If You Can’t Handle My Struggles, You Don’t Get to Experience my Happiness

If you haven’t been through some sort of trauma or loss it might be hard to imagine what it’s like to be triggered and instantly flashback to that time and place where the pain is at. It cuts deep, right to the core. You lose all sense of reality and are in your own horror story. That’s what it’s like to live with triggers when you have PTSD. Often times the trigger is small and insignificant but other times they are a roar. It’s especially difficult when it comes from another person, one you love. Yesterday was one of those days.

My grandmother probably had no intention of triggering me. She is 92 years old and can’t help it. She’s looking through life with different goggles on. While she’s been through her own struggles and trauma she’s not gone through mine. No one really knows what it’s like to deal with grief, loss and trauma. Each pain is unique and each person just as different at the next.

I love my grandmother with all my heart. I haven’t always made attempts to see her. My mental illness has gotten in my way so many times and my relationships have severely been impacted. In my mind, I have believed I didn’t deserve love. So of course I shut away anyone who tried to love me. Isolation is a game that depression plays on you. You will never win no matter what kind of hand you have. You can have a hand of all aces and still lose in the end.

I have made attempts to be in her life. I get the sense that no matter what certain people in my life will always only see me as who I use to be. They talk to me about moving on from the past but they’re not including themselves and how they see me. It’s taken me 42 years and all my adult life to get to this point where I’m finally embracing the real me. I’m finally healing from all those old wounds. Moving on from the past isn’t something that can be forced, nor is there a time table that others expect you to move forward. When you endure decades of living in the past it’s a tough task to overcome. For me, it took being miserable long enough to start fighting back.

I’m the strongest I have ever been that means dealing with a lot of past trauma. The deepest darkest sorrows. Darkness as pitch black as a night without stars or a moon. The only thing that remains is the pain and rejection. You’ve ripped off the bandaid and you must experience it for the first time in your new healthy state. It hurts like hell and shakes you to the core. I don’t have the luxury of hiding anymore though I try with all my might to do so. No amount of Pepsi or junk food will drown out these tearful cries for help. I must endure them if I’m to move on.

Yesterday was one of those days. I was so happy to get a call from my grandmother, asking me to lunch. She was a comfortable stranger and I was so content to see her again. I have missed so much time with her and others, and now time is ticking against me but the sad reality is you can’t force things. You can try all you want but sometimes people can’t move past from your past deeds. Maybe they think it’s just a rouse.

My grandmother knows what my father did to me and for a time she tried to push a relationship onto me. The typical well he’s your father and you must respect him. Then after years of that she stopped. I thought finally she realized the seriousness of what he did to me. Finally she believed me and validated the pain. For many years she didn’t say a word about it. She would occasionally mention him but it wasn’t anything about me. I would just nod and agree, waiting for the next topic to talk about. I got good at changing the subject.

I’m sure her aging has caused her to go back to the old ways. I’m also sure that she’s had a change of heart due to her own ticking clock. She just wants to see her son and grandchild finally get along. I want that same relationship but it will never happen, at least not in the way I need it too. You can’t make someone love you. I learned that a long time ago. Since my Mom died I have had moments of my own changes of heart but those quickly faded at the realization that nothing has changed with him. He’s still the same person who hurt me so many years ago. He’s still just as fanatical with God.

If I’m to ever make a go at life I have to keep our worlds separate. I use to hate him. That almost destroyed me. I no longer hate anyone who caused great harm to me. People that were suppose to love and protect me but didn’t. I use to take the blame but it never was my fault. While I’m awake now that doesn’t mean that I’m gullible. I’m strong enough to realize that I’m the one that’s changed.

I use to think I was deserving of his pain and rejection. That was my purpose in life. Deep inside I was unlovable. That was the biggest lie of them all and I no longer believe that. He’s not worthy of my tears, nor my happiness and joy. I have earned this peace of mind. I have wasted so much time in pain and suffering, that I refuse to put it at risk. This is my time, my life. I can do whatever I want to. I have spent enough time in my shoes that I know what works and what doesn’t. People might have the best intentions of giving you input and advice as to how you should lead your life but usually it has nothing to do with them. I find it interesting that people who have made NO attempt in helping you heal show up at the end with all their opinions about your life. Those who act like they are concerned for you but are just really judging you.

If people really were concerned for you they would take action with you personally. They would help you find a therapist, maybe even offer to take you. Instead they talk about you to others who know you. All the shoulds and shouldn’ts. The woulda, coulda and shoulda.

I got to this point today, all on my own. I had no one to talk to, other than my therapist. I had no numbers to call in the middle of the night when I felt like I was doing. I did it by myself. I use to think that as a weakness but now I realize it’s strength. I’m the strongest person there is, well one of them.

Many hurtful words were transmitted yesterday and unfortunately some seeped in but not enough to stop the progress I’m making. My heart is guarded now by a secret garden. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m not suffering today because I am but I now realize that this pain will pass. I just must endure it, let the poison run out of my wounds. That is the only way to heal. You can’t stuff the wound expecting it to heal, it will only become infected with disease. So when you finally unearth that wound you must clean it and leave it open to heal. That’s when the real hard work begins.

I’m not going to lie, there is a part of me that wants to do but it’s faint and I’m stronger. So much stronger. I must let go of the need for validation of my pain from other people, especially the ones closet to me. It will never happen. That was clear to me yesterday. As I sit across from her I started to float away as she continued to lecture me on respecting my father and letting go of the past. I had checked out but I was still feeling the pain seep out. I tried to justify the pain with examples and it wasn’t good enough to warrant not having a relationship with him. Well that was wrong but that was the past. She even acknowledged that he hadn’t changed. That his views were just as radical as before. I couldn’t understand why she was doing this. I even told her that wasn’t why I wanted to see her. Finally after she started to see that I was upset and stopped. She apologized a couple of times but the wound was sliced open. She dropped me off, at my new place, and I was left stunned and unsure what happened.

All my life I have had people tell me to move on from the past. Which usually meant keeping my mouth shut and pretending like nothing happened. When you silence a violent act you silence the victim. I won’t be silenced anymore.

I tried to defend myself, falling into my old patterns. I knew that certain people judged me for being so open about my struggles both on my blog and on Facebook. I’m empathic enough to feel things deeply. The silence says everything. I told her the things he said like I was going to die of AIDS and be alone in the hospital. It didn’t matter. Her need to fix things were a priority over my pain and suffering. I don’t blame her. Nor am I upset with her. I’m hurt, deeply but I will be okay. I know who I am finally and working on myself. I don’t need to be fixed. I just need to heal, allowed to flourish into the beautiful flower that I am inside.

I finally know my impact, even though my grandmother doesn’t. She made it clear how my Aunts felt about my airing my dirty laundry in a public forum. She even said they didn’t approve of me talking about my father either. I tried to convince her that people did find me inspirational and she stopped me, saying that no they didn’t. It was like she was yelling at me. It shook me to the core. She might not see my impact but I do. I understand that my message isn’t for everyone. There are those who will judge me and that’s their right. There are many out there who need to hear my voice. I hope that I’m their lighthouse leading them to shore like so many were for me, like my nieces and nephew. I know what it’s like to feel so alone and no one should have to endure this but they do.

Our pain, trauma and experiences aren’t dirty. Keeping the bottled up is what makes them dirty. There are others who will try with all their might to keep your pandora’s box closed. Don’t let them. Fight with all your might. Speak your truth no matter how loud the no’s are. Your voice is one of the greatest parts about you. The shame of others is not yours to take on. We don’t owe anyone anything.

So I’m going to live life the way I want to. It’s my choice to have a relationship with my father and I chose not to be apart of his toxicity. I love myself too much to endure the pain any longer. I will endure this pain one last time and then I will move on. Which means that I will have to suffer through this week. I will have to fight the needs to overeat. To numb out the pain. It’s already started and I’m struggling to fight but I am. I just have to get through these few days. I realize now that the storm always pass. I no longer will be swept under by other people’s floods. So while I might be eating junk food and drinking Pepsi like crazy I know that tomorrow is another day and I will get back on track. This trigger is just temporary. I will suffer for only a short time and I will push through. I don’t want to leave my apartment today but I’m going to anyways. I don’t want to brush my teeth but I will. I didn’t want to put the meat I bought last week in the freezer but I did. I didn’t want to write this post but I did. I didn’t want to call my grandmother today but I did.

I’ve learned that recovery is about pushing myself out of the discomfort. Do the things my mind tells me not to. Depression is a liar. While the diagnose and disease is real but I refuse to let it hold me down any longer. I will use my struggles and pain to help others. To spread awarenesses about the things that matter to me most like mental health and the homeless. Those with mental illness are some of the strongest people out there and so much stronger than those who try to deny it’s existence. If you beat homelessness you are the definition of strength. Those in my family couldn’t bear an ounce of that struggle. They live in luxurious, glass houses and have never had to endure the pain and struggles that I have. I use to want to be in their houses but I now realize it’s just a mirage. So I’m going to make my own home and fill it with the people who love and accept me for who I am. If you can’t handle me when I struggle, then you don’t get to experience me when I shine. Sure you can get a ticket but you will only be afford for the nose bleed seats.

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The World is Your Oyster!!!

So in therapy yesterday I had the realization that I am capable of doing anything I want, as in my dreams are a reality. This was a monumental moment for me, as previously my dreams were clouded over by extreme doubt. Anything is possible.

Without dreams your world becomes a very dismal place. Dreams are aspirations, where you want to go.

In the world we live in it is very easy to have your dreams turns into nightmares. If you listen and believe the naysayers you will always live your life in their shadows.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

So shine brightly, even if everyone around you is trying to turn off your light. The harder they try to pull you down, the brighter you need to shine your light. Everyone has that light, some just chose to not use it.

I have been thinking deeply about that, those who choose to let their light shine in a positive matter versus those who hide their light and try to drag others down. Prior to my Mama dying I was the person in the middle, hiding in the shadows. I let other people extinguish my light. I felt broken and useless.

Now I realize I was only scared, hiding from the light. The light will protect me and the darkness only hurts me. Seeing my Mama battle her illness and the bravery she had facing her death, gives me courage to come out of darkness. I want to live my life in honor of her. I want to make her proud.

Last Sunday I watched the Super Bowl. I usually only watch it for the commercials but this time I actually watched the game. When I heard the San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver say that no gay person would be welcome on his team, I instantly wanted the Ravens to win. He went on to make other homophobic comments. Previously some of the players of the 49ers made a “It Get’s Better” video in regards to anti-bullying. Now two of the players who are in the video linebacker Ahmad Brooks and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga have denied making the video. Then when they were showed the video with them in it they said they didn’t realize the aim of the production was to fight the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens.

This is a perfect example of someone not being lead by their light rather by their fears and hate. Anybody who is in the public eye has a great opportunity to make a difference, especially with children. Those like Culliver are only wasting their opportunities.

Thankfully there are those unlike Culliver who stand up to injustice and embrace their light with courage. Linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens Brendon Ayanbadejo is a prime example of someone embracing their light by coming out in support of equality. For someone in the sports world to stand up to the rampant homophobia and fear that exists is a true act of bravery.

Brendon has vowed to use the Super Bowl as a platform for marriage equality and anti-bullying, saying “This isn’t a fight for gay rights, this is a fight for human rights.” Now this a true champ in my eyes.

After winning the Super Bowl XLVII he was interviewed in a video produced for The Respect for Marriage Coalition, where he spoke out in defense of  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

“Being the first pioneer publicly accepting same-sex marriage in the three major sports was difficult at first but the more people scrutinized me and ridiculed me, the stronger I became for the issue,” Ayanbadejo told Simmons, who has also been praised by a number of advocacy groups for his own defense of LGBT rights. “It was like lifting weights; the resistance made me stronger, stand taller and speak louder for LGBT rights!”

Brendon urges others, “Join me and the majority of Americans who support marriage equality — it’s the right thing to do.”
Think about how much good he is doing for the gay community but it goes much further than that. His light will travel to many unexpected places, touching those who so desperately need to hear his message. Ayanbadejo’s message isn’t just for gay people but everyone as his message of acceptance is universal. Plus the courage he exhibits by standing up and doing the right thing, even when it brings him heat, is another way that he is making a difference.
Just like in Marianne Williamson’s quote The Deepest Fear, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So I am making a conscious effort to embrace my light fully, even if that means taking heat for it. There are so many people out in this world trapped in the darkness and need that light to help them out of the dark. I am no longer that scared little boy, stuck in the bedroom where the bad things happened. I am a strong, loving adult with the skills to rescue myself when need be. I must constantly remind myself of that.
You are worthy. You are beautiful. You are capable of greatness. You deserve so much in your life. You are lovable. You matter. There are people out there who embrace all of that and more. Those who share their light with others. Not everyone in this world are leeches. If you find yourself surrounded by them venture outside your world. Trust me it isn’t an easy task when you are consumed by darkness but the more you try the better it will get. At first the light will be frightening but the more you embrace the light the more comfort it will give you.
As a good friend of mine pointed out it isn’t about perfection but persistence. Keep at it. If you fall down, get back up and keep getting up even if it takes you a while. Healing is about the journey, not the destination. Keep moving forward even if it is one small step at a time. Taking a step backwards is not the end of the world, just take another step forward. Falling down doesn’t mean defeat, use it to fuel your flame to power you.
Embracing yourself for who you are and the light you possess takes practice, especially if you have hid it for most of your life. I remind myself that I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday… We will get there… Together!!!
The world is our oyster, now it is the time to go out and get it!!!

7 years in hiding

******trigger warning, I talk about my sexual abuse in detail******

From 5th grade until the summer of graduating High School I carried a deep dark secret, one that as each day passed by it slowly chipped away at my soul… I was sexually abused by a male cousin of mine.

For seven years I had to pretend like nothing was wrong. I had to lie. I couldn’t let anyone know the bad thing that happened to me, all while my the person who did the bad thing lived down the street.

He lived with my grandmother who didn’t drive. That meant my mother had to drive him everywhere he wanted. I had to face him on a weekly basis and couldn’t say a word. I had to pretend like everything was hunky-dory when deep down inside I was dying.

I would cry myself to sleep at night feeling that my parents loved him more than they did me. I even questioned if they loved me. Which wasn’t that difficult to do when my father was around him. My father was the hunting type, so was my abuser. My father loved sports so did he. I desperately needed my father’s love and he seemed to give it to him so easily.

The whole family loved him. He could do no wrong. He was the golden boy. He was popular in school, he was captain of the basketball and football team. Even when it came out in the open what had happened many in the family still saw him in that light, especially my grandmother.

When you hide something so big and hurtful it has a way of seeping into everything you do. A secret is like a balloon the more air you breath into it the more it will expand, until eventually there is more more room to grow and it explodes.

I took the money from my graduation party and I bought a computer. The internet was the first time I could reach out to other survivors of sexual abuse. It was hope for me. I also started to come to terms with being gay as well. The computer was my connection to the outside world. My parents didn’t understand why I was always on the computer and they were about to take it away.

That was the last straw that broke my back. I went into this danger will robinson mode and burst out my two secrets in anger. I couldn’t lie anymore. It was destroying me and I wasn’t going to allow them to take away the one good thing in my life.

The summer of 1995 I came out of the closet and told my parents that I was molested when I was younger.

I don’t remember much about that day, other than my Mom cried a lot.

I do remember my father went hunting with my cousin the next day. When I confronted him about it he told me that you have to forgive and forget. I was devastated by this.

Though my parents finally knew about what had happened, no one else knew… At the time I didn’t realize how much it had affected me. I guess I still had a lot of shame over what had happened. In seven years you learn to hide very well.

I guess in a way I was still afraid of my cousin. I had to pretend like everything was normal. So much when I was asked to be the usher at his wedding I felt I had to say yes because saying no would make people suspicious. Looking back I wonder how I had the courage to do something like that. That is the thing about hiding a secret, you do whatever you have to make it not obvious…

Once I hit puberty, being a gay youth (that didn’t know it at the time) I attached myself to the only thing I knew and that being the sexual abuse. The painful became pleasurable, and then painful all over again… When boys have natural fantasies that boys do at that age, I was having them about the abuse. That is where the shame started to grow. It was a double whammy. Sex turned into pain, pain into love… I was groomed into that lifestyle because I didn’t know any better. I thought he did those things to me because he cared/loved me. So I found myself purposely trying to get in those situations again. I was desperate to feel that way again.

Not only was I dealing with feelings of being gay but they were towards my male cousin who had sexually abused me. I can remember praying to God after I was successful in getting him to have sex with me, promising to never do that again. I was full of shame but then that would wear off and I was back to trying to get that connection again. I didn’t know it was unhealthy.

Then there came a time where he was done with me. He made it very clear that he didn’t want me anymore by biting my penis so hard that he left cut marks, I still have the scars.

He took what he wanted and when he was done, he threw me away like a piece of garbage. It was then I learned I was just a sex object for men. He got me to love him and rejected me, leaving me with a million miles of wounds.

As an adult I took the blame because I enjoyed and initiated the second part of the abuse. I felt such shame. I also feared that if I told anyone this that they wouldn’t believe me that the first part was not mutual. Which I had already had people in the family take light over what happened. My one aunt made a comment like boys will be boys…

It took someone pointing out that I was just a child and that I had been groomed to realize that it wasn’t my fault.

I didn’t tell anyone about the second part of the abuse until 2000. That was when the shit hit the fan. That was also the year I confronted my cousin by phone who told me that I was drunk. Why would he do something like that he said?

After that everyone knew and I became an even bigger black sheep of the family. My Mom’s side of the family had a way of pushing that kind of stuff underneath the rug. Anyone that tried kick the dust out was looked down upon. Afterwards various family members still saw him in that holy light, including my grandmother.

From that day on I find it hard to hid my feelings. During therapy I recently realized that reason why.  When I try to hide my feelings it reminds me of that horrible seven years where I had to hide.

I believe during those seven long years I was desperately needing someone to come rescue me and they never did. So when I go through something painful I feel like if I don’t lay down like I am dying no one will save me. I think in a way I am trying to save that boy in present day.

Hiding in my bed also became a survival skill both during the abuse, as well as during other traumatic times in my childhood. I would hide until my pillow until the scary thing was over. While I am no longer a boy, I still try to cope with my feelings in the same way but no matter how long I hide in my bed my problems never go away.

Everything is connected to how I feel about myself.

I have been hiding most of my life. The outside world is a scary place. Those 20 beautiful children who were so brutally gunned down in their prime has been a confirmation of that.

My Mama was my rock. She was always there, no matter what. She represented everything good in my life. When she died it felt like I had lost all of that. After my Mama died, I went back into hiding and I am still not sure I want to come out of my cave.

As much as I try, I still feel like I am stuck back in that time. I need to rescue my inner child from that time. I keep waiting for someone else to save me and I am the one who needs to rescue me. I guess all this time I haven’t been sure I deserve it.

I have been living on the edge of wanting and not wanting to be here for too long. I wish I could just break free and live my life the way I want. I just feel like something is holding me down. It is probably me…

Fake it until you make it. I struggle with faking it. I guess in a way I feel like by faking it means I have no reason to feel the way I do. Maybe I am trying to convince myself. By having various people in my life not give me the validation in my life, have I in returned felt I needed to show the world my pain???

The fact of the matter is these people will never give me the validation I need. They aren’t important and are no longer in my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone but myself.

It just takes time to let go of all the false things I learned during those seven years. I have to keep moving forward. Eventually the tide will turn and the parts of me that believe I deserve better will out way the parts that don’t. Now that I am finally unearthing all those horrible, unworthy feelings about myself it leaves me in a vulnerable place. So I have to ride out the storm and realize that I am in for a bumpy ride. If there is anything I have learned the past twenty years is that I just have to keep swimming, paddling through the rough seas. They say when you are going through hell, to keep going and that is what I am going to do. This time I am going to toss the untruths about myself in the sea. They no longer suit me and only cause me harm.

Eventually these bad feelings will go away and there will be nothing but blue skies and sunshine. I will have a firm foundation built on love so that the next time a storm arrives it will no longer knock me down. I will be safe and dry inside my home.

I once endured a hurricane of a storm and kept myself in that storm for way to long. It is time to step out of that storm, I deserve so much more…

I just have to hold on…