Today was interesting and full of feelings. There was a “total” solar eclipse this morning. I live in Everett, Washington, and there was approximately 90% moon coverage (Note: 10% sun light is still really bright!). I was a young boy the first time I saw a solar eclipse. I remember making pinhole viewing boxes and spent the previous week learning about the great emptiness of space. This time I had to work an 80 hour week. I had a meeting scheduled during the eclipse, so I was not planning to watch.
What made today full of feelings was the news that my ex-wife is travelling to Hawaii to get married. The idea of her getting married was not news to me. In-fact, I knew that she would be getting married; sooner rather than later. I just continued to hold onto this HOPE, the hope that she would run back to me. Hope that “our” family will be reunited, the hope that God, Lord of Everything, will “fix” my problems. I started beating myself up, once again. Telling myself she left me because I am a no good, pile of shit.
The truth is, I am none of these things I say to myself, and I am beginning to understand and believe that. For the past 20 plus years I have been carrying a secret, and I am ashamed of the fact that I now carry a label. I am labeled an adult male survivor of childhood sexual assault. I hate labels and being labeled a victim is the worst.
I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on a cold January night in 1984. I grew up with two older sisters and a younger brother. We had a normal childhood and an average family dynamic, or so I thought. The earliest memories I have are playing in the blackberry bushes, making a fort, and walking to church Sunday mornings as a family. We moved before I started kindergarten and spent the next 15 years living “across the bridge”.
My parents loved me, as any parent would love their kid; however, it was always with conditions. Whether it was with sports or school, the quality and quantity of love correlated with the how well I did in either. When we got into trouble we were beat. This normally wouldn’t be an issue; however, it was above and beyond. My father was physically abusive to us kids and my mother was emotionally abusive. That was my normal.
Life was “normal” until the summer around 5th grade. It was a normal summer when we did what we always did; my parents purchased pool passes, which meant I would spend every day there. I would ride my bicycle to the pool in the morning and return in the early evening for dinner. The summer was looking great, until I was loved by Joe. Joe was an elementary science teacher and showed me love different from my parents. He loved me for who I was, he loved me regardless of my grades and sports. This form of love was so different from what I had been given. It felt great.
Little did I know, Joe was grooming me for something else. I remember the first time I went to his apartment. He invited me over, for some reason or another. It was on the way to the local pool, so I did what any other twelve year old boy would do, lied to my parents about where I was going and went to Joe’s. It was weird; I was in a teacher’s house! This is sacred ground. I don’t remember what all happened that day or how one thing lead to another, but we were watching a movie on his television and he kept fast forwarding and rewinding the VHS tape. When all was said and done, we sat on his couch watching a sex scene. This was great, I thought to myself, I am on holy ground AND I get to see boobs! After the movie was over, I left. I went to the pool to play, but kept thinking about…… BOOBS!
The sexual abuse started shortly after that summer afternoon and continued for more than a year. My memory of what happened is mostly a blur. I get bits and pieces of memories in dreams. To be honest, I am okay with not remembering. Sixth grade was a joke. I came to the understanding that Joe didn’t love me! He wanted something in return, just like everyone else that had loved me. Also, I started to understand that I was smarter than most of my peers; therefore, I did not have to work at anything to get above average grades. I also realized that no one could make me do anything. I started standing up to the abuse, both from Joe and my parents.
Those are interesting events, that I do remember, but for another day. One would think this was good; however I was an angry asshole. This is pretty normal behavior, for someone being abused at home and school. I started using my fits to solve every problem, big or small. I was under attack, from everyone. I had a secret and needed to keep it that way. The sexual abuse ended when I went to high school but the fighting didn’t really stop until several years later. I was still an angry asshole, just didn’t hit people anymore. I started spending countless hours running and riding a stationary bicycle.
I found that as long as I over loaded myself with school work and physical labor, my emotions were at bay. This was short lived, so I had to adapt. I moved to over loading myself with work and added alcohol to the mix. This was great, or so I thought. When the emotions came knocking, I drank a case of beer. Again, this worked but for only a season. My senior year of high school, I was asked to “share” my story with the church youth group. When I was asked to do this, no one knew what had happened to me. I was just asked to give a testimony. I was once again “under attack”. I ended up making up some bull shit story that sounds good; however, after I shared this bull shit, the youth pastor called me out. He saw right through me.
I ended up breaking down and opening my heart to him. There was this great feeling of release. Finally, someone knew. Someone can save me. This was one of the hardest things I had ever done. This is where the story turns and has a happy ending right? If that was true, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this story. In short, he was a dick and did, what it seemed every other Christian I knew did, sweep that shit under the rug to make the house appear clean! So, there I lived for the last 13 plus years. Fake it, until you make it!
Four years ago, I found out that my ex-wife was having a relationship with another person when I was away on business trips. My world ended and I begin to go down a path that leads to death. I was sitting in church one Sunday morning just wishing I would die. This was not the first time I have had the thought to kill myself. Just end life as I know it. All of my problems will go away. Sure, my family will be sad, but who cares. I am living in hell. I could write a note and tell them why. Tell them everything. My family would understand. They will be happy for me. Happy that I no longer live in pain. The service was over, but I just sat there, crying. Who cares anymore? I was done. The pastor came over and asked “how are you doing?” As I looked up at him, I word vomited all over the place. I have no idea if he understood anything that was coming out, he just gave me an “oh shit” look.”
When I stopped talking, long enough to take a breath, he said, please give me a minute. “Great, this shit all over again” was the first thought that came through my head. Then, “fuck it, I am done. I am going home and I am going to kill myself.” As I sat there Russ came over. He was wearing these old camouflage pants and some tee shirt. I have seen him around in the church before, but did not know him. He told me that the pastor said we needed to talk. “Fuck, AGAIN!” How many times do I have to tell this story? It’s a fucking secret! I don’t want the world to know my shit. I am ashamed of being a victim.
I told Russ anyway, and for the first time, someone didn’t try to sweep it under the rug. Russ is also an adult male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. He was able to listen, without freaking out, and shared a “me too!” We became good friends and he has helped me get started talking through my sexual abuse. Recently, Russ asked me to be a part of Punk Theology Podcast. This sounded great to me, sit around, have a beer, and smoke. I just wasn’t too sure of about the talking part. I learned to not have emotions. I learned to deal with facts and remove all emotions from the equation. But I couldn’t “fake it” any more. I opened up to the rest of the group and found that they were just like Russ. I was not shamed. I was not looked at differently. These guys were moved by my willingness to share my story and it drew them closer to me. I am now out of the closet, the world can listen to my story and I am okay with that. I also have 6 great friends.
I started going to a men’s group that meets Monday mornings. This group has opened my eyes and has helped me to start the road to healing. I am still scared of what might or might not happen. I still say really hurtful things to myself; however. I am beginning to understand that I am not my thoughts. I didn’t understand this at first, but as I learn to sit and work through my feelings and let my thoughts come and go, I know that God loves me. Now, there is something to chew on. God loves me! For 33 years, I did not know what unconditional love was, and here it is, right in front of me. Over the past few hours, I have been thinking about this solar eclipse, with respect to my life. God burned brightly through my soul as a child; however, as the abuse and the rest of life happened, I darkened God. Three years ago, I was trying to blanket God from my life. Now that I am dealing with my shit and giving my emotions words, God to shines brighter through me.
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