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Life as a guy living with PTSD, Anxiety, and Dissociation from a history of childhood sexual abuse.

Living with a history of childhood sexual abuse as a guy is not something many are willing to talk about. I mean as men we are trained to be tough, strong, hide our feelings, and never ask for help. So many think that speaking out and seeking help, or showing emotions is a sign of weakness. It’s a stigma that I am doing my part to break. 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused as a child, and those feelings are with us our entire lives. It affects every part of our daily life whether we realize it or not. It’s only by seeking help and reaching out that we can feel better and live the life we want and deserve.

This is a bit of my story of what it’s like living with this past. My hope by reading this is that if you or someone you know has experienced this type of a abuse, or any other type, go get help! Stop living in fear and shame, there is healing available and caring people all over the world that want to help and they understand what you are going though.  I know, I live with it daily and seeking help was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.

What does living with PTSD mean to me? That’s both an easy question and a difficult one, mainly because while I could spout off a bunch of facts about what it is, the symptoms, causes, treatments, and all that, it’s much more personal to someone who suffers from it.

Living with the trauma of being sexually abused when I was young kid is something that I suppressed for about 30 years before I finally realized it was high time to reach out for help. It’s not something I ever “forgot”, but rather just pushed aside and compartmentalized so much that I managed to never consciously deal with it. The little box in the closet in my head that holds these memories was pushed to the back and then buried under decades of other memories.

I started talking to a therapist about the abuse in the late summer of 2015 and since that time we discovered that I suffer from PTSD, and with that, Dissociation, Flashbacks, Anxiety, and the Depression that comes from it all.

One of the biggest problems of living with PTSD means that I suffer from flashbacks of the trauma. They usually hit me in the mornings, and average about 5 times per week. They vary in intensity but normally last for a few minutes, presenting various memories of what transpired at the hands of the perpetrator. Sometimes the memories are so vivid and intense that they cause me to literally freeze and feel stuck, and other times they are just random visions of the room or other places that the abuse took place in.

So many people are unable to function after experiencing these events, they can be out of commission for hours, the entire day or even longer. For me though, it’s different, I dissociate while having a flashback. So after the event is over, I am actually ok after a few minutes and I can go on about my day. In exploring why this happens, I’ve learned that my mind is protecting me and only allowing me to experience some of the trauma at a time. On top of that, I’ve learned that I dissociated while the sexual abuse events were happening to me, so now when I have flashback, I’m dissociating within a dissociative event. Literally having traumatic memories about something I can’t even fully recall because my mind took me away while it happened.

Other parts of having PTSD means high levels at anxiety. It’s somewhat rare for me to actually be able to relax, unwind, and enjoy life in the moment because I’m always worried about something. My mind doesn’t shut off, it’s constantly thinking about, well everything. When is the next flashback coming, why didn’t one happen today, what if something goes wrong that I can’t fix on the job? What are we going to do for a vacation this year, how will my youngest do on a big test, what if the car breaks down. You get the picture right?

Then there’s the dissociation, the spacing out. I do that quite often, at home, out and about, hanging out with friends, virtually anywhere or any time. I’ll just gaze off into nowhere, and then come back after a few minutes. One of the most annoying things about that is having to reread a paragraph or page of a book a couple times so I can comprehend it and retain it.  Even writing this article, I will have to go back when I’m done to make sure I don’t repeat myself.

Another tough thing to deal with is change, what an awful thing that is. I don’t adapt well to it; in fact, I pretty much can’t stand it. I like my structure and my routine, that’s when I’m most comfortable and functioning at my best. When life throws curve balls of any kind, it totally throws me for a loop. Even something as small as a friend bailing on me at the last minute and cancelling plans to do something can send me spiralling down from a normal or even good state of mind, into depression within minutes. Now, think about that in the context of bigger life changes that happen and you can see how hard adapting can be at times.

Lastly, when your mind is constantly thinking, and you don’t take time to live and enjoy life, you open yourself up to depression. The overwhelming sadness and despair can hit at any time. I get so used to my brain going 100 mph that when it finally decides it’s had enough for a while, I shut down and just do pretty much nothing but stay home and try to self sooth. I’ll watch TV, listen to music, play my bass, read, or just lay around doing nothing.

After reading that you might wonder how I even function on a daily basis. The answer is, I just kind of “do it”. I get up and go to work in my career as an engineer, and put on a happy face because I have to support myself and my kids. I keep up the façade of being ok around family and friends because I don’t want to let on what I’m really feeling; no way I’m comfortable discussing this in depth with people close to me. I run errands, go to appointments, go for walks and bike rides, and do what countless others do every day, and live life the best that I can.

The difference is that I’m waiting for the next flashback, anxiety attack, change in life, or random memory to strike that will send me into shut down mode again. I know it’s coming; I just don’t know when.

So writing about it on my blog, opening up to social media support, educating myself, and going to therapy twice a week is how I Survive My Past. If I can understand it and learn from it, I can not only help myself, but hopefully help others as well.

-Lyric

SurivivingMyPast.Net

Therapy Blog of a guy who lives with Dissociation, Anxiety, and PTSD as a

Result of childhood sexual abuse.

Twitter: @SurvivingMyPast

 

 

 

 

 

9 comments

  1. Profile photo of Christopher M Anderson

    Thank you so much for this post. It resonates on so many levels. In addition to being a survivor of sexual abuse, I endured a number of other kinds of trauma/abuse growing up (as did so many others who post here I gather).

    I struggle with anxiety, dissociation, the challenge of remaining focussed on reading and writing, so many things are triggers – sometimes I’m amazed I’ve survived as long as I have.

    I work as an advocate for other survivors and I can tell you that everytime we tell our stories we are helping shine a light for others, and helping ourselves heal as well.

    Thank you again for sharing this. Healing as a man in this society is a challenge on many levels. It’s important to know that you are empowered to do the work of healing as you see fit. You don’t need to fit into anyone else’s definition of what a “real man” is. As a survivor, you’ve already shown a kind of strength and endurance that many people can’t even comprehend.

    • Profile photo of Matt

      Hey Christopher, thanks for sharing some of your story man. One of the things I find so difficult is locating local support or finding materials that are geared to towards men. So much of it is more geared towards women, nothing wrong with that of course, but I’m doing all I can help bring awareness and share from a guys point of view too. I’ve found some materials and online support chats help immensely. Abuse knows no gender, race, creed, or religion. We’re all in this together.

      Dissociation happens to me so much it’s not even funny. I’m realizing that I do it so much more often that I ever thought I did. I wonder half the time how I survived this long too!

      You working as an advocate is amazing! I agree the more we share the more we heal and help others at the same time. Thank you for the encouragement, I can certainly use and it’s so much appreciated.

  2. Such an inspiring story! This sheds light on so many things people can read be encouraged. Yes, no one is perfect but people can change despite the struggles they have faced. Keep up the great work!

  3. Profile photo of Mind Body Thoughts

    I love the quote from Bessel Van Der Kolk in his book, The Body Keeps The Score where he says “Traumatized people simultaneously remember too little and too much.” I can sure attest to that. By writing and talking about it, you will help others because sometimes we need that other person shining a light ahead of us on our path so we can help find our way. I used to think I was the only one – there was no one else that had been through all of this and what I have found out, is there are far too many who have experienced it. Together we can be strong, but I hope one day a society of the future will wonder what child abuse was… that it will have become extinct. Anyway, thanks for sharing what you have. Your writing here and on your site is an inspiration.

  4. Compelling story with so many similarities. I too bagan counselling and find the benefits freeing. I was subjected to nonsexual physical and emotional abuse as a child. My mother used me as an outlet for her own failings, I remember vivdily her telling me it was.my fault she acted this way, time and again. After awhile you tend to believe that from a person who is suppose to be your protection. To this day o struggle to maintain any semblance of a close relationship with any woman. Lack of trust.

    • Profile photo of Matt

      Thanks so much for the comments man, I appreciate it. Reaching out is definitely way out of my comfort zone but I’m so glad that I’ve started sharing my story on my blog and now here as well.

      I too have a serious issue with commitment. I’ve been trying to date and I can feel myself pulling away shortly after anything good potential starts. Or even worse, I gravitate towards partners who are nowhere near healthy for me. I’m learning about red flags and warning signs, but it’s a long way to go for sure.

      I feel for ya living through that, abuse comes in all types but hopefully by talking about it and using counseling you can feel the way you want in time! That’s what I’m hoping for myself too.

  5. Profile photo of David Pilbäck - Founder of the Men's Movement Community

    This is a great post. It mirrors much in my own experience after my own childhood, even if there was no sexual abuse in my family. I honour your courage to step forward and sharing your story like this. Thank you.

    • Profile photo of Matt

      Thank you David, I appreciate the support and encouragement man. I can only hope that by me reaching out and telling my story, it will inspire others to speak out, seek help, and begin to feel and live the live they want!

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