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When CSA Wins: A Brilliant Man… Haunting Me

by Brittany Ann on May 19, 2012

*Trigger warning for talk of suicide, violence, and my blunt attitude*

In January 2011, one childhood abuse survivor of many finally acted to end his life. I know that he wasn’t the only one that January, nor was he the only one to write a damn honest and heartbreaking account of the aftermath of abuse. It’s stayed with me though. His words that describe his life, the life that many of us live now, have etched in my mind.

Bill Zeller died at age 28, a son and brother and a handsome young Princeton graduate student of many accomplishments within the technology world. This picture of Bill is a haunting one, seeing the beauty that life has to offer yet wondering what battle one fights inside.

Bill published a suicide note that I will forever remember and forever relate to. In the note, he talks about the many, many distractions he gave a go as he tried to escape memories of the abuse. He referenced the distractions back to as young as age 5. Even at that young age, this “darkness” was to be escaped as he played with his Legos. As far back as I can remember, I too was trying to escape that sickness of childhood abuse inside. For me, it has never felt far from the surface. It has always worked on me, similar to the bile you hold back from coming up to your throat during a stomach virus.

With a heavy burden boiling or merely simmering beneath the surface throughout the years, I can’t say exactly how it was for him, he considered suicide as a rational method of relief for some time. He convinced me that he handled all he could. Reading the note, he discussed physical issues as a result of childhood sexual abuse, difficulty with relationships including relating to others (he said he viewed the world from a distant portal behind his eyes), questioning sexuality, and let us not forget the basics of nightmares with periods of inability to find peace in sleep. It seems that Bill was one of us, that he did fit in somewhere, though I do not think he would have wanted to claim it. I don’t feel peace in claiming “survivor” status myself. It is simply what I found as I scoured for distractions, for something to hold on to.

It is true that survivors help one another emotionally, but we also stare straight at one another with none of the typical masking the elephant or flat out demon in the room. It can feel empowering to know a community where you don’t have to keep secrets. Aren’t we still keeping secrets, though? Despite such places, many of us feel a step away from perpetuating tragedy. Bill mentioned the irony of killing himself to potentially prevent himself from killing someone else. Damn, just tell it like it is, Bill.

I may be kindhearted as well as many survivors I know, but I won’t bullshit that it’s easy for me to know how to make the right choices with no previous examples. I know what is right and wrong, but I feel a connection to tragic scenarios that causes pure disgust for myself. I want my innocence back, as if I ever had any. Cutting and hanging dolls and hurting animals to externalize the pain was hardly innocent. I wish I could be pure and appalled at violence. I wish I did not re-greet the past as I greet each morning.

I don’t think that Bill would have hurt anyone. I don’t think that most of us would. However, I have been in discussion with my therapist about feeling like an infection and a burden upon others. I have always empathized with a survivor committing suicide, but I have never called it “brave,” “strong” of a person in this situation, and I have never vocalized the jealousy I feel toward their ability to follow it through.

My therapist asked if I was okay and safe with myself. Hell yes I am, unfortunately.

* To read more about Bill Zeller, including his suicide note, see here.

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