Wolverine is one bad ass mama jamma! This is a fact I believe everyone can agree with. However, he was not always Weapon X, Wolverine, or even Logan. A long time ago, he was James Howlet. His origin is complicated and ever changing, but this image from Origins #2 (2001) says a lot about the Emergency Stage of healing and the Decision to Heal for survivors.
In the image, James gets his powers for the first time. You can see the bone claws begin to descend from his hands as he screams from the external pain of his skin being split open, and the internal pain of standing over the dead body of his father. In the corner is a boy, Dog, who looks as if he is crying, but actually it’s blood dripping from open wounds on his face caused by James. I love this image because it is one of the better representations of what it feels like to enter the Emergency Stage of healing from sexual abuse. (And if you want to know more about Wolverine’s back story I highly suggest reading the Origin series, and Weapon X.)
It is my opinion the Emergency Stage is the first stage of the healing process for survivors. Others believe it begins with the Decision to Heal, but it all depends on who you are. During the Emergency Stage it feels as if you have lost all control of your life. Panic attacks and anxiety seem to occur without reason, causing flashbacks of the sexual abuse and feelings of illogical fear. You feel lost and unable to make sense of why this has happened. This stage of the healing process can happen immediately after the sexual abuse, but like James, and many other mutants in the X-Men pocket of the Marvel universe, it can happen years after the sexual abuse. Like James, his mutant abilities surface at the onset of a trigger, or high levels of stress. For James it was witnessing his father being shot and murdered before his eyes. For you, as a male survivor, it could be coming in contact with your abuser years following the sexual abuse, having a child of your own, watching a movie which involves sexual abuse, or simply hearing news of sexual abuse. It happens without reason, and even when it seems the trauma of the past has been long forgotten.
After, or during the Emergency Stage is when a choice must be made. Are you going to move through the healing process, or continue to suppress the memory of the sexual abuse and hope its negative affects go away on their own. If you choose the latter it may mean using alcohol or drugs to suppress the memories. It may mean having multiple sexual partners, working out to the point of exhaustion, self-harm, or attempting of suicide. This can create gaps in memory in the same way Wolverine has trouble remembering who he was before acquiring his mutant powers. As one of the best Marvel characters, Wolverine has some serious issues! The character drinks to excess, attempts to remain isolated from the society, battles with viewing himself as a man rather than an animal, but is always unsuccessful at remaining a villain. Like Wolverine, you may try to run from you past, but eventually it will catch up to you. In essence, it means choosing to either move toward the path of becoming a hero or becoming a villain. Choosing to heal may seem too difficult in the moment of the Emergency Stage, but in the long run it is the best choice to not become a hero, or a villain, but the person you want to become. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. You can’t do this alone. Become a survivor.