The stories of healing from these courageous men will inspire a range of emotions.
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The Bristlecone Project

Portraits and Biographies of Male Survivors

Sean Muir

Sitting on his back porch, his faithful dog Sam lying nearby, Sean talks forthrightly about the decades spent on the brink. Twice he came very, very close to killing himself. Once, he doused himself in gasoline and held up a lighter in a standoff with police. Six of them tackled him and took him to the hospital.

Sean has wrestled with depression his entire life, a consequence of the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his aunt, and at the hands of an older school girl. His depressions and suicidal impulses were also a consequence of the beatings he suffered at the hands of his mother. In rebellion against her, and in inner turmoil because he could not speak about the sexual abuse, Sean became uncontrollable. By the age of eleven he was removed from his home and sent into foster care.

Into adulthood, Sean wrestled with his demons. He drank too much and used drugs. He was quick to anger. But when the demons were quiet he was a good worker. He earned a certificate as a dairy herdsman and worked on dairy farms.

Sean also has the capacity to reach out for help. During one episode of depression he called New Zealand’s popular Mike King call-in show. King talked at length with Sean and then gave Sean his phone number. They kept in touch, and during one of King’s comedy tours they sat and had a coffee together.

That same openness brought Sean into contact with the community of male survivors in New Zealand. He has discovered the power of connection, and also the power of speaking out. “I was a pressure cooker. It did me a lot of damage by holding it in.” So even though he still faces plenty of challenges, Sean has found hope. “My life is not a box of roses, but I can talk about it now and I’m not ashamed.”