Monday, July 25, 2016

My story

I mentioned a while ago here that when I felt comfortable enough I would tell my story. Here it is: For a lot of my life, I was abused pretty badly. The abuse started as early as I am able to remember. It went on for many years after. It took the form of emotional, physical and violent sexual abuse. Growing up, I was left very much alone to deal with the emotions and shame caused by the abusive behavior of a few people. As an adolescent, I was assaulted in a park across from my family home in Ontario. My skull was shattered by a kick to the head and a piece of the broken bone caused a bleed in my brain. I died two or three times (or so I’m told), spent two weeks on life-support, three months comatose and an additional year in a wheelchair. In spite of the seriousness of this injury, it did not affect me in as serious a way as the abuse affected me. Because it occurred once and was over – because it was physical only – because it wasn’t a betrayal of trust and of love, it wouldn’t have the same effect as the abuse. The abuse, on the other hand, extended for years and incorporated many different forms of abusive behavior. There was a Canadian television movie made about this situation. It was a good movie, a really good movie. In that it got the conversation started about bullying. But it was about me I guess and in that regard, left out a couple of crucial details. Shortly after the injury that happened to me, I was diagnosed as having the symptoms of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. At this time, the realizations about the abuse I had experienced I had repressed. Though I was always conscious of these experiences to some degree, my mind had done its best to protect me from these realizations that would have been too devastating to realize at the time. And I am grateful to my mind for that. When our foundations and groundings as human beings are shaky, when our developments have been interrupted, we will not have effective footing from which to draw the resources we need to confront everything that comes our way. I’ve come a long way since that injury and have traveled even further in seeking healing for the abuse and many childhood traumas in my past. I’ve literally learned to do everything again. At an age when most kids are busy figuring out what they are going to do for the rest of their lives, establishing a foundation, so to speak, learning to love and to have fun, I spent relearning how to swallow my own saliva, to walk and to use the fine muscles in my body again. Because of the muscular atrophy that occurred, I spent several months following my waking from the coma paralyzed. My hands atrophied into clenched balls because they weren’t used. My calves became so tight that my feet pointed straight down from my ankles. This was in spite of the fact that I had continual splint therapy. The doctors said, and who could blame them that I would never walk again. Really, it’s a miracle that I am able to walk, I essentially taught myself. The physiotherapists were all great and they did what they were able at the times I was with them. I had so much difficulty with the high walker, the walker and the cane that eventually I just threw them away. I ended up going back to high school. I had a very difficult time navigating the school because of my limitations physically. But when I returned, I didn’t want to use any aids. And I am proud of myself for that. I feel I am still relearning to walk, a decade and a half after that injury. During the time I spent paralyzed, I remember focussing so hard on trying to move my muscles. I must have spent a week trying and focussing continually on my pinky finger, trying to get it to move, when it finally moved a bit. I was so happy and continued like this. At the time, I would rejoice with every new accomplishment. It was as though the times of darkness, so to speak, the time when I spent paralyzed, the waiting and the eventual triumphs, small as they were, made these accomplishments all the more sweet-dog. But eventually, the weight of everything I had been through emotionally returned. There was a long period of time, during which I struggled an awful lot. I smoked over three packs of cigarettes a day and struggled with other addictions. During this time, I continued to go to school and to do what I could. I wrote a lot and painted a lot. And I am able to look back with respect upon myself for finding the strength to continue through so many obstacles. But the fact that I was struggling a lot was evident if only through my appearance, through the way I presented myself. I've been through quite a bit. I’ve been subject to many different trauma. Because of the stuff I have lived through, I’ve looked to many avenues to find peace and hope. I’ve looked for answers, with the hope that my mind would find love. I've experimented with different spiritualties. During the time I spent in university, I read through the primary texts of most major world religions. After reading the Bible, I felt such a powerful connection and resonance. In college, I was having a terrible time emotionally. This led to my drastic decline in physical well-being. For me, I was literally at the end of my ropes when I called out to Jesus and accepted Him as Lord. I was baptized some time after. My relationship with Christ has always been one of dependence and healing. In the trials I have experienced, my search for meaning was endless. With Christ, I have found that meaning and He gives me hope in the future and faith to fight through and recognize that what I've been through is not the end. There is so much more waiting for us. He shows me so much more. Over the past several years especially, I have been doing a lot to better myself. And have addressed a lot of the shame I feel. In a past post, I spoke about some things I have been doing to challenge my fears. I quit smoking three packs a day cold turkey, with the help of our Lord Jesus Christ. Actually, I quit all of my addictions. Except for going to the gym. I graduated from college and university with a degree in English Literature. Following this, I have written several books. I bought a car in 2012 and drove out to Edmonton from Toronto by myself. In 2013, I drove down to Florida by myself. I have been healing from the wounds of my childhood for three years. But really, this post is not about my accomplishments. If I have anything to boast about, it is surely in the Christ who has given hope where no hope existed simply because of what I had been through. It is through Him that I have a chance. I can only boast in the love and faith I have held on to through the sufferings I have endured for the sake of the cross of Jesus. This is the sole reason for my life today. This is the reason my life has value today. This is the reason I continue to fight and to be grateful. It’s not about me. Rather, it is all about Him. Man was created in the image of God, in order that we may live our lives for the glory of God, the Creator. Following the Creation, man was tempted away from God and sinned resulting in the curse of death. Because of this original sin, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Then, in His mercy, God sent for mankind a Savior, His Son as a sacrificial offering that man would be redeemed to God. Therefore, whoever believes in the Son of God, Jesus and has faith in His death and resurrection, will not experience death. The Gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God and the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets with the replacement of a new law: the law of Love. The grace of God is a gift. Though it’s important and should be something we strive towards, what truly matters is not our righteousness. But the righteousness of Christ. But we still need to heal from the wounds of our past. The beautiful Holy Spirit, He is a helper who will lead us on a holy and righteous path to healing and repentance. I have an unshakable faith now that I did not have at one time. Knowing that the helper is a seal on my heart, even under the worst of situations and will not leave me, unless it is the will of God, is an enormous comfort for me. The unbreakable hope that I have in my heart, in many ways has restored my soul even when my body fails. Christ gives us the hope and love and courage and faith to approach healing well and with strength. In order to grieve what I had lost, in order to process every emotion and thought that I had repressed, in order to confront the fear and the shame, I had to explore a lot of the stuff I had hidden in my mind. Speaking about what I am feeling is always a good release. I think the outlet for shame, as crying is for sorrow, as yelling or lashing out in a healthy way is for anger, is having an environment where you are able to verbally express yourself uninhibited. After some time of healing on my own, through individual counselors and journaling, I was referred to a wonderful resource for survivors healing from childhood sexual abuse in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario. I’ll never forget the first time I stepped into the Gatehouse healing support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I will never forget the warm and compassionate approach with which they address healing. The first night, entering into a room that was filled with sorrow, anger, fear and shame. The last night we spent together, entering the same room filled with courage, hope and support. The comradery that I fostered with other men who were going through exactly what I was going through was unlike any other relationships I had. I will never forget the feeling of being accepted and understood, unconditionally, for the first time in possibly my life. This was such a valuable resource for me in my own recovery journey and I would recommend it to anyone who is walking a similar path at the moment. My path here has taught me that we need to try to be tolerant and understanding of the mistakes of others. We can’t see their life’s history. That’s true. But we can empathize. Knowing that life, especially in these days, is not easy for anyone. It’s certainly taught me to empathize with myself and others to a greater degree. I have never really felt worthy enough or had enough of an identity to feel confident that I know what I want. What I wanted was always second to the wants and needs of others. I was shown quickly that what I wanted didn’t matter. So, I’ve grown not feeling worthy to want what I want. I think I really need to stop looking at all of the bad things I am doing. I need to stop making up bad situations that were not even there in the first place. I need to stop feeling badly about who I am. I need to stop seeing everything that is bad and negative about me. I need to recognize that I am a child of God. And that that is paramount to any despair, any trauma and any failure I could have. God fills the gap. I want this. I want to live and love. I don’t know how to. I am learning. And I am fighting so darned hard for the life that I know I deserve. I don’t need love as a reward for something I’ve done or said. I don’t even need reciprocal love. What I need, what I crave and deserve is unconditional love. There is only one place from which to get that. For most of my life I had difficulty between putting needs of others before my own and standing up for the rights I know that I as a human being have. In circumstances, I had difficulty understanding this because my rights to myself were trampled for so long. Loving does not mean rolling over and being submissive. As people of the Way, we need to be assertive. But we need to be able to recognize and appreciate the fact that positive change is rarely implemented through force. We need to remember the fact that love, forgiveness and persistence have the capacity to move mountains. The shame and fear that I felt, a result and a symptom of abuse, kept me back from doing a lot in life. I have had a really traumatic life and because the traumas occurred so early in my life, I never developed the tools to function to the extent of what I was capable of, to the extent of my faith, in society. Because of that as well as intense trauma and trauma reactions, sometimes I have quite a bit of difficulty. But there is no way I could ever be perfect and I praise God that He understands and empathizes with me for that reason. God has done so much in my life around everything I've been through since I accepted the Spirit. I don't want to explain fully what I have been through here. In the face of a lot of suffering, He has offered me a great deal of hope. He has given me the hope to actually do things with my life, where once was only despair. He's given me the ability to create, whether that's writing or painting. And He has placed me on a path to healing, both physically and emotionally and the desire to live righteously. If I think now, I am probably unable to count the amount of full out addictions and self-destructive patterns that His grace has saved me from. He has helped me to heal and transform negative thoughts about myself that resulted from unfair situations, into positive. He has given me the uncanny ability to forgive the heinous case of abuse against me. That certainly does not excuse the behavior. Most of all, as we are all sinners, He has offered me forgiveness for my own sins. I have faith in my God who I know will forgive. I am learning to rejoice in these things that have happened to me. Even though I have not had the best past, I have a choice about the direction of my future, especially in the knowledge about why my past was stumbled at times. And I have a choice to be happy in my life. It’s so easy to get caught up in the business of life, the urgency of our daily deeds that it becomes dreadfully simple to forget about all that we have done as human beings, the journeys we are all on, the goals we have set as individuals. We need to take time to appreciate the beauties of life and the intricacies of God’s Creation. After all, He created this world for us. He created this planet for us. Life really is short. It’s literally a flash, an instant in time. We need to get out and make what we want out of our lives. We need to stop wasting our time with things that do not matter, in the grand scheme of things. We need to reveal our true, authentic selves. Our inner children. We need to pack up all of the masques and coping mechanisms that cover up our true natures, our true visions and our true goals and hopes for this life. In a time in our history when we are surrounded by distractions, bombarded by constant emotional and mental interference, it’s easy to become caught up by the world. Do not forget where your true home is. Where you belong. And how to get there. We need to sit with our feelings and not be constantly busy. God loves all of you so much. We need to reach out to Him and accept His love. This is much easier than it sounds. People need and deserve to feel loved. And the only true and natural source for that love that embraces all and endures all, wanting only happiness, love and glory for those who choose to accept it, is the Christ. He is the only source for the unconditional love we need as creatures of God. Just don’t give up on love. It’s absolutely a worthy fight. All I can do is continue to be grateful and faithful. Fear, wishing I was dead, anger and resentment. I am sick of that trash. I’m done with that rubbish. I’m tired of hurting myself because of stuff that wasn’t my fault in the first place. I’m tired of being angry and ashamed of who I am as a living and breathing human being. I need to continue to have compassion on myself. I’m going to love myself with the love that I deserve. Because I deserve to love myself for who I am. And I like to think I am on my way towards discovering who my authentic self is. I like to think that I am moving, even if it is slowly, towards loving myself as the child that I can feel I once was. I am learning to treat him, that beautiful little boy with love and respect. I am learning ways to treat him with love. There are so many things I feel I am doing for him. I am adapting an attitude of compassion toward him and not hurting him and being rough with him out of my repressed anger. After everything about who I was as a human being was shattered numerous times, I feel I am on a positive course. I know how difficult it is to walk around in a world that is cold, seemingly indifferent to our pain. I know what it’s like to not want to live anymore because it seems like there is no love in the world and so many terrible things going on by the second. I want you to know that there is love. All the love the world ever needed. It is found in what God Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and of earth, did for you. He ransomed you from death by dying for you on a cross of wood. That love, His love, once you feel it, triumphs over the suffering and the indifference. In that love, there is healing, peace, joy and hope. True healing cannot begin until you see your value. We have to have love for ourselves. If we do not learn to love ourselves as creatures of God, especially if we are given the opportunity to live into adulthood, how can we love our souls? We need to value what we are trying to save. This is where Christ comes in. We need to believe that we are worth saving. We need to believe that things can change. Under the masques and the walls and the shame and despair and fear and anger, the person that God created you to be is waiting to come out. Christ offers us that love. Knowing and believing in the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is above me. He has authority over my life. He will lead me perfectly home. I trust that. And I trust Him.