At different points in our lives we’ve all been put in a position that required us to reconcile change. Whether it was a loss of a loved one, loss of a pet, perhaps parents divorced, or end of a relationship. There are many things that have happened in our lives that make us what we are today. Abused as a kid, bullied in school, being in a broken home. All of these an other events at some point or another cause us to act or react when put in situations that remind us of those situations.
At a young age I was molested by my stepfather. For years I refused to acknowledge it happened or that it had an adverse effect on me as I grew into an adult. I never understood why I viewed sex the way that I did. Never understood why I was afraid of intimacy. Never understood why I would turn and run if I walked in on my ex-wife giving my son a bath. All of these situations were a direct result of an action performed by one person multiple times, years earlier. The problem was that I never reconciled the situation.
My stepfather was my hero. He was the first male role model that I really had. He treated me as his own. He coached my baseball team. He would get out in the yard and play catcher and let me practice my pitching. I can still hear him telling me to hit the scar. The scar was in the middle of his chest and was from an open heart surgery which in the 80’s was a huge deal. He took me to all my basketball games. Any where he was I was. Even if that meant me going to the local bar every day at 330. My stepfather was a major alcoholic and every day after work he would go to the local bar. I’d walk to the bar and sit on a stool next to him. He’d get a 50 cent draft and I’d take the 2 quarters in change and pocket it until I had enough to play the pinball machine which believe it or not was an illegal gambling machine. I was the best pinball player in that bar before I was out of grade school.
There were occasions that I’d have sleep overs at the house and my stepfather would actually take me and my friends to the bar. It got to the point that after one thanksgiving break one of my friends asked if I went to the bar for Thanksgiving. I said no but sadly we were at the bar Thanksgiving evening. Even though the bar was within walking distance my dad drove home because he went to the bar right after leaving work. I got used to riding home with a guy that shouldn’t have been driving.
My stepfather set an example for me. He helped show me why I don’t want to be a regular at a bar. To this day I don’t crave alcohol or a desire to be at a bar every day. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only issue my stepfather had. Between the ages of 8 and 10 my stepfather would molest me. Often this occurred right in front of my mom. I would say something to her about it but she would say its horseplay. While wrestling he would put his hands down the front or back of my shorts. I knew it was wrong and can remember immediately stopping and pulling away when he did it. It wasn’t just down my shorts, his hands would go down my underwear as well. I had no idea how these events would effect me in the future. I never reconciled it.
Not until my last suicide attempt did I finally disclose to both my doctor and my sister just what happened. Until then I refused to say a bad word about my stepfather. He was still my hero. But that all changed when I began to talk about it. When I began to explore how his actions factored into my life. Just how differently I acted and reacted in certain situations.
My ex wife thought I was lazy. Never understood why I refused to give my son a bath. Why I’d turn and run if I saw my son in the bathtub even under bubbles. Not until I accepted and reconciled what had happened did I understand why I reacted the way I did. I wasn’t afraid of molesting my son, never have been never will be. I’ve never had a desire to. What I feared was not knowing how my stepfather got to the point of wanting to do it to me. Was he molested as a child? In the back of my mind I was safe guarding myself even though there was no evidence that I would ever get even an urge to do anything to my son. At the time I didn’t draw the connection to my fear to me being molested as a kid.
Sex and intimacy are two other things that I’ve struggled with as an adult. Sex was just sex. Plain and simple. There didn’t need to be anything intimate about it. People have sex throughout their lives. I viewed sex as almost something that was normal for people to do with one another even if married. I had a hard time after my divorce understanding why I was afraid of getting close, of getting intimate. I didn’t reconcile how being molested changes your view on being intimate and open sexually with someone as an adult.
You may struggle with things that you haven’t accepted as true or reconciled in your life. You may have yet to reconcile your diagnosis if you suffer from a mental illness. Avoiding that reconciliation is dangerous. It’s not going to go away. Failing to face it will not change your symptoms. It’s difficult to hear that you are diagnosed with depression or dipolar or perhaps PTSD. But you must come to terms with it. I used to avoid medication and take a macho approach of I don’t want to be made to feel happy I want to BE happy. I used that lame excuse for years. Then I finally decided to start taking medication and then the lack of reconciling the truth came around again. I stopped taking my medication. It was my choice. Had I taken the time to understand how the anti-depressant isn’t a happy pill but rather a preventative medicine perhaps my dramatic fall 4 years ago wouldn’t have been as bad.
Your mental illness diagnosis is not a life sentence. You are not a diagnosis. You are not a definition. You are not a statistic. You are YOU. The most important thing you can do is reconcile the fact that you have been diagnosed. That more than anything else is going to be the biggest step you will take in your recovery. Remember how my stepfather was an example for me with his drinking problem? Allow me to be an example of what happens when you fail to reconcile your diagnosis and treatment. 5 suicide attempts in 6 months, 6 in a 18 month period. I was dead, but fortunately I was brought back to life. Please use ME as an example of why you need to move the needle forward in your recovery process.
REMEMBER… YOU MATTER!!!