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Martian Manhunter and the Healing Process: Part 2

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During the Emergency Stage, survivors often wonder, why now?

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Flashes from the past, snippets of memories that make little to no sense, haunt them when they are awake.

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As a male survivor, when I entered the Emergency Stage I tried to think my way out of the situation. Like J’on J’onzz I considered myself an intellectual who was able to piece together clues to find a logical answer to a question. The only problem is, during the Emergency Stage logic is not the driving force; feeling is.

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Dr. Basil Van der Kolk explains in The Body Keeps the Scorethat when immersed in a fight-or-flight circumstance, the brain is operating with responses from the amygdala. This is one of the “ancient” parts of the brain that cannot be reasoned away. He explains that “if the interpretation of threat by the amygdala is too intense, and / or the filtering system from the higher areas of the brain are too weak, as often happens in PTSD, people lose control over automatic emergency responses, like prolonged startle or aggressive outbursts.”

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The feeling of panic does not go away.

 

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Panic that can’t be pushed or hidden away.

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Making you feel like an alien in your own skin.

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We wish for it all to stop, but instead the visions, flashbacks, and memories come one after the other.

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And when the begin to make sense we push them away, afraid of what the visions mean about the truth of our past trauma.

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We fight!

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We deny!

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We run!

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We believe that maybe the best option is to end our life. At least then the pain would come to an end. The visions would stop.

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We hate the images, but they do not hate us. They simply want to be remembered. They want to help. They want you to heal.

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We fight until we can’t fight anymore.

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We fear the truth will hurt those closest to us –

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turning those that were once friends into enemies.

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That is, until we find the one who allows us to be weak to grow strong.

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To be there when we need them the most. To guide down the path of finally making the decision to heal.

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Next week, the blog entry “Truth” will address remembering past trauma while continuing to examine the Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal. For more information about my guides Heroes, Villains, and Healing, and How to Kill Your Batman, or to purchase a copy visit my website www.lostimaginations.com or http://www.kennethrogersjr.selz.com.

Be well!

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Martian Manhunter and the Healing Process: Part 1

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Just after Christmas, my grandmother, Mamaw, told my wife to tell me to come over and look through the comics in her basement, knowing how much I love superheroes. I knew my uncle, Rich used to work at (maybe own) a comic book store, but I had no idea any were left over from his heyday, or the number of comics she had in her basement! On the way over to visit I expected to find maybe a box or two of really bad comics no one had ever heard of or wanted. I was pleasantly surprised to much more. It was like Christmas had come again! In the collection there were some real gems, a handful worth a few bucks, but the one I was super giddy to find and prized above all the others was the Martian Manhunterfour-part mini-series published in 1988, written and drawn by J.M. DeMatteis and Mark Badger.

I was not pleased to have these comics because their monetary worth (which is none) but because when I researching and writing Heroes, Villains, and Healing, I wanted to include a chapter on Martian Manhunter, but could not find a solid source to use as a reference. What I knew about the hero came from the television shows Justice League andJustice League: Unlimited, but not enough to connect to understanding the trauma of childhood sexual abuse.The animated series, and what I had read of the hero in Justice League, Martian Manhunter loneliness and isolation appeared more intense than Superman’s because he was not raised on earth and, while both Clark Kent and J’on J’onzz are both aliens, J’on never felt as connected to the people of earth as Superman. All of this made me want to understand his origins and how he became the sole survivor of Mars. The little information I could find on a Martian Manhunter comic was the before mentioned mini-series, which I could not find. You can imagine my joy at having found all four parts in-tact and in excellent condition.

After reading the comics I knew I was right to want to include Martian Manhunter in Heroes, Villains, and Healing.These comics detail with remarkable precision the stages of the healing process survivors go through when attempting to recover from the trauma of sexual abuse. This makes them excellent material to help male survivors understand the stages of the healing process. Because I did not include them inHeroes, Villains, and Healing  I will discuss and analyze the four comics in the next four blog entries over the next four weeks. However, before beginning, it is first important to know the steps of the healing process, and who the Martian Manhunter is before addressing the steps that will be analyzed in issue #1 of Martian Manhunter.

 

Steps of the Healing Process

In my self-help guides for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Heroes, Villains, and Healingand How to Kill Your BatmanI explain the steps of the healing process. In these guides I explain how the healing process is similar in the stages all survivors must progress through if they wish to heal, but different in how each survivor reacts to those stages. This is because no two individuals are the same, and so, no two sexual abuses are the same. The healing process is also not meant to be a straight line, allowing the survivor to move from start to finish in a set amount of time. J’on J’onzz demonstrates this throughout the four-part series Martian Manhunter as he attempts to deny the trauma of his past while it pushes to be remembered. Although there is no definite beginning, middle, or end to the healing process, research has revealed that thirteen steps are usually associated with the healing process. According to The Courage to Healby Ellen Bass, these steps are:

 

  1. The Decision to Heal
  2. The Emergency Stage
  3. Remembering
  4. Believing It Happened
  5. Breaking the Silence
  6. Understanding It Wasn’t Your Fault
  7. The Child Within
  8. Grieving
  9. Anger
  10. Disclosures and Truth-Telling
  11. Forgiveness
  12. Spirituality
  13. Resolution and Moving On

Although the healing process is believed to have thirteen steps, from my experience, I have found some of these stages can be combined. This is not meant to streamline the healing process, but because many of the above-mentioned stages happen simultaneously, creating seven stages rather than thirteen. These seven stages are:

 

  1. The Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal
  2. Remembering and Believing it Happened
  3. Grieving and Anger
  4. Understanding It Was Not Your Fault and Forgiveness
  5. The Child Within
  6. Disclosures, Truth-Telling, and Breaking the Silence
  7. Spirituality, Forgiveness, and Post Traumatic Growth

 

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In this blog entry, I will be using Martian Manhunter #1 to explore the Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal. It is also important to note that throughout all four issues there is a continuance presence of spirituality that is not fully understood until issue #3.

 

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-14 at 5.39.31 PMMartian Manhunter / J’on J’onzz

To understand this blog you must not only know the stages of the healing process, but also who the Martian Manhunter is as a hero of the DC universe.

When the Martian Manhunter appeared on the scene in Detective Comics #225“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”, creators Joseph Samachson and Joe Certa made one of the most interesting and powerful characters of the DC universe. During this Silver Age of comics, readers were told that J’on was the last Martian in existence who was pulled across time and space by a machine developed by scientist Dr. Saul Erdel. Unfortunately, the shock of seeing and meeting a Martian killed Dr. Erdel, preventing the hero from returning home. Trapped on Earth, the Martian decides to fight for justice as the Martian Manhunter, adopting the name J’on J’onzz as his alter ego.

J’on’s superpowers includes the ability to shape shift, fly, and telekinetic abilities. He also can become invisible with the ability to move through solid objects. His one weakness is fire. While this weakness may appear to be ridiculous in comparison to so many of his awesome super abilities, why this is his weakness is explained in the four-part mini-series. To tell you anymore would be spoilers, and everyone hates spoilers!

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Martian Manhunter #1 “Fever Dream” (1988)

The Emergency Stage

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The comic begins with Batman. While attempting to catch a criminal, J’onn appears from the shadows, screaming for help and resembling more of a demon than a hero. Batman manages to get J’on to the Batcave. While unconscious J’on says:

 

It’s inside me. I know it. I can almost see it. Touch it. Taste it. Yet I don’t know what it is. How many years has it lain there, twisting, like a child in the womb … turning … kicking…I’m so afraid.

 

If I had to describe the Emergency Stage of the healing process in the form of a comic, this is one of the closest depictions of the sheer terror, confusion, and dissociative episodes a survivor can experience (the other closest example if the “Vermon” series of The Amazing Spider-Man).

The Emergency Stage cannot be put into words. The only and best way to describe it is sheer panic. It is fear that cannot be rationalized or pushed away. I have entered the Emergency Stage twice in my life. The first was during the first week of college. After being homeless for two years, and finding a way to get out of that situation (not to mention the domestic and sexual abuse of childhood) I was finally safe. Unfortunately, the safety of my dorm room meant my mind and body believing the traumas of the past could now be addressed without going insane. This panic and fear caused such gut-wrenching pain in my stomach, making me believe I was going to die.

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The second time I entered the Emergency Stage was after my daughter was born. My wife and I had just purchased our first home and I had a new English position. I was the safest I had been in all of my life, hence why I entered Emergency Stage for a second time after not fully coming to terms with my past trauma years prior. J’on’s feeling of safety and mind and body’s readiness to enter the Emergency Stage is evident when he says to himself:

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-14 at 6.04.15 PMI’ve been on this world for…how many years? I can’t say for sure — but long enough to be comfortable here. As comfortable as a Martian could ever be among men. I’ve been on this world, protecting her people, risking my life again and again in the name of justice. And I’ve never known fear (except in sleep). I’ve never run (except in dreams). I’ve never been gripped by terror (except in the moments when that vague, unameable something reared up in my mind). But now, awake, alive, whole — I fear, I run, I’m terrified. Now I tremble like a child by imaginary monsters.

 

Like J’on, you may have built yourself to be strong as an adult man, but inside you feel afraid and weak due the trauma from your childhood. Like J’on, this fear may only visit you when you sleep, making you feel like the boy who was victimized as a child. As a boy maturing into adulthood, the only option you may have had to survive was to push the pain of the trauma away and this is fine. You did what needed to be done to cope. Unfortunately, like J’on there is only so long the past can be pushed away before it rises to the surface, but not until the mind and boy know it is safe enough (consciously or unconsciously) to come to terms with the trauma of the past.

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The Decision to Heal

After entering the Emergency Stage, the survivor must make the Decision to Heal. Here, the survivor can choose to either ignore the past trauma, or begin the process of recovery. Until the survivor makes the decision to heal, they will continue to return to the Emergency Stage. Many male survivors, unsure of what it happening to them and why attempt, to explain away the panic. Unfortunately, this is not only true of male survivors, but doctors and therapist who can make the mistake of misdiagnosing C-PTSD. Both survivors and their caregivers have the potential to treat the wrong symptoms causing more confusion and denial of past trauma. Rather than make the decision to heal, J’on and Batman attempt to explain the pain and the hallucinations away. J’on thinks to himself:

Of course. I understand now. The spore. The sentient cell! I absorbed it. Took it into myself to stop the plague that was spreading across the earth (from a previous Justice League comic). And it’s alive in my now. Fighting to break free. That’s why my body’s undergoing these distortions! That’s why I’m burning with fever! Then Batman was right. That thing I thought was after me. It was only a creation of my fever.

 

J’on does what many men do when faced with the reality of their past trauma. They attempt to fight the dissociative episodes and flashbacks by attempting to “become stronger”.

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They fight!

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They claim the dissociative episodes in the form of flashbacks are not real and did not happen!

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They become angry!

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They push those they care about away.

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While the survivor says this is to “keep others safe”, it is really to ensure no one sees them distorted, weak, and hurting, when all their friends want to do is help.

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Until the survivors makes the decision to heal, the past will not be silenced.

 

Screen Shot 2019-07-14 at 5.45.01 PMSpirituality:

Martian Manhunteris a unique comic to read. It is beautiful, producing hard lines, grit, and muted colors that can only be found in true 80s fashion. There is also an element of spirituality to the depictions of J’on’s dissociative episodes. Many graphics, while being made up of smaller images, come together to create larger pictures that resemble churches and evil demons. All of these objects make the reader feel connected to something they cannot explain, but hope to eventually understand. When entering the healing process as a survivor, it can feel unique, spiritual, and larger that life. The only option is to do as J’on does. Continue to hold on, putting it all together one piece at a time until, eventually, it all makes sense. I wish I could tell you more about the connection to spirituality throughout Martian Manhunter, but – spoilers. More will come into focus in the blog next week.

 

Next week, the blog entry “Burning Bright” will address remembering past trauma while continuing to examine the Emergency Stage and the Decision to Heal. For more information about my guides Heroes, Villains, and Healing, and How to Kill Your Batman, or to purchase a copy visit my website www.lostimaginations.com.

 

Flash Losses the Speed Force

Lately, I’ve been spending my time writing about Superman, reading about Flash, and thinking about Wonder Woman while continuing to read and educate myself further on the nature of trauma and healing. In the process of reading, writing, and wonder, I have consistently returned to the same question: what obstacles are standing in the way for male survivors to heal?

To alleviate these obstacles, I moved from strictly memoir writing to a self-help format that males can easily relate to in order to make healing possible while also being entertaining and connecting to a character they know and love. Although I know my writing and speaking on a sensitive topic such as childhood sexual abuse has helped many other survivors to begin the process of recovery, my thoughts can sometimes become negative. As a male survivor myself, staying positive while also practicing self-care is a full-time job on top of my other full-time jobs. So, believing that I am making any difference as book sales stagnate, good hearted celebrities continuously spout the belief that men and boys cannot be raped, and online advertisement comments for my books consist of jokes about my name or the how “hypervigilance is a good thing” rather than healing to become a complete person, was becoming difficult. I began to question whether or not men want to heal at all, or do they just want to remain bruised and broken, pushing those they care about further and further away. I know this is not true, but I could not find a more valid answer to the growth and perpetuation of toxic masculinity throughout our society until this morning.

While sitting in my daughter’s room reading Flash #41: “The Perfect Storm: Part Three” (2018) as she put together a Paw Patrol puzzle, something Barry said made clicked. In this six-part series, Grodd has stripped Barry of his connection to the Speed Force, taking his title as Flash in the process. However, before stripping Barry of his superpowers, Gordd says to Barry in Flash #40 by projecting thoughts into the hero’s mind:

Your mind moves so fast that controlling you is a challenge, Flash. But I can still gaze deep into your mind. To your darkest secret. The one that you keep from your family and friends! Who you really are. Forever the child who couldn’t save his mother. A pitiful boy unable to prove his father’s innocence. A man with no life outside his lonely job. A man unloved. A life that stood still. Until the Speed Force. Until the Flash! You had friends. You caught your mother’s killer. You proved your father’s innocence. You had it all. It’s what made you special. You hide and protect your powers. The Speed Force gave you the life you always wanted. Because you know in your heart that without them you would be nothing.

Later, without his powers, and on his way to release the villain, Godspeed from the prison Iron Heights, in the hope that he can help restore his powers using a lighting wand, Barry thinks to himself:

 

Wally didn’t know me until after I was the Flash. No one did. And I don’t want him to ever meet that version of me. The one from before the powers. Every time I’ve had to break into Iron Heights I’ve hated it. But I’m desperate. Without my powers, I’m just as broken as the wand.

 

After reading these lines, I began to think of Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.’s book Trauma and Recoveryand what she says healing truly means. She explains that once an individual moves down the path of recovery, “the survivor must be ready to relinquish the ‘specialness’ of her identity.” Herman goes on to explain:

 

Commonality with other people carries with it all the meanings of the word common.It means belonging to a society, having a public role, being part of that which is universal. It means have a feeling of familiarity, of being known, of communion. It means taking part in the customary, the commonplace, the ordinary, and the everyday. It also carries with it a feeling of smallness, of insignificance, a sense that one’s own troubles are “as a drop of rain in the sea.” The survivor who has achieved commonality with others can rest from her labors. Her recovery is accomplished. All that remains before her is her life.

 

What Judith Herman is explaining in these lines is that survivors who continue to heal and recover from past trauma eventually realize that they are not alone in their trauma. Through interactions, and a rejoining of society they see that so many others have been hurt in similar ways, if not worse. Coming to this realization means no longer feeling the strength associated with believing they are unique, special, or different, but the same as everyone else.

Please, don’t misunderstand what I am attempting to explain. I am not saying that the trauma of sexual abuse and assault is viewed as a good thing in the mind of a survivor. What I am saying is that when an individual suffers the trauma of being sexually abused their power is taken away. They feel weak, and no longer in control of their life, body, or thoughts. However, over time a survivor may come to believe that their sexual abuse, assault, or trauma, is the only thing that makes them special. While the sexual abuse / assault stripped them of their power, overtime that same sexual abuse / assault makes a survivor feel entitled to think, behave, and act in ways that are hurtful to themselves and others. The trauma becomes a source of power for the survivor, but in a negative way. Sort of like the Negative Speed Force. This way of thinking transforms the thoughts of a survivor to those of a victim and can be seen in the thoughts and actions of Barry.

Barry never truly healed from his childhood trauma. Instead, he was bestowed with the power of the Speed Force, making him the Flash. Before his abilities, he believed he was worthless. After receiving his abilities, these thoughts did not go away. They remained locked deep within his mind, making him believe that without his connection to the Speed Force, he will lose the life he has built. So, after losing his powers to Grodd, Barry felt as if he were nothing, quickly performing actions that resembles those of a villain in order to regain his feelings of being “unique” by becoming Flash once again.

In many cases, male survivors who do not want to heal from the trauma of their childhood sexual abuse believe that if they do, they will lose what makes them “unique”. They believe they will lose their “special abilities” that saved them as a “hypervigilant” child. They believe that without the skills they developed as a result of their childhood trauma they are nothing, and everyone will see how worthless they are. This is not true for Barry Allen, or other male survivors who are afraid to heal. Just as Barry’s connection to the Speed Force is not what makes him a hero, a survivor’s trauma is not the sum of their worth. Barry still had a loving father, and worked to become a great CSI detective for Central City. His abilities are also not what made others view him as a friend, leader, and lover. As a male survivor, the people closest to you do not love you for your ability to remain hypervigilant, or seek perfectionism throughout all aspects of your life. They love and care for you, for who are.

Choosing to heal is a difficult decision that requires a lot of work, bravery, and courage. Those of you who choose to make this choice are not choosing to become weak. Instead, you are choosing to develop abilities you never knew you had to become stronger than you ever imagined possible. Do not be afraid. If you chose to heal you are still a “real” man. The only difference is that now you’re also becoming a “better” man.

 

Your Ability to Cope with Trauma

I have been readingThe PTSD Workbook, and found some pretty awesome exercises that will anyone in whatever stage they are in their healing process as a survivor of sexual abuse! Mary Beth Williams, PhD, LCSW, CTS and Soili Poijula, PhD explain in understanding their trauma is recognizing the three major types of factors that influence the development of post-traumatic stress disorder: pre-event factors, event factors, and post event factors.

 

PRE-EVENT FACTORS

Some factors that influence whether or not a person develops PTSD is their exposure to pre-event factors. Unfortunately, it is the exposure of pre-event factors that has the potential to create Complex-PTSD (C-PTSD). C-PTSD is a form of type II PTSD where symptoms occurred early in life, were prolonged, and interpersonal. While childhood sexual abuse qualifies as possibly resulting in C-PTSD there are other factors which contribute:

 

  • previous exposure to severe adverse life events or trauma or childhood victimization, including neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or witnessing abuse

 

  • family instability, including a history of parental psychiatric disorder, numerous childhood separations, economic problems, or family violence

 

  • trouble with authority, even in childhood, including running away from home, school suspension, academic underachievement, delinquency, fighting, or truancy

 

  • absence of social support to help out in bad times

 

  • multiple early losses of people, possessions, or home

 

HEROES AND VILLAINS WITH C-PTSD

You may notice that many of the superheroes we love fall into many, if not all, of these pre-event factors. For example, the loss of Bruce Wayne’s parents resulted in an absence of social support to help in bad times. Clark Kent / Kal-El loss of his parents with the destruction of his planet, Krytpon, created a feeling of childhood separation with the loss of his family of origin. Finally, Barry Allen’s loss his mother and father created multiple loses early in his life. The list of characters continue in the Marvel universe with the death of Peter Parker’s parents, the domestic abuse and eventually murder of Bruce Banner’s mother by his father, and the absence of Matt Murdock’s mother before, during, and after losing his sight.

What’s also interesting is that many villains we may see ourselves as also suffer from C-PTSD. Bane grew up in a pit that filled with water each day with no one to care for him creating a sever life experience. Lex-Luthor’s father was a drunk and abusive forcing the young boy to run away on more than one occasion. Finally, while intelligent, Leonard Snark, came from an abusive household resulting in fighting and delinquency. In the Marvel universe Victor von Doom was targeted and hunted with the rest of his family, and Harry Osbourn’s father, Norman Osbourn, was verbally abusive and emotional absent.

The primary difference that separates one from the other is the ability to develop resilience from the impact of trauma. What is similar between the two groups is that both heroes and villains struggle to come to terms and heal from their C-PTSD. To move from identifying as either hero or villain, you must progress down the path of healing to become a survivor.

EXERCISE: MY ABILITY TO COPE WITH TRAUMA

 

In The PTSD Workbookan exercise I recently completed helped me to understand where I was in my ability to heal from the trauma of my childhood sexual abuse. I have been working to recover from the trauma of my childhood sexual abuse for over five years with the help of a therapist, psychiatrist, medication, and meditation so I may be a little further along than many other survivors. Even with that being said, I still struggle with depression, anxiety, shame, and grief daily. This exercise below may help you the same way it helped me.

 

Directions:Check those of the following statements that you believe apply to you.

 

  1. ______ I have a high degree of extraversion (I like to be with people).
  2. ______ I am open to new experiences.
  3. ______ I am conscientious in the work I do (I follow through).
  4. ______ I am an agree able person.
  5. ______ I believe that my source of personal power lies within me.
  6. ______ I am confident in my own abilities to cope with situations.
  7. ______ I try to find meaning in what happens to me.
  8. ______ I try to break down bad situations into manageable parts I can handle.
  9. ______ I am motivated to solve the problems that occur in my life.
  10. ______ I am generally an optimistic person – I see things more positively than
  11. ______ I take control in situations whenever possible, or at least try to take
  12. ______ I like a good challenge, and I rise to the occasion.
  13. ______ I am committed to overcoming the bad things I have experienced in life.
  14. ______ I have a good social support network – there are people I can turn to.
  15. ______ I understand my life’s circumstances and what I can and cannot do about
  16. ______ I have faith.
  17. ______ I have a sense of humor.
  18. ______ I have a sense of hope.
  19. ______ I like to try new things or look at things in new ways.
  20. ______ I am open to how others feel.
  21. ______ I am an action-oriented person – I would rather do something than sit back                         and let it be done to me.
  22. ______ I actively try to structure my life and make plans.

 

Observations

  1. How many items did you check? Do you notice any pattern of those you did or did not check?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

  1. What do you observe about yourself from reading these statements?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The more you checked, the more likely you are to take action and to work through the trauma that happened to you. However, if you have not checked many it does not mean that you are not deserving of healing. Everyone, no matter of their past, deserves to heal from their childhood trauma to become a complete person.

 

What I Observe:

  1. I checked 11 of the 22 questions. What I noticed about the questions I did not check is that I still have a problem with spontaneity. I do not like to try things I cannot control because it scares me and results in a feeling of insecurity and shame from being sexually abused as a child. It also makes me feel worthless and suicidal thoughts.

 

  1. I observe that I although I have come a long way, I still am in recovery.

 

*If you enjoy this exercise it can be found in The PTSD Workbook: Third Edition(2016).

 

Streamofconsciousness

I’m feeling pretty useless tonight. As if everything I have been working try and prove that men can be raped is a battle I cannot win, let alone a war I can conquer. How can I when people like Trever Noah, a very good, kind, intelligent, funny, and wholesome individual can make a joke that perpetuates the belief that men can’t be raped. Not only that, he says those exact words, leaving no amount of possible implication. And all of this during a stand-up routine about breaking taboos. God! What the fuck am I doing? Maybe everyone else is right and I’m wrong. Maybe I could have fought off the sexual abuse. If I didn’t want it then my body would not have gotten aroused, right? I wish I knew. I know the facts, but it’s so hard to believe them when the society makes fun of my pain and believe it is an impossibility. The thing that I also can’t stop thinking about is that if Trever Noah believes this, then what about the other people I know. Family, friends, individuals I speak with on the subject, do they believe the same thing? Are they just “smiling and nodding” waiting for me to shut up so they get their turn to speak? Why am I doing this? I know why I do this, but why am I doing this when I know where it leads; nowhere. I know these are just self-doubts. I know I make a difference. I have been told so by other survivors, but hearing this just makes me question the whole damn thing.

Why Only Write for Male Survivors?

Beyond a doubt, Killing Your Batmancan be used to help more than male survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The analogies used to describe hypervigilance, loss of control, feelings of anger, and overwhelming sensations of grief and regret can be helpful for not only female survivors of sexual abuse, but also military survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is because no matter what the trauma may be, it has similar effects on the mind, body, and brain of any survivor. However, the stigmas applied to each form of trauma throughout our society, make understanding the trauma and the road to recovery for each survivor different. It is for this reason I write for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

I am not a psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor for trauma or sexual abuse. I am a male survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This means, for now, I am only comfortable writing about the trauma I know and have experienced. It is a trauma I have suffered and continue to recover from. This book is an extension of my recovery. It is an attempt to help other male survivors while understanding the affects my sexual abuse has had throughout all aspects of my life. It is a refusal to remain silent while providing a voice for myself and other survivors who feel they must remain silent.

This book is written specifically for male survivors because male survivors of sexual abuse are often ignored and made to believe they do not exist. Writing specifically for male survivors helps to foster a safe community for male survivors. Creating this community allows awareness of male survivors to be recognized throughout society.

To ensure healing for male survivors the community must take an active role in acknowledging the survivor’s abuse, and that it did occur. This cannot be done in the shadows. While the “Me Too” movement has begun to shed light on the sexual assault, abuse, and rape of women, much more still has to be done to provide the needed support for female survivors. Although this is true, there are even fewer supports available for male survivors. Without the same light being shown on the sexual abuse of boys and men, male survivors continue to feel shame humiliation, and guilty for an abuse they had no control over. Without an recognition and restitution by the community in which we live, male survivors will never be given the opportunity to heal.

In their article “Rape Trauma Syndrome”, Burges and Holmstrom found that women who made the best recovers were those who had become advocates of the antirape movement, so why shouldn’t the same be assumed to be true for male survivors? Unfortunately, male survivors feel as if they must continue to hide and that the only individuals who have suffered this trauma, forcing them to feel weak and victimized throughout their lives. Soldiers and survivors of war have living monuments they can visit to express their grief, loss, and trauma while survivors of sexual assault and of sexual assault and abuse suffer their abuse without the possibility to living anchor to tether their trauma. Judith Herman explains that, “in refusing to hide or be silenced, in insisting that rape is a pubic matter, and in demanding social change, survivors create their own living monument.” This book, and others like it, are my attempt to not be silenced and create a living anchor for male survivors.

Becoming a Villain

Batman 3

“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Tom Hiddleston

 

“You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Harvey Dent The Dark Knight

Batman 1

It was summer, and the dash cam video of Philando Castille being shot by a police officer had just been released. Earlier that day, I replayed the video over, and over, and over again, analyzing the words between the officer and Philando, the legitimate fear in the officer’s voice, and the shots as they discharged from the officer’s gun to enter the open window of the young black man to take his life. Although angering and confusing, what struck me the most was the back door of the car opening moments later, and Philando’s daughter stepping out onto the sidewalk to enter the arms of the police officer’s partner. I watched her to notice any signs of tears, fear, or trauma as she left the car. Instead, I saw a young girl who did not run from the back seat of a car that had just been shot into, but opened the door calmly and entered a world in which her father was no longer present.

 

So many thoughts ran through my head eat time I replayed the footage. I thought, “That could be me,”and, “What would happen to Mirus and Amare if that were to happen to me? Would they cry? Would they know what had just happened?”

 

That night, I sat on the deck of my home and drank. Sarah came out to join me after putting the girls to sleep. She wanted to know how I was feeling, and as usually, talking about my feelings is harder than knocking out a rotten tooth with an ice skate with a coconut on a deserted island with a dilapidated volleyball named Wilson watching in the corner. Instead of confiding in my wife, I pushed her away. In fact, I did worse than that.

 

The night drifted with the twinkle of lightning bugs and the sound of drunken conversation from the busy streets of Baltimore. The nuances that began the conversation escape me, but I do remember her saying, “That’s interesting because you said I was ‘your rock’ in the video attached to your interview.”

 

Zero beats pass when I say, “I lied on that interview. You’re not my rock. I don’t trust you. I don’t trust anyone. I barely trust myself.”

 

Many beats pass as I take a large gulp of whiskey and coke, hoping for it to heal my viral heart infection and the hollow feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. Finally, she says, with tears in her eyes, “That may be the most hurtful thing you have ever said to me.”

 

This is where I turned the corner from bad guy and became the villain of my own story.

 

“Fuck your feelings!” I say loud and with anger.

 

I say these words over and over again as I rant, and scream, and become angrier with each passing moment thinking of that girl leaving the back seat of that car and the injustices of the world that would leave me with a viral heart infection and my principal in power after saying I cannot say I am survivor of childhood sexual abuse on school grounds. Sarah tells me to calm down and stop yelling, but it only makes me more angry. I continue to yell so much that the neighbor opens her back door to make sure everything is okay, but I don’t care.

 

Soon, Sarah’s tears are gone. She does not yell back. She does not scream. She does not walk away. She sits there, on the deck, and lets me be angry.

 

Five minutes turned fifteen and soon to thirty. Afterward, my whiskey and my anger are gone. There is only a thin residue lining my glass and heart. Sarah, says one thing before going into the house to check on our children.

 

“If you ever question how much I love you, know that I just let you yell and embarrass me in front of our neighbors for over a half an hour.”

 

I have had some horrific things happen in my past. I have been homeless, sexually assaulted, suffered from a deep depression that left me physically sick and wishing to commit suicide, but I have never wished to travel back in time and change any of them. Each of them, no matter how painful, made me who I am today, for better or worse. All of them except this one. I wish that night had never happened and those words had never left my mouth.

 

Becoming a villain does not happen overnight. The process is slow, like shifting from one moment to the next until the calendar marks the passing of yet another year without growing wiser. Life’s traumas and tragedies, like water, attack slow and steady, wearing away the civility of heroism and justice. If you let it, all it leaves behind is anger, manifesting its self into hatred attacking those closes to use because they are the easiest prey. They are the ones we reveal our most intimate selves to, so why not hurt them the most.

 

Like Gotham, I was hurting that night. The viral heart infection had taken away my health, a petite white woman in the form of a principal had stripped my power as male survivor by attempting to keep me silent, the world’s therapist and psychiatrist seemed to not want Heroes, Villains, and Healingas a source for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse with each blocked email address, and I felt more alone than ever as a sexually abused educated black male in a society that refused to follow the rules of good and evil.

 

I was Gotham.

Batman 6

I was the villain.

 

There was no Batman to blame. No Batman to kill. There was only me, hurting the woman I loved because I was in pain.

Batman 7

And that woman saved me.

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As a survivor, my victimization does not allow me the freedom of perpetuating  fear, anger, and hatred toward those around me, no matter who they may be, or how I may be feeling. It leads to becoming a villain / perpetrator / abuser.

It’s been over a year, but I still apologize for that night. Each time she tells me, she is happy that it happened. She saw a side of me I often keep hidden. I often smile, laugh, and attempt to make everyone happy, but she never sees me angry. She was happy to see my humanity and be there when I needed her. I’m sorry she was and I will continue to apologize. Too often women feel as though they have to be the punching bag (emotional and physical) for the men they love. It is not right and must change. I never want Sarah to have to feel that way toward me.

 

I’m filled with embarrassment and shame over that night.

 

Each day I try and make it up to her because she is my rock. She’s the strongest person I know and will ever know. Each day I strive to become the hero I wish her to see me as being. I only hope I have her courage.

Batman 2