Like many journey's, mine was not a direct line of any sort. That being said, I can draw lines to many clues in my young life that lead me to where I am now. There are too many to list, but I will give a few specific examples I remember to illustrate.
Age three, likely my first experience with (and certainly first memory of) an awareness that the body can feel intense pain, I experienced a major burn on my body that required the use of artificial skin grafting. Beyond the initial physical pain that I experienced, I remember the process of rubbing cream and placing bandages over the healing wound. Following the healed skin (of which I am happy to say left very little scarring!) Following the healed skin, I remember feeling upset and embarrassed to have to wear a shirt at the pool in the summer following, and my friend asking why I didn't take my shirt off. "I'm not allowed", I replied. I felt different, and didn't completely understand at the time why it was important.
Second grade, at a friends house, my friend and some other neighborhood boys were teasing another boy in the neighborhood. This other child simply wanted to join in the fun we were having. He became so upset that he ran home crying. I felt helpless and didn't understand why these boys were being so mean. Later that day when I went home, I told my mother what happened and cried tears of upset at not knowing what to do. She comforted me and talked with me about how proud she was of me knowing that something wasn't right. She told me I would find a way to help others.
High school, I lost a friend to suicide and I also saved a friend from suicide. The details are not important, but both were very difficult. I entered college with the intention of studying bio-medical engineering and possibly medical school afterward. I studied brain imaging, (surprise surprise) skin grafting technology, and neuro-prosthetics. I also started taking classes in psychology. It didn't take me long to figure out, Psychology was where I wanted to go to help people.
I followed my undergraduate experience with a Master's degree, and then entered my Doctoral studies. My main focus was working with children and trauma. This was, and has been the majority of my life's work. In particular, I have worked with a number of individuals who experienced Sexual Abuse in their childhood. The first year of my Doctoral training was when I took a class on Sex Therapy.
This class not only taught some of the work around human sexuality, sexual health, and sexual dysfunction, but it also allowed for exploration around my own experience growing up as a sexual being in the world. I feel fortunate that I had an upbringing that taught me the correct terminology of my body, and an open enough dialogue about sex and sexual health that I was comfortable in the subject. That, however, doesn't mean there weren't challenges. There certainly were. Messages from cultural setting, family, friends, self appraisal and doubt, books, and one bizarre adult themed movie a friend brought to another friend's house, I had a lot of mixed messages about the topic of sex and what healthy sexuality was. I left that class thinking that I would add Sex Therapist to my work as a Psychologist.
It has taken many years to come back to that idea, in part thanks to the fact that my wife was also interested in doing the work and is now a Certified Sex Therapist. Sexuality and the topic of sex is such a common mystery and/or area of discomfort, problematic thinking, and/or behavior for so many of my clients. This can be due to their own history of sexual trauma, or simply the quagmire of information that they have attempted to sort through on their own. Having the space to explore this has proven to be very helpful, and open dialogue about the many facets of sexual health, sexual identity, and sexual practice, is such a needed thing in our society. We are inundated with implicit and explicit sexual messages and yet are closed mouthed about the teaching of sexuality. I am excited to be back to this part of my path, and hope that this blog will continue to provide useful information to people who read it!