If you care… ask.
If you really care… ask again.
If you want to help, are offering safety, assuredness, any time at all… listen to the answer.
What does a boy, raped by his father secretly, ridiculed by him publicly do? What does the boy who, like every other boy trying to make sense of the world, do? How does he cope? Innately seeking his father’s validation and approval and being so horribly denied, do?
He hides… within.
My mom taught me, probably unintentionally, to put on a show. To make believe, pretend, in public, that everything was alright. That we, like many other families, had our hardships but were coping just fine. She put up the Christmas decorations, the Easter decorations like everything was fine, like everything was okay.
Clearly (to the readers of this blog, and to my sister and I) it wasn’t, but it wasn’t just the secrets which tore away at our family. It was the tacit, implicit implication that my father’s behavior was acceptable. As if other men acted the same way behind closed doors. That there was nothing we could do about it.
That’s a scary thought… other men behaving like him.
Okay, his behavior wasn’t acceptable, but how does a boy with limited knowledge and experience process that? How does he deal with his world?
I’ll tell you how I did… I believe I isolated myself. I couldn’t trust anyone. I wanted to. I wanted to “come out of my shell.” I wanted someone to notice me, to save me. But I couldn’t. The world wasn’t safe.
And no one noticed.
So I was lonely.
A social reclusive, shy and underperforming.
Until about 10 or 12 years old.
That’s when I started performing well in school and wasn’t so shy anymore. I was alone. Hopelessly, frustratingly alone. No one was coming. And by that point, I figured no one would be.
The only thing that mattered then, as it did before and would for the next few years… my grades. I had to get good grades.
That’s it. That’s all that mattered. I had to perform.
Okay, so a kid who was shy at first, underperforming until middle school and seemed to emerge socially then.
Well, partly, yes. As I understand it, many kids experience this kind of butterflyic transformation.
And part of that may have been my experience as well.
But I was raped, criticized and ridiculed, always. Scared to death of my father and more anxious, alert at home than out in public.
So the normal development was only part of my story. Coping with the abuse was the other part.
And as my mom taught me, I pretended everything was okay, fine, normal.
We had moved around 3 times to that point. Others weren’t coming to rescue. They couldn’t learn our family patterns to determine if there was something going on. And we’d move again anyway.
Grades, academic performance were all that mattered.
Well not anymore.
I have been alone, so terribly and hopelessly alone.
And if you ask, I’d tell you I’m fine. I’m okay
If you ask again, I may tell you that I’m dealing with some stuff.
And if you present yourself as a safe person who can help me, who cares and wants to help, I may tell you what’s really going on.
Because what does a boy, a boy like me do when no one and nowhere is safe?
I hid. I hid so deep inside. I hid my thoughts, my feelings, my insecurities and confidences. I hid all of me inside.
It’s all I could do.
And I don’t want to hide anymore.
Because it’s lonely in here.