Its Bell Let’s Talk Day.
I thought I would take a few minutes to talk about some of the things I have gone through in the hope that my experience can help others. The struggles I have faced over the years for some may seem insurmountable. I am here to tell everyone who will listen that you can overcome any difficulty you face no matter how big it may appear to be. Silence isn’t a solution. Talking and listening to each other is the only way to go.
What many of you may not know about me is that I was raised in a religious community that practices shunning. I witnessed the devasting effects of a shunning at the age of four years old which changed the trajectory of my life from that moment onward. The brutality of that shunning I witnessed as a little boy made me the person I am today and at four years old I vowed to never join that community because it destroyed someone’s life.
For this reason and many others, I have never joined.
When I came of age and was able to leave, I too was automatically forced into exile. I lost any kind of relationship with my family and extended family and all of those I had known up until then.
I was alone.
Living in Fear
I lived in constant fear in those early years. I feared of being sent back into the community I left or into foster care. I feared being discovered. I feared being rejected by the new people I was meeting.
The fear was always there. It was a constant companion.
I felt I needed be silent and to not speak about what was going on in my life out of fear.
This is the back story for what I am about to tell you.
A Brief Oasis
Several years later I got married and became a part of a large, loving and supportive family. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of belonging, as if someone had my back, and that there were people who I could count on in times of need. I am happy that my two children grew up in such a loving atmosphere without the fear I had known as a child.
In 2018 I got divorced.
I still am clueless as to the reasons why she asked for a divorce except that said she needed to find herself again (whatever that means), so I let her go. In my mind it was a “no fault” divorce. We had simply grown apart. That’s my opinion at least.
What everyone neglects to tell you is that everyone feels required to take sides in a divorce.
People I had known for over thirty years suddenly stopped talking to me. Mutual Friends, her family, my nieces and nephews were gone in an instant.
They say that history has a funny way of repeating itself.
In my case it was true.
It wasn’t funny.
We had sold the house because of the divorce and quite honestly the impact of living alone in that house without any communication from anyone including my kids for three weeks was brutal.
It was inhumane.
I was feeling so many emotions including: She left me. My kids had left me. They left me.
I was alone.
What no one can prepare you for is that everything you experienced as a child, including the fear comes rushing back. I instantly relived those experiences, when the truck drove away.
I was expecting it.
It’s called PTSD.
Nothing can prepare you for it’s onslaught.
I felt the need to be silent again.
I did not speak about how I was feeling.
I was afraid.
Everyone must have believed that I would be OK because of my past.
I come across as being tough.
So no one thought anything different.
My silence only reinforced the solitude.
Silence is not good.
For the next seven months I lived without a bathroom, a shower, a bathtub or a place to do laundry.
I found it hard to make any kind of decision, even where I was going to live. I was just existing. I was a shell.
You look for ways to cope.
I coped through art.
I coped with the help and kindness of others.
I’m going to be blunt and straight to the point.
When you get divorced, people gossip about you. If you’re a man, everyone assumes you’ve cheated on your wife and when you finally start a new relationship, everyone assumes that your new significant other is the person you were cheating on her with.
Not true in my case.
The gossip mill ruins your reputation in a heartbeat.
You can’t reach out for help.
Because of this everyone thinks you’re a heartless person and you don’t care about them, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth.
You just don’t know what to do to repair the damage.
It’s a lose-lose situation.
People believe what they want to and judge you very harshly without knowing your side of the story.
Even when you’re given that one chance to explain, no one believes you.
So, you give up trying.
You even end up struggling to maintain a relationship with your kids.
I am by no means portraying myself as a victim here.
I am a survivor.
I am grateful for the kindness of Andrea. Her simple offer of friendship all those years ago saved me as a boy.
I am grateful for the support of my friends Alexine and Annie throughout this recent experience.
I am grateful for David R’s text message asking if I was OK. He doesn’t know how much it meant to me at the time. Those were very dark days.
I am very grateful for the kindness and love that Kurt has shown me as we say “malgré tout”.
The outcome of both my stories could have been very different.
My cousin James took his own life for many of the same problems I have faced two times.
There are people, who don’t have a supportive family or friends. Social media only pours gasoline on the fire when people start unfriending you and blocking you. It only adds to the pain and solitude. I have lived this too.
My message today is to be kinder to people.
Thanks for listening.