A First-Class Trip

I have been told, life doesn’t boil down to the opportunities one might be given. Life comes down to the decisions we make. The things we decide to do with those opportunities presented. We all have the chance to make good choices. We also have the choice to squander the opportunities we are presented. I would venture to guess for the first thirty plus years of my life, I became exceptional at squandering opportunities. Taking advantage of the hard work done before me, that allowed for comfort. The best way it seemed to fit in, was to present myself as a failure. Someone who took advantage of a fortunate circumstance and played the dummy. I allowed myself to play the fool because it felt like all I deserved. People talked about me behind my back. Whispering about my inferiority as compared to their successful lives. They were going places with relationships and careers. I was going to be left behind because of cerebral palsy and compulsive behavior. The fear and anxiety controlling my life, wouldn’t allow for me to look at myself any differently. I was playing the victim and the pawn to a group of people, at the same time. They were having fun with me being trapped inside the handicap box label. While, I continued allowing it all to transpire, feeling like negative attention was better than no attention. I had to play the role of inferiority. 

I learned in my high school years, to turn away from happiness. Watching people get bullied for what appeared to be little reason. Placing peers into personality boxes they might or might not deserve. While, I struggle with my own category of being impacted by a disability. There are times when a personality style can’t be helped. I related to the troubles, feeling as though my cerebral palsy couldn’t be helped. As people became placed into boxes by someone we all determined, occupied the top of our social food chain, he was the athlete, who dated the pretty girl. People seemed to abide by the definitions this person passed out, as he saw fit. We all seemed to fall into place with the tags we had been given. Not taking the time to process his intellectual capability to determine our places in the chain. It seemed, he had us all believing, and jockeying for position from an early point. We were given labels of crazy, handicap, dumb, thief, liar, alcoholic, too angry, too unstable, not good enough, and we all believed in these labels. Leading us to turn against one another because of the labels. I was the one handicap, angry, and emotionally unstable. Causing me to empathize with others who might have inherited challenging labels. For me, it was difficult to hear of someone being called crazy, because he perceived they would have lapses in emotional stability. I played my role to the best of my ability, trying to fit into this social ecosystem.

The pain being felt was often unrecognizable because I placed it inside an addiction. My nightly dive into sexual fantasy helped numb the pain of my defined social identity. It left me falling deeper and deeper into the desperation that allowed me to be molded by social pressure. I was putty in the hands of all the “friends” superseding me on the food chain. These social positions determined by the psychological ideas of one individual. Stepping out of line from your predetermined place meant verbal repercussions, or the rumor mill would begin behind your back. The desperation of being fancied by those at the top, meant agreement with the unhealthy behavior being chastised, and following the negative perception of an individual. The way to succeed was to remain in your predetermined place on the chain. The formation of these roles started as far back as junior high school and anyone new entering the group received their label. I would say that my role became so defined inside my head, the true peeling back didn’t begin until my mid-thirties. When I slowly began to allow the possibility of my label being inaccurate, things seemed to rotate into positive directions. But, it took a first-class seat, a dream vacation, and the threat of self-harm, to start the healing process. I never would consider going on vacation until the January of 2015. When an amazing trip turned unexplainably sour. 

The trip was so far removed from the life I was living. Our vacation involved seven days in Hawaii, staying in a resort on the beach. The warmth of the tropical air, perfectly temperature Pacific Ocean, January golf, and the sounds of children in pools, just below the rooms balcony. It was truly the picture of paradise, but nothing I could ever be worthy of experiencing. For seven days, we soaked in everything the island had to offer. As I continued to be amazed by the safety being felt in every fiber of my emotions. The life I knew back home was that of my sidekick ideology, placed upon me for years. Going from my townhouse to meet people in the dive bar. I was finding myself surrounded by people who weren’t a good fit. From a world having nothing to do with the space I was experiencing on the island. The dichotomy played on my feelings, as the week progressed. I held myself away from the sexual fantasizing that had become a daily occurrence. Leading to even more of a rapid healing of my brain. I was left without an understanding of the happenings inside my emotions. Gone were the lustful thoughts of the woman from the dive bar at home. Now, I was surrounded by sophisticated women, who grew up in a similar environment to myself. As some smiled at me, while passing them by, the confusion only grew more intense. When the time came to fly home, my feelings were the most unsettled they had ever been. Traveling back into the games of home felt like teetering on a volcanos edge, looking at hot lava, hundreds of feet below. 

Boarding the plane, homeward bound, meant going back into that life given to me in junior high school, and perfected over the years in-between. The week spent on the island had provided a taste of where I belong. After having rejected similar trips for the previous fifteen years. Not wanting to upset the social food chain, by stepping out of my designated loser role. Part of me knew, going on the trip, would leave me unacceptable in the social group. They would lose the ability to manipulate me through my desperation. Because, the trip wasn’t going to be a one-time adventure. Plans were being discussed for the following years before the plane home was boarded. There was no turning back for me, now. That old determination of who I was and the life I lived, would have to find its way out. But, the tumultuous ride of going on that journey would be unexpected. Beginning, before we even drove toward the airport in Honolulu. The last day of our trip was ideal, with the sun shining, like all the days prior. My troublesome fear of flying remained a nagging concern. But, looking back on the day more than five years later. I believe the episode of the day had more to do with traveling home, than a fear of flying. The plane was scheduled to depart in the night. Leaving around eleven, which provided the entire day for enjoyment, or so it was supposed to unfold.

I recall riding in the back of the car and experiencing the most invasive panic attack of my life. The control of my own emotions had completely left my body. The tears were flowing in a manner I hope to never experience, again. As the car traveled down an interstate in the middle part of Oahu. My past has been peppered with threats of self-harm. Threatening to jump out of house windows, or open car doors, and throw myself tumbling onto the street. Wondering if I would die, or get terribly injured in the process. I was so confused in the rear seat of that car; the world had gone completely dark. Trapped in the middle of two distinctly different feeling lives. Drowning in the darkness and my uncontrollable hysteria, I threated to open the door. But, it got locked before I could muster the courage. I thrashed around, trying to unlock the rear door by hand, but when I got it to pop, the door locked right away. Panic had taken over every inch of airspace inside the vehicle. I played calm, trying to manipulate the situation just long enough to pop the doors lock. When it finally came loose, without being able to be locked again, I began releasing its latch. As I slivered it open, those inside the car thought quicker than myself. Before I could get myself into harm’s way, the car was pulled over to the shoulder, with my door being desperately pinned closed, until it could be locked, again. At this point, my memory of the event goes blank. But, somewhere in the following moments a complete breakdown occurred, and calm followed. It was the scariest ten minutes of my life, but it changed things, forever. 

That moment, truly started the unraveling of my defining label. No longer was the predetermined social food chain going to have hold of my world. Even though, I would arrive home from that trip, trying to fall back into my role. I would find over the next months and years, it was too late. A new course of my life would be set in motion, during that scariest of episodes. Looking back years removed, it was the strongest moment I could point to, that changed a life. Hitting rock bottom seems like it would hardly ever be an easy situation and I never knew in the moment, or during the months following, rock bottom had occurred in my world. Being on a tropical vacation usually relates most to happy thoughts and pictures. Certainly, not the location of threats to self-harm. However, the dichotomy might have been the very thing needed, for the situation to have a transformational impact. What began on that afternoon in Hawaii carries itself through today. My journey of creating a heathier life continues with its multitude of steps. Some of the steps are overwhelming at first, making them incredibly challenging to accept. While, others make sense, and become able to be crossed with less psychological taxation. My blessing has been the courage to keep pushing through, continuing to climb the steps, big or small. All ruminating from one of the most terrifying experiences. With the belief that perseverance along the path of healing will ensure, an episode like the one experienced, won’t be happening again. 

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