Spaghetti … And A Few Meatballs

In part one of this posting, Life Is Like A … Bowl Of Spaghetti, I wrote of being raped at age 5 by a boy of 14 and why I never revealed this horrible experience to my parents or any adult.  Here I’ll talk about the impacts of that decision … and the meatballs added to my bowl of spaghetti.

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Within several months of the attack I began to see a person.  He was a boy of about my age and he looked very much like Will Robinson of the Lost In Space TV series popular at the time.  The difference being however, the person I saw looked like he was made like the soap bubbles you blow from those plastic wands.  He was a clear, blue-ish, shiny looking boy with human features and as I said looked much like the actor Bill Mumy.  I called him Little Boy.  We would talk and play together and sometimes I’d do the mischievous things he suggested.   Like what?  Stealing nickels and dimes from Mom’s change to buy candy (it was a whole lot cheaper then) or getting out of bed to play.  Nothing too horrible but they were ‘his’ ideas.

Several times I spoke of Little Boy with my mother, even blaming him when caught taking those coins, and she spoke of imaginary friends; that they’re not real.  This assessment was even confirmed by both friends and a teacher at school when I spoke with them about Little Boy.  Yet he was as real to me as anyone reading this post!  Yes, he was transparent but we talked and played.  He was, unknown to my mom, more than an imaginary friend.  He was a coping mechanism, an outcome of the suppressed emotional trauma, and someone I could trust with me.

Little Boy was the beginning –

The first fruits –

Of my stepping into mental illness. 

And into a prison very different from the physical one in which I now reside.

When I was seven, a relative began to abuse me sexually.  It’s unbelievable I know that this would come independently of the rape in the barn but sadly, it’s true.  I trusted this person and loved them and they used these feelings to impose upon me.  They also used pornography (the roots of my addiction to pornography) to ‘teach’ me what to do – a pictorial ‘how to’ so to speak.  Through coercive acts and words they gained my ‘cooperation’ and I participated with fear and great anxiety.

I dealt with this in two ways: By relying more upon Little Boy and repressing memories of the sexual abuse.  Again, a chosen method for protecting myself; my psyche.  The repression started by ‘forgetting’ the rape in the barn.  I had no conscious  memory of that horrible event by the time I was eight.

My second step into mental illness.

Around the time I was eleven Little Boy left.  I was devastated by his abandonment.  I trusted and needed him.  Over that time, my growing from five to eleven, our conversations had changed.  Originally he was a playmate but over time he’d become a true confidant.

Little Boy’s departure led to my third step into mental illness –

The voices in my head.

It’s not clear to me how long after Little Boy’s exit the voices started but my belief is a few months.  There are two (yes, I still have them) and one is young (I perceive he is Little Boy) and the other is an adult male with a gravelly voice.  I have no idea who, if anyone in particular, he may represent.  What do they say?  It varies.  Sometimes they argue over what I should do next, sometimes they narrate what I’m doing, “He’s eating an apple,” for example, and often they tell me to kill myself.

When I was young I would speak with them much like I spoke with Little Boy but as I grew I began to live and act, mostly, independently of them.  I say mostly because I did attempt suicide twice but that’s another blog posting altogether except to say here that those attempts were due to the accumulations of lessons learned from messages of home dysfunctionalities and sexual abuse.  I believe we can now chew our last bits of the first strand of pasta by saying that the sexual relationship between my relative and me lasted until I was just over eighteen.

Hang in there!  Next I’ll talk about mental illness from my teens to about age 50… jdoe

Life Is Like A … Bowl Of Spaghetti

As I prepared and had posted the writing on healing and prayer (It’s All About The Healing & The Healing Continues), I realized that such a posting might not make sense in its entirety unless I wrote and posted more about myself.  With that realization came a not so simple question:

Where do I begin?

Beginning is not easy because I will be making parts of my life, and my family’s lives, public for the first time.  Beginning is not easy because there is still pain.  Beginning is not easy because lives are convoluted and have intertwining threads of experiences, thoughts, emotions and so much more.  I imagine life to look like a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs.  You can’t remove one strand of spaghetti without touching a dozen others and perhaps jostling a meatball or two.  So the question became: which strand first and how do I take the first bite?

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The longest bits of pasta in my life’s bowl are the ones that begin with the sexual abuse I suffered as a child and end with the ensuing mental illness I now battle.  Since one strand beget the other it only makes sense that my first bite is to share the experiences of my childhood.

Laying bare all that was wrong in my youth would imply there was no good, no loving and no hope.  This is simply not true.  It was always clear to me that my parents loved me and wanted what was in my best interest.  All my basic, and sometimes beyond, material needs were met.  Guidance in decision making was given when they knew it was needed.  Wounds were mended and discipline was meted out mostly fairly.  We were, by all outward appearances and most inward measures, the Brady Bunch Family.  Many of my friends would comment to that effect even in using the TV show’s idyllic family as the comparison.

Yet no family is perfect.  We had our dysfunctional issues like all families.  Some issues though would be less common than others and in these lay the foundation for secrets and hurt.  Secrets spawn secrets, drive decision making, and create alliances.  For example, there are family secrets to which all family members are privy and decisions around it are commonly understood even if all are not part of the decision making; or the matter is left unspoken and a common understanding exists.  Then there are the secrets within the formed alliances.  Examples of this could be those kept by the parents, who decide to keep them from the children, and those kept among the children, who decide to keep them from the parents.  Finally, there are those secrets held by each individual, who decide to keep them from everyone.  And for each dysfunctional issue this layering exists.  I believe this to be true of essentially all families.  It’s all then put under the cover of, “It’s our private business,” which it actually is; with all risks of damage ignored.

The issues arise when this all leads to lies among the family members themselves.  Some of those lies are by definition lies of omission and for me those fed into the sexual  abuse because it kept hidden from those who could have, and I’m certain would have, stopped the abuse – my parents.  They didn’t know until I was 51 years old, and they still wouldn’t know if not for the issue that sent me into exile here in prison.  I had no choice but to talk about it and release the lies and expose the truths.

So what are the truths?

When I was five years old our family went to visit my mother’s parents, who had a dairy farm.  I, as a city kid being raised in a suburban setting, thought the farm to be a wonderful place to spend a week or two each summer.

That year we all went to visit family friends of my grandparents, also dairy farmers.  It was while visiting this family that their fourteen year old son cornered my sister and me in the hay loft of their barn and he raped me in front of my sister.  [I believe he raped my sister later that same day, though I have no solid evidence to prove my belief.]

Did I or my sister scream while I was being attacked?  Sadly, no.

Why didn’t I scream?  During the attack I dissociated.  I didn’t even cry!  I fled mentally as I could not flee physically.  It’s how I kept my psyche safe.  Today I see the incident in my mind’s eye as a movie though I can indeed recall the pain and humiliation.

Why my sister didn’t scream or attempt to run away is not clear to me and never will be as she passed away more than a decade ago without our having ever discussed that day.

It’s incredible to think we could go our entire lives without discussing such a traumatic and horrific event but it’s true.

“Why?” you ask or maybe “How?” 

Remember I wrote of secrets being spawned by the dysfunctionalities of a family?  This was one secret my sister and I made a pact to keep the evening of the event.

Our reasons for not telling our parents are both simple and complex.  Within moments of the attack the boy was telling my sister and me how much trouble we’d be in if the adults ever found out.  He ‘explained’ how I had ‘participated’ and ‘wanted’ it to happen and he even used my silence during the attack as proof.  Fear and confusion began working to control me.  That’s the simple part.

The complex part is difficult to concisely put into words.  It’s all about the lessons you learn from your interpretations of messages sent while growing up.  My sister and I interpreted messages sent due to my father’s alcoholism as, “you’ll have to take care of yourselves sometimes.”  As well as messages sent due to the availability of pornography in our home as, “these acts are okay,” and, “the boundaries of privacy, modesty and personal space are blurry,” and, “people touch in very personal ways.”  When all of these things are combined in children from the very first memories they have the children form incorrect, even permanently damaged, views of parental roles and human sexuality.  And in this explanation I’ve really only scratched the surface!

So during the attack did my sister see what was happening to me as “normal” due to the images we’d seen in the magazines at home?  I’m not sure.  It’s in my heart though that she had no malice or ill intent in my mind by remaining still.  I believe it was in great part that she was as shocked and scared as I was.  I’ll never know as our pact remained until her death.

How did the pact come to be?  When visiting my grandparent’s farm my sister and I would share a bed in a room separate from our parents.  The night of the attack [attacks if I’m right that this boy raped my sister as well] we laid in bed and talked about the event in vague terms, the pain I felt, and in childhood terms how the boy was a ‘jerk’.  For the reasons I wrote earlier: lessons from messages sent due to the alcoholism and availability of pornography, as well as the boy’s words about our getting in trouble if we told, my sister and I agreed it would be our secret and we’d never talk of it again.  And from that night until her death, we didn’t.  Not once.

Now things become even more complex as we’ve not finished the first strand of pasta, and now we need to begin eating the second strand; that of the ensuing mental illness.  So I’ll combine the two issues – childhood sexual abuse and mental illness – into one narrative. Please come back as there’s more pasta in this bowl.    ~jdoe

The Healing Continues

If you didn’t read Part 1 last week, start here It’s All About The Healing

Let me be clear.  I am not saying prayer is a waste of time!  I say pray without ceasing!  But do I believe prayer and faith alone will always prevail?  Yes and no.  Let me explain…

First, those statements made to me are egocentric.  By this I mean that they assume that my prayer for healing involves only myself and God.  Second, they’re limiting God!  People’s statements presume God’s plan is that my healing is between Him and me alone.  Third, they implicitly condemn God’s work in others.

How?

Answer these questions:

1) Why did God lead Julie to become a psychologist if not to be part of His plan for healing?

2) Why were so many others (wife, kids, family, friends, lawyer, etc) called to witness my healing?

3) Why were we given medicine and science and both doctor’s offices and cathedrals?

So “Yes” in that prayer and belief bring God’s plans and for me healing, but how arrogant would I be to ask only God to aid me and in so doing ignore His plan!  God brings us what and who we need – in His time – so by praying for healing and believing in all His possibilities I can say that “No”, prayer as presented to me – excluding God’s other efforts, timing, plans, and works in and through other people – won’t work alone.  We must trust and believe in His human works and His unknowable plans as well.

There’s one other bit of ‘no’ I’ve come to accept:  I, we, cannot presume to know what healing means.  Again, it’s an egocentric thing.  I may define healing as, “I’ll never consider suicide as an option for my life’s end.”  God may define it as, “Everyone exposed to john doe’s pain will never consider suicide as an option for life’s end,” while leaving me to my struggles with suicide.  So if I look only at myself I would feel I’ve not healed when through God’s eyes He’s healed many.

Thinking more basically… How would God have done His work on the cross without apostles abandoning, denying, and betraying Him?  What would have happened without Pilate, The Sanhedrin, Barabbas, and the workmen who made the cross and forged the nails?  Did God, in His greatest glory, do it alone?  No.  Why would anyone presume then that God’s plan includes only God and themselves?  Why would my healing be any different?

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious and there are no revelations; but for me.  I believe that without the human works God brought to me I’d be lying in bed with my mental ‘demons’ still running around in my head (actually many, but not all, still are) or I’d be dead.  I do not believe it’s between Him and me alone.

Healing. 

True Healing. 

Complete Healing.

 It’s all about the Healing.

I’m healing but not fully healed.  It’s a slow process.  Yet today I walk the road of healing hand in hand with those people in whom God has done wondrous works as well as hand in hand with God Himself.  I pray and believe in His plan.  I trust in His people.

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Pray. Believe. Trust.

If you need a professional then seek one out.  I believe God put him or her there for you.  Don’t wait forty six years as I did.  Do it now.

~jdoe

It’s All About The Healing

I am mentally ill.  The roots of the mental illness I battle are in the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.  I am left with wounds.  Some are scarred over, some have scabs, and others are raw and open.

Over the years I developed poor, unhealthy coping mechanisms.  I chased the false idols of money, status, material belongings, and worst – pornography.  I attempted to use these false idols to avoid reality and heal the hurts of a childhood gone mad.  My subconscious gave me colors and patterns that cover all I see, voices and noises inside and outside my head and a host of people to see and interact with that simply are not there.  And physically I was left with seizures that have no diagnosis but the sexual abuse (there is info on this if you research the link between seizures and sexual abuse as a child).  But they all failed to provide what I needed, still need…

Healing. 

True Healing. 

Complete Healing. 

It’s all about the Healing.

I’m working on healing.  It is work.  You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise.  It is also a slow process.  Patience is required.  So are diligence and faith.

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My road to healing began the day I became aware there was an official investigation into my pursuit of illegal pornography.  What I couldn’t see that day, or for many days and months afterword, was how much of a blessing that scary day would turn out to be.  I know that sounds crazy since it lead to my incarceration but without that day my healing would never have been.  In fact, I believe I would be dead.

Suicide has been ever present in my life.  Attempt number one at age fifteen.  Attempt number two at age twenty.  Planned attempts at ages thirty, thirty five, forty eight, and fifty one.

Suicide was another coping mechanism for me to deal with all of the ‘stuff’ I’ve already written of: Hurts from my childhood, mental illness, hallucinations, self-worth and self-validation issues, and the false idols of money, status, material belongings and pornography.  I was a mess that fateful, scary day.

Healing requires that, like triage in an emergency room, you uncover the wound and examine it to see what damage has actually occurred.  You need the help of professionals for that.  You don’t perform open heart surgery in your kitchen, right?  So why should you attempt to fix your mental self while sitting alone in your family room?

When I took my first step on this road of healing I still travel, I looked around and saw that my professional for help came in the form of a highly competent psychologist named Julie.  At the time I did not see God or my faith as part of the healing journey.  I didn’t see God that way because my relationship with Him was superficial.  My relationship with God is so much deeper today.  My faith is real and significant.  Yet today I can say that I do not believe that a deeper relationship with God prior to that scary day would have changed the outcome I now live.

Why?

I was a mess and would have been that mess regardless of my faith or thoughts and feelings about God.  I would not have taken steps to heal.  God of course knew this and even though my attitude toward Him was casual in nature, His attitude toward me was Love.  God knew I needed to walk into, and one day out of, an effort to heal.

I can look back now and see how God lead me to Julie, a psychologist specially trained in exactly the type of help I need and then He blessed me with fifteen months of time for my work with her.  (Fifteen months from investigation start to my custody and jail.)  God knew I needed to go through that time and work with Julie and that without it I would go unchanged and very probably have taken my own life.

So often people say, “Pray for healing,” and “God has already put the power within you,” and “You’ve got to believe to have it happen,” as if prayer and faith alone will cure every issue.  When I was initially incarcerated I seriously considered suicide again.  I shared this with a former pastor with whom I shared a cell.  He said, “Pray on it and believe, you doubt too much.”  So I prayed – and nothing changed.  I was then put on suicide watch.

Let me be clear.  I am not saying prayer is a waste of time!  I say pray without ceasing!  But do I believe prayer and faith alone will always prevail?  Yes and no.

More to come next week…  jdoe

Part 2 is found here: The Healing Continues