Welcome to the Ray Lynn Foundation website. The Ray Lynn Foundation is a 501(c) non-profit organization based in Minnesota. This website is here for those who want to learn and share. It is a place of support and hope for victims and loved ones who are concerned. Abuse has an all encompassing effect on the victim and the ones that love them. On this site, you will find articles and links to information that will help better understand the cycle of abuse.
I like these sites for many different reasons. They cover different topics in the search for a therapist that, while appearing to overlap in content, contain some important distinctions. For example, the WebMD site is a good introduction to a therapy search and surveys many facets of “what to look for” in a therapist and clinic as well as in the overall work of each. The Psychology Today website provides a local search capacity enabling people to look for a variety of trained therapists in a specific area of their world. Finally, the Good Therapy website gives detailed descriptions of some important distinctions (like the differences between psychiatry, clinical psychology, counseling, social work, family therapy, and psychotherapy) and definitions of commonly used clinical language. I trust these sites and refer anyone who is looking, invested in finding a therapist of best fit, and who has a critical eye for shopping for such to these sites along with the advice from above. My advice, limited as it is, follows.
First and foremost it is important to find a therapist who has good qualifications and training. Some may say that a good initial match is best and, though they make a considerably valid point, I continue to assert education and skill first. Let me explain why. To start, a point on which I think all psychologists, counselors, and social workers will agree is that every good therapeutic endeavor (that is the journey and commitment of counseling) is built on the establishment of a relationship not on an initial impression. Relationships of all kinds must be built and withstand some struggle before their meaning can be capitalized on. Further, while an initial impression of a therapist should never be ignored, it is important to understand that a judgment on a first impression is often flawed by previous bias and stigma associated with counseling and that is to say nothing of the interfering factors that accompany the mental health issues bringing the person to counseling in the first place. Second, while it is certain that the initial sessions with a therapist are useful for you to take their measure and estimate their worth, it is also a time for them to get to know you, attempt to understand your personality and the complexities of your life in a very short period of time. In sum, give a therapeutic relationship a chance, even if your initial impression is not magnificent. Therapists are people too with their own set of character quirks. Rather than on an initial impression judge your therapist’s abilities to empathize with you, their humanness in the face of your vulnerability, and skill over several sessions.
My final advice is to be a good shopper and a good self-advocate. Recognize that this is not an easy process and some of the very fears and personal issues that have stifled your well being to this point may rear their ugly heads with more intensity and impede your search for a therapist. Sitting down with the right therapist, especially following an effortful search, is really a large chunk of your battle already mastered. Trust yourself and trust your immediate support system. Reach out to them and ask for help in your search. Call local universities and ask in their counseling centers. Call local therapists and ask for ten minutes of their time over the phone to introduce you to the world of therapy. Do these things and do them again. Don’t give up. You can make it.
Here I am. I am almost 34 years old. I am struggling in the telling with exactly where to begin, or even how to begin. The thought of writing about my experience is contrary to my entire existence thus far. So, I am struggling with how to present myself and my story. I have harbored a secret that altered every aspect of my life. With everything I did, with every conversation I ever had, with every person I have ever met; my first thought was keeping that secret. I offered the world a filtered version of myself. I would fit myself into their perceptions and expectations. Now I am just going to willingly share it with the world? That is a terrifying notion. I made promises that no one must ever know. Never tell. I must be on constant guard. I must be diligent in keeping it.
Yet, here I am. I am staring earnestly at the screen as I type. Remembering old feelings: “I am diseased” “I am evil” “I do not deserve love”. It is in these moments of self loathing that I know that I must do this. I must speak of these things. My inner child had been banished to another room; the adult version not far away, concerned with keeping watch. Through the years, the inner child started getting restless and making noise. The adult scolded and hushed him. Never tell. It is time to call the child out and let him speak. This cycle of lying, deceiving, dancing, hiding, and keeping the world at bay has affected every relationship I ever had. It has affected my ability to achieve any kind of success as felt I didn’t deserve it. I held myself back. I kept everyone at arms distance. I needed to protect them from the evil that was me.
Yet, here I am. I am a husband, and a father. How can I possibly be great at either of these things if I am not able to let people in? How will my son ever trust me, if I am not able to pull down the guard and let him see me? There are things that I can change to better myself. I have to, or I will die alone having pushed everyone away. I need to give voice to my secret. There is no other way. As my good friend Dr. Michael Huxford told me, "it's not about beating the demon, but putting him on a leash". This will be my attempt to do just that. The more times I speak of it, the less power it has to control. I am the man I see in the mirror because of all of the lessons I have learned. They make me uniquely me. They have shaped the good as well as the bad traits I carry.
So, here I am about to share my life. The adult and child are about to take the demon for a walk. Not long ago, a battle would have waged. The adult would fiercely defend the child against the demon. The outcomes would end the same every time in self hatred, self loathing, and self destruction. A few more details and memories would be won, but it seemed hardly worth the fight. The adult would slink away wounded, sad, and angry. Not today. It ends today. Here is my story:
I think it best to work backwards. Most of what I am about to relay, I began to remember as an adult. My understanding of these emotions, memories, and actions did not make sense until I sought professional help. This happened one year ago. I have been able to piece it all together and make sense of things finally at the age of 34.
I don’t have many memories from childhood. I thought this was normal until I met my wife. She had vivid, happy childhood memories. I had a few mental images of childhood, but the majority of what I remember now were not made available until I was in my 20’s. I guess it doesn’t matter how or why it happened; whether it was a conscious effort on my part to dig deep and look at myself or if by circumstance. However I define the process, the outcomes were that I started to remember pieces from my childhood. The catalyst was getting fired from a corporate job. I had played by other people’s rules to the detriment of my own vision of what my life was to be. I was not true to myself. I was horribly depressed. I had failed. I was a failure. I didn’t deserve success anyway. I was a piece of shit. Evil.
Then for the first time, I began to look at why I did the things I did. Instead of just leaving it alone and pushing it out of my head, I decided to turn and fight. I started really thinking hard about the terrible things I had done. I couldn’t accept it. There was something I was missing. So, I lingered in the small details of events, looking for clues as to my actions and behavior. I was dangerously depressed for almost a year. My days spent locked in a room; obsessing and writing, always coming back to the same terrible memory of a 12 year old boy and the aftermath. I could not remember much before that.
In reflecting on my teenage years, I remembered severing ties with anyone close to me. I felt like there was a death of part of me. I was hollowed out. I did not have any idea how to verbalize my feelings, let alone understand them. My parents looked past what had to be an obvious change in behavior. As my father recently told me, “There is nothing worse than a parent watching their child struggle, but not understanding how to help them.” I would give anything to be able to go back and have a talk with the people who were supposed to tend for my well being. As you can tell, I still carry bitterness towards them. I was left to my own. Utterly alone without any clue how to process tragedy through my 12 year old eyes.
I did the only thing I could think of…protect those around me from the demon that lurked just below the surface. I was diseased. I could not let anyone even suspect of the ugly I concealed. So, I found new friends. People like me who “didn’t give a fuck”; each pissed at the world for their own reasons. I was filled with rage. We were liars and thieves. I knew what we were doing was wrong, but I could give a fuck. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered. I was a chameleon. I could blend in. I was very intuitive and used that to my advantage (I now know that having a strong intuition is a survival skill that many victims of abuse share). I was great at saying the right things. I was great at making people laugh; throwing them off track.
At home, I had four little brothers who depended on me. They must never know. I had to protect them from the real truth. In private, I would cry for hours in my bedroom. I was alone. I deserved to be. Yet, I was desperate for love. I wrote in a journal. I listened to sad songs. I craved solitude. It was the safest for everyone. I would rise the next day. Put on my happy face. Crack a few jokes. The rage inside close to the surface, but I was ever so controlled. I lied about everything. I was pathological. I would make up stories to tell in the hopes that people would like me. I would lie to keep them from seeing the real me; from getting too close and discovering the evil that I concealed. I lived according to others. I was never true to myself. I was to never trust myself. I followed.
Sometimes the anxiety of keeping my secrets would get the best of me, and those around me could catch glimpses of something dark. By this time the anxiety was almost crippling. I was having a hard time engaging others. I chose instead to become a wallflower. I remained quiet. I watched. Then I found alcohol. I now had an excuse to let my personality out. I was a good time kid. I had found a way to make sure people liked me. I was funny. I was charming. I was crazy. Everyone knew that Ray would do anything. He didn’t give a fuck. I would work solely on the surface. I never had true friends. In reality, I was the punching bag of the group. I was the problem child my friends would blame stuff on. I would poke fun at myself. I would pretend that I was not sensitive. It did not matter. I recognized that our society thrived on the superficial. I was accepted and this set the stage for college.
I like to refer to myself during this next phase of my life as “the douche bag.” I had perfected the persona of a fun loving party animal. I joined a fraternity. The anger and depression were still there, I just buried it very deep beneath my lies and bullshit. Besides, it didn’t matter as long as the surface was shiny and clean. I poured myself into this version. There were even a couple of days during this time when I actually did not think about it. I was still a liar. I partied hard, and I made sure that everybody loved me. I was nice. I was funny. I was crazy when needed. I had found a niche. I had to fit the mold. My outsides showed no cracks.
My future wife came into the picture at this time. She had a profound effect on me. She saw through the bravado and saw a very kind person. Here was this beautiful, strong, and focused girl that was bound for success and I was incredibly lucky. She helped me see that I had a chance to better myself. I was in the perfect place to do it. I shifted my priorities. I focused on school. I worked full time. I partied much less. I was going to be successful. She believed in me. Yet, I could never let her see the terrible darkness inside me. I deceived her at every turn while still giving all the love I could muster. I found myself melding into her ideal version of me. We never argued. I did whatever she thought best. I cut ties with old friends. She helped me see that they used me. She protected me. I didn’t deserve life, let alone love. I had no plans or dreams. The true me was an apparition; a ghost residue. That person did not exist. There was no future except her.
The next two years saw me as a salesperson at a corporate job. I made insane amounts of money. I got paid to be a liar and a thief. I was rewarded for taking advantage of people. I was very good at this. It was natural. I had been doing it for years. The American dream was there for me. We bought a nice car. We lived well. I moved up and things couldn’t be more perfect. I was successful. My wife was proud. Her family had come around; they no longer hated me. I worked 80 hours a week and was doing my part. I had done a great job gaining approval from everyone around me. Out of the blue, I was downsized.
This was the first major catalyst in my life. I was horribly depressed. I had done what was asked and failed. I was miserable. It was proof that I did not deserve happiness. I did not deserve love. I retreated inside my head. I decided it was time to turn and fight. All of my careful disguises were crumbling. I had to reevaluate. I needed to understand that 12 year old boy. I was 23. It was time to investigate with fresh eyes. My mind was a movie as I constantly hit replay. I worked desperately, salvaging through memories looking for any clue. It was brutal as I continually reminded myself of how ugly I truly was. I would be better off alone. I will let them all down. I am a disappointment on every level. I wanted to die.
I started to remember childhood events. At 5, I remembered being forced to perform cunnilingus on a girl in a basement. I remembered my parents friend’s little boy and how he would shove safety pins into his urethra. I remembered blind rage. I remembered throwing a chair at my kindergarten teachers heads, beating up my friends, dysfunction, and poverty. I remembered being surrounded by drugs and alcohol. I remembered having sex for the first time at 9 with a family friend the same age. I thought of having potato soup every night for supper. I remembered going without so that my little brothers could eat. I remembered oral sex with the girl next door at age 11. So many pieces of memories, but I had no context. They did not form a picture. So, I pressed harder. I deconstructed myself even further. What am I missing? I questioned my sexuality. Maybe I was gay. I would get anxious and awkward around men. I trusted women. I recognized attractive men. It made sense. Yet, the thought of sex with a man repulsed me. I was lost. Fuck! What am I missing?! I pushed harder. I retreated further in my head. I drank more to numb the pain. This was to be my cycle.
For the first time, my wife saw the darkness I kept locked up so tight. I was angry as the violent battles waged inside my head. I tried to push her away. She was better off without the weight. I spent 12 hours every day locked in a small room taking notes of old emotions. It was like all the anguish needed to be let out, or I was going to implode. I deciphered ancient visions of my youth; carefully, recreating the scenarios that defined the past 10 years of my life. My nights were spent at the bar trying hard not to feel anything if only for a little while. I had worked so hard to maintain the appearances of someone who had it all together. I had always felt a terribly deep sadness. My cover would soon be blown. Everyone would see that true ugly me. I could no longer keep it all inside me. I had to let it out. But I did not know how. I could not tell anyone. So, I told a piece of paper. I wrote in metaphor and simile. I made songs and poured my pain into each note.
The next ten years of my life were a careful balance of ignoring what I had uncovered and deconstructing myself to learn more. My wife and I had an unspoken agreement that I would not invite her into the dark places inside myself, and she would not ask to come in. They were separate. I found a way to make the two sides coexist. I could be the responsible adult and I could also be the artist. I got a Master’s degree. I taught school by day and played music by night. I performed as often as I could. It was not about entertaining people, but sharing my pain. There had to be others who would recognize it. They would be able to provide answers to the crippling self hatred. I craved solitude away from the stage, and wrote incessantly. I started to see small successes. I had found my calling in life. I was to take this pain and share it. I needed to find other people who could recognize the deep pain I felt. That is what I was put on earth to do. I pushed as hard as I could. Teaching school and playing shows.
A little over a year ago, everything changed. This was a final catalyst for serious change in my life. First, my band quit. I had gotten us close, but they lost faith in me. I was desperate. If not music, what is my calling in life? Then I saw my dad for the first time in a decade. The last time I saw him, I heard words from a relative that reverberated deep within me; a primeval fear shook me to the core. Those words, “but we never tell isn’t that right Ray.” A decade later, my dad was a shell of the man I remembered. He had battled his demons for a lifetime. They had won. He had given up. I saw myself in those defeated eyes.
I was anxious. I knew that I did not have the strength to once again fight the demons. I had tried so hard to make sense of the memories. I arranged the pieces in myriad patterns, but none made sense. I had an incomplete picture. They were going to destroy me. I lost my way in life, and to compound it I was facing some terrible dark fear that I dare not face. It was at this time of upheaval that my wife told me that we were going to have our first baby. That was it. I could no longer do this on my own. I needed help. I could no longer afford to live my old patterns. How could I be a good father if I was not able to let him in? How could I teach him if I could not get out of my own head? How can I, someone so self destructive, ever expect not to hurt the ones I loved? How devastated would I be if I caused this helpless baby any emotional pain?
I went to therapy. I took anti depressants. I took the hardest step in being able to leash the demons. It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my life. I had to verbalize all the things that I beat myself up for. I had to look another human being in the eyes and speak. I had to share my feelings and fears. I had to be honest. I had to let someone else in. I had to change, or succumb to it. It was time to find out who was master. After months of therapy, I was finally able to understand my actions and the emotions the followed them.
It was the best decision of my life. The pieces of my life I did remember made perfect sense to a professional. The lack of memories for the first 4 years of my life, the blind rage and anger of a child, the behaviors, and patterns of thought were consistent with sexual abuse. I had always understood that having sex at age 9 and throwing chairs at teacher’s heads as a kindergartner were not normal, but finally it all made sense. I came to learn that I was not alone. I learned a new perspective on the things I had been obsessing over. Instead of saying I don’t deserve, I began to see that I survived. I therefore did deserve happiness. I began to recognize my patterns of thought.
Through my adult eyes, I was able to reach out to my inner child. I began to understand the pain. I now understood why I am anxious around men. Men were a threat to me as a child. I understand why I have trust issues. I recognized my cycle of self destruction. I am beginning to forgive. I am beginning to accept. Never once in my life had I allowed myself to think of the future. For the first time, I experienced hope. I am beginning to feel certain calm. Who knows, I may be finally able to write a happy song. Maybe the constant tension and angst will begin to melt away.
By no means is this done. I am not “healed”. I believe that this will be an ongoing struggle for me. I have to be true to myself and not be afraid to stand up for myself. I recognized my cycles, now I have to learn new ways to cope. I have to unlearn behaviors. I know I still have a lot of work to do with my wife. I am hopeful that she sees value in me and us. I hope that I did not create too much space. I hope that she can accept the person I am meant to be and not be content with who I was. I take full responsibility for everything I did in the past. I make no excuses. I lied and deceived. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to evolve into the best possible version of myself. I need to follow my path. I have lived through so much dysfunction and negativity, some of it self induced. Yet I here I am.
In looking back and processing my experience, I can see what sustained me through the darkest times: Self Expression. Creativity is such a powerful tool. If I did not have that outlet, I am certain I would be dead. It seems that the only way I was able to let the darkness out was to write about it. I did not have the insight or the strength to verbalize it to anyone.
I urge you to visit the music page. Listen to the songs. Read the words. Feel the pain. Decipher the clues buried in the figurative language. With the insight from my story, you will be able to identify how I was able to express the anger and sadness. There are many people just like us. We can learn and share with each other. We made it this far on our own. Imagine how much further we can go together.