This is going to be my secret and now no one ever has to know.
With that, I believed I'd laid hold of safety and security and normalcy. No one knowing about my trauma seemed the second best option to never having experienced it at all. For a moment, I felt the freedom to forget and exhale. But the liberty would not last.
When I was about 10 years old, the isolation of my pain almost killed me as thoughts of suicide plagued my mind. I was so suffocated by my secret that I believed only death would provide me the space needed to breathe freely. One day, I remember walking into my room, locking my door, tying a brown leather belt around my frail neck and trying to hang myself from my bedpost. It never occurred to me that the attempt was futile because I was taller than the wooden column.
As I contemplated how I could exit this world quickly and with the least amount of pain, I sat down and penned a three-page letter to my family. I shook with emotion and muffled my sobs as I shared everything I'd wrestled with and all the things I wanted to say but never mustered up the strength to speak. When finished, I placed the drenched pages into a small white envelope and taped it to the bottom of one of my dresser drawers. If I ever get up the courage, I'll kill myself. But at least in death, they'll truly know me. The letter remained in place for months, but eventually it became a source of fear and anxiety. What if my mom stumbles across it while cleaning my room? I'll be committed to a mental institution. When the pressure was too much, I retrieved the letter and tore it up.
The next few years of my life seemed to go well. I was an above-average student and happy enough—often quiet and yet humorous, like a reincarnated Harpo Marx. Friends were often difficult to come by, but I never blamed myself. I started to gain a little traction, and then middle school arrived. These years are awkward even for children with the most pristine pasts. Your face flares up with acne, kids discover how to be extra cruel, and your body begins to change with the influx of adolescent hormones. For me, this spelled "trouble."
I felt attracted to pretty girls, though none of them gave me much attention. But I also occasionally felt myself drawn to other boys. I stuffed these in my mind's box, never to be shared. After all, I was the son of a prominent evangelical pastor, and I knew that if anyone found out, I'd be dodging stares and whispers in the supermarket. That's the last thing I wanted.
In high school, I had several healthy relationships with girls but was still insecure beneath the façade of confidence. And in college, I rigorously devoted myself to my studies, embracing it as a welcome escape. I dated a few girls from time to time, but the turmoil inside kept me from letting myself get too close to anyone. I didn't feel like much of a man, and even when I was attracted to a girl, I was afraid I would never be able to love her as I wanted to.
I've been asked what kind of connection I see between these adolescent feelings and the childhood abuse I experienced. Did the childhood abuse shape my adolescent and young adult experiences, or were those parts of me already there? I'm certain I don't know the answer to this question, and I'm not sure anyone does except God.