Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Feeling My Feelings

As I've mentioned elsewhere, my major coping method of survival from abuse was not to feel. When the emotional level got heavy, I went numb. I didn't do that consciously, but it was my way to handle the trauma of  childhood. Once I became aware that numbing was what I did, I also realized that I needed to feel my pain--to reexperience the hurts of my past--if I wanted to be free from the past.

Here's how I did it, and this may not work for others. Each day I said, "God, help me feel my feelings." Followed by, "I feel my emotions." I usually spoke to my reflection in the mirror. I wanted that message to get into my core being.

Although I hadn't talked to a therapist or a pastor, I sensed that facing the hurts and feeling them once again was a step I had to take.

It took months before I became aware of how I felt; it took even longer before I fully accepted the abuse of my childhood. It took years before I knew I had been healed.

The journey wasn't easy, but I refused to give up. At times, I felt alone, unloved, unwanted, unworthy--and other negative emotions flooded through my soul.

Each time I felt my emotions, however, and thanked God for allowing me to experience them, the pain seemed to lessen a little. Now, years later, I can honestly feel my emotions.

Caring God, teach me to feel and to accept my emotions.
You made these feelings, and I want to honor them.

* * * * *

This post is excerpted from Cec's new book, More Than Surviving: Courageous Meditations for Men Hurting from Childhood Abuse (Kregel Publications, 2018).

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Man Card

(This post is from Roger Mann.)
I hear this concept every now and again as part of some joke. For me it’s no joke. I understand what they are talking about, but I’m sure I don’t have one and don’t have a clue as to how to get one. Dad never taught me how to dress, how to play sports, how to shave, or anything else but to shut up. Children were to be seen and not heard.

I began elementary schooling wondering what it was all about, being a boy that is. I had all the right equipment but no clue as to what to do with it all. How do you make your legs run and not look stupid? How do you throw a ball and not look like a girl? How do you keep from flinching when a ball is thrown your way so you can catch it like you know what you’re doing?

How do you not react like some little baby when you fall and hurt yourself? Most of this stuff I learned by watching others and risked looking like an idiot trying to imitate their skills. As I went through the educational system learning my math, English, and science, I was constantly in a state of anxiety trying to pretend my “man card” was fully legit and endorsed.

I thought after I graduated from high school that I was finally finished with the game of “am I just as good.” But as I got into the work place, the rules changed once again, and I was on edge once more trying to figure out this thing of being a grown-up man. Of course, there was the sex thing too, which now complicated an already complicated navigation. Now I had to pretend I knew what that was all about. So here comes the eyeroll, the nudge, the grin, the “oh yeah, I know what you mean there, buddy.”

I didn’t know what they meant—not really—and I ached, feeling all the more exposed.

It has taken me a long time and a lot of stupid mistakes and bad choices to realize most of them were as clueless as I was. I shunned many a potential good friend because I didn’t want anyone to find out how clueless I really was.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Scott's Story

I recently received this poignant email from Scott (which I’ve edited with his approval). He wrote an additional 500 words, and the pain was so obvious. I was especially touched when I read that he wasn’t believed. Many of us know that experience. (Cec)

* * * * *

I reached puberty at age 16. I was put on growth hormones at age 15, as I had not started growing.

Around that time, a teacher fondled me at least once. He was reported by other parents for doing the same to their sons and dismissed from the school. I remember feeling sorry for him as I didn't realize he had done anything wrong.

The serious abuse started when I was 14 or 15. A friend, only 6 months older, began to abuse me. That situation continued for 5 years until I was 19.

All that is mild, and I could live with it. Now comes the bombshell: I became a perpetrator, and I’ve never truly forgiven myself. I had a sexual experience with a 7- or 8-year-old boy. I was 16.

Then on a Tuesday—a day I’ll never forget—the boy’s mother knocked on our apartment door. My life forever changed on that day. I confessed and had to go to the police. I was lucky because the case was dropped by the judge.

I had stopped by then, although I’m pretty sure I would not have done it again even if I had not got caught.

I explained to my parents and the psychologist that I did it because it had been done to me. They didn’t believe me because the person who had done it to me was not much older than I was.

I accepted that, and never understood why I had committed that most awful sin. Eleven years later, I realized I was re-enacting what happened to me when another psychologist suggested it— as a reason, and not as an excuse.

Maybe that’s why I let the abuse to me go on—as self-punishment.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

A Letter from a Female Reader

The letter below comes from Jen Puckett, a female follower of this blog.

* * * * *

Dear Cec,

I want you to know what your willingness to share about your abuse has meant to my husband and me. After reading your book, my husband felt understood and not alone or like something was wrong, defective, or disgusting about him. We’re especially grateful that as a Christian man you were gut honest about same-sex attraction and the struggle that causes when you genuinely love your spouse. I read your book for wives too and found encouragement in your words and in the ways you said your wife supported you most, even when she least knew how.

My husband is reading More Than Surviving right now. He appreciates knowing he’s not alone. He's 48 years old, and his abuse happened from childhood through age 16. It's been a long road. We've been through intensive individual and marriage counseling over the last couple years and are rebuilding our seventeen-year marriage.

A few years ago, I felt a desire to write a book of my own from the wife’s perspective—before we were ever ready ourselves—and treasured it in my heart until now. I struggle to tell the agonizing stories, but my husband and I agree that unless the raw truth is told, it won’t help other survivors’ wives. Your honesty and transparency in writing are what enabled him to open up toward healing.

We both know the price in exposing the truth is high. My husband’s ministry could be devastated, or we could have a shift in the way people look at abuse—especially male sexual abuse among Christianity. The chasm between true compassion and hope for the hurting and the shock or discomfort with the symptoms of abuse seems insurmountable; therefore, the church often refuses to acknowledge it. But you gave it a voice long ago, and voices are beginning to join yours. Ours will. Others will too.

We sincerely thank you, Cecil, for sharing your harrowing journey. You risked so much to help other hurting men heal and know they’re not alone. You exposed light into the darkest places of unspoken shame. You opened never-before-opened doors for abused men and showed them firsthand the courage it takes to walk through them. As a wife to an incredible survivor, I am beyond blessed that you chose to use your voice and write your words.

God bless in every way,