As I See It: A Voice From a Fellow Survivor
(Column: Editor-At-Large: As I See It)
Mother's Sexual Misconduct Negatively Affected B.J. Miller's Mental Health
I'm turning my column over to a fellow survivor from the Men's Incest Survivor Support Group where we belong. His past experiences have been damaging, but his recovery is longer and stronger. So I'll stop here and let him speak for himself. Any questions or comments can be left with me at (212) 614-6339, which I'll pass along to B.J. Miller.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and incest perpetrated by my mother. What were the effects? Primarily depression. Throughout my teenage years, while other kids learned the relationship skills they would draw on for the rest of their lives, I stayed in the apartment with my parents (I was an only child). I slept 12 hours a day. I isolated so completely that I had no friendships from age 13 to 30. I was hopeless, felt helpless, and thought of suicide. I never attempted to kill myself, other than through compulsive overeating and the resulting obesity.
I also suffered from profound anxiety. I was extremely shy since childhood. Both parents were emotional bullies from the start, and I remember inappropriate sexual touch by my mother well before the exposures began. By the time I was of high school age, thinking the problem was my failure to fit in with the outside world instead of my abusive home life, I became unbearably nervous whenever I went outside.
To this day (I am in my late 40's), I have never had a date with a woman. For most of my life, I could not even speak to women because of the unbearable anxiety I felt around them. Yet I am heterosexual and enjoy the female form as much as any straight man. But I do not want to reinforce hopelessness (mine or yours). I was blessed to find a tiny male survivors' movement. I got into a male survivors' group derived from a workshop given by Mike Lew, author of Victims No Longer. This book is vital for any male incest or child sexual abuse survivor. I also found trauma-therapy through the St. Vincent's Hospital Rape Crisis Program*, the St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital Crime Victims Program, and the Survivors' Fund foundation. I am changing my life because of the fellowship and loving care they provide.
I now have friends who know me and my history and do not blame me in any way. A year ago I got the first good, secure job in my life; it is in the human services and permits me to help others. I can now rationally hope to get an MSW and help other survivors as a trauma therapist, a long-held dream. I even have a couple of close female friends, though no dates yet.
Progress and healing are possible. If you are a consumer with an unexplored survivor background, whether because of your own feelings of shame or a lack of encouragement from mental health professionals, there are survivor groups and trauma therapists who focus shame on the abuser alone. They will listen to your story with love and empathy. Please seek them out.
*call Jean Goldberg or Christine Fowley of St. Vincent's at (212) 604-8068.