Chapter 2:2 - The Vicious Cycle Begins
< Chapter 2:1 Chapter 2:3 >
Back in the hospital the vicious cycle began. I started what was to become my new life. I became determined that no one would ever see me as “different”. And in doing so, I made myself stand out even more. As I found out later in life, this two edged sword created a conflict deep in my psyche that would end up sabotaging me in all of my attempts to be successful and happy for many years.
As human beings one of the core things we strive for in order to be fulfilled, one of our basic human needs, is a need for significance. Whether we find a way to feel that we are significant to ourselves, our family, the community, or the world is shaped by other factors about what we value and our belief systems. But in all of us, one of the basic instincts that drive us is a need to be significant in some way, to someone.
I was in constant conflict caused by the vicious cycle I was running without ever understanding why. In an effort to be a happy and fulfilled human being, I had the need to feel special. At the same time, I wanted to be invisible. I didn’t want people staring at me or trying to help me. I had to be like everyone else, I had to fit in. So the vicious cycle of this internal, unconscious struggle began.
I was constantly pushing myself past my physical limitations and doing things to be like everyone else, and in doing so, I would draw attention to myself for my achievements. The moment that happened, I felt the focus of the spotlight as being “different” again. You see, it wasn’t about, “Hey, did you see what Willard did?” It was “Hey, did you see what Willard did? And he only has one leg!” So all of a sudden the thing I just put my heart and soul into achieving became an embarrassment rather than something for me to be proud of. This was a constant process, the vicious cycle, that I never realized was happening, but haunted me until I was 33 years old.
I don’t know if you can imagine, but take a moment and think of all those things you have done in your life that you were proud of. Maybe it was the first time you rode a bicycle. Or maybe it was the first time you hiked to the top of a mountain. Think about any awards you won, promotions you got anything that gave you a sense of accomplishment. Now as you think of all those things, it makes you feel pretty good right?
Now I want you to take a moment and go into that very private place in your mind. The place you may have never shared with anyone. And I want you to remember the one thing in your life that you were the most ashamed of. That one thing that when you think of it now, still makes you cringe with feelings of guilt, anger, despair. What was the memory that gave you the most pain that you can think of now? Now, I want you to just for a moment, imagine what your life would have been like if each time you reached a goal, you were reminded of the thing you were most ashamed of. Sort of makes your brain short circuit a little bit doesn’t it? What you will learn as we get deeper into this book is that I did so many things that I should have been proud of, and never once until I was 34 years old, a year after realizing I was caught in this pattern, did I truly feel good about them. And as you move on from here, you can make sure return to the good feelings you have about what you personally have done and allow yourself to feel even better about your accomplishments because we all deserve that gift now.
The moment I got back to the hospital from my Christmas visit, I started looking at what I was going to have to do to be like everyone else, how I was going to “blend in”. I soon found out that comedy and all sorts of cute antics were great tools for covering my emotional pain. Jokes eased the tension, and being cute, always worked to help me get the attention shifted to where I wanted it to be, which was ultimately away from questions that were focused on how I was doing. These two tools became constant companions in helping me avoid situations and emotions later in life.
I also found that I was very talented in regards to using my intellectual power during that time. I learned how to play chess, and I became a chess champion. The whole concept of playing chess turned into something more than just a board game for me. I learned quickly that my mind was powerful, especially if I used it in the right way. I started to think and calculate and find solutions quickly. You pick up an extra sense about things when you move into that frame of mind. It becomes a great tool, and can be used to your advantage, or your detriment. It all depends on whether you use that skill to look for solutions… or escapes. For the next 16 years, I used the skill to escape.
During this time, I was also becoming the center of attention for my skills in a wheelchair. I had decided that if I was going to spend all this time in one, I would be the best at it. I focused on doing what they told me I shouldn’t or couldn’t do in one. When they told me, “You should never “pop Wheelies””. What exactly would you expect me to do in that situation? I became “The Wheelie King” making complete trips around the inside of the hospital on the back two wheels without ever letting the front wheels touch the ground. Or the ever dreaded “Take your time. Slow down.” Yep, you are starting to get to know me. They would yell at me for racing down the hall, locking the brakes and doing a “power slide” where the chair turns sideways and slides down the hall. This time that I would spend in the hospital started my journey into the belief that would control much of my life. It was an attitude of, “I’ll show you”. Whatever someone told me I should “not” do, or that it was not possible, became my mission. I set out to prove that if anyone could do it, I could.
My rehabilitation took time. There was a period of a month or so that I spent in the hospital, before I was allowed to continue rehabilitation at home. All the while, my internal muscles, the ones in my mind, the ones that would allow me to hide my emotions, were growing stronger. I was beginning to find ways to shield myself from any feelings that I didn’t want to feel. Almost automatically I started to really develop these “survival strategies” as I would later call them. Shutting out my emotions became my biggest priority. The one thing I was certain of, was that I didn’t want to feel. There was so much conflict inside in regards to who I was, and who I would become. My spiritual beliefs and my ideas about everything I had known to be true to that point in my life… were now in direct conflict. I was in a constant tailspin of emotional and mental mismatches. All I could focus on was that I didn’t want to feel the pain. Now, add to all that confusion the fact that anything that used to bring me happiness, now, if it brought me attention, would bring intense feelings of anger and shame. The closer I got to rejoining the world, the more alienated and different I felt. And learning to shut off my emotions was how I would deal with that.
It was a beautiful sunny morning shortly after they let me go home. I was in Sunday school and my teacher Mrs. Patty Anderson, asked me to tell the other children how I was feeling about losing my leg. She asked, “Why do you think God took your leg from you?” Without hesitation, I stood up, shut off my emotions, and told the class that the reason God took my leg was “to show all the bad people, that if he was willing to do this to a good little boy like me, they had a lot to pay for when they died and this is God showing them how bad it could be so they better make God happy”.
What a perception for an 8 yr old child to have. I was being the good little Christian soldier on the outside, yet I can remember saying to myself again and again, “This doesn’t make any sense”. Are you starting to get a feel for where my religious beliefs and even more, where my Spirituality was heading? You will find that those two words are not interchangeable to me. Religion and Spirituality are two very separate things in my opinion, and we will explore that in depth later. For now, I just want you to notice how my life began to unfold.
At the time, I really thought my answer to Mrs. Anderson’s question was quite a heroic statement. Everyone was coming up to me and telling me how strong I am and what an inspiration I was. This is my first memory of actually feeling the conflict I mentioned before about significance. I’m thinking, “I don’t want to be strong, and I don’t want to inspire anyone. I just want my leg back. I want to be able to walk without crutches, to run out of this church and back to my home up on the top of the mountain, and I want to be able to put on a pair of shorts without having people staring and pointing at me.”
That church was the place where it began. It was the place that used to give me such a sense of certainty. The church that our family based our core beliefs about life, morals, values and all that was important to us in life as a God fearing people. Little did I know, beginning that day, I was slowly turning my back on God and religion. I couldn’t see how God could love me, or anyone for that matter, and do this to a child. And as soon as I started questioning God… things got worse…
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The Warrior Sage Chapter/SectionWho Is Willard Barth?Author's NotesPreface - Exploring Strength And WeaknessChapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-AwarenessChapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child DevelopmentChapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle BeginsChapter 2:3 Losing FaithChapter 2:4 My Dark SecretChapter 2:5 Where Is the Love?Chapter 3:1 Seeking Paths Of AcceptanceChapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol DependenceChapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood BehindChapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride EndsChapter 3:5 Living A Duality BeginsChapter 3:6 Out Of ControlChapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To InsanityChapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking BeginsChapter 3:9 Facing The MusicChapter 3:10 A New BeginningChapter 3:11 More Lessons To LearnChapter 4:1 The Final PartyChapter 4:2 A Moment Of ClarityChapter 4:3 My New Life BeginsChapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The WorldChapter 4:5 The First Year Of SobrietyChapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year TwoChapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice InsideChapter 5:3 The Empress HotelChapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life BeginsChapter 6:1 Finding My Way HomeChapter 6:2 Falling Into PlaceChapter 6:3 A New AwarenessChapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal DevelopmentChapter 6:5 The George Washington StoryChapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
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