In this blog post I hope to share a piece of my journey, specifically around the beginnings of it all and how it laid the path for who I became as an adult. Many of these things largely affect me to this day, after 43 years of being alive but I continue to fight the fight in hopes to inspire others and heal myself. I believe there is a lot of good life left to live despite having been dealt the hand I was, even if that hope isn’t always present.
Growing up for me was not an easy thing. Isolation, abuse, and a constant feeling of not being good enough have had a major toll on me as an adult. Only now I am uncovering many of my own truths and being able to work through each of them as they come up. I only wish that there was a better “manual for trauma” to put all of the pieces together at once. My journey and observations are through multiple and extensive therapies / therapists, online research, conversations with peers and many books read on the topic.
Where it began
Childhood abuse for me took on many forms. It was at home from my parents, siblings and friends through to school from classmates and in some rare cases teachers. I had no escape from the constant torment and abuse by all of these groups. Whether it was constant put downs, physical abuse or friends just picking on me knowing my weak and vulnerable state ((now called bullying), I simply could not escape.
My only reprieve was my room and my imagination. I could only run to my room from school or home and bury myself in my toys, tasks and creative pursuits. For me it was model building, taking apart toys and recreating a new one. I had an endless curiosity for how things worked, later in life becoming an engineer, it all made sense.
When I stepped back outside my room, it was like going into war, full of uncertainty and fear. I had no idea what was going to come at me, whether it be sisters who had an insatiable appetite for ganging up on me or my father who had a general hate for life and all those around him. There simply was no love in our household. The only “caring” came after an incident whereby I would spend hours hidden in my room or in a corner crying uncontrollably, for what seemed like hours. Only then would my mom attempt to get me out and cheer me up with an offer of a tissue or a task to get my mind off of what just happened. More often than not I was further belittled by my tears and made to feel bad for not sucking it up and getting past the horrible things that had just happened to me.
To this day I cannot remember a single time I was shown love in the form of a hug, kind works or “I love you’s”. If they were they were an aftereffect of what was just experienced and perhaps a way for the other party to feel less guilty about what just transpired. Perhaps they happened but the overwhelming amount of abuse and hate floating around the home overshadowed all positive memories. We were kids, what did we do to deserve all of the negative attention, myself in particular was the most popular target of all of us.
As I grew older and approached highschool things only got worse. The incidents at home and at school only got more hardened. Punches and insults on the schoolyard became a daily occurrence and the trek to school each day, a bigger nightmare. I couldn’t do anything about it. At the time teachers frowned upon ratting out the bullies, in fact, you were weak if you did. A stark contrast by today’s standards, teachers back then, played along with the “cool kids” and simply told you to get up and stop crying. Going home was no easier, fights with siblings and dad only escalated as they and I got tougher. Hitting was worse, incidents of throwing blunt objects and even stabbings with pencils were not unheard of.
As a got into high-school, things continued to spiral downwards. Bullies in high-school got worse, threatened, random punches in the hallways, and being spit on at the bus stop to get a reaction out of me. It simply didn’t stop. To this day I can call out all of my bullies with their full names, remembering almost all of the worst incidents like it was yesterday. At home it was much the same, although now I was older and sticking up for myself was becoming a common occurrence. I couldn’t take it anymore. Dad could no longer control me physically, although he would try very regularly. My last memory of high-school and being at my parents house was being pinned down and choked on the couch in the basement by my dad while my girlfriend at the time was still sitting on the other end of the phone listening and my mom was screaming to “get off of him”. It didn’t end well, my girlfriends parents came and made me stay with them, followed by my grandparents picking me up to live there for some time to come. At school the next day, one of my teachers called me into the hall and asked about the marks on my neck, I explained and he simply said, “I know your dad, he’s a good guy”, no escalation, no reporting, nothing… NO ONE had my back, ever. When you’re in it, you accept it but in retrospect it is simply unbelievable that it all went down the way it did. The stories are endless and the repercussions of year upon year abuse added up.
The Turning Point
I had one magic incident that changed much of my path in life and brought some escape and reprieve to my situation. This is not something that many out there find and because of it, likely saved my life. Had it not, the chances of me suffering even greater from mental illness, or not being here at all are easily 100%.
In grade 8, one spring morning we had track and field tryouts, my teacher was refereeing the events of the day and despite being “the biggest loser in the class” encouraged me to tryout for running and jumping events. Onto the field we went for the first race, the 100m dash. Not knowing any better and intimidated by my stronger, faster classmates I took my shoes off and got on the line. Off the gun went for a moment I will never forget. Across the grass field we all went, sprinting for dear life and crossing the finish line in first place, solidifying my place on the team for city track and field. The second and third events, the long jump, once again I was able to squeak out two seconds in each making this now 4 events (including the 4 x 100m relay) I would now move onto competing in.
City championships went ok, nothing to write home about but set me on a path to finding healing through athletics. While this was a saviour to me, it is a double edge sword I will discuss in later posts.
The next year in grade 9, the running coach came up to me in the first week or so of school starting and spoke highly of my potential, from what he was told from my Grade 8 teacher. He encouraged me to give up on the sprints and join the cross-country team as a midget boy. Not knowing any better I did just that. Daily training began after school with the team, hill repeats, long runs, we did it all and for once I felt like I belonged to something. Even in cross-country there was bullying but the benefits of training and having purpose were encouraging to me.
High-school was a bit of a blur, year after year I improved and excelled at distance running. Winning city finals in cross-country and track became commonplace and the benefits to my sense of self were tremendous. This did not play well with my dad unfortunately. The soft, malleable little boy he could control, no longer allowed it. In my opinion this lead to the final blow up that one evening whereby I had to move out to my grandparents until things calmed down at home. The situation on all side peaked for me. In the end I secured a scholarship to a Division II school in the USA and was off to began the next chapter of my life far far away from home…