Friday, April 27, 2012

The Tormenting Effects

(This came "from R who hails from West Texas.")

Sexual abuse is one of the worst torments any male can undergo. Abuse attacks us physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

Someone called us the emotionally dead who are trying to resurrect ourselves, which is impossible.

We're still learning the effects and repercussions of our abuse. Every time I think I'm almost healed, I learn something new about myself—something connected with my abuse.

I want to rid myself of all the hurts and the pains.

Maybe someday I will.

Maybe. Even if I don't, I'll be healthier and stronger.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Effects of Abuse

I watched the second half of a TV program on sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Here are a few of the facts I remember:

* Sexually molested boys are four times more at risk for injecting themselves with drugs.

* Abused boys have more sexual relations with anal penetration—without protection against STDs.

* They're more likely to prostitute themselves than nonabused boys.

* They contract STDs twice as often as nonabused.

The TV program referred to them as a subgroup who were highly at risk for HIV and AIDS.

As I watched, I thanked God that I wasn't part of that subgroup. I also thought of the well-known proverb, "But for the grace of God, there go I."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Trying to Remember

"I keep trying to remember," he said. "I know something happened, but I can't remember exactly what it was." That's not uncommon.

I've written a number of times about my abuse from an old man named Mr. Lee. I know he abused me. I remember his inviting me into his room, putting me on his lap, and laying my hands on his hairy chest. But I can't tell you what happened after that.

For a time I tried hard to recall the details, but they didn't come. I finally decided that they were too horrendous for me to accept. That sounds simple to me now, but it was frustrating then. I wanted to know.

Or did I?

What I truly wanted to know was the certainty that I had been molested. Because I couldn't recapture the intimate details, for a time doubts filled my mind. Am I making this up? Is this my imagination at work?

So much has happened since those days but two things stand out. First, even though I didn't have the so-called smoking gun of full, intact memories, I had the effects of the abuse. Second, when I finally talked to my three sisters, they confirmed several facts about the abuse.

If I don't remember details, 

it's because I probably can't handle the details.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Trying to Forget

"I just wanted to forget," Mal said. "But it didn't work. Even when I tried to push everything away, my memories insisted on remembering."

We don't forget. Not really. We don't remember everything—and blot out the most horrendous events. But something remains to remind us.

Sometimes trying to forget causes us emotional pain by re-experiencing abuse, or we have difficulty in sleeping. Some speak of frequent nightmares. We become hyper-vigilant. We're anxious or we become sexually dysfunctional. The list is probably endless and certainly varies among us.

We're not meant to forget by pushing away from the memories. The only way I know to truly get beyond the pain of our past is to face what happened. Accept it, and find ways to move on.

I'm a serious Christian and, for me, prayer has been my best therapy. I prayed daily to face whatever I needed to know and to have the courage not to deny my pain.

I've largely forgotten my pain—not the memories themselves—but the deep, searing hurt of those experiences. It's like the time I had serious dental surgery. I know the needle shooting me with Novocain hurt, but I endured that because I wanted the results.

I remember sitting in the dental chair and can tell you many details, but I don't feel pain. That's what we strive for in our healing from sexual abuse.

We don't ever want to forget that it happened to us; 
we do want to forget the pain of the abuse.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cutting Yourself

Until recently, I assumed self-injury or self-cutting was a female response to pain. Increasingly, however, I hear stories of young men who are cutters.

I've never been a cutter, but I've seen the results of several who are. Some cut their wrists or arms, but I hear more of it occurs on the legs so it's not readily seen. My understanding as a non-therapist, is that it's a form of self-medication—a way to control the pain. Using a knife or a razor blade, cutters hurt and they use self-injury as a temporary fix for their extreme pain or depression.

From what I've read, most self-harm or self-mutilation hits between the ages of 15 and 35. They're not suicidal and they know it's not a solution, but it is a form of self-medication.

"I wanted to stop," a teen-aged boy said, "but it was the only thing I could do to keep from giving up on life."

He has gone into a year-long residency at Teen Challenge. "I can't help myself, but God can help me through the people there."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do I Love?

One of the saddest telephone calls I've ever received came from Joe, an Hispanic from the Chicago area. He said he was unable to love—he had known that. But worse, he was unable to receive love.

He emailed me and I gave him permission to call. He said he had met a young woman who claimed to love him and he assumed she did. "I don't hate her, but I can't feel any love for her—not for anybody."

Joe emailed after hearing me on a radio interview about sexual abuse. "It was done to me," he said. ("It" was his constant expression for abuse.)

I don't know how much I helped Joe, but I was aware that his actions as a 22-year-old adult mirrored what he had lived as a child. His attitude seemed to say that he experienced only powerful or powerless relationships. If he didn't exert control, others would "use" him.

"I feel like a zombie," he told me.

I felt sadness for Joe. Being abused prevented him from developing the capacity to express himself. He said he had never been able to talk to anyone about how he felt. "I had to remain silent or get beaten by my older brother who did it to me," he said.

"I want to feel loved; I want to offer love."

Everything I said felt flat and weak to me. As I told a close friend, "My heart went out to him, but I wasn't sure my words offered healing."

Joe has become a lurker on this blog.

What can you say to help Joe?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Control Issues

Every person I know who was sexually assaulted struggles with control issues. Or perhaps power issues is the better term. We tend to have to be in charge (in control) of things or we surrender and give up any self-assertion. Some vacillate between the two extremes.

I am a controller, although many people don't recognize it. For instance, recently I was at a dinner meeting and five of us were at one table. I started the conversation going and kept it moving. One woman was largely silent while the rest of us laughed and joked. When there was a pause, I turned to her, a woman I didn't know well, and said, "You've been quiet. So tell us five things about yourself that you don't want anyone to know."

Everyone laughed. I was in control. She responded in a joking manner and entered the conversation. That's what I call benevolent control. There have been other times when my assertiveness (or aggression) has been more self-centered, such as my need to protect or defend myself. In the past, if a conversation tended to go in an unwelcome or dangerous way I cracked a joke or changed the topic.

I rarely need to do that these days.

I'm learning to give up unhealthy power—the kind of control that belittles or hurts others. I want to submit gracefully to those who still need to assert themselves. I recently spoke at a conference and the leader did a few things I didn't personally like, but I thought about her actions and said to myself, so what? Who'll remember? Who will care?

In that instance, I knowingly and consciously gave up control and it was all right.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

When It's Time to Forgive

One anonymous reader castigated me for pushing people to forgive. I don't push anyone to forgive, but that's how he perceived the tone of the blog.

For those of us who were molested, the time comes during our healing journey when it's exactly the right time to forgive.

Forget about forgiving—until you're ready, until you feel the need to forgive. When that happens, that is the right time to forgive.

Although I can't remember exactly when I forgave my two perpetrators, I know it occurred several months, perhaps a full year, after I began to heal. That day I ran seven or eight times around a small lake in a park. (The circumference was about half a mile.) No one else was in the area, and I yelled at my long-dead abusers. I screamed at them for the pain they had caused me. Just before I started my final loop, I was able to say, "I forgive you." I had spewed out my anger and, to my surprise, it was gone. I was ready to release my pain.

If anyone had pushed me to forgive earlier, I would have gotten angry and felt guilty. Angry because I didn't want to forgive; guilty because I would have felt I should forgive. And I've received the should message several times in my life. For me, forgiving and "letting go of the pain" mean the same thing. When I'm ready to walk away and leave the pain behind, then it's time to forgive.

The important fact is that each of us must determine when it's time. Some of us forgive quickly; others need longer to process through the pain. Regardless, no one has the right to push anyone to forgive.

Forgiveness is always a choice. 
And it's sad but some people are never able to forgive.