The following is my latest short writing from the Veterans Writing Group meeting held at William & Mary today. Read more about the Veterans Writing Group.
Continue on or give up?
This was a decision I first made as a foster child living in a house, not a home, where I was kept in a room with bars on the window and denied the same privileges that the foster parents gave to their own children. One day I ran away from this home. I cannot remember why, perhaps because it was too traumatic, but I remember coming back. I made a choice to continue on that day. I moved to a different foster family that was very welcoming and caring. Eventually they adopted me and four other foster children. Had I made the right decision?
No. A couple years after being adopted by this family, my father lost his temper one day and beat us. I think that time it was something as stupid as one of us kids drinking the last of the milk and not reporting it. Another time it was because the silverware was put away dirty. It went on like this over and over – corporal punishment where if one sibling did something that upset him we all suffered. I had chosen to continue on for many years.
When I was 14 years old I began to decide that I would end the life of the man that caused suffering for me and my siblings. I made some plans, but I chose to continue on instead. At age 16, I punched the refrigerator after he made fun of my biological mother for being a drug addict and prostitute. He was used to being the one that got angry and wouldn’t tolerate any dissension, so he tackled me and we fought as long as I could put up a fight.
For the first time in my life, I made the decision to give up. Later that night, I decided to kill myself. I took a bunch of random prescription medicine to finally escape the humiliation, pain, and misery I had experienced since I was a boy. I wanted to stop existing, I could continue on no longer. Instead – 12 hours later I woke up in disappointment. Something or someone had decided I was going to continue on. My parents did not notice anything was wrong, nor did my siblings. I had grown up working nearly full-time for my adoptive family’s farm and business and made no close friends. The only person who knew anything was wrong or that I was so upset that I would make the decision to stop living was me. It was the loneliest I have ever felt.
Since that time, I have had to decide between continuing on or giving up as I decided how I would cope with mental health problems that caused me to drop out of college twice, whether I would serve in the military, how I was going to deal with being homeless, how I was going to respond to being arrested and imprisoned five times while I was on the street, how I was going to escape three years of homelessness, and how I was going to live the rest of my life. I have decided to continue on while never forgetting any of the decisions where I could have given up. And as for the decision to continue on that something or someone made for me, I take that as providence that I have survived for the purpose of protecting and helping people so that they may never have to make the decision to give up.