Tag Archive: Abuse


“I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
― Ned Vizzini

Lately I’ve been struggling a lot and not sure what direction I should go. I feel lost, broken and completely alone. I feel myself withdrawing and pulling away from people and getting lost in my own head more and more. I know this partly because I’m already tired of the therapy and medication that doesn’t really work. My therapist says I need to just be patient, but I’m tired of constantly trying to be okay, it’s exhausting pretending everything is fine. My therapist says, I’m too hard on myself and take on too much responsibility. I blame myself for things I shouldn’t and typically see the worse in myself, whereas I always try to see the best in others. But I can’t help it, I just don’t like myself very much. All I do is think about how badly I screwed things up with my honesty.

I know the so-called ‘psychologically depressed’ person who tries to kill themselves doesn’t do so out of ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t fair, or out of selfishness and surely not because death seems appealing. Which I’ve come to realize is a major misconception about people who struggle with this invisible agony and when it reaches a certain unendurable level will kill themselves. Think of it like this, you’re in a high-rise building that’s on fire. The flames are slowly encroaching on you, the heat and smoke are becoming nearly unbearable and you jump out the window. The terror of falling to your death is terrifying and very different from you or me, standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames and the smoke: when the flames get close enough and the smoke making it harder and harder to breathe, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ or ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror that’s way beyond that of falling.

When I told my therapist about my suicide attempts, she asked me if I really wanted to die, and I responded,
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?” She asked.
“Because they want to stop the pain,” I explained.
For me, it’s always been this weird back and forth. As I said in an earlier entry, I grew up in a mostly Christian household. I prayed for God’s grace and salvation for years. My faith in God never wavered, it didn’t matter how many times my mom would beat and ridicule me, how often my brother would mock and make fun of me while my mother laughed and laughed, encouraging him to dig at me harder and harder. Punishing me every time I tried make fun of him in return, or to say something hurtful to him. My goal wasn’t to hurt him, but only to show him how it feels. But no one else would see that and I would get beaten and grounded for standing up to him, or for fighting back. While he would parade in front of me, laughing as I got beaten. Even when I would go to school and get harassed and bullied almost daily. I held firm to this faith, that there was this just, loving, compassionate God up there, who knew what he was doing, so I put my trust in my faith.

No matter how hard things had gotten, I believed that it was all according to God’s plan. Sometimes I thought God was preparing me, strengthening me to make me a hero just like the tales of Joshua, or Samson, or Moses. Other times I convinced myself that God was testing my resolve, my faith. So I stayed strong, I endured, until I couldn’t anymore, until I broke.

There’s only so much pain, heartache and loneliness a person can take, and I’ve been lonely most of my life. It’s hard, it hurts and make you feel like you’ve being hollowed out. Several Christians have told me over the years that I need to crave companionship with God first and foremost. But where was God all those nights I spent crying myself to sleep, afraid to go home because it would mean I would have to deal with my mother, afraid of going to school, because I didn’t want to walk the halls and get harassed, ridiculed, or made fun of, or just made to feel like an outcast. Where was god when I was praying night after night for my mother to love me, or when I was begging God to give me just one good day, just one where I didn’t feel beaten down, where I didn’t get attacked just for existing. Where was he when thoughts of suicide slowly began seeping into my thoughts. When I stopped seeing myself in a mirror and only saw everything wrong with me staring back.

I don’t know if there’s a God or not, I don’t know which faith is the correct one, even in Christianity there’s so many other fractions, Catholics, Baptist, Pentecostal. Etc. How does one ever even decide? Who is right or does being right even matter?

The only thing I know for certain, is that people need to just stop being so ugly to each other, because at the end of the day, no one really knows what happens when we go. In all honesty, who really cares about one’s religion, when no one really knows if their faith is right or not. Because that’s faith, believing in something even when you have no proof or evidence to prove it, it’s just believing that there’s out there greater than yourself. Which I understand the importance of, I know it can be a good thing to have faith, especially if having faith, makes you a happier and a better person. Which I think should be of more importance to all faiths, the focus should be on spreading more good will in the world, leaving it a better place for when you go. Because all things die and fade with time, the hate people give, has a lasting negative impact on the world and it spreads like cancer. Being kind to someone though, can change a person’s world, maybe even their perspective.

For myself, I’ve always tried doing the right thing, even when it meant risking losing the very thing I wanted most or sacrificing my own happiness. Which hasn’t always been easy and as often been decisions I have grappled and wrestled with, hoping I was making the right decision in the end. Many of these past choices I have regretted and had wished I would have put myself first or been a little more selfish. But being selfish has never really been in my character. I’m not saying that to humble brag or any of the sort. My selflessness was something that grew from me watching my mother and knowing my step-mother. I saw firsthand the damage being selfish causes those around you and how it affects an individual, how it ages and how it damages you. I’m not saying you or anyone shouldn’t ever be selfish, I’ve learned that sometimes being a little selfish for the right reasons can be a good thing. You deserve to be happy too and should always fight what you want. But just don’t get carried away and just ask yourself, “Is this something I really need?” Sometimes at least for me, it’s often been more fun to share and having someone to celebrate with. I know now that it’s okay to be a selfish and put myself first, just as I’ve learned its okay to say no and to walk away from those who hurt you. Unfortunately, I’ve learned those lessons a little bit too late. But I still find myself at war with myself, between choosing something for myself, or what I want, or letting someone else take the win.


I taught myself forgiveness, even when forgiving was far from easy. But I’ve learned early on that when you forgive someone, you have no right to throw the past back at them. I’ve learned from experience how that can feel and makes you feel, I’ve learned it from my mother. Who would often bring up my past mistakes to accuse me of wrong doing in the present and for me it felt like I couldn’t escape my past mistakes. That no matter how hard I tried to change and better myself that it wasn’t good enough and I’d always been that person they either want me to be or that they hate without any just cause or reason.

Despite my upbringing and the bullies who hunted me in school, I was born with this kind and gentle heart. Which I often find myself hating, wishing more than anything I could make myself numb to some of the hurt. Wishing there was some way I could stop myself from seeing the best in people. I tend to see the potential in those around me and I long to see the good in them, which has sometimes caused me to be taken advantage of, which is a problem which also sucks.

Worse is I’ve always had a generous and giving nature, which has been magnified by my C-ptsd, but this part of me was initially born from me trying to distance myself as much as possible from my mother, because I saw how her selfishness affected her and those around her. I never wanted to be blinded by jealously and believe it’s what I’m owed for some clandestine reason. I like earning my keep and my share. I was partly inspired by my father whom I witnessed frequently loaning friends and family money, when I asked him why he always did this, because he’d seldom get paid back. He said,


“Yeah, it sucks a little bit when I don’t get paid back, but it feels worse feeling like I could have helped someone but didn’t. I know I’ll probably never be rich and I don’t think I ever want to be. I like to give when I can and hope for the best.”


When I heard this, I made this vow to give whenever the need was great, to put others before myself and this was also because I partly wanted to have a positive effect on the world. Then without even realizing it, I found myself getting more joy out of helping others than I have ever gotten from helping myself. I often felt guilty the few times I chose to put myself first, the times I chose to be selfish even though I know now it’s okay and perfectly acceptable to be a little selfish sometimes. But, it doesn’t make it any less difficult, or less of a struggle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled with a decision, wondering if the choice I made, or plan to make is the right one, or if I’m making a choice for the right reasons or not.

In all honesty I often feel like I’m at war with myself, with these voices in the back of my mind. My depression telling me how worthless I am, that I’m a burden to the world around me. My anxiety tells me I’m annoying and every choice I ever make is the wrong one and only annoy and hurt those around me, telling me I should just go away and let myself be forgotten. My heart is just tired of hurting, it used to be overflowing with hope, believing if I just stood my ground that things would get better, that it has too. But as times goes on, my heart just hurts, and it becomes filled with sorrow and pain and wanting it to just end.

Then I have this weird, defiant, stubborn voice that tells the other voices to shut the hell up and that I have to fight for thing things I want and never give up. To keep going, to keep getting back up no matter how many times I get knocked down, to keep trying. But it’s hard and it’s the hardest thing I ever have to do. Every day I have to make this choice to keep going and not end my life. When I was a kid, I would think of these arbitrary reasons to live. Like “I have to live just long enough to see this movie,” Or “Play that video game,” or “Go on this trip,” Etc. I was grasping at straws, trying to find a more solid reason to keep going.

It’s almost kind of funny, how a lot of people see me as an optimist and will comment on my positivity. When in truth, I’m just trying to make the most of every situation I find myself in. I have to try and force myself to have fun and enjoy myself as much as possible, because a part of me believes that when we die, we can only take the memories we make with us and I want to take as many good memories as I can. With the hope that maybe, when I die, I get to relive my favorite memories as often as I want. I can stay in those moments where I was my happiness, when I felt like I was at my best. For me it’s important to make the most of the time we have now and I’ve been learning to take more chances, to live in the moment. It can be exciting and life changing, as well as it can be heartbreaking. But I can at least look back and say “I tried, I took a risk, I gambled and I tried.”

So that’s all I can promise to do these days.
I’m trying.
Josh. C

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

― Judith Lewis Herman

During my time of growing, healing and recovering from my past traumas, I’ve come to the decision of my rewriting my blog series, “Scars of who we are” and attempt to break it down into novel format, in hopes of reaching others. My hope is to let people know they aren’t alone and don’t have to continuing being a victim, or victimized, or question themselves, their sanity and value.

I learned firsthand what it’s like to love someone who hurts you. Despite how badly my mother had treated me majority of the time, a part of me still loved her, cared about her and wanted more than anything for her to acknowledge me as her son. To show me just an ounce of the love she had shown any of my brothers. It sucks seeing someone you care about love and care for everyone else but you. Which lead me to having a bit of a break down when I was talking to my dad and had asked him, “Why didn’t she love me? What was wrong so wrong with me?”

I deeply longed for a good relationship with my mother, I wanted to be able to talk and confide in her, to trust her. I wanted her to love me as she had loved my older brother. Growing up I often thought if I was better, smarter, more talented, or thoughtful she would see me as her son and love me as such. Every day I prayed to God to just let her love me and to take away whatever it was that made her hate me. That being said, my mother wasn’t always horrible towards me, like many narcissistic abusers she would be kind to me sometimes. She could be silly and funny, which would always end a little strangely. It wasn’t ever that she was just goofing off with me, it was how abruptly it would end and she would be upset with me, or suddenly get very angry at me. It was almost as if she felt like I had somehow tricked her into not hating me for a little awhile. The shift was always sudden and seemed to come out of nowhere.

Still, I do remember when albeit vaguely how she used to read to me before bed when I was a kid and I think it’s what ignited my love for stories and expanded my imagination. My mother was also an amazing cook, she made the best brownies and chocolate chip cookies. She was also very creative and crafty in in her own right. Strangely enough, even though she rarely stayed up past 11pm, the few times she had she was cool. I don’t know what it was about the late-night hours that made her kinder and more motherly, but more often than not, whenever it was late at night, she would be kind of motherly towards me. She would actually talk to me like I was a person and not like someone she despised. Now it didn’t happen every time she stayed up late, but enough for me to realize it was a side of her I wished I saw more often.

Even still there is one moment when I was fifteen that always struck me as odd, something that not even my therapist really understands why this happened, knowing what she had learned about my mother, something that stuck with me. As you can imagine the older I got the worse my mother had treated me, with periodic episodes of kindness. (Also, whenever we were in public or around certain people my mother would be mother of the year. A façade that would quickly fall away once we either in the car or at home.) But there was this one night when I was fifteen, where I had awoken in the middle the night, shivering. I quickly discovered I had somehow managed to kick off my covers while I was asleep.
So still half asleep, I began blindly fumbling for my covers, when I heard someone at my bedroom door. Fearing it was my mother, I quickly laid back down and pretended to be asleep. Then through the slits of my eyes, I watched as my door slowly cracked open and I saw my mother poking her head into my room. I immediately felt my heart seize in my chest as I recalled all the times she dragged me out of bed, feeling her nails bite into my flesh as she would wrench me out of the bed by the arm. So I lay as still as I could, also remembering all the times she had caught me reading in med, or playing a handheld videogame, when I was supposed to be sleeping.

I kept hoping she would close my door and just go on down the hall away from my room, but she didn’t. Instead, I heard her silently pushing my door open and I could see her through the slits of my eyes silently stepping into my room, towards my bed. In my head I kept begging God to make her leave, to just turn around and walk out of my bedroom and to just leave me alone.
She didn’t leave, but then the strangest thing happened. I felt her untangling my blankets and then she proceeded to tuck me in. Needless to say I didn’t know what to think, I was completely stunned and didn’t fully understand or comprehend what she was doing, or why. She had never shown me this kind of tenderness or affection for as long as I could remember. Then I felt her lips gently kiss the top of my head and she whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Then she caressed my cheek and gave me a gentle squeeze on my shoulder and silently slipped back out of my room. When I told my therapist about this event, even she was stumped. Much like it has been for me, this sudden act of love was something very rare, very random and I’m 98% certain that there was no way she could have known I was awake when she came into my room that night.

Of course I was so love deprived, that every night after that for a week, I would kick off my blankets on purpose and would go as far as leaving my bedroom door cracked open in hopes the same event would repeat itself. Sadly it never did and I never brought it up to my mother either. I guess in a way I was a little afraid that if I brought it up to her it would have broke whatever strange magic was at work that night. Unfortunately just a year later, I would be assaulted by her as I was attempting to take out the trash. It was on that night that I had finally had enough and shoved her off of me and told that I had finally had enough and was finally going to leave and live with my dad. My mother ended up falling into my room and began at hitting me, scratching me, shoving me. Then when I raised an arm to keep her from hitting me, she dared me to hit her. Begged me and tried provoking me to hit her. By shoving me, hitting me, taunting me as she said, “Go on hit me! It’s what I want you to do, I want you to hit me! It’s what I’ve always wanted you to do! Because I’ll finally be able to call Chris (My cop step-dad) And have him arrest your ass tonight, your aunt’s husband is rich, he knows judges and I can make it where you go Juvy, to prison and never see your dad, or anyone you love every again. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do to you!”

Luckily I didn’t hit her, but I did threaten to call the cops myself and let them see the marks that she had left on me. But when I went to the phone, she broke down crying, begged me not to call the police, told me how if I did, I would cause my brothers to lose their mother. She told me how my older brother had no one else and asked me if I could really take away the only parent he had. She then apologized profusely, promised me she’d never hit me again and that things would get better. I dumbly agreed and didn’t call the police like I should have, like I wished I would have done, what I should have done.

But…All I could do was think about all the times I overheard my mother telling my older brother how his father never wanted him and how my father didn’t want him either, how she was the only one who had wanted him. When in truth my father couldn’t fight for custody of my older brother, since he wasn’t his biological son and my dad’s lawyer had told him fighting for custody for my older brother would be a lost cause.

Though still, every now and again, I find myself thinking back to that might when my mother crept into my room, tucked me in and shown me genuine love. I can’t tell you how many times I sat and wondered why she apologized to me in that moment, when she thought I was asleep. Some people have told me their theories, everything from her being possessed and she managed to break free for that one moment. Others believe she had an epiphany and realized how badly she had treated me or had a moment of clarity and realized in that moment that she was mentally ill and couldn’t help how she treated me. Sadly I don’t have any answers, I can tell you that there have been times when I wondered if maybe she was preparing me for something, or knew something I didn’t about my future and maybe she thought treating me so horribly would make strong, or a better person. Truth is I don’t know the answer and I don’t think I ever will. I do know I struggle day to day and I’m always fighting my demons who’re always telling me I should kill myself, that I’m worthless, pathetic and a burden to all those around me. I know the reason I struggle with these demons is because of what my mother had put me through. No kid should ever be afraid of going home, of talking to their parents. No kid deserves to have a parent call them stupid, or ugly, or that they need to have plastic surgery. All I ever wanted was to feel and be a part of something, a family, to be and feel and be loved. It’s what everyone deserves.

 

  “It is not okay for someone you like to treat you poorly and then pretend it didn’t happen, making you question your own grasp on reality. This dynamic is called gaslighting. It’s a common tactic of abusers to shift the focus of the blame from their bad behavior onto the person they are victimizing. One important side effect of gaslighting is having your memory “black out” after a fight (because your brain is trying to protect you from the cruelty of the abuse), which results in not being able to remember how an argument started. You may start to internalize the idea that there is something wrong with you and that you did something to provoke the situation as you’re increasingly beaten down and confused.”  ― Shannon Weber

I don’t know how to ever really describe what it was like growing up with my mother and being around her family. It’s the question I get asked more often, which is “Why didn’t you ever say anything, or tell anyone? Over the years I gave a few reasons, which were all true. The first being I was afraid, I was afraid of the many threats my mother made to me. She used to also tell me if I told anyone they wouldn’t believe me and would just think less of me. I was also afraid of being believed and being made fun for being abused by my mother, I don’t know why, I guess I would have to blame media who portrayed fathers as being these, imposing and terrifying figures, as oppose to mothers who have often been a victim themselves or at worse a someone who denied the abuse was even occurring at home.

In therapy, I have learned one of the more prime reasons I didn’t say anything sooner, was because I was afraid of being called a liar, as the result of my mother’s gaslighting me for several years. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs. All of which my mother was a master at. My mother was so skilled at this, that when she overheard my older brother and I talking about how she used to backhand and beat us at the kitchen table if we chewed with our mouths full, put our elbows on the table, or made too much noise while taking a drink, my mother became livid. She denied ever hitting us at the dinner table, going as far as breaking down into tears for thinking she would have ever done that. She was so effective in her denial, that in two weeks, my older brother came to believe her. Later telling me that she had never hit either of us. When I still distinctly remembered being backhanded and beaten cause she saw me chew with my mouth open, or because my elbows touched the table. He had become so adamant about it not happening, it was unsettling. Thankfully, I knew and still remembered clearly the numerous times I was beaten at the table. Granted not a good memory at all, but in the way my brother and I had talked and joked about it, because we were commenting how my younger brothers would get time out and we would get beaten. Although yes, my older brother occasionally gotten beat, whereas I would get beat all the time.

Still it was strange seeing how quickly my brother not only seemed to forget but would deny ever happened. However, my dad remembered seeing her haul off and beat me or my brother at the dinner table at the slightest infraction. My dad even told me the first time he saw it and asked why she was beating me, she said it was because my elbows were on the table. So my dad had pointed out that I was four and then sat his elbows on the table and dared her to hit him, like she was hitting me. (I don’t remember this particular instance, but I do remember being hit a lot for stupid little things and the one time my dad got so furious over it, he threw his plate in the trash along with all the other food she had cooked, except for what was on mine and my brother’s plate.)

My mother is a narcissist who uses  gaslighting techniques to have power over others. Which is more effective than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique used by abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, the few times I tried calling my mother out on how she was treating me, she would tell me that I was crazy. She would insist that my dad was responsible and that he had brainwashed me into  believing she was this horrible person. Sometimes she would break down and cry, telling me she loved me because she always made me dinner and special meals just for me because of my being a picky eater, which I am. She used the gifts she had gotten me for my birthday, or Christmas to tell me it was proof that she loved me. Ironically she would always bash my father to me, telling me how my father was the one who always beat me, that he used to beat her and my older brother and how selfish he was. However my father never struck me out of anger and when he did used to give me whooping, it was two or three swats then he was done. My dad used to tell me how much he hated having to give me a paddling and it showed. Because when my mother would beat me with the paddle, she would hit me as hard as she could, several times, more if I cried out, or tried to wiggle away. Then she would beat me some more if I ended up crying afterwards. She didn’t just beat my ass, by my hands, lower back, the back of my thighs, etc and this was with a thick, wooden paddle.

The few times I’ve tried calling her out on her treatment of me, she would accuse me of being dramatic, tell me I was being crazy. Say I was exaggerating things, making things out to be worse than what they were. Which often made me wonder if she was right. I can’t tell you how many times I wondered if she was right, if I was really crazy or not. A part of me even acknowledged that she did make me my own little meals every day, she did on rare occasion treat me well.  However she would always use the good things she done as a way to tell me she loved me and that if she didn’t she would have done those nice things for me. Even though it didn’t change the fact that I slowly found myself becoming afraid of her. Because I never knew what she would do, or how she would react, but I did know that she liked to ruin me every chance she got. If I spent a summer with my dad and came home talking about all the things he and I did together, she would say, “Oh he’s not treating you like a son, he’s treating you more like a buddy. He only did those things, so you’d go live with him and stop him from having to pay child support, he doesn’t really love you or care about you. Not like I do. He’s just using you and trying to manipulate you.” And just like that, the euphoria I had over a summer well spent would be suddenly tarnished. I would be hurt and devastated and a part of me always wondered what if she was right?

Such was growing up with her. If I ever questioned her methods or tried calling her out on how she treated me, she would tell me I was crazy, tell me it was all in my head, insist on telling me how much worse things could be. Once she even told me if I ever told anyone about what was going on at home, the police would come and take me and my brother away, she told me my dad wouldn’t be able to get custody of me and I would go to an orphanage, where I would get molested and raped. And explained to me in a rudimentary way of what that entailed, because at the time of her telling me that I was still quite young and didn’t know what those words meant.

My mother even went out of her way telling the rest of her family and my older brother that I was crazy, how I had been brainwashed into disliking her by my father, how I would always overexaggerate, making things worse than what they were and how I always played the victim. So the few times I tried reaching out and asking for help, they would look at me and say “Oh yeah, your mother warned us you would say something like that, you know she doesn’t hate you, she buys you clothes and makes you food.” Which doesn’t prove one way or another that someone loves you. The best manipulators and abusers out there will do some good things for you. Just so they can make you doubt yourself just enough. Luckily for me, I did wonder if everything was in my head, so I got to the point where I wouldn’t say anything negative about my mother or her family. Then I would invite friends over or leave my phone on when she would yell and scream at me, insult me. It got so bad that one of my best friends had told his parents and they offered to adopt me, or to just let me live with them on more than one occasion. I also mentioned before how I once brought a girlfriend for her and her family to meet during the holidays and afterwards she told me how she didn’t like my mom or her family. When I asked why, she said,

“Because they all talk down to you and walk all over you and it was clear they were constantly trying to make you look bad the entire time. It was like they were going out of their way to do it too and it was horrible.” For me this was a revelation. It wasn’t easy for Rebekah to tell me the truth the way she had. Up until then, she didn’t know anything was wrong in my family, or back home. She helped me see that I wasn’t crazy and that the way they were treating me wasn’t just in my head. It let me know if you become suspicious about how you’re being treated. Don’t be afraid of going to a trusted person and asking them for help, or advice. 
It’s just not parents or a parent who can gaslight someone, I’ve seen people do it their boyfriend, girlfriend and spouses. So you have to be ever vigilant.

People who gaslight typically use the following techniques:

  1. They tell blatant lies.

You know it’s an outright lie. Yet they are telling you this lie with a straight face. Why are they so blatant? Because they’re setting up a precedent. Once they tell you a huge lie, you’re not sure if anything they say is true. Keeping you unsteady and off-kilter is the goal.

  1. They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

You know they said they would do something; you know you heard it. But they out and out deny it. It makes you start questioning your reality—maybe they never said that thing. And the more they do this, the more you question your reality and start accepting theirs.

  1. They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition.

They know how important your kids are to you, and they know how important your identity is to you. So those may be one of the first things they attack. If you have kids, they tell you that you should not have had those children. They will tell you’d be a worthy person if only you didn’t have a long list of negative traits. They attack the foundation of your being. For me, my mother would often attack my identity. She had a problem with everything about me. How I stood, how I walked, my hair, she would tell me horrible things about my father, tell me my friends weren’t really my friends and that they were all using me, or making fun of me behind my back. She would even tell me horrible things about my grandmother, who was more of a mother to me then her, or anyone else I’ve ever known.

  1. They wear you down over time.

This is one of the insidious things about gaslighting—it is done gradually, over time. A lie here, a lie there, a snide comment every so often…and then it starts ramping up. Even the brightest, most self-aware people can be sucked into gaslighting—it is that effective. It’s the “frog in the frying pan” analogy: The heat is turned up slowly, so the frog never realizes what’s happening to it.

  1. Their actions do not match their words.

When dealing with a person or entity that gaslights, look at what they are doing rather than what they are sayingWhat they are saying means nothing; it is just talk. What they are doing is the issue.

  1. They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

This person or entity that is cutting you down, telling you that you don’t have value, is now praising you for something you did. This adds an additional sense of uneasiness. You think, “Well maybe they aren’t so bad.” Yes, they are. This is a calculated attempt to keep you off-kilter—and again, to question your reality. Also look at what you were praised for; it is probably something that served the gaslighter.

  1. They know confusion weakens people.

 

Gaslighters know that people like having a sense of stability and normalcy. Their goal is to uproot this and make you constantly question everything. And humans’ natural tendency is to look to the person or entity that will help you feel more stable—and that happens to be the gaslighter.

 

  1. They project.

They are a drug user or a cheater, yet they are constantly accusing you of that. This is done so often that you start trying to defend yourself, and are distracted from the gaslighter’s own behavior.

 

  1. They try to align people against you.

Gaslighters are masters at manipulating and finding the people they know will stand by them no matter what—and they use these people against you. They will make comments such as, “This person knows that you’re not right,” or “This person knows you’re useless too.” Keep in mind it does not mean that these people actually said these things. A gaslighter is a constant liar. When the gaslighter uses this tactic it makes you feel like you don’t know who to trust or turn to—and that leads you right back to the gaslighter. And that’s exactly what they want: Isolation gives them more control.

  1. They tell you or others that you are crazy.

This is one of the most effective tools of the gaslighter, because it’s dismissive. The gaslighter knows if they question your sanity, people will not believe you when you tell them the gaslighter is abusive or out-of-control. It’s a master technique.

  1. They tell you everyone else is a liar.

By telling you that everyone else (your family, the media) is a liar, it again makes you question your reality. You’ve never known someone with the audacity to do this, so they must be telling the truth, right? No. It’s a manipulation technique. It makes people turn to the gaslighter for the “correct” information—which isn’t correct information at all.

 

The more you are aware of these techniques, the quicker you can identify them and avoid falling into the gaslighter’s trap.  So be careful out there.

My very personal PSA

I have depression, anxiety and recently been diagnosed with C-PTSD.

Several people like to tell me I should get over it, or say “Oh I’ve been depressed a few times, but I did this thing and it stopped it.”

Truth is, depression isn’t cute or funny and it’s definitely not sexy. It’s a living thing. It exists by feeding on your darkest moods and emotions and it’s always hungry. It never really goes away. Anything that challenges it, anything that makes you feel good, anyone who brings you joy, it will drive them away so it can grow without interference. Its goal is to isolate you. At its worst, it will literally paralyze you, rather than allow you to feel anything at all. At its worst, you are numb and you are drained and immobilized by it. And it’s not that those of us who suffer from the disease want to push you away. For there have been times I could be in a room surrounded by friends and family and still feel no one else’s’ warmth or touch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surrounded by people and still felt alone, hurt and like a burden or a joke to all those I loved and care about. Always thinking that everyone else would be so much happier if I just went away. You see Depression sucks, I mean it literally sucks, it takes away your happiness, your joy, leaving you as nothing more than a hollowed out husk of the person you were before. But that’s how depression works; it’ll drive you to your knees with the soul crushing weight that no one should ever have to bare alone. It will prey on your darkest thoughts, telling you that no one loves you and it’ll you that every negative thought you ever had about yourself is true, and how bleak your future really is. I’ve come to learned that depression lies. But I still wrestle with my depression; I have good days, bad days, and worst days. I often try to combat it by keeping myself busy.

Having anxiety on top of depression often validates your depression. Anxiety is debilitating. It feels like a constant heaviness in your mind; like something isn’t quite right, although oftentimes you don’t know exactly what that something is. But it feels like acid in your stomach, burning and eating away at the emptiness and taking away any feelings of hunger. It’s like a tight knot that you can’t untwist. Anxiety feels like your mind is on fire, overthinking and over analyzing every little, irrelevant thing. Sometimes, it makes you feel restless and constantly distracted. It feels as if your thoughts are running wild in a million different directions, bumping into each other along the way. Other times, it makes you feel detached, as if your mind has gone blank and you are no longer mentally present. You dissociate and feel as if you have left your own body. For me anxiety feels like there is a voice in the back of my mind telling me that everything is not okay, when everything in fact is. Sometimes the voice tells me that there is something wrong with me and that you are different from everybody else.

It’s like this voice that tells you that your feelings are bad and that you’re a burden to the world and that you should isolate. It makes everyday tasks, such as making simple decisions, incredibly difficult. Anxiety can keep you up at night — tossing and turning.
It’s like a lightbulb that comes on at the most inconvenient times and won’t switch off. Your body feels exhausted, but your mind feels wide awake and racing. You go through the events of your day, analyzing and agonizing over every specific detail. Much like depression, anxiety never really goes away.

When I discovered I’ve also been dealing with C-PTSD from the years of childhood abuse I’ve endured. I was like “Wow…aren’t I lucky.” You see In PTSD, your brain may replay a incident over and over again to help you process your emotions. It can become an endless loop that is actually more upsetting than the initial incident, as your unexpressed emotions continue to pile up.

C-PTSD is ongoing or repeated interpersonal trauma, where the victim is traumatized in captivity, and where there is no perceived way to escape. Ongoing child abuse is captivity abuse because the child cannot escape. Domestic violence is another example. Forced prostitution/sex trafficking is another.

The following are some of the symptoms and impact most felt by complex trauma survivors.

1. Deep Fear Of Trust People who endure ongoing abuse, particularly from significant people in their lives, develop an intense and understandable fear of trusting people. If the abuse was parents or caregivers, this intensifies. Ongoing trauma wires the brain for fear and distrust. It becomes the way the brain copes with any further potential abuse. Complex trauma survivors often find trusting people very difficult, and it takes little for any trust built to be destroyed. The brain senses issues and this overwhelms the already severely-traumatized brain. This fear of trust is extremely impactful on a survivor’s life. Trust can be learned with support and an understanding of trusting people slowly and carefully. This takes times and patience. Believe me when I say, people like me are trying.

2. Terminal Aloneness
This is a phrase I used to describe to my Therapist — the terribly painful aloneness I have always felt as a complex trauma survivor. I often feel little connection and trust with people, people like me often remain in a terrible state of aloneness, even when surrounded by people. I described it once as having a glass wall between myself and other people. I can see them, but I cannot connect with them. Another issue that increases this aloneness is feeling different to other people. Feeling damaged, broken and unable to be like other people can haunt a survivor, increasing the loneliness.

3. Emotion Regulation
Intense emotions are common with complex trauma survivors like myself. It is understandable that ongoing abuse can cause many different and intense emotions. This is normal for complex trauma survivors. Learning to manage and regulate emotions is vital in being able to manage all the other symptoms, but it’s not easy and incredibly difficult. Best way I can describe this is, imagine you’re on a strict, healthy diet, and every day you have to drive in a car, or sit at a table watch someone eat your favorite food, where they’re always asking you if you want some and you always have to say “No.” Now multiply that by like a thousand.

4. Emotional Flashbacks
flashbacks are something all PTSD survivors can deal with, and there are three types:

Visual Flashbacks – where your mind is triggered and transported back to the trauma, and you feel as though you are reliving it.
Somatic Flashbacks – where the survivor feels sensations, pain and discomfort in areas of the body, affected by the trauma. This pain/sensations cannot be explained by any other health issues, and are triggered by something that creates the body to “feel” the trauma again.
Emotional Flashbacks – the least known and understood, and yet the type complex trauma survivors can experience the most. These are where emotions from the past are triggered. Often the survivor does not understand these intense emotions are flashbacks, and it appears the survivor is being irrationally emotional. When I learned about emotional flashbacks, it was a huge lightbulb moment of finally understanding why I have intense emotions, when they do not reflect the issue occurring now, but are in fact emotions felt during the trauma, being triggered. But, there is no visual of the trauma – as with visual flashbacks. So, it takes a lot of work to start to understand when experiencing an emotional flashback.

5. Hypervigilance about People
Most people with PTSD have hypervigilance, where the person scans the environment for potential risks and likes to have their back to the wall.
But complex trauma survivors often have a deep subconscious need to “work people out.” Since childhood, I have been aware of people’s non-verbal cues; their body language, their tone of voice, their facial expressions. I also subconsciously learn people’s habits and store away what they say. Then if anything occurs that contradicts any of this, it will immediately flag as something potentially dangerous.
This can be exhausting. And it can create a deep skillset of discernment about people. The aim of healing fear-based hyper-vigilance is turning it into non-fear-based discernment
.
6. Loss Of Faith
Complex trauma survivors often endure a loss of faith. This can be about people, about the world being good, about religion, and a loss of faith about self.
Complex trauma survivors often view the world as dangerous and people as all potentially abusive, which is understandable when having endured ongoing severe abuse.
Many complex trauma survivors walk away from their religious beliefs. For example, to believe in a good and loving God who allows suffering and heinous abuse to occur can feel like the ultimate betrayal. This is something needing considerable compassion.

7. Profoundly Hurt Inner Child

Childhood complex trauma survivors, often have a very hurt inner child that continues on to affect the survivor in adulthood. When a child’s emotional needs are not met and a child is repeatedly hurt and abused this deeply and profoundly affects the child’s development. A survivor will often continue on subconsciously wanting those unmet childhood needs in adulthood. Looking for safety, protection, being cherished and loved can often be normal unmet needs in childhood, and the survivor searches for these in other adults. This can be where survivors search for mother and father figures. Transference issues in counseling can occur and this is normal for childhood abuse survivors. I can’t tell you how many times I met a girlfriend’s parents and would often begin viewing their mother as a motherly figure for me. Even my last supervisor, I found myself thinking of her as a motherly figure and she inherently had a very motherly personality, where my department would often refer to her as the mother of the circulation department.

8. Helplessness and Toxic Shame
Due to enduring ongoing or repeated abuse, the survivor can develop a sense of hopelessness — that nothing will ever be OK. They can feel so profoundly damaged, they see no hope for anything getting better. When faced with long periods of abuse, it does feel like there is no hope of anything changing. And even when the abuse or trauma stops, the survivor can continue on having these deep core level beliefs of hopelessness. This is intensified by the terribly life-impacting symptoms of complex PTSD that keep the survivor stuck with the trauma, with little hope of this easing.

Toxic shame is a common issue survivors of complex trauma endure. Often the perpetrators of the abuse make the survivor feel they deserved it, or they were the reason for it. Often survivors are made to feel they don’t deserve to be treated any better.

9. Repeated Search For A Rescuer
Subconsciously looking for someone to rescue them is something many survivors understandably think about during the ongoing trauma and this can continue on after the trauma has ceased. The survivor can feel helpless and yearn for someone to come and rescue them from the pain they feel and want them to make their lives better. This sadly often leads to the survivor seeking out the wrong types of people and being re-traumatized repeatedly.

10. Dissociation

When enduring ongoing abuse, the brain can utilize dissociation as a coping method. This can be from daydreaming to more life-impacting forms of dissociation such as dissociative identity disorder (DID). This is particularly experienced by child abuse survivors, who are emotionally unable to cope with trauma in the same way an adult can.

11. Persistent Sadness and Being Suicidal

Complex trauma survivors often experience ongoing states of sadness and severe depression. Mood disorders are often co-morbid with complex PTSD.

Complex trauma survivors are high risk for suicidal thoughts, suicide ideation and being actively suicidal. Suicide ideation can become a way of coping, where the survivor feels like they have a way to end the severe pain if it becomes any worse. Often the deep emotional pain survivors feel, can feel unbearable. This is when survivors are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts.

12. Muscle Armoring
Many complex trauma survivors, who have experienced ongoing abuse, develop body hyper-vigilance. This is where the body is continually tensed, as though the body is “braced” for potential trauma. This leads to pain issues as the muscles are being overworked. Chronic pain and other issues related such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia can result. Massage, guided muscle relaxation and other ways to manage this can help.

All of these issues are very normal for complex trauma survivors. Enduring complex trauma is not a normal life experience, and therefore the consequences it creates are different, yet very normal for what they have experienced and endured.

Not every survivor will endure all these, and there are other symptoms that can be endured. I always suggest trauma-informed counseling if that is accessible. There are medications available to help with symptoms such as anxiety and depression. But they tend to be fairly expensive.

Lastly, I advise that empathy, gentleness and compassion are required for complex trauma survivors. We are not people and trust me when I say, we are trying and doing our best.

Chapter 17-Part 2.

~Maybe things don’t happen for a reason. Maybe we’re just grasping for ways to make sense of the chaos around us. Maybe we’re giving meaning to things that have no meaning. Maybe we’re clinging to hope so hard that we forget about reality. What if we’re wrong and nothing is meant to be? We’re just lost souls wandering endlessly, desperately, seeking comfort from the notion that things will work out in the end no matter what. What if we’ve tricked ourselves into believing that everything will be okay in the end just so we don’t have to face the reality that maybe it won’t?”-Unknown

Man goes through the morning mist

I was filled with such rage and anger as I exited my mother’s car, pulling my bag of clothes up higher on my shoulder, I was so angry I couldn’t even see straight and as I made it to the door, I realized that I was crying. Tears had blurred my vision as I fumbled for the door, I was falling apart. Everything compounded into itself in that moment, I realized it all been a lie. The family, the love, the change I had been hoping for…had been all for naught. All the fights and battles I had with my father who disapproved of me trying to have a relationship with my mother and everything I had said and done to put the past behind me had all become undone and with it I was unraveling at the seams.

I don’t remember even walking into my house and I found myself just sitting at the kitchen table in tears with my grandmother doing her best to console me. I was broken, my heart feeling as though it were dashed against the rocks, my very soul ached. In one fell swoop, I had lost so much. My mother, my younger brothers and the older brother who had become my best friend, I even lost my computer with a lifetime’s worth of work saved away on the memory banks. My whole life seemed to be wrapped up in the day and torn apart in the most unexpected of ways. I was wounded.

I told her and my father everything and then I tried my one last life line, I contacted Dominic in hopes he could help me, be the voice of reason and to at the very least try to get my computer returned to me. At the time he acted like he had no idea of what was going on, insisting that I try to at least try and talk to Chris one last time. But he wasn’t taking my calls.

A card I got from my neighbor after she heard about what happened.

A card I got from my neighbor after she heard about what happened.

Later my brother’s then girlfriend called me, upset just as much, if not more than me. She told me, that my brother knew of what was happening before I even did, because Chris had called him and not once did Dominic defend me. Leaving me feel even more hurt and betrayed. Then she told me as he was screaming in the background and banging on the door for her not to tell me, but she does. She tells me his plan was to play dumb if I contacted him. Then she told me something else that I should be aware of, while I could hear my brother banging more fiercely on the door where she was, telling her to shut-up and how I, (his brother) Had no business hearing about other family matters. But she presses on, assuring me that at least believes in me and saw how I was being picked on and bullied and pushed further into a corner. Because she had met me on numerous occasions and got a sense of who I was. Plus she had seen and heard me helping him out on numerous occasions. She knew of the times I loaned him money so he could pay his bills, she knew that I often gave him gas money which he never asked for whenever we hang out and she saw the window Air-conditioning unit I had given him when I found out his apartment didn’t have air.

Then she told me that a month or two prior Chris had went behind my mother’s back and secretly asked her sister to borrow five hundred bucks, which she declined and then told my mother. The secrecy of his actions and how he refused to tell her why he needed the money nearly resulted in their divorce. But they had somehow managed to patch things up. This was why she was leaving my brother and why she was calling me now, because she believed this to be the reason why this was happening to me now and how disappointed she was in my brother for turning his back on me now.

I found this card when I was going through a old shoe-box. She was in tears when she heard about what happened.

I found this card when I was going through a old shoe-box. She was in tears when she heard about what happened.

By Christmas day I fighting a losing a battle and more than once I had made calls to my brother, my mother and step-father. My last conversation with my mother was her telling me how careful Chris was with his money and how he had cashed his check and was going to put into the bank when he discovered he was missing the money. So naturally I called her out, telling her how that didn’t make any sense, because if I were to cash my check at a bank, I would deposit whatever money I needed to while I was there. I wouldn’t wait two or three days just because. But my mother ignored my words, instead she resorted back to her old ways, telling me about the things I had done wrong or lied about back when I was a kid. Then I told her she was leaving with little choice, but to file a police report against them. The last thing my mother told me before I hung up, was,

“Do whatever you have to do,” and I hung up on her and it was the last I had ever spoken to her.

That night, I got a message from my brother, telling me that Chris was talking about destroying my computer; he then told me I needed to call and talk to him. But Chris was screening my calls and when my younger brother picked up the phone and gave it to Chris; he hung up without ever hearing a word I had to say. So that night my father took me to the state-trooper’s office.

Where I met Sergeant Scott Davenport, when I first met Mr. Davenport and I started telling him my story, he cut me off and told me this was something I would have to take up with my mother. So with a heavy sigh, I shook my head, feeling defeated and believing Chris had been truthful about the whole domestic dispute thing and feeling frustrated, I told the sergeant that I had been trying, but they weren’t taking my calls. I even demonstrated this by attempting to call him then and there, handing him the phone so he could hear them picking up the phone and hanging it up.
It was then the Sergeant asked me to tell my story again and this time he listened intently, and when I told him my step-father was Chris Hankins recognition let his eyes, as he said,

On numerous occasions I babysat her kids, dog-sat for her and even house sat.

On numerous occasions I babysat her kids, dog-sat for her and even house sat on more than one occasion.

“Chris, yeah I know,” and his hopes immediately dashed my hopes as I thought,

(Oh of course you do)

But the Sergeant motioned me to continue and when I got to the part where I offered to get Chris 300 hundred dollars from my own checking account, he stopped me, and asked me to repeat what I had just said, so I did.

“Wait a minute,” He asks, “You accused you of stealing 300 hundred dollars, and you offered to get him that same amount and he refused?”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Hmm, well that changes everything now,” He exclaimed, shaking his head, “So why do you think he declined your offer?”

“Well because my computer is worth a lot more than three hundred bucks,” I told him.

The Sergeant who I think had to have seen and experience all manner of things, seemed genuinely taken aback by the revelation, telling me that I was a better man than him and he wouldn’t have offered him shit. He then tells me to sit tight and he was going to get a hold of Chris. But before he could go I stopped him and pulled my receipt for my computer out of my pocket and said,

“Hey, you may need this, in case he tries to claims it his.”

Mr. Davenport smiles and giving me a nod of approval he says,

“Wow, you keep good records and you’re right, this will help,” and with that he turns to return to his desk when I hear him making a few calls in order to get a hold of my step-father. It takes about ten minutes, and when he does I hear the following.
“Hello Chris, I have your step-son here and he says you stole something of his,”

A brief pause when I hear him say,

“Chris is an HP laptop?”

“Well then, I’m pretty sure it isn’t yours…..because your son has the receipt and I’m holding it right here and I’m looking right at it.”

“No, I don’t care what you THINK he did and you know the law, even if you had saw him did, took photos or even caught it on video, you can’t take someone’s else’s property and you know it’s illegal to do so.

(This apparently made Chris very angry, because then the officer’s next response was, )

“Well if you smash it, or damage it in any way, you’re liable for whatever happens and you’ll have to pay for whatever you break on that laptop and if that means you have buy him a brand new computer of equal cost you will and I’ll make sure of it.”

There was another brief pause, until I heard the Sergeant say,

“No, you’re half right, you will return it, but you’ll bring it here and I’ll give it to him, I don’t you want you to go anywhere near this kid,“ Then sarcastically he adds, “Oh and thank you for being so mature about this.”

Mr. Davenport returns to me shaking his head,

“Wow, your step-dad is a piece of work, but he will be dropping your computer off in the morning, but on the off chance he doesn’t call me,” He says handing me his card, “And I will personally go down and get your computer back.”

A snowman my cousin and I made a year later.

A snowman my cousin and I made a year later.

He then asked if I’d be willing to file an official report when I return to retrieve my property, which I agree to. I was tired of the all the childish games and wanted Chris to answer for at least a little of what he’s done.

The next day, I return with my father to state-troopers office and I discover that Chris is yet again refusing to return my property. Which infuriates and baffles me beyond belief, he had already been caught in a few lies, admitted to have stolen my computer, but was still acting like a child by refusing to do what he had been told to do. So I’m all too happy to oblige when the officers ask to take me for my statement. At this point I’m beginning to feel like a broken record as I go over my story again. They ask me the same questions as the Sergeant and they seem just as taken aback as he was and they seem just as annoyed with my step-fathers prepubescent childlike behavior as I was. So they go over his head, to the chief of Williams Town police to force Chris to return my computer or risk his job.
About fifteen minutes later Chris finally relents and comes in to speak to the officers, as well as to return my laptop, finally!

The officers are quick to escort me out and around the building afraid of what would happen if Chris saw me, or I him. My father is still in the waiting room as one of the officers leads me back to my dad’s car. He tells me they’re going to take his statement and that he’ll return with my computer.

Almost as soon as he disappears, I see my dad returning to the car with my computer in hand and relief washes over me. But I see he’s also angry and he opens the car door to hand me my laptop back, and tells me to make sure everything is there, heading back into the station.

The cop who had taken my statement returns then and climbs into the car with me, he tells me both Chris and Sergeant Davenport from the night before had confirmed everything I said, but Chris had no excuse as to why he refused my three hundred dollars when I had offered to him. The cop then asks me to turn on my computer and he sits with me as it boots up and as I check everything. Fortunately no damage had been done and everything was still in full working order. Then paranoid, I search through all the bags and compartments of my computer, making sure all my items were there and to be sure he hadn’t planted anything in my belongings, fortunately he hadn’t.

The officer then tells me that Chris wants me to take a lie detector test and I don’t think twice before answering, I agree because I had nothing to hide. Plus I figured it’d be more ammunition for the investigators to use against my step-father. The officer looks conflicted and tries telling me that I don’t have to, that if I decline it wouldn’t be by any means an admission of guilt. He tries to talking me out of my decision, but I stand firm. Because I’m angry and because I’m tired of always being made out to be the bad guy. I wanted to pull my mother’s and step-father’s truth out into the light and let everyone see the kind of people they really were.

Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken

Face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken

Yet, my desire for to be vindicated and to have some sense of validation, would lead to more pain and discourse. I know now in hindsight that I had acted impulsively and without thinking.  I had even called my brother to update him on what happened, telling him I had agreed to the lie-detector, but all he could do was blame me for causing so much pain and turmoil in the family. It broke my heart hearing how he already made up his mind about me and he had forgotten everything he had known or had learned about me. He had me judged since the beginning, from before any of this even started. It’s true what they say, a lie will travel twice around the world, while the truth, is still putting on its shoes.

I found it odd how everyone could see the truth, everyone but my mother, my brother and the family who used to tell me how much they loved me growing up, their words I discovered had been hollow.

It took them weeks to finally get them around to giving me the polygraph, time that only caused all my negative thoughts and feeling to fester. Nightmares haunted me on most nights, while on others I dreamt of revenge, of making them regret everything they had done to me and put me through. I wanted my mother’s and step-father’s lives to fall apart, for my brothers to see the truth.

I suppose they had hoped the time between everything would cause me to calm down, but it did everything but. I was angry all the time, hurt, depressed and consumed by all these negative thoughts and feelings.

But when it rains it pours, the night before my polygraph was the beginning of the end for my grandmother who lived with my father and myself. She had fallen on her way to bed in the middle of the night and couldn’t get up. Fortunately my cousin Derek was there to hear her, who after failing to help her up, came and woke me. Together both he and I tried helping her back to her feet, but my grandmother God rest her spirit was obese and neither of us could get her up and I was afraid to pull too hard up on her in fear that I would tear her skin, because she was also a bit frail.

My proof that despite your struggles, you will find your smile again and with friends.

My proof that despite your struggles, you will find your smile again and with friends.

Out of options, I had to wake my father and then the three tried to get her up. Even with the three of us working together all we could do was get up, but just barely and but the strength had left my grandmother’s legs so even after we stood her up, she couldn’t stand or walk under her own.

Out of options, with my grandmother crying, we had no other choice but lay her back down, but on her back, instead of on her knees. Then much to my grandmother’s disapproval we had to call an ambulance, which only made her cry even more. She hated feeling so helpless.

Yet, I found myself overwhelmed by the outpouring of love our neighbors showed us, showed to me when they saw the ambulance loading my grandmother up into the back of their truck.

People I barely even knew were coming up to me, asking me if she was okay, hugging me and crying in my arms, while the paramedics took my grandmother to the hospital for observation,  leaving me wondering if she’ll be okay, or if she’ll ever be able to walk again.

Later that morning, I had to go in for my polygraph and on a whim; I asked the officer taking me what he thought my chances were of getting an apology if or when I pass. He shook his head and told me I shouldn’t hold my breath, then told me that no matter the outcome I should simply stay away, because a family shouldn’t ever do or put a son through everything they were putting me through. His words gave me something to consider….Realizing that he was right, all of this was wrong and never should have happened.

Now for those of who you never had a polygraph before, it’s not quite like what you see on TV. You get lead into a small room; they have a specialized chair for the polygraph against the wall, a pad on the floor to make sure you don’t move your feet in attempt to fool the polygraph. (Apparently shifting your feet while you’re hooked up to one of these can be an admission for guilt, so I was already getting nervous, by feeling like I’d have to be perfectly still or this thing would think I was lying.)

But before you’re hooked up into this chair, you’re briefly interviewed; my technician was an older gentleman, with an air of arrogance about him. When he asked if I had any questions or concerns about a polygraph, I told him my fear, which I think everyone has, which is telling the truth and have it think you’re lying. However the Technician was quick to explain all the technical stuff as if to assure me. When I along with everyone else knows that these machines aren’t admissible in court for a reason, we’ve heard it all our lives, or at least I had.  But according this gentleman the reason was just a technicality.

That's me in the Assassins Garb. Sometimes you just have to step outside yourself, lose yourself, have fun, even if think you'll a little foolish.

That’s me in the Assassins Garb. Sometimes you just have to step outside and focus more on the present and say to hell with anyone who may think you look a little foolish, happiness is found in the moment and memories last forever.

(It wasn’t until much later that I decided to do some homework, discovering the reason why polygraphs weren’t admissible in court. Which is they can give false positives and false negatives, especially when an even in question is emotionally stressful.

Then comes the interview.

Technician: “Have you ever taken a polygraph before?”

Me: “No.”
Tech: “Have you ever been arrested?”
Me: “Nope”

Tech “You ever gotten a ticket for speeding, parking or anything?”

Me: “Believe it or not, no, I tend to stay of trouble.”

Tech: “Well what about school, have you ever been in trouble at school, detention, or anything?”

Me: “Nope, I always kept my head down in school as well.
Tech: So, how honest of a person are you? One being you’re a compulsive liar, you can’t help but lie, with ten being you never told a lie.

Me: Well, I’m not perfect or anything, but I’m a pretty bad liar so I kind of got in the habit of telling the truth, so I’d say about a seven, or an eight?

Tech: “Oh? So I guess you’re just Mr. Perfect huh?” he says throwing his arms up in the air, “I guess you don’t even need to be here because you’re honest Abe, you never told a lie in your life. You’re just Mr. Honestly now aren’t you?”

Immediately I realize I’m in trouble, and that this guy was a royal douche. I realize I should have got up and left then, but I figured I had come this far, and it would make no sense for me to back out now. Plus I had promised my brother I would do this and I was determent to see this through to the bitter end.

So I immediately jump on the defensive explaining and reiterating what I had said and that I had occasionally lied to spare someone’s feelings, or to get out of work so I could hang out with my best friend who was on leave from the Marine Core, etc. (Just imagine that scene from Goonies when Chunk is confessing everything he did wrong to the Fratellis when they were threatening to put his hand in a blender. Because for a minute there I was channeling Chunk, confessing to every white lie I ever told and the reason I had.”the_fratellis-300x185

After the tech manages to shut me up, he asks me to sit in the chair and begins strapping in and I immediately begin freaking out. I know because he tells me as he looks at his instruments. He takes a few minutes telling me to relax and seems irritated by how long it takes for me to calm my frayed nerves.

Once calmed, he asks me a few practice questions and instructs me to intentionally lie at least once to calibrate his instruments. After a few more moments, he asks if I’m ready. I’m not, but I say yes anyway just to get this over with.

He proceeds asking me yes or no questions about that night and I find myself reliving it in my mind all over again, it’s like watching a bad movie on repeat. I feel my blood beginning to boil as he walks me through the night asking me yes or no questions about the day in question. My heart is pounding in my chest like a jackhammer. The tech asks me about the money and all I hear are Chris’s threats, his finger poking me in the chest, the force of him shoving me, throwing me against the wall. My voice is trembling as I answer.

The tech tells me to calm down, but I can’t and again he asks about the money and my thoughts race. I’m recalling every instance when I was a kid and had to take money from his wallet for lunch at school, or when I was younger how I would take a few pennies, (because I collected pennies) Then my thoughts were all over the place, I was psyching myself out, worse I couldn’t stop. My thoughts were everywhere, as my mind replayed the events over and over in my mind, making me feel sick and angry all at once.

Then it’s over and he’s unhooking me and he tells me he’s going to return with my results.

When he returns, he’s acting all cocky as he tells me I’ve failed the test and how he believes I was guilty. He tries making me confess, but I refuse insisting on my innocence, but he laughs and shakes his head, telling me how his machine says otherwise.

To help keep things light, here's me and my best friend & fellow writer on the catwalk.

To help keep things light, here’s me and my best friend & fellow writer on the catwalk.

My heart sinks, I don’t know what to think and I feel numb and that’s where I’ll end this story. I’ll leave it up to you to decide and choose what you believe or don’t. I will tell you that years later my brother and I briefly spoke and after he got done with his accusations and I informed him that I was innocent he asked me to take another test and prove it. Which to be honest I had thought about, but then I realized it was too late. I told him it would change or fix anything, even if I passed, you or them would insist I take it again, and again, because if the first one was wrong, so could be the second, or the third. Even if they accepted the results of a second or third test, it wouldn’t fix anything. It’s been six years, six years since I had any contact with any of them. (except for my brief heated exchanges with Dominic, or the one time little Christian contacted me to tell me how much he missed me and how much he wanted me to call to make peace with the family. But I couldn’t, not after all that’s happened. Not after I lost a family. I would forever be marked as the black sheep; I would never have their trust just as they will never have mine.

My mother and her family would only see the worst in me, judging me for everything I done wrong since the very day I was born. Truth is, I’ll never know if she really changed, if she had anything to do with what happened or not. Sadly I don’t think I’ll ever know, but I do sometimes wonder if I’ll ever hear from her again, if the truth about that day will ever come out and if I would hear about it if does.

I know my mother wasn’t perfect, and the situation sucked. But walking away was still one of the hardest choices I ever had to make. I lost my family days before Christmas and to this day the pain of losing everyone like that still hurts. That being said, I know my older brother was adamantly against me sharing this story, my story with the world. Nothing against him, he can be protective and loyal to a fault. But this needed to be shared and I needed to talk about it, to get the truth as I know it out. But it was C. Joybell, who said,
               “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.”
Even when it was over, I was still miserable, drowning in a sea of depression, hearing everyone tell me,

“Hey, bad things happen,” or, “Hey, you’ll get over it.”

And Man, have I grown to hate that phrase, “You’ll get over it,” is a cliché that only causes trouble.

At the mall with friends who helped me heal.

At the mall with friends who helped me heal.

When you’re hurt, suffering from that pain of losing someone, or something that meant so much to you, there’s never any getting over it. Losing someone you love is to alter your life forever and you never get over it, because “it” is the person or persons you loved. Yeah, the hurt eventually stops, but it’s a long and hard road that cannot be rushed, or quickly forgotten. It takes time to heal, time to decide when to pick up the pieces and try to putting those pieces of your life back together. To regain some semblance of self, it takes time and patience.

I know you and others may have suffered worse loss, or pain, but that was your battle, for me, my battle and my loss had hit the hardest, because it was happening to me. When you become as broken as I was back then, it takes a long time stop feeling miserable, betrayed and depressed, time to stop thinking about killing yourself, and to finally stop being so angry all the time. And Eventually, I decided to stop being the victim and overcome my past and this horrible thing that happened just before Christmas.

At the park with another friend I've met along the way

At the park with another friend I’ve met along the way

But since then I’ve learned you have to let go. You have to release the hurt. Otherwise it will own you forever and you’ll never escape. You need to have the strength to fight back and take your life back. Dare, dare to take that first big step. Dare to take chances and to have hope, to dream, to be brave enough to live your life and remember the human heart can be disheartened by the most unreasonable self-judgments, because even when we take on giants, we too often confuse failure with fault, which I know all too well. The only way back from such a bleak despondency is to shape humiliation into humility, to strive always to triumph over the darkness while never forgetting that the honor and the beauty are more in the striving than in the winning. So when triumph comes at last, our efforts alone could not have won the day without that grace which surpasses all understanding and which will, if we allow it, imbue our lives with meaning. I’ve experience true darkness and the pain of suffering in despair, which lead me down a path beyond my own moral ambiguity, where hatred and anger threatened to consume everything that I was. It took a long time for me to put the anger and my pain to rest. But the scars will always be there, reminding me of what was and what might have been, thinking back about my family I know it wasn’t always so bad, things happen, people change, some lie to themselves or accept half-truths because they fear what they will otherwise see, or find hidden there in their reflection. Becoming afraid of the avenues the truth would lead them and what it would mean when the truth is finally uncovered.

The rest of my new family

The rest of my new family

Matt and his lovely wife, who have become my family.

Matt and his lovely wife, who have become my family.

But yes new people had since come into my life, friends and other loved ones who refused to let me just drift away, which for a while, was something I tried to do. I couldn’t bring myself to grow close with anyone, out of fear of the hurt they may bring. Because the gap never closes, how could it? The particularness of having someone who matters enough to grieve over is not erased by anyone, or anything but death. I can tell you that this hole in my heart is in the shape of the family whom I lost but will never forget. Those I’ve opened my heart too and forgave time and again. Just so they could dig a little deeper, making the betrayal hurt all the more. To be honest, these holes, no one else will ever fill. Not Matt, his loving and adoring wife and not their three unbelievable and magnificent children who’ve grown to call me Uncle Josh. Who have their own place in my heart and as much as I love them, they will never fill the holes left by the family that once was. Why would I want them, or anyone else too? Because there is never getting over it, not really, of course, the wounds can and may eventually close and scab over becoming the very scars that make up who were are, reminding us of our journey on this crazy path called life.

Matt dealing me but a flesh wound Christmas 2012

Matt dealing me but a flesh wound Christmas 2012

My scars will always be there. Sometimes I lay awake at night, thinking about those I’ve lost, the ones who went away, who I’ll never see again, the ones I still love and wonder how they’re doing. I feel robbed of the chance to see my younger brothers grow up into men, and of being there for my older brother when he met the woman of his dreams. I’ve lost half my family in less than a day and for the longest time I did whatever it took to distract me from the pain of losing them.

But now, I try and live as much for tomorrow as I can and on some nights I still pray that someday my name will be cleared and I’ll receive that call and hear that heartfelt apology that follows. Imagining how we’ll talk, cry and catch up on all the things we missed in each other’s lives. I pray for the truth to finally come out. But all I really know for certain is what I’ve shared with you here. Which is all the truth I know and as well as I know it. But that was then, that was me looking to the past and now I’m tired of looking back, so from here on now and every day, I look back and think “look how far I’ve come.”And that’s what keeps me going.
-J Cooper.alone in the woods

Scars of Who We Are chapter 17
~A little talent is a good thing to have if you want to be a writer. But the only requirement is the ability to remember every scar.-Stephen King

Man Sitting on a Step

Why you can never go home again: Remembering every scar:

There I was, staring up into the face of my step-father, his face twisting in rage.
“I had three hundred dollars in my wallet and I want you to give it back to me!” He screams shoving again, harder against the wall and panic grips my body as my mouth goes dry, fear is all I feel. So I say nothing, as he shouting his accusations into my face, drilling me with questions, never waiting for me to answer.
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He shoves me three or four more times and I can’t help but feel as if he’s trying to provoke me, my fear gives way to self-righteous indignation and I step into him and shout,
“I didn’t take your damn money, I never touched your fucking wallet, feel free to search me and go through my things, because I don’t have it, then once you’re finished, I’m done with you and this family, never again will pull this kind of crap on me.”

For a moment, he looks like he’s about to hit me and he draws his fist back, but I stand firm, making it a point not to so much as flinch. I’m ready for blow, but it never comes, dropping his fist, he instead jabs me in the chest with his finger.

“I want my money,” He shouts, bringing his face so close to mine I can feel his breath on me, as he says, “And I WILL search you and you’ll do whatever I tell you to do.”
He then orders me to put my hands behind my head and then proceeds to frisk me, even though all I’m wearing is a t-shirt and my boxers.
I comply, even though all I want to do is shove him away and tell him to go screw himself, but I don’t and I abide by the violation of his hands patting me down and searching for what I know is nothing. Seeing him uniform intimidates me more than I care to say.

“What the hell is this?” I ask equal parts offended and violated by the absurdity it all.
He ignores me and turns me to face the wall, I’m half expecting him to begin reading me my rights, but he doesn’t.

“You know I don’t have anything,” I tell him as he continues to frisk me, so angry that my heart feels like it’s about to burst from my chest.

“I had three hundred dollars in my wallet and it’s gone and you’re the only one who could have taken it.” (Every day when Chris got off work, he would come in from the garage and lay his wallet on a dry sink by the door leading to the garage, or upstairs on the kitchen counter. Something he’d been doing since I was a kid.

“Listen, I never touched your wallet, you’re a cop, see if my fingerprints are on anything!” And he responds by shoving my face into the wall as he orders me to shut-up, telling me the only thing he wanted to hear come from my mouth was a confession.

So I speak all the words he doesn’t want to hear.

“Why would I steal from you? I came down for Christmas!”

All of us together just two years prior.

All of us together just two years prior.

He turns and flips the mattress off the bed and finding nothing under the bed and begins running his fingers through the discarded sheets, finding nothing he begins going through the pillow cases.

“Are you sure mom didn’t take it, or that the kids by mistake, or that you didn’t lose it?” (I halfheartedly believed they may have need lunch money and our mother had told them to get what they needed out of Chris’s wallet, just as she had told me time and again back when I was growing up there.)

But he doesn’t care about anything I have to say I doubt he was even listening and he waits until I try to help by putting the mattress back on the bed, but he turns on me, shoving me, pushing me back up against the wall, he’s screaming at me again, calling me a liar, a thief a delinquent, telling me how I had always been a punk, even though I have never been in any kind of trouble before.

He threatens me with jail time, lecturing me how three hundred dollars is enough to qualify for a felony offense.
(I hereby apologize in advanced for the language and any I may have let slip earlier on, but I feel it’s required to be as accurate as possible)

“I didn’t take your God Damn money!” I shout back, with my hands trembling, I don’t believe I’ve ever been this angry before, I didn’t think it were possible.
“Oh yes you did,” He shouts rearing up towards me, hitting me with the hell of his hands, “You did!” He says again with another hard shove. I’m so angry I can barely see straight and I want to hit him, I want to hit back as hard I could, as many times as I could. But I don’t, I just grit my teeth and do my best to refrain from the violence and rage I felt coursing through my veins.

He takes a moment to stare into my eyes and I meet his gaze defiance, I had been bullied for most my life and a coward for almost half as long and I was tired of being afraid. After a beat he asks where my clothes were and I point to them as the hung on the closet door. He smiles and pulls them down, searching through the pockets and the folds in my clothes. Finding he nothing he throws them at me and orders me to get dressed. So I ask him to leave for a little and he whirls back like he’s going to hit me and again I stay still and unflinching as he drops his fist, telling me no, he says,

“No, I don’t trust you I’m taking my eyes off you until you’re out of my house.”

It’s hard not to be a little scared seeing my a cop in uniform harassing you, let alone one acting like how he was and with him being my step-father. I don’t like it, but still I dress as he watches, my hands never stop shaking. I want to hit something, I want to hit him, I’m angry, scared and frustrated by the absurdity of it all.

CIMG0020

Anyone can lose money, heck I lost money before, misplaced it even, or spent more than I thought. It happens.

“Hurry up I don’t want you staying in my house any longer than you have too.” He says, watching me fumble with my clothes, but I still can’t keep my hands from shaking I’m so angry now at the injustice of it all, with no outlet to channel my fury. Finding my voice I decide to try and reason with him by saying,

“Look, I’ve been nothing but cooperative and I think you know me better than this, I think you know I didn’t take your money, maybe, just maybe you just lost it?”

“I didn’t lose it! He screams, charging at me, grabbing me by the collar do the shirt and yanking me up and practically off my feet, with his voice almost screeching at me as he repeats, “I didn’t lose it, I didn’t!”

Now, I’m sure he’s going to hit me, perhaps even begin beating me to death, but he doesn’t and I just hold his gaze, with my teeth clenched and breathing heavily as I don’t know what to expect to come from him next.
“You’ve always been sneaky and a little liar, you’re a fucking punk and you’ve always been a little shit.”
I take his comments in stride and careful speak each word as I very calmly say,

“I never stole. I’ve never been in trouble-”
“Never been in trouble?” He interrupts, speaking in high, mocking tones, “But you dress up all in black and getting into fights at the the county fair!”

“That was over five years ago and that’s not what happened and you know it!”
“Oh I know and just as I know you took my money,” He tells me.

“You know what fine, let’s go down to the station and hook me up to a lie-detector test, I’ll show you I’m telling the truth,” I say, with the internal, emotional war raging beneath my breast making my words come out in an unsteady rush. My blood is boiling hot and I can’t help but feel hurt, betrayed, scared angrier than I had ever been. I honestly didn’t know if I’d find myself sitting inside a jail cell by myself for Christmas or not.

Sneering, he grabs my arm, wrenching me away from the bed, pulling me out into the hallway saying,
“Oh you won’t have a choice,” he says manically and with a smile that unnerves me to my very core, “So you bet your ass you’ll be taking a polygraph and I’ll be there to see you fail,” He says rather matter-of-factly.
Man looking out office window at night
I don’t say a word, it’s all I can do is to grit my teeth and and wait for release me, as I do every I can to keep from going on the offensive. I wanted to hurt him more than I care to admit, I wanted to knock that sick and smug smirk off his face, but I reminded myself that he was a cop and in uniform, so it was likely that was exactly what he wanted.

Letting me go, he snorts and orders me downstairs and I take the steps two at a time, with him following close behind me. Once downstairs I immediately see my laptop is gone. I begin looking frantically around the rest of my bags for it, but to no avail, then Chris asks what I’m doing.

“I’m looking for my computer,” I tell him, not giving me the benefit of seeing my face.

“Oh, it’s mine now, I took it and put it somewhere you’ll never get it,” He says derisively.
I turn on him then and I feel myself reaching my breaking point, with my heart feeling like it was fit to explode.

“That’s not right man, you can’t take my computer.”

“No he says,” stepping into me and once again invading my personal space as he leers at me, jabbing me in the chest with his fat finger as he says, “I can do whatever I want, you’re a guest in my house, you have no rights here.” He’s so pleased with himself that all I can see is red.
Fighting the urge to shove him away and start beating him with whatever object my hands could find, I swallow my rage, with my thoughts racing. All I can think about is turning the tables on him someway, somehow, to make him sorry for all of this.So I say the only thing I can think of saying,

“You’re crazy and if you don’t give me back my property…”

“You’ll what?”He asks, smiling, reminding me of every bully I ever met.

“I’ll call the police.” I figure the threat alone would be enough to bring him back to his senses and let him see reason. But instead he smiles and says,

“Why? They can’t do anything for you, there’s nothing you can do!” He laughs, taunting me,

“Besides who are you? You’re nobody, you’re no one, you don’t matter, I’m a cop, I’m a someone and there’s nothing the police can do for you. This is a domestic dispute and there’s nothing you, your father, or anyone else can do about it. This is my home and you’re in my house and I can do whatever I want to you and no one can say or do anything about it.”

At this point the thought of beating him to death really doesn’t seem all that bad, more to the point I’d at least wipe that sick toothy grin of his off his face. It was then I realize he was enjoying this and it felt like no matter what I did I was playing further into his sick little game.

Seeing that I had nothing else to say, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the pocket-watch I had gotten him for Christmas, (I gave both of him and my mother their presents a bit early, hoping it’ll cure whatever it was I was feeling. Plus I halfheartedly believed they might have thought that I was only visiting so that I could get presents, which was why they were acting so peculiar so I had figured if they saw I actually put a thought of thought on getting them all presents, it would prove otherwise. Evidently it had not.) Chris then hands me the pocket-watch and tells me he doesn’t need or want it anymore, so I should take it back.
I snap, gripping the watch tightly in my hand, I fling it across the room, nearly kill my mom’s parrot,(That was an accident and in my defense I wasn’t thinking or aiming) and the watch bounces hard of the wall, leaving a sizable indention in the wall where it struck.
Immature? Maybe, but it was enough to take that smug look off his face as he stormed across the room to examine the hole I put in the wall. I don’t apologize, even as he tells me how I’ll have to pay for it.

however to wipe the smirk off his face as he stormed across the room and flipped out about the hole I put in his wall. I don’t apologize, but he tells me I’d have to pay for it and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it at least a little bit.

“Look,” I manage to say with my voice stained as I fought to keep my hatred for him in check. “Search my bags, search everything you want, I don’t have your fucking money!” I spit the last few words out as I see his smile returning.

“I already searched your bags and went through all your things,” He says contemptuously, closing the distance between us and shoves me painfully against the dry sink as he smiles at me again. At this point i hear my mother pulling into the garage and so does he and he backs off, his grin disappears and begins shouting at the top of his lungs,

“But I know you have it, or that you hid the money somewhere in this house and I’m not giving you back your computer until you give me my money, I’ll tell you that much right now.” My mom slips into the house, silent as a mouse not saying anything and I look at my step-father, seething with rage at his belligerence and the air of arrogance about him.

So I think of the only solution that I can to bring about a solution of some kind.
“Fine…You win alright? I don’t have your money, I never took it, but if you want, we can go to the bank together and I’ll withdraw three hundred dollars and I’ll give it to you in return for my computer.”

“No!” He barks, “I don’t want your money, I want my money!”

I look to my mom, hoping she heard what I heard, saw what I saw, but she just stands there, staring solemnly back at me.
“What sense does that make? You’re accusing me of stealing three hundred bucks, I offer to get you three hundred bucks, but you say that’s not good enough?”

“No, I don’t want your stupid money, you don’t have any money, I want my money!” He says venomloulsy , as if repeating the statement would somehow make any more sense.
He then launches into a tirade, calling me every name he could think of and the whole time all I can do is stare back at my mother. I wait for her to step up, for her to be a mom, to defend me, to fight for me, to do or say something. But she doesn’t. Instead she quietly asks if I took the money and frustrated I tell her that I had not, but how I wished I had.

Chris then says something about not being to tolerate the sight of me and tells my mother to have me gone by the time he returns.
I look at her and try to plead with her to see some reason,

“You can’t let him take my computer, my life’s work is on that thing and I hadn’t backed anything up.”

“Josh if you took the money, just tell me and you can give it to me and I’ll tell him I took it.”

“I didn’t take his money, but he did take my computer, and in my computer bag has library books inside it too, I can’t afford to replace everything. “

She nods, and tells me she’ll talk to him. She then tells me to grab my things and she’d take me home.

“Mom,” I reason, “ look at me, you have to know I’m better than this and that I wouldn’t steal from you guys, or anyone else. Besides you know I’m a horrible liar and I’ve always admitted to any wrong I’ve done, granted when I was young I would try to hide it from you so that I wouldn’t get beat. But I always admitted to what I did and I didn’t do this, never this; this is too big…this is too bad, too wrong.” ( Although I’ve always been fairly honest, during the course of my life, I have always been a practical jokester, but one thing I would never do is mess with someone else’s money.)

“I don’t know what to believe,” She tells me.

“He searched me, went through my things, didn’t find anything, no proof or evidence and I offered to get you 300 hundred dollars in order to get my computer back and you sat there as he told it wasn’t good enough. Why? Because if I stole from you, it makes no difference whose three hundred dollars you’ll be getting, mine, or yours. This is wrong, all wrong, what do I have to do to get you to believe me?”

“Josh you always do this and get overly dramatic.”

“Are you serious? You people took something very important to me and you did it without just cause, without proof and I’m being dramatic? I’ve been harassed and bullied, with my every attempt to be reasonable ignored or shot down.”

“Well you could have hidden it somewhere,” She tells me and I throw my arms up in the air and shake my head.

“Really? That’s what you’re going to do, are you going to keep coming up with different things I could have done with his money? Do you have an excuse at the ready for everything I say or do?”

“Josh, you’ve always been very spiteful and you probably just thought you were owed it,”

“Are you kidding me? I forgave you, I came down on my weekends off work just to give you a free babysitting and all those times I never asked for anything, no compensation, nothing and all those times I came here I never once took anything, why would I suddenly do so now?”

“Josh if you give me the money I can just tell Chris I-” My mother began before I cut her off.

“There’s no money to be had, and despite whatever you may think, I didn’t take it and how stupid do you think I am? I don’t have a car, I have no getaway and I’m still here for a few more days, do you actually think I would be dumb enough to steal that kind of money and just sit back hoping you didn’t notice it was missing?”

“Josh, Chris has always been very careful and meticulous with his money,”

“So, that doesn’t mean anything, he can still lose, or misplace it just like everyone else.”

“Well why do you think he’s accusing you?” She asks, as we climb into her car.

“Because,” I tell her as I climb into the passenger seat beside her, “I’m an easy target, he knows our history and all about the bad blood between us. I’m the easy mark.”
My words must have had some effect, because she doesn’t say anything until we’re on the road and I’m watching the house fade away in the rear-view when she asks,

“Do you think you’re being setup?” There was such clarity and innocence in the way she asked, I caught myself staring at her for a long time before I could answer. For a while I was thinking she had something to do with all of this, but now I wasn’t so sure and to be honest, I’m still not certain.
But her words get me thinking and I think back about how he was asking about my laptop and how much it cost, how he refused the three hundred dollars I offered him and how quickly he was to accuse me of everything.

“Yeah…Yeah I do,” I tell her.
A few moments pass and she asks me why I thought he took my computer. So I tell her,
“Because my computer is worth a lot more than three hundred bucks, which is why he was so quick to declined my offer when I made it.”
Silence fills the car and after awhile I tell her everything that happened and how it happened since he woke me up. As I talk she’s silent and never says a word, even when I’m finished she just sits there driving, never uttering a word.

We drive the rest of the way in silence and I’ll be lying if I said I didn’t think about grabbing the wheel and steering it into oncoming traffic, or to send us careening into a semi-truck. I was in a place of such darkness and hatred, it was consuming me.

So by the time she pulled up into my driveway I reached for the door and hesitated,

“I’m giving you three days….” I whisper. “Three days to make this right, to return my computer to me. If you do this, we’ll be family; if you don’t….you’ll be dead to me.”

“Ok,” was all she said.

I opened the door and step out of the car and just as quietly I hear her say,
“I love you,”

“We’ll see,” I respond, grabbing my things and slamming the car door shut behind me.

(I know, I know, I said there were just two chapters left. But it had gotten a bit long. So I had to break the final Chapter up into two parts. The conclusion I promise will be coming soon. )

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Scars of Who We Are Chapter XV-Home

And two chapters remain.

Chapter 15 ~For years I have ached to go back home, when there was nobody there to whom I could return.

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Shortly after I introduced Rebekah to my mom’s family, I ended up cutting ties once more with my mother and began distancing myself from her and the rest of the family. In truth I just couldn’t take all the lies anymore and I was done with feeling like a belittled second class member of the family. I was done with the whole thing. I tried my best to make things work, but no matter how hard I would try, nothing ever worked, I would always leave feeling worse about myself than I did before I visited. Also sadly for reasons beyond my control, Rebekah and I ended up going our separate ways. I admit now that it had been stupid of me to break up with her, but there was drama that entered our lives from a most trusted friend who through jealously managed to create a rift between her and myself. For me the wound festered in paranoia, fear and crippling doubt, which forced me to break things off before the drama got any worse than it already had. All because a friend, a cousin who I loved as a brother, who’s betrayal had come unexpected, cutting me deeper than he’ll ever know. Torn, I ended my relationship with Rebekah and needless to say the New Year wasn’t that great for me.

My older brother and his dog Dozer

My older brother and his dog Dozer

Roughly, a year later I was beginning to feel alright again about my life and where it was heading. Slowly I began rebuilding my relationship with my cousin which wasn’t easy, knowing I’d never fully be able to trust him again, but we had been close since we were six and it was from this sentiment I decided not to let our relationship fall to the wayside, to be lost and scattered on the winds of time.  He made a mistake and I couldn’t exactly fault him for it, he had liked Rebekah for the same reasons that caused me fallen head over heels in love with her. Then as fate would have it, I ran into my older brother while working at the Kenton County Library in Newport. To my surprise we struck up a good rapport with each other, better than any we had ever had in the past. We ended up exchanging numbers for I had lost his and he mine and after a couple of days he and I began hanging out. It felt good to reconnect to his brother I barely knew. Growing up I barely even knew him, for he rarely ever wanted anything to do with me, other than tormenting or teasing me in some way. Then when he did finally want to get to know me, I didn’t really want to get close to him, because I knew a little of his involvement with drugs, drinking and his run ins with the police. All the things I didn’t care much for, or want any part of, also, I didn’t trust his friends and knew the kind of crowd he liked to runaround with. But during this time, he started going back to church and he left most of his old friends behind for the purpose of carving out a new life for himself. To my surprise I discovered he and I had a lot in common and shared similar interest in movies, the outdoors, martial arts and philosophical views. We were also both born again Christians, starting down a new path and it felt good to find myself going down the same path with my brother. In a few months I had the kind of relationship with my older brother that I used to always dream about having when I was a kid. We were as brothers should be. I trusted him without question, confided in him as you would your closest friend. After years of never knowing my brother, I had found him, just as he had with me. It only took us two decades to finally get there and to form that brotherly bond that all siblings should have.

My brother and I hiking at Red River Gorge

My brother and I hiking at Red River Gorge

In time, I grew to almost forget how he used to tease and make fun of me, making the past that once was feel not so much like a distant memory, but as something that had happened to someone else.  But after a time, he began asking me about my relationship with our mother and pushing for me to talk to her, to take the first steps in forgiveness and to forget about whatever differences we had in the past. Something I couldn’t bring myself to do, time and again I kept trying to explain to him without telling him exactly why I couldn’t do as he asked, I couldn’t go back down the road,because I knew all that would be waiting for me would be more pain and disappointment. I spent months, and a year building back up that wall around my heart and guarding myself from her. I was terrified of the prospect of letting my mother back into my heart just so that she could wreck it all over again. But no matter what I said, or how hard I tried to ignore and change the subject, he wouldn’t stop, insisting that I just talk to her and bury the hatchet, to make amends and forget the past to start anew. The more he talked, the more I found myself wanting to tell him everything and how weary it became keeping the truth locked up within the confines of my heart. But I feared the truth and what it would do to him. Maybe I was a little selfish in doing so, fearing that if I told him, it would cause the relationship we had been building to unravel completely,

My brother and me on the beach

My brother and me on the beach

because I doubted he would believe anything negative I had to say about his mother. I was also afraid of what would happen if he did believe me and what that it would cost him. Our mother was always good to him, bordering on spoiling him even, she had always been there for him, looked out for him and supported him when no one else did. How could I take that away from him and I did it wouldn’t make me any better than her. If my brother listened to me and took my side it would take away yet another pillar of support that he had and he didn’t have many since his real father had been a deadbeat. But no matter what I said, or how hard I tried to ignore and change the subject, he wouldn’t stop, insisting that I just talk to her and bury the hatchet, to make amends and forget the past to start anew. The more he talked, the more I found myself wanting to tell him everything and how weary it became keeping the truth locked up within the confines of my heart. But I feared the truth and what it would do to him. Maybe I was a little selfish in doing so, fearing that if I told him, it would cause the relationship we had been building to unravel completely, because I doubted he would believe anything negative I had to say about his mother. I was also afraid of what would happen if he did believe me and what that it would cost him. Our mother was always good to him, bordering on spoiling him even, she had always been there for him, looked out for him and supported him when no one else did. How could I take that away from him and I did it wouldn’t make me any better than her. If my brother listened to me and took my side it would take away yet another pillar of support that he had and he didn’t have many since his real father had been a deadbeat.

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Of course it didn’t help matters much that I also kinda figured that my my mother had already told and convinced my brother of her side of things and anything that I would say would be but lies in his eyes. Because I long since saw the power of a lie and how quickly it can travel around the world, while the truth is still at home putting on its shoes. People in my experience always seem to believe the first story they hear and it doesn’t that the lie can often be easier to digest than the truth, because the truth can often be far more painful to accept because of what it means. Many are all too eager to accept and believe in the lie, than see the logic behind the truth. So I feared I would lose my brother forever, or wound him beyond measure if my truth ended up costing him his relationship with his mother and it was in this I was willing to just leave things be. His relationship with our mother was his and his alone, it wasn’t mine. Plus I didn’t want to put him in that kind of situation that would put him between her and me, I respected and accepted the circumstances that his mother wasn’t mine, the woman I knew as our mother was completely different from the one he knew. That being said, no one deserves being put in a situation where they have to choose between family and I would never envy anyone in that position. Like myself, my brother can be infinitely stubborn and for whatever reason he wouldn’t give up on trying to get me to work with him on reestablishing this relationship with our mother, whenever we were out and there was any lull in the conversation, he’d start telling me how I had only one mother and how the bible says we should honor our mother and father. Once, I even came close to telling him the truth, by asking,

“But what if your mother or father doesn’t exactly honor or respect you?”

“She’s your mother and she gave you life,” He argued,

“Listen…I never told you this, but do you know what she told me when I was sixteen?” I asked, turning in my seat to look at him, not wanting to tell him that story, but at the same time felt so tired feeling like I was living a lie by not telling him the true nature of my relationship with our mother.

“Look, I know you two had your issues in the past, but it’s over and done with, you can say one thing, and she’ll say another, it’s time to get over it and remember you’re both family, forget the past, live for tomorrow instead.”

“Its not so easy,” I told him, knowing from his tone and the look he gave me that he didn’t want to hear my story about when I was sixteen. So I dropped the subject and for the moment so did he.

Once during this time I even dreamt about it, I dreamed I gave my mother another chance and once again it ended in pain and discord. In my dream I was back home. My mother was screaming at me, accusing me of something and telling me how I was this huge disappointment, an accident she wished that would have died in the womb. Having heard enough, I turned and went into into the room that used to be mine, but now it was mine again, filled with relics throughout my childhood. My old nightlight, my Batman doll, my spider-man action figures, my story time clock and in this dream I pulled this old burlap sack from my closet and began collecting these relics of my childhood, stuffing them down into this burlap sack, because I planned on taking it all with me, everything. All the while, my mother and step father screaming profanities at me, pulling and tearing at my clothes, shoving me as I ignored them and continued collecting everything from my childhood, before I finally turned on her shouting,

“I’ve had it, I’m done with you and all these games, I’m leaving and never coming back, you have wish and I’m never coming back!”

I awoke as my mother screamed and shoved me down the stairs, leaving me grasping at empty air as I fell still gripping my burlap sack. I awoke in a cold sweat and call Rebekah, who despite everything that happened between us, was still a good friend.

Me goofing off behind my sleeping step-father on the last vacation I'll ever share with them.

Me goofing off behind my sleeping step-father on the last vacation I’ll ever have with them.

My cousin derek, me, my brother and Jenifer

My cousin derek, me, my brother and Jenifer

I told her about my older brother and my dream, how I was struggling to find the right thing to do and her advice was for me to stand my ground. She believe the Lord was trying to warn me what would happen if I returned home, if I let my mother back into my life she would only break me again, she advised me told me to have a sit down with Dominic and just tell him everything.

Sadly I never had the chance, (I’m also a victim of always trying to find the right moment for such things) Because before I could, Dominic had asked me to a movie and when we pulled into the parking lot of the Danbury Theater, his phone rang as he parked his jeep he tossed me the phone saying,

“They want to talk to you,” and he jumped out of his jeep before I could ask who it was, but I should have guessed.

He shut the door and began pacing around the front of his jeep as I tentatively brought the phone to my ear and whispered, “Hello?”

The voice on the other ended mirrored my tone as they greeted me; my mother spoke as if she wasn’t sure how to proceed, asking me how I was, about my work and what I have been up to.

I answer, keeping my responses as short as possible, fearing my voice would betray me and hating how I still loved her even after everything that’s happened.

Like my brother, a part of me still wanted and longed for this family. Which I didn’t know until right then as I spoke with her that day on the phone, just hearing her voice made me realized how much I missed her, missed all of them  my little brothers I missed the most.

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She asked about my grievances, and then gave me apologies and excuses/explanations as I spoke. We ended our conversation with her telling me how much she missed and loved me; reluctantly I told her how I loved her too.

I wasn’t angry about what my brother did, at the time I actually felt a little better having talked with her. So in the weeks and months that followed I gradually allowed my brother to bring me around our mother. Naturally I was suspicious and wary at first, but gradually she managed to coax me out from behind my walls and for a while everything seemed fine. The past seemed good and gone and I began believing my mother had truly changed for the better. Yeah we still had our bumps in the road, but the ride wasn’t as rocky as it once was and I was happy to finally have my family back, even though my father had strongly disapproved of me trying to reestablished this relationship with my mother and her side of the family, but this was something I myself wanted and I wanted more than anything for it work, to be real, I needed it so that I could finally heal and maybe even forget about the past. Little did I know I was setting myself up to learn why it is they say you can never go home again.

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Scars of Who We Are part 14

                      “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Watercolors

It’s amazing how small your life seems once you pack everything you ever own at nineteen and load it into the back of your father’s truck. It took two trips which we had divided up between two days of moving my stuff up to New Port, where I was to live with my father and grandmother. It felt strange saying goodbye to the place that had once been my home and had spent so much time within and finally walking away from everything. It was hard. Even though she wasn’t the best mother in the world, she was still my mother and for better or worse, I still loved her. I only wished that she could love me too and I wish I could tell you why I loved her. But I suppose it was the little things and something to do with all children loving their mothers. Leaving me to often contemplate about all the things that could have been. But I couldn’t let a few good memories anchor to someone who would only drag me down to the bottom of the sea. It was sink or swim and I chose to swim.

Two days after moving my stuff,  we went to Burger King to pick up my last paycheck, followed by a short trip to the Bank of Kentucky to close out my savings accounts, ideally to transfer the funds over to a bank closer to where I was going to be, which was fifth third. However my mother had already beaten me to it, the young woman at the desk politely informed me that my account had already been closed two days prior, by my mother.

All the money I got for graduation, money I had saved doing odd job while growing up, but all money I was going to save for college or put towards a car was gone. Every penny I had saved since I was fourteen. The poor girl must have thought I was insane as I started to laugh, knowing I should have seen this coming, but I didn’t. Because when you’re under 18, you need a co-signer and I agreed to make her mine, figuring if I was ever in a bind she could withdraw some cash for me. Also, I was fool who believed if I had her name on my account it would show that I trusted her and bring us closer together. But I was wrong. She had taken it for herself, or perhaps even given it to my older brother, but I’ll get to that in a minute. But i shouldn’t have been surprised, because a year prior, I wanted to get a high school graduation ring along with the rest of my friends and my mother talked my dad and grandmother into pitching in, they agreed and pooled their money together to send her a few hundred bucks so that I could get a nice ring.

My grandma, I miss her

M grandmother, the closest thing to a real mom I ever had.

My mother had no problem cashing the checks, but the ring however never found its way to me. It didn’t matter how many times I asked about it, she would give me the run around. She always seemed to have multiple excuses at the ready, but eventually she convinced me to have one made at Wal-Mart which would be cheaper, telling me I could put the difference in the bank.…(before you go judging my on my stupidity here, remember hindsight is 20/20.) so as you can guess I never got my ring and the money never found its way to my saving’s account.

Two years prior I had been the proud owner of a dirt bike that I was given a year before and a mini bike the year previous from my grandpa on my mom’s side. Then one day I noticed both my bikes were missing from our garage and when I inquired about them, I was told my step-father had taken them to get serviced. But as time wore on I kept getting excuses as to why it was taking so long to get my bikes back. Until one day, I came home early from a friend’s house and by chance I happened upon  my mom on the phone with my brother, which wasn’t uncommon, they called each other every day, but then I overheard her saying,

“Dominic I can’t afford to give you any more money right now, I already gave you the money for Josh’s bikes…”  Then I froze there on the bottom of the steps, knowing that she didn’t know I was home and that I had just overheard the truth of why it was taking the guy so long to finish tuning up my bikes, because they were gone, sold.

I never confronted her though, I figured if I did she’ll only deny it, or give me some excuse, or sob story, or somehow turn it around on me for ease dropping even though it hadn’t been purposely done so. You can’t help but hear something you overheard. So I let it go and quietly fumed and never thought of it again, until that day at the bank when the young woman was telling me my account had been closed.

Anger soon gave away to depression and I spent the next few days just lying on my grandma’s couch, feigning illness so that my grandmother and father wouldn’t worry. Truth was, I was broken and couldn’t stop thinking about all the things my mother had done, wondering if she ever loved me at all, or if it was all just some ploy to rob me blind and to make my life miserable. Everything I had been working towards was gone and at nineteen my life felt like it was over. The task of starting all over from scratch seemed daunting and I was afraid of failing again. I blamed myself as much as I did my mother, hating myself for not getting out when I had the chance, for not being smarter and not better protecting myself. I hated my naïveté.

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My cousin Nick reminding me to hang in there

I ended up beating myself up for days, before finally finding the strength to pull myself together. My cousin Nick contributed more than he knows to helping me find the strength to pull myself back together again. For after hearing I had moved in with my father and grandmother, he took it upon himself to help me stand back on my own two feet again, reminding me how to have a good time, how to laugh along with helping me rediscover my lost smile. Every week we hung out, went to the movies, biking, or simply sat around and shared a few laughs.

After a while I was finally ready to start all over, walking the streets of Newport everyday going to every business and filling out applications and always following up the next day and the day after. Eventually the Newport Library got tired of seeing me coming in every day and asking for work, so they finally offered me a job as a shelver.

A few months later the calls started, my mother was trying to get a hold of me, wanting to talk. At first I avoided her calls like the plague, refusing to speak to her, always telling my dad or grandma to tell her I wasn’t there or that I had just left. I didn’t want this woman anyway near my life. As far as I was concerned she was poison.

But eventually, my grandma and even my father of all people began telling me that I needed to talk to her and I should see what she wants. So then one day she called and I answered. I could hear the tension and the relief in her voice and the tentative way that she spoke that she was afraid I’ll hang up before she got to say what she wanted to say to me. At first she was asking me questions about how I been, what I’ve been up too and how it was living with my father. I kept my answers as short as possible, afraid of accidentally opening that door that would lead her back into my heart, until she started crying… between sobs she confessed to everything, apologizing profusely for not being a good mother and for never being the kind of mother that I needed. She begged for my forgiveness, and for another chance. Reluctantly I cave and agreed to let her back into my life.

For a while things were okay between us, I started spending time with her and the rest of the family again and as if by some unspoken agreement, none of us mentioned the past or what it was that drove me away from home and all of them. In time, it began to feel like family again. But over time, the cracks began to show and suddenly I wasn’t good enough and my job at the library had become a disappointment. Things slowly escalated from there with little snide comments and the “forgetting of my birthday” and eventually things degraded to the point where I didn’t like the way I was being treated. I couldn’t help but feel like I was becoming the target of ridicule, with nothing I ever did being good enough and I was constantly being treated like I was some little kid and calling me selfish and greedy because I didn’t come around more, ignoring the fact that I was working and also had another family so to speak.. But I bit my tongue and kept trying to make things work, wanting them to work and trying to watch my own behavior to see if they were right. But I was feeling torn again between what felt like to warring factions, my mother’s side and my fathers.

Rebekah my guiding light.

Rebekah my guiding light.

But then I met her, Rebekah Josann Stidham, my lighthouse who guided me from my own darkness and the rocky shores and treacherous shores of my soul. My dealings with my mother and her family was tearing me apart and I was gradually sinking back into my depression, beginning to believe in my own worthlessness and that I was broken, destined to spend the rest of my life alone.

Rebekah changed all that, I me her by chance at the library; she was a volunteer along with her sister Rachel and Rebekah’s smile reminded me of Christmas morning and the sound of her laughter was as soothing as a warm breeze in the fall.. She was the first girl I ever met who made the first move by leaving me at work after we first met. She was…and still is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever laid eyes on, sweet, attentive, understanding and her laugh had an almost musical quality about it and she was always quick to laugh and the ease of which her laughter came always brought a smile a to my lips.

But I never told her about my past, or my mother, instead I pretended to have a good, healthy relationship with her and her family, so that she wouldn’t think I was some guy weighed down with a crippling amount of emotional luggage. Plus someone once told me that I should never tell a love interest about all the things wrong with me, for they can become overwhelming, thus become a turn off. So I let her get to know me in the present, for the person I was and not who I had once been.

Overnight it seemed we had become best friends, even though I had already fallen head over heels in love with her on that  day we first met, losing myself forever in her big doe eyes. I loved her then and ever since, although back then I was afraid to admit it, but still everyone knew it. But I was afraid of what would happen to my heart if my love once again went unrequited as it did with Sherry.

So I remained her friend, for the longest time, longing every day to hold her in my arms and to kiss all of her worries away….But I was fool and I was afraid, so I dragged my heels for the longest time, feeling constantly at war with myself. Then one day another guy came along, who was a singer like her, a real musician, who was well on his way of turning his passions into a career. She grew to where she talked about him all the time even when she was around me. I knew without her saying that she was torn between him and me. But in the end, I decided he could offer her more than I ever could, so I walked away. I didn’t fight for her or try to argue my case, I simply stopped calling/texting her, avoided her if I could, but remained friendly whenever I ran into her.

Eventually, things with her and Caleb fell apart, then somehow she found her way back to me and we became fast friends again. Then before I knew it, she had fallen in love with me, or as she told me, she was always in love with me, but her father had disapproved of me and when I disappeared from her life she thought that maybe she was meant to be with the other guy, (Caleb so she chose to be with him.) But now she was finally distancing herself from her father and wanted to live her own life, one she wanted to share that life with me which she did.

We were together for six months before I finally decided to bring her around my mom’s family. Albeit I was curious if what I perceived as disrespect was real, or was all just in my head. She would be my impartial witness, because I still hadn’t revealed any of the truth about my childhood and I wanted…needed some kind confirmation if what I was seeing was real or not.

So I took her down to my mother’s for thanksgiving and to my surprise my mom and her family fell in love with her almost immediately. They fawned over; she was the daughter my mother always wanted, beautiful, charming, talented, graceful and modest. But for some reason my family also seemed to go out of their way to paint me in a negative light. Harping on me whenever I wasn’t being the perfect boyfriend, (I.E pulling out her chair, or refilling her glass for every three sips she took, all things I kept thinking was odd and even though she kept trying to tell them that she didn’t like that kind of hovering. Insisting that did like doing some things for herself.

Rebekah and me

Rebekah and me

At the end of the night, she and I went for a walk and I asked what she thought of my family and I noticed her hesitation as she told me they were very nice to her. However I had known her long enough to know when something was bothering her and when I asked what it was she said,

“I don’t like how they treat and talk down to you all the time, it’s almost like they don’t think of you as a person….”

“Oh…” I said, knowing she was confirming what I had been feeling this whole time when I’ve been trying to heal the past and mend all the broken fences between me and m family.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it, I know it’s your family and you love them,” She whispers, kissing me, before pulling me closer against her. I could lose myself forever in her warmth; for nothing in this world had ever made me feel better.

“It’s okay,” I assure her, “You’re right, I just needed confirmation.” I confessed, returning her embrace and her kiss, happy to have her as a part of my life and knowing I would have to tell her everything once we got home.

“I just don’t think they’re good for you, I felt like the whole time they kept trying to turn me against you for some reason.”

“You saw that too?” I asked, smiling sheepishly, knowing she had also become my rock. I would have probably married her too and would have if I could go back, but that’s another story for another time.

By the time we made it back to the house, Rebekah already had me feeling better and that night we spent the night at my mother’s. The following day we were having dinner, a follow-up to our thanksgiving day feast and while the food was being prepared my mother had asked me to help my little brother’s put together a Star-wars Lego set, which I eagerly agreed too. But fifteen minutes in, my mother asked Rebekah if she could talk to her upstairs for a moment because she wanted to show her something. I don’t know why, but something in my mother’s tone struck me as a little odd. So I waited several minutes before finally deciding to sneak upstairs and see what she was up too. I heard them talking down the hall in my mother’s room, along with my aunt and they were asking her why she was with me. She explained that she had been in love with me, that I had been the sweetest, most caring and thoughtful guy she’s met and she loved my sense of humor, and my intellect. When I heard my aunt start asking her if she met my older brother and how handsome, smart and funny he was.

My heart started to sink and I realized as I stood out there in the hall, that my mother, along with her sister was trying to convince her to choose my brother over me. I heard my own mother say how Dominic was so much more handsome than I was and how he’d be such a better match for her. My heart broke into a million pieces that day; I stood out in the hall.

Rebekah, me and her younger brother

Rebekah, me and her younger brother

I know I could have made a scene and kicked the door open, confronting my mother, but instead I retreated and went back downstairs to play with my younger brothers, trying to pretend I didn’t hear what I had. The next day I went and saw Rebekah and asked her what happened when my mother was talking to her in private and she told me everything that my mother and aunt were trying to talk her into breaking up with me in order for her to date my brother. Thankfully Rebekah loved me and was loyal to a fault, my heart and my guiding star, my best friend. And in that moment I knew I had to keep my distance from my mother and shield Rebekah from her as well…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watercolors

Scars of Who We Are Chapter XIII

Chapter 13

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. The writer’s job is to turn the unspeakable into words – not just into any words, but if we can, into rhythm and blues.

― Anne Lamott

A month after my suicide, I was a patchwork of emotions, still living at home with my mother, although I’m unsure why I didn’t just get up and flee, but I was struggling to pull and hold myself together, sensing that something foreboding was waiting for me somewhere off on the horizon and that every day it was looming ever closer. I was afraid, but I knew that whatever storm was heading my way, I would stand before and weather the storm and I would stand before my biggest fear and let it pass through me. Knowing if I survived, it would make me stronger and I would be better, maybe even a little bit wiser.

The Grant County Fair

The Grant County Fair

I was steadily settling into working  nights at the Burger King at the end of my street and like most first jobs I hated it. But it wasn’t the grease burns, or the nightly rush that bothered me, it was the getting home every morning around two or three a.m and having to wash with lava soap to get the smell of burgers, fries  and grease off of me. I also hated it for all the things it took from me, I couldn’t see my dad because I was often working and I was seeing my friends less and less. The situation was made worse by my mother who would come and bang on my door every morning at ten in the morning and sometimes she would wake me up even earlier, screaming at me for sleeping the day away, oblivious to the fact I had just gotten home, showered and went to bed a few hours prior, which was quickly wearing me down and making me feel as though I was slowly turning into a zombie, just going through the motions. Every day I would wake up tired, shower again, eat a little breakfast and watch my little brothers before going in to work at seven.  I was nineteen and already felt myself falling into a boring and lonely routine. Wondering if God really brought me back from the brink of death for this of all things.

As if sensing my growing frustrations, or noticing my slow decline into depression, my two best friends started visiting me at my work, often waiting hours after we’ve closed just to give me a ride home, since I didn’t have a car.

(Well I did technically get a car from my grandpa for my last birthday, but unbeknownst to me my mother gifted it to my older brother, until he was done with it and got a new car himself, allowing her to sell the car that was meant for me.)

Matt and his lovely family

Matt and his lovely wife

Matt and Steven were like the brothers I never had, they enjoyed having me around and often went out of their way to make me feel accepted and cared for. Often encouraging me in my passions and my writing. They also made me feel loved.  (which I so desperately needed, I didn’t know it then, but looking back now, I know I was looking to fill those holes my family had left within my heart. So they became my family, filling in those holes I so desperately wanted and needed to be filled. Because family to me is what you say it is and you what make it, family doesn’t have to be defined by blood relations or by marriage alone. It’s the connections you make and the bonds you share.)

Then one night after they picked me up from another late night at work, we went to Matt’s and sat around his pool discussing our school year and  the summer that we all knew was drawing to a close and soon we would all be going our separate ways, with him going off to the marine core, Steven pursuing a career in special effects and me the writer, dreaming of a better life for myself. We discussed the possibility of this moment being the one moment in time that would never again come around, that this was it, the days of our youth were winding down and would soon be forever behind us. So it was with that thought, we realized we had to make this summer count for something and we agreed to make it a summer we’ll always remember, our one last hurrah.

We planned to attend the Grant County Fair, and because we lived in a closed minded, back water little town, populated mostly by hillbillies and country bumpkins, we decided to go in goth, to stand out, daring to be different, maybe even ourselves.

Also for me it’s always been easier to act more carefree when I wasn’t dressed as myself, so dressing up in goth felt kinda freeing in a way, by believing I could put on this other persona and be this person that I wasn’t. It gave me person to stop worrying about what others thought of me and what they said, it was liberating. I also learned that I look good in all black, for I actually had more girls flirting with me than I had in my entire life. So that was a nice added plus.

Steven

Steven

Once there Matt decided to have a little fun by staging a fake fight with another one of our other friends, John and being young and stupid we all thought it was a great idea, which almost resulted in us being booted out of the fair. But once everyone figured out it was all staged and we were just goofing around, everything was well and good, with the rest of the night being incredibly memorable, one that made me feel more alive than I thought possible and how we laughed  all night until we cried.   Although I must confess, the whole time I did keep an eye out for Sherry, hoping to see her somewhere in the sea of people there at the Grant County Fair.

It took three days for word of our shenanigans to get around to my mother and My step-father, Chris and believe me, they were not too pleased. I had been asleep for a whole five and a half hours when they came banging on my door, demanding I get up.  I rose, bleary eye and sleep deprived from working even later than usual and opened the door wondering what they wanted to harass me about now and was immediately shoved inside as they forced their way into my room, with the accusations already flying.

Immediately they began questioning me about the fair and I answered as honestly as I could and believing them both to be overreacting and that if they just heard my side of the story, that it would all blow over. (But I obviously forgotten who I was dealing with.)  But I did my best to explain the situation for what it was, our one last hurrah before we risked never seeing each other again. But they weren’t having it, instead I found myself being accused of being in a suicidal cult and how I was tarnishing Chris’s good name as a police officer and for the first time in my life I found the conviction to finally stand up for myself and cry, “Bullshit!” and reminded them how I always stayed out of trouble, and how I never once broke the law, or drank, did any drugs, nor did I ever cause any problems at school.

But my mother wouldn’t listen, instead she stepped to me and began jabbing me in the chest with her finger, ordering me I was to call Matt, Steven and the others and tell them how I could no longer be friends with them. An act I couldn’t find more humiliating, or degrading, especially from all the times they’ve been there for me and so I stood my ground and defiantly told her no.

She hadn’t expected my answer and looked surprised, which quickly gave way to anger and she began screaming at me, telling me how I was going to do it, or she was going to. But I found my courage and my voice and shook my head as I said,

“Look, my friends and I all graduated together,  and none of them have ever been in any kind of trouble, or been arrested, none of them smoke or do drugs, they’re good friends to have and they’ve been good to me and they’ve been there for me than you ever were. They’re my family and have been my family in all the ways you never were and I won’t write them off for you. “

“I don’t care,” She says, “You either call  your friends up right now and tell them you can’t be friends with them-“

“Mom,” I interrupt, “I’m nineteen, I’m not my brother and my friends aren’t his, mine are better.”

(Which was the truth, my brother’s friends have all been, or gone to prison…some still are and almost all of them have either been expelled or dropped out of high-school and more than one had knocked a girl up, or was hooked on drugs, or an alcoholic. Unlike my friends who worked hard, kept their noses clean and help motivate and even tutor me on their own when I was falling behind them in my classes. All the things she’s always known.

“Call them, or we’re kicking you out!” She threatened and I smiled. Because I realized her threats didn’t bother me anymore and I wasn’t afraid. I was free and my eyes were finally opening to all the lies she’s ever told me. This was what my father kept trying to warn me would eventually happen. My mother was going to kick me out because she had no further need of me, no child support and I was no longer a prisoner for her to bully and threaten, I was free to choose and I chose to go.

“Alright…I’m gone.” I rasp and picking up my phone as she asks me where I’m going to go and so I tell her, “I think I’ll go live with my dad for a little while.”

She watches me make the call with venom and revulsion as I dialed my dad’s number and when he answered I told him, that I  needed a place to stay and that I was being kicked out.  He understood and told me he’d be right on his way and we both hung up.

As soon as I got off the phone with my father, my mother started going off on me, rattling off everything that was wrong with me, calling me a little hoodlum, a liar, and how weak and pathetic I was. All the while, I kept trying to ignore her and begun packing up my things as she followed me around telling me that I was nothing but an ugly little coward and worse.

Of course I didn’t expect any less from her, after all this was the person I’ve grown up with, so I bit my tongue and quietly packed up my things and praying that she would just go and leave me alone, which she never did.

She insisted on saying that I was nothing but a little mischievous liar, always sneaking around and how my dad wouldn’t put up with my attitude or behavior, along with every little thing I did wrong since I was seven and how one day my father would end up beating me to death, or forcing me into the military life to make a man out of me, which was when I finally snapped.

“Enough!” I barked, “Just stop it okay, seriously when does it does it end? You won alright? I’m moving out, you can stop blaming me and holding me accountable for things I did when I was seven. I’m sorry I ruined your life so much by being born. But believe it or not and despite whatever you may think, I was a good kid and I don’t know maybe I’ve just been a little misunderstood, but I’m not the same person I was when I was a kid and I admit,  I used to steak candy from people’s candy jars, I snuck around people’s houses and explored,  I looked in cupboards, searched every room, explored every closet, but  I was seven! That’s what kids do, I never stole or took from anyone and I was a kid. I’m sorry I couldn’t always act like and be the adult you wanted me to be, I’m sorry for all the times I didn’t behave, or be the perfect kid, I’m sorry for the lies I used to tell just so that you wouldn’t beat me with the paddle. But that’s what kids too, we’re afraid of getting punished and you made us afraid of the paddle, but I was eight and you still act like it was yesterday. You haven’t noticed that in the past ten years I’ve changed and grew to admit to the things I did wrong and would only deny the things I hadn’t, until you either beat, or blackmailed a false confession out of me, that you would then use to further incriminate me for other things I hadn’t done, forever condemning as a liar, no matter what I ever said or did to prove otherwise.

“Josh you’ve always been a liar and vindictive, trying to get back at me cause you think you’ve been done wrong!” She snapped back.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked, “And why would you think, that I would think or do that? For what reason would you think I would want to get back at you  for something you did if you’ve always been the perfect mother? Or do you admit that you’ve always been horrible to me and are afraid to death it’s going to come back to bite you? But you got me all wrong, despite everything you’ve ever done and said to me, I always loved you and prayed for a real mother and son relationship with you, but you took all that away, you made me afraid of you and I never once stood up to you, so whatever it is you think about me is twisted and I seriously think that you’re sick.”

“Josh I can’t believe you would say that,” she shot back.

Shrugging, I shake my head,

“Do you ever stop to wonder about why it is you think I’m such a horrible person? My whole life all you ever done was blame me for everything, no matter what and without fail. Never believing anyone else would lie to you, but me. Even after Dominic (My brother) got arrested for stealing a vending machine from the Wendy’s break room, I was there when he swore up and down he had nothing to do with it, swearing to God, that he was innocent, but when they showed the security footage of him actually stealing it, I’m still somehow always the big liar. It’s always been lose, lose with me, I would plead my innocents and you  wouldn’t stop beating me until I confessed and you would always hold that confession against me, telling me it’s why you couldn’t ever believe me in the future. Do you recall how many times and how long it would take of you beating the hell out of me before you got your confessions? Did you ever once stop to think that I would have comped to anything if it meant  the beating and the groundings, would stop, or just so that I could have dinner?”

“Josh, you’re just trying to be the victim,” She snorted,

“Because that’s what you made me!” I retorted. “No matter what I did or what happened you would judge me as being guilty before even speaking to me and automatically assumed the worse about me when I gave you no grounds to do so.  I’ve always been a good kid, stayed out of trouble, always doing what I was told. Even my friend’s parents believe I’m as straight laced as they come, too afraid of ever doing anything even remotely bad or wrong. But you see only what you want to see in me and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the threats, the accusations and being treated like a second class citizen, so I’m done, you got your wish, and I’m no longer your son.”

Then I shook my head grabbed my bags and shoved my way past her, to wait out in the driveway for my father to pick me up. My heart was still racing, I never spoken to my mother like that before, heck until then I barely even stood up for myself…like ever. It felt good, if not a little scary and hurtful, because I finally admitted what I never had to courage to really face. Which was there was nothing I could do, nothing I could ever say, my mother hated me and would always see me as some stupid delinquent that she could bully and manipulate. Although a part of me was already looking back, thinking about my little brothers and how much I would miss them, imagining there reaction when they discovered that I had gone and how they would ask about me, dreading whatever lies my mother would feed them. But this was something I had to do, I had to cut ties with my mother no matter how much it hurt, otherwise I risked drowning.

But little did I know, my mother wasn’t done, not yet, not by a long shot, dealing me a blow that I never expected or saw coming….

Me, Matt, Dawn and Steven.

Me, Matt, Dawn and Steven.

Scars of Who We Are Chapter XII

Chapter 12

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” – Anne Lamott

Senior photo

Senior photo

At eighteen I finally broke down and killed myself, for I had enough. I had just graduated High-school and felt like life had thrown everything including the kitchen sink at me. Even graduating high-school hadn’t felt real to me, or like something I really deserved. I kept expecting word to come down that there had been a mistake and I wasn’t meant or supposed to graduate along with my friends. It felt weird saying goodbye and walking away from all I had known, High-school was something I once hated and feared coming to every morning because of bullies, the pressures of just getting by and the unforgiving social hierarchy. But, it was also the place where I made some of the best friends anyone could possibly meet and it was the place where I had fallen in love for the very first time. Sherry Troy had been the sister of one of my good friends and falling for her was something I had never meant to do. For when we first met that day in the cafeteria I had already knew that her social circle would never approve of me. She was popular, gorgeous, funny and sincere; she was also dating one of my friends. But as life happens, things happen and life changes, because the of them ended up breaking up and her I grew closer, exchanged numbers and started talking on the phone almost every day.

About around that time my mother gave me some real motherly advice, which was,

“Listen, when any girl talks to you as much as this one does, calling you almost every day, it means she really likes you.”

But I couldn’t accept that, she didn’t know Sherry, she didn’t me and good things didn’t usually happen to me. But I was young and just beginning to b4d5878dget schooled in love. Sherry gave me a reason to get up every day, seeing her was like Christmas morning and it gave me strength to face each day. For once I had something to look forward to other than the weekends I got to spend with my dad.

Of course I still remember the day when her sister Jane had approached me in class and told me how her sister was falling hard for me. It had been the happiest day of my life and felt like I had finally been thrown a life preserver and according to Jane my eyes lit up and sparked like the fourth of July, robbing her of her breath as she was taken aback by the purity of my reaction of hearing her news. I couldn’t believe it, I was inspired.

I went home that night and wrote Sherry a poem proclaiming my love for her, playing coy all throughout the day, until we were walking to our busses when I slipped my poem into her hand and walked away smiling like an idiot on parade, felt like I could do anything, the world was mine.

The next morning her other sister Terry approached me that morning, excitedly telling me how much her sister had loved my poem and how no one had ever wrote her a poem before, that she was so happy and excited that she was actually and completely overjoyed. So now I couldn’t wait to see her, I couldn’t wait to tell her how much I loved her, I couldn’t wait to feel her arms wrap around me, to hold her tight, imagining what our lives would be like together, picturing what it would be like to one day proposing to her, getting married and growing old together. (What they don’t tell you about being a hopeless romantic) It wasn’t until lunchtime rolled around that I finally had the time to approach and ask her out, surrounded by her sisters and all of our mutual friends. She answered with a disgusted no, and after hearing all day how much she liked me by all of our friends, so I was dumbstruck, managing a feeble, “What?” And when she repeated her answer I could feel my dreams shattering and falling like rain all around me, my heart felt like it was breaking in two.

Sherry and her sister Terry

Sherry and her sister Terry

“But…my poem…” I mumbled numbly, “Was garbage, so I threw it away,” She replied, making me want to just crawl into a hole somewhere and die. But then came Terry and my friends trying to supportive and reminding her how crazy she was for me. She denied them over a dozen times, each one a blow to my heart, hearing her telling not just me, but everyone how she never liked me and never will. I wanted to beg them to stop, to ask them to stop trying to help me because it had hurt too much.

I ended up spending the rest of my high school career in this on again, off again dance with her, trying to win her heart with every song and there were times where I could have sworn she had the same feelings for me, but whenever we would get close, it was like someone or something would always drive us further apart. It drove me crazy and eventually I gave up on chasing her, I walked away from love.

But on graduation day, her sister Jane sees me and pulls me aside and asked me if I still had feelings for her sister.

I couldn’t bear to speak the truth, I was too afraid to so much as think about her out of fear it’d spark that torch I carried for her and be left feeling like a love struck fool all over again, so I shrugged and said, “I don’t know….”

Taking my hand, she pulled me close then and I could feel her eyes exploring the depths of my own and before I could ask what this was all about she says,

“I have to tell you something, my sister did like you and probably still does, the reason she never said yes, was because of me.”

I could feel my brow furrow, because I didn’t understand, it didn’t make sense to me….she had been one of my closest friends and I couldn’t fathom why she would be sorry, or what she could have done to keep Sherry and me apart, then she said something I never expected to hear, because I had known her for years, she was my friend and confidant.

“I’ve been in love with you for a long time and when I saw that look on your face when I told you how Sherry felt about you, I was jealous and I told her nothing but lie about you. I told her this had all been a game to you, because you only wanted her to make some other girl jealous. I told her you only seemed nice but in reality you were really just a player…And I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have gotten in the way.”

I could feel the earth giving away beneath my feat, I never felt or knew such an act of betrayal even existed in this world. I had no words, I couldn’t speak, and all I could do was turn and walked away. It’s wasn’t until writing this that I realized that I still haven’t spoken to Jane since that day. But still every now and then I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if she never intervened.

Sherry Troy and smile that was like the sunrise.

Sherry Troy and smile that was like the sunrise.

I turned away from my friend and walked away from her that day without ever looking, feeling a small twinkling of hope that it wasn’t too late, believing I still had a chance to fix things and maybe, just maybe pick up from where we started. That day I couldn’t stop scanning every face in the hall and the crowd of my graduation ceremony, hoping to find her face someone among the countless faces, to see her staring back at me. Imagining what I would do when I saw her and having this little fantasy that I would see her, walk up to her and pull her away from whoever she may have been talking to, pulling her against me as I leaned down to kiss her lips of soft velvet.

I never did find her and I was too distracted to join in the excitement of celebrating of finally graduating from High-school, I was somewhere else while my friends were busy living in the moment. But I was too busy thinking about her, anxious to get home to call her and to just hear the sound of her voice. But when I finally got around to calling her no one was home and so I took off and went to my best friend’s graduation party hoping she’ll be there, but she wasn’t.

Days go by and I can’t seem to ever seem to get a hold of her, or catch anyone to just tell her that I called.  Eventually, one day her mom answers and she tells me that Sherry had moved out a few days ago and was now living with some boy she had just met. I don’t remember hanging up the phone, just the feeling of my heart breaking and the pieces falling down all around my feet.  I feel defeated and numb, I was given hope and it was in was torn away from me in one fell swoop. Shell shocked I wondered out of my room, hoping to find some reason to keep believing….to believe in something, anything, wanting to find some purpose and maybe a little hope. But my mother found me instead and asked why I was moping around. For once, I decided to just talk to her and tell her everything, hoping that I’d receive some of that age old motherly advice, or receive a little of that love that always seemed so out of reach. Instead she interrupted me before I could say but two words and said,

“I don’t care, you’re just stupid, pathetic loser and I can’t stand you, I never could and the worse thing is that I never wanted you. You’re nothing but a stupid mistake and if it wasn’t for your father I would have never birthed you, I wanted an abortion and he’s the only reason you’re still here because he wanted you. You were the accident that was never supposed to be and I think you would have been better off dead, because no one will ever love or want a pathetic, weak loser like yourself. “

She turned and walked away from me then, striding toward her craft room, mumbling about how much she resented me and I hear her tell say with my own ears that the only reason she put up with me for so long was for the child support and the money. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to. My father had been right all along, it’s exactly what he’d been trying to warn me about for years, but I never listened and now I could feel what remained of my already broken heart shatter into a million little pieces.  Leaving it so broken that they could now pass seamlessly through the eye of a needle, I was broken, in every sense of the word and I couldn’t move. Not at first anyway. All I could do was watch disappear into her little craft room, expecting at any moment for her to pop back out and tell me this was all some sort of twisted and cruel joke, I didn’t want to think she was serious. But after several minutes of just standing there speechless with my mind reeling. I hear every 18 minutes someone commits suicide and ever forty seconds, someone attempts one. And I was about to become another statistic.forsaken

In that moment I lost my faith, I hated God. I couldn’t fathom why he would make this woman my mother and never allow me any real happiness. I had been hopeful my entire life, wanting and trying to believe that things would get better, believing that they had to. But my battles were too numerous, too long and hard and I was tired. Immediately I turned and headed upstairs, grabbing a few prescription pill bottles my mother had kept in our medicine cabinet. I’m not sure what all I took, but I took seven or eight pills from every bottle that read “Only take 1 every 12 hours,” And “Do not mix with other medication” Then not wanting to risk anyone seeing what I was up to, or trying to stop me, I shoved the pills down into my pocket. This was my decision and my choice and I wasn’t going to give anyone a chance to stop or delay me.

With a bottle of Vicodin that I had left over from my wisdom teeth surgery,  along with the various other pills that I had stuffed down into my pockets. Then I took one final look at my reflection in the mirror and waved goodbye to the person I used to be, the person I used to know.

Returning to my room, I closed and locked my door, filled my cd player with my favorite cds and took a bottle of prescription sleeping pills, along with about 3/4

I wrote a single sentence on my desk’s notepad, “This is my goodbye, I’ve waited too long, I’m not worth anything, and tell dad I’m sorry.”

It didn’t take long for the room to start to spin and for the shortness of breath to begin and I fell onto my bed, crawling up onto the sheets feeling so cold as my body went numb, feeling pins and needles all over body, I felt like I was suffocating, struggling to breathe and it was then my world went black.

At first darkness was all I could see and feel. I was relieved, because I was finally free from all the pain and loneliness that plagued me for long. No longer did I feel all the pain that was tearing my heart apart, it was over and death wasn’t so bad I thought, I felt a strange sense of comfort in darkness that coiled and wrapped around me. I was a little disappointed though, I was hoping to find myself before God and demand an explanation, an apology for all that been wrong. But I didn’t and I didn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, or loved ones who had already passed over. Instead I found myself in a world surrounded by darkness and for a moment it was soothing and a little peaceful. But then I felt this jerk and then I had this sense like I was falling. I was falling faster and faster,  feeling what felt like cool air rushing up to greet me as I plummeted downward, feeling the air grow and become warm, then hot as it rushed over me. The realization of what I have done hit me then. I had committed a cardinal sin, I had committed suicide, I wasn’t going to get my trial, I wasn’t going to able to curse at the God who made me and let me cry so many tears. I wasn’t going to get answers and I would never learn why or the reasons for any of it, I was going straight to hell.

In my fear I cried out to God and it was then I felt descent slow and the heat dispel, until when I was once again just floating there in the inky blackness and I felt like was being watched and I sensed this profound sadness in the air around me, before I felt what I can only describe was warm comforting arms wrapping around me, pulling me close and lifting me up. I have no words for the feelings that washed over me. The love I felt was overpowering and I felt like a child in the warm, loving arms a loved one, of a father who was holding me close. I began to cry as I heard the voice apologizing for the struggles I’ve had, that despite what I had done, he was still proud of me, but telling me not to lose hope and that I had to stay, I had to go back, asking me to stay strong, to have faith and to live, to really live, that I’d go on to do great things in time.

But I didn’t want to, I wanted to stay in this place that I was, I clung to the father, pleading to stay and I saw the faces of my father, my grandmother, my friends and all of those who would miss me. It made me sad, but still I didn’t want to go, I was happy here and now, in this warmth.

So he showed me something else instead, he showed me myself, decades later, living a life where I’m happy, with my dreams finally coming true and I see the world waking up and finally beginning to read again, I see a family, a loving wife.

Without really thinking I feel myself letting go and I’m blinded by this sudden light that seemed to appear out of nowhere and when I look around, I discover I’m outside and I’m flying, miles above the earth, the view is breathtaking. But I’m actually was falling, down through sky, past the clouds, with the world rushing up to greet me, the air is cool against my skin and comforting as it rushes through my hair. I see my house, coming into view and I’m falling faster. I’m not afraid, but I bring my arms up protectively around me as I fall into the roof, passing insubstantiality through the shingles and support beams of my house.  I Falling through the kitchen where my mother had started making dinner and I can smell macaroni and cheese from the pot on the stove, before I pass through the floor to where I saw myself, laying so still and alone on my bed, where I crash with a jolt into my body.

I sat up just as I reunited with my body, taking a sharp intake of breath as I rose up off the bed, it hurts to breathe, yet I’m gasping for breath. I’m cold and my body burns as blood rushes back through my limbs, giving me a feeling pin and needles, that you often get when a part of your body falls asleep. But mine was all over and then I crawled out of bed, where I collapsed on the floor and passed out once more.

I firmly believe that I died this day; but you may have come to your own conclusion. But this is what happened to me and when I woke up, I felt okay, even though I knew my the worse was far from over, instinctively I knew would be leaving Grant County and saying goodbye to all my friends until the day came when we would meet again. But I knew whatever came and no matter how things would turn out, I would survive it. I may have died a coward, a scared and frightened little boy, but I was born again and in so doing became a man.

Closing note: a few years ago thanks to the advent of Facebook, Sherry managed to look me up and send me a friend request. We still talk and she tells me she’s always had strong feelings for me. But she’s currently in a relationship and has a few kids and to me she’s just as beautiful as she was the day I first met her in the High-School cafeteria.

2008 I'm the crow with my cousins

2008 I’m the crow with my cousins