An Open Letter to Adam Lambert
Synth notes, a voice, a heartbeat beneath the drums. From the first notes, I took a deep breath, and it was the last breath I managed for awhile. Better Than I Know Myself came into my life, bloomed in my mind, at a bad moment. I wanted to share this with you, to let you know what your music, your voice, and this beautiful new song has meant to me. I wanted to let you know how it helped me.
When I went to therapy on December 16th, there was a new face in the waiting room: a woman. She winced and acted like she was nervous of me when she saw me come in, her behavior giving off the impression that she was afraid of and disgusted by me. The instant I saw her reaction, I knew she was a rape survivor, she had to be. The way she looked at me, she may as well have been wearing a sign.
I was there with my friend, whom I consider my adopted dad. He’s the one who talked me into going to therapy, and my main condition before I agreed was that he would remain with me when I go, even sitting with me in the sessions. He also had to find a female therapist who was willing to agree to my unusual requirements. So there we were, two guys, in a full waiting room populated mostly by women.
Fate hates me; the only open chairs were way too close to the woman who seemed quite upset to see me there. I decided to take the high road and respect her discomfort – I leaned against the wall near the door. Every nervous glance she shot at me began to make me feel sick and stressed out; it made me afraid, too, and almost dizzy. I wanted to bolt out the door, and nearly did. Irrationally, I also wanted to scream at her: “I didn’t hurt you!” This happens to male survivors of rape and child sexual abuse a lot, and each time is once too many. I’m so sad and sorry that she was hurt, but in her eyes, I was a monster just for being male.
The session wasn’t easy, if any of them ever are. We were dealing with my fears of people in general and my ongoing struggles from growing up as a child and teen who was sexually and physically abused by my parents, and my father’s “friends”. I was still terribly upset by that woman’s reaction to me, and could hardly think straight. After the session, I had to spend some time in the men’s room being sick. This is what stress does to me, if I manage to avoid a panic attack. As it turned out, I didn’t avoid it for long.
As we left the office, that woman was leaving too, but she hung back in the hallway to avoid me. I heard her whisper to her lady friend, “Do you think the court makes him get treatment?”
She had assumed I was an offender, a rapist, who had to go to court-appointed therapy. She made this assumption on the simple fact that I’m male and I have facial scars. The dread, hate, and accusation in her eyes terrified me and broke my heart. I was a victim like her, but she didn’t even think that was a possibility, because in her eyes I was an ugly disfigured man, and therefore a criminal.
Her words unraveled me. I am not a monster, I am a survivor. Do not assume I see a therapist to cure me of evil. I am wounded, too. These thoughts chased each other in my head like frightened birds, ramping up my stress.
In the car, stress hitting the red line because I’m terrified to be in cars, it happened; I had a stray suicidal thought. It was so clear, it was practically a vision: I could open the door, fall into traffic, and hope the cars behind would kill me. Right away, I rejected it, but it spiked into a panic attack. In my mind, to drive out the thought, I tried to force it out of my head. I didn’t know I was hitting my head on the door. The door lock cut my forehead and I scared my friend to death. He kept telling me the names of all the people who love me to bring me around. As I began to calm down, he said I should tweet (I’m often on Twitter in unavoidable car rides to ignore my surroundings). Expressing my awful experience and a few thoughts about it on Twitter helped, and I began to calm down more. The kind and supportive responses I received almost immediately also helped a great deal.
At home, I went straight to bed, got a band-aid on my forehead and tried to return to normal. I’ve been in the habit of listening to a collection of interviews of yours, especially the Donor’s Choose series, to calm me when I need to sleep and I’m afraid of nightmares. I promise you I’m not some crazed stalker person, if I ever was in the same room with you, I’d run and hide. It’s just that your voice is soothing. You sound relaxed and friendly in those interviews, and it’s comforting to hear. That day I was too upset though and wasn’t calming down. My family was afraid I’d have another panic attack. My sister had your new song, Better Than I Know Myself, and she sent it to my boyfriend to play it for me. I was expecting the interviews. The music started, and I knew it wasn’t anything I’d heard before. Then I realized what it was just before you began to sing.
The song is beautiful. I know you’ve been told that a lot already by more important people than me. What others don’t tell you enough is how healing your music and your voice is for those in pain. I speak to other fans often who agree with me, that you’ve helped us feel better, even on the worst of days. Your music has given some of us hope, too – just when we were running out of hope.
My boyfriend told me the lyrics meant a lot to him, like you understood how he feels, and he said it was like it was written for us, from him to me. I listened to it on repeat for hours until I could finally fall asleep. I listen to it often, on good days and bad days; and I often wonder if anybody has told you what you mean to them, told you that your voice heals wounds of the heart, the spirit, and the soul. You help us dance, but on bad days, on hard days, you help us breathe, even when you take our breath away. Thank you for sharing your gift. I’m going to listen and breathe, until I’m strong enough again… to dance.
~ ~ ~
© W.R.R. 1/6/2012
For Adam Lambert, my stepping stone; and for all those who have felt the healing spirit in his unrivaled voice. We are still here, and we are listening.