This is hard to write. Some of it doesn’t show me in a good light. Or perhaps that’s for others to judge. It’s about some things that happened to me between the ages of 13 and 16 and …. Well, you can judge.
Why now ?. Why am I writing it now ?. Because I can. Because I should have addressed it years ago. Because I have nobody to talk about it now to.
And because the scars burn as freshly today as they did then.
I was bullied at school. Perhaps that’s inevitable when you are tall, acne ridden, walk funny, have a pudding basin hair cut, wear flares and hand me downs and your vocabulary is full of big words.
You aren’t popular.
You get your clothes thrown in the shower, you get your clothes urinated on, you get spat at, you get threatened, you get called Queer and Poof because someone’s told the school you are gay so nobody will sit beside you for fear of catching it, you get pushed off chairs, pushed off a moving bus, you get punched, kicked and called names. And even the staff join in. They yell “Four eyes” at you or “Specs”, they knock you over on the playing field because “I couldn’t see you, you lanky streak of shit”.
School was great.
So I fell in with the wrong people.
I went shoplifting. I got arrested.
Not a proud moment.
My father, a man prone to outbursts had the physical answer, trousers and pants down, and a whipping with a bamboo cane. FA Cup Final day 1978. I had to stay in the garden with my parents that afternoon. When I went indoors to the toilet he accused me of sneaking off and told me I couldn’t be trusted. I was a thief and a liar.
So he repeated the dose.
But this wasn’t abuse.
My parents felt I needed curing. They enlisted JW, a renowned child psychiatrist.
JW was a bastard.
At our meetings he would talk to me first and then report to my parents who sat in the next room. But he never listened to me. I must be hearing voices he insisted. I had demons inside me, telling me what to do, they were evil and so was I. I had to tell him all about them. I had to draw them. What did they say to me ?. What did they tell me to do ?.
He went on and on.
I told him there were no demons or voices. I wasn’t possessed nor evil. I had done something wrong, been persuaded to do so by the wrong people and could I please go now ?.
His tirades continued.
Eventually my parents decided that it “wasn’t working” and they took me away from his “care”. I hated him and I hated them for putting me through it. And I blamed myself for getting myself into this predicament.
As the years passed I gradually forgot the fine details of his office, of his face but could recall his words and manner and, three years ago, whilst my regular psychiatrist was away I found myself being treated by an affable Irish locum, Dr Quinn.
During our conversation one rainy afternoon I happened to mention my past involvement with mental health services. And I mentioned JW.
Dr Quinn put down his pen. “Do you mean JW who practiced in … ?” He asked. I answered in the affirmative.
I didn’t expect his response but remember his words as though they were said yesterday “He was an evil, evil man. The damage he did to you and children like you was well known. His methods, his actions. Utterly vile. The fact that nobody said anything about him at the time is utterly shameful. I am so sorry that you were put through that. It was abuse, pure, unadulterated abuse. A disgrace”.
I sat there frozen in shock. Perhaps it was confirmation of what I had suspected but had never thought would be confirmed from an independent source.
I had never imagined revisiting those days, thought that area of my life would be one I would recall only in nightmares and in those times when, uninvited, they crept back in and tormented me, never leaving go.
And they still live with me.
Feelings I cannot shake, that bring on the night terrors, the sweats and a sense that I was to blame. But for a single act, all would not have happened. PTSD, but of its own kind.
I was abused sexually as well. Not by a family member but by two faceless, anonymous men who plied their evil in public conveniences. They thought they would enjoy groping and grasping at me, and no doubt others whilst seducing us through threats of violence and the intimidation of numbers.
I fled, hurt, soiled, to the police. They showed no interest. They took no descriptions. They made no move. Instead they took my details and, with a knowing smirk, which I took to be one of secret disbelief or a belief that I was gay and beneath them, told me not to frequent any more toilets but to get off home.
I can barely bring myself to use them now. The very thought of using a urinal turns me cold. I would rather disgrace myself in the street than be subjected to such an unwarranted invasion again.
I told my mother. I told her the barest story. I told her that I had told the police. My mother, perhaps unfeelingly, shuddered at the prospect that her son might be gay, that he had crossed into territory she felt only disgust for. She wrote it in her diary. Blandly, of how she would ask one of her lawyer colleagues if the police might think me a homosexual and what she might do about it. Having no interest or luck with girls made those views only too easy for her to embrace.
As with all things time passed. No more diary entries, no more discussion. But the damage was done.
Perhaps I am too hard on myself.
Do I hate myself because I take so much blame on narrow shoulders ?. Do I invite self loathing because I see these acts as being a punishment upon me for a weakness, deeply entrenched ?.
I hate myself.
That is self abuse.
It comes. It goes.
But I cannot break it.