This is the start of a story within a story.
I’m going to tell my story by telling stories. Little moments and things I have picked up along the way. As a kid, I learned the value of friendship and mattering. I started to learn that family is optional and to whom you assign this value. This is the start of the story, please keep that in mind. While I may sound crass or angry towards some of the people you meet, know that this is not the entire picture. Form your opinions, open your ears and eyes, and step into the world of a 13 year old boy who’s life is falling apart faster than the sky could fall on Chicken Little.
I remember when I first heard the words at my school “How’s your dad and Debbie?!” Notice our 7th grade grammar skills? You see, Debbie, was my dad’s girlfriend at the time, and the woman for whom he decided to throw away his 16 year marriage.
But looking back, could I really blame the guy? I mean mom was no peach with her battles with mental illness, constant depressions, mood-swings, angry outbursts, occasional butcher knife wielding and mirror breaking. Eh. A walk in the park for any minister. Oh wait. Did I forget to mention that little gem?
Yeah, my dad was the town preacher and when this small town of dozens reported Pops’ fall from grace and into Debbie’s arms with TMZ like speed, it brought my world crashing down like a bad episode of Hardcopy. I remember the trashy TV of the 1990’s, and unfortunately, I lived through the trashiness of Christian gossip in real life. It’s not for the faint at heart, that’s for sure! No wonder I hated God and the church for so long.
For years, I’ve leaned on this tale to tell my story. I’ve talked about the bad times, but only with some people. I want to share this with you, the reader, for hope and for healing. My story is dedicated to the suffering, the isolated, the not all-together, the crazy, and the downright mad.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think of this jackass asking about my dad and this strange woman. I remember riding with dad in a truck and after he got off his 1990’s bag phone, I was hoping he was talking to mom when he said ‘Hi honey..’ and ‘..I love you’. I remember asking a question I already knew the answer to, but hoped for more when I asked “Was that mom?” to which dad curtly replied ‘No.’
For some reason, the thought “my family is splitting up” became very real to me at that moment.
I turned to my best friend Joe and his sweet mom, Ann. Ann will always be a mother to me and, Joe, will always be a man I respect and admire for his help during this time. It is because his love of wrestling, baseball, and video games I had hope and a reason to smile during my deepest and darkest moments.
When my parents had separated and all but divorced, I moved in with mom as I had zero desire to go with my father. Everything was great, at first. Then things turned very strange.
Mom was in the middle of her worst days with Bipolar. She was dissociating (DID ), depressed, manic, psychotic, among other things. A real treat to be a round as a kid. One night she hit herself in the face with a brick, then blamed it on me the next morning. (Ouch!)
I’m not sure if I appreciate the therapist, who we would later decide had manipulated mom into DID symptoms by using suggestion and manipulation, for telling me that mom hit herself while dissociating or if I should have choked him then for making her do it. Sadly, I went with the first.
I was glad, even though all I could compare her battle with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) with was professional wrestler, Mick Foley. Not the best comparison. Mom looks awful in flannel. For more on who Mick Foley is and my love for him please read a past post (which Foley re-tweeted) : https://blogs.psychcentral.com/desk-couch/2016/01/what-the-pro-wrestling-taught-me-about-mental-health/
So after mom delivering a knockout blow to herself, I thought a change of venue was in order. I decided to stay with my friend Joe and his family. I was there for about 6 months maybe. I am kind of fuzzy on the amount of time, but it was long enough that an enraged dad would scream to me on the phone ‘You’re not “her” child’. I’m not Ann’s child? Really? Seemed to not be very shocking to me. My thought is he should have been happy someone else was taking care of me because it would have provided even more money for him to live up the reckless affair life. But, I was just a kid. What did I know?
My dad eventually got his way, after almost having a run in with my two very pissed off basketball couches at a ballgame. After he yelled at me in public, they were not too thrilled, but in the end I went with dad. I was not a happy camper, but when mom was losing her shit, she decidedly told me ‘I can’t take care of you anymore. You’re moving with your father in Beckley. Tomorrow is your last day of school.’
Awesome. Last day of school—forever! Oh wait? Fuck. Probably not forever, probably until I got somewhere new. Oh well, new is a good start, right?
I had my last day at school and it was even down to my last basketball game. It was great. I remember getting in trouble for us horsing around like 8th graders do, and sitting the bench most of the game. I should buy Mr. Moore a beer for making it into my epic childhood memories!
But what I learned in that little moment was rather profound. You still need to conduct yourself well and live with integrity even among massive change. He may not have said or even thought that, but it is the message I received.
I received the love of my fellow students that night when the cheerleaders gave me a banner that says ‘We’ll miss you Danny’. And everyone had signed or written little messages to me. It was ,and still is, one of the coolest and most affirming moments of my life. I definitely see God in that moment. To me, that message of “You matter and you do make a difference to people around you whether you realize it or not” was planted deep in my heart. It’s a wonderful message and reminder to me today, when I think of entertaining suicidal thoughts as recently as two nights ago when I yelled in an agitated state ‘I could just eat a fucking bullet’; it reminds me that I matter to those around me.
I teared up as I walked out of the gym to go get ready to leave the next morning. I was about to go to a new place with new beginnings. Oh and I had to figure out how to still take my Prozac without dad finding out. Oh well, mom could figure that out (and did she ever!)
The next morning, I was officially Beckley, West Virginia bound. Little did I know that some of my deepest wounds and greatest internal pain would come to exist as a result of the days to come, but it would also lead to my greatest source of Hope.
Author’s Note: While I’m sure this piece has the potential to cause some major issues in my family, I respectfully recount these tales as I remember them and how I’ve made sense of the pain (ergo the sarcastic and crude humor). I do not ask that you like, respect, or agree on anything that I may or may not say, but due hope in time that you understand why I’m writing this. As of this moment, I will be adhering to the best advice my father ever gave me ‘JUST WRITE.’