As a child he believed he had the power to fix his family. After two suicide attempts he came to know the truth.
Growing up I’d always wanted to be a super hero. Like most kids I’d play in the backyard with household and garden tools that were used as imaginary weapons. Pretending to fight a hoard of evil ninjas my brother and I would spend hours in our fantastic world of make believe — a world unlike our own. It was a place where the good guys prevailed and nothing bad ever happened to the innocent. This wasn’t the world I lived in, and sadly I wasn’t old enough to realize that. It’s this mistake that would almost cost me my life.
I was once told by a psychiatrist during our weekly meetings that my issues stemmed from having a hero complex. It sounds good if you live in the marvel universe but unlike that world, having a super hero attitude meant I had created a unstable reality. One that had me believing I had control over the lives of others.
This type of thinking was a double edged sword that cut me on many occasions during my childhood. For instance, the majority of my childhood was spent watching my father use and deal drugs. His habit would cause the family distress economically and emotionally. Our life was in constant turmoil as his addiction became uncontrollable. This meant as the oldest child I was required to do all I could to help my family through the tough times whether someone told me or not.
One example of this was during the winter holidays when as a 8 year-old boy I overheard my parents talking about sending us away to live with my grandparents for a time. They were talking freely because they thought all their kids had fallen asleep in front of the television. I wish I had been sleeping because they argued over sending us away. My dad didn’t want to and his logic was that family needed to stick together. On the other hand my mom didn’t want us to suffer if we didn’t need to. I lay there on the floor with tears running down my cheeks. I pictured my parents starving as my heart broke over their fate.
Even though my parents were planning on sending us away I didn’t want them to starve. So being naive, I grabbed my toys and offered it to my mom for groceries. She chuckled and told me not to worry. I nodded as I try to hold back the tears. Since my mother wouldn’t take my toys I was going to do the only thing a child could. I prayed.
When my grandparents took me during the weekends we’d go to church every Sunday. I loved to read the stories of the bible and listen to the miracles they’d preform. Noah building his boat to Moses parting the Red Sea. Those stories were real to me and meant that God could do anything if you were worthy. I took that literally as I cried out to the Lord for divine intervention while trying to live faithfully.
I had faith that my dad would overcome his addiction and that my family would no longer suffer from the affects of his drug use in the home. If Moses was able to the part the Red Sea then why couldn’t God do something as simple as heal my dad from his addiction. All I had to do was live a life worthy of such a blessing.
As the months turned to years it was obvious that my prayers weren’t being heard. Wasn’t I living faithfully? No matter how much I knelt down, read the scriptures and lived a chaste life I still witnessed my family crumble before my eyes. Sadly, instead of getting angry at my father or God, I blamed myself. I had failed as a son and because of that my family suffered. These emotions would drag me down as I spiraled into depression. By the time I was 21 years old I had attempted to commit suicide twice.
When I finally hit rock bottom I found myself in a treatment facility. Without any strings to hold up my pants I walked through the cold hallway and cautiously interacted with the somber guests. Many held their issues close to the vest while others revealed their entire life story at the drop of a hat. Their stories broke my heart as individuals bore their soul during our group counseling sessions. Narratives of abuse, neglect, and addictions were heavy topics of conversation. I couldn’t believe some of the stories of suffering I heard.
It was a blessing that I heard them because I started to realize something. Like myself, many of the patients blamed themselves for their tragic lives. One such patient sadly believed that if she was a better daughter when she was 4 years old her mother may not have abandoned her. From afar I could see that she had no control over that situation. She couldn’t have stopped her mother from leaving even if she tried. Like me she had mistakenly seen herself as a super hero and despite her age she couldn’t get pass her unyielding guilt.
Through talking with other patients I came to the realization that I had to stop being a hero. I needed to see the world differently and let go of the family burden that had been a yoke around my neck. I needed a narrative makeover.
“Focus on what you have power over and don’t dwell on the things that are out of your control.”
This phrase and change of thinking has brought peace into my hectic life. Even though my parents were, and at times are, still a train wreck I can accept that I don’t have the power to save them. All I can control is myself and what I do with my life.
This motto has been a north star for me the past 12 years and since then I haven’t tried to commit suicide again. Now when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life I remember that I’m no Super Man and I don’t have to be. All I have to do is focus on what I can influence, which is myself and that is a power we all have access to.
So when you feel like putting on some spandex and dawning a cape ask yourself if you can handle being a super hero because with great power comes great responsibility.
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Photo: Flickr/Stuart Conner