Monday, April 9, 2018

Hey Coach... The revealing footnotes

I have been thinking about how life is really just about being subjected to one trauma after another with intermittent periods of joy and mundane periods in between.  Each trauma causes a gash.  Some are only but a scratch, others very deep.  Society doesn’t foster the healing of these wounds.  It is more interested in a quick fix, a swift resolution so we learn to not deal with them and just shove them under the carpet.  Even in the case of the death of a loved one it’s considered acceptable, healthy even to show your emotions during the wake and funeral but society expects you to be done with it after the body or ashes are laid to rest.  Emotions at work aren’t good for business and emotions in public tend to make everyone very uncomfortable.  We talk about mental health a lot but it’s just words.  Until we get comfortable opening up to our emotions and giving room to let them flow freely it’ll still all just be talk.  Eventually we can become quite raw, bleeding profusely on the inside from so many unhealed cuts.  At that point it’s almost overwhelming trying to heal the mess but it’s really never too late.  And once the main lesions are healed, the others get the extra blood flow that they need, the healing process gains momentum and you begin to feel more and more free.  

After my Hey Coach… post last week, I have been going through a whirlwind of emotions.  I have been feeling so very vulnerable like in that dream where you realize that you are naked in a public place and you try to hide.  Did you already have such a dream?  Pretty sure it’s a common dream?  But for me the past few days, instead of trying to run and hide I decide to just look up and then I notice that everyone else is naked also.  That is what healing feels like for me.  It’s noticing that we all feel naked and afraid deep down, but realizing that we don’t need to hide. 

The tears that have been flowing these past days are not the tears of a 50 year old man.  They are tears from the teenage boy who couldn’t shed them 35 years ago.  They are tears from the teenage boy who is finally being hugged so very tightly by every single one of you who have shown me support.  My inner child has come up to the surface this past week finally able to fully feel his pain.  The only way to freedom from pain is through it.  Thank you for accompanying me on this journey.  

I realized this week that I have kept this secret for so long mostly because the teenage boy inside of me was afraid of rejection.  At his age, the only thing that matters is acceptance.  Teenagers spend all of their time trying to gain acceptance and belonging.  Thank you for making me and my inner child feel accepted even as a survivor.  I know that this doesn’t really make sense, but remember that the logic is that of a young teenage boy.   In a very strange way the past few days were almost like I was attending my own funeral, reading the comments and messages of respect, love and support from friends and even strangers.  Your words were so very humbling.  Like at a funeral, each note brought a tear to my eye releasing so much pain and anger as it trickled down my cheek.  It was the agony that was dying but it is my soul that can now finally rest in a certain peace.   You often hear stories of people confessing their secrets on their death beds in order to free themselves before passing.  I just couldn’t wait until I was on my death bed.

The Hey Coach… post took over a year to get written but in reality it has been like 35 years in the making.  The final version was the 5th or 6th time that it had been written, each version becoming softer as the pain and anger left me.  In some way I kindof feel like I didn’t write it, that I was just the scribe writing the words down, the thoughts coming to me from my emotional heart, communicated in streams mostly on solo bike rides or during yoga.  All that I had to do was listen to the truth that was being funneled out to the world through me.  I've known that the letter needed to be written a long time ago but my psychologist insisted that I wait until the end of the healing steps to see if I still felt the need to share it. As my therapy continued, I still continued to feel like I had to tell my story because keeping it a secret still felt like I had done something wrong, that I had something to hide.

I choose a written letter posted online.  In a way it was a cowardly way to do it because I could hide behind the written words, behind an online avatar.  A vlog (video) would have been more personal but I know for sure that I did not have the guts or the ability to keep my shit together on video.  Writing comes more naturally to me and was the best way for me to ease into raising my hand and speaking up.

I choose to keep Mr BMX Coach anonymous because the post wasn’t written for him.  It was written for me.  In many ways my intentions were very self-serving.  It was written as a personal pain and anger purge so that Mr BMX Coach can no longer continue to hurt me.  Mr BMX Coach is simply a character in MY narrative.  I did not keep Mr BMX Coach anonymous in order to protect him.  I chose to keep him anonymous because I wanted the post to be about what I was feeling and not a jab at getting back at him, at getting even which would have come from a place of anger.  The whole point was to purge the hate inside of me.  We cannot beat hate with more hate.  Only love can beat hate.

I do understand that there is a difference between someone who is gay and a molester.  The teenager inside of me still has a very messed up understanding of this difference because his view is shadowed by his traumatic experience.  Like I said, the adult in me does understand the difference and I apologize if I made any of my gay friends feel like they had to point out that gay is not the same as molester.  Sorry if my post came out like that.

To my family, I apologize if sharing my story the way that I did came out as me airing our dirty laundry in a public forum.  We talked about it beforehand, but I’m still sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable.  I’m really not sure if you felt this way once I pulled the trigger but if you did I’m sorry.  It was just what I had to do.  I was just too sick and tired of living this lie.

I am a human being. I am no better than you because I shared my story.  And in a way I don’t want this to be a boost to my ego making me think that I am better than Mr BMX Coach.  It’s not about deciding who wins.  It’s about healing.  We’re all in this together, walking each other home.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hey coach...

Up until now, literally only a handful of people knew this about me.  Because of this, I guess you can call it one of my secrets, a skeleton in my closet.  Secrets are always there, lies that we tell ourselves, constantly weighing in on us.  They are a lie because they are the opposite of what it means to be real and honest since you have made the decision to keep them hidden.  And a lie is like the very first cancer cell or the first speck of rust on your car.  It’s easy to not notice it at first, but in time it becomes heavier and heavier, growing until it reaches a point where it infects all aspects of your life.  I believe that our lies and secrets can and will eventually make us physically sick and/or have a major psychological impact on our life.  Health is not just exercising and eating the right food, it always has to be in balance with our psyche, our emotions.  I’ve known this for a long time now and know that it’s time to open myself up and come clean.  I believe that we are meant to live an authentic life.  Living with authenticity means freedom.  But authenticity isn’t about half truths.  It’s an all or nothing deal and I am tired of living a half-life.

I am a sexual abuse survivor.  I’ve always known that what happened to me wasn’t my fault.  But I was still uncomfortable talking about it.  Actually, I have done a whole lot of work in the past year before reaching this point and finally deciding to share my secret.  I didn’t do anything wrong and by keeping it a secret it makes me feel like I did.

Over 35 years ago, a relationship that had started two years earlier escalated to physical acts of sexual abuse towards me.  As a young teenage boy I had always felt a certain eeriness towards my BMX coach, but my love for the sport always caused me to push aside my intuition.  Growing up there was really only hockey and a bit of baseball and soccer that people cared about but I never really felt like I fit in those sports.  Then all of that changed when you approached me and my friends Mr BMX coach to help us finish building the track that we had started in an old pit and organize a real BMX race.  I was so happy to finally have an adult-lead, organized infrastructure around “my” cycling sport that gave me the chance to shine, to be someone, to be me, to practice what I loved.  From that point on, all I wanted to do was ride and race my bike. Looking back, you certainly felt this Mr BMX coach and used it for your own gain.  As the sport grew locally in the next few years so did your influence on me Mr BMX coach.  You took me to bigger races including the Eastern Canadian championships in Quebec.  At the time it was a dream come true for me but I now realize what you really had in mind with that trip.

You are now openly gay Mr BMX coach, but at the time you had a girlfriend and told me to never tell anyone about your acts towards me and that it was normal for straight guys to occasionally have sexual experiences with other guys and that it didn’t mean that they were gay.  You needed to tell me this, since it was in the early 1980s, a time when being gay was not only uncool, but something that had to be hidden, something that could get you beat up, something that was considered a sin, especially in a small catholic town like the one where I grew up.  I was young, green, immature and very confused.  You were an adult and you should have known better than to take advantage of or violate a minor like me.  For so very long I wanted to tell you to fuck off but very slowly that urge has now slowly began to subside.

I am lucky in the sense that the whole thing only lasted a few months before I told my parents and stopped having any contact with you from that point on.  But the very intense and uncomfortable feelings associated with the whole experience were never dealt with.  At the time, as a young teenage boy, I didn’t know how to handle all of these overwhelming feelings so I just brushed them off and stuffed them deep down as best as I could.  I thought that time would make everything better and enable me to forget.  That’s what society kept telling me, that time would heal all wounds.  And I had managed to convince myself that I was doing fine with all of this until my concussion in 2016 which seems to have brought everything back up to the surface.  Maybe that was the whole reason for hitting my head?  I believe that the universe’s wisdom works in strange ways in guiding us to healing and wholeness.  Our job is to pay attention.

Looking back, I now realize that I was never was OK with the abuse since the feelings always lingered even if they were buried, locked up deep inside.  Most times these feelings were inactive or asleep in the background, but then certain things or events would bring them up every once in a while.  And when they did, I tried my best to stuff them back in.  I lived in a constant unconscious state of unease, frustration and had periods of being quite angry especially when I was a young adult which made me reckless at times.  My deep hatred towards you Mr BMX coach overflowed into everything.  And it made me so very angry at life.  I used to fantasize about beating the crap out of you, but could never act on these feelings since I really am not a violent person.  These feelings really didn’t align with my true personality which really made me feel even worse.  I was living a half-life, trying to look happy on the outside but I still had this beast living inside of me, dormant at times, but always there ready to rear its ugly head and really stir up my emotions.  Because of this, I found ways to tame this beast, but it was usually by taking it out on myself through unconscious self- punishment.  It was like I constantly needed to prove my masculinity, my heterosexuality, my toughness and prove that I was a “real man”.  Physical suffering seemed to be the best way to avoid feeling the feelings.  I worked relentlessly in creating an outer image as a hardened bike racer constantly trying to prove my worth.  I thought that building a rigid exterior was the way to protect myself from these painful feelings and it did seem to be working but I was also blocking out all of the important people in my life in the process while still keeping these toxic feelings locked up inside of me, rotting away at my soul.  

As a young teenager, I did not have the tools and/or knowledge to deal with all that I was feeling.  But I am no longer that young teenage boy anymore.  And now the feelings don’t seem to be as scary as they once were.  They can be very unpleasant, unbearable even when I let them come up, but the more that I sit with them and talk openly about them, the more they dissipate and the more that I feel free.  The best thing about being broken is that you get to put the pieces back together better than they were before.  I understand this work as ongoing but I am honestly beginning to feel a noticeable shift inside of me.  The abuse had caused me to close so very tight and now I feel like I’m beginning to re-open.

I am writing it for me Mr BMX Coach, not for you.  I mostly don’t wish you any harm any more.  It’s not my job to make you pay for what you did or to get even.  Karma takes care of that.  In that sense, I guess you could say that I simply hope that you have or will seek the help that you need and wish you well.  I forgive you.  I’m not saying that I agree with what you did or am saying that it was OK but I am forgiving you in order to free myself of this pain and move on.  

To all of my gay friends, I apologize if I unconsciously made you feel like I didn’t like you because you are gay.  If I did make you feel this way, it was simply a misplaced hatred towards Mr BMX coach who really messed up my concept of what being gay meant.  Again, if I made you feel rejected or not accepted in any way because of your sexual orientation, I apologize.  I am not gay and it really doesn’t matter to me if you are attracted to men or women.  I love you because you are a good human.  It is that simple.

To all of the young boys that Mr BMX coach came in contact with after my traumatic experience, if any of you went through the same thing that I did, I apologize for not coming forward thus preventing Mr BMX coach to continue to be involved in activities and organizations involving young boys.  Again, I’m sorry.

To live an authentic life, to be whole is to accept it all because that’s what we are.  We are all of it, the pleasant and the unpleasant.  To really accept something and to be healed is to be comfortable sharing and being completely open about it all.  No more lies, no more fake masks and facades, completely transparent and vulnerable.  I am working hard trying to hopefully one day reach this point.  

Here is a follow-up to this post: 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Happily swerving out of control

For the longest time, for as long as I can remember, whenever I became anxious or stressed about something, I always asked myself the following question:  “What’s the worst that can happen?”  I’m not sure if I learned this worst case scenario question from my parents or if it’s common knowledge that I picked up growing up?  But even as an adult, I still ask myself the question regularly.  I’m nervous for a presentation or meeting.  What’s the worst that can happen?  My mind could go blank and I could totally embarrass myself.  People listening may not buy into what I’m saying and think that I am an idiot.  For every single thing that makes us nervous, anxious or scares us there are almost an unlimited number of answers to the question.  And arguably the absolute worst thing that could possibly happen in any given circumstance is that it could kill me.  Arguably, the absolute worst case scenario anytime is that I could die.

If like me you also believe this to be true, that the absolute worst thing that could happen in any situation is that you could die, then the absolute worst thing that could happen is also the ONLY thing that is 100% certain to eventually happen.  Think about that for a minute.  The worst case scenario at any given time is the only thing that is certain in our life.  That in itself should wake us up…  

I have been thinking about death a lot lately.  If death is the only thing that is 100% certain, shouldn’t we be spending more time getting ready for it compared to all of the “what ifs” that we spend so much time trying to prepare for just in case they happen?  Most of our time is spent preparing for an unpromised future, getting an education, moving up the corporate ladder, accumulating stuff, exercising and eating the right foods (or thinking that we should exercise and eat the right foods), saving money for retirement, all considered to be short term suffering for long term gain. We spend so much time working towards our “goals” like we’re told to since apparently these“goals” are of the upmost importance so we comply because we’ve been brainwashed.  We have been conditioned to believe that we are in control and that salvation is in the future as long as we keep working at it and never give up.  What we are actually doing is spending all of our time and energy preparing for what our ego would LIKE to happen.  But eventually we all realize that things don’t always go like we had planned and envisioned.  And whenever that happens we suffer.

Like it or not death is a certainty.  It’s part of the deal.  It’s also as natural as being born.  Whatever you are doing at any time during any day, someone has died doing that exact same thing.  Even if I do every single thing right, with the best intentions, working so very hard towards reaching my “goals”, all it takes is for one of my cells to go sideways or a split second in the wrong place at the wrong time and it’s all done in an instant.  When I was younger I was terrified of death.  My young child mind was afraid of the physical pain that I would need to endure for everything to end in the absolute worst case scenario.  Another big part of my fear was the unknown aspect of the after-life, the rest of it was that I felt like death was such a taboo subject that made everyone, including myself, very uncomfortable and because of that it must be something extremely bad.  I’m not really afraid to die anymore.  I’m not ready to go yet, I like it here, but I’m not afraid of passing when my time comes.  It feels safe for some reason now.

I believe that regular contemplation of our mortality actually helps us live a better and happier life.  I find myself more and more appreciating the impermanence of certain moments of peace and love in my life.  I think to myself “if I live long enough, someday I will remember and miss the experience of this very moment”.  And when I do I just pause a little longer to really take it in.  This is such a simple thing that makes such a big difference.  It’s the difference between true happiness and temporary pleasure.  For so very long I lived at a very fast pace, always worried that I didn’t have enough time, trying to check off as many things off of my bucket list.  But now I am beginning to realize that life isn’t a race, that the best that life has to offer is in the mundane, day to day moments like laughing from the bottom of your heart during a family discussion about nothing really on a Tuesday night after supper sitting at home at the kitchen table.  That’s the good stuff right there.  And too often we don’t take the time to appreciate it as it should.  We just brush it off because we think that happiness is in the big stuff, the bucket list content.

Most of us, including myself, just don’t get it.  We just don’t get that this is all temporary, that life on the physical plane is really but a fleeting illusion, that our time here is so very brief, that our interactions with the energies in this world are but a very short-term project, that all of this is impermanent.  We’re all dying.  Some faster than others.  I am beginning to understand that freedom is just a matter of letting go.  Letting go of expectations.  Letting go of thinking that we need to do something big before our number comes up.  Letting go of control.  The irony in this is that we were never in control to begin with.  Control is a myth, an illusion that our mind believes to be true.  If we’re honest with ourselves, deep-down in our gut we know that we’re not the ones in control and that really scares us.  Society likes the fact that we are unconsciously afraid because it ensures that we keep looking outside ourselves for salvation and security.  Being afraid makes us ideal consumers.  Being afraid also makes us controllable.  Society thrives under fear.  That’s why wars and serious diseases are so profitable.

The greatest lesson in Type 1 gaming is in relinquishing control.  Type 1 Diabetes is really a constant reminder that life isn’t under control and death is always lingering.  Every single time insulin is injected, the gamer’s life is saved.  And this is on your mind 24-7.  Resisting it consumes you.  They tell us that Type 1 Diabetes can be controlled with insulin but I don’t think that control is the best term to use.  To me being in control of my car means driving safely in my lane.  The blood sugar control that synthetic insulin gives Type 1 gamers is closer to my car swerving all over the place, crossing the yellow line, on the shoulder just barely avoiding crashing into the ditch and that’s on a good day.

I know that Type 1 Diabetes came into my life to teach me to let go of control.  The day that Adele was diagnosed, I vowed to be the perfect pseudo-pancreas for as long as she was in my care.  I vowed to control Type 1 Diabetes perfectly.  Letting go of this has been so very difficult for me, especially now that Adele is maturing into adulthood.  It feels like it’s slowly killing me.  But I need to surrender to it.  I need to surrender through my own healing.  On the most basic level, living is really but a continuous series of suffering trauma and healing from it.  Our only purpose is to heal.  Everything else falls into place from there.  Of that I am now sure.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

I have been turning right

Every Wednesday night, I drive into the small strip mall parking lot on Ruffin Street in Dieppe.  Once in the parking area, on my left is the Crossfit gym, on my right is Shanti Yogi.  Every Wednesday night I have to choose which way I turn.  I always turn right.

I have never been a Crossfit gym member, but I did do a few Crossfit classes 10-15 years ago when the whole thing was starting as cross training for cycling.  The Crossfit motto is “Forging Elite Fitness”.  And I am convinced that Crossfit definitely works if heightened fitness is your goal.  Once you think you’re fit and strong enough, the next step is entering a Crossfit competition to test yourself against others.  Not long ago I would certainly have been all over Crossfit with its “No Pain No Gain” culture, but today I know that I will never do Crossfit again. 
At the beginning of each yoga class, the instructor asks us to scan our entire body from head to toe to notice how it feels.  Are certain areas tense?  Are other areas sore or aching?  Does our body feel restless?  Is our breathing smooth or laboured?  At the end of the class, the instructor asks us the same question.  And every single time, no matter how I felt as I stepped onto my yoga mat at the beginning of class, I always feel better afterwards.  I always feel more grounded.  I always feel more at peace.  Strangely I always feel better without even trying really since for me yoga is really just a practice of taking the time to slow down my mind and body, sitting down with what is, feeling it, embracing it instead of wanting things to be different and wanting to feel better.  Yoga is in no way a competition.  There is no comparison with others.  Yoga is simply acknowledging our true selves through mindful movement and breathing.  Yoga is based on our truth, authenticity and wholeness.  And all of these things breed healing, wellness and health.

Most people confuse fitness and health.  They look at the very lean athlete and automatically think of him/her as the ultimate picture of health.  But in reality fitness and health are actually two different things and even quite often exclusive.  Peak fitness can’t be maintained for very long whereas health can.  I am not even close to being as fit as I was 2-3 years ago but even with the lingering post-concussion syndrome I have never felt healthier.  Even when the symptoms come, like when I try to rush, to do something fast, even if the feeling in my head is one of disconnection with the outside world, I can’t help but notice how much more connected I feel to my inside, to my body, to my true self, to my soul.  I still can’t do what I used to before hitting my head but I’ve come to the point now where I don’t really mind anymore.  I am now realizing that maybe what I was doing isn’t what I am meant to do anymore.

Scrolling through pictures from the last Fat Bike race I can appreciate the amazing photos and the smiles on the riders’ faces, but for some reason, for the first time in as long as I can remember I don’t miss being part of those races.  That drive that I used to feel is dissolving.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy riding my bike.  I am still completely madly in love with riding.  It’s just that I don’t feel the need to go faster than I did yesterday.  I don’t feel the need to go faster than anyone else.  I don’t need to set a goal for the upcoming year.  I am simply content every single time that I hop on the saddle and turn the pedals riding at whatever speed I feel like at that moment.  I remember feeling this way when I first learned how to ride a bike, but then gradually I began to compare myself and become obsessed with improvement, results and number to tell me that I was successful at playing the bike game.  Riding my bike and focusing on the numbers had become my favorite vulnerability avoidance strategy.  I had turned left.  My riding had become my Crossfit.  Now, like every Wednesday night, I always turn right. My riding has become my yoga.

It’s hard to explain how much my concussion has changed me.  The past few years have been the most difficult in my life but I am now beginning to see how these struggles have molded a new me.  Or maybe they simply chiseled away at the parts of me that were never real, the outer shell that I had created to try to protect myself?   Even if it sounds cliché, in so many ways I feel like a new and better person.  Strangely I have noticed so much stress melt away since ending my “just for fun” bike racing career.  Even if bike racing has given me so very much in terms of life experiences and friendship, I am starting to question the whole competitive nature of sport that society has created.  Even friendly competition breeds separation and right now I feel like the universe needs more connection rather than separation.

Now don’t take this the wrong way.  I am in no way bashing Crossfit, bike racing or other competitive sports as a complete waste of time.  Maybe it’s an age thing but I don’t feel attracted to the challenges that competition provides anymore?  I am at a point in my life where I am beginning to question what society has been telling me that I should strive for.  Everyone is looking for the secret to “success”, but what does that even mean?  What does being successful look like?  Is it in our exterior accomplishments and accolades?  Is it being a champion, the best at what we decide to do?  What about the homeless guy living on the street?  Is he successful because he’s managed to not die even if society really would like him to?  Competitive sports are only important because society has decided to give them such importance.  Hockey is important and cool in Canada because we decided that it was (which was certainly influenced by the fact that we were also good at it).  Cycling is popular and important in France because the people who live there have decided that it was.  When human animals decided to live in communities it was to help each other.  Times were tough and they all benefitted by working together.  These communities were based on connection and not on competition.  But when we take a look at our communities today, this connection has been mostly lost, replaced by separation, by competition, me against you.  Is our power pyramid society structure really serving us or making us miserable?  

My blog posts get written over many weeks as a bunch of thoughts jotted down as ideas as they pop into my head.  Since I began writing this post, I have since started to notice that I have been physically feeling better and better.  Initially I thought that it was just my normal post-concussion syndrome recovery pace but then it hit me that this sudden improvement in many ways coincided with a change in my diet last month.  I have cut pretty much all food with added sugar and have reduced my carbs.  I have been reading about low-carb / high fat diets promoting neurogenesis, the birth of new brain cells, something that would seem important when recovering from a concussion so I decided to give it a try.  Now I’d say that my diet is only at about 60-65% Paleo.  I have completely cut carbs at breakfast and have reduced carbs at lunch and supper.  I am still not on a true Paleo diet.  I also fast for 14-15 hours once per week.  Even with these minor changes I am blown away by how much better I feel.  The brain fog seems to have lifted and my focus and energy are so much better.  I’m curious and very excited to continue to experiment with this low-carb / high fat diet in regards to my recovery.  And the counterintuitive thing is that I am pretty much going against all dietary advice that I received since my concussion.  Like yoga, this is in no way a competition but rather my own journey to health and wellness.  I’m curious to continue to learn where this journey will take me…