Hey, I didnít mind. Life has never been better. Personally, I live with
a loving and caring partner and my life is rich with family and friends.
Professionally, I am in my second season of my column, DISHing With Donald,
which appears in an arts magazine and which is also filmed as a regular
segment for a local television station here in London, Ontario, Canada.
Even more important, when it came time to find a publisher for my memoir,
a literary agent wanted to represent me but I found a publisher flying
You get the picture: Iím a healthy, happy adult whoís not experiencing
a midlife crisis.
But life hasnít always been pretty. I survived something our society
calls the last taboo, sexual abuse. That is the subject of my memoir.
So if Iím so happy, if I have such a great future to look forward to,
and someone to share it with, why bother telling my story? Because too
many victims remain silent, unable to find their way out of their darkness.
Because our numbers are legion. Because education and awareness empowers
victims and weakens predators. Because if just one reader, one victim sees
himself in me, realizes he is not alone, not to blame, has nothing to be
ashamed of, and can live a successful, productive and happy life, my disclosure
will have been worthwhile.
Imagine that. A victim who thinks heís normal. That is me.
I understand that each experience of abuse is as unique as the victimís
way of surviving. While individual history is important, pain is pain so
detailing the specifics of my experience is not as important as what I
did to survive it. Besides, Iíve told my story to a series of excellent
therapists. Even their couch was not the last stop in my story, for surviving
is a lifelong journey, not a destination.
Survival has been defined as a continuation of a life beyond that of
another. In my case, I survived a horrific childhood and became a healthy
Thatís right. People who meet the adult Donald I am today do not see
a victim Ė they meet a survivor. Yes, it takes a strong person to survive
years of abuse. It takes even more fortitude to buck the system, to go
against your culture, your societal dictates of right and wrong.
But forging your own way is something survivors discover is necessary,
for no two victims experience abuse the same way. No two recoveries are
Throughout my life, I have done what I had to do, even if that meant
creating other selves in order to survive. I did not have Multiple Personality
Disorder as is exemplified by the conditionís most famous example "Sybil".
I was completely aware of the personalities I had created. I chose each
ĎDonaldí to meet the needs of individual situations.
Call me, "Sybil by Choice".
My personae were in part orchestrated by a carefully constructed blueprint
of my own design.
People have at times perceived me as extraverted, friendly, witty, entertaining,
intelligent and talented. While others have witnessed the polar opposite:
The Donald who is introverted, vulnerable, disconnected, shy, and cautious.
Although my escape from my past was in many ways absolute, the irony
is that most of my choices were directly connected to, and as a result
of that past. The turmoil I experienced existed within my own mind. The
emotional Donald was trapped inside an adult body that the outside world
defined me by. The outer and inner selves never met.
The fact that I did not abuse my body lead people to assume my recovery
was complete, or even more pointedly, that I never had anything to recover
from. Having chosen that route, I controlled how and what people perceived
me to be. For example, ten years ago a man told me, "I donít think youíve
ever went through anything!" It was not posed as a question or criticism;
it was merely a statement of fact. That was his reality as far as I was
concerned. His comment told me the Donald I had displayed to him had deceived
him completely. So that characterization was a success.
It saddened be to know that people were buying my impersonations, stopping
at superficial observations, but who doesnít? Canít fault people for believing
what they "know" to be true. Especially since that is precisely what I
was trying to accomplish at the time.
My acting provided a safe place from the real world, from my past, and
from myself. After all, if no one else is there to save us, we must do
whatever it takes so that we can survive.
Nevertheless, sometimes I felt trapped inside a body that the outside
world defined me by. The outer and inner selves were rarely intertwined.
When the aging process kicked in, everything was out of whack. Because
my physical, mental, and emotional selves all progressed at different rates,
in any single day, I felt at turns ancient, childlike, and adolescent.
But even those contradictions, I worked to my advantage. In fact, I
sold my imperfections on the public stage. I believe that this pseudo-honesty
made my public persona more attractive. I used to hide the good, the bad
and the ugly. That was a less successful presentation.
I not only wanted to control my immediate situation, I strove for control
of people's perceptions of me. Like a mini-series that never ends, I was
attracted to the drama, tragedy, and comedy of situations which I sometimes
created. The Donald Show was a roller coaster ride that never ended. The
supporting players were uniquely tied together in some way by introductions
arranged by the central character. The reason the series was renewed every
year is that I constantly reinvented myself. The show was noted for turbulent
brilliance. When I was on, I was ON. When I wasnít, I disappeared into
Give me an audience and I could leave myself and grasp a fleeting moment
of escape. I transplanted myself into a place that doesn't exist, because
that is the only place that was home to me. I created a reality from that
place that fooled the viewer into accepting the current characterization.
The character and Donald became one. Did the real Donald ever show himself?
The truth is that that chosen path is the reason that I am alive today.
I found my way of surviving. I want to continue my journey of self-discovery
but there is no graduation class, no point where the past means nothing.
My experiences and choices have molded and shaped a character that is truly
unique. I believe that if every human were to experience the awakening
I have, he would find the world is not such a bad place to inhabit. I have
an awareness, a sixth sense that cannot be bought, taught, or taken away
In 2001, my quest for inner-peace continues. Me, myself, and I have
found relative success. I am more childlike than I ever was as a boy. Sometimes
I catch a glimpse of the innocent sparkle I possessed as a toddler. Other
times, I feel the innocence I never had during the rest of my childhood.
If it is because of God and my parents that I came into existence, it is
also due to a multitude of facades that I have survived and exist today.
The bad days are few, the good days are many.