Gary

Counselling saved my life. Quite literally. It can save yours too.

Gary

I spent years beating myself up, self-harming, putting myself in positions of danger, just to escape the horror of being me, but now it’s different.

I am the person I always thought might have been within me. My younger and older self reunited. It’s not perfect harmony, nothing is, but it’s some kind of harmony and that’s enough.

Image from my Graphic Novel “Six” which explores my childhood with artwork by Iva Troj

Here’s me with Dario Gradi, the ex football manager who’s recently been banned from football for life as a result of The Offside Trust’s report into historical sexual abuse in sport.

Gary as a child shaking hands with Dario Gradi

Dario Gradi didn’t sexually abuse me, but two parents from the football team I played for as a boy did. They were at the same awards evening that this picture was taken.

People like Gradi allowed this kind of unacceptable behaviour to happen. For that, he’s equally responsible…

[Read the full story in the Guardian]

Suffering from trauma brought on by early-life unwanted sexual experiences, made me
feel incredibly alone, isolated, full of guilt, shame and lacking in any confidence or self-
worth for most of my life until I had specialist therapy with Mankind.

The effect of the abuse led to over 40 years of self-harming. Only six months of specialist
therapy with Mankind addressed the core, crippling issues that abuse brings on. I had
hypnotherapy, regression hypnotherapy, other supposedly ‘specialist’ therapy, but all were
ineffective compared to what Mankind offered – and delivered.

Talking to a specialist therapist is the best and only way forward for someone who’s been
abused. Take it from me.

As a survivor, I wanted immediate fixes to my personal circumstances, but confronting and
processing trauma takes time and is only really properly addressed by the experts. I say
time, it took only 6 months with Mankind. Incredible work.

I didn’t think I had a ‘problem’ in life for many years. I just thought everyone exposed
themselves, took copious amount of drugs, had overwhelming sexual fantasies, urges and
adventures with older men and women and made feeble attempts at suicide and that I was
no different.

For many years, I felt no shame or guilt about my actions, only numbness.
This was just who I was, right? No. I was stuck, I was acting out to explore and understand
what had happened to me.

Of course I knew about the abuse, I remembered it, but not in graphic detail. It had been
buried deep in my psyche. I remember the feeling that pervaded me throughout my life as
a result; one of intense, uncontrollable, obsessional desire but also one of deep confusion
and self-loathing.

Opening up to a counsellor changed my life. The skill and experience and non judgemental
approach from David, my therapist, made it safe and acceptable for me to talk about what
had happened to me and why I’d acted out like I had.

Counselling saved my life. Quite literally. It can save yours too. You just have to have the courage to talk and to open up. I say just, but
that’s everything…

The fall out from these ‘revelations’ has been brutal. An expensive divorce, not seeing my
three children every day, living on my own and the financial effect has also been really
hard to deal with. BUT, the emotional liberation, the happiness and the confidence I feel
has been built; I would say rebuilt, but I never had it in the first place. It’s been built and
now I know myself and, despite this sounding incredibly cheesy, I LOVE myself for who I
am and that is the biggest difference that’s been made to my life and, subsequently, others
around me. Loving yourself means you can love others. I still have issues with intimacy,
but from where I was to where I am…well, I’ll take that any day.

I can face the day now. I don’t have the self-loathing or sexual confusion I used to have. I
have confidence. I have clarity. I still have moments when all of this threatens to tip off the
edge of a cliff, but I can rationalise, I can regroup, I can refocus. I recognise when things
‘aren’t quite right’ and that’s… alright.

I spent years beating myself up, self-harming, putting myself in positions of danger, just to
escape the horror of being me, but now it’s different. I am the person I always thought
might have been within me. My younger and older self reunited. It’s not perfect harmony,
nothing is, but it’s some kind of harmony and that’s enough.

Mankind, and other similar organisations who specialise in crisis care, are genuine life-
savers. They offer a personal, one-to-one, focused experience that, strangely, makes you
feel so very special, listened to and understood. That’s incredibly powerful at a time when
you really need to be heard.

1in6 offers a really helpful collaborative experience for people who are looking for
information and support. They do this through self-help tools and really helpful videos as
well as sign posting to organisations who can help, from right across the country.
My mission now is to help Mankind and 1in6 to be recognised and seen for the brilliant
organisations they are, as well as helping others who have been affected by trauma and
abuse.

Having a community of people who have lived experience alongside specialist counsellors
and committed and empathetic staff is not only essential but really, really powerful.

Talk to them. To talk to me. Talk to us. We know. We care.