For people in the US, Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m thankful for…
- My freedom
- My wife
- My survival
- My friends
- Star Trek
Sometimes life is hard. But just surviving those hard times makes me thankful. I’m thankful that when I tried to take my life as a child, I failed. I’m thankful for all the stupid little things that kept me alive in the midst of abuse. I’m thankful that these things gave me a reason to wait just another day or even hour. I’m very thankful.
I spent much of my childhood terrified that I was going to be killed by classmates (there are a few instances where I think it was but for a miracle that they didn’t). Much of it was without friends, only tormenters. I remember almost feeling like I was looking at myself from the outside, being burned, punched, spit on, urinated upon, and things even worse than this. I remember the humiliation of it all, and it still hurts – 20 or even 25 years later. I remember being locked in seclusion for two weeks straight while at school because I told the truth (I didn’t do it. Really.). I remember running for my life, running to a teacher, where I was laughed at and told to be a man. I remember other abuse, and the shame that comes with it. I wanted to disappear most of the time, even as I was crushed under the loneliness of my life.
I know that others can relate. Others have stories even more horrifying, although I would never try to compare one form of hopelessness, humiliation, and shame with someone else’s. In the end it takes a miracle to make it through it.
My miracle came in many forms. It was often something very small, something that just gave me a reason to make it through one more day or maybe just one more hour. I mentioned I’m thankful for Star Trek. Sometimes just wanting to watch the next episode of The Next Generation was enough to give me a reason – something I desperately wanted at the same time I desperately wanted to die – to hold off, at least for a little bit. There were plenty of other things – maybe I told someone I’d help them with something. Maybe my cat curled up in my lap. Maybe I wanted to finish the chapter of the book. These might seem like small things, but they aren’t. They were life and death. They gave me just enough reason to hold off.
I am thankful to God for putting those things in my life. Star Trek wasn’t made to save my life. It was made to sell advertising for a bunch of products that people didn’t know they needed. Yet somehow that was sufficient when I needed it, as were the hundreds of other things used to give me just enough hope or just enough reason to wait it out.
I’m so very glad I waited it out. It’s not because of any strength of character or supernatural ability. It was stupid little things. No, that’s not right – it was because of the miracles that God put in my life to turn my focus away from the horrors of my reality, for just a little bit.
I’m thankful that this is no longer my reality, and I’m thankful for this in my autistic friends who also somehow made it through childhood. My life is a good life today. I have a wonderful wife. I live in a nice town, a full day’s drive from the hell hole of my childhood. I have a great job. Nobody has tried to urinate on me, burn me, rape me, or assault me for the last 17 years – about half my life now. I don’t feel that shame or humiliation that was so incredibly horrible and hopeless. Things did get better, from the minute I left my hometown at 4:00 AM on the first day I could (that is, the first day that the dorms opened at my university at 8:00 AM, a 4 hour drive away from home). I’ve been able to come to peace with my childhood – recognizing the horrors that no innocent child should ever know, while also recognizing it’s affect – good and bad – on my character and who I am today. I’m thankful for the empathy it has given me.
So things did get better for me. But, still, I’m most thankful for those times when I was 8, 9, 12, 14, 16 or whatever when the only thing that I could see that was worth staying alive for was the next episode of Star Trek. Perhaps our perseverations aren’t merely deficits or disordered. Perhaps they are survival.
Along with my prayers of thanksgiving this holiday will be prayers for those who feel they don’t have hope or must endure another day of abuse on this holiday. I’m praying for miracles. If that’s you, please find something – ANYTHING – that can get you through this day. It’s okay if it seems stupid or small. It’s not if it gets you through another day. Don’t worry about tomorrow if that’s too much – focus on just getting through the here and now. I don’t know what you’re going through, and I can’t pretend I know how much pain you’re in. I just know that I endured a lot of pain, a lot of abuse, a lot of hopelessness, and I’m glad today that I made it through. I’m glad you somehow have made it this far, against all odds. And I’m thankful for that miracle too, even while I pray and hope for your next miracle.