Out From the Shadows – Part 5

Date Published

March 7, 2021


Personal Life | Writing Process

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(Note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts originating in work done for a video class titled, “You Are A Writer – Getting Past the Fear and Moving Forward.” Created by Lauren Sapala, the course is aimed at sensitive intuitive writers suffering from toxic procrastination and crippling perfectionism.

This series is the result of some intense inner work completed during the first two sessions and is shared here in hopes of aiding others going through similar circumstances. You can learn more about the course here. )

Trigger warning: this series contains descriptions of alcohol abuse, physical and emotional abuse, and sexual contact between adults and minors

Series Wrap Up

I originally was going to do something different with this final post: I was going to finish up by covering the time period beyond college until my mom passed away 11 years ago.

Driving home from work this morning, though, I changed my mind. It was just a lot more of the same things I’ve already covered, this time primarily in the financial realm. She gets into trouble, I put my life on hold and rescue her. I leave, she gets into trouble again. Over and over it played out. Since I already covered some of this already in the Weekly Check-In’s, I figured why bother?

So, now what?

The Most Important Thing I Learned

I’ve learned so many things already working through the first couple sessions of Lauren’s course. Still, here’s the most important:

The enmeshment between my parents and myself really did a number on me that keeps me from writing.

Yeah, I know, what’s the big deal? Lauren already said that was likely.

When I went through the sessions, I saw this stuff quickly yet it was only on an intellectual level. I phrased these ideas several different ways in my head and on paper, but things never really sunk in until I started writing these posts. Then it hit me square on and I did the emotional equivalent of flying through the air 30 feet and landing in a ditch.

I have been preventing myself from writing my novel because I was afraid of what would be revealed.

My role in all of these events was much more than just a semi-willing participant. I was the recorder. I was the ultimate bearer of all the secrets that my family generated. And I had learned all too well to keep everything hidden, to make sure no one suspected anything illicit was going on in my household. If anyone found out, all hell would break loose. People’s lives would be ruined – they would likely go to jail and my siblings and I would end up in foster care. I was going through enough shame dealing with my gayness; this added embarrassment seemed too much.

Thus, I just filed things away and put on the happy face you see in my pictures. If you and I were here together, though, I would get the box of family pictures out and show you something: in the early pictures, the smile is bright and genuine. The later the picture, the more strained that smile becomes.

There’s a scene in the movie Torch Song Trilogy where the main character (a performer at a drag club) sits in front of a mirror, smiles brightly, and with jazz hands says, “Show time!”. There’s a quick montage of the same scene repeated, except each time the smile becomes duller and the energy disappears. Eventually there’s hardly anything there at all – performing has become drudgery. That’s what it felt like keeping everything hidden.

Later on as I worked on my novel, I began to see how my psyche was cleverly inserting my past into the story. My internal “Danger Will Robinson” alarm went off. The secrets were escaping and I had to clamp down more tightly to prevent that from happening. The result? I found that I just couldn’t write. I wouldn’t allow myself to write.

I was torn in two different directions. Part of me needed to write this as much as I needed to sleep and eat. The other part of me had to do everything possible to prevent that from happening. A civil war was taking place inside. Who would win?

That’s what this series has been about. It’s me saying, “Enough. No longer will I keep the secrets. They’re killing me. Here everyone, look! Tell your friends even – spread the word. See my fucked up life!”

When I started revealing things, I didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’m on the other side and at least the high points are public, I’m finding a new sense of peace. Sure, there’s that fear that an old classmate is going to find this and I’ll have a replay of the UFO panel discussion fiasco, but that’s ok. I’m a big boy now. And so far, I haven’t died, I haven’t had the shit kicked out of me, and the FBI hasn’t shown up to arrest anyone. The world is still turning and I’m ok. Hurrah!

Some of you may be reading this, saying, “Yeah, you already told us this before you even started.” That’s fair. Humor me then. Before, I was just speaking from a point of initial awareness. Now, it’s finally reached my core. I’m excited.

How This Applies

I thought I’d share some examples from my novel so you can see what I’m talking about. In one column below, I’ll show you the events from my life; in the other, I’ll show how I had designed them in my novel, Unclean. (And remember, these connections were all initially created subconsciously. I didn’t sit down and say, “Ok, I went through this – here’s how I’m going to address it.” My brain just came up with the ideas and I went with them. Only after playing with them awhile did I begin to see just what was going on.)

My Life:

I’ve spent my life burdened with guilt because I let things happen as they did without speaking out when I was younger. This guilt has kept me from making close personal relationships because I was afraid that others would get sucked into my strange family dynamics and get fucked up also.


A man of indeterminate age named Tim has lived his life burdened with the guilt of his father’s death. (If he had only permitted his father to beat him, the man would still be alive.) Also, his boyhood friends suffered as a result of their relationships with him. Thus, he has become a modern day leper, staying on the outskirts of society, silently screaming, “Unclean” to prevent others from coming close and suffering as a result.

My Life:

A girl I was involved with becomes sexually involved with my parents, causing her to go through eventual emotional pain.


The neighbor girl becomes an unwilling birthday gift from Tim’s father to his son on Tim’s 13th birthday. (After discovering Tim kissing another boy, the father orders Tim to sleep with the girl in order to turn him straight. Tim hesitates, the father begins to sexually advance on the girl to show Tim “how it’s done” and Tim attempts to intervene but fails. He then tries to escape, causing the father to come after him for disobeying him. In the ensuing chase, the man is struck by a passing car.) The girl suffers her entire life from being used this way.

My Life:

My mom increasingly began to see me as a personal ATM machine, expecting me to rescue her every time she got herself into financial troubles.


Tim’s mom left her husband when Tim was 9. Initially promising to take both Tim and his younger brother, Tim discovers that isn’t the case. Not only is she leaving him with his father, Tim discovers that she has traded him for $500 in order to have money to start out with. She still takes the younger brother, causing Tim to wonder what he did wrong to cause the abandonment.

There’s many more examples, but hopefully you get the gist. Things may not have been exact, but they were close enough to see the correlation.

Final Thoughts

I hope you have found this series useful in some way. Maybe you’re going through the same thing and can do something similar with your own enmeshment issues. No, you don’t have to stand from the rooftops and scream your secrets out loud – unless you do. Then go for it. Don’t hold back.

This series was not meant to be some Festivus-related “Airing of Grievances” as portrayed in Seinfeld. As I said at the beginning, there’s no blame here, just a simple stating of the facts as I experienced them. There’s a lot of questions that I’ll never have the answers for, but that’s ok. I don’t need to know everything. I just need to let things out, let things go, and get writing. All of this is fodder for dozens of books. I only hope that I live long enough to write some of them.

If anything here has helped, don’t hesitate to let me know. And thanks for following along.

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

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  1. Void

    Thank you for sharing your life story. Even though I’m only 26 and come from a very different backround, a lot of your experiences resonated with me on an emotional level. It made me think about my past, take a look at some old wounds I forgot were there. So thank you for being brave and putting yourself out there with so much vulnerability.
    I wish to be able to do the same some day.
    I also have a lot of the same struggles when it comes to writing and get so struck down with shame when I notice the similarities between my past and the fictional story I’m writing. Thank you also for reminding me it’s okay to write what I know, painful and shameful as it may be.
    I am looking forward to reading more both in your blog, as well as the book you’re working on.
    Have a good day.

    • rlrigdon

      Thanks for taking the time to read these posts. It has been quite a journey and I’ve had to take a brief hiatus from the site to just get settled again. Your comment serves as the impetus to return to it and I thank you. Don’t ever feel bad about not having the “bravery” to do something similar – you may never do so in such a public manner and that’s ok. With me, I found that it was something always hanging over every relationship I had – always wondering what happens if it comes out in the open, etc. So I was spending so much energy trying to keep it hidden that every relationship was suffering. Now that it’s in the open, I will say there’s a freeing aspect to it – sort of like coming out when I did that back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Your situation may be totally different. Just remember – never do anything that’s going to put yourself in harm’s way.

      Anyway, a lot has changed in the last month since I wrote this and I’ll be discussing that shortly. Glad to have you along for the journey.