My name is Nathan and I’m a thirty-seven year old man. I’m in love with a beautiful woman, I’m a proud father, and I’ve recently published a book. I’m happy… but it’s taken a long time and a lot of work to get here. I was a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of my older sister during my early childhood. I want to shed some light on how this atrocity continued to have a negative effect on my life for years to come, and how I finally overcame it. I want to share a little bit of my story with you.
In 1981, I was a six-year-old little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. I carried a Spiderman lunchbox to school, loved macaroni and cheese, Hulk Hogan, and most of all… my mom. I spent lazy Saturday mornings in bed watching cartoons, played hide-and-seek with my friends, and had cookies and milk in front of the television at night. In a lot of ways, I was just like the other kids my age. I loved my birthday and looked forward to Christmas. I enjoyed video games and going to the park. I collected toy cars, admired super heroes, slept with a teddy bear, and told my mom I loved her every single night.
I was also quite different from the other kids my age.
I was a six-year-old little boy with a dark and devastating secret. I already had clinical insomnia and cried my way through sleepless nights. I already had a stress-related ulcer and had to take medicine for it before school every morning along with my Flintstone Vitamins. My mom didn’t know what was wrong with me, and my dad didn’t care. They didn’t know that I had lost my innocence, and was being sexually abused by my older sister on a regular basis.
It went on for a year, and the rotten secret devoured my youth and completely altered my existence. My sister moved out of our house shortly after our secret was discovered, and we would remain estranged for years to come.
In 1988, I was an awkward thirteen-year-old boy doing my best to fit in with kids who hadn’t had intercourse with family members. I had a girlfriend, an older woman, of fourteen, who gave me my first handjob in a playground in Maine. I hated it and my reaction insulted her, making me feel abnormal and cruel. I felt sick instead of excited and the inside of my mind was being pelted with unnatural images of my sister, who I hadn’t seen in years. My girlfriend was disgusted with me, and looked at me as if I was a bug she’d enjoy stepping on. She wanted things I couldn’t give her; to touch me, blow me, maybe even have sex with me, but I didn’t want any part of it.
As the days went by, every time I would push her hands away, she would take it personally and make sure I knew there was something seriously wrong with me. “Maybe you’re gay,” she’d tell me with that look again. Obviously, this relationship was doomed and I was dumped in less than two weeks. I felt bad that my issues had hurt her feelings, but how could I ever explain myself, at thirteen years old? How could I explain to her that when she touched me, it reminded me of how my sister used to touch me? I would never find the words in time to prevent her from labeling me a freak, and running off to tell all her friends.
It hurt when she broke up with me, and I remember thinking I was doomed to suffer a lifetime of similar rejection. In the middle of the night, I got a steak knife from the kitchen and brought it back to my room. I cut my forearm, long and deep… hypnotized by the droplets of blood cascading down my wrist. For the moment, I stopped wondering what was wrong with me and the fragmented memories of my sister and I, naked in the basement, began to dissipate. Other kids my age were practicing their instruments and wondering if they’d make the team. I was honing a dangerous new coping skill, which I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
I was wondering how deep I could cut… before it was too deep.
In 1993, I was a seventeen-year-old young man, who’d just lost both his parents. My mother died after a five year struggle with breast cancer and my father died from bronchial pneumonia three months after that. They were both in their forties, and had been divorced for years. My sister had moved back up to New England, from Florida, and wanted us to be there for each other in this time of loss. I was orphaned and homeless, alone, and at the end of my rope.
My sister wanted me to move in with her, but I just couldn’t do it. I wanted to because I felt so alone and needed a family, but it was impossible and I started to feel like being around her was killing me. My big sister was nothing more than an emotional trigger, and I was a scared six-year-old boy again in her presence. I tried to cling to the last surviving member of my family, but ultimately, I failed and remained on the streets for some time.
While my forgotten friends were graduating from high school and starting their lives, I was peering out the windshield of my dead father’s car at the dark, lonely streets in the middle of the night. I was chain smoking and putting the cigarettes out on my skin, and I was thinking… quite seriously, about taking my own life.
In 2001, I was a grown-up, married man. Together, my wife and I endured a ten-year dysfunctional relationship built on a foundation of co-dependency. I was hard working, but numb and depressed. I was often successful in my various endeavors, but I remained detached and socially crippled. I alternated between periods of high functionality and times of complete insanity. Sometimes I sought therapy, and treatments, and found a wide menu of anti-psychotics and anti-depressants. I was in the habit of sticking sewing needles into my flesh, cutting myself with razors, and burning myself frequently.
With these times, the memories would come –fragmented and sharp flashbacks of my sister and I, entwined and sweating, behind the bar in the basement –memories with teeth that bite down and show my struggling little body and hers, bigger and stronger, writhing against it. I grab one of my box cutters from work, and cut my stomach a dozen times… until I’m lost in the blood and my sister can’t find me anymore. This might happen on a rare occasion when my wife tries to initiate sex later in the evening. I won’t be able to perform because I’m broken. My wife will take it personally, no matter what I say, and she’ll let me know that I’m killing her. I’ll cut myself again, for punishment this time.
My peers were buying houses and having kids. I was hallucinating, talking to my mother’s ghost instead of my wife, and thinking about taking my own life.
In 2005, I was divorced and on my own for the first time since I lived in my father’s car. I found myself in love for the first time… real love. Unfortunately, it came with the cost of being involved in a severely damaging love triangle. My new girlfriend was separated, but still married, and her husband was my boss. We were off and on for months, and each time we were off, I sunk further down the rabbit hole.
I started starving myself and I was cutting more than ever. I had to get a prescription from my doctor to get an erection. I developed severe social anxiety and started having panic attacks. Eventually I lost my job and developed full-blown Agoraphobia. I barricaded myself inside my apartment and waited to die. I thought about my parents… and talked to them. I thought about my sister, and she was with me again, invading my mind with the alien smells and slurping noises of our sordid past. I could hear her in my jagged memories, promising me our father would kill me if he found out about our secret and what a little pervert I was.
I was dying, alone, in my apartment, but it wasn’t meant to be. My newfound love, as confused as she might have been at the time, would not give up on me. Eventually I was brought to the emergency room and then transported to a psychiatric hospital, where I was committed.
Upon my release, I moved in with my girlfriend, the love triangle was no more, and we would go on to be happy and have a child together.
In 2011, I lost my mind again. Four times since the death of my parents, the mental illness that was born in my sister’s bedroom and nurtured through loss and death, has interrupted my life and threatened to end it. I was having audio and visual hallucinations at work. My panic attacks were back worse than ever. I developed severe Agoraphobia again, and all the guilt that comes with it. I stopped sleeping and eating –cutting myself sometimes twenty or thirty times at once. I would boil a pot of water and pour it on myself, and I even broke my own toes with a steel barbell plate.
I was living in a fugue state and losing my ability to function again. I made a mistake and tried to keep all this from my girlfriend. I didn’t want her affected by my madness, but I made everything so much worse in the long run. I wasn’t thinking clearly. Before I left my job, to be institutionalized for the second time in my life, I had started confiding in a woman at work and even kissed her. I had completely lost control and didn’t even recognize myself anymore.
I lost nearly seventy pounds in six months and cut myself hundreds of times! I was blacking out and cutting! I was having visions of chopping one of my fingers off with a meat clever. I had never been so afraid of myself, and never been so sure I was going to die. That used to be fine, but things are different now. I have my own family, and in spite of my serious psychological issues, they love me and want me in their lives. So I went back to the hospital and I explored every available option for treatment and medication.
In the end, writing proved to be the best form of therapy for me. I’d been writing my whole life, but I taught myself how to do it a lot more honestly… and thoroughly. I finally saw my parents for who they really were and was able to say goodbye through the words I wrote. I explored every relationship and event in my life, inside and out. I learned everything I could, held fast to my fond memories, and finally discarded the ones that were holding me back.
I have forgiven my sister for her crimes against me, and the more I write about it the better I feel. For so long, I’ve tried my best to keep my memories repressed and buried, only to have them come boiling up to the surface with a vengeance. That hasn’t worked, and now that I have a new lease on life, I’m going to do things different. I’m not going to hide my past or be ashamed of it, instead I’m going to let it empower me and drive me to do good things.
Now, I want to tell my story and raise awareness to the fact that some men like me, suffer for a lifetime from the sexual abuse they experienced as little boys. I want to turn all this pain into purpose, and maybe… just maybe, help someone else feel less alone. If I can do that, it will all be worth it.