Father’s Day

fathers dayToday is Father’s Day.  A day to stop and celebrate the men in our lives who raised us, went fishing with us, hunting with us, who taught us life’s lessons and protected us from a world in which we weren’t yet ready to engage.  Father’s Day.  A day to celebrate the above, even as when we grow older, wiser, more experienced and learn that our dad wasn’t as perfect as we thought but can offer forgiveness, even if for a day, because we know he did his best to do those things.

Father’s Day.

My dad did not spend time with me.  He did not hunt, fish, play catch or teach me life’s lessons.  He did not protect me from the world.  And today, I can not offer compassion for what he failed to do because of what he did.  He sexually abused me as a 6 year old child, sodomized me, sat me on his lap and raped me.  He did not only fail to protect me.  He hurt me in ways that are very difficult to comprehend.

I’ve spent years and will continue to spend whatever time I need to process this, to try and comprehend this world.  Not only for my own edification but so that I can find some measure of sanity to accept this world so that I can live in it.  I live most days confused, depressed, but forcing myself forward one step at a time even though I don’t know that I believe in those steps.  Kind of like a tired marathoner in their 15th mile.  That is my day to day, hour to hour, moment to moment life.

But I am trying.

And days like today used to confuse me.  Terribly so.

But not today.  It’s quite clear that my dad was not a father at all.  He wasn’t even a man in my life.  He was a spineless coward, a whimp who did not deal with his own demons in a healthy way.  He used me, my sister and my mom to do so.  He didn’t teach me life lessons.  He taught me his victim lessons… which is no way to sanely live life.  It is wrought with distrust, loneliness and perfectionism.  Terribly tiring and not sustainable.

I can’t sit here and type I am healed.  I can’t sit here and type I am stronger.  All I can submit is that I am a man who is aware of who his father really is, what his father really did and it hurts.  I can submit that I believe I don’t need a father or an earthly protector in order to live in this world.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to the same belief system in which I think many others do… I can’t.  I have experienced too much and thereby know too much.  But I believe I can find inner strength.  And I aim every day to do so.

I do believe in God, His Son Jesus who came to earth, lived as a man and died for our sins.  I do not believe sins are our actions but the nature of our being.  I am not a sinner because I am imperfect as my dad would have me believe.  I am a sinner because I escape the pain of my experience through food, perfectionism and sometimes porn instead of facing my pain head on.  Instead of taking the pain and truth of my experience to God in prayer, sharing it in fellowship and trusting others to help me carry it.

Today, I celebrate Father’s Day by sending a donation, garnered from the proceeds of items I’ve recently sold.  Items my dad gave me.  I am sending this donation to the Child’s Advocacy Center of Galveston County.  I celebrate Father’s Day by escaping the abusive grasp and mental prison in which I was born.

Today I celebrate me.

Temporal World

I may have recently put more than a moderate amount of focus into my temporal world.  I recycle, I air dry laundry, I ponder the cosmos and our existence here on earth.  I am definitely a believer.  I believe in God and His Son who was sent here to atone for our sinful nature.  But I believe I have spent entirely too much effort on the temporal world.

I mean think about it, everything we see and feel and smell and experience… all of it is impermanent.  All of it.

I spend so much effort trying to live “right” and to take care of what’s been given to me and to take care of my relationships that I’ll experience reflux and muscle fatigue.  I just get plain worn out.

The other side of my recent approach would be to throw everything away, dry my clothes every morning to a comfortable warm temperature, become the epitome of a consumer and approach life with a “screw everybody” attitude.

But I am striving for moderation for me.  For my health.  And all of this will fade away and all that will exist will be our spiritual selves.

On the relationship front, I put so much effort into connecting with others and keeping them emotionally comfortable, keeping the tension low.  Even if they’ve done something wrong, I’ll still take responsibility and do everything I can to fix it in the present and take the burden of guilt home with me.

Why?  Because that’s what I did growing up.  The tension was so high, always, between my mom and dad.  And it was my fault.  I was the reason they got married and stayed together.  So I had to bring the tension down.  Especially in my pre-teen years.

Well at least that’s what I believe.  That’s what makes logical sense.  But I may be way off.  The only other reason I have is because that’s what I’ve always done.  Always.

Conceptually blogging, why do I spend so much of this brief, temporal world focus on relationships that will fade away?  “Life’s too short” and all that jazz.  It’s because I don’t know how to internally live within my own boundaries.  But I want to try.  Because I can literally feel my insides destroying themselves as I exist in every moment only to keep the mood light.  I want to take care of my body as best as I can.

No one else will…

So my hope is to not forsake my belief system but to alter it so that I can allow myself freedom to experience joy with the purchase of a new TV or avoid punishing myself for throwing away a plastic bottle when there’s no recycling container.  I want to take a stand for myself and allow for conflict.

After all, this is all going to fade away anyway.  Why spend so much effort trying to live “right” within it?

Taking A Stand

These next thoughts will flow freely from my fingers to the keyboard, without pause or edit so that you can truly see into the workings of my mind.  And so that I can find some resolution through the discussion and externalization of this idea…

Do I need to take a stand in order to fall?  So far in therapy, I have learned and accepted that I am damaged from something that happened to me as a child and that there is science backing up the claim that my mind is underdeveloped, again, due to no fault of my own.  I accept that this damage happened to me and not because of me.  It’s like I woke up in a tightly wound ball, laying on the side of some dimly lit and very foggy room.  Waking up and acknowledging those things, it’s like the fog has turned to mist and the light source has become clearer and it’s light brighter.

But I’m still lying down, almost moving like a worm, not tightly wound in a ball, but moving slowly across the very dusty and scratchy concrete floor.  I accept that something happened to me, and I accept that as I began to heal my thoughts may be based in faulty ideas and beliefs that are the result of my abuse.  But it still feels like I’m stuck in this dimly lit, dusty, foggy room.

Is this life?

Or do I need to take a stand and attempt to breakout of what feels like a hellhole, a prison, a very external prison.  I know it’s in my mind, but do I really?  Science says my brain is underdeveloped, so what do I trust?  What do I believe?  How can I even begin to believe or trust anything that begins in the depths of my mind?

Do I need to take a stand and try and breakout of this ostensibly mental prison?  What if I learn that it’s not a prison and that I’ve been wearing glasses all along and that I’m actually in the company of some warm and caring people who’ve let me play out this nightmarish fantasy in the comfort of a carpeted room?  That concrete feel is actually dirty, unwashed clothes against my skin as I slowly flail about the floor.

If I take a stand and find out I can’t get out but that it wasn’t what I thought… I would be so embarrassed!  I would be devastated!

But if I take a stand and find out I was placed in this make-believe prison by a very bad, very scared and very controlling person, my emotions would erupt like a volcano!  Like a geyser with hot, dangerous but very real steam!

Maybe I’ve been avoiding taking a stand to avoid the pain?

Maybe I haven’t been ready to even entertain the thought of taking a stand because I’ve just and have been “waking up.”

But I’m afraid of falling if I take a stand on an idea that was false at it’s core.

I believe that I am afraid of failing at recovery.  And maybe that’s the rub… that by willing to take a stand, stake a belief in something, I am still moving forward?

I don’t know… but I will continue to ponder taking a stand.

Thank you.

Eureka!

eurekaBy jove, I think I’ve got it!

Man, wouldn’t that be nice?  If the culmination of vulnerability and transparency through this arduous recovery process were a seminal moment where it ALL made sense and you could move forward with certainty knowing that you would never again become the person you once were?

Yeah, I don’t believe that’s the case.  It’d be great.  But from the many survivors I’ve talked with, whose blogs I’ve read… they found a peace, a contentedness in being present, in accepting what is, what isn’t and who they are.  They found peace knowing that while every day is a recovery day, that didn’t mean the days would all be bad, that they would have to put forth maximum effort to avoid the pitfalls of victimhood.  That each day represents the possibility to put new, learned life skills to work as the challenges and opportunities of each day so reveal themselves.

If I’m putting an underscore, a foundation to this notion, I think it would have to be the presence of both good (the hope that things get better or that for child victims, that good exists at all) and evil.  For good to exist, evil must exist as well.  I think about the universe and the celestial bodies in orbit around each other, only able to orbit because of the presence of their counterpoint.  Our earth has the sun, our moon – the earth and so on… I believe the same exists within the boundaries of spirituality and morality – good vs. evil.

To have experienced some of the worst evil that man has to offer has been tragic.  Probably more the delay in experiencing those pent up emotions – I swear, they must have developed painful interest in my emotional bank during those 25+ years!  However, I believe everyone will at one point witness or personally experience evil – a person’s blithe willingness to inflict harm upon another.  That experience in my life, like every other life on this earth, has happened.  And to be fair to the tragedy, it’s going to benchmark my emotional response to any evil I experience.  For example, my wallet was stolen two days after Christmas.  After about 30 minutes of panic, I measured the impact of that event against my past abuse.  It didn’t even compare.  I took the steps to protect myself and got a new wallet within a week.  Resolved.

There is no Eureka!  I wish there were.  There still may be… But I’m not holding out hope for it.  I’ll breathe and connect with each day and each day with myself.  My whole self, emotions and otherwise.  I’ll continue to learn to take care of myself and exercise personal compassion when I miss the mark.  I’ll accept each day, each moment for what it is.

And who knows, maybe that’s my own little eureka?

 

 

Trouble with Telling

disbelief

Mike Lew shares in his book, widely regarded as THE guide for male survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, Victims No Longer “Share your story as often as you can, to as many people as you can, in as much detail as you can…”  He elaborates on what he means by whom you should share with by suggesting “even the stranger on the bus.”

I took this advice literally.  I think it was meant literally and I did it.  I shared.  I shared often, indiscriminately and in as much detail as I felt appropriate.

And it worked.  I began to free myself from the hardened crust of shame that both protected me from the terrible untold truth of my childhood and which prevented me from experiencing relational experiences with other people in this beautiful world.  Even today, I share my story with anyone who asks.  I have it down to an elevator speech.  I enjoy sharing my story.  It is quite healing for me and I believe, at some level, it contributes to the collective consciousness.  And that’s what I want.  I want to make it okay to share these terrible stories for victims of these terrible crimes by bringing awareness to not only their existence but to their consequences.

But for me, I have noticed something else.  Sometimes I still feel like that lonely, unclothed, teary-eyed and dirty child standing in the middle of a crowded room, looking up for someone to hear me, protect me, take care of me.  Instead, as I work cognitively through that train of thought, it essentially amounts to “I’m so sorry that this is your lot, but it is your lot.  Either you can accept it and thrive or continue to look to people for help and they will let you down.”

Painful.  Ouch.  So yes, I am much like that child in that room, but I also recognize feeling that way and I assume responsibility for myself.  It still, well, just  plain  sucks.

And that’s where I have trouble with telling my story.

If psychologists can suggest and it be widely accepted that a victim or survivor is the age they were when the abuse first began as they share their story in the present day…then it stands to reason that as I shared my story, I was somewhere between 3 and 6 years old and I was told, as I mentioned above, “I’m sorry that’s your lot, but it is your lot…”

Wait, what?!

What about the law?  What about crimes being committed?  Is it okay that they were committed?

That’s what it feels like is being explained to this poor child.

To me.

And that’s the trouble.  I feel like I’ve reported a crime and nothing has been done about it.  That I am not the only one to have experienced this abuse (which is both comforting and troubling) and that I am going to have to deal with it.  Moreover, there is no recourse to pursue criminal charges unless I decide so… such a complicated decision for, well, as I hope you can now see and accept… a child.

We live in a collective society.  Rhianna can choose to forgive Chris Brown, Ray Rice’s now wife the same.  I accept that.  As a society though, we can’t allow this kind of abuse.  We must hold these people (not just men – think about the 30-something female teachers now in the news or Hope Solo, American goalkeeper) accountable.  The decision to report such a horrible crime should be taken out of the child’s hands.  Even the adults as they, as I, tell my tale…

So many layers of complication for survivors.  There must be something we can do.

A Christian Thought…

Jesus’ new covenant and lasting commandment after his first earth-coming was – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

He even describes what love is –

Love is

And the biggest truth I take away from this is what He meant by “one another.”

He meant Everybody.  Everyone.  Every person independent of their race, religion, relationship with God or man.  Everyone.

There is no “unless” in this commandment.  No “unless they are in sin, unless they are proud, unless they are on welfare, unless they are attacking you.”

Love everyone, equally, without reservation.  Love everyone as He as instructed us to love.

There is no ambiguity in His lasting commandment – the new covenant.  There is no question in His instruction in how to love, He makes it so crystal clear.

So what does that mean?  Well, that’s for us to figure out.

Because at the core of the human experience with our “higher power,” our “creator” is our God-given right to experience it as we see fit, as we believe.

Which for me anyway, means to hear people, to listen to people, to love people by smiling with them, mourning with them, to listen to their thoughts on life and ask deeper questions.  To share my own experience.

The best witness and in fact what we’re commanded to do, is to share our own story.  Our experience.  Not robotically recite the passages of the Bible and the analysis offered by our Pastor.  Not to shame others into following our loving God but to share our own story.  Our dreams, our hurts, our pain, our sin manifestly, and our hope.

Two ears.  One mouth.  And a Big Brain.

BiPolar Disorder

bipolarI was diagnosed Bipolar.  Two months ago during a routine checkup with my Psych managing my depression meds.  I shared as openly and honestly as I ever had, unfiltered and uncontrolled.  Imperfectly as it were for me.  My report included a lasting period of suicidal thoughts and that’s when she stopped me.

“Wait, you experienced suicidal thought before, during and after vacation?”

Yes.

“Do you make a lot of goals for yourself?”

Yes.

“Do you make big purchases and regret them later?”

Sometimes, yes.

And I knew where she was going.  And I was scared.  I sat up straight, tensed up internally.  Oh no, here we go, the big one.  What I most feared but assumed was true.  And the only part I didn’t know AND was most scared of was the fallout… IF I’m Bipolar, what does that mean?  What will happen?

“Have you ever thought bipolar?”

Yes.

“Based on what you’re telling me and going back in your file, it sounds like you’re bipolar which means anti-depressants may not be the right course and may actually exacerbate the depression phase.  I’m going to prescribe XXX and we’re going to titrate it up as we observe the side-effects over the next 6 weeks.”

Wow.  I’ve always thought I was but since I was abused I just thought I wasn’t.


I’ve had trouble with this diagnosis the past two months.  I haven’t “accepted” it.  I’ve taken the meds and been “perfect” about that and observing the side-effects best I could.  But internally I thought I wasn’t and the drastic swings were simply a byproduct of being sexually and emotionally abused.

I’ve bounced the diagnosis against thoughts I’ve had, things I’ve heard and things I’ve said over the last 2 years of therapy.

“I love it when you’re like this!” (This = funny, outgoing, witty, gregarious)

‘I feel like I’m taking the lessons and using them the same way.’ (The same way = unbridled enthusiasm, unbalanced)

And those thoughts emerged today against this new filter of my bipolar disorder and it looks and feels like it fits.  Like that puzzle piece which yields twenty other pieces to fit in my life’s puzzle.  It makes sense, abstractly, objectively.

And yet as I’ve struggled with both mental illnesses I’ve been diagnosed with in the last 10 months – Depression (dysthymia) and Bipolar Disorder – I still feel like there’s something wrong WITH ME.  Certainly these mental illnesses confirm it.  Certainly the people in my life who ‘accept’ these diagnoses yet address me like I’M the crazy one confirm it.  Certainly my colleague who suggests and abjectly says “welllllll, you’re NOT like everyone else” confirms it.

Bullshit.

There is nothing wrong with me.  A person with an unseen ailment assumes no fault for it.  A child with cancer, an older person with dementia or a grown man with brain cancer.

Why then a person with a mental illness?  Why me?

There is no question that my specific illnesses are related to my upbringing (more like downholding) and childhood, but it doesn’t mean they’re solely related to that part of my life.  What if, family as circumstantial evidence, we have a history of mental illness and I received the coded-DNA?  Then, the sheep (a history of Childhood Sexual Abuse) which we thought was a sheep (I confirmed my abuse with friends and started therapy on my own) and looked like a sheep (a predictable grief cycle repeating itself throughout the early parts of therapy) was actually a wolf (using the new therapy tools in my current life in which I was abused but also have Bipolar Disorder as a function of the external abuse and internal makeup).

It’s all very confusing and complicated.

But simply, if I want to improve my mood (I started therapy because I wanted to kill myself) then I have to trust the professionals who are so eagerly helping me.  I have to trust them and take responsibility for myself and use the tools they’ve given me, both the medicine and the self-care.  Meditating, journaling, talking about my feelings.  Exercising and eating well.

I must trust and accept the diagnosis.

Because I AM like everyone else.  I am like everyone else and I was abused.  And if I want my mood to improve, I need to trust the process.

I have Bipolar Disorder.  And that’s okay.

Denial

Denial

“Urgent!!! In Mall, there is a shooter, locked in a bathroom with 10 people. Please PRAY!!!”

This was the text I received from my mother after my sister called to tell me the same thing.  My sister “just wanted to let me know” and was going to “call her to see what’s going on.”

Hmmm, call her?  Like with a ringtone and everything?  What if her phone wasn’t on silent?

I thought those things immediately as she finished that sentence.

I quickly got online, searched for news stories following the developments and kept my sister on the line.  I told her stay to stay on the line with me and that I would text my mother, whom I don’t text regularly, and keep her calm.  I could sense my sister was growing anxious quickly and I already knew my mother was frantic.

We texted back and forth, kept my sister informed on the phone and found the story and shared it with them both.  The “shooter” was not at all.  The shooting was inaccurately reported as there was a fight and mass chaos… no shots though.

That seemed to calm both of them down and I instructed my mom to stay put and let me know when she was home.  My sister seemed to let out a mild sigh of relief.

And then we talked about it… she told me that she initially thought “is this really happening?”  I told her that was “denial” and that same denial almost led to her calling my mother which, situation then unknown, could have attracted unwanted attention to our mom – could have got her killed!

“That’s denial?”

“Yep.  The faster you accept what’s going on, the better off you’ll be.”

WHOA!

Did I just say that?

Damn, I sure did.

And as I experienced this day, this epiphany was like a nice little bow, the icing on top.  I thought my life would look wholly different after having received some therapy.  I accept now that it probably won’t, at least not how I thought it would.  I was abused and that doesn’t mean everything in my life is crap.

I accept that.

Boxes

boxes

I was cleaning out our office/bird room today and had a random thought – I don’t need to save these boxes anymore.  Product boxes, moving boxes, random things… I like to keep product boxes just in case something doesn’t work or we move and I want to keep it safe during the move.  I like to keep moving boxes because we might move again and boxes are not cheap and not entirely environmentally friendly.  I keep random things because, well, I don’t know – just because.

My office looks like my mind.  Kind of neat, but there’s just sooooo muuuuuuch stuff!

But I was cleaning, reorganizing (a favorite term of mine – same stuff, different location.  Not growing, just staying the same but looking different) and the thought came to me that I could recycle these boxes and generally just get rid of them.  The product boxes, the moving boxes, the crap.

Three years after leaving the Navy, I am not anxiously anticipating another move.  I finally have much more control over where I live and where I go.  I have a home.  I have stability.

And I have calm.

Even if I move, we can just pack valuable things really well.  If some of the nicer things get a little scratched, so what?  What does that mean?  That it’s not aesthetically pleasing anymore?  That it doesn’t function correctly?  See, I believed that everything had to be perfect, look perfect, perform perfect.  I genuinely believed these things.  I would obsessively clean scuffs off of new shoes, then wash them a couple months later.  I would try to keep all new things perfectly cleaned and would grow aggravated when they could no longer become just like new.  I would anxiously await until I could get a new one, whatever that was – a car, a phone, shoes, a computer, whatever…

But I don’t need these boxes, I don’t need this crap.  This is my life, I don’t have to move and not everything has to be perfect.

These boxes carry memories, unresolved emotions from an ill-advised, tried-to-be-perfect life.  These boxes are real and metaphorical carrying not only my things but everything connected to those things.  But I am slowly resolving the biggest memory of all.  And all of the dominoes are falling around it.  My dad never wanted me, failed miserably by sexually abusing me, and grew cautiously optimistic that I would protect his innocence and validate his paternal decision to stay when I performed well in high school and attended a service academy.

And that doesn’t mean I am not supposed to be here or am any less than anyone else.

Check.  Task complete, memories resolved.  I don’t need these boxes anymore.

Lonely

lonely

 

 

 

 

If you care… ask.

If you really care… ask again.

If you want to help, are offering safety, assuredness, any time at all… listen to the answer.

What does a boy, raped by his father secretly, ridiculed by him publicly do?  What does the boy who, like every other boy trying to make sense of the world, do?  How does he cope?  Innately seeking his father’s validation and approval and being so horribly denied, do?

He hides… within.

My mom taught me, probably unintentionally, to put on a show.  To make believe, pretend, in public, that everything was alright. That we, like many other families, had our hardships but were coping just fine.  She put up the Christmas decorations, the Easter decorations like everything was fine, like everything was okay.

Clearly (to the readers of this blog, and to my sister and I) it wasn’t, but it wasn’t just the secrets which tore away at our family.  It was the tacit, implicit implication that my father’s behavior was acceptable.  As if other men acted the same way behind closed doors.  That there was nothing we could do about it.

That’s a scary thought… other men behaving like him.

Okay, his behavior wasn’t acceptable, but how does a boy with limited knowledge and experience process that?  How does he deal with his world?

I’ll tell you how I did… I believe I isolated myself.  I couldn’t trust anyone.  I wanted to.  I wanted to “come out of my shell.”  I wanted someone to notice me, to save me.  But I couldn’t.  The world wasn’t safe.

And no one noticed.

So I was lonely.

A social reclusive, shy and underperforming.

Until about 10 or 12 years old.

That’s when I started performing well in school and wasn’t so shy anymore.  I was alone.  Hopelessly, frustratingly alone.  No one was coming.  And by that point, I figured no one would be.

The only thing that mattered then, as it did before and would for the next few years… my grades.  I had to get good grades.

That’s it.  That’s all that mattered.  I had to perform.

Okay, so a kid who was shy at first, underperforming until middle school and seemed to emerge socially then.

Normal, right?

Well, partly, yes.  As I understand it, many kids experience this kind of butterflyic transformation.

And part of that may have been my experience as well.

But I was raped, criticized and ridiculed, always.  Scared to death of my father and more anxious, alert at home than out in public.

So the normal development was only part of my story.  Coping with the abuse was the other part.

And as my mom taught me, I pretended everything was okay, fine, normal.

We had moved around 3 times to that point.  Others weren’t coming to rescue.  They couldn’t learn our family patterns to determine if there was something going on.  And we’d move again anyway.

Grades, academic performance were all that mattered.

Well not anymore.

I have been alone, so terribly and hopelessly alone.

And if you ask, I’d tell you I’m fine.  I’m okay

If you ask again, I may tell you that I’m dealing with some stuff.

And if you present yourself as a safe person who can help me, who cares and wants to help, I may tell you what’s really going on.

Because what does a boy, a boy like me do when no one and nowhere is safe?

I hid.  I hid so deep inside.  I hid my thoughts, my feelings, my insecurities and confidences.  I hid all of me inside.

It’s all I could do.

And I don’t want to hide anymore.

Because it’s lonely in here.