Note: This blog post is my way of thanking Allan Downs, the author of The Velvet Rage, and my psychologist Beau Growcott who has been working with me and walking by my side in my healing journey.
It was 20th February 2021. Earlier that day, I had just visited my psychologist. I had seen him while I was in a very mixed emotional state of mind. Looking back, I would say it was normal yet augmented due to my activities the night before.
I didn’t realize that the session went well. All I did was pour out everything I felt and thought while knowing that he exactly knew where I was emotionally and physically.
How I felt healed when I received an email from him later that evening that said:
Nice work today mate. I think it was so brave coming in here when you were feeling like that, and I’m really proud of you. That was really brave.
Acceptance is a gift.
Acceptance is love.
Acceptance is kindness.
Acceptance is a cure.
The same day he introduced me to the book, The Velvet Rage written by Allan Downs.
My response to his email says:
Thanks for the kind words. I ended up in a Sauna after the session. I was pleasantly surprised!
I started to listen to Velvet Rage. I ended up crying a lot.
The last book I fell so much in love with was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I usually take ages to read a book or listen to the audio version of it.
But, I couldn’t stop listening to Allan Downs speaking about his gay patients who came to him for therapy. He wasn’t talking about just those patients’ stories. He was speaking about my story.
The first few chapters broke me into pieces. I started to remember things I had forgotten about my past. I was constantly in tears.
I found myself listening to this book on my way to work and going home from work while on the train. During this period, I was temporarily staying in Moe, Victoria, Australia. It was a two-hour train ride in each direction.
I used to judge my fellow queer men. I am still a little scared of them, although I am one of them. But, this book spoke about each version of us.
The queenie bitch!
The posh up-class bitch!
I can’t count the number of versions. But, they were expressions of my fellow queer men. I ran away from them, only to become them. The various manifestations of trauma!
Rage! The velvet rage!
I didn’t realize I, too, suffer from long-term trauma. But Allan Downs explains it so clearly.
He talks about his research findings. He broadly categorizes every gay man’s journey into three stages of life.
What was interesting for me was how I felt I oscillated between these stages a few times. There was an entire chapter about being “Stuck in shame”.
Yes. We grew up feeling ashamed of being who we are. Some of us may walk down the roads in skimpy shorts in the middle of the night. Another bunch of us may do the same in a Pride March. For some of us, that was the fight-back! The most extraordinary effort we made to fight our deep-seated painful shame! Only to be laughed at again! It was indeed a vicious cycle.
Towards last few chapters, my tears stopped. Allan Downs strategically made the reader re-visit their own life through other people’s words about their experiences and bring out our painful memories.
It sounds a bit mean! Don’t you think?
Who says healing isn’t painful?
In traditional Sri Lankan ayurvedic medicine, when someone has a broken arm, they do things that would create more physical pain. The local community knows that;
“It gets worse before it gets better”.
This book did the same. I had no more tears to cry. Well, that is a lie. I am known to be a cry baby. But at least for the period I was reading this book; I was done!
There is a turning point in the book. Allan Downs provides the reader a series of daily behavioral practices to change our behavior over time to navigate away from the trauma and its expressions to become our authentic selves slowly.
I secretly thanked god while reading this section, as I was already doing some of them. But, the journey I feel had just started.
This book is every queer man’s bible!
This book is our story. Please read it if you haven’t. But, also consider working with a therapist when you do so.
I love you heaps, although I may run away from you from time to time.
I will try not to hurt you. Please try not to hurt me!
– Nimeshe –
Below are some images I took of the book. Yes! The audio book was so good, I ended up buying a hard copy as well. I am yet to start re-reading the book. I’m sure I will need a highligher and pen to take notes.