Raised by a soldier with PTSD
Imagine being denied by your father, a decorated war veteran who turns his rage against you. After 22 years of military service which included 2 wars my father returned home with a severe case of PTSD. His first attack against me was verbal, “you are not my son.” His idea of encouraging words to me was, “if you had any brains at all you’d kill yourself.” There were numerous physical beatings, so many in fact, that I stopped crying. This was my only way to protest without risking further injury. It was also the beginning of encapsulating all of my feelings to escape hurt and pain, both emotionally and physically. After escaping his clutches at the age of 14, I grew up with an inability to trust anyone without suspicion.
Include in the narrative my mother who escaped from my father’s grip with 5 young children in tow to literally save herself from the regular beatings. I was 8 years old when she fled and we were reduced to living in government housing and experiencing hunger almost daily. The daily reminder of escaping from a middle class family and now being poverty ridden took a heavy toll on my mother. Her decision making became based only on making it in the world and providing for her children. Many of those decisions only exacerbated an already terrible situation.
This was the beginning of a string of events that could easily test the will to live of many women and men. The scars of being emotionally abandoned, emotionally abused, along with the constant physical abuse triggered a response deep inside that left me devoid of emotions and a defense mechanism that allowed me to immediately block out any person or anything that could further hurt my shattered and fragile emotions.
When I was 17 years old, I had a very violent confrontation with Dad that resulted in him deciding very quickly, that the best thing for his health and well being was to stop all levels of abuse. In that heated and very intense moment, I promised to end his life if he ever tried to hurt me again. Instead of an all out assault that I was prepared for, he apologized and walked away. I guess the years and his declining health made him think several times before attempting to strike. However, the fallout from the emotional damage and my distrust of others would linger for years, even decades. This emotional baggage would continue to haunt me and wreak havoc on my personal life which included three failed marriages. I was emotionally unavailable and not prepared to be connected to anyone, especially since unbeknownst to me, I was the biggest casualty of all, as I had absolutely no love for myself. To cope and to try to fit in, I constructed a huge ego and a false pride that I masqueraded through life with. There were many situations over the course of my life that would trigger my internal emotional shut down defense, these coping mechanisms received quite a workout over the years. I would block out anyone, even people that loved me while not possessing the ability to return the love or turn the emotional switch back on. Once they were out, in my mind, they would never be allowed to hurt me again. Sometimes, I would shut people out of my life without any explanation or advance notice and it didn’t matter whether those situations were real or imagined. Many of those negative situations were completely contrived in my mind.
I had a stroke that nearly killed me, however, reflecting back it eventually became one of the best things to ever happen to me. I had to undergo intense psychotherapy as well as physical and speech rehabilitation for almost 7 years. It was during one of my therapy sessions that I questioned the therapist about why we were here on this Earth, even questioned his presence. I am not sure he realized it, but his answer had a profound and life changing effect on me. It was in an instant that I put down all of the baggage I carried for so long in my life and began to engage the whole person that I had always been. I stopped living in my mind and started living from the essence of my soul, my very being. It was nothing less than astonishing to me to watch the material things that I once allowed to define me and treasured so dearly lose their value. The things that can’t be purchased yet are available to all but owned by few began to quickly replace the material objects. I was finally free! I plan to thank him in person one day soon.
While in the recovery stage a group of unscrupulous investors swooped in and purchased the land and all condos on the property that we live in. A loophole in the law allowed this to happen and it wasn’t long before families were forced to move out. The laws have been changed to protect future families, however, it wasn’t in time to help my family. After a lengthy legal battle, we were forced into bankruptcy and we are now preparing to move out of our home. I didn’t like what was taking place and we fought within the confines of the law, however, I never had feelings of self pity or hatred toward these men who profited from the soft real estate market without regard to the impact on fellow humans. I felt that the best was yet ahead and that my future success would be staggering, even unimaginable.
After the stroke, it took nearly 8 years before I knew I had to become a messenger of hope to those suffering and enduring difficult moments in life. There are many difficult situations that I can relate to: I’ve lost siblings, both parents, business failures, home losses, a current bankruptcy borne out of medical expenses and the legal theft of our condo, another medical catastrophe before the stroke, failed marriages, failed parenting, even a corporate layoff or downsizing that came after several assurances from top executives my position wouldn’t be affected, that one left me in a total state of confusion. I really had no one to turn to and at that moment I didn’t have the ability to support myself.
Who am I today?
I am a very strong soul that has supreme confidence in our Creator. I try to be a positive influence to all that I meet and daily try to reflect the light of our Creator. I know from first hand experience that there are no limits on what we are able to accomplish in life if we never give up, never quit, nor make excuses. There may be tears from the loss of possessions, friends, family, businesses and careers, however, these things will prepare you for greater things to come if you don’t quit, never doubt, and have faith in yourself and a Higher Power, for me that power is Almighty God. I now have a relationship with God that is truly spiritual and not based on man made rules or religious beliefs that separates good people from one another. That relationship is also grounded in a love that attracts. If it is true love based on a clean heart it has to bring people together, it cannot separate us based on a religious, economic, social status, or political label.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t survive without having a greater purpose. I never considered for a second that all the heavy lifting through my emotional abuse would actually help in the future to overcome my greatest battle, my recovery from the stroke. The load or baggage that I carried daily became bigger and heavier as life went on, however, when it was the right time, that load was released and the spiritual man emerged with an undeniable purpose and an ability to love myself and all of God’s creation. I’ve experienced a genuine joy that had been beyond my ability to grasp and an intense desire to share that joy with others. I am able to accept what comes in life and I now control my thoughts which allows me to truly be creative and solve what I can solve and simply let go of those things that I have no control over. I am truly free.
There are two great days in a mans life, the day he is born and the day he discovers why. I have discovered my why. When I pray and meditate, I have an instant connection with God and a peace that I am unable to describe to others. I do have a burning desire to share that peace with others and am very conscious of the suffering of others, something I saw before but never felt the need to acknowledge it. I can feel the suffering of others and it brings me great pain. If I can help, I will assist willingly many times without mentioning it to anyone.
I hope this small insight into my journey gives you strength and helps you to understand that there is always hope if we don’t give up. Our true power isn’t physical and once we are able to tap into our true self, nothing on this earth will ever seem insurmountable.