As a child I didnít understand what had happened at the time of the abuse. I did know that I must not tell anyone, ever. Later the memories took on new and more troubling meaning when I became a teenager. They started to appear more often and made me feel increasingly apart from everyone else. In my mind I instigated and enjoyed the abuse ó even as a five and nine year old ó no matter the age difference. Discussing what had happened would have meant shame and blame.
I always worried someone might look at me and know, so I paid close attention to others for any sign they might have figured it out. No one ever did. By my late teens I reached a sort of mental equilibrium on the matter. I couldnít stop the images from appearing altogether, but I generally controlled when they appeared.
As an adult I thought I was a tougher man because of the experience; that I was mentally stronger and less emotional than most. I told myself that I was superior to other people because I had dealt with this thing on my own.
Those I worked with on the Hill would likely describe me as a controlled, independent, and rational person who could analyze a situation with little or no emotion. Thatís how I viewed myself. In retrospect, the qualities that helped me succeed on Capitol Hill were probably developed partly as a result of the abuse and how it shaped me.
In the aftermath of my arrest and all that followed, the mental equilibrium I had created to deal with my past is gone. Today the memories fly at me whenever they choose. Theyíre the first thing I see when I wake and the last thing I think about before falling asleep. I am not in control of anything anymore, not even my own memories. Itís terrifying.
In my life, I had only ever mentioned the abuse to three friends, and then fleetingly so. I never spoke to a mental health professional about this or any other matter until I was in the D.C. jail. I talked with a counselor there about my crime and the horrible hurt I had caused so many people. I didnít talk to him about my past. I didnít think it mattered because I intended to kill myself as soon as possible.
The session ended and I left to be taken to a cell. Before Iíd gone far, the counselor called me back. He said there was something he couldnít put his finger on and he wanted to talk some more. And then he just stopped and looked at me, not saying a word. He was the first person in my life who I think had figured it out. And he was the first person I ever spoke to in any detail about those memories.
That conversation was the first of many that have already taken place, and many more to come, as I begin the process of trying to sort this out and fix myself.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.