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The Childhood Sexual Abuse Hangover: Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

I've written about issues pertaining to suffering from post traumatic stress disorder brought on by childhood sexual abuse in the past and in doing so have touched upon my own personal history. Each time I've emphasised that I'm not looking for sympathy from anyone, it's just that I happen to be a handy example to use for the topic at hand.

There's still not a great deal written about men who suffered from being abused as children, or men willing to talk about it publicly because of perceived stigma's attached to it. Being raped by a man as child has as much chance of "making you gay" or making you les of "a man" a falling down the stairs would. Being rapped, especially being rapped as a child has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with exerting control over someone else.

It's all about power and being able to exert it without any fear of repercussions. How many young children, no matter what their gender, are going to go running to somebody to say that their father was raping them? The rapist usually makes sure that it won't happen through a combination of threats –"If you tell anybody everybody will know that you are lying and you'll get in trouble" and the use of cajoling lies –"Don't you love me, this is how all good little boys (girls) show that they love their father"

The last statistics I read about this subject were something like one in four young boys are sexually abused by somebody they know as a child, while the figure is doubled for young girls. Of course these are only reported cases, and I'm sure the figure for men would spike significantly if we were to know the real numbers.

Although the event is horrid enough as it is, the individual who is abused really begins to pay his heaviest price in adulthood when they begin to discover how fucked up they are. It's like a time bomb had been planted in their mental/emotional systems during the events and was set to go off when they had to start dealing with adult emotional stimuli.

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse establish coping mechanisms based on what happened to them. Love, violence, sex, affection, caring, abandonment, and neglect have all become mixed together in their heads and they lack the ability to separate one from the other. They will either be continually waiting for the person they are involved with to either lash out at them or leave them.

This will lead to vastly different modes of behaviour; either they will be completely subservient in the hopes of making the other person happy enough that they will never hurt them or leave them, or they will find excuses to end relationships early in order to prevent themselves from getting hurt.

There is also the potential for a survivor to go the route of becoming an abuser and carrying on the work started by his tormentor on others. I'm eternally grateful that I have no personal experience in that matter so can't speak to it, although I can see how given the right circumstances it is highly possible.

Abandonment and neglect can leave behind such residual resentment that a person would feel that they were justified in doing anything they had to in order to get their own back. The world did this to me, it owes me, and so I'm going to do it back to the world. Don't get me wrong; I'm not excusing that behaviour just offering an explanation. I know from personal experience how resentment can twist your thinking and corrupt your heart.

Unfortunately I've not been able to avoid the other consequences of being a survivor and have had to deal with more then my fair share of shit over the past fourteen years. As it stands I'm still peeling back the layers like one would work to expose an onion's core. At times and element of frustration sets in, and I wonder if it will ever stop and if I will ever find something akin to peace.

Where I've been fortunate is that I have a very good doctor to work with and have been able to isolate the base elements that are the root cause of a lot of the emotional baggage that I'm carrying. So instead of being overwhelmed by a huge barrage of emotional symptoms, I have only a few things that I need to focus on that make me feel like there's progress.

This is so important for a person who is going through this type of experience, be they male or female, because it is so easy to become emotionally overwhelmed. A survivor is usually a series of raw nerve endings where almost anything is a potential trigger for an abuse memory. Reducing the amount of stimuli, or even learning to recognize what they are and what they do is the first step in being able to recover control over you're emotional stability.

From there it becomes a matter of understanding that your reactions are being controlled by events that happened in the past and aren't necessarily the ones you want to have in a situation today. If for example the person you love says "I love you" and your reaction is to wonder what they want from you, it isn't coming from you, it's coming from how you were treated when you were abused.

Realizing that is the major step in reclaiming you life and overcoming the effects of what happened to you. Gradually you learn how to have reactions based on present circumstances not on the past. It's a lot of work and it doesn't happen overnight; reactions you've had for thirty plus years are not going to disappear on demand. But at least now you know who you are capable of being and have the means to become that person.

This is not easy work, nor is it very enjoyable; who likes to realize that what they've thought of as normal behaviour for years has actually caused no end of grief. I sure as hell didn't. But ultimately the feeling you'll have is one of immense freedom and relief.

So if you're still at the stage where every little thing, no matter how trivial, can send you into orbit, fear not, there is a means of escape and I'm proof that its possible. Find someone you trust who you can work with and learn who your really are and what you really feel. You'll love yourself for it.

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