One reason that I have often kept my secrets was to avoid disapproval. It is a common characteristic of families where abuse is present that we don’t speak about it. To speak out loud about the abuse is taboo, it breaks the fundamental rules that perpetuate the abuse.
In the middle of the great depression my great-grandmother gave birth to fraternal twins a boy and a girl. She had very clear views about the nature of boys and girls. Boys were bad and and my grandfather was reminded of this all of his life. When he was an adolescent he was molested by one of his cousins, a secret kept for decades. Eventually my grandfather joined the U.S. Navy Construction Battalions known as Seabees. He was trained as a carpenter.
He was a damn good carpenter but his mother believed that he would only have value as a person if he was a farmer. He bought a farm outside of Rigby Idaho close to Lewisville and move his family. The reason given was to teach his son responsibility. Those years on the farm were violent and full of misery and sorrow. He was hear on a regular basis walking around his farm yelling at the top of his lungs “God Damn Farm”. Every member of that family was certainly living in hell during those years.
Towards the end of ’his life he confessed for the first time to his wife about being molested and how much guilt and shame he felt. Here was a man who was told by his mother all of her life he was not good enough. Inside he was being eaten alive by a haunting memory. What might his life have been like if he had been freed from the guilt and shame that was buried deep inside of him for decades?
Studies have shown that disclosing trauma and your feelings about those traumas have a positive immediate and long-term effect upon your health. It takes a lot of work to keep secrets. So much effort and energy can be tied up in keeping secrets that it can severely effect or health.
My grandfather grew up being told his whole life he was not good enough. He had a son,my father. My father grew up being told his whole life he was not good enough. My father had a son, Keith. I grew up being told I was not good enough. I have a son. My son has struggled his whole life with you are not good enough. My grandfather was molested as an adolescent by his cousin. I was molested as a child by a neighbor. My son was molested as a child by a neighbor.
Almost an entire century has passed since my grandfather came into the world. Years and decades of secrets have perpetuated violence, trauma, neglect and heartache. At the end of last year for the first time in my life I very publicly broke a fundamental rule. I wrote a blog post in November and a similar article was published in QSaltLake in January where I wrote about a specific event of domestic violence. Four generations of men who have been victims, and three of those generations have internalized this violence and perpetuated it against our own children. I broke the rules because we all deserve healing. Secrets have been the destroyer of our healing and health.
I loved my grandfather. He was often an ornery old man, yet he still found ways to show me he loved me. When I changed my last name at the age of 19 it caused a lot of hurt. Arlin was the first to publicly forgive me.
I love my father. He was one of the first people to stand by my side and offer support when I came out. For the first few years he called me every couple of days. When life looked bleak and I would think about ending my life I would know he would call me in a day or two and I could not do that to him. He is one of the reasons I survived the bleakest period of my life from about 30 to 35.
I love my son. He has the biggest heart I know. I am already forgiven before I ever apologize. Conversations with him about my own perpetuation of violence has helped me to see my own place is this perpetuation of abuse. I have hope that this will come to an end with my children.
The time has come when I am no longer willing to be the keeper of the secrets. Families and lives have been destroyed by these secrets. As the secrets see the light that energy used to keep them covered can now be directed to conversations and healing.