Will shares his story in the hope that helps you to find healing as he has done.
Before I had ever spoken about my abuse I felt this hazy dark cloud surrounded many parts of my life.
However after speaking to a therapist and talking more openly about what happened to me with other people I feel an overall sense of peace.
Hi, I’m Will, a 32 year old musician from Essex.
I made this music video in collaboration with other survivors. I was inspired to write this song after several conversations with people that had chosen to speak publicly or process their experience through the medium of art.
I have found the experience of creating this song and video extremely valuable and freeing. I wanted to share it in the hope that it might help others.
I understand for a lot of people speaking publicly is not an option but if the video can give one person the confidence to speak to someone then that would make me really happy.
I am going to share my story of abuse with you, and some of the effects it had on me and, most importantly, how I found a way through it all. I have written it from a perspective of what I would have wished to have read when I was first coming to terms with what happened to me. So here goes…
I was abused by a family friend’s son when I was about 5 or 6. It was something my mind had kindly supressed for me until I reached my mid-teens and I started to become sexually active. Like a lot of teens I was confused by the whole thing. With all these hormones all over the place it’s a pretty overwhelming time for anyone. It wasn’t until my first sexual experience that I had this incredible feeling of guilt. I didn’t quite understand it at the time. I was just so worried about making the other person uncomfortable to the point I would try and avoid it unless I was I was the one doing the pleasing and not taking any pleasure myself. That was the most comfortable I felt.
I didn’t think it had anything to do with maybe having been abused as it wasn’t even a memory to me then. However as I grew into my later teens I was getting more comfortable with sex but I think I was just getting used to the feelings and had normalised them. I also started to get quite vivid dreams. At first it was all a bit hazy and I remember just having pain in my behind after the dreams.
Over time the dreams became more vivid and I started to realise what probably happened but I also had this doubting feeling that maybe I was making it up. As a child/teenager I often told lies in order to make myself seem more interesting or to get sympathy or to change the narrative to make me look better and I think that part of me was worried that I was making this up too.
However, over time as the dreams and pain became more intense I started to trust this wasn’t something I was making up. However I didn’t really go to therapy as I think I had justified it in my head as well that it was something that happened once or twice and it probably hasn’t really had any impact. On reflection I think I just was a bit scared of going to therapy or what kind of demons might be unlocked. This was a kind of distorted view I had of therapy before I had actually been.
The idea that the therapist would just have this magic ability to unlock all of the scariest things inside your head. However it was during a relationship that I found myself struggling. I wasn’t sure about the relationship and I just found myself feeling really numb. I decided to go to therapy but in my head I was going to deal with the numbness. I did really find a lot of value in the process of therapy but I found myself keeping a lot back.
The abuse itself I did not disclose to my therapist as I was worried she would just say ‘ahhh the numbness, that’s classic abuse numbness you have there’. When in reality I felt a lot of the issues I had was to do with my relationship and being unhappy in general. After a while I stopped as it felt like I was just spending so much money and should have felt I could be honest; however, I wasn’t.
I then found myself doing more and more self destructive and dishonest things. I was lying to myself and my friends about being happy when in fact I was living in this kind of numb void where I just didn’t feel much. I found myself sabotaging relationships and just staying in unhealthy ones.
Eventually a relationship I was in ended and I felt incredibly guilty. The guilt felt the same as the one I used to have when I first started to have sex. I felt so terrified that I might have upset this person, that I might have hurt them. In the case of this relationship I knew that they were in fact angry and upset with me and I just couldn’t handle that idea. I knew that the feelings I was having felt more than just about the end of a relationship. A friend’s mum of mine was a relationships therapist and I always felt very comfortable speaking with her so I called up and explained the whole thing and she suggested going to speak to a therapist she knew that specialised in a type of trauma therapy called EMDR.
This was the changing point for me. Over the first sessions the therapist explained what EMDR was and what kind of things can happen. Then I remember the first session happened and I felt like nothing was happening. This guy is just waving his fingers in front of my face and asking me questions. It wasn’t until the night afterwards that I had the most vivid dreams remembering real graphic detail of the abuse.
However I woke up kind of feeling relieved. Relieved that I hadn’t made it up and relieved that I could kind of remember more than before. Over the next sessions of EMDR I remembered more and more and some times it was a little scary as there was physical feelings that came back to me and a new addition of there being another person who watched as the abuse took place.
However as the sessions progressed I found myself wanting to talk more about it as I didn’t feel the need to burst into tears whenever I talked about it. I remember the final session I had. I had the best night sleep I have ever had. Since having it I have had no more physical pain and the dream I have had once or twice since and it has been well over five years since I had it.
I know for some people it can be daunting and they are scared it could be re-traumatising to go back to the experience. However if done with a professional it can be one of the most life changing experiences ever. It was for me and I know for countless others that is the case. I don’t feel any guilt around sex, I am not scared of sex. I am in the most healthy and honest relationship I have ever been in. I went back to therapy some time afterwards and talked often about the abuse but often it was mainly just to make sure I was checking in with myself on a regular basis and I find therapy the most helpful way for me.
One of the other big parts of processing that happened along side all of this therapy and change was creating things. Music has always been a huge part of my life and I am very lucky now to be pretty much doing it full time. I remember trying to write so many songs about the abuse before EMDR and then even immediately afterwards but I always struggled to make it feel like an honest song that was actually listenable!
It wasn’t until a few years back that I finally had the moment where it all came together and I then went on to release an acoustic version with a video collaborating with other survivors and it was such a powerful experience. It was the first time that I had spoken to other people who had been abused and it was the first time I had opened up on social media to friend and some family about it and it really has just made me feel more at ease.
The whole process was so important and I still stay in touch with people and we talk openly about abuse and sometimes not just having a few people to talk to that have experience a similar kind of trauma is incredibly powerful to me. It was like a triple layered set of healing tools for me.
Therapy, Creativity and Survivors groups. I now feel the happiest and most at peace I have ever been. I still have days where things weigh me down a bit but I have found so much value starting to speak out more regularly and I hope that this can help some people take that first step to getting help in whatever form that may be for them.