Strength In The Struggle

This is my story. It began in December 1982. My mom and dad were married. He already had 3 children from his previous marriage, so when my mom told him she was pregnant, she never imagined what would happen next.

My dad made an appointment for my mom to have an abortion. He already had three kids – was one more really that bad? Apparently, it was for him. My mom moved out of the house shortly thereafter and they eventually divorced. But the damage was done – major damage that nobody even knew at that time.

What I have come to realize is that when my mom heard those words come from her husband’s mouth, the emotions that came over her – stress, confusion, panic, anxiety – physically changed my physiology when I was in her womb. The womb, one of the places where we are supposed to be safe, suddenly became unsafe for me. Even just a few weeks into my development, I understood that if I don’t feel safe in the womb, how would I be safe in the world?

I was born in August 1983, seemingly healthy. 8lbs. 8oz with the biggest feet my grandmother had ever seen. A key ingredient was missing, however. The first eye-to-eye connection with my dad to signal to me that I would be okay.

Waking up in the morning had always been a struggle for me. Getting me up and ready for school in the morning was hell for my mom. I was groggy and tense. Every day I would fake sick to convince someone, anyone, that I shouldn’t go to school. I had a fear of what was waiting for me on the other side of my bedroom door; something I wouldn’t realize until I was older. 

In the middle of 4th grade, my mom re-married. I was pulled out of my school, and removed from my friends, sports, and activities. I was yanked away from the family members who were raising me. We moved to another city about 90 minutes away because that’s where my new stepdad lived. We lived in the trailer home he rented in a trailer park. I was uncomfortable and frightened by the things I saw in that trailer park. But more than the things I saw, the teasing from the kids I was now in 4th grade about how overweight I was hurt the most. On one specific occasion, a group of three of them were passing a note among themselves, laughing and pointing to me as they read it. The note “accidentally” made its way to me. It said: “Have you seen how fat C**** is today?” Not fun. We stayed in this town for about two years before returning to my hometown.

Returning “home” felt good. Teasing still happened, albeit on a much smaller scale, so that wasn’t good. But I was back to playing sports, seeing my family, and playing with the few friends I had. Things started to get dark around age 15 for me. I was rebelling from my family, yelling at my baby sister, and isolating myself. If I wasn’t playing sports, at work, or with friends, I was in my room. There were a few girlfriends in high school, but I always ran them off by calling too much or being insecure.

During college, I blossomed. My grades were good, I was having fun making new friends, and I met the girl I would later marry. We married in 2007. Things started well. We bought a house, we had friends, and we loved each other. Then things changed. I changed, but I didn’t know it until many years later. One Friday evening in August 2008, my mom called to tell me that my dad had died. My mind was blown! Confusion took over. On one hand, my dad was basically a stranger, so why would I feel bad about this news? On the other, my dad died, and I should probably be devastated. Not knowing how to feel about your dad’s death is a complete mind fuck, but, again, I wouldn’t figure that out until many years later. Even though I didn’t know him, I planned to attend the funeral because something inside me told me to.

Then his obituary came out. It named all of his children except me. I am alive, we talked “business” about my college plans, I look like him, I am damn near a twin to his other son, but even in his death, I was not claimed! My decision to attend the funeral was immediately overturned. This was a huge blow to my psyche and what I now consider a 14-year downward spiral in my life. 

I checked out of my marriage. We weren’t communicating, we weren’t having fun, and we weren’t having sex. I stopped participating in life. All my feelings and emotions were buried under a facade of happiness. My work performance suffered and I started job hopping. After 10 years of marriage, we divorced. I was devastated.

For the next 18 months or so, I stayed to myself. Work, renovate my house, take care of me. I was doing well at this point.

Then I met someone. Our connection was electric, something I had never experienced before. So electric that we exchanged “I love you” in the first week. We talked about “real” shit, we had fun, we traveled together, and we were in love. Our engagement happened in 9 months, and she moved into my house. Then, I checked out. Everything I didn’t do in my previous marriage, I now wasn’t doing in this relationship. We went to couples counseling, and we tried to get back to the things we let slip by, but it didn’t work. We ended our engagement. I quit my job, sold my house, sold nearly everything I owned, and left the area I had lived in for 16 years. A friend of mine offered to let me stay with him and his family, so I moved in.

A couple of months later, I moved to the same town as my sister, where I got a job. I leased an apartment, started my job, and started learning about a new city. In an instant, this turned into the darkest period of my life. The depth of sadness and loneliness and fear I felt were unlike anything leading up to this point. I missed my ex-fiancé, I missed my house, I missed everything I had. I had romanticized what it would be like to live near my sister, thinking we would see each other every day. That she and her husband would integrate me into their existing life, and everything would be rainbows and butterflies. This wasn’t the case. My sister is around ten years younger than me, so for me to be lumped into her friend group was unrealistic. Work schedules and personal plans didn’t allow much time for us to see one another. And I didn’t like the area. My mental state was fragile, to say the least.

One day, I was sitting in my apartment, crying, and reminiscing. I visualized opening the sliding glass door, running, and jumping over the balcony. It scared the shit out of me. At that point, I knew I had to leave that town. So I moved back in with my friend and his family.

What I now know about that suicidal ideation is this: subconsciously, I was attempting to recreate my birth. My apartment was the “small space” acting as the womb. The sliding door created the opening just as the opening during birth. And me jumping off the balcony aligns with being thrust out into the world just like birth.

At the time of this writing, I am 39 years old. I started truly working on myself in May of 2022 in that first men’s weekend retreat. The amount of information I’ve learned about myself, about life, and about relationships is astounding. By no means is it finished. This will be a life-long commitment to myself and those I am in a relationship with so I can show up the way I know I can. There are still days when I don’t feel safe. The difference is that I am now aware of those feelings, and I have tools that allow me to handle those feelings much better than before.

Through the struggle and the pain and the tears and the confusion, there lies a path that will lead you to a place of peace and happiness and joy. You’re worth the journey.

- Anonymous