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Experience Reflection Thesis

Of what benefit has masturbation been to me?

—UPDATED 2020-11-25—

In my tragic but precious and undeniable experience of life, I see that the words ‘masturbation’ and ‘benefit’ do not belong close together. In this short essay I will state how, by masturbation, remorse has followed pleasure, my mental health has been destroyed, and my life left in ruins. Lastly I will further explore how this tragedy happened, and exhort young people and their custodians to avoid my errors.

Remorse follows pleasure: I come from Catholic parents. I had received all of the sacraments and knew quite well what is right and wrong. I had a keen sense that masturbation is beyond taboo—that it is bad and harmful. Through listening to the radio, I happened upon a sex-advice programme, and eventually I gave in to its encouragements to masturbate. My remorse was immediate and profound; yet it was game over, as I was hooked from the word go. Indeed, the habit is still with me, despite all of my efforts to free myself from it.

Mental health destroyed: Confession and absolution always brought some relief of my remorse but, since I was already an addict, I would repeat the masturbatory action. In doing so, two things happened: the masturbation became entrenched (i.e., I became more addicted to it), and the pain of remorse was renewed each time that I did it. Thus emerged what I call a ‘binary pattern’ of anxiety-and-depression-of-remorse and relief-of-absolution. Over and over it would go on this way. It was not long—a matter of weeks or months—before depression had become a significant problem. I should have had treatment then, as a fifteen-year-old, but I was in denial about mental illness and would not accept medication. So, you see a second layer of trauma here: anxiety and depression keyed in with cyclic remorse. First my moral health was compromised, and now was my mental health compromised. There would be a third layer added within a year or two: psychosis. I was sixteen or seventeen when I picked up a brochure about schizophrenia. I recognised myself in the brochure’s description and I was absolutely terrified; so terrified that I held my worsening symptoms under cover until I was twenty. At that time I had an acute psychotic episode whose main feature was several police officers together having a great deal of difficulty in physically restraining me. After that I spent six weeks in the psychiatric hospital.

Life in ruins: This section will be a lot shorter. My troubles started through masturbation but this original problem led to others (the mental illnesses, as I have demonstrated) which compounded over the years. Now I live with the assorted effects of remorse, anxiety, depression and psychosis. Concretely, that means that I do not have a career nor even a job and, because I cannot look after them, I have no wife and children. What potential has been lost!

Avoiding my errors: Young people should be encouraged to stay away from pornography of any kind or form, because it is the thin end of the wedge; and to avoid curiosity in sexual matters (beyond developmental and practical questions) because, with curiosity, you give it your hand and it takes your arm. Those in a position to help young people include their parents and older siblings. Teachers are morally obliged to warn young people about the dangers that exist and how to avoid them, rather than allow any student to pass through more ignorant than before. Only few of my teachers had any care for me, and the few who cared did not care enough. Priests should engage their God-given and practically limitless authority in order to influence young people for the good. There is so much potential in priests. I would hang off every word of priests when I was growing up. I can forgive my father for not caring about me—because he did not understand me and was not aware of my issues. But beyond Dad, there was no senior male with whom I felt at ease and whom I felt comfortable talking to. So, being without a mentor at an important time, I fell through the cracks.

To sum up, experiences of mental illness are unique. Mental illness can have different causes and different triggers, and I have told you mine. I believe that I have the right to be Storyteller of my condition, just as others have the privilege of listening to my storytelling. I have learned that sex is a powerful force and not simply a plaything. You can do good as well as bad things with it. It is not a neutral commodity or something without a value. What I have sought to do here is to show how I got off to a bad start with sex and how things got a lot worse. The day that I have spent writing this piece has been very good for me: I had been wanting to document the sad story for years and years. However, I did not write it only for myself, but to help others; to help them avoid the mire that I have put my own self into. If my story is uncommon or novel, still it may resound with some who are in charge of young people, and perhaps inspire a number of those young people; with the net benefit that a few of them be preserved from an experience that I have barely survived.

By Stephen Plustwik

'In the face of all my foes I am a reproach, an object of scorn to my neighbours and of fear to my friends. Those who see me in the street run far away from me. I am like a dead man, forgotten in men's hearts, like a thing thrown away.'—Psalm 31[30]:12–13 (Grail).