Michael begins his story with an assertion: “I have good memories of my childhood.” He speaks fondly, even reverently about his parents, including this: when Michael was still a young teenager, still very uncertain of his sexuality, his father took him aside and said this to him: “I know you like boys, and it’s okay.” And years later, when he did come out to his parents, his mother answered him with a testament of her love.
When Michael was 20, his father died. A year later Michael enlisted in the U.S. Navy. A Navy Corpsman, he worked in a Navy hospital, and began planning a career in medicine.
And then, in a single day, Michael’s plans were crushed. During a routine checkup, a Navy doctor, a Commander who was a superior officer, led him to an empty ward in the hospital and then into a storeroom. There, trapped and stunned, Michael was brutally sexually assaulted and then threatened: if he told anyone what had been done to him, the Commander would expose him as a gay man. Michael would have been expelled from the Navy.
Silenced and profoundly traumatized, Michael was forced into isolation. He struggled with a terror of authority, of any reminder of the Commander who assaulted him. He struggled with his buried rage. He left the Navy and struggled with authority in his civilian jobs. He attempted suicide, multiple times.
Slowly, Michael clawed his way out of the isolation that he was forced into. He sought help from therapists, but it took years for him to feel safe enough to tell them about the violent assault that was at the root of his struggles. Disclosure led to relief, led to validation.
Michael has found compassion and hope in his restored capacity for connection — with his husband, Roger; with his dog, Tulip. Asked why he kept returning to therapy during his years of struggle, Michael’s answer was blunt: “It was life or death.”
Thankfully, Michael chose life.
Asked why he kept returning to therapy during his years of struggle, Michael’s answer was blunt: “It was life or death.”