Since then, I can remember as clear as day never having privacy in the bathroom no matter what I was doing. I can remember my dad showing me his genitals. I remember “baths” with Dad. And I remember that picture. That picture haunts me. And I remember my mother forcing me to sleep in the bed with her until, at 18, I just said no and left.

I have nightmares. Awful nightmares. Snakes. Demons. Rickety high towers and ladders that make me feel like I’m falling. Rushing water that seems to overtake me. Sleep paralysis that has me neither sleep nor wakeful and yet I see the door to my bedroom opening. That’s all. Just an opening door.

I have inexplicable fits of rage. I have weeping that makes no sense, at a movie, for example. And I have sampled all the evil that this world has to offer, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I know God loves me, but I don’t know how to let God love me. I don’t blame God for what happened, but I do wonder why He let it happen. God help me!

I guess I would have to say that I am either on my first step or maybe a few steps into the realization that “my little boy” was really badly abused. My wife is a bit of a picture person, and there are pictures of me as a youth of various ages around the house. Sometimes I pick one up, with my wife present, and sob, asking, “How in the world could someone do that to that little boy?” My wife is completely supportive and yet clueless as to what to do, as am I.

I suppose I have many years of work to get through this horror that we have all felt and endured. But knowing that others have, helps me know that I can too.

I am seeing a therapist who has helped me get to the point that I am. We will slog on.

Thank you, and God bless you for your work with us.

The Disconnect

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

I never questioned what was happening to me. Not really. We had a normal family and a normal family life. In fact, because we were Christians and deeply involved in church, at times I felt a quiet sense of superiority over some of the other kids I knew whose parents argued, drank a lot, or were divorced.

Normal is just what is going on around you.

As I got older, the disconnect became uncomfortable. I looked around at others my age and discovered that my experiences were not common; sometimes they even appeared rare.

At high school age, it’s difficult feeling different, wondering if others think and feel like you do. But when you KNOW you’re different, it’s a whole new level of crazy. That crazy pushed me, and I pushed back. I won most of the time, I thought, but around 28 or so I began to lose the war. I was tired, alone, and so confused. At some point, I gave up and allowed myself to experience all that had been going through my mind in the quiet darkness.

And the darkness, quiet or not, will get you. It sure got me. I spiraled down until I was suicidal enough to really try and end it all. But it didn’t work, and I realized I needed to get help. I tried a few therapists, but I just couldn’t form the words. They would stick in my throat, and all I could see was that I was betraying my father.

Weird, huh? Especially when considering he’s the one who betrayed me.

Eventually, it was get help or get out, and I finally was able in a session to blubber out the truth as I understood it. I can’t describe the relief and sense of betrayal that I felt, but it was worth it. After the dam broke, the tide came pouring out, and together we began to sort it out.

Painful? You bet. But as they say, pain is weakness leaving the body. The more we sorted, the stronger I began to feel. Truth hurts at times; it also heals if you let it.