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Life and Love and Trauma: A Portrait of a Man


Born into this
Walking and living through this
Dying because of this
Muted because of this
Because of this
Fooled by this
Used by this
Pissed on by this
Made crazy and sick by this
Made violent
Made inhuman
By this

-Charles Bukowski, Dinosauria, We

This is his way. He must paint himself with words.

Too much lifetime has passed. He’s 46 and he’s tired. He’s been struggling for the majority of his life, a life that has incessantly felt like scaling a wall that he can almost but never climb over.

He finds himself thinking he’s a touch mad most of the time. Contradiction defines his wounds, and he spends much of his time walking flat land like a tightrope.

He’s analyzed his childhood and choices in adulthood over and over, pieced together why he’s struggled with depression and intimacy. He has clarity. He thought that would mean he would be able to transcend these obstacles, move on with his life and grow. But he continues to flounder and that has left him intensely frustrated and sad.

He wonders, why do I still feel stuck, chained to my past?

He thinks he might have found out why.


He turned around to face his mother
To show her the wound in his breast 
That burned like a brand
But the sword that cut him open
Was the sword in his mother’s hand

-Sting, The Lazarus Heart

He was raised by a woman. She adored him and he she. But she failed him at a critically vulnerable moment that would leave the deepest wound in his heart. Her volatile nature forced him to navigate around her emotional extremes: at once angelically nurturing and giving and then viciously critical and mean. Love and betrayal would now be inexorably wed, warping his ability to experience love with women. While she held him high, she was stained with resentment by wounds inflicted on her by men and it would undermine his vision of his gender. And in this, a war against intimacy and self was seeded in his heart.

I will never be safe
I will never be sane
I will always be weird inside
I will always be lame
Now I’m a grown man
With a child of my own
And I swear, I’ll never let her know
All the pain I have known

-Everclear, Father of Mine

He was abandoned by his father. He was molested by an older boy, having his innocence stolen. Men were manipulators or brute authority. Men didn’t protect or inspire, they didn’t teach or lead. Men didn’t love. Men were competition. Men were predators.

Rejected from birth and with no solid guide into manhood, he would doubt himself and his place in the world. He’d have to be his own guide, one angry and untrusting of his kind. And in this, the war against himself bloomed. This would lead him down dark paths, ones he barely survived.

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday

And to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me

Hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
Look right through me, look right through me

-Tears for Fears, Mad World

He grew up in a family that he never felt was completely his own. He felt abandoned, lost in new dynamics when his mother married a man, a stranger suddenly holding the title of father. And their marriage would be chaotic, abusive in word and thought, a minefield he’d have to traverse daily, a rollercoaster he had no choice but ride. When his mother would fall apart, he’d pick up her pieces, be the good son, a child supporting an adult that he could never completely appease.

And so he hid his heart away, dared not expose it even though it ached to be held. In love he’d choose safety, never risking a chance to have what his heart truly desired. He’d rather betray himself than allow another to hurt him again.

Babe, there’s something tragic about you
Something so magic about you
Don’t you agree?
Babe, there’s something lonesome about you
Something so wholesome about you
Get closer to me

-Hozier, From Eden

Now he’s sweeping up the ashes of a romantic relationship where he finally found the courage to offer his heart in a vulnerable way. It’s left him reeling, deeply hurt and coping with emotions he’s protected himself from feeling since childhood. Its season was short but intensely passionate, like a violent thunderstorm. It tore away protective layers of himself and exposed emotional framework he’d tucked in a blind spot of his mind.

Ah, those chains. They are still there, he thinks.

He fears that his script is etched in stone, that he’s stuck on some track that will just present the same situation again. And in desperation to avoid another painful head-on collision with all his past trauma, he’ll just let his heart grow cold, accept solitude or choose relationships that aren’t intimate in order to cope.

But he knows. He knows there’s no use hiding anymore, not if he wants to sever the chains of trauma that hold him fast to the past, not unless he wants to repeat the same painful dance, not if he wants to love and be loved.

He knows that he’s learned something vital in the midst of his heart’s devastation.


So here I am.

As much as I’ve wanted to let it all go, my thoughts keep returning to our relationship. There’s this nagging feeling that there’s something important to note, that I found a key to a door I didn’t know existed.

That key is the suspicion that I may suffer from PTSD. And if not that, it’s clear that my mother did and that I’ve grown up in the shadow of her undiagnosed illness.

I have never considered that I may suffer from PTSD, not until now. I’ve always focused on my struggles with depression and attributed it as the cause of the majority of my pain. But I’ve spent most of my life successfully choosing paths that kept me from confronting and moving past my traumatic childhood. It wasn’t until I found myself in a relationship where I stopped avoiding intimacy that these sleeping issues began to reveal themselves in a new light.

During my study of PTSD online I found Heidi Hanson’s blog about her journey of recovery. Unlike other resources online, I found her’s more accessible and engaging because it’s from the survivor’s perspective. She wrote a three-part post about PTSD and relationships and I started to find connections to my past and how they had revealed themselves in the stormy relationship.

I saw old blog posts of mine in a new light. The expression of my thoughts, the words and descriptions used, the traumatic events and my struggles…a pattern that mirrored the symptoms a person suffering from PTSD experiences began to emerge.

And then Heidi sent me a link to this podcast and I was blown away by the similarities of my story and the host, Daniel Vitalis. The story he shares is authentic and vulnerable. I am not affiliated to him or his guest on the podcast, but whether you are a man or a woman, I urge you to listen to it if any of my story relates to you. I think you will find what you hear valuable.

Photo credit: Porsche Brosseau/Flickr
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