I’ve had this post sitting around for quite some time, but never published it. I guess that’s probably because every time I start to write it I either got sidetracked, inspired to write about something else, or just couldn’t organize my thoughts properly for whatever reason.

I also struggled with it a bit because the initial title was, “Feeling like I’m on an island as a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse”. I felt like I was alienating one gender, and just flat-out feeling sorry for myself. I guess it took the right amount of time to process my thoughts.

As a guy who survived childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a teenager in my neighborhood, those events have changed my life forever, I’m compelled to try to understand it so I can learn from it and heal. To me, knowledge is power in my journey. I suppose mainly because I spent so many years ignoring what happened and had no clue how much it affects my daily life as an adult.

So I immerse myself in reading self-help books, blogs, various online resources, and twitter support chats along with weekly therapy sessions in my endeavor to heal myself and help others.  Initially I was finding it difficult to locate resources specific to just men, or be able to read something that wasn’t geared towards either gender and be able to comprehend how I could relate to it.

I talked about this with J at a therapy session, and she validated me in that the resources for men are more scarce compared to those geared towards women, but they are out there. She challenged me to look harder, and be more open-minded about interpreting what I was reading. Initially I was like, “OK whatever, I’ll give it another shot”. A typical response in therapy to many things she suggests. 

I’m so glad I did, because in doing so much reading and connecting with the survivor community online, I have gained a keen awareness how we can all relate to each other. It doesn’t matter if your abuse happened at the hands of a parent, family member, friend, teacher, or pastor, we all suffered traumatically. It doesn’t matter if it was a one time thing or over years, it’s still abuse and it affects our lives. Most importantly, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman.

The book, The Courage to Heal is a well-known resource that I’m sure many of you have read or at least heard of. While it’s geared more from the female perspective, nearly everything can be related to either gender.

Just go on twitter during a survivor chat, search #MentalHealth or simply Google some resources and you’ll see countless people who are all out there just trying to understand and heal from their past. Pain knows no gender, and no limits in who it affects.

Abuse is not about being a man or a woman, it’s about being a survivor, period! We all have a story to tell, feelingsbeing a survivor is not gender specific, mental health awareness month to share, and inspiration to give one another. At the same time, we can all benefit from hearing the encouragement of others. It validates us and reassures us that we are not alone. Our feelings and memories are real, our pain is real, but the healing is real too.

We won’t all get there all at the same, or take the exact same path, because the road to healing is not linear. Oh how I wish it was though! It’s about the journey and the experiences we glean along the way that shape us into the person we want to become.

To that point, is there ever really a “getting there” finish line? Do we ever fully heal? I would say, in my humble opinion, that no, you never fully heal. Our abuse will be with us forever, but we can manage it, cope with it, and not let it run our daily lives. We can recover more quickly and be more cognizant of the signs to watch for. We will have good days and bad days, feelings of depression or anxiety, but in time and with help and support, we can have the life we want.

I just wanted to take a couple of minutes and encourage you today!  The survivor community is such an amazing resource and I’m eternally grateful for the numerous people I interact with regularly. I’m grateful for the future colleagues I’ve met, and my therapist. These are people I will cherish forever.

If we’re going to talk about how we are all in this together, then we should walk the talk no matter who we are.