Matthew Blake, page 1
Warning: this section contains graphic descriptions of childhood emotional and sexual abuse; adulthood sexual aggression through verbal and emotional coercion, blackmail through threats of suicide, and sexual assault through the use of physical force; unidirectional and reciprocal abuse; depression; suicide attempts; prostitution; and language barriers between a patient and a psychiatrist and between a victim of intrusion and the local police contributing to a sexual assault.
I’ve feared my dad since as long as I can remember. I remember him mentioning that he’d hit me when I disobeyed him when I was particularly young. He mentioned to me how he once hit me after I’d asked my mother what ‘Fuck’ meant but later regretted doing so because I had asked an innocent question. I remember none of this. What I do remember is that when I was a child, he could get me to obey simply by raising his hand or voice or giving me a verbal warning.
My babysitter molested me regularly for around a year when I was seven and eight years old and I soon afterwards started making sexual advances towards my classmates. I forced a kiss onto a classmate and showed my penis to other girls and had them show me their vaginas at the same age. This was before I was physically developed enough to even have an orgasm or understand sexual pleasure.
The school suggested I see a therapist. I saw a therapist for a short time but my dad thought I just needed more discipline. He lectured me about never hitting girls, always respecting girls, never raising my voice against a girl, and always acknowledging a girl's feelings (even though he himself violated each one of these rules in relation to my mom and sister). Because I feared my dad, I didn’t dare tell anyone and especially him what was happening. What he doesn't know to this day is that I'd transferred those teachings to my adult babysitter herself. Fearing my dad, I soon learned to fear authority figures, and my babysitter was an authority figure of sorts.
We moved soon afterwards. Since my dad’s employer required him to transfer from city to city and even province to province every few years throughout my childhood, I’d learned how to make new friends quickly, but I’d also learned how to abandon them just as quickly and to always keep an emotional distance from them.
When I was twelve years old, my father had given me a glass of wine on Christmas Eve. I didn't like the taste of it, but soon realized that it relaxed me more than I'd ever felt relaxed before so I started gulping it until he raised his voice and hand at me telling me to slow down. I've feared alcohol since then me and so have become a teetotaller. I was raised in an emotional pressure-cooker throughout my childhood.
By the time I’d reached my teens, I’d experience a violent panic attack if my dad expressed any displeasure at my having forgotten to do a task or when he berated my mom for defending me. My mom would berate him back in a loud back-and-forth argument. My mom couldn’t understand why I’d asked her many times to not defend me. The panic attacks were so discomforting that they served as a reminder to not forget the next time. While some parents complained about their teens not listening to them, my dad took pride in pointing out how he had no such problem with me and that I did what I was told to do without ever complaining.
If anything, my problem became the inability to take the initiative in any task. I always had to consider how my dad would react and how his reaction could trigger my panic attacks. If I had even the slightest doubt about whether something might displease him, I wouldn’t dare do it: and since I couldn’t always predict what would or wouldn’t displease him, my ability to take the initiative in most tasks simply withered away.
I think this affected my moral development to a degree too. Though I had some understanding of right and wrong, and though that affected somewhat how I made decisions, by far the most dominant influence in my decision-making process was how I believed my dad might react to a decision and the probability of him finding out. This trained me to become a compulsive secretive liar even when I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong as long as I believed that any action of mine might displease him.
It was at around that time that I’d discovered compulsive masturbation as a way to regulate my mood, however temporarily it released the stress of my environment. I’d become somewhat addicted to cliff-climbing too. The steeper, smoother, and taller the cliff, the better it was: the adrenaline and the danger forced me to concentrate enough to disconnect myself from my emotions, however temporarily that might be. I’d also become reclusive at that age since I’d discovered my inability to resist peer pressure. For some reason, I tended to react to my classmates similarly to how I reacted to my dad: I’d tense up and so fold into compliance whenever I faced disagreements or even when I simply witnessed arguments between peers. I avoided conflict and even the potential for conflict as much as I could. Walking along the local stream and scaling its cliffs was lonely but emotionally peaceful and kept me away from the potential vices of my peers. I wasn’t aware of any specific person at school who used drugs or engaged in sex; but since even the simplest of arguments could cause me distress, I preferred to be alone. Besides, I preferred more dangerous activities like climbing a steep smooth cliff next to a waterfall.
When I was in junior high school, my dad got angry about my falling grades and so sometimes threatened that he would kick me out of the house when I reach sixteen. I ran away when I was fifteen because of that: I feared that he’d actually kick me out of the house unprepared at sixteen and so thought that I’d better leave, find a place to stay, and find work on my terms before that happened. A police officer found me walking alone in another city one night a few days after I’d run away and contacted my mom, and she brought me back home. In hindsight, I now question why the officer never investigated beyond that. My dad seemed kinder after that and never did kick me out at sixteen, but I continued to interpret even the kindest request as a command and suffered excruciating panic attacks whenever he berated my mom or my sister in my presence and they fought back, which was often.
In senior high school, my grades suffered as I focused on learning Indonesian from a book, a dictionary, an English Bible, and an Indonesian Bible that I’d bought. I didn’t know if I believed in God, but it was a convenient book available in both English and Indonesian. Because Indonesian was not a subject at school and my dad had a hostile attitude towards religion, I made sure I hid my Indonesian books and Bibles under my bed away from his sight.
I’d read somewhere that Indonesian was among the easier national languages to learn due to its phonetic script, regular rules of grammar, and lack of exceptions compared to other national languages. I hoped that the combination of English and Indonesian would help me find work in Australia’s tourism industry and so help me to leave home and give me an excuse to not visit my parents so often.
I’d received a twisted sexual education in high school too. At school, I learned to ensure sex was consensual and protected and my dad, even though he raised me under military discipline, taught me only one rule about sex: to not get a girl pregnant. Even though I knew myself to be straight without a doubt, my lack of girlfriends made my dad question my heterosexuality and he would sometimes ask me if I’d ‘gotten laid’ yet. I avoided sexual relations with girls not because I wasn’t straight but because I feared the emotional bonding that could come from sexual relations with them. The combined education I received from school, my dad, and public media seemed to reinforce the idea that celibacy just revealed prudishness. My secretly accessing my dad’s porn reinforced that idea too.