Possible childhood abuse
I am a 28 year old male. I have come to terms with the fact that I suffer from periods of depression. I also have a very low self-esteem at times. I have never had much luck with the ladies. At first, I thought I wasn't attractive - I lost my hair at a young age - but apparently I am not a bad looking guy.
Today, my luck with the ladies is much better (I show more confidence), my career is starting to take a turn for the better (I am hard-working - a workaholic at times - and intelligent lawyer), and I have an absolutely great support system in my parents and friends. So why the do I still feel depressed at times?
I have a very faint memory of being abused as a young boy. I may have been 5 at the time, and the abuser was about 16. I was playing hide and seek with my cousin, and this older kid (he was my cousin's uncle who was living with his family) was playing with us. I remember that I ending up hiding with the uncle, and sitting on his lap while we were hiding - at his suggestion.
I was a pretty sheltered and innocent kid, like most 5-year-olds. My parents gave me a great childhood and it would kill them to know that this happened. I don't think at the time I thought anything of it, but these days, I think about that incident. I know it was abuse. It is mild in comparison to the things that other people have gone through, but I could feel him while I was sitting on his lap. I can't remember if it happened again. I have another memory from a park, but I can't remember details. It didn't involve someone touching me directly or me touching them - just with clothes on - but I still must have known then it was wrong, since I still remember the incidents to this day. This individual may have abused my cousin as well (maybe worse). He failed out of university numerous times, even though he is brilliant, and seems to have some social issues and substance abuse problems.
I just need to know that I am not crazy for thinking that this was wrong. Telling someone isn't an option, but I do need to talk to a doctor, or maybe go through hypnosis. I want to deal with this now, and move on. Thanks.
Is this abuse? Is it possible that I am trying to make everything perfect in my life to try and cover up for this abuse?
First of all, I think it's great that you came forward and are seeking some help and healing for yourself. I agree that your experience affected you, and I don't think you are crazy for thinking what happened was wrong. As you know, child sexual abuse issues are painful and not easy to talk about. It's often hard to deal with such thoughts and feelings alone, but you're not alone in your desire to heal from your experiences and move on in life. Your openness is likely to help others who read along.
Child sexual abuse remains one of the most underreported violations today. It is often denied, ignored, minimized and rationalized by many. Sexual abuse often takes on the guise of innocent play as in your experience, but often child victims like yourself have a sense that what is occurring "just isn't right". Child victims often question their perceptions of the abusive experiences and sometimes minimize or try to normalize the abuse internally. Many children are told or made to believe that they aren't being abused, or that what is happening to them is their idea or somehow their fault. It's no wonder that acts of sexual abuse can haunt and confuse people well into their adult years.
Although such memories are unpleasant and invading, and can pop-up unexpectedly, it's likely they're coming back for a reason. It's often referred to as the "unfinished business" of the past. There are likely some feelings and beliefs that you may need to work through regarding the abuse, which could be manifested in your tendencies toward depression, workaholism and self-esteem issues. For example, the abuse occurred during very early formative years in your life, and many child victims experience what is called "traumatic sexualization". This is when a child victim's first introduction to sexual matters is a traumatic and unnatural one. This often leaves a child frightened and confused, with no frame of reference to measure the experience against. In addition, since the abuse is most often the result of an older individual offending against a young child (as in your case), the child often feels obligated to go along with the abuse, adding a sense of powerlessness, guilt and shame. In addition, child sexual abuse can cause sexual identity issues and role confusion. In my experience this has certainly been true for boys abused by teen or adult males, in that they often believe that male-on-male abuse somehow equates to them being homosexual themselves. Remember, as viewed through the eyes of a young child these unresolved feelings are very real and powerful and often linger into adulthood.
Lastly, I do have to say I am concerned about your belief that talking to someone or allowing others to know about the abuse "isn't an option". It may be true that certain people in your life couldn't handle knowing about the abuse. It may also be true that it would be difficult, but that they could handle it. It may also be true that they could turn out to be a good source of support while you work through the issue. I'm just pointing out that it can be helpful to consider more possibilities when such traumatic issues overwhelm us.
I have counseled men (and women) who were victims of child sexual abuse who experience profound freedom and relief through sharing their experience with others, whether trusted professionals or friends and family. I also feel obligated to caution you that there is likely no "quick fix" concerning the issue. Such childhood wounds usually require a substantial amount of thoughtful processing and dissecting, along with a good measure of being gentle with oneself. You were traumatized before, be careful not to hurt yourself now with stringent expectations. I hope I have helped you understand a bit more about the nature and effects of child sexual abuse, and given you some insight into your concerns.
Carole L. Miller
This question was answered by Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C. Carole is a clinical social worker in Maryland State, USA, and founder of Grace Tree Counseling Services, a provider of affordable Online Counseling and Therapy services. She has over ten years of counseling and social work experience, and extensive experience working with individuals and families. She believes that healing and personal transformation is possible through a genuine connection with others. Grace Tree offers crisis counseling, pre-counseling, trauma related therapy, brief treatment therapy, insight oriented therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapies, relationships and family interventions, and more. For more information, visit her site or her compact information page on QueenDom.For more information visit: http://www.gracetreecounseling.com