For most of last year, I worked on and promoted my New York Times bestselling (I’m gonna keep leaning into that until it gets super obnoxious, and then keep going to a little bit) memoir, Still Just A Geek. A huge part of my story is my survival of child abuse and exploitation, living with CPTSD and the depression and anxiety that accompany it.
So it follows that for most of last year, I was picking at a barely-healed wound. When the promotion cycle wrapped up, I gave myself permission to just withdraw from public life as much as I wanted and needed to, so I could rest and regain my hit points. While I was resting, that wound I’d been picking at got infected and made me … not extremely sick, but sicker than I’ve felt in a long long time. So I did what you do when you’re sick: I went to the doctor, and I’ve been doing the work every day to get better.
We got the infection cleaned up, but the wound is still there. It’ll probably be there for the rest of my life, so I’m doing the work to heal it, let the scab do its thing, and eventually become a scar that I can’t feel. I can look at it and know that it represents all the work I’ve done to heal myself.
I haven’t wanted to talk about this at all because all those months of being vulnerable in public, revisiting the most painful and traumatic moments of my life, was a lot. I needed and deserve quiet, private time for myself to recover.
All of that is to give some context to what I’m about to share with you.
Last night, Anne and I went to the fancy premiere of Star Trek Picard’s final season at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Before the screening began, after we were all settled into our seats, Terry Matalas and Alex Kurtzman introduced the show, thanked the cast and crew, and turned the spotlight over to Patrick. He spoke lovingly and beautifully about the entire experience, in that Patrick Stewart way we all love.
As he was wrapping up his remarks, he said, “I would like to ask the cast who are here to please stand up,” so they could also be celebrated.
I remembered how humiliating it was, how much it hurt, those times Rick Berman deliberately left me seated while everyone else was standing up, those times Rick Berman made me feel exactly the way my father made me feel: unwelcome, unworthy, invisible. Not a great feeling.
But last night wasn’t about me. Yes, I have a wonderful cameo in season two, but I’m not in season three. And last night was about season three. It was about celebrating my family, who all came together for what is likely their final mission together. So I was happy to stay in my seat while they started to stand up. I clapped so hard my hands are still vibrating this morning. I applauded not just their work on this season, but everything they’ve given to Star Trek for over thirty years. I celebrated the absolute hell out of my family. And while I was doing this, I looked across the aisle at Frakes and clapped at/for him.
We made eye contact, and he gave me this incredulous look. “Why are you sitting down? Stand up, W!” He said.
So I did, and he applauded me, and I may have wept just a little bit. Or maybe a lot. I can’t remember. I was so grateful to be included in the moment by the man who I wish was my father, who loves me and sees me like my own parents never did.
My dad never made an effort to get to know me. It’s a choice he made, not some personality quirk, because he put a lot of effort into knowing and loving my brother and sister. My mom has gaslighted me about his abuse and bullying my whole life, forcing me to apologize to him when he hurt me. For a long time, I believed her lies and even tried hating myself as much as he hates me, hoping maybe then he would see and love and care about me. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)
A significant part of the pain I feel and the healing I continue to work on, is that awful black hole in my life where my father’s love should be. I’ve spent so much time there, I know more about it than anyone, certainly more than my manipulative, selfish, drunk of a mother who insists it doesn’t exist. I absolutely know my memories and my feelings and everything my dad chose to withhold from me are real, because I never once in my 50 years on this planet felt loved and accepted by my dad the way I felt and feel loved and accepted by Frakes. He’s always been there for me. He’s always made sure that I know I am part of a family, something my birth parents never bothered to do.
Later, at the after party, as I was saying goodnight, he said, “What were you doing, sitting down?”
“This whole thing tonight isn’t about me. It’s about you guys,” I said.
“No,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder, “this is about us.”
I felt so seen, so loved … and had to take a deep breath to force the tears back, and I said, “Thank you for including me, Johnny. You are the best dad I never got to have.”
And we hugged each other, and he told me that he loves me, and I told him that I love him back.
91 thoughts on “see how we are”
Tears! Thank you so much for sharing such a beautiful and healing story.
I had a demon bubble up late last year. It was and still is a battle to win. But I have learned. In fact – step one was to lower the shields and in doing so I can see farther than I ever have in the last. And I continue to share my journey in an effort to point out that we matter. In ways that we may not even be aware. I will stay thé course. I will reach out – and most of all I will always love and honour my crew. It is heartwarming to see this relationship mean so much to you- and to give you strength to boldly go….
I am so, so happy that you have him, and your Star Trek family.
It makes my heart so full when you share.
If I may be so bold, he’s the father you always deserved.
This right here!
What a lovely story, Wil! Biology doesn’t necessarily make a family. It’s the people who see you and love you that do. I’m so glad that you have that space family who love you with all their hearts.
This makes my heart smile so big for you – it is so important to feel seen and accepted – I haven’t felt that for a very very long time, and I know you didn’t either, so I am crying tears of happiness and understanding for you atm. Mr. Frakes must be such a wonderful person. <3 Thank you for sharing this with us!
I am literally in tears reading this. So happy for you.
I think when they make your biopic, it can end there. I’m sure you are still going to create and give much more, but as a close of your TNG saga, it’s a beautiful moment. Thanks for sharing!
You are both such good men, and lucky to have known each other. Feeling all the feels.
You deserve the accolades. I’m very glad you had this moment!
I did not see you sit (because I wasn’t there) but I would have insisted you stand as well.
I’m older than you are but understand first hand what you went through and I had a fist pump moment reading this account of a beautiful moment.
I want you to know that at my lowest point, I found your personal account of pain and suffering, and how you got help, medication and healing. That started me on the same journey. Because you had the guts to speak out, I am here. It is very unlikely I would have allowed myself to live otherwise.
So, thank you. Thank you for all of the wonderful roles you played that have added joy to our home, for your board game show, for your writing, and mostly for your candor.
The shrine I created for you is incidental. Totally unrelated… lol. (Jeez, I’m kidding)
Just beautiful. You deserve all the inclusion and love.
You absolutely deserved to be standing with them. Period, full stop.
And I am so glad you got that opportunity.
Thank you for sharing this and other stories. I had a moment earlier this week where I journaled about not having scorn for part of me, but instead, compassion: “look, it’s me, who’s hurting and has found solace, who’s trying to navigate through this the best I can. So I can be compassionate to myself” etc. And that epiphany was directly because of what you’ve talked about. Thank you so much for that.
I’m so glad your ST family was, and is, there for you. <3
Thank you, Wil. Your words have once again brought a much needed emotional release I didn’t know I needed. The world seems a less grim place knowing there are men like Mr. Frakes and yourself being fully human out in the world.
Oh my lord. I am not only totally delighted for you, but my opinion of Sir Patrick has just gone up several notches.
Damn, someone’s cutting onions…
Wow, tears. You derserve recognition and you are amazing, Thank you for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing, just thank you so much! And thank you for taking your rest and sharing how important that is, too. I legitimately can’t think of any words that express my internal state accurately, so I will settle on I am overflowing with gratitude for your existence.
Wil, to quote another franchise, he may have been your father, but he wasn’t your dad. You have taken your trauma and chosen to do something good with it. You write about it, not to elevate yourself, but to show others that trauma is survivable. You used your father’s example when you raised Anne’s kids as the way NOT to act and gave them a stable life when they needed a dad. You raise money to help women so that they can have a better life, and often so they can make a better life for your children. You have brought countless friends and families together to share the joys of games with each other. I’m glad you chose this life instead of the darker paths you have crossed. Lookibg forward to what comes next.
You are beautiful Wil.
Thank you for sharing. Your model of strength in speaking up even in the hurt has meant very much to us. You have a good family in the one you get to choose.
You just made me ugly cry. I’m so happy that you were able to share in that moment with them and had that incredible validation from someone whose opinion truly matters – because he not only sees you, but loves you. Thank you for sharing with us…and I’m so glad you’re doing better. 💕
I am crying happy tears for you and your found father Jonathon Frakes. Yes, the way he steps in and up for you makes him a father, it counts!
Because of your honesty about your abuse, mental health, and getting help, I got help myself. My father was emotionally abusive, and treated me as less worthy and less lovable than my sister. I have been doing the work to heal. It is sometimes harder and sometimes easier because he died 8 years ago, after me cutting him out of my life 16 years earlier.
So happy for you. Your words have such an impact on me because I grew up in much the same household. I am 61yoF whose mother never loved or even liked her. And you are right, it leave a gaping hole. Of course I have a long story but my proudest achievement is raising my two children in a completely different way. I broke the cycle. I broke the cycle. My kinds are adult now, and actually enjoy spending time with us, their parents, and that makes me so proud.
I am so happy you found a dad in JF, you are so lucky.
Thank you for telling your story. Thank you so much. So many need to hear it and know that they are not alone.
God… I have a lump in my throat the size of a Volkswagen. I’m a few years older than you, Wil, but not many. In a way, we’ve grown up together, and I’ve grown up with the Next Gen cast as well. Imaginary space friends who in time became imaginary space family. I am so happy you have your space family for real, and so happy that Frakes is who he is, and that he said those things to you last night. There really are happy endings sometimes. Or at least… happy moments.
Met you in 2006 at a WPBT gathering in Las Vegas. One of the highlights of my trip was playing poker with you at the Excalibur poker room, prop betting on wheel spins. The thing that stood out to me then was how inclusive you were to everyone you met who wanted to spend just a little time with a celebrity. Signing napkins, leaving kind notes to your fans….Now, that inclusiveness finds its way back to you in spades. Great story, and so glad to hear that your journey is taking you out of that black hole, hopefully a place you won’t need to revisit again.
aaand now I’m crying.
I’m glad you have strong, healthy people like the ST family in your world. You deserve the love they’re so willing to share with you.
I’m so glad you got to have that experience, and that you have such people in your life now. Thank you for sharing this.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve got something in my eye…
I’m so happy that you got to have this experience, Wil. I understand what it’s like to think that someone not loving you is normal. It’s not. I know that now, but it took a long time to learn, and I still struggle with believing the people who do love me, because I was so conditioned to think I wasn’t worth it. Moments like this kick that bully in the head, as it should be. We’re worth it. I’m happy for you.
Where to start? As a STNG fan I was angered & saddened to read that your parents didn’t love, nurture & protect you like you deserved. I applaud your survival & your accomplishments both professionally & privately.
May you live long & continue to prosper.
The love between you and your Space Family always warms my heart, Wil. You all need to hang out more often… coffee, dinners, bowling, game night, whatever. I seriously hope that happens. 🙂
And for the record, I’d have stayed seated, same as you. I completely understand why you did, and I’ve done the same thing myself, to celebrate my friends and colleagues when I felt it wasn’t about me. I’m really glad Jonathan encouraged you to stand up with the rest of your family, though.
Oh, Wil – I’m crying reading this and we’ve never even interacted. I’m so glad your chosen family loves you and supports you the way you deserve.
Grateful to have this shared with us, Wil.
Again, I thank you.
Oh my goodness. You are all such wonderful people. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be in a generation that was mentored extensively by you guys. ♥️♥️♥️
I am so so so happy you got to have that experience with your chosen family. Memories like that are the ones I write down on little slips of paper, tuck into a mason jar and on New Year’s Eve I revisit them one at a time and feel all the love and happiness and good that was part of my life that year.
You and I share similar experiences. I think that you have the family of choice that you should have had all along. I’m so glad for you.
You and I share similar experiences. I think that you have the family of choice that you should have had all along. I’m so glad for you.
Wonderful story. Brought on tears. Thank you for writing this. Always been a fan.
So, so very happy for you! I’m writing this with tears streaming down my face. So glad you get to experience that kind of love and family!
I’m so glad you got to have that experience! Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I’m so happy for you!
Very moist eyes here❤️
This brought on a torrent of emotion for me. That moment at the after party must have been incredible— the best. I started watching TNG as a kid, in an abusive family situation, and I’ve always wished The Next Generation cast was my family. Season 3 premieres on my 40th birthday and I couldn’t imagine a better birthday gift. Thank you for your vulnerability and showing some of us that we aren’t alone.
Thanks for sharing. I guess my folks never really knew who I was either, although I think we made our peace before they passed.
I think I understand the lines you said to Jim Parsons in TBBT when he was stuck on the floor playing with trains. That felt like it came from you and not the writers.
Thanks for helping to give us a future to dream of.
Thank you for sharing this. I’ve severe PTSD due to severe abuse and that in turn led to FND, a neurological disorder that has affected my cognitive functions. Reason for the mention of it is hearing someone else who survived and thrived made me smile. My career ended due to the damage done to me but you’ve given a whole lot of hope to this middle aged semi retired chef. Thank you!
Whether you have a part in this season is irrelevant—you are an integral part of the show. I, for one, am looking forward to geeking out with you about the show on The Ready Room as much as I am looking forward to the actual show. Thank you for making me proud to be a fan and a fellow nerd!
This was both hard to read and fantastic to read. Peace be upon you, sir.
Wil you usually make an effort to be careful when talking about people with disabilities or diseases. You if all people should know that alcohol abuse or diction is a disease. Calling someone with that disease a ‘drunk’ is no different than calling someone with depression names. I get that are are angry, but still.
Maybe stay in your lane, buddy. You’re way out of line.
Also there is this other thing:
Wesley was awesome. There is a whole generation of young nerds who loved and still love Wesley. We were at school and hated it and felt left out and didn’t do sports and our biggest dream in life was to go to space. And there was Wesley doing it. And we had no idea that some dumb adults didn’t agree with us.
And in our head canons there was no like space alien putting pressure on Picard to make promote him or whatever. In our heads, I’m a future where men could wear skirts and old old old men could be space captains and women were admirals etc etc etc there was no reason why brilliant young wesley wasn’t the best guy for the job and so of course he got it.
And sure other people around the ship may have ‘earned’ it by going to the academy or putting in the hours, but we young teenagers at the time had no idea about that stuff. To us, we lived in a world where people were getting attention and treated well for stupid stuff like being handsome or tall or good at football. We wanted people to be recognized on merit and well we didn’t get that in real life, but at least we could watch Wesley and dream about it.
This was all middle and early high school. Of course things got better in college and now we have different perspectives. But that love for Wesley is still there. And he doesn’t need defending or excuses to be there on the bridge. He’s there on the bridge because he deserves to be.
“No, this is about us”. I can literally hear Frakes saying this, with an emphasis on “us”. “Picard” has yet to really engage me (no pun intended) in the way the later seasons of Discovery have, or the way pre-Disco Trek did, but I love the cast entire, both established and newcomers.
All incarnations of Trek have absolutely nailed the act of ensemble, and despite Voyager being my absolute fave show, with Lower Decks riding right on their nacelles, the TNG cast has always stood out for me. TOS was my parents’ Star Trek; TNG was mine and the one I grew up with (I’m only a couple of years younger than Wil), and I have no doubt however ropey or magnificent season 3 of “Picard” turns out to be in terms of storytelling, that wonderful cast will continue to be legendarily good.
You’re such a good person, Wil. I also ‘suffer’ from parentally-driven CPTSD and struggle with it in waves, as it seems you do. Your courage to share your journey has helped me – and I’m certain many others. Thanks again for sharing.