Most people who know me well, or casually through work, view me as an upbeat and positive person. That’s true, but few know or understand that my demeanor and the way I carry myself was forged as a coping mechanism to deal with childhood trauma and pain.
When I was five, my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. By the time I was a young teenager the disease had progressed to the point of her being a quadriplegic. My older brother left the house to join the Navy and my father ran a business where he worked six days a week. That meant I spent a lot of time as my mom’s primary caretaker.
She was incredibly brave and never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her. I didn’t want her to see how difficult it was for me to see her in this condition, so I learned to suppress and compartmentalize my feelings of sadness, anger, and pain. It became subconscious; I didn’t even recognize I was doing it. I just disconnected with some of those emotions. She died in 2000 and it took quite a while to reconcile that grief.
In 2010 I lost my father to cancer. In 2015 I lost my only brother, and my last family member, to opioid addiction. The grief and pain of burying your family is indescribable. It’s something I always carry with me.
I started therapy after my brother Kai died. I couldn’t shake the grief. My wife encouraged me to see a therapist. I needed help. Therapy helped me to better understand some of the underlying trauma and grief that shapes who I am.
Everything I’ve been through has led me to become the person that I am today. I wouldn’t wish the pain I carry on anyone, but I’m grateful for how it molded me and shaped my appreciation for life. The optimist that most people see is the person that I am – there’s just more depth to that story.