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: