When I entered into a survivor’s group for men that had been sexually abused, an older gentleman in our group said these words; “Only another survivor understands another survivor.” His statement was so powerful as we all had found someone who truly understood each other. It is critical in recovery to align ourselves with like-minded people, both with the same struggles and the same goals in recovery.
In 1988 I started experiencing deep sadness. I was married to the woman of my dreams, had a great job making great money, and owned a home. My life was everything I wanted it to be. Yet I found myself coming home from my bike rides and breaking down sobbing in the shower for no apparent reason. Knowing and never denying that I was emotionally, physically, spiritually, and sexually abused, I honestly felt like it was just part of growing up and that it had not affected me in any way. After all, many would tell me when I mentioned it was; it happened a long time ago and just get over it. With the breaking down in the shower and the loving urging of my wife, I finally decided it was time to get help.
The first person I reached out to was in a clinical setting. I remember how dark the office appeared and how uncomfortable I was. The psychologist wanted me to enter treatment as an inpatient for 30-60 days. This was not an option for me as I could not take that much time off of work. Besides, I didn’t believe I was that disturbed. So, my wife and I decided against that option. My uncle had been seeing a local therapist that he liked very much and suggested I reach out to him. After discussing it with my wife, even though I was doing better, the decision was made to reach out to his psychologist, Rodney Brimm.
Rodney was a great therapist who listened to me with empathy and compassion, as well as helping me to understand myself and my condition. Like any good therapist, he also had to tell me some hard truths like; it’s going to get harder before it gets easier. I had no idea of how difficult this journey was going to be. Talking about what happened to me with someone that validated my feelings instead of telling me to get over it, gave me great relief. While there were many moments of elation, there were also many moments, many days of dark depression. One moment sticks out to me more than any other.
My wife and I had spent the day at the park having a picnic with friends and family. At the same time, I was going through a lot of grief with my ex-wife over her move to Oregon and my visitation with my son. A very close friend asked me about my son. My reply was simple; I really don’t want to talk about it. Now it is possible that my answer could have come out sideways, however I really don’t remember. When we got home that afternoon my wife said to me; I think you are pushing our friends away from us, referring to the response I gave our close friend when she asked about my son. I instantly slipped into a deep state of shame. Such a deep state that if I had had a gun in the house, I would not be writing this blog. This scared me more than I had ever been scared before. So much so, the next day I was waiting for my therapist when he arrived at his office. After hearing about my experience, he put me on Prozac and my journey on meds began.
The Prozac was working, I finally started feeling good about myself again. Along with my one on one therapy sessions I was attending a group session once a week. The dynamics in that group taught me a lot about life. Between the one on one therapy, the group sessions, and the Prozac, I started feeling pretty good about myself and my life.
My wife and I decided to move to the Coachella Valley about year after I started therapy. Part of that decision meant I was going to be done with therapy, even against the advice of my therapist. I quit therapy with no alternate plan to continue and when my Prozac ran out, I did not refill it. After all I was feeling really good about myself. The problem was, I never fully addressed all the underlying issues that were a result of being abused.
The reality about moving to the Coachella Valley was that I was running away from my problems, or at least I thought I was. The problem with running away from your problems is that the common denominator, yourself, is always where you are. I was anything but okay. I had left a great paying job to start my own business with no guarantee of an income, all while raising a family. None of my issues were resolved. My self-esteem and self-confidence were non-existent. Yet here I was on starting a business. My wife was driving sixty miles one way to work, and we were living rent free in my in-law’s weekend home. I had everything I ever wanted, yet I was scared to death and feared losing it all. What had I done?
One of the things I was running from when we moved to the Coachella Valley was the drinking and drugging crowds we were running with in Orange County. Eventually, in fact in short order, the drinking continued I found the drugs I was using just as available in the Coachella Valley as in Orange County. As I fell deeper into my drinking and drugging, my depression started rearing its ugly head once again. So, in 2003 I once again sought help. The first therapist I saw immediately referred me to a psychiatrist who put me on an antidepressant and antianxiety med. This combination calmed me down and kept me stable for the next three years. However, I did not like the therapist I was seeing so I discontinued my sessions with him.
Over the next several years, my wife and I would achieve a level of success I never thought possible. My drinking and drugging kept getting worse. I could not understand why I was spiraling out of control. After an affair I had in 2004, I once again reached out for help. This time I was referred to Deborah Mients-Pierson by a friend. I did not hesitate to call her. Deborah worked with me starting in 2005 for five years, twice a week and I still see her about once every three months just as a check in. She helped me work through all my issues around my abuse, low self-esteem, low-self-worth, lack of confidence and so much more. She helped me gain the confidence and hope I needed to move forward in my life.
It has taken a lot to fix myself. My therapist, even the ones I abandoned and didn’t care for, as well as Deborah, taught me more about life and spirituality than anyone had before her, played an essential part in my healing. Without each of them, I would not be where or who I am today. I am also very grateful for my psychiatrist who has been patient with me and kept me from going crazy. Today I am only on two meds when I use to be on four. I have tried to get off of these last two with no success and I am okay with that. Sometimes it comes down to a quality of life choice. Today I can say that my depression for the most part is all but gone.
I had a psychiatrist pose this question to me. Knowing there is definitely a clinical depression that can only be diagnosed by a properly trained professional, he said to ask myself, Randy are you truly depressed or are you just sad? I can tell you that today the answer to that question 95% of the time is that I am just sad. Some situation, person, or thing has triggered an old memory in me that will cause me to become sad. Yes, sometimes it does feel like depression. However, when I stop and think about it, I am only saddened because I have been triggered.
I started by saying that only another alcoholic understands another alcoholic or only another abuse survivor can understand another survivor. With all due respect, therapy alone is not the answer. Most therapist understand the effects that male survivors of sexual abuse go through on an academic level. However, they have either not been abused themselves or they have but have not done their own work, in which case they really shouldn’t be working with this population. In doing so there is a very high probability of doing more damage than good. Believe me, I’ve seen the damage it can cause in far too many survivors. Saying all of this, it was not therapy alone that helped me. In fact, it was a trio of modalities that helped me starting with therapy, then life coaching or mentorship and wellness coaching.
It was with this trio of modalities that I have been able to find myself, overcome my anxieties and depression and become the person God intended me to be. I would be lying if I told you I had completely overcome all my anxieties, fears and depressions. However, I have learned that in most cases my depression in reality is sadness because of some situation, place, or person. My anxiety and fear are always brought on by knowingly putting myself in a situation I knew I should not have put myself in. What I do know is that depression and anxiety can be overcome with a combination of proper medication, the proper modalities of treatment and the persons willingness to do the necessary work to overcome it.