Why Life is Worth Living – My Compassion for the Bullied and Depressed (VERY long and VERY personal post)

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Austin Texas Homes, LLC 453249
https://activerain.com/droplet/4Qx

I debated over whether or not to write this post, but I figured it’s better to risk a part of myself if I stand a chance of helping even one kid (or adult) who is undergoing a traumatic experience in his/her life.  It’s one of the longest I’ve ever composed, and I made myself cry at least three times while writing it.  Hope it helps someone. 

My childhood up to the fifth or sixth grade was pretty uneventful, other than the fact that my parents divorced when I was a toddler, and my mom remarried a few years later. I played soccer, had a few close buddies, and sometimes laughed until milk came out of my nose.

When I was about 11 years old, my relationship with my stepfather changed, for a couple of reasons. Namely, I was pretty emotionally needy, which meant that my mom had to spend more time with me, especially getting me to sleep each night. I was filled with various anxieties, so she had to stay in my room until I was asleep, which often took way longer than she would have cared to spend, I’m sure. As a result (and I understand this now, as a father of four), this cut into any “alone time” that they would have had at night. I also wet the bed until I was 12 or 13, which kind of made sleepovers less likely to happen.

My stepfather was a prime example of something which is known as the “Peter Pan” syndrome, meaning that he didn’t really ever grow up, and he had his own baggage from his childhood. As a result, he treated me more like a little brother than his son, even though he legally became my father when I was five and he adopted me.

Here are some of the things that we endured:

  • I will never forget the time that he told me (when I was 11 or 12 and changing clothes to go out somewhere), “You take off your pants like a faggot.” I could think of a lot of comebacks to that statement now, but his remarkably hurtful comment stuck with me ever since.
  • After my mom and he divorced a couple of years later, I remember that almost every door frame in the house was cracked from repeated slamming. Their bedroom door also had a hole in it from me punching it in anger.
  • Once, after he said something to jar me, I threw a dictionary at his head, which made his glasses cut into his face and he bled quite a bit. He held me down and screamed in my face and scared the crap out of me.
  • On another occasion, he chased me into my room and grabbed me, and I smashed a jambox over his back.
  • He would rarely put on clothes when my friends came over, preferring to wear his underwear, or perhaps just a towel draped over himself while he was on the couch watching TV. Yeah – pretty gross, huh? Pretty embarrassing, too.
  • He didn’t seem to have any issue exposing me to inappropriate movies, such as the time when I was barely nine and he took me to see “Guns, Sin and Bathtub Gin”, which had garnered a solid R rating.
  • The cussing that I learned and heard for the time I lived under the same roof with him has yet to be exceeded in my adult life.  He was an especially creative curser, it seemed.
  • I once saw him get arrested (and so did all of our neighbors) for running a stop sign and trying to “outrun” the police and get home.  He spent a night in jail for that one.  Idiot.

Around the same time that this stuff was happening at home, I changed schools, graduating from elementary school. Since I was private school-educated, my friends from grade school ended up in a bunch of different places, so I didn’t really know anyone when I started at the new place.  As a new student in a new environment, I was pretty bookish and sensitive, neither of which are considered high on the list of qualities that the average 12 and 13-year-old wants in a friend. So, I was harassed at school by the “popular” kids – nothing overly abusive, although I had one memorable and brief fist fight with my locker partner.  Namecalling, general harassment, not as much physical bullying, since I was tall, thankfully.  I remember feeling physically ill at the thought of school many days.  Mainly, I felt excluded, possibly because I was more introspective than outgoing and assertive. Making straight A’s is not a quick way to popularity, as it turns out. The teachers loved me, but the kids – not so much.

As you may have already pieced together, things had become bad for me at school AND at home at the same time. I was angry at the kids at school and angry at my stepdad, although I didn’t have much chance to express this outwardly. As a result, I became depressed instead. This wasn’t just a passing thing for me. It led to several years of therapy and anti-depressants.

One night in March 1985, when I was 14 years old, I stayed up much of the night and told my mom that I didn’t want to live anymore (and meant it). She did the only thing left to do, by hospitalizing me at Baylor Psychiatric in Dallas. As it turned out, this was one of the best things to have ever happened to me, because I learned how to talk about my feelings, and to recognize and express my anger and sadness, rather than stuffing it deeper and deeper inside. I was there for three full months, and I witnessed some rather serious mental illness, restraints on several patients, electro-convulsive therapy, and one lady who used to urinate on most of the chairs.  In a nutshell, it was unlike anything I had experienced, but I wouldn’t trade it now.

If I could talk now to the 14-year old Jason, I would tell him (me) that things will get better. I would tell him that his life at age 40 is just about as close to perfect as it gets. I would share photos of his wife and children, and tell him of his career. Most of all, I would tell him not to give up, because the jerks you encounter and the everyday problems aren’t worth giving up your life.

Here’s some other stuff I would tell him about why his future life is worth living:

  • You haven’t had sex yet. It’s worth sticking around for this, I promise.
  • Your beautiful wife is cool and smart and a great mom.
  • Your kids will make you laugh out loud almost daily.
  • It would kill your mom and grandparents if they had to identify or find your body.
  • You are deeply loved, more than you could possibly know, by your family and by God Himself.
  • You’re a good dad.
  • Your marriage will last.
  • You like what you do for a living, even when times are harder.
  • Many of your friends consider you to be their best friend.
  • You will save the lives of at least two friends (subject of another post).

At any rate, you get the picture. I’m happy to have endured that time in my life. I don’t use it as a crutch now, and I rarely even talk about it, but it helped form the person I am today.

I’ve been married for almost 18 years now, and my wife and I have four awesome children (11, 9, 4, and 18 months). I’ve talked to my older kids about my past at some length, because I want them to understand that if things get bad for them, I am always available to talk, and that I will love them unconditionally. Yes, I mean it. My son has tried to test me on this a few times, “What if I ______? Will you still love me then?” The answer, then and now, is yes.  I’m happy that they won’t have to work uphill against a father whose love can never be earned.

If you happen to stumble across this post, and you’re enduring something that seems so traumatic or earth shattering that you want to die, please keep in mind that things will get better over time. I remember when I was in the hospital at age 14, they told me that nothing truly traumatic ever lasts more than about 6 weeks.  I recommend that you find someone to talk to that you trust.

If you want, you can email or call me. Yes, I really mean it. This goes for adults and teens, too. My email address is jason@austintexashomes.com and my cell phone number is 512-796-7653. I’ve been at some very dark spots in my past, and I’ve come through on the other side.  Looking back over the past 25+ years, it’s hard to imagine how hard it seemed back then, and it’s hard to think that I didn’t even want to keep going.  I’m glad I did.

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If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at www.austintexashomes.com.  Thanks!

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Re-Blogged 5 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Bridget "Mortgage Mama" McGee 10/14/2010 03:58 PM
  2. Tere Rottink 10/15/2010 03:26 AM
  3. Janeil Lester 10/15/2010 04:24 AM
  4. Noreen Fennell 10/15/2010 08:49 AM
  5. Debbie Walsh 10/16/2010 08:12 AM
Topic:
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Ambassador
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Norma Toering Broker for Palos Verdes and Beach Cities
Charlemagne International Properties - Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Palos Verdes Luxury Homes in L.A.

Sharing this will help many others, not to mention make all of us admire you even more than we already do. 

Oct 19, 2010 10:54 AM #134
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Jason Crouch
Austin Texas Homes, LLC - Austin, TX
Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653)

Sharon - Thanks for saying that.  You may have just helped me figure out why "It's a Wonderful Life" is my all-time favorite movie.  Here's a post I wrote about that awhile back:

It's a Wonderful Life - Inspired by Movie Songs

Oct 19, 2010 11:19 AM #135
Rainmaker
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Wendy Rulnick
Rulnick Realty, Inc. - Destin, FL
"It's Wendy... It's Sold!"

Jason - What a model of humanity! What an inspiration!  It might have been hard for you to write, but how many people did you help?  Thank you for being YOU!

Oct 19, 2010 11:48 AM #136
Rainmaker
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Evelyn Johnston
Friends & Neighbors Real Estate - Elkhart, IN
The People You Know, Like and Trust!

Jason, you were writing your post with the hopes of helping just one, it was worth what you had to endur to bring it all up.  As of this comment I am the 138th person you have touched.  All of us more than likely will be on the outlook for that child that needs some kindness in their lives right now.  We will all be an extension of you! How about them odds?

Oct 19, 2010 01:04 PM #137
Rainer
104,867
Debbie Aldrich
The Watts Group Real Estate - Cottonwood Heights, UT
Salt Lake City Realtor - Salt Lake County, Cottonwood Heights

Jason,

That was a heart felt and very moving account of your life and all you endured. I too, had some traumatic events happen in my life but God is good if given the chance to turn things around. I am so very glad you had the courage to share your story, if it can save one life it was worth it.  Life can be so very hard but it can get so much better with determination. 

Oct 19, 2010 02:19 PM #138
Rainmaker
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Keith Lutz
Keller Williams Metropolitan - Long Valley, NJ

Jason,

It it the trials and tribulations that make us the men we are.  You are a great man.

Oct 19, 2010 03:45 PM #139
Rainmaker
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Stanley Stepak
Howard Hanna - Avon Lake, OH - Avon Lake, OH
Realtor - Avon Lake, Avon, Bay Village, Westlake,

What a great post and what a great parent you must be.  Yes we don't always turn out like parents or in house role models.  You can add, "Your future can be what ever you make it out to be"

Oct 19, 2010 04:13 PM #140
Rainmaker
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Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT

Jason, A very brave post, indeed.  You are strong and sensitive as a result of not only your life experiences, but how you've handled it all.  Kudos to you for telling your story in the hopes that it may help someone and for puttting yourself out there to help someone in need directly.  That's an extraordinary act of caring.

Oct 19, 2010 06:32 PM #141
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Leslie Stewart
Oregon Licensed Broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Real Estate Professionals - Stayton, OR
Realtor, ABR, CRS, Oregon Licensed Broker

Jason, what a touching story.  I think 14 year old Jason would have loved to have you to talk to.  BTW... you look great! The diet agrees with you.

Oct 20, 2010 06:38 PM #142
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Kristin Moran
Owner - RE/MAX Access - KristinMoran@Remax.net - San Antonio, TX
San Antonio,TX - Real Estate - 210-313-7397

Wow Jason - that was truly from your heart and I appreciate you sharing with us.  I am appalled at the stories of bullying we have been hearing lately & want you to know I like you even more than I did before for sharing your story & heping others. 

Oct 21, 2010 04:46 AM #143
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Rich Cederberg
eXp Realty - Albuquerque, NM
eXp Realty Agent Albuquerque

Jason, What a heartfelt and sincere post. I hope someone on need reads it and it gives them strength to know that things can get better-much better.

Oct 23, 2010 12:13 PM #144
Rainmaker
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Marie Westerman
Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate/ Wilson Parker Homes - Evans, GA
New Homes Sales Specialist Evans GA REALTOR

Jason, I would have never thought! I read your story and felt where you came from and was proud of who you have become. I am so glad that you bared your soul and shared. I know it will help someone, probably many someones!!

Nov 05, 2010 03:57 AM #145
Rainer
44,740
Brooke Shepherd
Keller Williams Partners - Colorado Springs, CO
Speak With Honesty~Act with Integrity

Wow, what an amazing post!!  One of my favorite quotes is, "God wouldn't bring you to it, if he wasn't going to bring you thru it".  Think of all the lives you are gonna save by sharing your story and they will all know they are not alone.   There is some stuff that has happened in my life that I have wished hadn't happen.  But, I wouldn't be the person I am today if it hadn't happen.  I wouldn't have compassion for certain things, etc.  Thank you for sharing! 

 

Brooke

Nov 09, 2010 03:28 PM #146
Rainmaker
304,720
Liz Lockhart
Riverbend Realty, Cape Girardeau, MO - Cape Girardeau, MO
GRI, Cape Girardeau Real Estate

Jason~I'm not even going to read the other comments, because I want to come straight at you from my own heart. I taught high school journalism for 20 years and then worked with high schoolers for a number of years after that. I would use your post every single semester if I were still teaching. Perspective is difficult and nearly impossible for a teen-ager to come by, but your kind and loving willingness to share is helpful and meaningful. I personally dealt with several suicidal students who grew up to be healthy adults and one whose anexoria went on to kill her in her late twenties. The last time I saw her was in a psych ward, and she swore to me that she had learned her lesson and she wanted to live.

Each time I had a suicidal student, I felt like I was in a vice grip daily. I know that your perspective will help some adult who is dealing with a troubled teen right now.

Feb 03, 2011 02:19 PM #147
Rainmaker
552,457
The Scott Loper Team Bux-Mont Premier Properties
Keller Williams Real Estate - Montgomeryville - Lansdale, PA

Hi Jason,

Sorry for being late to the party.  I just read this because Jody Keating just wrote a blog about it.  I too was "bookish and sensitive" in middle school.  I had a rough go for all sorts of reasons up until then (I recently wrote a MeMe post and explained why the 70's sucked).  Anyway, God must reward those who can endure because life is wonderful and totally worth living.  I am so glad for your happy ending.  You must be a wonderful father and husband.  People like you make the world a better place to live.

Lisa

Feb 03, 2011 02:28 PM #148
Rainmaker
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John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Jason - Your childhood experience is very emotional. However, you are not alone. Most of my life, close relatives of mine bullied me, pushed me around, lied about me, always prevented me to succeed in life. It appears that, each person has a unique life experience. Thank you for sharing you life experience.

Feb 03, 2011 04:03 PM #149
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Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

God would not have allowed you to go through this if He wasn't going to bring good out of it. This formed the man we know and love, it allowed you to be the loving husband and father to your own family AND have a compassion for others hurting. All things work together for good, we just don't always see the tapestry God is weaving. 

May 28, 2015 10:03 PM #151
Rainmaker
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Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

I do believe in opening your heart and speaking up. Yes, it is difficult for anyone especially for a man, but keeping pain inside is even more difficult. 

Aug 20, 2017 10:22 PM #152
Rainmaker
1,507,325
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

Telling your story can inspire someone who is now or was in a similar situation. Sharing is caring. Glad your story has a happy end. 

Aug 20, 2017 10:24 PM #153
Rainmaker
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Carra Riley & Declan Kenyon
Brokers Guild Cherry Creek Ltd - Westminster, CO
Helping people Transition at all ages!

So grateful you took the time to share your journey! You are blessing all who read this and giving us the courage to reach out and help others. Thank you for showing us the way!

Aug 21, 2017 06:20 AM #154
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