"I felt the icy fingers of anxiety and fear wrapping around my heart and couldn't really work out why, but I knew I hadn't made peace with what happened to me."
It took Alex Dean more than 10 years to tell a soul what had happened to him, and now he is telling the world all about it in his book, Buried Alive: A story of hate and acceptance.
Alex was sexually abused by his stepfather during his early teenage years but it wasn't until Alex and his wife were thinking about having children themselves that Alex realised he couldn't keep living how he was.
First abused when he was 14 years old and living in England, now 29 and living in Paraparaumu, Alex said, "I had a few brushes with counselling but never really fully committed to it and admitted to myself what happened so it wasn't really that helpful".
Reaching out to a free workplace counsellor, "I think I just scared the living daylights out of the poor lady", he said.
"That was my first brush with professional counselling which sent me running right off.
"That's something I wanted to address because a lot of people don't talk about it, but, when they do, you can also come forward and receive negative help too. But there is the right support out there."
After getting married at the end of 2017, Alex and his wife decided they wanted to start a family and it was here that things started to crash in on him.
"We started to tell my family about wanting to have kids, and sat down to tell my mum and stepfather.
"My mother was happy and elated and he just sat there grinning.
"My stepfather in my head up until that point was separated into two people - an abuser and stepfather.
"I felt the icy fingers of anxiety and fear wrapping around my heart and couldn't really work out why, but I knew I hadn't made peace with what happened to me.
"Telling him we wanted to have children was a catalyst for a severe depressive state, and what set in motion getting me to go and get help."
After suppressing his emotions and what had happened for years, Alex started talking.
With the support of his wife he went to get help, first visiting his GP then a counsellor in Paraparaumu Beach.
"Saying it now, I wish I had come forward sooner because it's an unpleasant process one way or the other but it's in the rear-view mirror now, stepping out of that shadow and into the light. The longer you leave it, the harder it is."
The first step Alex took was admitting to himself a wrong had been done to him.
Then, with counselling he found coping techniques which worked. Putting things on paper worked for him.
"Laying it out and writing down what happened, I found that quite cathartic. Writing out a timeline of events cleared things up a lot."
Writing out his thoughts, feelings and emotions over a few months, Alex found that he pretty much had a book in front of him and decided to share it to help others.
"Since coming forward I've found a lot more resources and service that help male survivors of sexual abuse.
"But prior to that I hadn't and that is what my motivation was, to put this story out there and help a few people - help them know they are not alone, there is no shame and they can come forward.
"The main message I would like to send to male survivors of sexual abuse is there is help for them, they are not alone, and there is no shame in coming forward and seeking help.
"If I can be an inspiration for people to come forward, that's all I can hope for.
"If I can be a face that people know of and see as the guy that came forward, using me as an example for them to believe that they can as well, that is all I can hope for."
The book is confronting but brutally honest and shows how important it is to bring abuse into the light and seek justice and healing.
"By coming forward and being open about my abuse, by no longer repressing or denying the memories and allowing them to settle in their rightful place – the past – they stopped haunting me."
Alex was able to have confidence in all aspects of life, he could now look people in the eye, have greater "bandwidth" in his thoughts and speak positively about himself which led him to successfully apply for a promotion at work, something he never would have had the confidence to do before.
Coming forward also led to his stepfather being prosecuted for 15 varying accounts of sexual abuse against a minor and in late 2019 he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Buried Alive: A story of hate and acceptance by Alex Dean (pen name A. James) can be purchased from Paper Plus Coastlands and online from Amazon.
While Alex has no professional expertise, the book details his experience and has been endorsed by registered clinical psychologist and sex therapist Robyn Salisbury and a UK-based chartered psychologist specialising in stepfamily dynamics, Professor Lisa Doodson.
Having processed all that has happened to him, Alex believes talking is the best thing to do.
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call the Police on 111. Mosaic are a New Zealand organisation who are there 'to support male survivors of trauma and sexual abuse to empower themselves through education, and access to service that facilitate their healing'. Safetotalk.nz are a 24/7 service set up by the Government to put people who have experienced sexual harm in contact with trained specialists.