Processing one's story (triggers, but not really explicit)

Greybeard

Registrant
I have chosen to share something that I have written for a survivor's group that I am taking part in, run by an organization called the Gatehouse. I am in a Phase 2 program there, and part of that consists of writing our stories. This can be done in any way the person chooses to do it, but we are encouraged to examine the effects the abuse had on our lives, rather than just detail the event itself.

And that's kind of the reason I have chosen to share it here, and put it under the general survivors forum, rather than the survivor stories one, as its more about my life afterwards than about the abuse. I have found that coming to understanding of how it shaped so many other elements of my life has been really useful in sort of removing its influence from my life, or at least having the possibility of doing so.





Curtain Up on a 9 year old boy. This is not the real start of the story, but for many years I thought it was.

The boy is staying with his mother at his grandmother’s house. They were between homes, the old one having been sold after the parents divorce, the new one not yet finished construction.

The boy is lonely, he usually is. No brothers or sisters, parents devoted to their careers, and always moving around, leaving friends behind, and finding it harder to make new ones with each move, always feeling out of place. But there were two brothers around his age next door to his grandmothers that he could play with. They had a friend, an older boy, a teenager.

It was summer, and the brothers went off with their parents to the lake. So now there was no one to play with. Except the older teenage boy. Who invites him over to his house.

The boy goes. Along the way, they pass two boys on bikes, who call out to the boy. They tell him not to go with the teen, that the guy will try to fuck him. It’s a word that the boy only sort of knows, but he kinds of understands the implications. They scare him, but also sort of excite him. The boy has been coming to understand that he likes other boys, much more than he likes girls, although what all this really means is beyond him as well.

When they reach the teen’s place, no one else is home. The teen suggests that they both get naked, an idea that the boy quickly goes along with. This sounds fun and exciting, and he has no idea that the teen has more plans in mind, things the boy had never thought of. Things that he is not eager to go along with, but is not allowed to refuse. He is overpowered, forced, used. Afterwards the teen wants to play games, offers him candy and pop, puts on a Beatles album, wants to hang out. The boy wants to go back home. He would go if he could, but he doesn’t know the way, and has to wait for the teen to bring him back to his grandmother’s place.

The teen kept coming by, inviting the boy over to his place. The boy didn’t want to go, but his mother was glad to get him out of the house, and insisted he go along. The summer dragged on for a very long time, and the boy was glad when the new house was finally built, and it was time to move.

End of Act 1

I guess we need to jump ahead now, to when I was 12 years old. I liked to go to the pinball arcades downtown, Long John Silvers being my favourite. I was playing a new video game, Venture, when a good looking black kid, around my age, came up and asked me if I wanted to go outside for a smoke. That was Scott. He would become the most important person in my life.

Scott was actually a year younger than me, but told me he was older, and I believed him. He was taller than me, for one thing, and so much more confident and street wise. For one thing, he smoked cigarettes. I had never had one, until he offered. And, wanting his acceptance and to seem cool, I took it. Scott had also been molested when he was younger, and by the time I met him had learned how to turn it to his profit. He would introduce me to some of his friends. Older men who paid him to spend time with me. That being a very polite term for what went on. Scott kept the money the first couple of times, but eventually convinced me to start taking it myself. He brought me to the Hill, the gay prostitute district in Winnipeg, located around the Legislative building.

I have such complex feelings about Scott. He could be called my pimp, my best friend, my fuckbuddy, the love of my life. He used me, betrayed me, loved me, stood up for me. As the years passed, he became the one person who knew me better than anyone else, all the things we had shared and grown through. There will never be anyone else who will have as much an impact on my life as he did.

What to say now? How to deal with this?

Ok, so back when I was 18 or 19 there was a tv movie made for American Playhouse, on PBS, called “Who am I this Time?” starring Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon as extremely shy and introverted people who get cast in a community theatre production of A Streetcar Named Desire. As Stanley and Stella they are capable of showing great passion, great emotion, in a way they cannot do in real life. They fall in love, but when the play’s run ends, are no longer able to relate to each other. But it has a happy ending, as they wind up talking to each other as Jack and Cecily from The Importance of Being Earnest, doing the proposal scene. They can only relate to each other by being other people.

I was so many other people. I had so many names at the Hill. Part of that was to protect myself from the law, nobody used their real names, but it was more than that. I had a cast of characters I would play. I had what I called the Algorithm, a series of questions that I would ask the men who picked me up. From their answers, I could quickly determine who they wanted me to be. Straight or gay. The newbie or the experienced hustler. Living on the street, or being bad from a good home. Submissive or dominant. Doing it for money, or doing it for sex. Once I knew who they wanted, I could become that person. The real me would slide back, take the passenger seat, go along for the ride while Steve, or Eric, or Clark, or whoever I was this time took charge.

There is a lot I could complain about. The bad tricks, the ones who turned violent. The older men who made the most of me when I was still 12, 13, 14. The ones who filmed me, took pictures, paired me up with other boys, some even younger than I was. There are things that haunt me from that period.

But I prefer not to think about that stuff. I prefer it to be a montage, preferably set to music, of me and the other hustlers, hanging out and having fun. Doing it Right on the Wrong Side of Town by the Powder Blues Band comes to mind. Because it was fun at times, being bad and making money the easy way. Getting high and thumbing our noses at the world. I recall strip games with Saul in the back alley, to the delight of the old men driving by. I remember Rock Star Larry, with his nail studded baseball always at hand, picking me up and spinning me around in the air, he was so big and strong. He gave me the name I was known by among the others at the Hill, Chrissy, a reference to the character played by Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company.

I loved it when the bars would close and guys would come down in their cars, playing music on their radios and I would dance around in the parking lots. And when I was finally old enough, hitting the bars and spending so much time on the dance floor. When I released my body into the music I was yet another person. It helped that Perry, the dj at Gio’s, my bar of choice, had a big crush on me and liked to play the songs that made me dance really slutty. Opportunities, by the Pet Shop Boys, comes to mind. In fact, there were older men who actually paid me just to watch me dance to that song in my underwear, not even to have sex or get naked!

I was perceived as being somewhat dumb, always bubbly and too stupid to know what was for my own good. Perhaps they were right about that. The best insult I was ever subjected to came from Michael, who was only 13, working the Hill when I was maybe 19. I was talking to Scott about Crisis on Infinite Earths and the changes taking place in the DC Comics universe. Michael was off to the side, and as I was explaining how Kid Flash took over being the Flash after Barry Allen’s sacrifice to destroy the Anti-Monitor’s energy cannon he cut in and asked me “Chrissy, do you dye your hair?” I replied that I didn’t. He said, “So you aren’t really a blond?” I said No. Then Michael said “You’d never know from listening to you talk.”

Even I joined the general laughter at that one.

That was my world, for far too long. Despite the series of identities, it was more real to me than school or home. As I write this, I realize it was the first place where I didn’t feel alone, where I was one of the gang. The loneliness and isolation that had plagued me were nowhere in sight. And I can also claim some pride in that it proved to be a training ground. Tricks were harder to come by as I got older, and I knew I needed some other kind of work. Many of the guys down there took to selling drugs, but I took to theatre. I got a job at Celebrations Dinner Theatre when it opened, and spent a couple of years there, before leaving and moving on to doing plays and commercials. Become a playwright, and having a whole new life open up in front of me.

I consider myself really fortunate. Michael died of AIDS when he was only 16, as did many of the others who I remember having such fun with down at the Hill in my youth. Rock Star Larry lost a finger after a drug deal went sour, and wound up in prison, as did Saul. Scott became a major cocaine addict, and died in 2002 from a dumb accident. There is no one left of the gang who knew me as Chrissy.

Thus ends Act 2

Although my abuse permeated my writing, I avoided dealing with it in any sort of real fashion. Looking back, I can see how it affected my ability to sustain relationships. I would flee from any guy who was decent and stable, preferring to be with abusive and insulting men. If they were drunks or drug addicts, all the better. My acting and writing career prospered, while my personal life became so bleak even I couldn’t avoid facing it. Then in the fall of 2018 I took part in an online project by Yale University, for men who had survived childhood sexual abuse, which I had seen advertised on the net. It was an eight week program, an online group like this one. It opened up a lot of old wounds, but when it ended, I found myself falling apart mentally. It didn’t help that I also fell apart physically at that point, winding up in the hospital with heart failure. It also didn’t help that the world fell apart at that time, as covid struck and shut everything down. But I did find a therapist, who has helped me come to terms with a lot of things, and he connected me with the Gatehouse.

There is more I could talk about. The Nutty Club Man, the poorly understood memories from very early childhood, my deep seated distrust of hospitals, doctors, people in position of authority. A tonsillectomy that left me so traumatized my Mother always wondered what had happened during my stay in the hospital. Pieces of a puzzle that I only recently put together, after so many years of sort of knowing that something terrible had happened to me. But as to how that fits into my story, I am not yet clear on.

So the curtain goes down, as I fade into ill health, my GQ body is long gone, my love of dancing can no longer be fulfilled by reality. I am lost, back in isolation and solitude, awash in memories that carry me off in my twice daily naps. It was a good life. The best I could have managed in the situation. But I wish Scott was still here. Life has always felt empty since he died.
 
Thanks for sharing your story. Best wishes!
 
I'll second what @Today117 said, and just add that I'm glad you're still here.
 
@Greybeard
In a different, but also similar way I understand your story, and parts of it I certainly recognize because it was my life too, in a different country, a different place...

I admire your ability to put everything into words.

So the curtain goes down, as I fade into ill health, my GQ body is long gone, my love of dancing can no longer be fulfilled by reality. I am lost, back in isolation and solitude, awash in memories that carry me off in my twice daily naps. It was a good life.

I hope that wherever your life takes you, even without dancing and being bubbly, even with daily naps, you will know I am glad you are here. (Oh and I take these naps too, and I cannot dance anymore either)
 

CarbonTiger

Registrant
I had to stop at the part where you were riding your bike.

fuck, I know that loneliness as a child too. I was extremely lonely too...

omg, this is tough and maybe I can finish reading at a later time. Hugs, Greybeard.

why were we so innocent and naive? Like we were being punished and sentenced to prison.

My little heart breaks because, I would have been friends with you, since were both alike in lonely. We wouldnt have hurt each other in any way. I wish I could of rescued you on my bike, I wish I could have kicked his ass beforehand and told him not to go near you. I wish that what happened to you didnt because your life would be exponentially better. You never asked for that, no one does...

i'm sorry
i'm so sorry
i'm really sorry
...my friend :,,(

 

MO-Survivor

Staff member
@Greybeard - thank you for sharing. There is a lot here, summed up in the paragraphs you have written. I am sorry you feel alone again. And I hope you find solace from your isolation - either here, or even better, through new people with skin on.
 

C. E.

Administrator
Staff member
Once I knew who they wanted, I could become that person. The real me would slide back, take the passenger seat, go along for the ride while Steve, or Eric, or Clark, or whoever I was this time took charge.

@Greybeard, I spent some quite moments and read what you shared. Interestingly enough, at the time I was trying to shake an earworm after listening to music on my long commute home - The Mirror Man by Human League. It stuck in my head on constant replay, and yet its meaning seemed just out of reach. Then I read your piece here and suddenly that meaning crystallized. It was as if the song in my head was waiting for this moment - for your words - to complete it.

There is so much to say about what you wrote - so many things that it triggered with me (and please understand that trigger is not a bad word; I've learned that triggers are not to be avoided and have been essential for my growth - a survivor's special "growing pains").

But this. Identity. It goes to the very essence of the damage were are left with as survivors. We were forced to abort our imaginings of the men we wanted to become, instead wheedled and lured into being the boys our abusers needed us to be. In a sense, we lived their lives - not our own. Our lives were hijacked and we became mere objects of limited use, ultimately crumpled up and discarded as we aged out of the predilections of the other. In my own case, it is near impossible to overstate how being what I had to be for my abuser became a tripwire that sent me into an endless tumble through so much of the adulthood that followed. I never quite got the footing I should have developed as a child. And I see a similar struggle right here in your own words. I'm not a religious person, but this just comes right out of me: God bless you, @Greybeard.
 

Greybeard

Registrant
@Greybeard, I spent some quite moments and read what you shared. Interestingly enough, at the time I was trying to shake an earworm after listening to music on my long commute home - The Mirror Man by Human League. It stuck in my head on constant replay, and yet its meaning seemed just out of reach. Then I read your piece here and suddenly that meaning crystallized. It was as if the song in my head was waiting for this moment - for your words - to complete it.

There is so much to say about what you wrote - so many things that it triggered with me (and please understand that trigger is not a bad word; I've learned that triggers are not to be avoided and have been essential for my growth - a survivor's special "growing pains").

But this. Identity. It goes to the very essence of the damage were are left with as survivors. We were forced to abort our imaginings of the men we wanted to become, instead wheedled and lured into being the boys our abusers needed us to be. In a sense, we lived their lives - not our own. Our lives were hijacked and we became mere objects of limited use, ultimately crumpled up and discarded as we aged out of the predilections of the other. In my own case, it is near impossible to overstate how being what I had to be for my abuser became a tripwire that sent me into an endless tumble through so much of the adulthood that followed. I never quite got the footing I should have developed as a child. And I see a similar struggle right here in your own words. I'm not a religious person, but this just comes right out of me: God bless you, @Greybeard.
Thanks for your comments, and to everyone else who has commented as well.

I really worried about this piece, after I posted it. I think because I was scared people would not understand why I prefer to focus on my happy memories of those days, which almost seems like I am minimizing the effects of the abuse.

But it's that very way our lives are hijacked, as you said, taken away from us. The positive moments that we can scratch out become so much more valuable, and vivid, than the horrific stuff that was far more common.
 
Thanks for your comments, and to everyone else who has commented as well.

I really worried about this piece, after I posted it. I think because I was scared people would not understand why I prefer to focus on my happy memories of those days, which almost seems like I am minimizing the effects of the abuse.

But it's that very way our lives are hijacked, as you said, taken away from us. The positive moments that we can scratch out become so much more valuable, and vivid, than the horrific stuff that was far more common.
Greybeard,

Thank you for this! It seems so important to me.

My first real progress on my road to remembering and recovery came when I was finally able to feel the love I had for a boy in college and thus reconnect for the first time with the me that could still love even after having been hurt so badly. In my mind I had turned my relationship with him into something shameful and proof of how terrible and irredeemable I was. Not because it was a homosexual relationship. I never ever felt that was wrong. But because I convinced myself I had just used him and then abandoned him. When I was finally able to remember myself as I was then: lonely, afraid, alienated, but trying oh so hard to connect, I also remembered how much I cared for that boy and the joy, short-lived and conflicted though it was, that he brought me. It was like finding hope all over. It was like rescuing myself from the darkness, a little anyway. Being able to love and connect is always precious, even (especially?) when it grows in very rocky soil. It is important to honor it.
 

C. E.

Administrator
Staff member
I really worried about this piece, after I posted it. I think because I was scared people would not understand why I prefer to focus on my happy memories of those days, which almost seems like I am minimizing the effects of the abuse.

But it's that very way our lives are hijacked, as you said, taken away from us. The positive moments that we can scratch out become so much more valuable, and vivid, than the horrific stuff that was far more common.

I think the same way, @Greybeard. There were wonderfully happy moments at the time of my abuse. My life was not a sad, dark story. I did not have the perpetual frown of an abused child who was aware of his abuse or even aware of what it was called. It was just my normal.

I remember watching news coverage of the Sandusky-Penn State investigation. The reporter was holding a microphone in front of the courthouse and described the "horror" Sandusky's victims experienced. I remember thinking that with my own abuser (who groomed me very much the same way as Sandusky groomed his victims), it was not a horror. In fact, he knew precisely the buttons to push with me. He had me agreeing to everything despite my hesitations because he was older and "knew better." It wasn't horror. At worst, it was confusion. He was always gentle with me and that added even more confusion. It was a toxic brew of the extremes of pleasure and guilt, neither of which I was remotely prepared to deal with at 12. It was consistent acquiescence because I did not know enough to assert my body's boundaries.

For many, it is difficult to look back on our abuse and realize that while we did not ask for it or even invite it, it was not a horror. And when we listen to others like that reporter - or anyone else who does not have a clue what it is to be sexually groomed as a child - they would presume to own how we should feel about it. When we acquiesce to those other voices that pretend to own our experience, it's just another way of being abused.

The truth? I enjoyed the attention. I enjoyed his company and friendship. I benefited from his mentorship. And all of that was outside of the sexual relationship he imposed. But I also enjoyed the sexual pleasure that he introduced me to despite myself - despite everything in me that tried not to. And every time it happened, there was always at some point a moment of surrender. And in that moment, another seed of my own assumed culpability was quietly planted. Those seeds didn't seem so bad at the time. But they grew into the weeds that strangled me as an adult.

I once saw a dying pigeon next to a curb in New York City. Next to him was the green puddle of antifreeze that he was drinking. I was struck by how similar I was to that poor bird. Like that sweet antifreeze, the sex didn't seem so bad at the time. I got used to it, learned to expect it and even thought I was handling it fine. But that doesn't negate the fact that it was toxic as hell. And if I could step into the past and meet myself as a child, I would save him from it as surely as I would have saved that pigeon.
 
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