With the year coming to an end, I thought it only fitting to write a holiday blog post, and what better way to do this than by writing a Festivus themed post! For those of you who may not be familiar with the Seinfeld episode on “Festivus for the Rest of Us”, I’ll give you the back story. Here’s a brief excerpt from the Wikipedia entry: “The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, practices such as the Airing of Grievances and Feats of Strength, and the labelling of easily explainable events as Festivus miracles.” Along with its non-commercial aspect, I love the the practice of the "Airing of Grievances”, where everyone sits around the table and tells everyone else how they have disappointed you throughout the year—Yes, it’s sarcastic, but there might just be some therapeutic relevance to clearing out the wreckage and resentments of the past year and starting the new year off with a clean slate.
Because the mission statement of my blog is to be “positive” and to write about my year of transformation, I thought it prudent to avoid the negativity of the Seinfeld holiday, and for that reason, I’d like to turn “Fesitvus” on its head and write about how so many people have helped me throughout the last four months. The most inspirational quote to sum up my year appeared in my inbox last week. “After a while I looked in the mirror and realized... Wow after all those hurts, scars and bruises. After all of those trials, I really made it through. I did it. I survived that which was suppose to kill me. So I straightened my crown and walked away like a BOSS!” I love the brazen “kick-ass” nature of those words, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge all of those who have helped me dig myself out of a huge, dark hole.
For 35 years of my life, I’d lived with a secret that had slowly eaten away at my soul. First it chipped away at my sense of security and my self-esteem. Then it led to years of battling addiction, depression, and suicide. Eventually it left me with no place left to breathe, no place left to turn, and no alternative but to lift the veil of secrecy. In April of this year, two weeks before the Boston Marathon, I disclosed to my family and friends that I had been sexually abused as a child—my wife already knew a little bit, but she had no idea of the extent of the abuse. I registered for a treatment program to begin in May, and then the trauma of the Boston Marathon unfolded. When I came back from Boston, I was a broken man in so many ways. My first day back to work, I stood in front of my students and found that I couldn’t speak. I walked out of my classroom at 9:15 am, grabbed my jacket, and headed directly to my doctor’s office, where I immediately shattered into tears and a hyperventilating mess. I am blessed to have an incredible doctor who knew just what to do. She helped me sort out the paperwork for a medical leave of absence, and she arranged for some immediate PTSD support.
Another angel entered my life at this time too, and it arrived in a Facebook message sent to me after I disclosed that I had been abused. It was from a friend whom I hadn’t seen or spoke to since elementary school. She recommended a treatment program for survivors of childhood sexual abuse that she herself had recently attended. She tossed my a life preserver that I desperately clung to for three months. She promised that it would one day get better, and that there will come a time when I no longer am controlled by the trauma of my past. If she’s reading this, I hope she knows how much I love her and how integral she has been to my courage to “breathe through this”.
It’s often said that adversity shows us who are strongest friends are, and I can attest to how true this is. I have many friends in my life, but coming to terms with this childhood trauma has shed a light on how incredible a few of these individuals are. One couple in particular helped me when I was at my most vulnerable. They pampered me at their cottage, looked me directly in the eye and told me I had nothing to be ashamed of, but most importantly, one of these incredible people put me in contact with my new therapist. I would not be as far along the recovery path today, if it weren’t for my therapist Kim, who has sat with me for many hours and supported me as I pealed back the layers of childhood sexual abuse. She has taught me how to look at the world as a less scary place, and how to believe in myself again.
I hear a lot of people bashing social media as a mindless waste of time, but I consider it a significant piece of my recovery puzzle. For the first two months I was on my medical leave suffering from acute PTSD, I had zero concentration and was unable to read or watch television. Facebook, Twitter, and podcasts kept me sane and helped me stay out of severe isolation. I have become very close to a few friends on social media, and I am in daily contact with them. You know who you are out there—Please know how dear you are to my heart and how much you have bolstered me during this pivotal time in my life.
I decided to save the best for last because this person has been with me for 27 years—She’s seen the best of me and the worst of me, but at no time has her love for me ever wavered. My wife Mary-Anne is my bedrock. I put her through hell for years as the aftershock of my being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse cascaded throughout my adult life. When I finally cracked and could take no more, she gave me the strength to come to terms with the trauma from my past. The statistics are not kind—more than 75% of partnerships don’t survive a disclosure of childhood sexual abuse. It’s a fact that confronts us every day that we are going through this healing process. Mary-Anne gave my a card for our anniversary in August, and in it she wrote: “Who knew that 26 years ago that when we promised for better or worse, that it would be the worst that made us better.” If that’s not what wholehearted love is, then I don’t know what is.
And it is with this joy in my heart, and faith in what the new year will bring, that I wish you all a Happy Festivus for the best of us!