The Heart of a Comeback Kid

The Heart of a Comeback Kid

“My comeback was not about winning or losing; it was about the feeling
of being able to compete at top level again.”
—Thomas Muster

I’ve said many times that as an athlete I wasn’t coached to lose. So, losing for me has never been a viable option. In this battle for life losing is still not an option. What is a reality is how tired one can become of fighting for that number in the win column. Giving up is not what I’ve done or what I’m doing.
When I was playing ball, I was always pushed beyond my limits both physically and mentally. Some of this I would do on my own and some would inevitably come from my coaches. Either way this is not an area that’s foreign to me. Truly, I have become quite tired of fighting, but I won’t give up. I have said from the beginning that I’ll win or die trying. I know no other way to view a battle.
I’m not only fighting the demons that I was given. I’m also fighting demons that I’ve created. Years of aggression and not knowing the proper way to overcome things has led me to relying on my own recognizance. This means that inevitably I chose many different things and ways of coping that were and are still not healthy.

I’m currently taking an online class about self-sabotage and recognizing the ways in which I do this in all areas of my life. This might be the only thing I’m doing right currently. But what I am learning to do is to slowly begin to let those things and people that hurt me go. It’s very difficult to free yourself of the chains that bind you. Most of the time we wait for our “jailer” to come prancing towards us with the keys to free us. However, when it comes to dealing with trauma the process is quite different. We must free ourselves as a hostage therefore making it possible to not hold others hostage with a death grip because of fear. I’m doing the best that I can, but I still seem to lose my footing at times.

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For me the fear is about not having something to catch me if I fall. I have always had a behavior or a chemical close by to help with this. Now, however, I’m attempting to eliminate not one but all of swords that I’ve previously used as power against myself and others. I have used these swords as a means of survival and have managed to cut just about everyone out of my life including myself. I have used all types of therapeutic assignments to aid in this healing. There are those extremely painful events that I want to handle personally with individuals. But this being a situation where the ability to handle it personally is being diminished has let me straight into a state of panic and at times rage. Trying to contain the rage and the intense feelings of disappointment are what I’m trying to soothe by holding on to my destructive ways.

I know what it’s like to be in the position of being captain of a team. I know that other teammates look to me for both guidance and direction. Having a mental illness like Dissociative Identity Disorder assures me that I have other teammates that are looking up to me in this way. They are children, impulsive teenagers and very hurt adults. And, yes, there is one who is “The Athlete.”

This athlete is the one who knows how to set a goal and how to block everything out but that goal while also maintaining the safety of other teammates. The athlete is the one that manages to pick me up and dust me off while saying, “Shake it off. I know it hurts but we have to keep going.” This athlete will also do ANYTHING to make sure the goal is achieved even if it’s harmful to oneself. The goal is to win. She is also a teenager/adult who will protect her own but sometimes her tunnel vision ends up harming those that seem to get in the way of that goal. She is also having to learn how to win in healthy ways.

Combined I am one hell of a person that loves people and loves to win. I won’t settle for 2nd place as this is 1st place loser. And in the game of life 2nd place is also not an option for me. So, I say this…when you look in your review mirror and see someone swerving and appearing to be crashing just remember that I have the heart of a comeback kid. I’ll be waiting on you at the finish line.

“Making a comeback is one of the most difficult things to do with dignity.”
Greg Lake

#thispuzzledlife

All I Have To Offer

All I Have To Offer

“When you’re just like everybody else, you’ve nothing

to offer other than your conformity.”

—Wayne Dyer

Lately, I’ve been adding some poetry that I had saved on my phone.  What I’ve learned about having relationships with my internal guys is how to listen to them.  If I get a wild hair and need to either write a blog or poetry it usually means that someone is needing to be heard.  Write it down and then ask questions later has been my motto lately.  What I’ve realized is that chaos and confusion are minimized and open, honest and direct communication has been encouraged. Trust me….this is one big process of learning how to build and maintain relationships with “head mates” that have seen a lot of the evils of mankind. I would like to thank Hobby Lobby and Michael’s Crafts for allowing me to buy supplies from them in order to do projects that enhance the building of a better relationship with my alters.  Ok….now I’m being silly.

I usually start getting silly when I become uncomfortable in some way.  And well, “Coach of the Year” has assigned me to write about what I have to offer as a person.  I don’t always like the “assignments” but I love the lessons and answers I get from them.  To put it all into perspective, growing pains are called “growing pains” because growth doesn’t always feel good.  Likewise, growth as an athlete requires constant practice and learning the ins and outs of playing the game.

One of the greatest lessons about playing ball that I remember was when we were learning how to run bases. Stay with me because this part can get confusing. You don’t wait until you’re all the way down the baseline to the base to look at your coaches for direction about what to do. You ALWAYS keep your eyes on your coaches.  Half way down the baseline to 1st base you start looking at your first base coach.  If he or she thinks that  you can take another base they will point in that direction.  Half way to 2nd base you begin looking for your 3rd base coach for direction on either to stay or go while also listening to your 1st base coach from behind you about whether or not to slide.  If your 3rd base coach signals to take 3rd base he or she will also be rounding you to home or telling you to “get down” to beat the throw at the base.  If you start rounding 3rd base and head to home plate, you look to your teammates on whether or not to slide.  So, from the time the ball hits the bat you look for direction and trust that your coaches are making the best decision for both you and the team.  Either way, you’re not alone…ever. You’re simply being directed until you’re back to the safety of home plate.  They direct you but they don’t nor can they bat for you individually or as a team.  The work has to come from you.

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Artist: Celeste Roberge

It’s the same way for me in therapy.  I’m always looking to coach for guidance.  I don’t want anyone to do my work for me.  I hunger for her guidance and fear the unknown.  But I also trust her and know that decisions will be made in my best interest.  And from having been mistreated by a therapist previously,  being able to trust her to not hurt me or to not have ulterior motives is really kind of a big deal.  It has take now a solid 17 months to try to work through a lot of the fears surrounding the therapeutic process. I haven’t conquered them all but when I moved here I hadn’t conquered any. Getting hurt in therapy by a therapist has caused more issues then what I was prepared to deal with.  I had no idea how hurt I was but Texas has a way of revealing all kinds of things.  Yep….a modern day “Mr. Miyagi” she certainly is.

All of this ties into the original topic “What I have to offer?”  It’s embarrassing for me to discuss this kind of topic.  After years of being told by different people that I wasn’t good enough as a human being and the fact that I’m a total non-conformist, it’s really difficult to say, much less believe, that I have anything to offer this world.  I totally stick out like a sore thumb with the problems that often arise in public (tics, switching, emotional outbursts, aggression, etc) regardless if I can’t control them falling short in society’s definition of “normal” is not easy.

Having limitations like this certainly makes life incredibly more challenging.  The eyes that you view the world with after abuse seem to be put into place without knowledge that it’s happened.  The confidence that I worked so hard to gather and maintain as a child was completely dismissed and destroyed through the hatefulness of others.  The compassion that helped to build my confidence as a child didn’t seem to be able to shine through the darkness.  Slowly, I began to lose my spunk for life and likewise pieces of myself.  I could no longer offer those qualities in myself that I lived with daily that made me proud to be a part of the human race.  I no longer saw people that I welcomed around me as a precious commodity.  I now saw them as potentially harmful, shady and very scary.  I kept my jovial demeanor that everyone loved until the hurt I was hiding became the new clothing for my soul.  And my big heart that had always been one of my greatest assets had gone into hiding in order to also protect itself.  I looked up one day and had no idea who was looking back at me from my reflection in the mirror.  My arms were severely scarred.  Eating had become a necessary evil.  And my dreams and goals for what I had worked so hard to achieve had disappeared like grains of sand that slipped through my hands never to be seen the same way again.

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I had become emotionally feral through my own survival.  I seemed to have changed right before the eyes that had supported me for so many years.  And now, I had become not only someone I didn’t recognize but also someone that other people who loved and respected me didn’t recognize.  I simply had morphed from an individual that people loved into someone that people feared.  It was heartbreaking to know that this emotional freight train was going through destroying everything in my path and I was powerless to stop it.  Mel and I searched for answers daily for years in hopes of finding anything to help explain why I had become this aggressive monster that even she feared.  She fell in love with Dana who loved and cherished her unconditionally.  And almost overnight the Dana that she knew was gone only to be replaced by an aggressive, disrespectful, scary, immature and seemingly much younger version of herself that Mel didn’t recognize or understand.  And frankly, I had no explanation for anything regardless of the evidence that would be presented to me.

We moved to Albuquerque and for me it was something that I had hoped that a geographic change would help to remedy.  It didn’t.  Once we got there free from the oppression of the deep south, we sought out counseling knowing that I had problems.  We had no idea how deep those problems ran but soon we would.  I could offer nothing to anyone.  I felt I was being drained of my “goodness” and all the positive attributes that made me the compassionate and loving person that I had always been. All I felt was hurt.  And all I seemed to be able to offer was more hurt.  So, my only solution to stopping the hemorrhaging was to end relationships and to isolate myself, as much as possible, from society.  That way no one would have to suffer pain through my own doing anymore.

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Again we would come in contact with another hurtful human being in the form of a therapist.  The only thing good that came out of the 2.5 years that I saw her was the correct diagnosis.  Other than that she was incredibly damaging for me therapeutically and emotionally.  I soon wanted nothing to do with professionals and became even more aggressive to make sure that no one wanted to help treat me.  The truth was that I wanted so desperately for someone to help me.  I, however, was so scared of having another hurtful professional that the fear paralyzed me and sabotaged any type of help that might’ve been offered.  My new motto was:  “No one would ever hurt me again professional or not.  And I would do everything in my power to make sure that happened.”  True to my word I became a patient in facilities that people hated to deal with.  I gave a whole new meaning to the term “non-compliance.”  I trusted no one and hated everyone.  But my fearless and loving wife still searched for answers while trying to raise our two little boys despite me often times being in a condition where I couldn’t even get out of bed to take care of my basic hygiene needs.  And yes, there were times that she had to bathe me because I just wasn’t able to at the time.  That, my friends, is a example of love.

She would find a facility in Texas that she thought I needed to try.  For two years, she pleaded for me to go and I wouldn’t.  I eventually showed up and set the aggressive tone early just to prove that I could hurt and scare people just like they had done to me.  I finally met the therapist that would work with me while I was there.  I was determined to run her off too.  What I didn’t count on was that she would be able to see past the anger into the pain hidden behind the spewing and venomous rage.  I tried to end the caring and compassionate look in her eyes and couldn’t despite my greatest efforts.  This peaked my interest but the fear of her position as a therapist took over.  I knew that I had finally met my match.

Within 1.5 years of this experience I moved to Texas as a last ditch effort of trying to save myself from an assured death.  I didn’t come here believing that things would change and get better.  I came here because a rare find showed me compassion despite my self-destructive path.  So again….what do I have to offer?  For me, I’m still in the process of finding out what those gifts have the potential to be.  My sense of humor continues to be one of my strongest and best qualities.  I have an education that allows me to speak to people about the damaging power of abuse.  I have the emotional knowledge to be able to reach teenagers and to know the struggles of living life feeling emotionally trapped.  I have the knowledge and firsthand experience of seeing how compassion and love can topple the effects of abuse by soothing the pain and hurt.  I know and can feel what it’s like to be loved by someone who will sacrifice everything to make sure you’re safe because they want so desperately to help find the one they fell in love with.  I know what it’s like to make sacrifices as a parent to protect two little precious beings that still call me mom.  I know what it’s like to still be coachable after being a washed up “has been” athlete from 20+ years ago.  I have the experience and know how to continue to pick myself up and keep going when I’ve pushed myself way past my limits in order to survive.  I know what it’s like and fully understand the fear of letting someone in to help when allowing someone to do that caused so much hurt and pain.  I know the feeling of not being heard.  I know the agony of silent screams and the language of pain that can take on so many different forms. And I have the Experience, Strength and Hope of someone who’s been fighting a war my entire life without being in the military and not ever having to leave my homeland.

One thing that Sarah taught me many years ago was this, she said, “Dana, you have the capacity and ability to do great things.  But you can’t give away what you don’t have.  Recovery is what you need and what will make great things possible.”  So, I say this to you now…recovery is a marathon not a sprint.  You don’t ever reach the finish line of being “recovered.”  I still struggle emotionally on a daily basis and I still don’t yet have all of the answers I want.  I am, however, slowly receiving the answers I need.  Healing wounds is not easy nor is it comfortable.  And unfortunately, it’s also not instant.  It took me 43 years to become this damaged and dysfunctional and to think that it can all be changed overnight is unrealistic. One thing I never allow life to come between is me and my therapy.  I have my heart set on once again being a functional part of my family and to help my one and only soul mate raise our two little boys that we fought so hard to have.  And today I can say that the parts of my destructive self, no matter how slowly, have begun to be silenced.

“Mentors don’t just have to be people

who are older or more experienced that you are.

 Mentors are people who really care about you, know you,

and want to offer feedback and advice to help you grow.”

—Jennifer Hyman

#thispuzzledlife

Acknowledgment Of Strength And Courage

Acknowledgement of Strength and Courage

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength,

while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

—-Lao Tzu

Lately, there has been a request to identify strength and courage from within myself.  And, honestly, the answer is not very easy for me to identify nor to convey.  I haven’t written since early April and couldn’t have written if I had wanted to.  Sometimes I seem to get lost in my own world not knowing how to get back to the present date and time.  The words “strength” and “courage” seem to be ones of perception rather than having a concrete definition that fits most people and situations.  Hang in there with me.  I promise there is a point.

One of the more difficult things in my life has been to accept compliments.  The ones I did get from perpetrators always seemed to have some form of abuse attached to them.  Growing up and developing as an athlete I regularly received compliments from my coaches.  I not only developed confidence but the discipline and hard work were always worth the effort.  I received compliments from my parents, the parents of friends and teammates.  When the compliments began to take on a more sinister tone and action from some people, I began to fear the very thing that only years before seemed to propel me into a healthy confidence and feeling of safety.  Kind words, in their own way, can now cause instant fear and embarrassment unseen to the naked eye.

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You can point out that survival of all the abuse is an example of both strength and courage.  However, my stance is simply that I did what I had to do to live.  Is this a great example of minimization? Well of course it is.  But emotionally this is truly how I feel about my story of survival.  So…..to identify examples of each I am forced to look at these things from another angle.  I identify these by looking into the heart and eyes of my alters.  This has truly been a process that has now led me to a position and attitude of gratitude.  Trust me, it has not always been like this.  For years I’ve been stuck continuing to try and deny the depth of my mental problems and diagnoses.  And what this has led to for my system are feelings of denial and minimization of their strength, courage, bravery and existence of them both individually and as a group.  This has led to anger, resentment and a whole lot of unneeded and hurtful chaos from them at times. They have had a general feeling of being unneeded and unwanted after years of wading through a life of blood, sweat, tears and the evilness of others.  They have never wanted a  war medal but rather just acknowledgement of the abuse and their efforts.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness.  Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”

—August Wilson

Me and “my team” or “my guys” as they are commonly referred to are not expendable.  These children, teens and adults stepped into some very frightening situations when my mental and physical limits as an individual had been reached.  Their actions often times with accurate precision led to self-preservation with the ultimate goal to preserve life.  Their strength and courage doesn’t seem to have limits for which I’ll am eternally grateful.  Their existence was created out of fear, pain and necessity. Mel will tell you that there have been times when physically and emotionally I shouldn’t have been able to function on any level.  But you could also look up and standing before you would be someone who seemed to be functioning almost completely normal. The quest for my education while undergoing abuse, sometimes daily, is a stunning example of this very thing.  Now several years later the answers as to how this was even a remote possibility are very clear.  My guys stepped in and helped to make sure that my goals were achieved despite always being told that my dreams were nothing more than under achievable pipe dreams.  To me, they are a living testimony of strength, courage and bravery that cannot be matched.  And maybe my story is changing from one of survival to one about redemption.

“I never said I wanted a ‘happy’ life but an interesting one.  From separation and loss, I have learned a lot.  I have become strong and resilient, as is the case of almost every human being exposed to life and to the world.  We don’t ever know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.”

—Isabel Allende

#thispuzzledlife

“Bruised Inside”

“Bruised Inside”

“You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed.But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing.  You know what you have to do.  Do it!”

—Coach Duke, Creed

In my blog I repeat several different views about the abuse I went through.  It might be from a different angle but repeating will inevitably happen.  If this is a problem then read elsewhere because this blog is about MY healing and when I’m struggling or laughing about something worth sharing, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

This is a great therapeutic tool that I developed out of necessity several years ago.  At that time, it seemed to be just what I needed that listened and was non-judgmental to whatever problem I would write about.  Whatever the issue was, I wanted and searched for my answers to some of my strange behavior at times.  I was simply searching for where the “old Dana” went and who in the heck was this “new Dana” in many different pieces that is trying to emerge?

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The one part of life that I’m very strong in is protective instincts.  This means protecting those I love even if the protection is from me.  I can’t say that I love someone and then when the situation calls for this protection I not be willing to do just that.  I’ve ended a relationship recently for this very reason and it has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Looking for answers as I’ve always done, I went to the library to see what I can find about a topic that has been bothering me “Bullying at school by teachers.”  Most books on this topic usually lead to bullying from other students.  But this day, I found a book that would seemingly have some much needed answers and validation that has been lacking.  The book is titled, “Teen Torment by Patricia Evans.”

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I opened the book to a random page with the title…..

In this passage I found this….”In a culture that overlooks verbal abuse, teens who are tormented by it face difficulties accomplishing developmental tasks such as independence, identity, and career goals.  When teachers put them down or rage at them these students lose the confidence to become independent. And one of the long-term consequences of verbal abuse is that it disconnects teens from their emotional self.”  Essentially, what happens is that the teen learns how to feel nothing in order to withstand the abuse.  “The teen then can’t figure out who they really are versus who they’re told they are.  Consequently, they look for their identity outside of themselves making up an image that seems more acceptable since they’ve already been told many times that who they are is not adequate as a human being.  They might develop an appearance so that no one really knows what has happened to them as a safety measure.  They will go to any lengths to maintain this image which to them seems safe.  Instead they end up losing their own interests and talents because all of their thoughts about who they thought they were have been told time and time again that they’re wrong.”

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Indicators of Verbal Abuse

  • Show a noticeable change in behavior
  • Become isolated and withdrawn
  • Pull away and refuse to talk
  • Seem depressed
  • Cry easily or often
  • Not have close friends
  • Have bad dreams
  • Complain about going to school
  • Cut classes at school
  • Refuse to go to school
  • Throw up before school
  • Seem to daydream a lot
  • Have trouble concentrating
  • Get much lower grade than usual
  • Seem to have lost enthusiasm for anything
  • Become self-critical
  • Hurt themselves, cut themselves, eating disorders and pull their hair
  • Act aggressively towards siblings, peers or parents
  • Get angry often
  • Lash out at others
  • Get in many fights (Teen Torment, 2003).

When I was abused by this teacher everything that I was being taught, by my parents, about respect of another human being was confusing to say the least.  She told me so many negative things about myself as a human being and through negative body image that I was almost guaranteed to sprout the eating disorders anorexia and bulimia that I still struggle with daily after 30 years.  I’m tormented by her words and actions daily.  I can hear them as clearly as the day she said them.  And as sad as it seems, I hold onto my eating disorders and other self-harming behaviors with a death grip because somewhere along the way they were the only part of my life that seemed safe and something I can control.  But this “control” is a false control just like addiction to a chemical.  It’s also behaviors that pretend to be your friend until you realize that that “safe friend” has taken everything away mainly your sanity.  Self-harming behaviors of any kind have negative social implications which have made me a prisoner of my bedroom.  Most people don’t want to hear excuses for why you don’t want to eat.  They just see it as a disrespectful gesture and will think twice before inviting you again.  And God forbid if they happen to see your scars from cutting.  They think they’re hanging out with a psychotic monster that has the possibility to lunge at them with a razor blade at the dinner table.  My thoughts have always been, “If you only knew what caused these scars to appear, you’d think before judging next time.”

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When I finished reading only about 10 pages of information I laid my book down in my lap and began sobbing.  Finally, I had found some information that spoke for me what I couldn’t.  I saw on those pages validation for that horrible year of abuse with information about what it did to me.  I was called all the names and was told that I was stupid and fat among other things that children should never have directed at them by anyone much less from a “safe person” in a position of authority.  That year affected me in ways that I still can’t fully understand.  This book and it’s passages tend to make me retract from some of the information because of how close to home it all is.

As a teenager, I had much difficulty with emotion regulation.  I’m torment by her words and actions of that year.  Her negative body image comments have me fearing everything related to the topic.  I can still feel the bullets of her malignant words she shot my way directly into my still developing brain.  And to her I can say this, “You don’t matter and you never did.  I’m succeeding despite what you did.”  And for you I have a surprise.  What if it’s simply calling you and confronting you about what was done?  This kind of discussion needs to be in public where we both feel safe and can speak openly.  It could be that simple. Would you listen and deny any wrong doing?  Either way a surprise there will be because every day I wake up I’m bruised inside and you are the only one who can heal that wound.  Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise?!  Maybe that’s the surprise I’m waiting to hear and hold on to.  Maybe the surprise is something different. Only I know.

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Every single day I choose to work on some type of behavior or action that most people take for granted.  As much as I would like to re-gift this “gift” of surviving apparently it was meant for me.  And I’ll carry this burden with the hopes that my own children don’t have to taste this type of life and that monsters are just pretend instead of real as I and many others know them.  Carrying the trauma of the boys that molested me, my teacher, my ex-husband and his brother, a trusted therapist will end with me.  I will either win or die trying because when it comes down to it it’s all about leaving everything you’ve got physically and mentally in the ring, on the field or on the court.  Whatever happens my wife and boys will know that I gave everything I had until I couldn’t.  I wasn’t coached to give up until I had left it all on the field and could feel proud of my efforts whenever that day comes.

Rocky Balboa talking to Adonis Creed before his first fight….

You’ve never been in front of this many people….that don’t matter.

You’ve never been this far away from home….that doesn’t matter either.

What matters is what you leave in the ring

And what you take back with you is……PRIDE.

And knowing that you did your best and you did it for yourself.

You didn’t do it for me; Not for your friend’s memory but for you.

I can see in your eyes you’re going to do it…..Go Do This Champ!

#thispuzzledlife

Preparation Meets Opportunity

Preparation Meets Opportunity

“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”

—Joe Paterno

As a athlete the one thing you always prepare for is Game Day.  Usually this means an opening tournament to kick off the season.  Nevertheless, there are those moments prior to this day that a coach cannot prepare you for.  This is time for you as an athlete to sit with yourself and to reflect on what you’ve been taught, thus far, and to prepare for the upcoming season.

My time was always spend inundating my brain with music prior to ballgames.  This was the time where I could not and would not be disturbed and with my focus becoming even clearer.  I thought about lessons I had already learned and the specifics about our upcoming opponents.  Some things were known about top players via scouting reports but there were a lot of unknowns.  What I did know, though, was that I was being coached by someone who had faith in me and my abilities regardless of my own confidence.  I also knew that I had a “team” that counted on me as much as I did on them.

The time that you take for yourself during these moments is one that might not be shared with the rest of the team and/or coaches.  You imagine yourself making plays and potential plays.  You think earnestly about what you’ve been taught about the game and more specifically “your game.”  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  And how are you as an individual player an asset to your team?

closer than i was

You reflect on how hard you’ve trained and those that have trained you.  My number one concern each year was not whether or not I had been coached effectively.  It was simply, how would I perform as a player.  The heart, guts and ability was there but when it came to “game time” how would I measure

up?  Would I give my all just to fail miserably due to opening day nerves and/or jitters?  Would I succeed but only at the level of average?

I wanted to be the best and the best was what my goal was.  In the rankings 2nd Place was first loser.  Life is not about how much fun you have playing the game.  And in life everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Life is about winning and losing.  Winning coaches don’t get fired. Top performing athletes don’t get traded.  Sorry but I just don’t buy into “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose” theory.  I was taught that winning does matter and as a athlete if that’s not your goal then why are you even trying or participating.  I do, however, understand that perfection isn’t possible even for the most talented athletes.  There are failures that occur that are also known as “lessons.”  These sometimes come with a high price but you will inevitably learn from them if you’re willing.

The last month I have been spending some much needed time preparing myself for a moment such as this.  I have looked back over the last 6 months since moving to Texas at the incredible struggles that still seem to have with no end in sight.  I have thought about lessons that I’ve already learned from “coach” and her willingness to be compassionate and consistent. I have shot looks in the direction of my demons that you give to an opposing team’s players and coaches when you pass them as they prepare for the same game.  The “stare down” is one that’s meant to size-up your opponent as well as to break them down through intimidation.  And lately, I have stared my demons in the face with a look of “soon, very soon we will meet.”

Without preparing for a season both mentally and physically the results would be less than a desirable outcome.  I’ve hoped and desperately wanted this opportunity that I’m about to have for some time now.  And honestly, even through reflection it’s difficult to imagine that I’ve finally been presented with this very opportunity.  The lessons already learned are some that have been very difficult and gut wrenching.  But now……my demons will answer to me.  Scared as I may still be to face them, I press forward in the battle for my life.  And with any “luck” I might just succeed.  Some say winning is about luck.  But I say that it’s about “Preparation Meets Opportunity.”

“There may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do.”

– Derek Jeter

#thispuzzledlife

He Was More Than A Coach

He Was More Than a Coach

“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen.

 The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”

—- Vince Lombardi

I’ve always spoke very highly of all the coaches I played for now 20+ years ago.  I’ve always had that strong connection to them regardless of how much time has gone by.  Now if you want to know how I get motivated, let me know that “I have a ballgame to play and my team needs me.”  My life as a ballplayer took on some of the most raw feelings I’ve ever experienced.  Being an athlete was about more than just a game, it was about the entire journey of learning fundamentals and evolving into an individualized athlete with a heart of a champion.  Here’s the story of a man that knew exactly what to do to help me step my game up as an athlete.  But what he didn’t know he was creating for me was a way to survive.

Nicholas “Nick” Kolinsky was a ex-football player who had a heart as big as his frame.  He is still and will always be a legend from the South MS area.  He was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to MS many years ago to play for the 1962 championship football team from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He stayed around that same area met the love of his life and raised one beautiful family.  His youngest daughter, Nikki, and I would be teammates for several years.

This man was surely a legend in the city but for me the term “legend” would take on a whole other meaning.  I would meet coach Nick sometime in the early 1980’s.  I had play some form of “coach pitch” softball for a year but this was “real” softball, as I saw it, because we had tryouts.  I was an okay player but nothing was serious and I was having fun.  We had the tryouts complete with coaches from the league and their notebooks looking on and taking notes.  A couple of days later my parents and I got the call that I would play for Nick’s Ice House and my coach would be Nick Kolinsky.

This big and loud man would laugh and smile in a way that you just instantly know that he was different than most people you meet.  His happiness and love for life, his family and now this young softball team was infectious.  You never had to ask me if I wanted to go to practice.  I would sometimes walk back to the vehicle with my heart crying tears because I didn’t want practice to end.  I ate, slept, breathed and fully saturated myself with his coaching as much as I could.

Coach Nick

He pushed me but in a way that I wanted to play at my best.  He always told us as players, “You will perform in a game the way that you practice.  Winners never ever give up.  Every play and every ball you catch or hit effects everyone on your team and  they are your family.  You leave it all on this field.  If at the end of the game you have played the best you could and you left it all on the field no matter what the score you will always be a champion in my book.”  He knew how to motivate me.  I instantly took some of these lessons with into now a 42 year-old womanhood.

Every athlete has a difficult night where things just don’t seem to work.  You misjudge balls.  Your hit timing is just off and you begin to worry if you even have any eye/hand coordination left.  It was these times when coach would say to me, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw!”  It wasn’t earth shattering to be “off” for those games but disappointing it was.  He could somehow tell when I needed that “compassionate coach” side and he always encouraged me.  He would bring his big “man size” body down to my child size self and look me in the eyes with compassion and said, “Keep going baby.  These kind of nights don’t last but you have to keep pushing through them.  Don’t you give up!  Do you hear me?!!!  You leave it out here on this field no matter how much you have to give.  Your team needs you.  If you get scared and don’t know what to do on those bases KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME.  I’m right here and we will do this together.”

Now to most people this interaction might not have been that big of a deal.  To that developing child and athlete, that was all I needed to hear.  He didn’t say that he would be there to do it for me.  He said, “I’m right here and we will do this together.”  From that day forward, I played with confidence and have faced every obstacle knowing that he would always be right there.  He had no idea what those positive interactions would do for me as an adult.  Every single time I had to pick myself up from one of life’s unfriendly occurrences, I always heard my coach saying, “Charlie get up!  Your team is depending on you.  The game is not over yet. Get back over here!”

charlie hustle

Charlie was a name that Coach Nick gave to me because of the way that I played.  He always told me, “You play a lot like Pete Rose.  You have some of the best hustle I’ve ever seen.  From now on you will be called Charlie Hustle.”  As long as there was daylight and the “want”, “need” and “will” to continue was there he would stay after practice and hit me additional balls to help me sharpen my skills.  Our team seemed almost untouchable.  It wasn’t just me who would benefit from his coaching.  We practiced and practiced hard every single practice.  Lolly gagging was not allowed by him, other coaches or the other players on the team.

After ballgames it was nothing for him to load up the entire team in the back of his pickup truck while we cheered going riding through the city like we were national champions.  And to me we were.  I’m glad that he gave me a foundation of self discipline.  It might be in only a couple areas of my life but it took and I’ve never let go of many of his life lessons.  We were told very seriously, “that being a winner is not given.  You have to put the work in and even then you might not win the game or the battle.  It’s the same with life.  You give everything you have all the time until there’s nothing left to give.  That is a champion!” He gave all us players a t-shirt that had his business logo on the left chest.  But on the back it said “I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS”  He told us as a team that those shirts you have to earn to be able to wear them.  Until I graduated high school, I was known by my nickname Charlie Hustle and I wore that shirt with pride.  I always wore that shirt under my uniform shirts throughout my high school career as a kind of balance and piece of my coach right there with me like he had promised.

Because of the impact of his compassion in my days of being a child and developing athlete, I have survived many different situations.  I worked hard to live through a lot of things.    I reconnected with him after this many years.  I was contacted by one of his daughters via Facebook to tell me that his health was declining.  On one of our trips back to Petal where he and his family lived the whole time I knew them.  I walked into the house where he was sitting and his eyes lit up.  “Dana!!!”  He chuckled. My eyes filled with tears and I hugged him and said, “Coach I’ve missed you.  Here’s my family.”  I don’t know if the tears fell like they’re doing now as I write this.  But shortly after Marshall pooped on his lap he wanted to talk about old games from when I played ball for him.  It was like one of the most beautiful times as a child had been resurrected by the gentle giant that had become a gentle old man.  I called him several times since that visit and each time we spoke he had a even more difficult time speaking due to a failing heart.

nick's boys

My beloved coach passed away July 5, 2016.  The grief is so great that it’s taken until now to be able to write about such a great man.  The towns of Petal/Hattiesburg knew when this man passed away.  For me it was like a new national day of mourning.  The pain of the little child inside had me disappearing inside myself.  My athlete has never stopped mourning over his loss.  Anytime you ask me about this guy I called Coach Nick I tear up but not out of sadness.  I tear up over the gift I was chosen to receive.  That was just gratitude rolling out of my eyes.  Since trauma has had such a big impact on my life more than once I always wear that shirt into a session with my therapist when I need his encouragement.

Ironically, as the universe would see fit, I met the one who would be the next big coach in my life only a month later.  This time things are different.  Now I’m not in the fight for a win in a game, I’m in the fight for my life.  And everyone doesn’t receive a participation trophy.  Grateful again?  You bet I am. I will find a way to succeed because I’M ONE OF NICK’S BOYS!

Below are links and newspaper about this guy everyone knows as The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  Please take a little time to read about this man that both South Mississippi and I loved.

 

 

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/news/local/hattiesburg/2016/07/05/hattiesburgs-nicks-ice-house-icon-nick-kolinsky-dies/86728744/

http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/story/sports/college/southern-miss/football/2016/07/13/cleveland-nick-kolinsky-jack-lucas-had-special-bond/87010864/

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/hattiesburgamerican/obituary.aspx?pid=180567264

#thispuzzledlife

Winners

Winners

8.14.14

“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
-Muhammad Ali

Today is one of those days where I regret being able to open my eyes.  I rolled out of bed this morning and felt like I had been at war all night.  My body feels like I’m detoxing from a chemical that I haven’t taken.  And it’s already begun happening at 6:00am.  I feel the overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with anxiety.  The nausea is hitting like a gulf coast wave from Hurricane Katrina.  I feel that overwhelming sense of needing to vomit.  Halleluer! I must not have eaten before I went to bed last night! I didn’t see any remnants of anything.  So, I grab my cannabis wax pen and take a couple of hits off it to settle my entire system down.  This has also helped to combat a horrible headache that was beginning to hit like a thousand hammers.  Then the diarrhea hits like some kind of ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq.  How soon until I have another acupuncture session?

I’m actually catching a break from these symptoms right now.  The medical marijuana is just like any other medication, it too has its limits.  However, the combination between both mmj and acupuncture and a drastic slow down in therapy seems to be slowing everything but my mind.  What was started about a month ago and was exacerbated when we traveled home has continued to plague every inch of my mind.  This blog, no doubt, is an exit for both frustration and education on certain topics.  But, for now, certain things must be kept hidden to ensure safety on several different levels.

Am I just trying to have a “poor, pitful me” moment today? Hell no! You’re just getting a ‘firsthand’ look at what some people’s days are like.   Like I’ve said before, “writing about these topics on my own abuse has had numerous effects on me both mentally and physically.”  Yes, I realize that I had an awesome life up next to others who have had some horrific things happen in their own lives.  I’m not going to compare stories because this blog is not about minimizing anyone’s personal traumas.  Have I cried about feeling so guilty about being upset over seemingly insignificant things? Absolutely!  But, the fact is that things did happen.  I’ve held that shame and guilt so long that my mind and body feels like I’m melting.  And I’ve stuffed and stuffed feelings for so long that I’m not only nervous….I’m terrified to work with them.

The “special” people helping to guide me through this process must either be angels from God or “gluttons for punishment.”  LMAO!!!  I feel like I’m really just beginning this treatment even though, I’ve been in therapy for a few years now.  I just don’t have the ability to keep my defenses up like I use to.

As an athlete, “YOU NEVER GIVE UP!” You play until you hear the whistle blow.  This drive is not one that can be taught. You must be born with a love for the game and the athletic ability to become the best ballplayer you can become.  I got my softball playing nickname ‘Charlie Hustle’ from one of my earliest and dearest coaches assigned to me by Nick Kolinksy.  He always told me that I played a lot like Pete Rose and never gave up.  I smile every time I remember as a kid playing ball for him and always feeling a sense of ‘safety’ around him.  He would tell me sometimes, “Dana, that was a $100 catch and a .10 throw.”  He made his point very clear but didn’t crush my self esteem as a ballplayer or as a person in the process. He and other coaches are on my list of ‘special’ people that had a dramatic and positive impact on my life from a very early age.  I never complained about going to practice or games.  That was a way out for me.  Playing ball was my life.  Pete Rose said it the best way that I know how to describe the love that I had for the game.  

“I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.”

—Pete Rose

Occasionally, that old, washed up athlete comes alive in me again with reminders about how “putting one foot in front of the other is still considered progress.” I get caught up a lot on what the definition of ‘progress’ or ‘winning’ is about in regards to therapy.  Sometimes, the best I can do for that day is just get out of the bed.  Even doing that means that I made progress because one foot had to be put in front of another foot for that to be accomplished.

Sometimes people ask me what it’s like to process trauma.  To me it’s all about going to war, except this time, I know what I’ll be faced with.  I have survived it once so, it can be done. Do I have the strength? That remains to be seen.  I relive everything all day everyday anyway. What makes this situation different?  I have actively made a choice to volunteer to go through it again.  The fear can make me angry, frustrated and paralyze me at times.  I must admit that it’s very unfair to be almost 40 years old and still paralyzed in many ways by what others have done.  I can hear some of the old, southern biddies saying, “She made her bed, now, she can lie in it.” And that’s fine, if that’s your reality.  My reality is this….”I don’t care what the circumstances were…No one deserves to be abused in any way….EVER!  My ex-husband, teacher, baby sitters and birth mom didn’t deserve the abuse that they suffered at the hands of their family and people they trusted.  When the effects of the abuse begin affecting them then, the new generation of abuse is born and is taken out on other people who become their victims just like I did.”

This time….”I WILL NOT ONLY SURVIVE, I WILL WIN!”

#thispuzzledlife

 

#Thispuzzledlife