Tuesday, July 29, 2014

"Why Me? What Did I Do to Deserve This?" (Part 2 of 7)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"Why not you?" I've heard people say. That response lacks compassion.

None of us survivors deserved to be molested. It wasn't our fault; something dreadful was done to us. (The previous sentence is important and I say it often.)

We were needy—but again, that wasn't our fault. We didn't receive the love and affection we deserved and should have had. Our parents may have loved us but they didn't express it or we didn't feel their love.

If we didn't get what we needed from them, we became vulnerable and open to predators who treated us lovingly and gave us attention—but only as a means to take care of their own lust.

Here's an answer that helps me. I was a needy kid and was abused, but now that I'm well into my healing journey, I can help others on their path to wholeness.

I didn't deserve the abuse;
it wasn't my fault.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Why Questions (Part 1 of 7)

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

Many of the emails that come to my personal box ask why in some form. Here's my answer: I don't know. I'm not sure anyone can fully give the reasons behind the queries about pain, injustice, healing, and anguish.

Instead of asking for the reason something happens, it's more healthful to focus on the deeper, perhaps-unasked question.

Here's my major reason for suggesting this: When we ask why, the natural answer is logical and analytical. We may gain information, but we rarely find help because our issues come from multi-layered pain and we want satisfying, emotional responses.

When you want to ask why, 
ask yourself, "What do I really want?"

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Was Driven

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"What drives you?" my editor asked.

I thought it was a strange question and I said, "That's just the way I am." That was as true as I knew how to answer then.

Today I would say, "I was driven by the pain of my abuse. I thought I was worthless. I worked extremely hard—constantly—to prove that I was as good as anyone else."

As of this writing, I have published 126 books in 36 years. That's the evidence of being driven. Was I conscious of that compulsion? Absolutely not. In retrospect I realize that I didn't allow myself to feel tired. For me, to be tired implied that I was lazy because only lazy people complained of being tired.

I still write a great deal, but there is now a difference. Now it's an ingrained habit and I still have a lot of ideas and energy. But I do it from a different place. In the past, it was lazima—a Swahili word. An obligation. Something I had to do.

These days, it's not as much what I do, but the part of me that does it. I love to write. I enjoy the hours in front of my computer. But I can also stop working at 4:00 in the afternoon or take off Saturday and Sunday without guilt—something I couldn't do a decade ago.

I was driven;
today I do the driving and enjoy the scenery.

Friday, July 18, 2014

He Thought He Was Gay: A Comment and Response

(This post appeared on June 13, and Jason B. commented on July 17. I've included his comments and my response below. --Cec)

Blog post from June 13: 

Brian told me about his abuse as a child and said, "For years I thought I was a homosexual." Because he seemed to be a rather well-adjusted heterosexual, I asked, "Any idea what made you feel that way?"

Without hesitation he said, "Because I enjoyed it. From the first time I had an erection and it felt good." When he was a little older, he ejaculated. "If it was that awful, why did I enjoy it? I thought I was gay."

Until he was in his early twenties and after Brian "tried sex with a man once," he spoke of enjoying it and hating it at the same time. He didn't try it again and found it revolting to think about.

"Am I gay or not?" he asked himself.

Shortly after that, Brian visited a group that focused on male survivors of sexual abuse. "The penis responds to stimulation," the leader says. "That feels good, and that's absolutely natural to get aroused. But it doesn't mean you're gay. It means you have responded in a normal, natural way."

That was the day Brian started to say, "I'm a healthy, heterosexual male." It was also the beginning of a new life for him.

Jason's comments: 

Let me first say I love your book Not Quite Healed. It is a wonderful, overall helpful book to survivors of abuse like myself and for that I am very thankful. However in your book you recommended Exodus International for their reparative therapy. Around the same time your book was released they made a statement that they were stopping operations because they realized they were wrong and were causing great harm. Are you willing to make a similar statement recanting your recommendation of reparative therapy?

While I believe some people who were abused can have confusion about their orientation, I don't believe that environmental factors are the "cause" for a person to identify as LGBTQ. I know this story is only one person's experience but are you suggesting that all people who identify as LGBTQ are just confused?

I'm not saying you are not entitled to your beliefs, whatever they may be. But I do think it would be incredibly helpful to be sensitive to the possibility that this issue is more complex than what just one group of Christians wants to define as being biblical. Suggesting that sexual identity is just a learned behavior is incredibly na├»ve and damaging to survivors who have SSA or identify as LGBTQ. 

Cec's response:

Jason, thank you for your good attitude.

I'll do my best to explain. My understanding of Exodus--at the time I wrote--was they they were a resource for people who had been in the gay lifestyle and wanted help to get out. For me, it's that simple. If they want help to change, that was the best resource I knew. (They disbanded after the publication of my book.)

Not Quite Healed was certainly not written to tell anyone they had to change or were rushing to hell if they didn't. I don't think that way.

I confess I don't understand why some people are gay and others not, whether it's nurture or nature (or a combination) that makes them who they are. I've tried to show respect and compassion for everyone, regardless of their sexual status. I'm sorry if that didn't come through in my book.

One of my good minister friends is transgender. I still love Erin as much as I loved Eric before his sexual surgery.

I agree with you that it's a highly complex issue. I'm not smart enough to know the answers; I am smart enough to know that the great command in the New Testament is to love. And Paul says that if we love, we fulfill the laws of God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Effects of Abuse

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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, July 11, 2014

Trying to Remember

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"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, July 8, 2014

Trying to Forget

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

"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, July 4, 2014

Cutting Yourself

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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, July 1, 2014

How Do I Love?

(an encore post by Cecil Murphey)

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?