I have posted other versions of my story before but this one is from a different angle. I read a couple of threads recently on the Male Survivors forum about the "inner child" concept and about writing letters to your inner child. I had done that before - but had never followed up with another idea posted - of writing a letter from the inner child. I realized that could be a valuable experience since I had never given hi the freedom and opportunity to full express himself. I tried it and this is the result. I found it a very intense and rewarding exercise.
Dear older self,
I have never felt like I belonged. I always felt like an outsider.
When mommy married the stepdad when I was five and a half, I was suddenly taken away from everything familiar and stuck into his world. There were new things in this strange place - mostly stuff that had belonged to his dead family. And there were things I had to do that I did not like and made me feel weird - like taking showers with him, seeing him naked, having him see me naked, and having his hands on me. He also forced things into my bottom, which scared and hurt me. I screamed and cried and tried to fight, but he was too strong and did it anyway. He also threatened to cut off my penis and testicles. That was all when I was little - like six or seven.
He had complete control over me, except when I was reading. Reading became my escape. It was the only place I could be free.
When he punished me, I resented it because I knew he wasnít really my father. I donít think I really missed having my real father until he took over and then I wished my real father was still alive so the step-dad wouldnít be able to whip me with his belt or switch me with a sapling branch. Many times I didnít even know what I was being punished for or that what I had done was something that would make him mad. He was angry much of the time. Mommy didnít ever try to stop him or act like she felt sorry about what was happening. It was like I lost my mother when she married him.
I knew that he didnít like me and no matter what I did, it wasnít enough. Nothing made any difference. I could never please him or be good enough. I finally figured out that he wished I was dead and his own son, who had died in a car crash while his dad was driving, was still alive. I started thinking a lot about being dead. Sometimes I wished I was dead, too.
At school, it was different. I was smart and the teachers liked me. When I was in grade school, other kids thought it was good to be smart and admired me, but when I got to junior high, it was different. The other kids started to resent me and make fun of me for being smart. It was not cool to have teachers approve of you. That got me into big trouble. Nobody wanted to be my friend. I became a social outcast. I kept on using books to escape from the difficult situation I was in. But now I was not just using reading to escape the stuff happening around me and to me, but also to stop being me and imagine I was one of the heroes of my books.
But that wasnít the only thing that made me an outcast. The other thing that set me apart was that my body had started to develop earlier than other boys my age. When I discovered this about the end of 5th grade, and my ďfriendsĒ learned of it, it worried me and made me feel really weird because I didnít understand what was happening. I thought there was something wrong with me. The other guys at school found out about it and started to treat me like a freak, trying to get me naked, look at me and touch me and try to make me get big so they could laugh and tease me and joke about it and mock at me.
At Scouts, I got the same kind of treatment. But there it was disguised as ďinitiationĒ - and there were also other kinds of attacks, such as a bunch of them ganging up on me and hitting me with a barrage of basketballs and forcing me into comparisons and competitions.
Then junior high started and every day was an ordeal. There was daily bullying. I had never felt so alone and friendless. Everyone seemed to know that I was a freak and treated me like the school scapegoat. I was the bottom of the pecking order. The freak show treatment continued in the locker room. This went on for all of sixth and seventh grade. No one seemed to know or care what I was going through. I often thought about dying to escape the torture. It wasnít physical pain, but emotional and mental.
Sometime during the second semester of seventh grade, something happened that changed my life and saved it. My family found out that we were going to move to a different city because of the step-dadís job. I felt hopeful about this because I thought it might give me a real escape from the bullying and abuse - at least at school and scouts. At home, it was not quite that easy. The step-dad had done some pretty creepy things to me as I developed. I had started sleepwalking and having recurring nightmares and night terrors. One time I started to wake up and was shocked to find him touching my hard penis which was sticking out of my pajamas. Another time he made me strip him and get on my knees in front of him with his penis right in my face. I knew that I couldnít get away from him - but outside of the family, things could be better for me.
I imagined leaving everything about my old life behind and starting over - fresh and new - as if I was a different person. It was like I could choose who I was going to be and only reveal the parts that I wanted other people to see and know. The rest of my past - all the bad and painful and creepy stuff - I could lock up and leave behind and forget.
And that is pretty much what happened. But it is also what broke us apart. That is when you were created and took over and carried on. You went off on your own to start a new and better life. I had to stay behind because you wanted nothing to do with me. I didnít know that was how it would work. It was like you were an older and smarter and stronger brother that had suddenly showed up and that I could look up to - but suddenly you were leaving me.
I felt abandoned and desolate. I knew that you wanted nothing to do with me. I could tell that you felt nothing but hatred and contempt for me. You saw me as weak and useless and ridiculous - exactly the same way that the bullies and guys that picked on me at school and scouts did. I was like a despised little brother that you were ashamed and embarrassed of. You steeled yourself against me and walked away.
I wanted to be accepted and protected. I needed to feel love from at least one person - and I thought that I had the best chance with you, who knew me best. I wanted to go with you - but instead I was alone, grieving your loss. I felt like I had helped you come to life but now you were rejecting me. I didnít blame you. I thought and felt about myself exactly the same way that everyone else did. How could I do anything else? I was only one - with the rest of my world against me. And why should you treat me better than anyone else? The majority was stacked against me. And you had seen the results of trying to be the odd man out - and had learned that lesson well.
So I was left behind - in the place that I hated - and it was like I was frozen there for years. For me nothing changed, nothing improved. And you went on and grew up and forgot about me. The few times you thought about me, you tried to put that memory behind you and ignore it. I was a dirty little secret that you had to hide from everyone and pretend never existed. And thatís the way it was for years and years.
Then suddenly one day you found a photo of me. It was one you remembered having been taken - it was one of the many times that the step-dad had been furious with me for no fault of mine - and it had happened shortly before you left. In fact the photo was in the passport that you used to escape and leave me behind. I know you always hated that photo and felt like it wasnít really you. When you discovered that old passport and opened it and saw me there, it was as if I came back to life. And everything was different now. When you found me, you were sorting stuff and throwing junk away. but you didnít throw me way this time.
You had changed and really saw me for who I was for the first time. The first thing you noticed was that I was smaller than you remembered and less ugly - you saw me as fragile, vulnerable, damaged, hurting, and INNOCENT. Finally, now that you not only remembered everything that had been done to me - you also understood it and felt it with me. I could see in your eyes that you were seeing me in a new way and that you were surprised by what you saw - and what you had not been able to see before. When your eyes filled with tears, I knew that you felt compassion and empathy for me for the first time. I felt accepted and embraced and loved. I knew that - after a long, long, lonely time, we had been reunited. And I knew that you needed me as much as I needed you.
The surprising part of this experience was that both of us seemed to make a conscious and simultaneous decision to forgive one another. I forgave you for abandoning me. I understood that it was the only way you could survive. You forgave me for being a victim, for haunting you for all those years, and for not being strong enough and perfect enough to make it on my own. Most wonderful of all, you admitted that I had been more brave and resourceful than you had realized in order to have endured everything that happened to us. This was a very intense and emotional experience and like nothing either of us had ever felt before.
For several days after this reunion, you kept me close to your heart, carrying around my photo in your chest pocket. It was a good, warm, safe feeling that we both enjoyed. I am thankful and glad that we found each other again. You carry a marble around in your pocket to remind you to consider me and treat me with kindness and gentleness. We belong to each other and we fit in - as if there was something missing before. Together, we are doing much better than either of us ever could have done alone.
A man talking sense to himself is no madder than a man talking nonsense to not himself.
Or just as mad.
So there you are.
Stark raving sane.
- Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead