I thought I'd share what my support system looks like, for two reasons - first, to show my gratitude and give some credit to those who form part of it, and second - to give other survivors who haven't yet built up such a strong network some things to consider.
So, what does my network look like?
1. FriendsI have few close friends, but as times got harder, I have had to lean on them more and more. I have learned to send of a quick SMS to one close friend when I need a comforting voice on the other end of the phone line, or someone to talk me out of doing something stupid. I have learned once again how much relief I can get simply from sending an email to a friend saying - "Life sucks, I'm struggling". I don't ask friends for advice - I don't expect them to be able to give it to me. But knowing that there are people out there who know my story and still care enough to listen, means a lot. I would urge every survivor to disclose to at least one close friend, if you can bring yourself to do so. The love of a friend who knows, means so much more than someone who doesn't know, because there is no "but if they knew, would they still...?".
If you read this, you know who you are - my dear old friend from my drug-using days, my much-abused former neighbours, my online friend from the other side of the planet... Thank you so much, all of you.
2. MaleSurvivor.orgMale survivor, as the name suggests, is an on-line community for male survivors of sexual abuse. It is populated with men who "get it". Men who have been through hell and back, and now band together to walk the road to recovery, fighting their daemons together - shoulder to shoulder. There is no deeper validation than another man who says "I know, I've been there'. I have only been a member there for a few months, but already I can't imagine fighting this fight without the support of my on-line brothers.
3. My Brother.Talking to my brother about my abuse history is sometimes a delicate matter. Considering that he also lived through everything I lived through, I have to be careful not to trigger him. Even so, he is still a valuable part of my support system. Of all the people in the world who understand parts of my struggles, he understands the most. I could not have survived the last few months without him.
4. My girlfriendMy darling... I believe that I don't deserve even half the love and support she's given me. She's been there at every moment that I've allowed her to be. She bore the brunt of my trust and abandonment issues, and yet bounced back, worked hard to understand what really happened, and was still able to put her arms around me and tell me that she'd be there until everything was ok again, and long after. I just hope that some day I'll be able to return the love she's given me and make up for the pain I've caused her in the months we've been together.
Fellow survivors - if you are lucky enough to have a supportive partner, treasure her, and make sure you never forget to say "I'm sorry" when it is needed, and "Thank you" when it is deserved.
5. My TherapistLast on my list, but possibly the most important. I am fortunate to have a therapist who is not only a registered psychiatrist, able to prescribe medication when needed, but also an experienced expert of childhood trauma in men. She understands PTSD, BPD, dissociation and addiction like few other therapists do. A rare find indeed. She's been guiding me through my healing journey, but also served as a valuable safety-measure in my darkest hour, when I was struggling with intense suicidal ideation. She made me call in twice daily to confirm that I am safe, and kept a bed in an in-patient facility on standby, should I falter. She carried me through the darkness until I could see hope again. Not for the first time, I possibly owe her my life.
I believe that the most important thing anyone who is facing trauma can do, is to find a competent therapist to work with. Their knowledge and experience, not to mention structured therapies like CBT , DBT or EMDR, can make all the difference in the world.
These five groups of people have been instrumental in allowing me to survive the last few months without medication, and without falling into the trap of self-destruction. I am more grateful for having them in my life than words can express...