Most people, regardless of their heritage, wealth, or circumstances all have things in common. We all face huge challenges at some point in our lives. Some may seem to have it all. Some may wear a permanent smile. But we all have to face and overcome what life throws at us.
My writing prompt for today is to share a challenge I’ve faced and overcome. There have been so many. Life has been so tumultuous. I’ve had some wonderful times over the years, but the challenges have been many, and they have sometimes been overwhelming.
As a child, I had epilepsy. It wasn’t awful because I faithfully took meds to control it, but it made me feel different.
In high school, I was badly mauled by a trained guard dog that broke his chain, jumped a 6-foot electrified fence, ripped me off of my bicycle, and dragged me down the road, flinging me about in a ditch. I was terrified of dogs for many years afterward.
Shortly after I started college, I was raped by a gang who broke into my apartment, put a knife to my throat, and then disappeared when they were done. Eventually, fingerprints led to the capture and trial of one young man. The trial, in some ways, was worse than the rape.
Near the end of my 4 years in college, I came out as a lesbian. In the deep south. At a time when it was illegal and terrifying to just be who you were. I wrote more about this topic here.
I graduated and moved to San Francisco in 1983. No job. No place to live. No money. My first place to rent was a garage studio that had … shall we say … issues. The final straw for me was the snake that decided to take refuge in my kitchen.
I loved San Francisco. I made great friends. I learned how to code. I lived life unafraid to be me. But those days had their challenges as well. I was poor. Living in an expensive area. Poverty followed me throughout my adult life, really. There were pockets of time when I wasn’t “poor”, but more often than not, I was living on the edge of poverty.
After 13 years, poverty drove me back home to Louisiana. I was still poor, but the nickels and dimes I made went a lot farther here than there.
And then, of course, like so many here, I had to suffer through Hurricane Katrina. It wasn’t as bad as those poor souls clinging to their roofs in New Orleans. But we suffered.
Throughout all these times, I fell in love, had a bad relationship, broke up, fell in love again, had another bad relationship, broke up, and so on. Some of those bad relationships earned me special stepchildren. Those were the wonderful parts of the bad relationships. Finally, FINALLY, after so many years of failed love affairs, I found someone who was “just right”.
And here we are today. Challenge after challenge after challenge…tears, fears, struggles….all leading up to now. And now is wonderful. Now is beautiful. Now the challenges of the past led me to this time of life where the days are good. Life is good.
But I haven’t answered the question of how I overcame those challenges. There was no secret to it. I just woke up each day and carried on. Not necessarily gracefully, either.
It took years to learn to love dogs, and now I’m a HUGE fan of dogs. Large, small, medium, mutts, and every kind of dog. I have no fear any longer, but that doesn’t mean I was able to just “overcome” the trauma overnight. It took time.
It took decades to stop scanning every room and building I entered, to find all the exits, all the potential nearby weapons, all the places to hide, just in case “some bad guys” attacked. I was prepared 24/7, always vigilant, never relaxed. The rape trauma lasted a very long time. And then I met Gail. I felt safe with Gail. A sense of peace surrounded me, and I was finally able to relax.
I learned how to accept a life of near-poverty. It still grated when I couldn’t join friends as they did small but fun things. Things that only cost ten bucks were often just not something I could participate in. But you adapt. And you carry on. And you do the things you are meant to do in life, money or no money. And one day, with any luck, all that hard work and patience pays off.
Time. Perseverance. Acceptance. Pushing through the challenges and just carrying on. That’s how I got through life’s challenges. I suspect that’s how most people get through theirs.
Hang in there. It gets better.
P.S. I almost didn’t hang in there at one point in time many many years ago. I was almost a statistic. I was angry when I woke up in a hospital and realized I was still here. Please, if you are ever at that point, please, talk to me. Talk to someone. Find help. Challenges – no matter how huge – can be overcome. And in the overcoming, you can find peace. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 800-273-8255.