My 7-year-old self and my 49-year-old self both say, “Thank You.”
When children are sexually abused, it has far reaching consequences into their adult lives. Sometimes these manifest as outward trauma. Sometimes they show up as self-doubt, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, depression, workaholism, and hyper-vigilance. I live these consequences as a survivor and I can see them in the story of the next guest on the podcast I co-host with Candace Sanchez entitled, “Unspoken: Conversations with Candace.”
She's dedicated Season 3 to male survivors.
Our goal is to provide a platform for men to share their stories of sexual abuse.
I was the first guest in an episode that dropped about a month ago.
I was sexually abused by a neighbor when I was seven years old. Although I’d shared my story in a few places, under controlled circumstances, it was the first time I’d written about it and shared it widely.
Self-doubt was the reason it took me 40 years to work up the courage to share my story publicly.
It’s also the reason it has taken me a month to write this blog post.
But, I’m thankful that I was able to find my voice through the podcast and blog post. I was hoping I’d get a positive response to the blog post. I was hoping I’d get some encouragement. The response was better than I could have imagined.
In actuality, I was overwhelmed by the supportive public comments on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter from family members, friends from my hometown, people I’ve worked with over the years, acquaintances I barely knew and complete strangers.
The private feedback I received (phone calls, direct messages and texts) was even more amazing. People told me I was making it easier for others to tell their story. Some even shared their personal stories with me. And in doing so, they began to chip away at my doubts and hesitation.
My own self-doubt makes reading the responses to my blog post somewhat challenging. That said, it's significance can't be measured. I want to thank everyone who sent words of encouragement. This blog post is a giant "Thank You" from both my 7-year-old self and my 49-year-old self to everyone who reached out. At first, I responded to every comment individually. As the comments continued to come in, all I could do was muster a like (really a love) on all of the comments.
But, anxiety, self-doubt and depression are not so easily defeated. I had a hard time accepting some of the praise. Several people said they weren’t surprised, because I’d always been brave, always been strong. Re-reading the comments again, I still don’t always recognize the person they’re talking about.
Another way my anxiety rears its ugly head is in my fear of not doing enough. In general. Almost all the time. In this case, I worry that I did not do enough to share and promote the next episode of our podcast, the interview with Kenneth Rogers, Jr. Sometimes I feel like I am letting everyone involved in the podcast down. Occasionally I’m able to get past that. This self-doubt and anxiety is something I have in common with Kenny. One of the reasons I put so much pressure on myself is because I know how powerful his story is.
On Monday, February 27, at 7pm ET, we will release the video of our second episode on our social media channels and my website. (The audio is already available through Candace’s website.) Kenny endured years of abuse, depression, and isolation before he was able to begin his journey of healing. Like me, Kenny struggled to find his confidence and his voice.
After finding success in speech and debate, Kenny turned to writing as an outlet for his pain, producing his memoir, Raped Black Male, and the How To Heal Your Superhero Series, which discusses various coping mechanisms related to superheroes such as workaholism, hypervigilance, and so on. Kenny has gone on to become a powerful advocate in the fight against child abuse.
I can relate to a lot of what Kenny has written about. I’m learning about how to deal with guilt, anxiety, workaholism, Imposter Syndrome, and more. Some days are better than others. Just getting this blog post written is an exercise in overcoming some of those demons. I’ve been working through these ideas in my head for the past month. It took this long to get them out.
My goal in sharing this ‘Thank You’ blog post is to inspire others to share their stories when they’re ready. If anyone is thinking about sharing something personal, look through these comments. Pretend they were written for you. Remember that all survivors – including Candace, Kenny and myself – are dealing with anxiety, self-doubt, Imposter Syndrome and more to varying degrees. My hope is that if you share your story, you will get a similar response and that we can begin to widen our community of survivors and supporters by talking about our experiences and working through our self-doubt. Even if you get a tenth of the outpouring I received, you’ll begin your healing process. We all deserve no less.
Season 3, Episode 2 of Unspoken: Conversations with Candace is available as an audio podcast. The video will be released Monday, February 27 at 7pm ET.