This story comes from the heart and shows one can heal from sexual abuse, as in the case with William and will be in my forthcoming book:
I was dying inside. My life just didn’t seem to be working. I was unhappy. After yet another argument with my wife, the second of three, I found myself hiding in a closet, cowering under blankets and clothes I had pulled down around me. She tracked me down, methodically checking each room in the house. I screamed at her, begging her to leave me alone. She didn’t understand.
Finally, I sought out a therapist with a new and different purpose. I was tired of being controlled by forces I couldn’t see and didn’t understand. I was willing to do anything, remember anything that was necessary to change my life. I was willing to be honest. By then, though, I had no idea what the truth was. I couldn’t remember much of my childhood and I had spent many years numbing my feelings with drugs and alcohol. Ask me what I was feeling at any given moment and I was as puzzled as you were. Ask me what I was thinking and I invariably lied; because it was none of your business and because if you knew you would find a way to use it against me or think me crazy, or both.
I grew up in what is referred to as a dysfunctional family. My mother was an alcoholic and my father a workaholic. They divorced when I was nine. My mother moved us from the suburbs to the country. When I wasn’t in school, I stayed away from the house as long as I could. Hunger and a warm bed were my only reasons for going home. Even then, I stayed out as late as I could and learned to cook at a young age, so I didn’t have to sit at the kitchen table as my mother smoked, drank and alternately drifted in and out of black outs and ranted at my two brothers and me by turns.
The therapist realized early on that one-on-one counseling alone would have limited benefit. She suggested I join a men’s group that also met in her office once a week. I quickly learned that they had all been abused as children. “Okay,” I thought, “I qualify.”
Actually, I didn’t believe it was all that necessary. After all, I had survived. It was no big deal. Besides, I probably deserved some of the treatment I got.
I can’t say I ever really trusted the therapist as the sessions began. (That changed later.) It was clear she had an unspoken agenda. She seemed to think that, in time, I would reconcile with my wife. It didn’t happen. Still, I had abandoned myself to the process, not to the therapist. Somehow, I understood it was about me, not the therapist or our relationship. I made a choice to rely on her. At some point, she suggested guided imagery, a process just short of hypnotism. I didn’t experience any new insights during these times, but it opened up a new world of inner quiet and self-awareness I had not known before. I remembered …
“Sleep approaches gently as I lay under warm blankets. The soft
sound of movement catches my ear. I glimpse a shadowy figure as it enters
the room and drifts by in the dark. At first, my curiosity is aroused. As the
figure slowly and silently circles the bed, my curiosity turns to alarm. I
pull the covers over my head for safety. Something touches my shoulder.
My skin tightens and muscles tense in mounting fear. The blankets and
sheets are pulled back and a head bends low towards mine. Any awful
smell washes over me as the figure breathes unsteadily. Panic and terror
set in. I can’t run. I can’t escape. I can’t yell out. Help me, please! The
figure, a giant four times larger than me and very strong, gets into bed
beside me. Help! …
Oddly, there’s something soft and familiar. Then, I’m touched in a
way I don’t understand. She seems to need something I don’t have to give.
I surrender to the fear and pass into darkness. It’s my mother. I’m three
As I wrote this last line, I first started with the number “seven,” then “six,” until, as I came to the word “three,” I broke into sobs, deep, from the chest, tears bigger than raindrops falling steadily. As my efforts to recall continued, I remembered the next morning (or was it on one of the many other occasions after that), seeking my mother out, trying to get a hug from her, to be reassured. She pushed me roughly and turned away. How long did this go on? Perhaps a few years, who knows why she stopped. Her behavior changed: enemas for a while, then unexpected hysterical spankings, as she found an excuse to accuse me of some fancied error, pulled me across her lap and start hitting. This often lasted until my older brother called my father and he came home, they started fighting and I raced upstairs and hid in the bedroom closet.
And so, the lesson from my mother was complete and well ingrained. Love was conditional, sex was scary, often involved alcohol and required a disregard for the other person. And it was all something to be ashamed of and not discussed. With help, it has become easier to acknowledge that these experiences were not normal and that my mother’s behavior was not acceptable. Yet, all of this insight has not made it possible for me to find true love, sustain a healthy relationship or claim to have been healed. Life continues to be a struggle sometimes.
For those who read this story and can identify, I would like you to know that the effort is worth it. Each day is a little better, thanks to therapy, a 12-Step program and a renewed sense of a relationship with a God I often don’t understand. I am no longer concerned with guessing at what normal is, or trying to figure out what is expected of me by others. Today, I strive, often imperfectly, not to harm others, to do what feels gentle, and to be less critical of myself. I would wish the same for you.