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#63247 - 12/08/04 12:51 PM Wanting to help, not knowing how
wildheart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 4
Loc: NJ/PA
Hi all...I found this site after a lenghty phone conversation with my best friend (since we go to different colleges at this point, we live about 5 hours apart, hence this was done over the phone) and am hoping someone here can help.

My best friend of 7 years called me tonight distraught and wanting to talk to me but seemed to not know how (which, in 7 years, has never happened). I asked him what was wrong and he said he just couldn't take it anymore. And I asked him what it was he couldn't take and he told me that he couldn't tell me. That it was something too awful, something that would make me hate him and think he was horrible and worthless. In disbelief I asked him if there was anything, in our 7 years, that he'd not been able to tell me, anything I'd ever said or done to make him think he couldn't trust me. And he just said it was too awful and that he couldn't tell me... After many, many rounds of the conversation going like this he finally broke down and my pleading with him to tell me what was going on finally broke through I suppose. He said that he might as well tell me, even if it meant I'd hate him, because he couldn't keep to himself anymore. I'm the first...the only...person he's told and this happened over 15 years ago.

Quietly, I listened as he explained that while he was only 6, his uncle was living with his family in their house. Right around the time he was 10, he began to remember his uncle doing things to him...he says the memories are sketchy at best, but knows that things were done that shouldn't have been. And I think it bothers him that the memories are so sketchy, because it keeps him from completely knowing what happened. And he doesn't understand how he can remember just little snippets and not the whole thing.

He went on to begin talking about how worthless (his self-esteem was never fantastic) and unattractive he feels, how he wants to get married and have a family, but thinks he'll never be good enough...the list goes on, and it breaks my heart. He's one of the nicest, most understanding, compassionate, creative, and gentle people I know.

As you can guess, he blames himself for what his uncle did. Says that he should have resisted or refused, that he shouldn't have listened to his uncle. He truly believes it was his fault.

He is also afraid to get anywhere near younger kids, having read somewhere that child molesters were often abused themselves as children. He has such a low opinion of himself, he somehow believes that being around children will make him do to them what his uncle did to him.

Once he finished telling me...I spent the majority of the rest of the conversation trying to make him understand that I didn't see him in the horrible way he was sure I would. I believe he at least sort of believed it by the time the conversation was over...but he kept saying he didn't understand how I could not hate him. A glimmer of hope: he did say he was glad he'd told me and that it was almost a relief to be able to say it to someone. Since this is the first time he's spoken of this to anyone, I didn't want to bring up the idea of counseling yet, because I just wanted him to not feel any further stress about telling me.

So...I'm looking for any advice or help about how to proceed. He's such an amazing person and I can't imagine what keeping this to himself for 15 years must have been like. I know the repercussions of the abuse and the silence must be many, and deep, and I want to do anything I can to help him begin to heal.

Also, and I hate to think about myself right now, but I know that if I'm not keeping myself together, I won't be of any help to him. I'm not sure how to process this information. It's a shock. And I'm so glad he opened up to me...but it makes me a little nervous knowing that I'm the only person he's ever trusted enough to tell this to. And I can't imagine how he really feels...but knowing as much as I do, hearing how scared and hurt he is...truly breaks my heart. I think about this happening to him and him dealing with it alone and in silence for so long, and I can't stop crying for him. I managed to not burst into tears on the phone, but the moment we hung up, I haven't been able to stop crying for more than 10 minutes.

_________________________
Seeking to be the best friend I can be.

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#63248 - 12/08/04 01:16 PM Re: Wanting to help, not knowing how
learning2remember Offline
Member

Registered: 10/21/03
Posts: 270
Loc: Europe
It's not selfish to take care of yourself. Try to think of who you can talk to about these things. If your 5 hours away, there must be people around you who don't know him, and he don't have to mention his name anyway.

You can tell him about this site.

You can turn to a pro yourself. I personally don't think any counselor with her/his salt would underrate what this experience means for you. Also, they may give you some direction for helping him.

It's good that he can talk to you, but think about your own limits. Think about how long you can talk on the phone at any time (5 hours would be too much for me.) Tell him that. Setting limits is important.

It's great he can turn to you, but not if he takes advantage of your time or turns to you instead of a professional.

I'm a survivor myself, so I know how hard it is to disclose. I also know how tough it is to remember things only sketchily (look at my name). I wish I had had a friend to talk to, but I didn't. I did find resources though: a group, a counselor, this site, some good books, etc. Over time, I told a professor, my wife, two counselors and my group, then later my brothers. It was never, ever easy. It was miserable for me to tell others, but it was important. And it got a little bit easier. (NOT EASY, just less impossible) Different people reacted different ways and I learned about how I am comfortable sharing this information.

I guess what I am trying to say is that this is all complicated stuff. Safe friendship goes a long way, but it doesn't solve everything.

I'm worried about your crying. While there have been times I only wished I could cry, it sounds like this is interfereing with your life. If you even just call a hotline, you may find it easier to function.

Hang in there. Take care of yourself. Thanks for being such a caring friend to survivor. It helps me to know there are people like you.

_________________________
"This is not my shame, this is their shame." Mona Eltahawy

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#63249 - 12/08/04 01:31 PM Re: Wanting to help, not knowing how
wildheart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 4
Loc: NJ/PA
Thanks for your reply. I just want to note that we weren't on the phone for 5 hours, we live 5 hours apart. No, I know that a 5 hour phone conversation would have been excessive. It was closer to 2 hours. And thankfully, I am well skilled in setting boundaries with someone looking to turn to me.

As for myself...you're right...I do have friends here I can talk to, and maybe I'm just tired, but, because this is someone else's personal issue, it didn't even occur to me to talk to my own therapist (nothing serious, just to help me keep a handle on a hectic life), both about how I can help myself absorb this new info, and how I can help him...I've spoken of him on many occassions since he plays such an important role in my life, but he wouldn't know I've spoken to her and she certainly couldn't disclose anything to anyone else...

And thank you for sharing some of your own story with me. In just the hour or so that I've been navigating around the site picking up information, I've come across so many willing to share their stories to help others. You have my sincerest respect for being able to do it.

WildHeart

_________________________
Seeking to be the best friend I can be.

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#63250 - 12/09/04 11:38 PM Re: Wanting to help, not knowing how
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Wildheart
You seem to be doing OK there, listening, believing, trusting, supporting and caring are good for us. I know because that's what my wife does for me. And she loves me which is always a bonus ;\) \:D

When you talk to maybe try asking him if he want's to talk some more. If he says no, then he means "no".
But he'll get the picture that you do care.
If he does talk, then maybe ask if he'd read a book such as Mike Lew's "Victims No Longer" which is excellent. ( and available via Amazon.com through this web site, and we get a small % )

http://www.malesurvivor.org/Bookstore/index.htm

What he's done is a huge leap of faith and trust, and it will take a while for him to accept that you haven't run away screaming.

Thank you for caring, and take care of yourself.

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#63251 - 12/10/04 01:24 AM Re: Wanting to help, not knowing how
wildheart Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/08/04
Posts: 4
Loc: NJ/PA
Thanks much for your advice. \:\)

I can't even begin to imagine just how much of "leap of faith and trust" it took for him to tell me....which is exactly why I'm worried about saying or doing something wrong. The last thing I want to do is make him think it was a mistake to tell me.

Also spoke to my own therapist today, as l2r suggested, and her advice matches well with what I've learned here and with what I originally thought I should do...I just wanted to hear it from other people who knew a hell of a lot more than me because of the aforementioned reason.

Again, thanks so much.

WH

_________________________
Seeking to be the best friend I can be.

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