“Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow.”- Jay Z
I guess have wandered for most of my life, fifty-nine years, who am I. I take out my wallet when asked for identification, my birth certificate states my full name, the date of my birth, and where I was born, for me that was the province of Ontario, Canada.
But I still ask the question, who am I? Is it the color of my eyes, my gender, my faith, or even my anatomically body. Is it define by the ones I have chosen to love, those who I have decided to let into my circle of friends.
This question of identity was brought home that one sunny day when I found myself in a hospital ward that deals with people who are suffering and challenged with mental health issues. Even in there I hid a part of me, a part that I thought, and maybe still think, is hideous.
I started this blog because it piqued my interest, the wanna be journalist inside me, and maybe a wanna be novelist. I am the first one to admit that my strength is not writing. I probably make grammatical errors after time I publish a post.
I chose what I knew the most, it was my faith and my knowledge and understanding of the Bible. My posts didn’t move the needle. Oh, every once in awhile someone would take note of what I had written. Yet, there wasn’t a fire in me, a fire that said, that urged me to sit at the computer and write posts. My writing then was spotty with my thoughts rambling from post to post.
Feeling like I belong, I have it all together, and nothing to worry about, these descriptions speaks of someone of who I wish I was. I entered high school weighing less than ninety-nine pounds. My muscle tone was in hiding, so at the height of six foot one inch I looked like something of a half made coat tree.
I relate to others who are belittled, treaded upon, and pushed to the sides of the ride by those who are maybe smarter, are at the top of their game. I still do not have it all together, but, I have learned ways to mask those feelings of inadequacies, those feeling of inferiority. It may answer why I watched cartoons and TV shows with super heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and even Batman.
I would watch shows, see posts of, men who had a six pack for ribs, and there muscle tone ripple from their shoulder down to their forearm. Honestly, I still have feelings of inadequacies when I see some guy who looks like he has spent all of his extra time in a gym somewhere to give himself that buffed look.
Maybe, my writings, my posts brings across of a guy who has it all together. A guy who knows who he really is. I am far from that, I am not that super guy like the one you would see on an Harlequin romance novel. No, let me assure you, I am not some six foot, a body with ripped muscles from my head down to my feet. No, I am not that man who could pick up a lady and whisk her out from the gangs while held by my arms as I swing her to the ledge of a window.
However, my identity, the person that knows itself when he closes his eyes at bedtime, that person is under there somewhere, somewhere beyond the words written together, the being behind those words that create paragraphs, that speaks about those things I have faced in this body, one person who needs medication to keep me stable, one medication to help start my day, an another one that is meant to keep me stable. Then at the end of the day a pill to give me a calm, and a peaceful night’s sleep. All those medications are taken, that have their purpose to keep this bi-polar man walking up-right.
So dear reader, who am I, who is this person that wakes up day after day, places two feet on the floor, and does his best to be the best human I can project in this world that I am travelling through.
So, I am the sum total of a man, who has a function, a man who is working through this life being the person I am meant to be. To learn, love, belong, engage, to listen, learn from others that I encounter along this path, a path at it’s very best, a road map, from beings of all different sizes, shapes, and colors.
So, hear me, listen to me, engage with me, and help me in my path of who I am on this journey. I am not complete, I still am learning, still encountering along this journey those things that are helping to make the best man I can be. For I am more that I was yesterday, still being shaped and molded into what I hope and pray will be the best, just me, the best me.!
Trigger Warning: This post contains subjects and issues that may be upsetting to some.
This is another issue that is included in the group “Mental Health”. It has been my feeling that this has been kept in a dark closet. We always hear about the abuse of woman and children, but I thought this needed to be explored.
“Domestic violence — also known as intimate partner violence — occurs between people who are or have been in a close relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse, stalking and threats of abuse. It can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
Abusive relationships always involve an imbalance of power and control. An abuser uses intimidating, hurtful words and behaviors to control his or her partner.”
WebMD reports more than 830,000 men fall victim to domestic violence every year.
Jan Brown the executive director and founder of the Domestic Abuse Helpline for men says,
Domestic violence is not about size, gender, or strength. It’s about abuse, control, and power, and getting out of dangerous situations and getting help, whether you are a woman being abused, or a man.
She also goes on to say in the article, “There are more than 4,000 domestic violence programs in the U.S., but very few actually offer the same services to men as they do women.”
So dear reader, the issue is hard to read, but recognizing abuse happens to both men, women, and the hardest issue, child abuse.
Several days ago I had an idea which I thought might be interesting. The idea; flip the scenario of the interview. The questions would not be posed by me, but, it would be from someone else, the questions would be for me.
So, I needed to find someone to ask if they would help with this project. The person I turned to was Ashley L. Peterson of Mental Health At Home. I contacted her about a week ago to which she agree to help. If you have never visited her blog put it on your things to do list.
So below is the interview. I may revisit the questions to add to it more insight. I have tried to answer the questions with honesty and truthfully.
At this moment I want to say, “Thank youAshleyfor Your Help”! I truly appreciate this!
Were there things that your blog has allowed you to get out that weren’t able to express before?
There were many things that I could not express before. Some would be looked upon as weakness, short comings, others would be considered non Biblical. Things about gender, sexuality, race.
Did you ever feel it was necessary to mask what was going on inside you? If so, how did you do that?
Yes, I did wear a mask. The first that held that mask on was a lack of trust. I held many things to myself, not even telling my wives, family, because I learned that familiarity is dangerous. It usually ends up with them turning on you by breaking trust.
The next thing that I believe that held the mask on was ignorance. Believing what you have been told all of your life, things concerning the Faith. It wasn’t until I finally started my long journey of healing of my mental health that I started to question in earnest what I truly believed. I came to the conclusion that there were many things I felt was wrong, some that really did not have a sure foundation in the Scriptures.
Has there been any form of creative art or expression other than writing that’s been significant for you? What role did that play if your life?
My whole life has been about the music, it still is. I am thankful that I have a small home organ within my home. It had a fantastic price attached to it, “FREE”. I couldn’t refuse it. When I am totally at whit’s end when possible I sit and will play old hymns and other songs. It usually quiets my mind. There are other times, especially when I need a bit of inspiration, I turn to my iTunes music. One artist is foremost is Michael Bublè, his music is similar to that of Frank Sinatra.
What role has religion played in the course your transition into adulthood and beyond?
I am going to be honest and frank, I have held onto my faith in God, but, I have let go many other things. As I said this journey of healing has been intense. It has caused me to look inward, question everything, search all things, to become honest of who I truly was as a human being. Notice I did not say “person”, I could be any person, but who am I as a human.
Has your sense of who you are and how you relate to the world changed over time?
The resounding answer is, yes I have changed in relation of discovering who I really am. I couldn’t see it while I was in the midst of it, but, looking back, even just over two years, I can see change. I really do not have fear about how people see me. Yes, I hope they see the real me. Yet, I can understand that they may have, like me, trust issues. That is where true acceptance comes into place. I hope people would respect where I am in my walk of healing, I also hope I can respect others on their walk of healing in obtaining great mental health.
How did mental illness enter your life, and what are some of the ways it affects you?
I look back at my life, especially my teenage years through my early adult years and I can see signs of mental illness already showing itself. My sudden outrage for even the littlest thing, comment, etc., Also, I can recognize the times of mania, and deep depression that inserted itself during those years.
It wasn’t until around 1990 when I started experiencing panic attacks. One time while grocery shopping in an almost empty store I suffered with a severe panic attack. I left the cart in the aisle and ran back to my bachelor apartment a block away. It wasn’t long after that when I attempted my first suicide.
At times it has left me mentally crippled, all my interests seemed to melt away. On the mania times it was almost nonstop activity.
There were many mornings where I would wake up with no memory of the night before. No recollection of conversations, what I ate, what I did like watching television. My best friend would find me passed out in the oddest places, once under my sewing machine. It left him terrified every time he would come into my house in the morning.
What have been some of the most difficult times or circumstances you’ve dealt with in terms of your mental health?
The hardest time of dealing with my mental health condition was the very first time, the time when I woke up in the mental health ward after the attempted suicide.
I basically stayed to myself, did not interact with others who were also dealing with mental health issues. My memory of it is vague, basically going to the smoking room. There was the first day that they decided that we should watch the movie “Groundhog Day”. I remember, why this, what does it have to do with me getting out of here. Honestly, I still have no answer for that movie.
Has family played a major role for you? Have there been certain family events that were particularly significant in your life?
Family meant something for me, I should clarify, my maternal family. I was very close to my grandfather and grandmother. I felt more at home there then I did at my parent’s home. I felt accepted there, yet I am glad they were not around in my worst days. I sometimes wonder how they would have reacted.
I only have one blood relative that I am close to, being my maternal aunt. She has always been a part of my life, babysitting, singing, just there. After she goes my connection to that part of family will be gone.
I am now a grandfather of three, my daughter, and those children are now my world. They love talking with me when they are here, they have their heads in the right place. The oldest, my granddaughter, just turned thirteen.
Were there things from your childhood, either positive or negative, that have really stuck with you over time?
There are two things that have stuck with me over time. How I deal with others, growing up in a multi-cultural area it wasn’t a big thing to have friends, acquaintances, from other cultures, etc, Maybe it was because of my mother and grandmother. I never heard an unkind word, slur, put down, to come from their lips. I could take any of my friend’s home or to my grandmother’s knowing they would be accepted without question.
The other would be anger. I decided as a kid that I did not want that in my life. My dad would explode at the slightest slight. It was to the point that I would make excuses when he would ask if I wanted to play a game of Chess. I always said no, I knew if he lost, it just might mean an eruption of anger. If I am around someone who shows anger of that sort I find myself looking for the exit. I can be angry at something, but never to the point where it is physical or emotionally.
Are there life choices you’ve made that you feel grateful for or regret now?
There are probably many things I regret now, only because hindsight is always twenty-twenty. Dropping out of high school, two divorces, not always being there for my daughter while she was growing up. Those are probably the ones that come to the top of my thoughts.
The biggest thing that I can be truly grateful is that I can to the acknowledgment that I needed help, that I sought help, and that I continue to work to achieve great mental health.
The other is that I have learned how a true friend acts. I write about my best friend, twenty plus years. He has been there through my worst. Days where I lashed out at him, times when I would threaten to move away from him. He has been in the room with my family doctor, Psychiatrist, and all other specialists. He also manages my medications, which came about during one of my inpatient times. While at home I was double dosing my Oxycontin medication. So there was an agreement between myself, my doctors, and at that time my Pharmacist, that was back in 2004. He still goes with me to my appointments, sometimes is because my mobility is not at its best, mostly because my short term memory is spotty.
P.S. – That is the interview. Let me say this, I am not done with my journey towards great mental health. There are issues that I am still struggling with, issues that at this time cannot disclose.
If you read this, if you are also on your journey towards great mental health, let me give you a word of encouragement.
You are not alone, there are others on a similar journey with issues all of their own. There will be others after you. Please help those who are coming up with words of encouragement, make them feel at home that they have a safe place.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia
I wish I could sit down with you over coffee, listen to you about your life experiences, but that is not possible, so I decided to write instead.
I have gone through a transformation that started when I left the ministry. I could no longer with sincerity a gospelize a message that seemed to exclude rather than include.
During this process I sought to learn about others, those of different ethnicity. Those who love others of the same gender, to listen to the atheist to understand why they don’t believe in God. I found all I had to do was start the conversation then sit and just listen to their personal story.
I use to consider myself an evangelical, I no longer make that claim. To be honest I am somewhat baffled by the things they have placed their stamp of approval on. Things that they use to preach against.
Listening without prejudice I found is the biggest step, to cast aside all those things that we have allowed our sight to become clouded. Many of the things I have learned in my life just didn’t fit with how I was starting to feel on this road to transformation.
I have always cheered for the down and out. The one who has been bruised and scarred feeling like life has dealt them a bad hand.
When I first started this blog I had a vision, a vision that would give people a hand up, an open hand, never a clenched fist. I did not know how to go about what I had envisioned, but now I believe that I can bring forth what I saw.
The upcoming two Interviews come from totally different arenas. The first Interview was a trained clinician of whom I have come to respect.
So dear reader I hope you will listen to some of the voices that I am asking to share their life’s story through the series of Interviews.
“Understand that sexuality is as wide as the sea. Understand that your morality is not law. Understand that we are you. Understand that if we decide to have sex whether safe, safer, or unsafe, it is our decision and you have no rights in our lovemaking.”
― Derek Jarman
preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
“English prejudice against foreigners”
I have been giving this post a lot of thought over the past several days. I wanted the best quotes I could find about the subject. The first one is new to me, but, the second one is from the Senior Prime Minister Trudeau, which I learned about in high school.
I feel safe in saying that many of us have preconceived ideas about one thing or another. Where did we learn these things, from our parents, peers, school, reading, or television.
Imagine if our preconceived idea of seeing a man and woman holding hands was repulsive. Maybe denied insurance coverage for being a heterosexual being, or portrayed on tv shows as some type of freak. Now, how would you feel? Some would hide the fact of their sexuality, pretend to be gay, or just outright be proud of being heterosexual.
Now how would your mental health be doing? Over time not so good, thoughts of depression, inferiority feelings, to the point to where there is contemplation of suicide.
I believe I have described the life of a LGBTQ person over the past forty years. Here are some facts from Homewood Health
LGBTQ+ Mental Health Facts1:
Members of LGBTQ+ communities face higher rates of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm and substance use
Members of LGBTQ are twice as likely to experience childhood maltreatment, interpersonal; violence, and personal loss
The risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the LGBTQ+ community is double that of those that identify as heterosexual
Sexual minority individuals are two and a half times more likely to attempt suicide and are one and a half times more likely to have depression and anxiety than heterosexual peers
LGBTQ+ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse as heterosexual peers
Some research suggests that abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other substances may be two to four times higher among those that identify as LGBTQ
So dear reader, when you are thinking some preconceived idea about a person, persons, gender, think about this post!