What I know about men
"He was the only adult giving me attention and it was intoxicating" … Augusten Burroughs. Photo: Chester Higgins jnr/The New York Times/Headpress
I grew up in the college town of Amherst, Massachusetts, where my father, John, was a philosophy professor. It was difficult to get a sense of his true personality as he was drunk so frequently, but he seemed to have something wrong with his brain. Sometimes he would act as if he were having a seizure and babble and say frightening things and then, a moment later, regain his composure. Maybe he was on the autism spectrum, but he was an unpleasant figure who could be psychologically cruel.
My memories of early life with my mother, Margaret, are that she was very sad, but she also had a sort of brilliance about her. She was a poet and very passionate and wrote all the time and listened to opera.
I was 12 when my parents divorced, but as relieved as I was that my father was no longer a presence, I feared he would return. Although the screaming had ended, I longed to leave, just like my brother, John [Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's], had two years before.
My brother was unlike anyone I had met. He was seven years my senior and had absolutely no interest in anyone. John lived in the world of microprocessors and computers – he was very clever. Once in a while we did things together, like he would teach me how to use a slide rule, but we didn't have conversations. He wasn't like the brothers I saw on television, and it was very confusing.
Coinciding with the divorce, my mother's mental illness escalated and when I was 13 she gave me to her psychiatrist, Dr Turcotte, who became my legal guardian. Dr Turcotte seemed both brilliant and crazy. He was jolly and gregarious but never threatening. Somehow he seemed to afford me a degree of protection because he was such a large person. Many patients and family members orbited that house, and I felt insulated within the lunacy of its environment.
I always knew I was gay, and while living with the Turcottes, I experienced my first relationship with a man. He was a former patient of Dr Turcotte and was 20 years older than me. It turned sexual because he made it turn sexual. After that happened I felt a great betrayal, but there was an addictive quality to the bond. He was the only adult giving me attention and it was intoxicating.
In 1989 I moved to New York, where I worked in advertising. During that time I met George, an investment banker. As I got to know him, he revealed he'd become HIV positive while caring for his former partner. I was very young to have such a challenge and I didn't handle it well. George went from being a brilliant, successful person to someone who ended up wearing diapers. But caring for him up to his death in 1997 were some of the most intimate moments of my life.
My next significant relationship lasted 10 years. Dennis was a wonderful man who was very stable and grounded. From the beginning he felt we were incompatible, but I was gung-ho to make it work. Our relationship coincided with my publishing career and suddenly Running with Scissors made me famous.
The success was a whirlwind, and our communication suffered. Things came to a head in 2009, when he admitted that he'd been unhappy for most of the years we'd been together. As soon as I found out how unhappy he was, I left and never came back.
In my new book, This Is How: Help for the Self, there is a dedication to Christopher Schelling. I met Christopher in 1997 when he became my literary agent. The first time I saw him he took my breath away. He was funny and I immediately developed a crush. But he was my agent and I was his client, so our relationship remained professional.
Whenever I went to Christopher's office, I felt relief. I gave him everything I wrote and he saw me completely uncensored – he was the first person I'd want to call when anything happened. After I broke up with Dennis, I told Christopher about my 12-year crush on him and it blew his mind. He'd never thought about romance, as I was his client. He said it was a door that he would not open – but once he did open it up, we became a couple.
I have known Christopher for many years now, but I am still so excited when he walks through the door. I have had the great fortune of having fallen in love with my best friend.