Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Bullying”

Under Your Scars… There Is No Getting Over Them


The first time someone ever told me to “get over it,” occurred when I finished my cancer treatments, wanting me to just move on.  It was my first wife, who felt it was time to move on with our lives.  I would hear this phrase repeatedly later on in my survivorship as health complications from my treatment past, would continually arise.  Emotionally however, it would begin to start taking its toll on me.  And again, I would be told to “get over it.”

Like many other cancer survivors, I have my share of physical scars from surgeries, biopsies, and from the treatments themselves.  But I also have my emotional scars as well.  These scars have been diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.  And while the late comedian George Carlin actually did a routine on the progression and history of PTSD, I assure you, it is no laughing matter.  I will give you an example of just how powerful this issue is.

This is a piece of exercise equipment, called an “eliptical.”  It is named after the motion of the footwork necessary to operate.  It is a great way to burn calories and lose weight.  But for me, this machine almost killed me, literally.  And I have never gotten over it.  And as much as I really need to, just get over it, it is easier said than done.  The sensors on this machine would register my heart rate race from the low 70’s to 152 in less than a minute of exercise.  Now, there is more to the story, but for the purpose of this post, I could have died.  My cardiologist even went as far as to tell me, it was not a matter of if, but when.  This machine could have done just that.

Yet here I am later, participating in cardiac rehab for an additional procedure to my heart I had earlier in the year, and yes, I had to face this machine once again.  It is a part of my routine.  I should be able to just “get over it.”  I have nurses and trainers watching my efforts.  My heart is working as it should following the procedure.  Everything is in my favor now, and yet, I can feel the panic as I step up, and start stepping.  My eyes stare at the heartbeat numbers on the display as they climb to triple digits causing me intentionally to slow down so as not to push my heart, and at the same time, not giving my heart the work it needs to stay strong.

I cannot just “get over it.”

Music has always been a part of my coping, my healing, my surviving.  I have always focused on a particular song to help me deal with whatever I am facing at that moment.  And every now and then, a song comes along, and has a profound effect on me, to the level that I develop an entire new respect for a particular band.  And in this case, Godsmack released a song called “Under Your Scars.”  When the song was released, and I heard the lyrics for the first time, clearly I was going to hit “repeat” on my stereo system again and again and again.  Calling the lyrics powerful is a huge understatement.  And the music put to the words make the song a powerful anthem to those who struggle with their “scars,” whether physical or emotional.

Godsmack’s lead singer, Sully Erna explained that this unusual ballad for the band, was inspired after hanging out with friend and fellow musician, Lady Gaga (yeah, I know, how do those two acts get together?).  But as I read the interview on Altpress, Erna stated, “In the short amount of time we hung out, she made me realize that we all have these imperfections, these wounds that we carry (whether they’re physical or emotional) that cut so deep they can cripple us.  These feelings leave us vulnerable, or embarrassed, or even unworthy at times. And our human nature — when they’re exposed — is to shut down, rather than embrace them and realize that not only can we overcome them, but we can also become an inspiration to inspire others to have a voice and find their inner strength to show their scars off loudly and proudly to the world. Our ‘Scars’ are nothing more than our battle wounds from life and they helped mold you into who you are today.”  This quote is directly from Erna’s interview on Altpress by author Alex Darus, July 19, 2019.

The song, “Under Your Scars” goes even further than being written and performed.  It is now an organization formed by the members of Godsmack, called The Scars Foundation.  This non-profit organization is aimed at assisting those battling depression, suicide, bullying, and other issues, physical, and emotional.  Here is the link to the Scars Foundation page:

https://www.godsmack.com/scarsfoundation

You can see and hear directly from lead singer Sully Erna just what the Scars Foundation is about, and how it will make a difference.

While I am fortunate that I have help to deal with my PTSD and my various health issues.  Unfortunately, there are so many who do not.  And some cannot get help.  Many do not want help.  And for the rest, left with only questions.

Our worlds are often rocked when we hear of celebrities who commit suicide, wondering why, assuming that popularity, celebrity, and wealth are some sort of cure or prevention for anything bad in life.  Curt Cobane, Robin Williams, Michael Hutchence, Chris Cornell, Anthony Bordain, the list goes on.  In reality, my life has been touched by so many friendships and relationships who have experienced the realities of suicide.  Several of my friends I have known for a long time and never knew what they had kept inside of them.

These scars do not go away, physical or emotional.  You do not just “get over it.”  You find ways to get through each day.  You find ways to help deal with feelings through various means, one of which I exercise quite a bit, writing.  Whether by blog, diary, or book, expressing yourself in writing is a way to release energy from the physical self, and while it does not heal, it does help to give a chance to understand.

We all go through difficult times in our lives, and the extremeness of the event, does not make one less difficult or meaningful than another.  Pain is pain.  The only one who understands fully what we are dealing with is ourselves.  And if we are able to reach out and express ourselves to you, please do not say, “you just need to get over it.”  They are called scars for a reason.  Scars never disappear.

One final link I would like to share, https://us.movember.com/ .

If you are depressed or anxious and are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

Here is the link to the song, “Under Your Scars” by Godsmack.

There Is Only One You


I am doing some housekeeping.  It seems that I have over 250 prompted posts that I have not published, just sitting there.  This is on top of the nearly 800 I have already written.  I recently just completed an annual writing project that I have done for the last seven years.  That story will be published here some time in March.  In all of this, I now have four book ideas that I need to finally “get off of the pot” and get writing.  So, I will get at least one of those posts sitting in my cue published.  It is a bit of a public service announcement, more than about my survivorship or parenthood, though clearly both have been and can be impacted by the topic.

Lock yourself out of your Apple product, or worse, completely forget your super secret information that was originally given when you purchased an Ipad.  What happens?  You are “SOL”, or sh*t outta luck.

Just bought a really cool game system used at a yard sale?  But when you go to sign up for programs or apps, you get a message that the unit has already been registered previously (obviously by its previous owner).

This lengthy number is located just inside of your car’s windshield.  Literally, it is called a vehicle identification number or VIN.  It is a unique identifier to the vehicle and its owner.

We here, in the United States, have our own unique identifier, called a Social Security Number.  This set of digits is just as important as a car’s VIN, a TV game console serial number, or Ipad model number.  Unlike the list of these and many other material items, the security of our SSN, is not only not taken as seriously, is also not as protected.

It is likely at some point in a person’s life, some form of our personal life will be breached, whether bank records or even a social media account.  We deal with any issues that arise with corrections and alterations and move on.  Usually these “hacks” often go without apprehending the individuals committing the illegal acts, often because it is too difficult to determine.

But for being the 9 most important numbers in a person’s life, there are not enough protections in place, and definitely not enough enforcement when incidents are discovered, and luckily solved.  In fact, even if you are a victim of identity theft or identity fraud, involving that SSN, you keep that same SSN.  You do not get a new SSN.  What you get are a whole lot of extra security steps that will get attached to your number, that you will have to remember, but also change everything else associated with your personal life such as bank accounts and credit accounts.  Everything will need extra security steps to help insure your security.

I have studied this issue, because I myself was a victim of identity theft and identity fraud involving my social security number.  And it was not because of anything I did, anything I told anyone, or any of the many forms I filled out that required me to submit my social security number.  My social security number was actually stolen.  But unlike many cases that remain unsolved, I know who did it.  I know who used my information.  The frustrating thing, was in spite of me knowing this information, I was unsuccessful in court not only in having the individual held accountable for his actions, but having the judge totally dismiss the accusation all together.

Having possession of something that does not belong to you, by any means committed, is theft.  Using that illegally possessed information is considered fraud.  I cannot explain what was missing in leading the judge not to protect me, but I do know this much.  I have made all of the corrections I needed to for my privacy.  But also, if I discover anything else being perpetrated against me, my finger will be pointed in that individual’s directions.  At some point, legally, this will catch up to him.

But in the meantime, I want to share this with you, to help you protect yourself.  Because that is what Paul’s Heart is about, sharing my experiences to help you deal with your situations and overcome any obstacles.

The most thorough process you can find to help you deal with an act of identity theft or fraud, can be found at identitytheft.gov operated by the Federal Trade Commission.  They will take you step by step what you need to do right away, soon after, and how to repair.

The first thing to do is to contact whatever entity was affected, where you know the theft or fraud occurred.  You need to have a fraud alert put on any and all accounts, and possibly consider a “credit freeze.”  The easiest way to figure out who all you need to reach out to, is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax).

Once you have done all the notifying, then you need to get to the repairs and corrections.  Fight all fraudulent claims.  Close every account you have and open new, with the extra fraud protections.  I mentioned a “fraud alert” and a “credit freeze,” both of which are meant to do the same thing, protect you, but the alert still allows you to have access as long as verifications are made and is free to have done, and lasts for seven years.  The freeze stops all access until you lift the freeze, with fees depending on individual states, and lasts until you remove it.

Of course, like I mentioned, close every account you have, and open new with the added safe guards.  Of course identity theft and fraud does not limit itself to just credit and social security, but also for taxes, child identity, and even medical theft.

If a company loses your information, or it is breached, you can count on that company being held accountable.  It is when the theft occurs by an unknown person that the uncertainty of a resolution will cause the most stress.  Even as I pointed out, even though I know the identification of the individual, the law was actually used to allow that individual to steal my identity and commit an act of fraud.  But as I said, with all the protections I now have in place, any future attempt, he will be the first one accused.

Another Heart Broken


As usual with this subject of the post, I must offer the following disclaimer due to trolls that stalk my page…

THE FOLLOWING POST IS NOT ABOUT MY OWN DIVORCE AND CUSTODY!!!!!!

I think I made this perfectly clear.

In divorce, there are two types of parents when it comes to custody.  Parents who want to be in their child’s lives, and those who do not.  And while statistics may show an overwhelming bias against one parent over another, the critical point remains that a child who starts off with two parents, needs both of those parents, regardless of gender, even after divorce.  This post is not about a mother or father who does not care.

As an adult child of divorce, I am especially sensitive to the relationships between children and parents during a divorce.  And having been divorced, I must deal with issues as the parent, as well as memories of my childhood, or lack of.  So the things I say, I do not take lightly, but most certainly, take sincerely.

Today, I received an email from a reader, who happens to be a father.  Like the majority of my followers here, I do not know identities (except for some of the trolls that I have figured out).  Given the details of the email, I know this email is the real deal.  An email such as this will end one of two ways, the parent is given some additional support to see things can get better, perhaps a direction how.  The other result, as far as I am concerned, 100% unacceptable, the loss of the parent from the child’s life.  This occurs most likely through either suicide, or surrendering their rights as a parent.  In either way, the system clearly fails if this is how not just this father’s story ends, but any parent.

Ask any parent whose child has passed away due to either illness or accident, the hole left if their heart will never heal.  And though the situation is different, constructing a narrative that causes the destruction between a parent and their child, even though both remain physically alive, creates a similar feeling of loss.  Some may recover from this neglectful and abusive behavior.  For some, this ends up as permanent, as if the child had actually died.

This father writes me, to mention that he has decided to surrender his parental rights, no longer able to sustain the fight for his children, financially, emotionally, or physically.  As is often the case, custody cases can easily approach six figures, emotions can take one step forward only to take two steps backward, and the wear and tear on the body from the stress may never be able to recover from.  Clearly to this father, and he did not state which of the three factors, or a combination of all of them, led him to this point.

As I said, I will not discuss my own custody issues, but I do what I can to encourage others, both mothers and fathers to work things out, for the sake of children.  And I do this not as a divorced father, but as I mentioned, as an adult child of divorce.  It is a relatively new concept, or concern, because all of this time, attention has always been paid to the lives of the children, assuming that once in adulthood, all would be good.  Well, except for the glaring statistic of divorce rates of children from divorced families.

In communicating with this father, I found myself dealing with a new issue, that even through my own situation, I never recognized as an option.  But I was going to convey it to this father, the decision he wanted to make was going to be a huge mistake to not only him, but to his children.

My father made decisions that he made in my young childhood.  I had always made it a point to not know what happened between he and my mother, because whatever happened between them, should have made no difference to me.  In the end, it did, because my father would eventually make the decision to “disappear.”  He never surrendered his rights to me.  But even with an ultimatum leveled on him at my high school graduation, he still made his decision, and it was one that could never be taken back.

Now, obviously, the picture above, clearly shows that my dad and I did eventually make up.  We had a very special relationship, the rebuild caused by a tragic event.  The first half of my life with, rather, without my father, was gone.  There was no getting any of it back.  But with grandchildren that loved him very much, it gave my father and I a much needed opportunity to heal.  And in the end, I forgave my father, and loved him for doing what he could for his grandchildren.  All these years later, I still do not know, why things happened the way that they did.

I have several friends who were divorced, and now have grown children.  I have heard their stories of those who gave up, and those who fought, and fought, and fought.  And the only true regret that I have ever heard,  was from those who did “walk away.”

And then I felt myself dealing with a new issue, that I had never felt before.  And this emotion would be the catalyst for how I would encourage this father, do not give up.  Though I got the opportunity to make amends with my father, and spend some valuable time and memories, there was one issue that was never, and will never get the chance to be cleared up.  And it is something that will last me, as long as I live, because he is no longer here to defend himself.

From the time my children were adopted, through the beginning of the divorce, to today, my children know me as the loving father I have always been.  As of late, geographically things are not convenient, but my children know that I will always be there for them and will do everything I can to help them, no matter where I am.

And here was the new issue.  My father did not.  And he lived less than twenty minutes from me growing up.  He not only was responsible for the decision to spend time with me or not, but he also chose not to fight for that right either.  And this is now the issue I struggle with.  It is one thing for me to be able to proclaim that I will never give up my rights as father to my children, it is another that my Father did not.  And for that, I cannot forgive him.

And that is what I tried to get across to this father.  Giving up must never be an option.  I get it.  Our bodies take a horrible beating from the stress and financial toll of this fight.  But that does not even compare to a child will never forgive you for “giving up.”

Should we have to fight til our last heartbeat for our children?  No.  And fortunately, states are now realizing the relationships between parents and their children need help, and are changing the law to allow these changes to take place.  It is a slow process, but it is happening.

I do not know the age of this man’s children, but they sound young.  He has lost everything in fighting for his custody, and likely will not recover any time soon.  But the ultimate loss will come if he stops fighting for his children.  I have no idea how my father felt making the decision that he did.  But I do know that I did not want this father to find out either.

As I wrote this post, I received an email from someone else.  And this father had just won his custody fight, a very long one.  It turns out, that he was good at documenting, and presented the judge with an overwhelming amount of documentation that showed how relentless the other parent was, in trying to take the kids away from him, no intention of co-parenting, or even letting the children be in his life.  Seriously, if you have to try this hard to prevent your children from seeing their other parent, you are using your children as pawns or weapons.  Shame on you.  And you need to know, it will never be the other parent that will pay for that, it will be the offending parent that is despised by the child, no matter how much the denial.  It will happen.

I asked the email owner if I could forward it to the other writer, who could definitely use some encouragement.

Look, if you walk away from your child, know that is something you will never get back.  But if you truly love your children, you do not ever give up any fight for them.  Giving up is never an option.

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