I’m experiencing a great deal of fear and anxiety about the meeting of the tech group I set up this Thursday. Yet I still feel determined to see it through. There’s a misperception that people with chronic fatigue, thyroid disease and other ailments – that they are lazy, faking their symptoms, weak in character or uninterested in striving for personal excellence. I’ve experienced such insinuations and accusations for many, many years and the weight of hearing it so often, by so many people, has been a source of a great deal of anger and resentment.
I know of a numbered few who have worked as hard as I have or have been as determined to achieve healing and a sense of peace as I have over the course of my life. I’m not saying others haven’t worked hard or been determined, they have. But working hard is not the same thing as striving to overcome trauma – and find a way to live…to survive. I’ve known people whose lives were utterly destroyed by what they had to face. I’ve know a few folks who were so overwhelmed they committed suicide or made suicidal decisions which ended their lives. I’ve also known people who think the ordinary inconveniences of life were supreme challenges and that overcoming such things somehow proved that they were “superior” beings. There is a vast chasm between a personal drive to achieve excellence and simply trying to survive physical / emotional abuse and trauma on a daily basis. I deeply grieve for – and am deeply enraged on behalf of – those who weren’t able to find a way forward. I deeply regret not being able to share their darkness and try to help them find a sense of peace and healing. I don’t think myself superior. I grieve, and I grieve deeply. I always wish I had better understood and had done more to help.
Since 2006 I’ve been trying to find medical assistance to address my illness, but also to find a way to continue the journey of earning a living and being a good husband and father. I’ve never minded being sick. I’ve never been averse to working hard…even while sick. But in addition to being sick, I carry the added challenge of being taught to think in unhealthy ways and wrestle with the emotional damage I didn’t deserve. I don’t ask for favors or hand outs. I’m determined to not only find my own way, but help anyone else I can on this journey.
One of the things which has sustained me all these years is a spiritual struggle. I’m not trying to preach or proclaim and “one true way.” I only know what I struggle with myself…within myself.
In terms of “God”…well…I’m pretty pissed off at “God.” No child should have seen or experienced what I did as a child – and there are others who’ve seen and experienced far worse. Praying desperately as I did, while experiencing what I did, and getting no assistance or even a reply…”God” either does not seem to exist or is not willing (or interested?) in intervening.
However, I’ve always felt some form of spirituality. I don’t know why, but there does seem to be something other than all we see. Over the course of my life, I’ve been drawn to writers like Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Kierkegaard. I’ve also felt a pull towards Taoism, Buddhism and Jainism. Though I’m not a scholar, these writings have made sense to me and the best answer I can come up with as to all the “Why’s?” of the world, is that it’s simply not for me to know. This seems counter-intuitive and confusing, but in considering why things have happened to me (and others), it just seems that the deeper, ultimate questions are just not for me to know. In an odd way, this is the only thing which makes sense to me.
There is a “right” way of living as well as a “wrong” way, and my challenge has been to navigate the long, deep stretch of grey which lies between the two. Being a loving, compassionate, empathetic husband and father is “right.” Treating others whom I meet each day with the same is also “right.” Striving to heal and be at peace is “right.” Taking my pain out on others, definitely “wrong.” For me, these are a way of living and a certain perspective and understanding of life. My thoughts and assumptions are warped because of what I’ve seen and experienced…there’s more than what I think and assume. My emotions are wounded and highly reactive…there is more than the pain of what I feel. I’ve always striven for things beyond my experience, thoughts and emotions and I found guides in the writings of those I mention above.
A few years ago, I started attending various meetings of the Philadelphia Quakers. Some believe in “God,” but some are actually atheists. This may sound strange, but the premise of the Philadelphia Quakers is that all living beings have an “inner light” which guides them. It’s a vague term which basically means listening to the better parts of ourselves. There is no doctrine, no profession of beliefs, no strict adherence to bible passages or catechisms – only a striving to listen to that “inner light.” It’s actually all of what Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Kierkegaard, Taoism, Buddhism and Jainism profess: Optimism, compassion, empathy, healing oneself, helping others (not to the detriment of self), a sense of inner peace and contentment, a demand for justice and personal excellence, generosity and much more.
Today, I was able to bring my wife and son to their first meeting. I still feel uncomfortable around people in general, but I need to develop a support system of more healthy, compassionate people. These Quakers are people, just like all others, with quirks and eccentricities. But they are not the abusive, cliquish, intolerant type of folks I’ve spent most of my life with. I don’t agree with everything and there are some who annoy me and make me feel uncomfortable. But they accept me for who I am and no one try’s to tell me what to think or believe. So I’m spending time with their community and trying to find a way to relate to people who seem to be much more healthy, accepting and inclusive than any other group I’ve ever come across. The fact that my wife and son enjoyed their visit makes me feel that I haven’t misunderstood what these “Friends” (Quakers) represent and intend.
Everyone needs a support system. Especially those of us who have struggled with the effects of CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), need to find a foundation of support: We have no family to turn to or depend on. Cults, religious fanatics, political movements and causes which cloth themselves with a religious sheen all promise a better life – a life of meaning and healing. I just want to be at peace. I’m not interested in joining another exclusive club of conformity and condemnation. I’ve been lacerated too many times, in too many ways, by too many people, to sign up for anything like that again.
We’ll see how this all works out. The Tech meeting this Thursday, as with the attendance of these (Philadelphia) “Quaker” meetings is just another way I’m trying to find and develop a more healthy network and support system of people who – at the very least – aren’t as screwed up as what I’m used to and raised with. If I was “scary smart,” like Steve Wozniak or had some immense trust fund, then perhaps I wouldn’t need other people – or need them as much. But the fact is that I don’t have such advantages and I do need other people. The challenge is that I need to find others who accept me for who I am and encourage me to become all that I can be. I’ve spent far too much of my life around negative people who have rather twisted thinking and it’s high time I find the sort of people I deserve to be around.
I expect and demand nothing less for myself.
Be Well, My Friends