Editor-at-large As I See It: "It Still Hurts"
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
For a number of years I have been attending a "Survivors Support Group," as the members and I call it. We are all survivors of male incest. I feel comforted to be among men with similar past experiences, but obviously not exactly the same. We share, listen, support and help one another from these groups, along with therapy, reading, exchanging information and attending conferences.
You can live with a problem and not even know you have one. I was under the assumption that incest meant sexual intercourse with a parent. So I felt that wasn't my problem, but then I learned there was a second part to the definition. Inappropriate sexual behavior is the other aspect of incest.
The problem of incest has hounded me for give-or-take forty years. As I said earlier, I was largely unaware. However, my life has gone amiss as a result. A major question is this: Having a predisposition to mental illness, was I pushed figuratively over the edge after the initial incest and the occasional encounters that correlate to incest causing sustained stress, bringing on mental illness?
I am not a hundred percent sure. No one was around to diagnose. I wasn't aware what was happening nor would I have expressed what was going on. I do know I withdrew. I isolated something awful, became lonely and had almost nothing to say to anybody. I daydreamed quite a bit, living in a fantasy world-a world of my own design that really was where I lived, as life was so bleak.
Again, I ask: Which came first? Was I ill before the incest or only after? I would say after. Yes, I was shy, but I had friends. Afterwards I withdrew. My problems multiplied as I got older. I realized I was ill and sought treatment, which was inappropriate for my needs at the time. I just couldn't open up. Eventually I was hospitalized. Hospitals aren't the places to learn socialization skills, but for me it was a safe haven. I grew just a little. I had my first girlfriend. Sex was possible, but she knew my reluctance, so it was not pursued.
Eventually with someone I sincerely loved intercourse was attempted, but it was literally a messy situation. It seemed the closer I became physically the worse the situation developed. My wife Reta was the most loving, compassionate, giving and understanding woman I ever met. Reta's understanding of my problem will endear her to me as long as I live. My memory of her love will keep me intact to my dying day. Through the years there was no improvement. When you add large dosages of psychiatric medicines you become figuratively castrated. I needed my sanity, so sex went totally out the window. But I am left with peculiar psychological problems that I feel are yet unresolved. If I am on a subway car sitting across from a woman we may make eye contact, I immediately lower my eyes or turn away. Why? Because I feel like a pervert. I know it has to do with the incest, but I can't figure out why. Also, the hug and meeting of cheeks as a greeting when a couple meet I find generally uncomfortable. I quickly extend my hands in a similar situation. I know these examples are irrational responses, but that's where I am for now. I am working on these and other problems in therapy.
Is incest a psychological problem? No. Is the resulting trauma a cause for psychological problems? Yes.