Tag Archive: anxiety


Drowning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t breathe,
I feel like I’m drowning,
I’m suffocating,
My chest is being crushed and squeezed,
I can’t sleep,
My pulse races,
As my heart rapidly beats and bleeds,
I’m paralyzed and numb,
Haunted by memories and by me.
I just want to close my eyes.
and rest in peace.
I’m not as strong as I once was.

“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.

 

The Broken Road of Recovery.

After I wrote “I’m not okay,” I got messages and comments from many of you who are fighting the same battles. So for anyone’s who’s struggling, I want to tell you once more that you’re not alone and I’m here for you all. I try my best to reply to every private message, or comment, I’m here for you.

My hope here is that by chronically my journey with Complex-post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the healing process I’m beginning to walk down, I can keep myself from falling into any of the old pitfalls of the past. Such as my innate desire to look for a savior, it was something I was doing without ever realizing it. But what’s my therapist brought it up, I knew she was right. I remember that it started at a very young age, where I started fantasying about meeting someone, falling in love and for that love to fix that brokenness within me. I often imagined, falling in love and having someone fall in love with me, would make all the pain and suffering worth it, that once I attained happiness, everything would suddenly make sense. I often imagined what it would be like to start my own family without the pain or the burdens of the past. This is something I carried with me into every romantic relationship and I would devote myself completely to that girl. Being with that girl often made me happy and that relationship would often heal me to the point where I wouldn’t think about suicide anymore, my outlook would become happier, more positive. However, once that relationship failed for whatever reason, I would be completely devastated. Even though I always made an effort to mature about the breakup and just walk away. Because I never saw the point of being ugly, or nasty to someone you loved and cared about. Because in my mind, being petty, or mean only serves to make the other person believe they might decision. Although, I get it when people do lash out, it sucks being hurt, let down and feeling like you failed. It’s always an emotional time when you’re in love with someone and they tell you they don’t love you anymore, or maybe they never did. So I get it, I understand people sometimes say things they do, because they’re hurting, they’re scared, they’re confused. So shit happens, I don’t know why most of my relationships didn’t work, I know sometimes it was me and sometimes it wasn’t, sometimes I think we just meet the right person, but the timing is off, or the other person, or I need time to grow and mature. Sometimes the other person just gets scared, become afraid of getting hurt and doubt that they’re even good enough.

Regardless though of the reasons why a relationship fails, I would always take it hard, I would fall apart. I would find myself reliving all my past traumas, all the time my mother hit me, every time she would call me weak, stupid, pathetic, I would relive all my greatest failures and disappointments. I couldn’t stop it, the memories of the past would often slam into me, over and over again like waves and I stranded out in a deep and endless sea, feeling like I was unable to even breathe. Often times, I wouldn’t be able to escape and I would be pulled down into the suffocating darkness, where a part of me liked the hurt and pain, because it was familiar to me and I felt like I didn’t deserve happiness. I would become distant, pushing people away and I would want to die. Something that has gotten only harder the older I get. I couldn’t control it, I couldn’t stop the pain, or the flashbacks, it all just kept coming, over and over again like a bad movie stuck on repeat.

 

 

So I’m learning to cope and to heal. I now find myself putting my guard up whenever a girl expresses romantic interests in me and makes it known she wants to heal me. It’s hard telling someone in that situation, “No, you can’t be my hero, I have to learn to heal myself and be my own hero, I need to grow and can’t rely on you, or anyone else to be my hero. I’m sorry, I know you mean well, but you can’t save me. But you can help me save myself, you can help me by being there, encouraging me, being patient with me and listening to me when I talk, when I want to talk. But you can’t force me to talk or open up if I’m not ready, or if I don’t feel like it.”

I think I speak everyone with a mental illness and a traumatic past, it really sucks when someone doesn’t really know what you’ve been through and want to compare your life to theirs, as a means of telling you to stop dwelling in the past, to get over it. Because we all deal with tragedies differently, if you been abused or broken and came out of it with no scars, no psychological damage, you’re the minority and you have a strength I truly admire, or you’re not being honest with yourself. I hid my pain for the longest time, I often hid behind a smile while I was dying inside. Granted growing up a part of my logic was, if I pretend I’m happy, I won’t bring anyone down with my unhappiness and no one will feel compelled to stop me if I decide to kill myself. Because no one would suspect I would do something like that. I was hurting and if I was going to take my own life, I didn’t want anyone to stop me. So I learned to lie and put up a false front, telling everyone I was okay, that I was doing alright and how happy I was to be me, how happy I was being alive. It was the mask I wore every day and very few people ever saw through my façade. The first was one of my good friends, her name’s Dawn and one day she was bragging about how easily she could read people. So I asked her to read me and she said, “You always act like you’re happy, but you’re very clearly hurting and you seem afraid to talk about it. But I’m here for you if you ever need someone who’ll listen and I’ll do my best to help if I can.”
I never did take Dawn up on that offer, but it did stun me to know that someone saw through my carefully crafted façade and how I thought I had everyone fooled into thinking that I was okay. But I was wrong. It didn’t take long for my friends to figure out something was wrong, for they became my second family. They always made time for me, invited me out to their family gatherings and outings. They always went out of their way to make me feel accepted, to encourage me and they were always the first ones to be there when I needed them.

It was through my friends that I realized that how my mother and her family were treating me wasn’t normal. You see, my mom would often tell me that because she catered to my picky appetite that she loved me. Or convince me that what she was doing and how she was treating me was for my own good. Whenever I would question her behavior, she would say “Josh I often make a separate meal just for you because you’re so picky, that’s how you know I love you!” But then I would get hit for eating with my mouth full, back handed if my elbows touched the table, or if I slurped instead of sip my beverage. Or the many times she made fun of me, mocked me, or laughed as my older brother made fun of me. Not counting the numerous times she had beaten me without mercy and because my brother denied having done something wrong, which would always make me guilty by default.

 

With my mother it never mattered if I was innocent or not, she would beat me until I confessed. 8 out of 10 times I would be telling the truth, or even know for a fact my older brother had done the very thing I was being accused of. In her mind, everyone else was totally incapable of lying, everyone except for me. Then after every confession she beat out of me, she would use that confession as more of a reason not to believe me. Sometimes, I often tried to hold out, taking the beating she was laying on me, doing my best to push through the pain, in hopes she would see reason and that I was telling the truth. But she never did stop, not until I confessed to whatever it was she wanted me to admit I had done. She never believed me, because she didn’t want to. For her, it was easier to show me cruelty then love. For her it was more fun to break me and broke me she did. It eventually got to the point where if something happened, I would admit it was me rather I did it or not. I didn’t see the point in fighting when I knew what was coming. Sometimes she would attack me, or put me down, sometimes she would walk away saying how it wasn’t even fun anymore if I wasn’t resisting.

 

Growing up the way I had, afraid to cross paths with my mother, the bullies who often harassed me in school, I soon began enjoying the night, which is why I think I struggle so bad with insomnia now. Because the nighttime often became my time. No one bothered me, harassed me, I didn’t have to hide or avoid anyone, because everyone was already asleep. At night I felt free and relaxed, because the world becomes quiet at 1 am. A part of me also feared the next day, so I would stay up as late as possible, to delay the coming day. But I then enjoyed sleep, because I’ve always dreamed vividly and in color, my dreams were often my escape. Because I would often dream about living a better life, where I was a hero, or I was loved, or a famous explorer, adventurer. In my dreams, I was often at my happiest.

 

To this day, I still feel more comfortable at night when everyone else is fast asleep and everything is quiet and peaceful. I’ve also come to find that people are their most real when you stay up late into the morning just talking about anything, everything or just nothing. Strangely enough I found myself reliving this a bit with my Friday night D&D game I have with my friends, where many of us just relax afterwards, just talking. Its night like those and ones like it that I find myself truly healing. In a strange way the friends I play dungeons and dragons with, are feeling more and more like family to me.

Speaking of family. I know many of my dad’s family often get upset with me, because of how little I come around and visit. I’ve been working on trying to work up the courage to tell the truth. You see I used to try and see them all the time, even took off work early so I could meet up with them for dinner every Thursday. But my dad’s family has a bad habit of wanting to tease someone in the group, usually I’m the target. Then they all like take their turns at making jokes at my expense, or just screwing or messing with me. Which I can usually handle, but they don’t know when to quit, or what lines to cross, or which ones not to. Whenever I had mentioned I didn’t appreciate it, they would often laugh and tell me how they were all just teasing, before continuing again. Sometimes they’ve pointed out that my friends often tease me too. In which I have to say they’re right, but my close friends actually really know me. They figured out I was broken and damaged before anyone else did, before I even knew what was really wrong with me. My friends had been there for me, even when it was hard, when I pushed them away, even when I tried making them hate me. They never turned their backs on me, they never gave up on me, they supported me, encouraged me, they were there. No one had to spell it out for them, no one had to tell them, “Josh is suffering from depression.” They listened to me when I needed to talk, they didn’t judge me, or tell me bad things happen and I should get over it. They accepted me, got together and came over to my house just to drag me out of my funk, or just to check up on me. They showed me love, they became my family. When we tease each other, we all know what lines to cross and which ones to avoid, we also know when to stop. When they any of us goes too far, we apologize and begin making fun of ourselves to take attention away from whoever is beginning to feel hurt or attacked.

I have c-ptsd, so sometimes if I’m sitting there with everyone around me teasing, mocking, or making fun of me, I feel like I’m six, eight, twelve years old all over again and I’m reliving everything I had ever endured, reliving every insult, every time my mother or someone told me I wasn’t good enough, every time I was called weak, pathetic and that no one would ever love me. I relive the moment when my mother told me I should just kill myself, because no one would ever love me, because I was just a joke and a burden to everyone around me.

Those words haunt me, as much as most of my past. I remember it all, I relive it all the time. Every day is a battle for me and every day it’s the hardest battle of my life. Because every day, I have to give myself reasons to go home, to get up in the morning and to not go out and kill myself. I’m struggling all the time, wrestling with these demons that haunt me. The battles I and those like me fight are hard and they’re never ending. It helps whenever someone tells me they love me, that they care, or appreciate me. Those things help and they cost nothing to give, a few words of encouragement, or show of friendship really does go long a way. Because I don’t know about everyone else, but I don’t always like to talk about what’s bothering me. I don’t always show it on my face, or in my mannerisms, I often pretend I’m okay and everything is alright, because I don’t want anyone to worry, I don’t want to be a burden and I don’t any false sympathy.  So I keep moving forward, placing one foot in front of the other, trying to be better myself and not be the person I was yesterday, or the day before. I throw myself into writing, playing dungeons and dragons, reading, cosplaying, video games, working out and forcing myself to talk to people and practice opening up to those around me. But it’s not easy, I still get bad, I still have my bad days and there are nights where I can’t sleep and all I can do is think, tormented by my own thoughts and memories. But like all of you, I know I’m not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

No, I’m not okay.

“Sometimes I think tolerance can be void of compassion and sometimes we can forget that in the end we’re all only human.”

This is for everyone suffering from any mental disorder. Because I believe if you have C-ptsd, ptsd, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorder, or bi/tri-polar disorder, people often don’t understand the battle we fight every everyday. Because I noticed how fleeting everyone’s memories are, when I’ve told them I have c-ptsd, anxiety and depression. I have come to realize how quickly people tend to forget I’m fighting this battle everyday and how many of them think I’m fine, that I’m cured because I finally opened up and said, “This is me, I’m broken, but I’m working on becoming better.”

Even when my dad found out, his first response to me was,
“Why don’t you just let go of the past and live your life?” And I responded with a sigh,
“It’s not that easy. It’s like you asking me not breathe, I can’t help it, it’s both biological and psychological and its beyond my control. I don’t like being the way I am. I wish I wasn’t this way, I wish I was normal. But I’m a long way from being okay and I’ve come to terms with that, I’ve accepted it. I’m getting help now yes, but there’s no easy cure. There’s no pill I can take, or advice I can receive that will suddenly be okay. It’ll take time.”

Then he asked if they told me how long I will be the way I am. And I had to inform him, that no one knows and I doubt I’ll ever be completely cured. I can only get better by a matter of degrees and that’s the best I can ever do. Then he told me his solution for these problems and issues of mine, which was me going to church and finding a nice Christian girl.
I can’t expect anyone to save me, I used to look at those I’ve become romantically involved with as a solution to a problem I didn’t know I had. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I know a part of me had looked at every relationship as a chance to heal, to have them fix this broken part of me and fill this hollowness I often feel deep within my heart, my soul, me. I also grew up Christian and loved God with all my heart, but after praying everyday for years for my mother to love me, my faith became shaken. With every bad situation, or cruel act I had to endure, I often found myself asking God why. Gradually my prayers shifted, I stopped praying for God to let my mother love me, but began praying for God to kill me. It’s what I wanted at a very young age, because I was tired of hurting. I was tired of being abused at home, of going to school where I often got harassed and ridiculed, often trying to tell myself that old nursery rhyme about sticks and stones, but truth is, words do hurt more than a broken bone. As far as bad names go, I was called them all. Then I would go home, get beaten, or my older brother would mock and make fun of me and my mother would often be in the room and just laugh at his insults to me. When I asked him to stop, he would ignore me and make fun of me even more, when I asked my mother to make him stop, she ignored me. But the moment I insulted him in return, I would get beaten and grounded.  This was my life for years, if you want to know what it was like for me growing up go back and read my Scars of who we are series. It explains a lot. But I never told anyone about the abuse for several reasons. One I was afraid, I was afraid people would judge me, or think less of me, or worse they would think I was lying and making it all up. Second, she often threatened me with what she would do to me if Told anyone, if she didn’t think that was working she would blackmail me. By telling me my dad wouldn’t put up with my struggling grades and how he would think so much less of me. She would also fill my head with thoughts, that he didn’t really love me and was just pretending just so I would go and live with him, saying if I did, he had told her he would send me off to military school. Also, I was always afraid if I said anything I would hurt my older brother. Because he biological dad didn’t want anything to do with him after he divorced our mom, then when my dad and mom got a divorce she had told my brother that my dad didn’t want him. Which my dad says is untrue and I believe him.

When my dad remarried, his 2nd wife was a woman named Patricia. In the beginning she was super cool and kind to me. She had two kids from a previous marriage who I got along with and my step-brother would grow to become more of a brother to me then my own brother ever was to me. So when my dad got married to Patricia I found myself giving some serious thought about leaving my abusive home and taking the chance at this new family. I wanted Patricia to  be my mother, because I was growing to think of her as such. But then things started to change, Patricia began making subtle and not so subtle jokes at my expense, calling me stupid, lazy, queer, etc. Anytime someone broke something, or didn’t clean up a spilled drink she blamed me. Then she began making me do all the house chores, while telling me how pathetic I am. This eventually made me afraid of her and I would always try to avoid her. My dad knew that she was often a bit hard on me, but I don’t think he knew how bad it was whenever he wasn’t around. But I never said anything to him about it, because I believed she made my dad happy and that was all that mattered to me. So if I had to put up with my step-mother being awful towards me, I felt like it was the least I could do for my father. I wanted to see him happy. Also I loved having a step-brother and step sister, I thought of them both as blood related family and Patrick was my brother as far as I was concerned. It was Patrick though who taught me how a real brother should act and should be. Whenever he saw or heard his mother treating me poorly or unfairly he would always stand up for me, even though standing up to his mother on my behalf often resulted in him getting grounded, he never did stop defending me.

Years after my dad and step-mother’s divorce Patricia did eventually look me up and apologized for how she had treated me, telling me she knew it was wrong and explained to me her mindset way back then. She even apologized for hurting my dad and wanted me to tell him that she was genuinely sorry. Her and I did have a good relationship after that and I was moved when I heard her referring to me as her son and bragging about me. I don’t think I ever had anyone really brag about me before, so it was nice and I find myself missing her after she passed away.

  In a few years after I finally broke free from the toxic relationship with my mother, I ran into my older brother and things were different between us, because we got along pretty well. We started hanging out on a regular basis, talking and I was feeling like I was finally getting to know him, he was finally feeling like a real brother to me. I didn’t have a car at the time, so he would often have to pick me up and I would repay him by treating him out to dinner, even got him an air conditioner for his place when I discovered he didn’t have air at his place. When he couldn’t pay his rent, I helped him pay it. We began training in martial arts together, hiked the Red River Gorge, saw movies as he advised me on girls and tried helping me build up my confidence. He even told me he knew our mother, had a falling out and he began begging me to give her another chance. I had tried once before but things blew up in my face, when she let her family talk down to me and I overheard her and her sister trying to talk the first girl I ever brought over into breaking up with me and dating my older brother because they believed he would be a trade up from me. So when he first brought up the issue I didn’t want anything do with her, I even tried telling him the mother he knew, wasn’t the mother I knew. But he eventually talked me into it. Then when she and my step-dad accused me of stealing a large sum of money, they stole my laptop and I had to go the police to have my belongings returned to me. My brother turned his back on me almost immediately. It hurt seeing someone who I loved and greatly respected turn his back on me and forget everything I had ever done for him as if it was for nothing and like I was nothing.

I’ve had a cousin whom I saw as a best-friend and a brother who betrayed me for a girl and I got to see how he really thought of me, as I read him trash talking to me to a girl I was seeing and didn’t even know he was interested in. Also it bares saying my cousin has always been a player and never very interested in having a meaningful romantic relationship with anyone. Worse was he knew a lot about what I had been through, how I’ve always struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. So seeing how easy someone who I had grown up with, whom I always defended and how quickly and easily he’d unapologetically betray me and throw me under a bus, without any hesitation, really, really hurt.

Most of my personal, romantic relationships managed to further the damage already done to me. Because usually, whenever I entered a relationship I was all in. I wanted me and the girl I was with to go the distance. But I was almost always, used, taken advantage of, cheated on, or left for a better model. My second to last relationship was with a girl named Olivia. That one had hurt the worse until my most recent breakup. Because Olivia and I had both been hurt before and we had both wanted to take things slow. We were together for eight months and we talked every day. She would even come by my place to see me throughout the week, wanting to just spend time with me. Three days before my birthday, she had asked me if I would be willing to move in with her down the road. I said yes, then on my birthday, she asked me over to her house and told me she wanted to see other people. For a moment I didn’t believe this was happening, because we had never had a fight, or so much as a disagreement, up until that day, she would tell me how I was the greatest guy she ever dated, the best boyfriend she ever had. So I was more than a little devastated.

Worse was we had tickets to a comic con the following weekend, I had originally told her she could just have my ticket and take anyone she wants. But a day before the convention, she talked me into going with her as friends. I agreed, but when we got there we and into some of her friends who just gotten engaged and after congratulating them, Olivia began complaining how she was forever alone, how she wished she could find a good guy while I was standing right there.

Later after the second time she had blown me off to hang out with her friends who were also there, I had enough and finally decided to leave and let her get a ride home with her friends. But she ran into me as I was leaving and asked what I was doing and I told her I was going home. She was upset and more than a little angry that I was going to leave her there. Then she spend the next 20 minutes in the car telling me about things she thought I would do to her and how she would screw up my life. (Usually when I’m hurt, I just walk away. I don’t ever beg someone to take me back and I don’t resort to acting petty, because I believe all that does is tell that other person they might the right decision by leaving you.

It took me a long time to pull myself back together after Olivia, which is how I ended up meeting my most recent ex. In the beginning she wanted to date me and I insisted I didn’t want a relationship. All I wanted was to be friends, I was kind of done with love. I did everything I could to make Star disinterested in me. (not her real name, but I don’t want to put her on blast.) I told Star I was broken, she told me she was too. I told her I wanted my next relationship to my last and she told me she was also ready to settle down. I told her I was a geek, a cosplayer and a dork. She laughed and told me she was too. Two months later, she finally broke down my defenses and we started dating, that’s how without ever intending to do so, I fell in love. We were amazing together, or we were for about eleven months when she started cheating on me with her ex-boyfriend and I found out. We broke up and she kept sending me messages telling me how it was not what I thought, that she wished she could explain it to me, telling me that she loved and wanted to be with me. About two months later, she asked me to take her back and I foolishly did. I’m not sure why, or why I worked so hard to forgive and try to forget what she had done to me. Why I doubled my efforts to make her happy, but I guess I really did fall helplessly in love with the girl. I had believed we were working and that I was making her happy, then the lies and excuses started all over again, once more I discovered she was talking and seeing someone on the side. Which made me feel like a failure and like I was inadequate, broken, a mess of a human being. It also caused me to have an emotional breakdown, Star destroyed something in me when she hurt me a second time. I believe a part of me was so affected, because when I told her how I’m a child abuse survivor, she told me she was too and told me stories about things she’s endured, which lowered my defenses and made me see someone I could relate with, someone who understood things I’ve suffered ad endured. I can’t help but feel manipulated, lied to and used. Which doesn’t help me with my C-ptsd, anxiety and depression. I hate having these issues and problems, most days I hate just being me. More than anything I wish I could just get over it, forget it. But for people like me, please stop telling people to just get over it. It’s something we can’t control, or help and it makes me pull away and withdraw from whoever tries telling me those three little words, even though I know you mean well when you say them. I have an illness, when I talk about my past, I’m talking to you to work through them. What people like me need when we talk about it, is support and love. Tell us you’re sorry, hold us and remember we’re trying. I’m trying to heal.

I can’t help it when I push anyone away, or when I withdraw. I have been hurt by numerous people, numerous times who were varying degrees of closeness to me.

I look at scars on my body and think about how they healed in such an understandable process. Like, I could see it healing. I saw the bleeding stop. I saw the scab form. I saw the scab fall off into something else. I saw the car tissue form and watched as the scars healed and faded. But emotional healing doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t get lighter every month. You can work so hard, you can come so far and still fall back down without any warning. It doesn’t nullify what you’ve done. It doesn’t erase your progress. It’s just a reminder that healing doesn’t work in any linear way. It takes time.

 

I wish I could forget, I wish I could wake up with amnesia and not remember any of the pain of my past. I wish I could start over, with a clean slate, without these memories I sometimes feel as though I can’t escape. Because I’m not fine, I’m not okay. I have my demons, I have issues and problems I can’t even begin to describe. I have C-ptsd, anxiety, depression and that’s not going away anytime soon. They say for however long you were abused, or suffered, its going to take at least half that time to undo some of the damage done. So I’m looking at sentence of at least 15 years, but even then there’s no promises. I will still bad and have bad days. I may never be completely cured of my c-ptsd and I’m certain my depression and anxiety is going to be a life sentence for me. But I’m working on becoming better, but it will take time.

It hurts being me with these memories that I have, I wish I could forget the cruel things people I loved and who were suppose to love me. Sometimes the memories creep inside of me and I get angry, a part of me wants payback. But it mostly just hurts, somedays I go without sleep, because my anxiety kicks off at such a high gear, my resting heartbeat goes from 52 beats per minute to 140 and I don’t sleep. I lay there at night alone and in pain. Pain I wish I could shutout, I wish I could ignore.

It’s hard for me to trust or let people in because so many people who said they loved me, had hurt me and hurt me bad. So I sometimes lash out, say things I don’t mean, but mostly I just push people away and withdraw into myself. Because a part of me doesn’t trust people, I no longer see the best in people like I once did.

here are a few things that, if said to a person with C-PTSD anxiety, or depression, are more upsetting than anything. Here are some of them:

  1. “Get over it.”

This is one thing that someone with C-PTSD hates to hear. We want to move on; we don’t want to be haunted by our past. If it were a switch we could flip we would, but we can’t. Please don’t tell us this.

  1. “That was so long ago.”

The events we experienced may no longer be happening, but we relive them most days. The flashbacks, nightmares and daily reminders make us feel like it wasn’t long ago. It may have happened a long time ago for the person who says this, but for us, it’s still so real.

  1. “Change your ways; stop thinking that way.”

When people tell us to change our ways, the things we do because of C-PTSD, they don’t realize that this thought process or way of doing something has been drilled into our heads. We are scared of changing; we are scared this will bring back the abuse and fear.

  1. “I don’t remember it that badly.”

You did not live my fears and worries. I never asked what you remember. You were not there all the time; there were closed doors. I have reasons I have C-PTSD and I don’t want to argue about what you remember.

With PTSD or C-PTSD, even just the tone used and word choices can make the brain feel like it’s being attacked. Try and be there for the person, allow them to gain trust in you. Let them talk to you and cry on your shoulder. Ask how they are and if they need anything. Trust can be the hardest thing for many people with PTSD and things like those above can make us even less trusting in others. Think before you speak; it can save lives, confidence and friendships.

 

 

Please educate yourself before you try telling me or others like me, that we need to let go of the past and move on with our lives. It isn’t that easy. I’m not okay, I’m broken and I’m going to be broken for a long time. But I’m working on it, I’m trying my best. But you have to be patient with me and give me some grace. Going to church isn’t a cure all. I dedicated myself to a small church for two years. I volunteered, woke up early just to help then set up, stayed late just to help them break everything down. I met some friends, some who also ended up hurting me in the end. And every time I was struggling my fellow Christians told me the same thing. “You’re not giving your pain to God!” or, “You have to trust in God more!” “Let God move you” “God wants your brokenness! Give more!” I’ve heard it all. I’ve been prayed for, prayed at, lectured, preached to and at. No one knew how much pain I was really in. Or what was really wrong with me and their words were band aids on a wound that needed a real doctor and professional to mend back together.  This post was longer then I intended, I hope you were able to stick it out with me.

https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/ptsd-overview/complex-ptsd.asp

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.
Picture2 (1)
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 XVI

Chapter 16.  You don’t expect these things to happen. No one asks to be alone. Some get used to it, some pretend to be used to it, and others are a walking work of destruction. They never saw it coming, and neither did I, but I won’t tell you that…

FudPuckers

FudPuckers

To his credit my older brother, Dominic never gave up on trying to heal the rift between me, my mother and her family. Frequently talking to both sides, or talking me down whenever I had enough of being used, or spoken down to, causing me to throw my hands up and walk away. Usually this would come whenever I realized that speaking to my mother somehow always made me depressed and making any victory I had feel like defeat. When I got my first promotion at the library and my pay jumped from 6:50-8:50 an hour, which included benefits, paid time off etc. But she expressed only disappointment, telling me I shouldn’t be proud of the meager wage I was pulling down and that should aim higher, by finding a place where I could work 80 hours a week and make 17 dollars an hour, as oppose to being paid my 8.50 and hour, for thirty hours a week.May not sound like much, but the library was the only place I could find who would hire me and I had went everywhere, everyday looking for a job, putting in resume’s and filling out applications. I was immensely proud of myself and the recognition I had received for being a hard and diligent worker.

Dominic my older brother

Dominic my older brother

Worse was when she would try to dash my dreams. Telling me how my writing was a joke and that no one ever gets rich by writing. Instead she insisted I find other and find more worthwhile pursuits. Often insisting I follow in my Dominic’s footsteps and be more like him. But despite all we had in common, Dominic and I had different interest and viewpoints of the world, so despite my mother’s insistence I couldn’t bring myself to be anyone else, but myself and I always preferred forging my own path and not following someone else’s, I wanted my failure or success in this life to be my own and no one else, my victories would be my own, as well as the loses.

So all in all my brother had his work cut out for him, but he never gave up on the idea that we could all still be family, so I know it wasn’t easy and as much as I found myself clashing with my mother, or her sister, I also did my best to make things work, which my father strongly disapproved of, he didn’t see why I would risk and give so much of myself to someone who had showed me so much pain. He never did understand why I wanted to reconnect with my mother and this part of my family, despite all the numerous times that I’ve told him that hate was just baggage and if you don’t let it go, it’ll only weigh you down. Plus I saw my father and the all the anger he carried around with him over the past and often he seemed to still live there in the past, bringing up how my mother ruined his life, or how horrible of a person she was, without ever just letting it go, the pain, the hurt and all the anger. And I refused to live my life with such bitterness over the past, I saw a chance to heal the wrongs, believing that everyone has the potential to change and they change all the time.

I wanted to believe in my mother’s change, I wanted to believe she was different and was trying, and that things were getting better. But the clouds of time seems to rain on all the innocence left behind and the past, the past never goes away.

Me as a newborn.I look at this photograph sometimes wondering...

Me as a newborn. I look at this photograph sometimes wondering…

  Despite all my reservations and the snags we had along the road I did my best to wear a brave face, swallowing more than I should have. But my brother had warmed me to the idea of healing our family and the fantasy of finally coming together a family and as one should. So I did my best to ignore all the little things that bothered me, instead I chose to be ever the optimist, because what I wanted was a family.

It wasn’t until late July of 2007 when the cracks began to show. It started with my mother talking me into taking a family vacation with them, because they were planning to head down to Destin Florida. At the time money was a bit tight and I was hesitant to go and was leaning towards saving up and paying off some debt so I could look into the possibility of getting my own car. I don’t know how she did it, but she eventually talked me into joining them.

In hindsight, probably should have backed out when she added the stipulation that I needed to pay my share of the overall cost, rounding up to about a hundred and fifty bucks. But when I raised the issue that money was a little tight as it were, she gilded me into couching up the money anyway, which left me wondering how much money I would have for the actual trip itself.

To add to my reservations, my mom’s sister decided to tag along at the last minute and I for couldn’t stand being around her as it was. She was always on my case more than my mother was, complaining to me about my style, my hair, job and no matter what I said or did, she always ready to tell me how I never did enough for the family. But nothing I ever did was ever good enough for her and saw only the worse in everything I did. It didn’t matter to her how many times I dropped everything to babysit my little brothers, or how many times I helped clean her pool, nothing I did wasn’t ever enough. So the addition of her coming along on our trip didn’t exactly thrill me.

From left to right. Christian, Caleb, My mother, Chris, and my Aunt.

From left to right. Christian, Caleb, My mother, Chris, and my Aunt.

If not for the quality time I got to spend with Dominic and my little brothers, the trip would have been one of the worse experiences of my life. Not only did I get spoken down to for the majority of the trip, I also got treated like a servant. Which I know I could have put my foot down and flat out refused, but my mother and my aunt wouldn’t let anything go. They’d scream and scream, tell me how ungrateful I was and put me on the biggest guilt trip of the likes I never seen. Things came to a head by the end of the trip, when my Aunt asked to see a souvenir cup I had picked up for my father, calling it stupid before letting it fall and shatter on the pavement. Then to my shock both her and my mother laughed at it and harder at me when I finally got angry and told her she’d had to pay me back. But she refused, telling me I shouldn’t have wasted my money on something so fragile and cheap. Then at my Brother’s insistence I begrudgingly dropped it and let the matter go.

About a week after we came back, I started getting calls and text, telling me how I owed them another hundred and fifty bucks, even though I personally handed my step-father the money before we even left for Florida and when I told him to ask Dominic about it, because he was there, Chris, my step-father finally let it go, telling me then that it may have been Dominic who hadn’t yet paid him and for a time after swearing to never go on another family vacation, things started to finally settle back down. My mother even apologized for the trip, telling me she never meant to invite her sister, but felt bad for her when she asked, because her marriage was becoming rocky. Then she attributed  her bad attitude to me on her sister’s influence, apologizing that as well and even tried to convince me that my Aunt and brother rarely ever got along either. I wanted to believe her, so I did, little did I know the storm was already brewing on the horizon and I had no idea of the chaos it would bring with it.

~”Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”   ~Haruki Murakami

By November of that year, things finally started looking up for me, I finally got the promotion at the Library, which I finally got on my third attempt and even still it came quite unexpectedly, being that it was down to me and a girl who had been there three years longer than me, who even I thought deserved it more, from experience alone and the fact she was and still is more knowledgeable than me. (But when another position in the department opened up, I went to bat for her and now her and I work together in the same position.)

The library where I work

The library where I work

So with Christmas being right around the corner, I thought what better way to celebrate, than to give everyone in my family a good Christmas. To say I merely got into the Christmas spirit would be an understatement. In my joy, I dragged out all of my father’s and grandmother’s Christmas decorations, (something we hadn’t done in two years) I wanted to surprise them since they were both away at some Christmas Play. I still remember how it was freezing rain as I decorated the outside of our house and once finished, I came inside to put up our Christmas tree. I even managed to talk my dad’s family into having Christmas at our house. Then, I spent the weeks leading up to Christmas buying nice gifts for a change. Because I always hated having only been able to buy small, and cheaply priced presents for my family. But this year was different, this year I got a raise and more hours, so I made sure to buy everyone in my family nice presents, I would leave no one out.

For my mother had gotten really into Pandora beads, I went out hunting at four different stores, picking out the perfect Pandora bead, choosing six, one to represent each of us four boys and two that resembled her two standard poodles. For my step-father who loved all things John Deere, I found a limited edition John Deere pocket watch; my little brothers got a collection of Star-wars toys and books. And because my older brother wanted a tiki mask I got him that. I got presents for everyone on both sides of my family, which did put me a little in the hole, but I didn’t care. I figured I’d be able to pay off my debt soon enough and besides it’d be worth it, worth to finally be able to step-up and give my whole family a good Christmas, leaving no one out, for I had learned that often it’s been the thought that counts.

My younger brother Christian

My younger brother Christian

Then came the hard part, dividing my time so that I could spend an equal amount of time with both families, so neither would feel like I was choosing one over the other and since I had a lot of time off saved up, I was able to take two weeks off work.  The plan was to spend the first week of my vacation at my mom’s and with her family, allowing me to spend some quality time with her and my little brothers, then I planned to return home in the evening of Christmas Eve, since both sides of my family celebrated Christmas on same day.

Since I still didn’t have a car, I still had to rely on my mother to give me a ride, since I couldn’t exactly take my grandmother’s car for a week, (I often had to work around her schedule in such things) So my mother agreed to come get me that day after work and as she pulled into the driveway I was beaming. I couldn’t help but feel like Santa Clause with huge bag of gifts I had for everyone, feeling like I finally was able to contribute to the festivities of Christmas gift giving. With me I brought my bag of clothes, along with my laptop and a few books, being that I was a night-owl and needed something to do besides watch TV after everyone else had went to sleep. And I had hated trying to use my mother’s computer since it was always bogged down with malware, from my older brother constantly using it to download music from LimeWire, thus making the computer incredibly difficult to use.

Plus with my laptop I could always get a little writing done and had managed to transfer everything I had ever written onto it, so it was a great resource for me to use and go through whenever I was kicking around ideas for something to write about, or for the times when I wanted to revisit and old story of mine. Also, I enjoyed being able to stay connected with my friends via messenger.

Strangely though, instead of a sense of excitement, I felt a strange sense of apprehension as I neared my mother’s car. I didn’t know it, but I couldn’t help but feel as though something was wrong, off in a way I couldn’t quite describe. However, I was still excited to see everyone and to watch the look on their faces for when they unwrapped what I had gotten them. So I pushed the feeling of apprehension aside, loaded up my mom’s car and hopped in.

My Youngest brother Caleb.

My Youngest brother Caleb.

My mother in the past use to take this time when we were driving together to catch up and to talk about me, the family and what’s been going on. Occasionally she would try to talk me into moving back home and even though our relationship had improved from what it once was, I couldn’t bring myself to it. But today however was different, for we she spoke very little and after repeatedly failing to initiate a flowing conversation with her, she eventually got on her phone to speak with my step-father. So I rode the rest of the way in silence, just staring out the window, never knowing I would never come this again and I did I wouldn’t be the same person I was. I was happy, full of hope and excitement over all the presents I had brought with me.

Pulling into the garage, dread crept steadily into my heart and this place that I once called home, felt strangely alien to me, like I didn’t belong. But then my little brother’s and my mother’s dogs, came pouring into the garage, all excited to see me, so again I squelched the feeling of foreboding as I exited the cars to meet my younger brothers and to pet my mother’s dogs.  Even as I got my things, my mother didn’t seem to want much to do with me as she immediately went upstairs, while I stayed downstairs to be with my little brother’s the dogs, playing with all of them.

In the days that followed, I kept trying to spend time and converse with my mother and step-father, but found myself practically stone-walled on every attempt, with them acting like they didn’t really want, or like having me around, but they didn’t exactly treat me unkindly either, nor were they really welcoming either. It was more borderline if anything and my gut kept trying to tell me something was wrong and I should leave. But I couldn’t think of a suitable excuse to go home, other than I felt like I should. So I stayed.

Four days before Christmas, things got even weirder. I awoke to a call my grandmother checking up on me and asking if I was okay, expressing concern for me and that Lord had told her to call. I did my best to assure her I was okay and would be okay until Christmas, but I did express how I felt strangely homesick and my desire to leave and she offered to come and get me I declined. Still I believed it was all in my head and that it was nothing I should concern myself with.

Later that day, I was hanging out downstairs, typing away at my computer, waiting for my brothers go get home from school, when my step-father came inside from the garage talking on his phone,

“Oh yeah, it’s really nice, I think he spent 1,800 dollars on it,” I heard him say, as he walked over to me and glanced down at my computer.
“You spent about 1,800 on your computer right?” He asked.

I remember thinking it was a bit weird that he was suddenly taking an interest in the cost of my laptop and why it seemed important enough to tell the person on the phone exactly how much it was worth, but I shrugged it off, thinking maybe he was wanting to get my mother one for Christmas, so I corrected him without question, telling him that it only set me back about 1,300, he walked away before I had the chance to tell him that mine was a little cheaper since it was the floor model, but shrugged it off and went back to work as he told the person on the phone the corrected amount and how nice it was, that I took really good care of it, etc. Which had all struck me as a bit odd, but I had yet to begin piecing everything together, for I didn’t yet see the storm that was brewing on around me.

The pending storm.

The pending storm.

That night I was up late, working on an article I was asked to write by an acquaintance who was working to publish a book of short stories by unknown authors. It wasn’t until 3 am, that I finally went to bed.

By seven I was being woken up by my Chris, asking me about some money he had lost. I grumbled that I hadn’t seen it and that I was sorry and attempted to go back to sleep. Minutes later, he returned, flipping the bedroom light, forcing me to shield my eyes with the back of my arm.

“Hey, I’m missing about three hundred dollars,” he says, and half-asleep, I can think of nothing else, but tell him again that I was sorry and that I seen it, suggesting that maybe my mother had taken it.

He assured me she hadn’t and proceeded to ask for my wallet. Grumbling I roll over and pull my wallet from behind a picture on the nightstand and hand it to him, in uniform, (He’s a cop) and I see he’s on the phone and it takes me a few minutes to realize he’s talking to my mother.

Snatching my wallet out of my hands, he asks how much I have and I shrug with my brain feeling half-asleep, I tell him, that I have around thirty four bucks

He rips open my wallet and begins going through it, pulling out my cash and cards, searching every pocket and compartment, as he confirms to my mother that I have in fact only thirty four dollars in my wallet.

“What’s going on?” I ask, waking up.

“I told you, I’m missing some money, I had three hundred dollars in my wallet and now it’s gone, and you’ve been the only other one here.”

All of us together just two years prior.

All of us together just two years prior.

“Wait,” I say, in disbelief, “You don’t think I took it do you?”

He pauses, and tells my mom that I’m claiming to not have it and he tells her that she better come home. Turning off the phone he looks at me, and says,

“I don’t think, I know you took it.”

At this point, I start getting a little scared as well as infuriated, I was once again being accused of something I hadn’t done.

“I didn’t take your money and I never touched your wallet,” I tell him, “But if you want to accuse me, fine, but I’m done, I don’t deserve this kind of crap.”

“Oh you’ll be done when I say your done!” He yells, grabbing me by the front of my t-shirt and pulling me up towards his face,

“Because I saw you take it and I already found your little hiding spot, I just want you to confess!” He barks and I feel my body tense, with my heart now beating like a jackhammer within my chest.

“You’re crazy and I know you’re lying, because I never took anything!” I shot back, already playing through every scenario of what he could do to me through my head. The fact he was in uniform, a cop and had friends in high places wasn’t exactly lost on me.

“Where’s my money?” He demands pulling me up off the bed and throwing me down to the floor.

My instincts are war with my brain, with them telling me I should fight back while my sense of reason, told me not too, because that’s exactly what he wanted. So I shrink back a little as I pull up to my feet and he’s already on me, throwing me up against the wall, holding me there.

“I want you to give me my money!” He commands, jabbing me in the chest with his finger.

“I can’t give you what I never had,” I tell him, my voice shaking with emotion.

He then shoves me back up against the wall and proceeds to frisking me and all I’m wearing is my boxers and a t-shirt. It was here, the storm had finally come…

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: Intermission:

Life is not all sunshine and rainbows,
It’s in constant flux, a pendulum swinging,
wildly through the many shades of human emotion,
And it’s important to remember that sometimes,
That the greatest inspiration comes from moments of,
Deep despair and in the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in
moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in
times of challenge and controversy.”
And sometimes, great darkness can give birth to an even greater light.                 

 

During the course of sharing my story with all of you, I sometimes get asked why I didn’t leave when I had the chance. Which I did have once I was finally old enough to make the decision myself, about who I wanted to live with. I still sometimes even wonder what my life would have been like if I would have made the decision to live with my father. But a few things stopped me, with the first being my older brother, even though I always felt like he resented me for being able to see my/our father every other weekend.  A part of my decision to stay came from the fear, what if my mother was right and I would only worsen my situation and another part of me knew I would miss my older brother. Granted, we didn’t hang out very much growing up, for the most part he often preferred hanging out with his friends and I was always the dorky little brother. We didn’t always get along, he often teased me about my speech, because back then I had a lot of speech problems and even though he drove me nuts, I still loved him. I still love him even to this day, despite the bad blood between us and the harsh words we’ve exchanged. Although after our last conversation, things seemed to become a little more civil between us. But he was always my family and despite our problems he was my brother and the times he included me in something he did, or played with me, were some of the best times of my life. He could always make me laugh, or feel better whenever he saw I was really down and out. Also, despite everything that’s happened, I always looked up to him, he was the coolest brother in the world and more than anything I wanted to be just like him in every way. He was funny, smart, creative and artistic. In fact it was him who got me interested in drawing and helped me evolve as an artist, giving me pointers here and there, telling me what was good and what I needed to work on. Eventually it got to where I would draw just for him, to show him whatever thing or creature I managed to come up with, just to hear his opinion.

My brother on me on vacation with my grandpa

My brother on me on vacation with my grandpa

 

I never had the chance to tell my brother that I owed most of who I am today, to him. My creativity and imagination was something he helped nurture, not just with drawing.  But he taught me how to really use my imagination to create whole new worlds. He did this by sheer virtue of introducing me to role-playing games. There’s something to be said about sitting around a table, with pen, paper and a variety of dice, using not just your own, but the imagination of the person or persons you’re playing with. It may sound weird, or juvenile, but hey we were kids and it was something I kept up with till my late teens and was something that always stuck with me. I took to it like a moth to the flame and my brother was always the game master, planning adventures for me to take a character that I created and walk him through this world my brother created. It was his story, but I could make the choices and and change and affect it as it was being told. Of course, I was always slave to the dice and my luck to delegate my successes or failures, often forcing me to improvise and at times accept my enviable defeat, waiting for an opening to turn the tables later on in the story.

A part of my decision to stay came from the fear, what if my mother was right and I would only worsen my situation and another part of me knew I would miss my older brother. Granted, we didn’t hang out very much growing up, for the most part he often preferred hanging out with his friends and I was always the dorky little brother. We didn’t always get along, he often teased me about my speech, because back then I had a lot of speech problems and even though he drove me nuts, I still loved him. I still love him even to this day, despite the bad blood between us and the harsh words we’ve exchanged. Although after our last conversation, things seemed to become a little more civil between us. But he was always my family and despite our problems he was my brother and the times he included me in something he did, or played with me, were some of the best times of my life. He could always make me laugh, or feel better whenever he saw I was really down and out. Also, despite everything that’s happened, I always looked up to him, he was the coolest brother in the world and more than anything I wanted to be just like him in every way. He was funny, smart, creative and artistic. In fact it was him who got me interested in drawing and helped me evolve as an artist, giving me pointers here and there, telling me what was good and what I needed to work on. Eventually it got to where I would draw just for him, to show him whatever thing or creature I managed to come up with, just to hear his opinion.

I never had the chance to tell my brother that I owed most of who I am today, to him. My creativity and imagination was something he helped nurture, not just with drawing.  But he taught me how to really use my imagination to create whole new worlds. He did this by sheer virtue of introducing me to role-playing games. There’s something to be said about sitting around a table, with pen, paper and a variety of dice, using not just your own, but the imagination of the person or persons you’re playing with. It may sound weird, or juvenile, but hey we were kids and it was something I kept up with till my late teens and was something that always stuck with me. I took to it like a moth to the flame and my brother was always the game master, planning adventures for me to take a character that I created and walk him through this world my brother created. It was his story, but I could make the choices and and change and affect it as it was being told. Of course, I was always slave to the dice and my luck to delegate my successes or failures, often forcing me to improvise and at times accept my enviable defeat, waiting for an opening to turn the tables later on in the story.

Mutants Down Under. The teenage mutant ninja Turtle RPG

Mutants Down Under. The teenage mutant ninja Turtle RPG

 My brother was often tough, but a fair as a gaming master, not afraid to make me squirm or fret over fear of losing the character who I created and grow to know, making him real to me. Because my brother always made it a requirement I make whatever character I created unlike myself, then he’d kindly have me write my characters back story and formulating his origin, along with motives, what he believed in and why. Which usually meant I had to do some required reading, which meant I would have to read about the world that the game took place in. My brother was always quick to give me a little homework, as well as ask me before every gaming session what my character had been up too, forcing me to always make it plausible. (So I couldn’t just give my character new abilities, talents, weapons, or resources) I had to choose more mundane tasks, such as where he lived and whatever he did in his downtime.

Playing these games with my brother are some of the fondness memories I have of him and I was addicted. My brother was an excellent story teller and I loved being a part of it. It was playing these games with him that helped nourish my imagination and challenge my creativity, because I learned I would often have to out think, out wit and in a sense out play him in order to survive his story, so that my character would then be able go on to live another adventure. The first Role-playing game he introduced me to, if you haven’t already guessed was “Mutants Down Under” And to this day I still remember the very first character I created, because even though I didn’t want to be him at first, because I wanted to be a mutant turtle, but as chance would have it, I rolled a mutant Kangaroo, who I named, “Jack.” A character who survived numerous adventures, acquiring weapons, equipment and eventually I even managed to procure an airship. All despite my brother’s eventual attempt to kill off this character I had grown to love, because he had grown bored writing stories for my character and of me being the same character all the time. I also think it was because it was growing harder to give me a suitable challenge with all the weapons and various other equipment and crew I managed to pull together. So he eventually forced me to retire Jack and I later created a few other characters who didn’t have Jack’s luck or his longevity.

The Marvel Super-heroes Role-Playing Game

The Marvel Super-heroes Role-Playing Game

 

  Later when my brother got me into comic books, he got me involved with another role-playing game, “Marvel Superheroes” where I was able to create my own hero. Again I wanted a character like Wolverine or one of my other two favorites Spider-man or Iron-Man, which he did let me play for awhile, before he forced me to create my own crime fighter. Who’s story was he got transformed into a super-powered being when a device he created to bring vegetation to the deserts exploded giving him powers to control and manipulate the earth around him. So I called me, “Earth Avenger” Who was almost as rich as Tony Stark but not quite and this was the game my brother had the most fun out of traumatizing and torturing my character. (Seriously unbeknownst to be, he turned my best in game friend into a monster and this monster attacked me, I kinda accidentally killed him and when I did that, he turned human again. Also my character at the time was engaged to his sister….twisted right?) But I still had fun and in time I managed to create a few other short lived heroes and from there I always in some hero kick, making up my own heroes and villains and imagining I was them .

 

 

Werewolf The Apocalypse Role-Playing Game by the "World Of Darkness"

Werewolf The Apocalypse Role-Playing Game by the “World Of Darkness”

 

But one of my favorite games, Dominic introduced me to, was “Werewolf the Apocalypse” An amazing game. Which he eventually handed down to me, which was a godsend. Because in school I never had very many friends, until the day I heard my now best-friend Matt, talking about the companion book to this, called “Vampire the Masquerade” So I jumped in and telling him how I had the other book, which won me some of the best friends anyone can ask for. That night I was invited over to their house to play and try our hand at role-playing and it was the first time anyone had ever asked me to come over to their house, (I was in the seventh grade) So it was a huge deal for me. Then because of my brother’s tutelage, I soon became the premiere game-master and we ended up playing “Werewolf” instead of their vampire and it was because of my brother that I was able to run my own game and how I became so good at it they couldn’t get enough. It wasn’t long either that our group swelled from just the four of us gathered around the table, throwing the dice, that soon it we grew to a group of 8 all sitting around playing in a world that we created together. Eventually I even developed and we would play Role-playing games that I created myself and we play long into the night, laughing, fighting, joking and it was in that we grew incredibly close, becoming in every sense of the word a family and all because of my brother. 

         Our potential was limitless and our imaginations were our playgrounds, we never let our creativity burn away, we weren’t rotting our minds with mindless television (And I love TV and movies as much as anyone, but I’m not ashamed to admit that it makes our minds lazy and robs us of imagination and creativity, making our minds dull and blunt, when we need books to keep our minds sharp and quick) But because of these games, we were able to sharpen our minds and explore whole worlds together, for many of us and myself in particular it was my escape. It was also some of the most fun I ever had and can’t think of any other time where I, or any of would laugh so hard and so consecutively have such a good time together. Our late night gaming sessions contributed to my finally over coming my shyness and I can’t tell you how many times our gaming lead to us having deep and meaningfully conversations, where we would talk about anything, everything, our lives, our hopes, dreams and our aspirations. We shared everything together and in so doing, they’ve became my brothers. 
If you never played a role-playing game before, I can’t recommend it enough, it’s story-telling at its finest, only everyone gets to contribute, making it a live action and interactive story, with everyone having their own specific rolls to play, with one person acting as the game-master, leading them ever further down the rabbit hole.

But I have fallen far from my point. Another reason why I chose to stay, was yes, because of my brother and my friends, but also because I loved my mother and more than anything I wanted her love. A few times I thought I was incredibly close to winning her affection, longing for her to look at me and to speak to me, to fight for me and defend just half as much as she had my brother. I wanted her love more than anything and I can never explain why I loved her, even when she usually went out of her way to make me miserable, which made me hate her. But still for reasons I can’t describe and if for no other reason except she was my mother and I loved her, for maybe that reason and that reason alone. Although, I am sentimental and desperately clung  to those memories of when I was younger, when she used to read to my brother and myself.

Growing up, was so weird, I never knew one could grow to hate, fear and love someone so much and at the same time. Despite all the beatings, the put-downs and all the horrible things my mother said to me, she wasn’t always so bad. She had moments when she could be incredibly sweet and kind, even on rare occasions was able to goof off with me and I think actually enjoy my company. I lived for the moments, believing I could win her love, praying every day that God would open her eyes and she’d see for the first time what she was doing to me, what she’s done and apologize.
But there was one time, one time in all my years that she made me feel just as loved as she did when she used to read to my brother and me. I was fourteen and I awoke in the dead of night, shivering, realizing that at some point during the night I had managed to kick my covers off.  So I started fumbling around in the dark for them, when I heard someone at my door and instinctively laid my head back on pillow and laid perfectly still. Then my door slowly eased open and I closed my eyes feigning sleep, out of fear that it was either my mother or step-dad.  
Laying there with my heart hammering painfully against my ribs, realizing that the person at my door 
wasn’t going away and after counting to ten, I slowly peeked out through the slits of my eyes and saw the silhouette of my mother standing there in the doorway, watching me sleep., (or in this case pretending to be asleep) I immediately began praying that she’d just close my door and leave, believing she was about to haul me out of bed and start accusing me, or hitting me. Then as I watched her slip silently into my room, I could feel my body tense and I closed my eyes out of fear she’d noticed I was watching her, then I just laid there, pretending to be asleep, almost too afraid to breathe, when the unexpected happened.

I felt my covers being pulled up around me and I went from frightened to speechless, making me too afraid to move out of fear it would break whatever magic, or grace of God that came into my room that night. Then as she hugged me and softly whispered,
“I’m sorry, for everything, I love you,” Then she kissed the top of my head and more than anything I wanted to open my eyes and throw my arms around her, I wanted to tell her I loved her too, that she’ll always be my mother. But I didn’t, I was afraid I would ruin the moment and I opened my eyes just enough to watch her quietly slip back out of my room, closing my door lightly behind her as she went. I don’t think I ever slept better than I did that night and never felt better as I slept off into dreamland.

        That moment stayed with me for a very long time and for several nights there after I would purposely kick off my blankets in the middle of the night and sometimes would even leave my door cracked out of hope it’d happened again. Even though it never did, I sometimes wondered if this was the first time she slipped into my my room, or if she had done it on numerous nights. Even today I catch myself wondering almost absentmindedly about what prompted her to this, even if it was just the one time, often telling myself it was something God meant for me to experience and to hear. Sometimes, I wonder if it was my mother at all, or the Lord who came into my room that night and sometimes I will swear it had to be her. Believing maybe never wanted to treat me the way that she had, that maybe she hated herself for mistreating me and that maybe, there was a reason for it. Like, maybe it’s all been a part of the Lord’s plan and she was playing her role, so that I could later help others and know their pain and loneliness for having known their darkness. Or maybe it was to help prepare me for something bigger, something yet to come.

Al I really know, is that in that moment, even if it was just for a moment, I had all doubt erased from my mind and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, my mother loved me, even if it was just for a moment, because sometimes, a moment is all you really ever need.

Maybe I’ll never get it,
Because the lights are out,
And I’m just typing in the dark
Knowing you’ll never know what happened to me,
 And I’m just sitting here by myself, It’s just one of those things,
I never spoke about,
When the words just started pouring out,
And here we are,
Just playing our parts.

 

                       Until recently I hadn’t spoken to my brother for a few years. The little contact we had usually resulted in accusations and bitter words, because he blames me for some things, which I don’t blame in the least, because he never seen what really went on and I never told him, not for years and all he ever got to see was the best of our mother. However this time when we conversed I refused to get worked up, angry or frustrated. Instead I met him with understanding and listened to him, which I think got him to listen a little to me. Part of our differences stems from his recent claims to me that my father abused him. Something I can’t say what he says is true or not. I can only talk about my own accounts and what I’ve been told my step brother and step sister, who even after that divorce still love and adore my father, with both telling me how good of a man he was. That said, I don’t know about my brother’s past with him and I told him as much, stating that I never told him what was going on, or what happened to me, for the same reasons he never said anything to me. It could have happened and I still love my brother and if my dad did beat him, I’m deeply sorry, it shouldn’t have happened. 

 

 

 

            ~ It’s not that any one person doesn’t have the capacity to accept the truth, sometimes they just don’t want to, or they cannot, for what the truth would mean. So they hide behind their own logic and intelligence while the truth marches by, instead of stepping out and joining it.

Boy Playing in Public Square.