This is a blog post series by the author who wrote the devotion series "Dear Survivor". Follow along as he blogs about the background of his experience on his continued journey of healing.
Dear fellow survivor,
I was sexually abused when I was fourteen years old. I didn’t call what happened sexual abuse until I was fifty years old. For those thirty-six years, I carried a terrible burden all by myself.
I always knew what had happened. I just tried not to think about it. Most of the time, I buried it as deeply as possible in the farthest recesses of my mind. But things that are buried are still there. And the effects of the abuse still weighed heavily on me, even though, at the time, I had no idea why I was feeling the way I did.
I hated my body. I especially hated one particular part of my body, which I was convinced was way too small. I constantly compared myself to other guys and found myself lacking. I never felt as if I truly was a man, no matter how much my body grew and matured.
When I got married, I was terrified that my wife would be disappointed with me. I was afraid she would find me lacking, just as I found myself lacking, and would leave me for someone else.
I was uncomfortable around other men. I never knew why. But other men made me feel threatened, even if they were some of my closest, dearest friends.
All this and more I carried all by myself. I was embarrassed by all the things I was thinking and feeling. I was ashamed. There was no way I could ever share any of this with anyone.
But then my wife got me to start seeing a therapist. And that therapist helped me understand that what had happened to me was sexual abuse. He helped me to see that my dissatisfaction with my body, my fear that I would be a disappointment to my wife, and my discomfort around other men—all had their roots in the abuse I experienced.
Suddenly, all these things I had been so ashamed of, things I thought I could never share with anyone else, came flowing out. I couldn’t keep them buried inside me anymore. I felt this irrepressible need to share what had happened to me with others. But with whom? Of course, I shared this with my wife, who wept with me, encouraged me, loved me even more than she did before, and assured me that I never had any reason to fear that she’d be disappointed.
Sharing my burden with my wife was liberating. But I still needed to share my burden with even more people. So, I emailed my college roommate, with whom I had shared some of what I was experiencing over the years. I warned him that what I would share was probably more than he wanted to know about me. I gave him an out if he didn’t want to know what I was about to tell him. And then I told him about the abuse, about the burden I had been carrying for thirty-six long years. I explained how I felt. I shared my fears. I even confessed to him that I now realize that while we roomed together, I felt threatened by him. Then I waited for his response.
Waiting was nerve-racking. How would he respond to my revelations? Would he still be my friend? Would he be disgusted with me? Would he think, “I can’t believe I actually shared a dorm room with this freak”?
Soon, his reply came. He loved me. He wept with me. He would have called me right then, but he didn’t think he could talk without crying. He told me how honored he was that I trusted him enough to share all this with him. He assured me that he respected me and considered me an even closer friend now than he did before.
I wasn’t carrying my burden all by myself now. My wife was helping me carry my burden. My friend was helping me carry my burden. I wasn’t alone anymore—not that I ever truly was alone, but I felt alone before. Now, I knew I wasn’t alone. Others were walking alongside me and helping me carry my burden.
Since then, I’ve shared my burden with other friends. Every single one of them has reacted in the same way my college roommate did. They have loved me. They have wept with me. They have assured me of their continuing friendship and their willingness to help me bear my burden. Some of them have even told me that they, too, experienced sexual abuse when they were children.
I now have a close circle of seven friends in addition to my wife who all are helping me bear my burden. I depend on them daily. When I’m having a bad day, when my fears are overwhelming me, when Satan is whispering his lies in my ear, they are just a text or phone call away. They encourage me. They remind me of who I am as a dearly loved child of God. They pray for me. They listen to me. I truly don’t know how I could continue this long and winding healing journey without them.
My dear fellow survivor, you may feel as if you must carry your burden all by yourself. You may think that no one else could possibly want to get close enough to you to help you carry your burden.
That is not true. You are not alone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You do not have to carry your burden alone. I encourage you to find a close, trusted friend with whom you can share your story. Let that friend love you. Let them weep with you. Let them encourage you and assure you that you are not alone. Let them share this burden with you.
I get that the idea of sharing your burden may seem extremely frightening. Whenever I share my story with someone, I am nervous until I get a response from them. But I assure you that you have nothing to fear and everything to gain when you share your burden with a trusted friend who loves you. They cannot take your burden away from you, but they can help you bear it. Give them the opportunity to do that. Let them be the blessing to you that God intends them to be.
Your Brother Survivor