To survive and learn fully how to tip-toe our way through recovery, we must learn the art of intimately living with ourselves. I needed this. I know, I can't speak for everyone's needs. Our trauma and experience of it. Our upbringings. All of our life-experience, has led us towards a full rich appreciation of our circumstances common to us all. Along with all we've uniquely lived. Our very common challenge remains. To overcome the adversity of trauma and PTSD in our lives.
Trauma, is an adventure of sorts. Overcoming it, a slashing through the forest of overgrown brambles in our psyche. The precious gold ring we seek in this adventure. Is to find the one true love of our life. Not the love that will be our hopeful partner along the way. The man or wife we may choose to die with in the end.
I'm speaking of, The One True Love, Living Already Inside Of Us. The truest part of ourselves tasked with taking in this adventure and walking it through to completion. All the way through it. With our earthly view of sometimes very frightening landscapes. The soul of our spirit, living right under our own skin. This is the truest love I know we are seeking with so much worldly labour to ultimately find.
'Know thyself and Heal thy Flaws. Gently, With Self-Compassion, With Grace and Self-Forgiveness.'
For, in recovery we learn. The most important person in our lives. The one that will see us through it all. To the bitter end of unexpected, untimely death. Is our true-self. The spirit, living behind the outer mask we wear. A mask of self-protection from the world we don't fully trust. A mime's disguise we've developed, unwittingly over time.
With this knowledge now deeply entrenched within my own being in terms of self-awareness. With my truest self now focused, alive and well from within. Through remission of my mental health issues, today writing these words. I actually know them to be true.
Carl Jung, when asked in an interview once, "Do you believe in God?" To this Jung replied:
"Well, I have a certain bit of problem with such things. I don't believe. Either I know a thing or I don't know a thing. It's rather childish of me to think any longer in terms of beliefs. When I know a thing. There isn't any need for belief. When it comes to KNOWING God. Yes. I know God. I know this thing called God."
I've paraphrased my mentors words. Expanded on them some to share my own strong knowing that has fully developed from it's roots in Christian life experience. Psychologically now into my human animal mind, I too know God. Therefore I too have no longer any need for childishness, arguing over His existence or non-existence within myself. That long-fought battle in my life. Like so many that ended these past nine months. I'm ready too, to walk away from this battlefield against God as well.
With tender care along the way of my healing journey. With the direct intervention of many shamans in my life. The best helpers I found along the way. They were each one of them, students in their own practice. Of Dr. Carl Gustav Jung.
He is, as you can likely tell with my writing. A hero in my life. A man, long dead whom I owe my life to. My very survival is due in most part psychologically to this man I now revere as a hero to me. Jung, started his own career as a shaman-of-sorts. Under the tutelage of his own mentor, Dr. Sigmund Freud.
At some point along the way, the two men had a falling out. I won't get into the details here. The story of the two men and their conflicting approaches to psychiatric and psychological care are already brilliantly publicized by many crafted writers. I'd rather encourage readers to seek this story out for themselves. With the level of my current writing skills. I humbly bow the telling of the story of Jung and Freud. To other craftsmen who have so wonderfully already completed and shared their own incredible works on the subject.
To get back to the intent in this writing. I'll share what Dr. Jung taught me in terms of psychological reconciliation with my spirit. A journey of coming to peace inside my own mind with my Creator. I know this, to follow my mentor's lead. As human-beings, animals on this earth. Living physically in the here and now. We ourselves, are not gods. Biologically, underneath this skin of ours. We remain, very much, simply flesh. Very much, simply blood and bone.
We remain male and female animals throughout our human life. Animals by nature, biologically. Although our spirit, the soul of our true self is connected to this unimaginable, immeasurable existence in the Universe. We are not the Creator.
We could do ourselves possible immeasurable psychic damage. Should we set out on our journey to find ourselves with the intent even to try to be gods.
There is good reason to not consider ourselves gods. Part of the Creator's majesty? Yes, I sincerely know we are a huge part of the magic in life. This is healthy knowledge of self. As far as I'm concerned, I personally need a sense of a higher power in my own life to keep going. In order to not feel alone in this world. It's better for me to accept there is a power in the Universe, much Greater than ourselves. All appropriate and healthy psychological recovery programs state this need emphatically. Humility is a character trait I learned the hard way I needed to find. I leave it to all readers here to decide for yourselves. Where it is you personally stand.
Here and now. Our spirits, know this God. Here on Earth as animals, we simply are not able to be all knowing and powerful. I do know, however. That it is part of our very nature as spirits to do our utmost, human best. Give it our all. In a sincere effort to try being, as best we possibly can, Just Like Him.
We are tasked on this human journey to find this source of our own power inside. The source of power our spirit knew about, coming here to earth. I know, for me. I made a choice as a spirit to live this often frightening, human experience. I like to think of the true self, the spirit inside of me, as a child of God. As a child of God, venturing out into the Universe. Deciding for itself that Planet Earth is our best teaching ground for this adventure.
I quote the words of many others when I share:
"We are not, human beings on Earth. Seeking a spiritual experience of life. We are Spiritual Beings on Earth. Seeking a Human Experience of Life."
Finding this understanding for myself. Now knowing, it is true to me. This Is True Recovery. True Healing. In recovery's most sacred and divine form. For me, discovering ultimately my own life as a myth. As a story of adventure. I now know, each and every one of us. Are a Hero, From Among the Many Thousands of Faces, Here Living On This Earth. This, my second greatest animal mentor in human life taught me. This mentor's name, is Joseph Campbell.
Inside of me, my spirit is connected directly now to the other most important mentor in my life. My inner spiritual hero remains, Jesus. My psychological heroes include the life and teachings of the Buddha. I also know my journey genetically through heredity. This part of who I am inside, includes many human faces all part of my own DNA.
My parents. My Grand-parents. My father's mother, suffered mental health issues herself when my father was an infant. She ended up dieing in Riverview Hospital on BC's West Coast. Her medical file revealing she was institutionalized for postpartum depression. Such an issue would never be treated that way in this day and age. But, I needed this history. To ensure no genetic connections to what felt very much with PTSD like insanity.
A very welcome bit of genetic history came to me through family history study. I discovered a very deep connection to Canadian History through this. Uncovering my heritage had First Nations roots. Dating all the way back to the first explorations of Canada. My Greatest Grandfather it turned out was a mapmaker. During the time of colonial expansion connected to the Hudson's Bay Company.
This truth, Peter Fidler shared in a journal he kept while mapping for the company through the Rocky Mountains. I've since misplaced my copy. Thankfully references are now appearing on the Internet to keep me connected to the myths and stories of this man in my life. These are my roots. Of which I am completely proud.
Another genetic hero of mine, is his wife. Mary Mackegone. A Swampy Cree First Nations Princess, in my mind and soul. Alive and well in my heart today. Our family, meets still regularly on Facebook. I have cousins in a group called, Descendents of Peter Fidler. Sandy Fidler, Louise Crane &Tara Bruce. To name only but a few of my cousins who visit there.
These genetic pieces of my spirit's life-puzzle. All of this information I needed to find. In order to reconcile the sins in my own father's pasts. Sins and traumas the generations imposed upon me. Like it or not, the lives of the generations before us do seep into the very fabric of our own human DNA.
With this ancestral discovery in my journeyman's seeking. I am today a Metis Citizen of Canada. Our bridge, between two races of Canadian man. I am a man who now considers myself Free and Only Answerable, to God. A Metis Man on this Planet. I have a tattoo on my right arm to act as a symbol of this inner spiritual commitment. A guide-post, so-to-speak. To remind me in future times of who I am. When I will (like all humans do) inevitably again perhaps lose my way.
I will one day here, expand a story with what I know through my research into my own life of Canadian History. As it truthfully is a story that needs to be shared. We've learned many things from the constructions within our history books, that I discovered, were misrepresentations. Some things that we've learned, in fact. Are outright, manifested lies.
For now, I'll go back to the purpose of this piece. However I'll end this section with a taste of the inner- myth of my parting spiritually as an infant, from heaven. I know, when my spirit chose to enter Earth University. Now over fifty years ago. I imagine I was given these words to guide me. Instructions, I simply as a human-being can't recall. So, I constructed my own myth. To help guide me in my own way.
These remain, the words I use to keep me focused on the journey. Parts of the walk ahead, so unknown and still perhaps plagued with dangers and disappointments. To understand my now sold faith relationship with my guide inside. This is why I continue to imagine and visualize inside myself, this friend.
My friend, Jesus who lives inside of me. As the best part, the light inside myself. This light, now that I'm in remission from mental illness. Is alive against the animal darkness that too, lives inside the soul of all living man. These are the words I use that were shared with my infant spirit, Joshua. A myth, I've created for my own mind. If he hadn't shared these words? I doubt, in retrospect. I'd been courageous enough about this adventure on earth with trauma to consider taking any risk at all of leaving heaven. To actually leave heaven for earth to live all this pain? I've shared before. There were many times along the way. I simply wanted to turn tail and run back home.
"Be Well, little one. Blessings to you, Spirit Joshua. Venture forth into the unknown. Step out into this frightening place. Go. Find your way. When you are through? Come back home, to me. Fill me in, on all you've learned. I will welcome you back, with open arms. There are lessons for you on this Planet of Mine. Walk Softly. Mind How You Go."
We can live intimately with ourselves, should we choose to. Once we learn to choose to live this way. The greater our willingness is to becoming fully self-aware. The more self-aware we can become, the easier the life journey can be.
Our trauma and experience of it. Our upbringings. Our vocation. Some of us here choosing the military and battles as part of our own journey through life's way. All of our life's experiences led us towards a full, rich appreciation and challenging of the person in our lives, living right under our own skin. This challenge came to us all, through trauma.
So, I remind us all again. Please, live well a long and courageous journey in life. The goal of this Earth University, is as I stated in the beginning:
'Know thyself and Heal the Flaws. Gently. With Self-Compassion. With Grace and Self-Forgiveness.
This is true recovery. True Healing. In Recovery's Most Sacred And Divine Form. Through all the pain and hardship of fighting off the demons of trauma. We are never alone in such suffering. Know, many are here on this earth, walking a very similar path to your own. We are your companions. Your guides, should you need our flashlights to perhaps light your path for a minute or two. Shining hopeful light within the darkness of your way. From wherever in your own life your trauma may have come to you. We are your peers now. Trust us, when you can. We will never leave you alone in your suffering. Alone to die empty on this battlefield called life.
You have my personal prayers and blessings, each and every day. And, whether or not you believe in a God. The Universe knows you. Better than you might know yourself. Or are now perhaps, simply not able to yet appreciate or understand.
Like our old friend common to all our childhoods, Dorothy in the Wizard Of Oz. Once you've found the truth of your own inner spirit. Your own truest self. You will simply tap your combat or running-shoe heels together and proudly and gratefully proclaim:
'Without a doubt. There Is No Place Like Home."
Venture forth. with courage. The answer, I trust for you all will come. We are all in various stages of what we now know as, Post Traumatic Growth. I trust one day for all of us. Our healing will become more clear. "Blessings, on your journey. Dear Friends. Please. Mind, how you go. Be Well."
Darren Michael Gregory. August, 17th, 2014. Darren is a Community and Workplace Traumatologist. Currently residing in Creston, British Columbia, Canada.
Be sure to watch the Videos. At the End Of The Reading List.
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Cree: The Canadian Encyclopedia Online: Viewed 2014
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Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health center. www.traumarecoverybc.com
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved
Learning to be mindful, living in the moment with my thoughts and deeds in life. This is one of many tools Buddhist concepts have now lightly placed in my own recovery toolbox, first introduced as a helpful practice through my experience with others in group.
The teachings of The Buddha with concepts of meditative practice, along with mindfulness education and training, has made a huge difference now for me. With PTSD, Depression and Addiction all now comfortably in remission. These tools I've acquired along recovery's way serve me still in terms of maintenance.
All such practices I use today to practice wellness include those concepts adopted from Buddhism. These concepts are now adequately scientifically studied through the research fellows living in the world of neuroscience and neurobiology. I trust them, because they've been thoroughly and completely studied and are demonstrating merit in the psychological community.
It is the neuroscience community of today, that will soon be most appropriately tasked with treating mental illness in it's many human forms. To me, the souls working in these fields announce a return to the human days-of-old. In ancient times such scientists were revered as Shamans and Medicine Men. A status Western Medicine still refuses to accept. A status that likely will never be granted to them, from the Church.
These concepts remain as part of my maintenance program today, the scientifically studied concepts from Buddhism. They work more powerfully for me now, than ever before. I've held on to much in terms of the personal value of these concepts through recovery. Living mindfully and practicing daily meditation, are now solidly in play with remission from the diagnosed mental health challenges in my life. My symptoms are no longer standing in their helpful way.
Group is meant to provide those of us prone to isolation, opportunity to socialize safely again with others. Peers with like-minded battles turn up without hesitation, to speak to the reality of our individual lives in these groups. Persons with a variety of diagnosed mental illness find in group, opportunity to be real with others who completely understand empathically the personal pain our society imposes on us through stigma. Impositions on our recovery and well-being, society forces us to live with on the outside each and every day.
Stigma from the outside, is practiced against us by our fellow primates quite frankly. Stigmatization and ostracization, can be summed up with a single demonic name. Bullying is the label, most fitting to the behaviour that travels in stigma's soul. The most hideous of it's form, the inner bullying we've all learned to practice towards ourselves. Inner-bullying. The hallmark of negative self-talk driving many of us with depression to suicide. Group work allows us to vent all of the suffering inflicted into our lives through stigma's inner and outer infliction of pain.
One of the most hideous issues for all of us to battle back through, is this issue in North American society. The Others out in the world who stigmatize once we're diagnosed and our symptomatic behaviour gets in the way of our relationships. Many we once heard from (prior to our illness) with words and often deeds that painted an image for us that these people were loving, caring compassionate souls. Once our diagnose hit us. The diagnosis hits them too.
At one point in our lives, we seemed just fine in each others company. Once diagnosed, however. We who attend in groups to our own needs, all share stories that constitute abandonment from society. Our practice as primates, dominating fellow primates through stigmatization. At it's root, in full light of day. I see this as monkey acting-out against the other weak monkeys in the troop. Thoughtlessly acting out our animal nature.
Unconsciously through our forgotten and ignored animal-ism, we never see ourselves in our human mirrors, working often in a frenzy to peck at the weak chicken in the flock. We never actually consciously see ourselves, attacking anyone emotionally to a battered, spiritual ruin. This never occurs to us, until ultimately one of our fellow chickens-in-the-coop, gives up on her life. Choosing suicide and forever she physically dies. Judged as doing so, strictly by choice through her own hand.
Writing this morning, my heart is with Robin Williams. I witnessed last night, a stigma towards him that invoked such rage in me. I ended a friendship in response. I do care so deeply for my friend. I care for us both today, offering here a full apology.
Where I stand, however. Is with the inner-conviction that I can't allow stigmatization from anyone, friend or not, to rule roost in my inner chicken-coop. I no longer have the human luxury of such things living still inside of me.
I am willing to forgive. But forgiveness towards myself or returned, must first come with a full understanding of what it actually is we are forgiving. Such issues are generally for me much deeper than any examination of surface behaviour could ever attempt to explain.
Stigma from family, friends and previous peers in our work. Too common for my liking any longer in the mental health community I now serve as my friends. Stigma even tries to invoke in us even further pain than this. A lie is often preached to us. To minimize the guilt of stigmatization and the behaviours of it all.
We are often reminded by well-meaning human beings how silly it is for us to isolate from anyone. We own this truth. We are yet to hear society accept that it's practice of bullying through stigmatization and misinformation is the root cause of the inner bullying we hear inside. Leading us then to choose isolation. Far too often we bully ourselves with negative words of our own on the inside. This is truth. A circumstance for Robin Williams I'm convinced sent him now to a much too early and unnecessary grave.
This is another demon. My current remission will not allow me not to expose. A demon, whose voice (trust me) comes with the faces often of those we thought would love us through. Family, friends, close acquaintances. This is the true face of stigmatization that far too often we live through. Many live through the medical issues in our lives, damaged with the stigma the world labels mental illness and addiction.
I can only define this one way in terms of what stigma creates inside a fellow human who is mentally rather than physically ill. These words themselves are a demon worth exposing now too. The name of this hideous, inner demon in the soul of the mentally ill. We call this demon: Toxic Shame. Shame induced from life experiences of inner suffering when morality gets it's place in the human hierarchy within the psyche, over love.
One of the most painful groups of others in our communities, when it comes to stigmatization. The Christian Churches we once belonged to. Some of us once prominent members and well-respected by the group, feel full abandonment and isolation from those who once loved us in our churches. Very damaging to the soul of someone mentally ill. These Brothers and Sisters, assured us Love. As fellow Christians from our various churches walk away from us when we are ill. For a member who develops a mental illness, this is a very painful pill to swallow when the truth of stigma in humanity finally shows it's dark human face, so unexpectedly, from here.
In group , we hear so many stories of pain inflicted by the church. A situation that unfortunately amounts to nothing shy of the concept of bullying we are forced to learn about. This issue permeates our society. And, as the demon shows itself to us most often, it comes to us through the forced, frightened smiles of concern across the Christianized demon's face. A human face of our once friendly sister, staring blankly at us now not knowing what to do.
This demon has a name too. Like all the others my health of late won't allow me to stay quiet about. This is the demon of Christianized Spiritual Abuse.
The hurt and harm of spiritual abuse is rarely inflicted upon people with the intention to wound anyone. Most spiritual abuse is inflicted by Christians who are very sincere. These are people who believe they are obeying the Bible in sharing Christ with others with words. Who often believe that they are being led by the Holy Spirit, to do so. Words without loving action, often to the mentally ill. Speaks volumes in terms of the truth our abandonment feelings can conjure up inside.
Ronaldd Enroth writes to the subject, in his book Churches that Abuse:
"Do the abusers intend to inflict hurt? In most cases, probably not. They usually are unaware of what they are doing to people in the name of God. They may, in fact, be convinced that their behavior is what the Lord has mandated. What others interpret as control they may view as caring for the flock. They are usually so narcissistic or so focused on some great thing they are doing for God that they don't notice the wounds they are inflicting on their followers."
Spiritual abuse has been defined as "a kind of abuse which damages the central core of who we are. It leaves us spiritually discouraged and emotionally cut off from the healing love of God." Another definition of spiritual abuse is "the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining, or decreasing that person's spiritual empowerment." (http://www.micsem.org/pubs/counselor/frames/spiritabuse.htm).
For the most part, spiritual abuse is inflicted by those who in their minds, sincerely love their experience of knowing Jesus. They diligently practice so-called faith through intense study of the bible and are taught through their leaders, that they have a job to do.
To get out there in the world, saving souls from society and further, they are taught it is their job as persons saved themselves from hell, to ensure as many who cross their path become members of the chosen few.
Ronald Enroth points out: "these churches are doctrinally sound, conservatively Christian, thoroughly Biblical." My experience remains that these evangelical churches are nothing short of a cult. For we see within their walls, far too zealously maintained, a core group of individuals in power over the others. Often a fire and brimstone preacher at the helm of these Christianized ships. Men, generally speaking. Who love power over others, far more than they can embrace any love for the humanity in the pews they are to serve, protect from such things and lovingly represent.
The fundamentals of the Faith as the flock has learned it behind such walls. Psychologically speaking, this could easily be defined as brainwashing. So I've learned and experienced personally, there are several reasons why Christian people of good will and a sincere desire to share Jesus, fall into this unspoken trap. Like Ronald Enroth and the other authors I've studied, I needed this information to reconcile inside an issue that was spiritually killing me. Spiritual abuses of stigmatization and bullying can inflict serious harm and injury upon others in the Name of Christ. 'Forgive us all, Father. We haven't a clue what we're actually doing.'
The key element of harm, comes with the hallmark of an ego-driven, intellectualized spiritual life. When we tread through these waters of teaching, we come out the other side void of a key human tenant in the compassion taught in his day, by the man himself, Jesus Christ. The demon in this spiritual upbringing has a three-word name in my experience. I call this demon, like all others I've battled, directly by it's demon name. The name of this Culturally Created Beelzebub is this: Lack Of Empathy.
In the view of men like Ronald Enroth, and trust me my personal experience agrees, Lack of Empathy is a void left in the hearts of the evangelical cults who unwittingly, yet irresponsibly impose bullying ways. Empathy is the ability to perceive, to understand, to sense, to feel what another person is experiencing. Tenants sorely lacking in the society we all live as family in today.
Unfortunately, in witnessing for Jesus many evangelicals talk to people. Many don't know the grace of talking with people about their human lives. Guilty, as charged here. I've personally practiced, as well. These so symbolically demonic, human misguided ways.
It is impossible to truly talk with anyone about Jesus, or anything else for that matter, without a willingness towards actual human intimacy. Really, deeply knowing the other person. This is how intimacy is defined. Authentic ministry is based upon knowing a person's full heart. Another person's full soul and life experience. There is no point, as Enroth supports, in claiming that Jesus is the answer, when you have not heard or found way to ask, the question.
A physician who prescribes medicine, or a paramedic with all his skills. Without knowing the patient truthfully, these angels of mercy are likely to injure the patient and may in lacking to do so, cause irreparable human harm. In like manner, evangelicals who try to minister without knowing the sheep in an empathic manner, will most likely injure her fellow man.
In my experience with mental illness in group. The stories of spiritual abuse from evangelical well-meaning Christians we've heard. Would frankly make anyone want to turn tail and run from the inner beauty of a personal, sacred, longstanding, truly spiritual connection to all that is. It nearly caused me to run. Many times away from Christ.
The Great I Am caring for my uniquely sacred spiritual needs, never changed his face in my battle. Never once inside in my graced understanding did The Christ turn his loving back towards me. The face and words in my soul from Jesus, stayed true to me through the bitter end. The only human face that inside of myself never ostracized or turned away from me was, quite frankly, the face of Christ. That is why as a hero to me, from the inside of myself. I'll just say, I continue to Behold The Man.
Some of you reading this adjusted world view of Christianity, may feel anger towards me in these words. That's fine. Be angry. But we all know from where anger really stems. Anger towards anyone or any concepts that might challenge our current belief system, are normal when we are challenged like this.
Many who've read my own rants at the machines of humanity, know I will empathize and understand. I have no choice in the matter. Why? Because I've been there too. To not attempt to reconcile my fight with a friend last night, with a loving and forgiving reflection of it all this morning. Friends, for me to do so. This in my soul would be an ultimate hypocracy.
As with previous writings these past weeks, I only know how to state this, through the professional advice I've received along recovery's way. Dr. Carl Jung, taught me the lesson. We end all stigmatization by dissecting our own souls from the inside out.
We shake all the inner demons in our personal, inner-space, hard to the ground from every hidden tree. Stigmatization and unintended spiritual abuse. Robs us all of empathy, compassion and love from the deepest lingerings within our souls. Sadly, this happens to us all, without our even knowing it. Demons, have a way of working through us all just like that.
I'm sorry to have to tell you all, and please hear me when I say this with reasoned love. In terms of societal stigmatization directly, and as it is often currently practiced in humanity through the evangelical, Christianized church. When it comes to addressing mental illness. You are actually doing more harm, than you are good.
From where does the greatest empathic abilities towards learning full-on compassion and love towards our fellow man come? I need to leave you again, with these same words of my mentor in psychological life and care. Dr. Carl, Gustav Jung.
"Knowing YOUR OWN DARKNESS. Is the best way (the only way in fact) to know the (hidden) darkness in others." (New emphasis: Mine).
Darren Michael Gregory. August 15th, 2014. Darren Is A Community & Workplace Trauma Consultant and Educator, Living in Creston, British Columbia, Canada, Follow This Link, to Seek Service or to Book Darren For Education or Speaking Events.
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Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved
She loved me enough to throw in a deep, wet inhale of snot and tears. “The cold air will come a lot quicker on the other side of the hill!”
I hated winter. Despised the snow. And that depressing, one-horse, pulp-mill town, lingering the air with that caustic, every-day stench. How was I going to make it through two years over there, alone and friendless? I was already depressed, thinking about it and feeling like I'd settled into a choice that was second best.
I didn’t have to leave, I knew that. No one around here cared if I spent all of my working years as a slave at our own, one-horse saw-mill. It was almost expected I'd stick around and my hand-full of buddies actually looked forward to the prospects of working down there for themselves.
"Eight to Five, every day. Good money. You're nuts taking on college. I can't wait to get to work." This was the standard spiel from my buddies, all totally willing to sign their souls over to the devil by staying behind. Success, they say, scares the shit out of us more than failure. That mill, for them, was a sure bet they knew wouldn't challenge them too close to the limits of their own sanity. I knew better.
Nobody really gave a shit about anything beyond acceptance of a daily grind, for me or anyone else in town. Rising above expected choices wasn't much on anyone's radar, growing up in Rural Nowhere.
Except, within his own ignorance and limits of mediocrity, my Pops.
There were times when I'd decided the mill was going to be my next summer adventure over my high-school years, Pops, every time, practically stroked himself to an early death, spouting off a tirade of rage, typical of all our Dads when they stepped in to straighten any of us out, and line us back up to their own pathetic vision of a manly life.
“I spent my whole life down there. My whole, God-damn, miserable life. Either pushing, pulling, piling, sawing, or stealing God-damn wood. For what? For nothing! I’ve been there from the time I was your age and I’m telling you this: You don’t want to set foot down at that place."
"Once your in that shit-hole, you never get yourself out. Are you listening to me, boy? Stay away from there. If I so much as see you sniffing for work in that direction, I’ll slap your nose off your twit, God-damn face. You ever show your ass down there, I swear to Christ, I'll take you out back and kill ya, bury you in the garden before I let you do something as stupid as that.”
The last few years before I left for school, all Mother and I heard was the same, tired, drunken man - moaning about the same tired. old, pissed-to-the-gills rants about pretty much anything and everything to do with the world we lived in.
That threat of death was enough to keep me away from the mill over those summers. The threats kept me dreaming at least, trying to do something with my own, God-forsaken life. Threats of violence from Pops, when I was still young enough, always knocked me back to paying attention, if ever he dreamed up I wasn't paying his ways attention enough.
He never really beat me, much. I was lucky as far as I was concerned, looking at the mess some of my buddies brought as badges of honour to school with them some days. We'd all learned to believe, whatever violence Dads did, was justified. We deserved every punch and kick; every hockey-stick across the back for leaving our gear scattered across the driveways of our run-down, cruddy mansions, scattered across the mountains since time here first began.
All the beatings, at least, weren't anything that wouldn't heal back up over a month or so. They weren't anything worth whining about. We all learned too how to keep our pain to ourselves around one another. Boys from Nowhere aren't allowed to be weak. Showing weakness only serves to get us beat again at school, by angry, younger souls, taking every opportunity to force the shit they carried into school from home to run downhill.
We'd all dawned enough inner and outer bruises to make sure we had fear of the old-men slapped rightly into us. Like all my buddies, this was Pop's way of earning my respect. I lived every day, we all did, with that fear-driven, messed up respect drilled in at any opportunity they all had to deliver it. I know I carry that fear still. It haunts me, hearing myself bully everyone around me with my mouth at any given frustration almost every day.
Pops was so much older than Mother. To this day, I find myself wanting to beat the crap out of other old men. All over a rage that can sometimes come on, just because they're stupid enough to wander around town with grey hair. All that fear I still live over those beatings handed down from that shitty-old, bully of a man.
This is how he learned to build respect for my Gramps, through his own growing-up years. Across many days of his own childhood circus of a life, there were days Pops would disappear from view for awhile. He wouldn't turn up at school or anywhere else in town. Like he disappeared from the planet, Pops was nowhere to be seen, most times in line with Gramps drunken pay-day binges, drunken nightmares just like all the men of his generation pulled together as some kind of reward for all their hard weeks work.
When Pops did finally show back up as a kid to shoot some hockey in the street, bloodied as he'd sometimes still be, and staring into nothing but the dirt as if the other kids couldn't see, everybody he hung-out with, knew exactly what he'd been put through. Like my own buddies, they wouldn't say a thing. They'd just get back into the play, Pops allowed back in, as if he'd never been away from them at all. As if, nothing shitty had happened to him at the hands of dear-old Gramps.
Mother filled me in on all of that, about my old-man's life as a kid. The beatings from Pops towards me, were nothing like Gramps threw at Pops, driving fearful respect into my old man. My own insides would flop back-and-forth between feeling sorry for my Pops, and hating him for how he treated both Mother and I. I guess he did try to be a better man than his old-man was to him. Mother got her licks too. I wasn't ever able to feel at all sorry for him over that. I wish, still, she'd stood up for herself. She never did.
It sure as hell didn’t matter at all to me anymore. None of it. Not on moving day. I was leaving and vowed to myself to NEVER come back. I was off to school. To college. The first in our family, bright enough to go.
Pops and Mother, I knew, in their way they were proud. Mother was sure to let me know about it too. Pops didn't say a thing. His way of showing his pride for me was always dead frigging silence. But I could imagine, hearing him inside my head, telling the boys at the mill all about his son the pretty nurse, cracking-off his lame jokes about me to entertain his always captive audience in the lunch-room at the mill.
Pops was a totally different man away from home, hanging with the boys. Everyone out there in that blind and ignorant to reality world, they loved the man. Mother loved him too. So did I, deep down inside, somewhere under all the garbage memories he'd planted like weeds.
I tried hard to let him know I loved him. Tried so for years, practically begging to get close to him. Give the old-shit a bit of a hug, and most often I'd hear the same garbage from him.
"Get off-a-me. God-damn sissy."
Pops cringed at the thought of affection like that from any boy. I always wondered why. Heading off to college, finally, all I could see inside my head was Pops making an asshole of himself, taking out his covered-over weakness on his own kin, just to get a laugh out of the other, brutalized little-grown men stuck working down at that mill.
In the movie running in my head, I saw Pops celebrating his only son's success in life by showing my doctored-up graduation pictures around, just to get a laugh. I watched inside as the reel played by, him having altered the symbol of my greatest accomplishment to date.
I could see him, plain as day, spending all that time in that cellar with the paints he had down there. Pops was an incredible artist, back in the day. He didn't do any painting for his own sake anymore. He didn't draw. I never saw the man pick up a book. But inside this bullied-to-a-pulp little brain of mine, in the movie playing inside my head, I saw him laughing as he worked with his pencils and his paints, making sure he'd fixed that picture all up. A picture of me, his sissy son, wearing my nice white dress and pretty little hat, holding my bouquet of roses and smiling nice with painted on lipstick for added effect.
After he'd spent a week in the cellar, doctoring away himself at my High-School Grad picture, he rubbed it into my face, laughing and stinking from all the whiskey he drank doing is sick, hack at art downstairs.
“Get yourself in here,” Mother bellowed. “Say good-bye to the boy!” Pops moaned and grunted down the hall. Predictable, as he always did when Mother barked at him from the kitchen.
“College boy’s running away, is he? Thinks he’s something special! On his way to college! Sissy-Boy, decided to embarrass us by taking on a woman’s job. What the hell does he want to go off and be something like that for, Mother? A God-damn nurse, of all things to work at.”
“I'll be good at it, Pops. There really aren’t enough male nurses out there. Might even teach one day, you never know.” Pop's let out his usual, drunken bellow-of-a-belly laugh. Shoving Mother into her shoulder, just like he always did.
“NO SHIT! Of course they're ain't no boy nurses in the world. It's a God-damn girls job, ain't it Mother.” Then he laughed even harder. He got a real kick out of himself.
Laughing like that at every one my ideas I brought home to show him from school, was typical Pops too. He laughed that demented heckle at every one of the dreams my curiosity sent me hunting after, stalking the world for something new to learn.
He laughed like that if a cat got killed by a car. That side of his personality, always sickened me. Scared the shit out of me actually. There's no way I could live with myself if I ever turned out to have that sickest side of the man living inside of me. Always belittling me for the sake of his own dominance, he really could be a shitty little man. When he bellowed like that, it always felt like he was laughing directly into my soul, as if I was the cause of all his pain.
“Just think, Pops. In a couple Thanksgivings from now? You’ll be staring over your turkey dinner at someone who decided to make something of his life. Shitty thing you never had the balls to do that. You excited for me? Hey Pops? Or are you just scared again that your little boy might grow up to be a little better than the likes of you?”
With that little dig, he went straight downstairs, stomping his heavy feet into that stolen lumber all the way down the steps to the cellar. Mother hung her head in shame of me when I fought him off of me like that. That old bastard, he just loved any excuse in a losing battle like that with me, to head straight away. As he always did, predictable old shit, down to the cellar, crawling deep, like a bear, into his broken-down-old-man cave.
I can’t remember how old I was when I figured this little tactic out. One day, when I was still a kid, I just woke up and noticed it, I guess. Pops started hiding out in the cellar when things got a little rough for his weakness to handle upstairs. Too much honesty or emotion, get to any of his truth inside about himself and Pops was gone. Down into the cellar. His haven, I supposed. We all need places to hide. I had the mountains. Pops, and many of his cronies, had private hiding spots for themselves to retreat into when reality was too much to take.
By the time my little moving day had rolled around, Pops had learned the hard way to keep his distance physically from me. If I mouthed him off and he stood up or moved towards me, I stood up too, pushing him back on his heels with only my eyes for weapons by then. I didn’t take being punched around anymore.
It only took one punch one day, he knew I’d learned to hit back. I hit him so hard his eyes rolled back in his head and he dropped to the floor, shaking like a chicken. Pops hit his head on the kitchen counter too when he fell. I thought I'd killed the little shit.
When he came around, downstairs he went. I scared the hell out of him. I doubt anybody ever knocked him to ground like that. He was known around town to put up a pretty good fight. Actually, for me, it didn't feel right really. I kind of felt sorry for him, after I'd got my own lick in. Something though happens to a boy, they say, when he finally reaches that point of being tougher than the old-man. I felt I could finally handle myself against him, sure enough. With Mother's help, it didn't take me too long to feel only shame again, after he'd hauled his ass downstairs.
On moving day, after he stomped off and slammed his way down to his little den, feeling sorry for himself, I hugged Mother good-bye, headed straight for the back door, tossed my stuff into my crappy old Datsun Station Wagon, fired-up that piece of shit and drove away.
After the first few miles into the mountains, I actually tasted a little relief. "Bring on the dream of nursing." I thought. My substitute decision because I didn't have it in me to risk failing on my way to becoming a doctor. I think I maybe even felt a smile.
I found out after Pops died why he enjoyed the cellar so much. When I went down there finally, I was never allowed down there as a kid, after a little digging around I found he'd left behind a full case of whiskey in an old pantry cupboard. It was crammed inside behind an empty toolbox marked EXPLOSIVES. Sneaky, the old-man.
Good thing I found that whiskey. That's all I got to remember him by. I didn't paint, so those antique brushes of his went straight into the trash.
Tricky move, I thought when I found it there. I guess he thought by marking the box the whiskey was hiding behind with EXPLOSIVES, Mother would stay away from that side of the room, with it potentially blowing up and all. Mother was never known to be all that bright.
She was a laughing stock herself from all the bitches living in this town. She kept away from that box alright. She still hasn’t questioned the fact that the dynamite had never been there. As far as Mother is concerned, there’s dynamite in that box, to this very day. As a matter of fact, she’s absolutely convinced of it, I made sure of that.
Nursing wasn’t really my dream. Like I said, I wanted to be a doctor, I just didn't have the guts to chase that one to death. Mother dreamed of nursing when she was that age in her own life. Pop’s dream coming out of high-school was “wiring the electricity”. I knew, wiring for a living, I would’ve died trying that. Nursing was the lesser of both of their evils and the closest to my own dream.
I've never really had any dreams, other than doctoring of my own since. Once the move came about and I’d made it over the hill, things went as I expected. It was a damn-cold, stinking waste of two full-out, depressing frigging months in absolute hell. I ran back home, scared to death, broken and vowing never to give that college thing a try again.
What scared me off? It was a simple matter of confusing what it would mean to be in a room full of gals, practicing bed-baths. At eighteen and never brave enough even to shower with the other boys in the locker room, let's just say I was a couple inches shy of wanting to get naked in front of the female portion of the nursing class.
Pops died six months after I came back home. Twenty-five years ago last week.
Pops once moaned, after reaching his own twenty-five year milestone, “You think after twenty-five years a man would get a God-damn gold watch or something.” He screamed that out to us all through one pay-day from down in his cave. I didn’t really understand it. I could never figure out what he was so frigging drunk and upset about. Not for the longest time.
I get it now. Yep, I understand old Pops now, pretty much all the way.
Mother’s still alive. She can’t remember day-to-day who I am most of the time. But, God-damn-it, she’s still frigging alive. How do I spend my days? I spend them at the mill. I started my own lumber-tossing grindstone existence right after Pops died. It’s a little hard to knock someone’s face off or strike him down dead from the grave, I figured.
It was one of those, screw-it-all decisions we sometimes make, the best decision about my own life I could come up with at the time. That old bastard. He was right. Once a man gets himself into that saw-dust farm of living hell, it is a trap.
There's one thing. Pops was certainly right about that.
My nights, like Pops, I reserve those for the cellar. It took a bit of time getting used to the idea. Now it's the only place left on the earth, that this heathen-of-a-man feels safe. I wander down, every night after choking down Mother's demented effort of a supper.
Pop’s left-over whiskey aged nicely over time. Like the best of wines, I tell myself. I learned to pour it into me from watching him over the years. It takes away the numbness of living that shitty mill-life I fell into. I feel that death, every second without the whiskey poured in me at the end of it. The flask in my boot works well through my days, humping out lumber so other man's mansions grow bigger in status for them up on the mountain of High Hill.
The Cellar. That's like going to a frigging spa now for me. A gift of genetic inheritance, planted into me long ago from a broken, drunken, pissed-off little man. His legacy to me, I guess, certainly was the best dowry that mess of a man could provide.
I get him now, though, like I said. I know exactly why Pops put together his EXPLOSIVE little treasure box. I've lost count of how many cases I’ve stuffed into that cupboard and behind that box now since inheriting Pop's cave of a hiding place.
It’s a good-enough life. God-granted, it's as good a life as I’ve ever deserved living. I plan on hammering out my remaining days down in that dismal little cave from here, waiting patiently for Mother to die.
The musty smell of the dirt walls, down below. The damp cold, always in the air. The webs of death strung across the dismal grey concrete. That hole in the floor, the place Pops once did, and now I go to piss.
Living down there at night, shook me up a bit at first. It felt like his ghost was down there, bitching at me to leave. The whiskey took some getting used to. But I've grown into it. The burn of whiskey as it first hits the tongue, what once was an effort to swallow, it sure as hell don't bother me now.
"Believe-You-Me," as Pops would say. I know how to finish out my life in the sanctity of that cellar. This copy-cat existence seems perfectly natural to me, today. No need for anyone to worry, don't anybody worry about me, I'll be alright.
I would have made a useless, drunken, messed-up nurse or doctor anyway. I love it down in The Cellar-My Place to Reflect. That dynamite whiskey is my best friend. It's like a little bit of heaven to me now, down there in that dank old cave.
And don't any one of you folks worry about that dynamite either.
"Believe-You-Me," when I tell ya. I know how to handle that TNT . . . I learned from the best.
Darren Michael Gregory. August 12th, 2014
Vilayanur Ramachandran: Does Brain Make Mind?
Disclaimer: These materials and resources are presented for educational purposes only. They are not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. If you have concerns, contact your health care provider, mental health professional, or your community health centre.
Darren Gregory © 2014: All Rights Reserved
Certified: Community & Workplace Trauma Educator Traumatology Institute.
Associate Member American Academy Of Experts In Traumatic Stress.