Sunday, October 24, 2010

Child Abuse, Identity and SSA

I have decided that before I write about anything else about me and my past and how I became the person I am today, I need to first of all write, at least a little, about what I went through as a child.  I feel this relates directly, for several reasons, to my SSA and what I am going through right now. 

I was physically, verbally and emotionally abused as a boy, principally by my mother.  She could be a very violent person, and was addicted to prescription “water pills” (to control weight, i.e., amphetamines) as well as sleeping pills (barbiturates).  This, combined with her disposition, which was distant and brooding at the best of times and downright violent at the worst of times, made for a pretty scary childhood. 

Nevertheless, ours was a “respectable” family (not LDS, by the way), and to most people, we probably appeared to be your normal middle-class family, active in our church and community.  As I was growing up, I now know that I accepted what happened inside the walls of our home as “normal.”  At least it was my “normal” in the sense that this is the way life was and there was nothing I could do to change it.  This was before the days of awareness about abuse.  Back then, it was never discussed:  I was heartbroken to learn only recently that one of my uncles knew about the abuse, but never did anything to stop it.  That was our family’s business.

Which brings me to my father.  He traveled a lot with his work and was rarely home.  When he was home, he was not a terribly involved father.  I have very few memories of him from when I was a child, and his being gone was just another part of my “normal.”  It was only when I became an adult that I realized that he had known about the abuse, but did nothing to stop it.  What’s worse, he later denied that he had known anything about it, even after being confronted with my testimony as well as that of my brothers and sisters.  I came to feel that, in a very real sense, he had abandoned me to my mother’s abuse.

Later, my parents divorced, and I was left with my mother (!) as I assumed the role of father in our household.  In later years, I came to see this as yet another abandonment by my father.

Let me interject at this point that this post is not about abuse and the feelings I should or should not have toward my parents or a number of other very complicated issues.  (It has driven me to distraction at times when well-meaning people who don’t have a clue what they are talking about have heard some of this story and have said that I need to “forgive” my parents and “apply the Atonement.”  The issues are simply far more complicated that these simplistic answers imply.)

Rather, this post is intended to be about what happened to me as a child, a pre-adolescent and a teen as a result of my mother’s abuse and my father’s abandonment.  It is also intended to explore (i) how these conditions of my childhood may have contributed to my SSA and my response to it as a teenager, and (ii) how those conditions impact what I am doing right now, writing entries in this blog and exploring my SSA more openly than I ever have in my entire life.

I have been spending a lot of my adulthood trying to understand what happened to me as a child.  I have blocked out most memory of my childhood and have to rely on other family members for memories.  But I remember enough and have come to understand that I adopted a lot of survival mechanisms as a very young child.  My brother described one of them:  to him, I had decided to be as good as I possibly could so that I could avoid further abuse.  My older siblings acted out.  I was the good little boy.

This has relevance for me today because I feel like I lost touch – because of dissociation, a desire to protect my true self, and other psychological phenomena - with who I really am while I was still a young child.  Then, when I went through puberty and it became pretty clear I was more attracted to boys than to girls, I had even more reason to repress, repress, REPRESS.

The result is that I feel like I have spent most of my life repressing who I *really* am.  It seemed far too dangerous to let people see the real me; instead, I gave them what I thought they wanted to see.  Thus, my current desire to explore my SSA more deeply than I ever have before is not just about sexuality; it really is about a desire to discover and affirm my true identity.  Of course, my whole life hasn’t been a lie; but it hasn’t exactly been the truth, either.  And it is the truth that makes us free, right?

On other level, it is entirely possible (this is being said with tongue in cheek) that the combined facts of (i) my mother beating the hell out of me throughout most of my childhood, and (ii) my father being distant and uninvolved in my childhood life and totally gone as I approached and went through puberty and its aftermath – that these conditions became factors in how I eventually reacted to the SSA that emerged as I went through puberty.  (I have never talked to a counselor / therapist about homosexuality.  The only person I have ever talked to about it prior to starting this blog was my wife.  Oh, just a minute, I did talk to a bishop once – but that is a subject for another post.)

            (May I just say, parenthetically, that it has really p**sed me off that there is virtually NO literature about the affects of physically abuse mothers on their sons.  It seems to be all about (i) abusive fathers, (ii) abused daughters, and (iii) alcoholic mothers.)

So, I guess what I think I am saying is that I think the abuse and abandonment I experienced as a child (i) caused me to adopt a false persona as a very young child that became hard as steel once I realized I was attracted to men, and (ii) affected very deeply - in ways I can only surmise – the manner in which I reacted to my emerging homosexuality.

My principal task now as I see it is to continue deconstruction of the false persona so that I can continue to discover and affirm who I really am – not just my sexuality, but my entire being.  That’s really what this blog is all about.


  1. Dude,

    I was sexually abused as a child. The sad fact is that child abuse happens more than people want to admit.

    At one point I was really intent on understanding what had happened to me and what my molester did to me. My Stake President counseled against it, and told me I did not need to dredge up all the details. But I became obessed with remembering everything I had repressed so completely. I found a therapist and started sessions.

    What I was not prepared for was the ANGER that started coming out of me as I remembered what had happened. It was extreme, its was scary, and it totally messed me up. I plunged back into my porn addiction, lost my TR, and acted out in other ways. It was crazy!

    So, just a warning from someone who repressed a lot of childhood events - it can be painful and a double-edge sword of sorts to re-live it. Is it REALLY necessary to remember all that? After going thru what I did, I don't think so. Its much more important to focus on what lies ahead. You can't change the past - only the future. Just a thought...

  2. Neal,
    Thanks for your comments, which I really appreciate. I was never sexually abused (so far as I know). I hear what you are saying about an obsessive need to remember. And about the anger. A LOT of anger.

    But repressed anger is a very dangerous thing. I suffered from migraines for YEARS, and I found the anger coming out in other, very undesirable ways. I have worked through and am working throught that. I am not obsessed with remembering, because I know the memories will come when the mind and body feel that it is ok for the memories to come.

    Meanwhile, my main focus is on understanding what that did to me as a child and how it affects me as an adult, including in regards to my SSA. The wisest counselor I ever talked to once told me in plain terms: Your mother cut off your arm (figuratively speaking) when you were a boy. Now you must grieve that and learn to live with only one arm.

    A very insightful amazing man, a physician and counselor, wrote the following, which resonates deeply with me: “We can let go of what we understand; we cling most ferociously to aspects of ourselves that remain hidden to us and whose power we do not comprehend.”

    I want to comprehend, let go, and move on, a better person - not only for myself, but also for my wife and children.

    Again, thanks - sincerely - for your comments.