Unless you're Superman, you've probably faced trauma in your life. It can be one of the major things holding you back from having a truly epic life. In this podcast I give you 5 effective tools to deal with past trauma based on my personal experience. The time to put the trauma behind you is now so check out these 5 tools to do it.
Welcome to the Epic Living Podcast with Jim Simcoe. I'm Jim Simcoe. I'm here to help you make your life epic, so let's get rolling.
I grew up south of Boston in a small town called Attleboro, Massachusetts, and raised by a single mom. My biological father lived in the Philippines. When my mom and I were on our own, my mom met my dad who is my legal father now, who legally adopted me when I was 10. They started dating I think when I was probably six or seven, something like that. I don't remember the dates very well because I blocked out a lot of my childhood.
The long and short of it is that from the ages of about eight or nine . . . Excuse me, probably about nine and through high school, I was sexually abused by my uncle. Not my uncle Patrick who I love dearly who will probably be on this podcast at some point in time who is one of the funniest people and one of the coolest people I have ever met, but by a different uncle.
This uncle was the gregarious life of the party uncle and he sexually abused me for about four or five years. Like I said, it's hard to remember the exact dates because I've blocked out a lot of that part of my childhood. I spent a lot of my childhood trying to avoid him. It always used to happen at my grandmother's house. My grandmother lived in the same town as us and she would have big parties and he lived there, too. My parents would come there. Because both of my parents were younger and just getting their career started, there were tons of times when they would leave me with my uncle, who was obviously very happy to babysit me since he was a pedophile and knew that he would be able to abuse me when they left me alone.
He always told me that everybody did this, but you shouldn't tell your parents because then they'll get really mad at you. The classic story of sexual abuse. For anybody on here who's either dealt with it, had it happen to them or know people who have, the crazy thing about sexual abuse is that one in five people has had some situation involving sexual abuse. I'm one out of five people. Anyone listening in, there's probably other people out there who have been faced with the same thing.
Anyway, everyone would leave the house, my parents would be at work or whatever, and they would drop me off with him and they would always drop me off in the late afternoon after school. He never sodomized me, but he made me do a bunch of stuff. He did a bunch of stuff. I'm not going to go into the details, but you can imagine that it was just a horrific experience for a 10-year-old. I guess it would've been 9-16. I don't really remember, again.
I never said anything. I never said anything. There was never an outlet for me at school. I was always a really, really good student in school and I got to a point in my life where I just didn't care whether I lived or died. I just didn't give a shit. I would think about a truck hitting me at the bus stop and I would think, wow, if that happened, then this would all be over and I wouldn't have to dread going to grandma's house.
Another part of it was because most of the abuse happened after school, for my entire life, I have always hated the late afternoon sun. I think that that's largely because I can remember the late afternoon sun coming through the window and I knew that he was coming to get me in the house when nobody else was there.
My point in telling this story, and I'm going to talk a little bit more about it as we go on is that I was eventually able to find inner peace. I just want to talk you through what my journey was in the hopes that I hope it helps you. I do believe that we've all faced some level of trauma in our lives one way or another. This has just been my journey.
When this all happened and when I finally graduated high school and I was able to get out of the house and avoid him, I had two choices. I could either fight it and tell people about it or I could just bury it inside and not tell anybody and just go on with life.
At that point, not being super-smart, I decided to just bury it. I didn't tell anybody, and I didn't tell anybody for about 15 or 20 years. I just figured, okay, well, I can deal with this. I'm tough. I'm strong. I'll just bury it. I'll pretend it never happened. It doesn't have to define me, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Obviously, I was wrong about all of that. I saw it come out in my actions. I would date people. For me, sex was all about power. It was never about love. It was all about taking what you want and who cares about the other person. I dated a lot of people and didn't have really, really great relationships. I didn't let anybody get close to me because I was fearful of it. I still had that level of dread and that level of feeling, not feeling very great about myself. I felt like I was damaged goods, not good enough, and I would walk into a room and see other people and think, wow, I wonder if anybody else in here can tell that I was sexually abused or I wonder if anyone else in here thinks I'm a fake or thinks I'm an impostor.
It's amazing what you can play out in your head about yourself when you're faced with some level of trauma like I was faced with and how you can justify it in your head and how it will all make sense in your head.
I really chose to avoid it and not really do anything about the abuse, not talk about it, not go to therapy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. My apologies. If you hear background noise, it's because I'm pacing around my office right now because this is kind of an uncomfortable topic for me to talk about, but I think it's really, really important, because if I can help one person in this, then it's more than worth it for me.
Anyway, I chose to bury it for a number of years, and when my triggers would come up like the late afternoon sun or feeling damaged or not feeling good enough, I just didn't recognize them, quite honestly, and I didn't know what they were, so I didn't pay any attention to them. I also, most of my life, have found that I like to take really, really long showers. As a green guy and as a guy who's protective of the environment, it's one of the worst things you can do.
One of the things I found was the reason I did that and still find myself doing that occasionally is because after these episodes would happen with my uncle, I would just want to take a shower and just clean myself as much as possible and I couldn't get clean enough. That's one of the reasons why I take long showers.
It's something that you have no idea how much it plays off to your life until it's happened to you. I'm sure there are people in this who are listening and have had this happen to them as well.
For me, I'm getting into the part of how do you find inner peace. For me, the turning point came after I met my wife, Kelly, and when we got engaged and when I went to my bachelor party. For my bachelor party, I had 10 friends who with me went to Dana Point, which is in California, which is a little beach town and we surfed and we went out drinking and we went to Wahoo's Fish Tacos and we went out to dinner, just had two days of surfing and playing volleyball on the beach, hanging out and drinking beers or whatever and it was fantastic.
Before I went on this trip, Kelly asked me, she said, "Are you going to go to a strip joint?" I said, "No, I don't have a reason to go to a strip joint. I'm not super into them. Who cares? It's not a big deal." I made a promise to her that I wasn't going to go to a strip joint.
Anyway, the last night of the bachelor party, I am super-super drunk, and anybody who's ever met me knows that if I have two beers, I'm out of my mind because I'm a very big lightweight. My friends are like, "Okay, we're taking you to a strip joint." They took me to a strip joint. I went to the strip joint and I barely remember anything about the night.
When we got home, I came home from the trip, huge hangover. Came home and I'm sitting in my kitchen. I still remember where I was sitting in the kitchen, and Kelly was in the kitchen as well and she's asking me about the trip. "How was it?" Then she asked me. She said, "Did you go to a strip joint?"
I didn't want to lie to her, so I told her the truth and I said, "Yeah, we did. I'm really sorry, but we did." She got very, very, very upset and we had a huge fight, probably one of the biggest fights we've ever had. As we're going back and forth and I'm apologizing and she's crying and then she's yelling, and then I'm yelling and going back and forth, I finally said to her in no uncertain terms, I said, "Look, I don't know what it is for you, but for me, sex isn't about love. Sex is about power and getting what you want, so I can't connect with you that way, and I'm sorry and if that's the only way that you want to connect, then we might as well just call off the wedding because I'm incapable of doing that."
She was obviously very upset and she didn't understand why. She's like, "I don't get it." Finally, I told her about my uncle because I hadn't told her yet and I told her all about it. We both sat in the kitchen and we both were crying. I told her everything. She was obviously super supportive. We talked further about it and she was the first person, one of the very first people, I have ever told about that. I told her about everything. I told her about how I hated late afternoon, how I hated late afternoon sunshine, how I don't even like the word afternoon, how it was my uncle and my dad's brother and all this other stuff. I told her everything.
What's crazy is after that, and we talked through a bunch of stuff and we felt really, really connected, we went upstairs and we made love and it was probably the most connected we've ever been. It was just fantastic. I was finally able to access a part of my own psyche on a sexual basis that I had never been able to access in 20-plus years.
That really was a stepping point for me. At that point in time, I had to make a choice. I needed to step up or I needed to stay buried and keep my feelings buried. At that point, I chose to step up.
After that talk with Kelly, I began seeing a therapist. I worked a lot of this stuff out with a therapist. I also began talking about. I would tell people. Even though I was nervous to tell people, I would tell people. Not just walk up to someone and say, "Hey, guess what? I was sexually abused," but if it came up in topic or if it came up in some way, I would tell people. I started slow. I started with a couple close friends, told them, and then finally I told my mom who was obviously upset. I told my step-dad, Tom, who was very, very, very upset and wanted to fly back to the east coast to kick the shit out of my uncle.
My uncle at this time had become extremely successful in the town that he lived in. Unbeknownst to my dad, because my dad didn't know it and my aunts and my other uncles didn't know it, they would send me texts or e-mails and say, "Guess what Uncle Blah-blah-blah is doing? He won another award. He's the mayor of the city. Baltimore is giving him a key to this. He's getting that and he won that award and he's in this magazine, da-da-da-da." None of them knew that this was going on. That was about the only time where I felt like I was really, really going to lose it.
I began seeing a therapist. That was great. Talked about it with people I knew. What I found was the more I talked about it, the more empowered and stronger I felt. I really at that point began to make a choice to say, you know what, I'm not going to let this experience define me. I've buried it for 30 years. I'm not going to let it define me. I'm going to . . . I'm not going to be a victim of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse definitely happened to me and there's nothing I can do about it, but I'm not going to be a victim the rest of my life. I'm not going to use this as a crutch. I made that choice. That's one of the things we'll talk about is choosing to be okay with it and choosing to not be a victim.
What I also did was I also started writing letters. I wrote a few letters directly to my uncle. I never sent them, but I wrote letters and graphic letters about what had happened and why I was so furious and how it's changed my life for the worst, just a bunch of things. Pages, and pages, and pages of letters.
Typically, I, like many other men in the world, am not really excited about going deep with my feelings or getting in touch with my raw emotions. You just don't typically enjoy this. This letter writing really forced me to deal with it, so I did it.
Eventually, I actually, after telling my mom, telling my step-dad, basically everybody in my family knew on one side of the family, but nobody on my dad's side knew. Remember, my mom and dad had been divorced.
I ended up telling my dad. I called him on New Years' Day once and told him, and he was extremely upset. We had a great connection. We talked for a while. We talked for a couple hours. He told me a bunch of stuff about his life that I didn't know about, some of the challenges he had faced. We just really connected on a much deeper level. I would say, actually, in fact, that that's probably the best conversation I've had with my father in knowing him since I was 10. It was amazing.
At that point, I had told my dad. I had told all of my family. Basically, everybody knew at that point. The next thing I did was I actually wrote a letter . . . Excuse me, the next thing I did was I actually called my uncle, called him on the phone, which I was nervous to do, but I did it anyway, and I forgave him. He was crying on the phone and making all kinds of excuses, just a bunch of bullshit as far as I'm concerned, but I forgave him because I needed to do that for me. I needed closure on the experience. I didn't give a fuck about him and I still don't. I could give a shit what happens to that guy, but I needed to take that final step.
What I found is in each one of these steps that I've taken, each one of these baby steps that have led into bigger steps is that the more and more I've talked about it, the more and more I've done therapy, the more and more I've written letters, the more I called him and told other people, the more empowered and the stronger I felt and I would feel a lot less like a victim and much more like an empowered man, someone who's really, really, really strong.
Part of that is as you going to to a point of having inner peace around this, peace gives you power. I got to the point where I was at peace with it. It's something that happened to me. It's not something that defines me. It's just something that happened to me and I'm at peace with it. I've done all the work and now I feel powerful around the issue. When I meet people, if it comes up in conversation, I have no problem talking about it. I have no problem telling people. Most people are taken aback. Most people are somewhat shocked that I'm as open as I am around it, but quite frankly, I don't think of myself as someone who's damaged. I don't think of myself as someone who's broken, someone who's unclean. I don't think of myself in the ways that I used to. I don't think I'm not good enough the way I used to.
Now I do what I can to help others. I serve on the Board of Directors of a sexual abuse prevention non-profit and sexual violence prevention non-profit. My thing is if I'm able to help some kids like me who were in that situation and don't have anywhere to turn, then I really want to do it, because I remember those days and I remember thinking I don't give a shit if I die. I don't care if I get hit by a truck. I just want this all to go away. I had nowhere to go. I had no outlet to go to, so if I can provide an out let for someone else, then I'm excited to do that and I'm happy to do that.
Here's the advice that I would give you after telling you this story. The advice I would give you in terms of how to find inner peace after trauma basically have five things for you to do. This is regardless of what kind of trauma you've been faced. Maybe you faced alcoholism in your life or you've been a victim of abuse or someone you know has. Whatever it is, we've all had trauma in our lives. I firmly believe that that's just the case, and unfortunately, that's just the way it is.
The very first thing I would tell you for advice, five things, is that if you've had trauma in your life, the very first thing you can do is forgive yourself. You need to forgive yourself. This was a very difficult one for me. I always felt that this was my fault. I always felt that for whatever reason my uncle doing this to me repeatedly was my fault. It was my fault for not telling anybody, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
The very first piece of advice is for you to forgive yourself. It is not your fault. This is not your fault. What happened is not your fault. It happened to you. It doesn't define you, but it it is not your fault. I can't stress that enough. That's the very first thing you need to do is be gracious enough to forgive yourself.
The second this is to make a decision and choose to not be defined by your trauma. Look, there are plenty of people in the world who are defined by their trauma. You see them in every walk of life and you see them walking around all the time where you can just tell, look, they've had trauma in their lives and they're largely defined by it and it's how they see themselves.
I believe you need to make an active choice to not be defined by your trauma. You need to make an active choice to say, "Look, this happened to me. I am not a victim. I will not be defined by this." That takes a while to do.
When I was going through this, this was not . . . I didn't really have anybody giving me this type of advice, but I will tell you since I've been through it, number two is choose not to be defined by the trauma. Choose not to be defined by it.
The third thing I would do is I would get help. Whether help is in the form of going to see a therapist, whether help is going out with your best friend and having some beers, a glass of wine, or playing racket ball, whatever it is, get yourself help. Get in a situation where you can talk about it.
I really do believe the more you're able to talk about it, with each word that you say about your trauma and getting through your trauma, that actually helps release some of the damage of the trauma because you're letting it out. It's like a yawn. You're just letting it out. The more you talk about when you're working through it, the better you'll be, which also leads into my next one, talking about your trauma.
You need to get help whether it's professional help or a good friend and you need to talk about it with your person, the person that you trust. Maybe it's your spouse or your partner. That's the third thing.
The fourth thing is for you to be public about what happened in appropriate circumstances. If there's an opportunity for you to tell somebody about this and it makes sense to do it, you should do it. You'll find that it's a very empowering thing. I even did it just recently in a group of 20 people that I didn't know. The topic came up. The woman asked for volunteers about something and I raised my hand and told her I had been sexually abused. Everyone in the room from then on looked at me differently and I had several people come up to me afterwards and say, "Hey, I really admire your courage to be able to do that. I admire your strength in being able to do that."
I know that the very first few times I told people or went public with it, I was scared out of my mind and I thought that they would never . . . People wouldn't look at me the same. What I found out was that was true. People don't look at you the same. They actually look at you better. They look at you with more admiration because they look at you and they say, "Jesus, that woman's got the balls to say that and she's got the balls to tell people all this stuff," or, "That guy's got the guts to let us all know that. How strong is that guy? How courageous is that guy?"
It is something that will be more empowering for you long-term is to be public about it when the circumstances warrant it. I don't suggest you walk around on the street with a sign that says, "I was sexually abused," unless you feel like you need to, but be public about it. Don't hide from it is really the key on this. By being public, you're not going to hide from it.
Again, this doesn't define you. This is something that happened to you and that's it. It happened to you. It's not your fault. It doesn't define you. Don't let it define you. I can't say that strongly enough.
The fifth thing is to help somebody else in a similar situation. What I find is working with that non-profit that works with sexual abuse and sexual violence prevention, what I find is that's an incredibly empowering experience for me and it's rewarding beyond means because I'm able to help a kid who's probably either gone through what I've gone through or has been faced with similar situations.
I can't say it enough that when you're able to help somebody like that, especially in a topic that is as near and dear to your heart as whatever your trauma is, it's incredibly empowering and incredibly fulfilling to you when you do that.
I can tell you, I've won all kinds of awards in my past career in sales, in corporate America. I've won trips to Mexico and I've made tons and tons and tons of money, and the single-best award I've ever won in my life I won from Jeans 4 Justice, which is the non-profit that works with sexual abuse and sexual violence prevention, and they awarded me their business person of the year a few years ago. I still have that award in my house. I won it in front of probably 500 or 600 people. To this day, that's the best award I've ever won. It's the one that's the most fulfilling to me. It's the one that is the most meaningful for me. I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's the one that I will always look back on and really, really be happy about is that specific award.
I really think that tying this podcast all together is that the goal of this podcast is to help you create an epic life, and part of creating an epic life is doing the things that make you happy and bring more love into your life and make life easier. We've talked about some and we'll continue to talk about more.
Also, part of it, too, is dealing with some of the shit that you don't want to deal with. Dealing with trauma unfortunately is something that you probably have to deal with. If you're lucky enough to not have any trauma in your life and you're listening, then I highly recommend that you help someone, one of your friends, who has had trauma in their lives because it's highly unlikely that you don't know anyone who's had trauma in their life.
Building an epic life, creating an epic life, which is what we're here to do, a big piece of this is having inner peace and getting rid of that trauma, getting rid of the affects of trauma.
Again, the five things to help you find inner peace after trauma, one, forgive yourself. Two, choose not to let it define you. Three, get help. Four, be public about it, and five, help somebody else.
I thank you very much for listening. This has been a very personal podcast for me to record. If you've had trauma in your life or if you ever want to talk further about how I can help you if you've got something I can help you with, please feel free to e-mail me at Jim@epicallday.com, Jim@epicallday.com, and I promise in our next podcast, we'll go back to laughing and probably a much lighter topic. Until then, I look forward to talking to you. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for listening to the Epic Living Podcast Jim Simcoe. I hope you have a great day. Feel free to check us out online at JimSimcoe.com. Thanks, again. Talk to you soon.