Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pieces of the Puzzle

It has only been four days since my last group session, but a lot of our discussion that night continues to roll around in my head. It ended up being a night that mostly focused on me. Because of the "storm of the century" (as the TV news will soon be calling it, I'm sure), most of the group didn't show up...there were only four of us plus the therapist. I had been dragging my autobiography with me to group for the past month, but the time never seemed quite right. With the small group we had lots of time so I offered to share it.

In my mind, I had figured that I would pretty much simply read it. I had spent considerable time writing it up...over eight pages typed. But as I started to read the first sentence, I soon found myself ad-libbing and going into considerable more detail than my written version. It didn't really seem to matter though, because the therapist soon had me jumping from moving to Sandpoint when I was two years old to wanting to know about when my dad beat me with the willow switch until it cut my legs open. I had shared the story with the group several months ago on a night when we were talking about trust...or lack of it, and apparently the doctor remembered.

As we talked, he wanted to know how I felt about my dad after that, and how old I was...and how close in time proximity it was to when I was molested by the neighbor boy.

As I sat there and thought about his questions, there were a lot of things going through my mind. I wasn't sure initially how old I was...I've tried to forget. But after thinking and relating it to other events, I remembered that I was in the sixth grade, so I would have been about 11 or 12 when dad beat me. I searched for the right words to describe how I felt about my dad after that event and the only word that seemed to fit was "indifferent". I didn't hate him...I still don't. But I know as I look back through the years at that moment under the willow trees that I never looked at dad the same way again after that. He wasn't really my "father" any longer. He still provided for roof over my head, but he wasn't who I trusted or respected in the way that a boy should love and respect his dad.

The discussion moved to the molestation. As is the habit with the doc, he asked me to describe what happened again for the group.

"When I was ten, the neighbor boy gave me some candy if I would perform oral sex on him," I managed to tell the group. Though I've shared the experience with the group before, it is never easy to say.

"How did it make you feel?"

That's one of the questions that I hate the most! He asks it every time I have to share this story.

"Hmmm...I guess it wasn't unpleasant", I say. "I got candy for it and we didn't get a whole lot of candy growing up."

One of the members of our group is a young gay man in his early thirties and he only joined the group about a month ago.

"As the only openly gay guy in the group", he starts, "I find it interesting that you describe it as 'not unpleasant'. It's kind of like how you described your feelings toward your dad as 'indifferent'. Why do you think that is"?

I'm not used to having people ask me questions when I share my story. Usually all I get is the nodding of the head and a few sympathetic looks. That's not the case with these guys. Five years ago, I would have hated the questions. Now I've learned to appreciate them.

I sat there thinking and trying to fit the pieces together.

"I guess it wasn't a painful experience or anything. I didn't really think of it as sex...I guess maybe I was too young. All I knew was that I got candy out of it. But when I look back at it now, I realize that what I was really doing was prostituting for candy. I get angry when I think about it."

The young gay guy jumped on that. "You were only ten...why do you think you should have been angry? Do you really think that as a ten year old you should be beating yourself up for giving a guy a blowjob for candy, when you didn't get candy very often?"

I sat there for a moment, searching for the right words. "I wasn't angry then", I said, "but as I look back at that event, I get angry. I'm coming to realize that what happened to me when I was ten years old changed me and I have tried to deny it and bury it for the past forty years. What I'm angry about isn't what I did when I was a little kid. I'm angry that it may have ruined my life."

"How do you feel now when you see teenage boys?" he asked. He has shared that he still struggles with having sexual feelings when he sees young teens. A part of me wanted to lie and say that they had no impact on me at all, but I've learned that when I'm lying to others, I'm really just lying to myself first and I've learned the hard way how costly lies can be.

"I do have feelings when I see teen boys", I share. "The feelings aren't sexual though...they're emotional. When I see young boys, it seems like I end up seeing myself a lot of times and it is really painful." I shared the story of the young boy I see walking to school each morning...alone and seemingly unhappy and how my heart aches for him.

"When you were in chat rooms with guys, did you try to save them?"

"Yea, a lot of times I did. Whenever one of the guys would talk about planning to meet some guy that he'd met online, I'd tell him she shouldn't go...or that at least he should take someone with them", I said. "And there were a couple of guys who shared that they had attempted suicide in the past and sometimes thought about it still, and I'd try to find to help them through it."

We all sat there quietly for a moment and then the questions continued...mostly from the young gay guy, but also from the doctor. As I would answer the questions and share more of my story, things began to become more clear in my own mind. The doctor helped me realize that part of the loss in my life in my relationship with my dad had really been significant and that he could see that I would be looking for a way to fill that void. I had never really considered that.

We meet again in two days. I don't know if the discussion will continue to center on my story, or if someone else will be the focus. But for now, I'm glad that I'm discovering more of the pieces...and that I'm finding that some of them do actually fit together....that they are not from two different puzzles. One day, I'm praying that the picture of my life story will become clear to me and that I will be able to find the healing my heart so dearly needs.

Photos by Flickr

1 comment:

Deb said...

I love the questions that you were asked and the connections both your therapist and the young gay man were helping you make.

It's interesting that your feelings had to be neutral shades in order for you to survive. How you had to discount both the pain and the pleasure.

Doesn't it seem to connect that you became an educator to help boys in a way that no one could help you? One of the hardest things for me to learn as an educator has been that I can't really help any child in that way. Just like no one could really help me. I can only love, but not even that until I've learned to love myself.

There is a space of development when only parental love will suffice. We didn't get that, and in fact in many ways received just the opposite - shame and hate and rage.

I'm so proud of you for being open to the hard questions, because that is where the healing can happen. Your open heart and vulnerable soul are fertile ground for the love and healthy relationship you've always sought.

Keep writing. Keep asking. Keep listening.

I love you.