I am a victim of sexual abuse, right? And for the longest, I have held that close to me. Carrying it with me silently and gracefully, I think, as I have navigated through the internal warfare that the aftermath of those experiences has caused. Hiding my pain with smiles, trying to appear sane while feeling like a zombie on the inside.
I don’t talk about it much but not doing so does not mean I am not affected heavily by it.
Shame, defeat, worthlessness and the large array of other feelings almost always and collectively, show up when flashbacks of what happened reveal themselves. That troupe of feelings shows up in my relationships with others and in the relationship with myself.
They show up at random in the 25 minutes it sometimes takes me to get out of the car or out of my bed and for sure when I have to meet someone new. I am bombarded by those feelings when I am alone, with people. It doesn’t matter if I am waking up after a good night’s rest or after one with that included me experiencing night terrors. The worst is when they appear on the days where nothing on the surface has triggered the flashback.
This has consumed and hijacked a significant portion of my life.
Sorting through sexual abuse and the trauma that results from it as a man makes this difficult. It is not in the culture of men to be open about sexual assault or to even identify what this looks like. The focus is and has always been on women and their response (or lack thereof) to sexual abuse.
As a black man, this furthers that difficulty. I can’t deny the culture of black people, as great as it is, is also detrimental to those of us who are submerged in it. Our culture is weighted by the suppression of emotions, secrecy, and denial that is forced on us from the inside and out. Throw in the fact that I too am gay, and have been asked if I liked being abused because my abuser was a man, makes an already multidimensional and complex experience almost impossible to find a way out of.
I–like many others who have been abused (assaulted or molested)–am a walking vessel of trust, love, and self-esteem issues. I often feel as though I don’t belong or shouldn’t belong. I have worn many masks to hide–or attempt to cover up these feelings–but even still, I think there has always been an aura of unhappiness wrapped around me that could be easily detected.
I reflect on how when my birthday comes around, and my new age tells you that I have graduated into another year, I still feel stuck at age 12. I wonder if anyone sees that. I am told to be grateful and express gratitude because I am still here, but have you ever thought that maybe there could be a moment where I wasn’t all that grateful?
Do you ever feel worth of not expressing gratitude?
I ask this because personally, I become overwhelmed by the assumptions of people and their opinions of the life of others. In my case, they are primarily based on the appearance of a maturing adult when I know myself to be a crumbling one that is hiding the many heartbreaks of a child.
I think it’s important to recognize how the few sad chapters in my book of life filled with forcefully giving up sex that I never offered, and sorting through what to make of that, have become the template for the chapters that haven’t even been written.
I have tried to grow up and acclimate to the world as others have told me I should. Taking on responsibilities of adulthood, of what it means to be a man. Especially one that is black. Being strong and always moving forward almost never showing weakness. I have actively participated in being a better example to the younger ones in my family, establishing a relationship for myself with God. I have tried to do what is right and expected of me and still have not found freedom.
When does anyone find the time to get free truly? How can we when the world is always telling us to get it together in the way that they see fit?
It’s so interesting to me to see how many people are visibly hurting but are forced to act as though that hurt isn’t there. Like that pain doesn’t help you decide who you choose to love or don’t, who you hang out with or won’t, how you speak, how you love or accept love, to not let how you dress, where you work, how you show up in social settings and so on.
It is not for you (or me) to forget what has happened to you nor are you to tuck your experience(s) away and try not to let them ruin you.
What is for you though, is a need to learn from whatever it is you have experienced. You must face those things, wrestle and sort through those things and then, let what you’ve learned free you. Not bury you.
Quit being afraid to talk about the shit that plagues you.
We have to rid ourselves of this idea of what happens at home stays there. How can it when people are dying because of it? You have to do this to become better to and for yourself and subsequently, for others.
There is no one book with all the answers that will get you there, but you’ll never find your own if you refuse to sit with what has held you captive.
I know it’s hard. And depressing. And discouraging. And as you open up, you will feel misunderstood and angry and tired and sad and disappointed and like you have nothing else to give but hasn’t that already been the case? Have you ever not thought about what was on the other side of that?
Also published on Medium.