Just Because They Can’t See It, Doesn’t Mean It’s Not There
From a Sexual Abuse Survivor’s Journal
This is an entry from my sexual abuse survivor’s journal. My most personal and revealing writing- some of which I share and some of which I don’t- is a cathartic retelling and reframing of my story. The word “survivor” is a process, not a destination- and my sexual abuse survivor’s journal is a creative bloodletting- a tool to help me heal.
In my sexual abuse survivor’s journal, I describe the memories I have of my abuse in vivid technicolor detail. I explore his smells, the ones that trigger a flood of flashbacks. I try to make sense of the anxiety and PTSD I battle everyday. And I explore how the warped survival skills I learned as a young boy no longer work for me.
My sexual abuse survivor’s journal is a series of literary snapshots, a chaotic, time-shifting collage of Polaroids that, when viewed as whole, tell the entirety of my story as completely and honestly as I can. Though I write these entries and publish them for me, I do hope they will find an audience and resonate with you. If this post speaks to or is meaningful to you, please consider sharing it- it may help someone, somewhere, somehow.
I should note that the title of this post is a line from the song, “One More Light“, by Linkin Park whose leader singer, Chester Bennington- another survivor of childhood sexual abuse- committed suicide on July 20th, 2017. This song speaks to a very deep part of my soul. ~B.
Wordsmithing be damned, the hard truth is sometimes you cry.
You cry until you run out of reasons, until you can’t feel it anymore, until the demons stop screaming, and in those moments of silence, you may still be broken but you are composed. And some days, that is all you can hope for.
Those are good days- when you can pass as normal.
You can pour a cup of coffee. You can shower. You can dress and walk and move among the living. You can stand patiently smiling, third in line at Starbucks. Polite. Invisible. Normal.
On those good days, no one knows the truth. No one knows that I am different- but just because they can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
No one knows that inside, I am but a broken, beaten child cowering in the darkness of fear. Of shame. Of self-hate, anxiety, panic disorder and Bipolar Type II- a particularly hard diagnostic pill to for me to swallow.
As I recently wrote in “Dear Little Boy, Please Shut the Fuck Up“, “What they don’t see are the evenings spent listening to “One More Light” by Linkin Park on a loop, each time bleeding a little more, as Chester Bennington exorcises demons- both his and yours- with each line.”
No, people don’t see the nights at home, self-medicating and self-isolating. Those nights spent alone on the porch, trapped in a private playlist of fiery songs set to repeat, an endless circle of choruses that grab me by the neck, shaking loose flashbacks- those memories long ago buried. Each song, carefully curated, is another picking of my scabs; an act of self-harming and self-healing in one fell swoop.
Two birds, one stone.
Chester Bennington is Dead and I Want to Scream.
Chester is dead and I want to scream.
I want to scream for the loss of a great artist and musician.
I want to scream because we keep losing people- great artists and anonymous private citizens alike- to suicide.
I want to scream because, in Chester’s brave public discussion of the sexual abuse he experienced, I found a kindred spirit, a brother-in-arms, a friend now gone.
Knowing that Chester Bennington and I shared similar childhood experiences, viscerally understanding his demons, knowing that he is no longer with us and knowing exactly how he died, “One More Light” is like a kick in the balls. Every time.
The problem is I don’t just sympathize with Chester and his struggles, I empathize. Empathy is the curse of those in the know.
So, yes, I want to scream.
I want to scream because the demons of childhood sexual abuse alter the course of your life and you are forever changed. You’ll never be the same again.
I want to scream because survivors usually spend their lives dealing with addiction, depression and PTSD to name a few.
I want to scream because so few people understand the connection between childhood sexual abuse and addiction, depression, mood disorders, extreme anxiety and PTSD.
I want to scream because 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused in their lifetime. Think about that.
No, really think about that statistic and what it means.
I want to scream because no one seems to talk about male sexual abuse survivors. Even in this age of #MeToo, how many people are talking about the boys who are being raped?
I want to scream because there is so little support for male survivors. (One day, I will share the story of my experiences at a rape crisis center.)
More often than not, we- male survivors- are swept under the rug. We are reduced to dirty secrets- willed into darkness, hidden in silence.
I want to scream because these boys feel alone, ashamed and afraid to tell anyone. And if they do tell, frequently no one listens. No one supports them. No one protects them.
I want to scream because, as scary and shameful as it is to write and to share with you- I do, on some level, understand the decision Chester made.
I want to scream because I too- in dark hours- have contemplated suicide.
Though suicide can rarely, if ever, be pinpointed to one particular cause, Chester’s lifelong struggles with addiction and depression are very common for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and these struggles often feel overwhelming. In that state of mind, suicide seems to be the only real solution.
This road to survivor cannot be walked alone- it takes the support of my husband, my friends, my co-workers, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, multiple medications twice each day and weekly group therapy with other men doing battle with their own demons.
I am getting support. I am on the journey towards healing, but I’m not there yet.
I will continue to have setbacks.
And I will continue to scrape and crawl back up off my knees. I will use hand, tooth and nail to get back up on my feet.
I’m learning that survival ain’t for sissies, but in the end, what choice do we have?
No, most people don’t know that my demons are never far away- but just because they can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.