Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Speaking Out

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

When I was 21, I suffered from some stomach ills and depression. My employer had employee assistance programs that would pay for counseling. I decided to take advantage of it and made an appointment with a psychologist. Everything was going smoothly, and then out of the blue she asked me about my father and our relationship. In seconds, I turned white in the face, became dizzy, and had to put my head down and do some deep breathing. We ended right there and I never went back.

I carried the secret of our relationship for decades. But into my late 40s, things had gotten worse for me and I realized I should see someone and talk about it. It was slow going until one day I just blurted out about what he did and how I felt it had affected me. It was painful. I must have cried for ten minutes before getting control. I felt like a fool.

Later, I felt better— better than I had in years. I went back and began the long tedious and painful process of unpacking it. Since then I have been selectively open about my abuse with certain people and situations. I feel it benefits others. I’ve sought to analyze why I feel the need still to talk about it. It hurts my wife to hear about this stuff, and I seldom bring it up with her.

But when I found a website exclusively for men who have been abused and are dealing with the effects, I was thrilled to have a place to actually talk about it freely with people who understood. I opened up about things that I hadn’t told anyone before. Getting validation for those feelings and thoughts was absolutely huge.

When I think about just shutting up and dropping any reference to it, I remember back when someone told me these words:
It was not your fault.
You are not alone.
I understand, and I hear what you’re saying. 
It's great to be heard and not just listened to. Here I am on this blog, spilling my guts, getting validation, and hopefully giving some too. To know you are not alone and can share the pain with someone who really gets it is beyond price.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's Not Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood

I first read those words as the title of a book by Claudia Black, and I scoffed. "More psychobabble," I mumbled. But the words stayed with me, and it took me a long time before I grasped what she meant. (Then I read the book, which I found helpful.)

Obviously, I can't redo my youthful pain; I don't want to rewrite my early experiences. But I can emotionally embrace that crushed, beaten-down, pain-stricken part of me from my childhood.

I've learned to show myself compassion and to understand my defenselessness. Instead of hating that part of myself, I'm able to emotionally hold that wounded boy tightly.

Because I've become a strong believer in self-affirmation statements, here's one thing I say several times each morning: "I love who I am, I love who I used to be, and I love who I'm becoming."

And I learned, as Black pointed out, that it wasn't too late for me to heal that traumatized little boy.

I love who I am, I love who I used to be, and I love who I'm becoming.
Lord, thank you for making me the person I am.

* * * * *

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Rewriting Life

The speaker referred to "strategies for protection from painful memories." He said many of us, unable to face the reality of horrible childhoods, unconsciously rewrote our family history and called that period of life by many terms, such as happy, conventional, nearly perfect.

Yes, I thought, I was one of them. In seminary, we had to take courses in pastoral counseling. In a personal interview, the lead professor asked me about my childhood.

"My mother was warm and accepting; my dad was quiet. I had a conventional, happy childhood." I said more than that—and thought I was telling the truth.

Years later, I was showering and realized I had not seen my family the way they truly were. "My mother was hard-hearted and unloving!" I yelled at my wife. "My dad was mean and brutal!"

Shirley hugged me and said, "Several times I heard you talk to others about your warm, loving family. I thought your mother was one of the coldest individuals I've ever met."

That opened me up. I had deceived myself (or I could call it lived in denial) and used words like conventional or happy to express my childhood. From that day onward, I began to accept my real family history. A year later, I could admit that I had been physically, verbally, and sexual assaulted as a child and that neither of my parents expressed affection.

God, help me not to rewrite my childhood history.
Instead, help me to accept the real one.

* * * * *

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

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Abuse and Intimacy

(This post comes from Roger Mann.)

For those of us who have been abused and exposed to some of the sordid sex practices, it’s difficult to be intimate with the woman we love. In our heads, sex has become something shameful and full of guilt. Sometimes the idea of intimate contact can bring up shameful memories and really ruin the moment.

Many times, I have spent the day at work thinking about coming home to the lady of my life and being passionate and affectionate. Then I’m driving home and, as I’m thinking about initiating intimacy, memories begin to creep back into my head. By the time I pull into the driveway, I’m a mess again. The spirit is willing, as they say, but the flesh is weak and difficult to respond.

In my teenage years and beyond, I became obsessed with sex. Discovering porn inflamed it even worse, until I realized one day that my wife and I had not been intimate in a long time. That’s when I began to look for help. I found help, but damage was done to the relationship and that marriage ended.

I swore I wouldn’t marry again, but eventually I did. I thought I was okay by then. However, during the first week of our honeymoon, I began to pull away and became irritable and angry and didn’t understand why.

Later, during a conversation, I looked at her and realized I really cared for her a lot. She was attracted physically to me and I was shutting her down. She became confused and hurt.

We’re doing better now, but there are still times when the memories intrude, and I have to push through them to stay with her in the moment. I do that by consciously focusing on just my immediate sensations.

My therapist suggested that I needed to re-sexualize myself. I think he's right, but it's difficult to do and talk about with my wife whom I love and respect. We get there, but we both have to be in the right mood at the right time. I suspect the only way to overcome this is talking it out together.