I opened a letter from my mom this morning, which revealed to my surprise that she and my dad had stumbled upon this website a couple of years ago. I've always kept my band and my blog private from my immediate and extended family, as I figured it'd be easier to do so. I found the letter to be mostly understanding, and for the most part lacking the judgment I had been afraid of all this time.
I was afraid to tell my mom that while I consider myself to be gentle and kind-hearted, that I also have a rascally and sometimes vulgar sense of humor. It's just who I am. Growing up, I heard many a harsh judgment against people who engaged in such things. It was one of those things that made me keep different parts of my personality to myself. Despite what media teaches us, I was one of those rebellious teens who never wanted to hurt their parents, but just wanted freedom and room to breathe.
I can pinpoint the initial communication breakdown between me and my parents beginning around 3rd grade. I began to have severe anxiety attacks, and nobody knew why.
This frustrated my mom, and she understandably didn't know how to respond when I told her simply, "I'm sick." In 5th grade, my grades began to slip, and depression began to set in. I
found it more difficult to stay motivated, as I really couldn't find a good reason to do well. I was possibly the smallest kid in a school full of giants, and was an easy target for
bullies. I was more concerned with survival. This was very difficult for my mom, as she had never been to college herself, and had high hopes for me that were seemingly being
dashed by my poor scholastic performance. The problem was that college was far off in the distance, and I needed more immediate compassion and understanding in the moment. But my mom
also was struggling with anxiety and depression, and so it was probably hard for her to see much further past her own struggles. I remember a time when my mom was cooking, and she was
scolding me about my poor grades. She turned to face me, and her mood began to elevate from lecturing words into hysterical screaming and crying. I was so upset and afraid, as I
had never seen her act like that. I just sat on the couch crying, and I felt so alone.
If you're wondering where my dad is during all of this, he's much like my sister, in that they keep their emotions to themselves, and to try to keep things settled. During situations like these, his instincts are more to calm and diffuse a situation, rather than explore the root of it. It made for a calmer household at times, but also lead to emotions being buried. It's not really how my mom and I operate.
It wasn't until 6th grade when my parents took me to the "Institution for Motivational Development" that the puzzle began to take shape. There was something a little off about me, and it wasn't just about bad grades. When you're that young, your parents are required to have sessions with your therapist as well, and it was quickly discovered that this situation wasn't one-sided. My parents needed a helping hand too, and my mom needed a name for her condition. I was embarrassed about having make weekly visits to a place like this, and I simply referred to it as "The Place" to a select group of friends.
Ironically, after visiting IMD, my mom began to pull it together, while I began to slide further down. For one, my therapist made me afraid and ashamed to share things with her, I often felt harshly judged to some degree. By my 9th grade year, this particular therapist had moved on from that location, and so the visits stopped. In the end, my mom and I both agreed that she was kind of a weirdo, and that she hadn't helped me all that much in the end.
Around that time, I was misdiagnosed with ADD at a new location - Attention Deficit Disorder was all the rage in the media, and so I was placed first on Ritalin, and then later Adderall. I unnecessarily took this version of legalized speed for several years until I realized I didn't need it, and it was only making me more anxious. When I was 16, I got prescribed what I needed, which was Zoloft, and SSRI/Anti-Depressant that vastly improved my mood. Most of all, I didn't feel so restless and angry all the time. While it didn't improve my school performance, it made me feel more comfortable in my own skin. I didn't cry all the time anymore, I felt a sense of numbing peace. I realized that music was my passion, specifically punk rock. It wasn't all productive though, as I still harbored a lot of anger and resentment that had built up over the years. I made some poor decisions, and got into some trouble. In retrospect, I wish I could have poured all that energy into creative endeavors, but that's not what teenagers do. They're sometimes narcissistic, and aim to try to impress people who didn't need impressing to begin with. It's ironic, because while I was hanging out with the other outsiders/rejects/punks at Solon Dunkin' Donuts, they were basically good kids. They were the people whose friendship I valued most around that time, and I didn't need to impress them like I thought I did, they liked me for who I was, a rascally and sometimes vulgar silly-heart. Despite what my parents might have thought my motivations were around that time, I had great ambition, I just wasn't entirely sure of how to right the ship. I was getting good at playing guitar, and was starting to write songs in my bedroom.
In early 1995, I dropped out of high school, with plans to try and get diploma in a different setting, likely by taking night classes. I was working at the Burger King in Solon, and I had recently gotten my driver's license. I wasn't staying out of trouble entirely - in fact, I may have been getting more careless in that way. It hurts to think about the times when I got in trouble with the police, because I remember my parents pained expressions through it all. I was just yearning to breathe free, and I never wanted to cause any pain for anyone I loved. Then the accident happened.
On April 1st, 1995, I drove my mother's station wagon head-on into an oncoming SUV on a winding back road within a mile of our house. I don't remember what happened, and probably never will. I was by myself, and was crushed inside, pressed up against a hill. From what I understand, a jogger told someone in a nearby house to call 911, and then disappeared. I've always wondered if this was someone who I swerved to miss, which caused me to end up in the wrong lane, and so they got out of there before the police could arrive. It's just a theory - I was a young, inexperienced driver, and I often found myself making careless mistakes, probably due in part to the medication I was taking. The driver of the SUV was largely protected by his vehicle. He was a man in his 60's, who I believe was just in the hospital overnight. If I recall, he also dd not remember what happened, but the accident on paper was my fault. That's caused me problems over the years, as I've often called myself "stupid," "careless," or "zoned out" for causing the accident. The truth may lie anywhere in between. The bottom line being that after all these years, especially since I got the worst of it, it really doesn't matter.
I was in at MetroHealth hospital in Cleveland for three months. April 1st - June 30th, 1995. At the time it seemed like an eternity, but in retrospect, it was just a blink of an eye considering the gravity of the injuries I'd suffered. On a different, totally random day, I could've easily died on that road. I just happened to be young enough, and they just happened to get to me in time. I'd of missed everything I know now. My family would have had to go on without me. I'd of never fallen in love and spent all these wonderful years with my wife and best friend. I never would have had my own band with her, and written songs that have made others laugh and feel happy. Things would have been left unfinished and incomplete, and my parents would have always wondered what I would've become, and maybe what they could have done differently during my short time. These are the type of thoughts and emotions that I've held, an existential crisis waiting in the wings, that has been always bubbling beneath the surface. But I chose not to face most of it, until I was forced to in 2012.
In some ways, I don't think my mind has ever fully grasped how terrified I probably felt the moment before impact. I theorize that it largely contributes to my exaggerated startle-reflex, a condition of PTSD. I've only been recently diagnosed with Post-traumatic stress disorder - I don't want to get into all of it, you can read about it here. (I also have self-diagnosed myself as specifically having Complex PTSD). I also won't get into the personal details of being forced into having to face all of my past issues at once, or the triggers that caused it, let's just say it was akin to the scene in Ghostbusters where the evil EPA guy (haha) bullies them into flipping the ghost-trap switch, and all the spirits explode at once into the city. Or the the part in Pink Floyd's "The Wall," where it's eerily quiet, and suddenly the wall explodes in fury. And I often pictured myself as the man in the Mars Volta video "The Widow," where he turns to reveal a black substance streaming from his eyes. Let's just say it was bad, and much like my accident, something that would be very difficult to live through again.
It's October 2017, and I've been feeling better than I have in a long time. I was certainly stunned when I opened the letter from my mom this morning. Like I said, I've always been protective of parts of me, lest I be judged. But my mom has come a long way since I was young. I've chosen to face things head on here, rather than run scared and hide, because she is a thoughtful and understanding person, who apparently enjoys my writing very much. She considers herself an Evangelical Christian, and yet she has stood strong in the face of the hypocrisy of the right-wing support of Bush Jr. and (especially) Trump, and I'm very proud of her for that. I'm proud of her for a lot of things, and she is one of the most resilient people I know. Despite our difficulties at times over the years, I feel we have a better understanding between us than we've had in a while. I love you Ma, and I love Dad, and I love Pam, and I'm glad I could be here for all of this.
P.S. Sorry to be vulgar sometimes, I'm just a rascal, and that's always been the case.