I’ve heard that abuse, whether it be sexual, verbal, emotional or physical, never goes away. It may get better over time, but the effects can resurface at a moment’s notice. It’s never the way that it’s depicted in television shows or made for cable TV movies. In those series, the topic is almost always wrapped up in a completely neat package and the person suffering the abuse gets the help that he or she needs and then they are courted off to the arms of loving parents or guardians, never to be heard from again.
The hurt that a person receives at the hands of someone else never goes away. Sometimes it gets buried deep down within an individual; so deep that it appears that the person never suffered any form of abuse at all. Sometimes it lies just beneath the surface where anything or anyone can trigger memories reducing the survivor to tears with no obvious reasons as to why.
But we survivors know what it means. We know more than anyone that the pain of CSA (Child Sexual Abuse) is just as bad if not worse than the actual abuse. Because it isn’t the physical act of the abuse that’s most harmful; it’s the aftermath.
We survivors look at ourselves as damaged goods. We see ourselves as broken and we need to be repaired but don’t know where to go to fix the very thing that’s been taken from us. We don’t know why certain smells trigger us to cringe. We don’t know why certain songs we hear elicit a visceral response. Or maybe we know why but don’t want to face what happened when we first smelled the scent or heard the song.
I’ve learned that for years I thought that I was damaged goods. At one time, I thought that I was shattered beyond repair. But I didn’t have to remain there. Fighting the effects of abuse is one of the hardest things that we as a people can do because unlike a Lifetime Movie, real life does not always have a happy ending where the subject is tied up in a nice, neat little bow and served with a scoop of ice cream with a cherry on top.
Most times it’s a struggle. You may feel worthless when you have nothing to feel worthless about. Sometimes, seeing a sad scene in a movie can and (often times will) illicit extreme sorrow. As men, we will hide that sorrow until we believe that we are in a safe spot to let those tears flow.
Evaluating self-worth may become UN-naturally time consuming. You will look at scenarios and relationships and wonder where you went wrong. You will assume blame where there is no blame to assume.
I know firsthand because it happened to me. But here’s the thing…I found moments of clarity and instead of letting them pass, I built upon them. You keep building and believing until it becomes second nature. Eventually, you find the remnants of a self that you remembered from long ago.
Eventually, I found love in a man that helped me see beyond my flaws. Eventually, I was able to see myself through his lens as opposed to the fractured lens of my own.
I still have bouts of depression. I still think about what happened to me when I was thirteen. The difference is that it isn’t as often as I used to. I think that somewhere along the line, I fell in love with myself. I started seeing the good in me. And more importantly, I started to believe in the good that I was seeing. And when you believe the good in you, the more you can share that goodness.
You never forget what was done to you, but instead of hiding in shame, what was done becomes something that lifts you up and not tear you down.
~ J L Whitehead