Note: Blog post subject matter is discussed in more detail on the Athalonz Podcast.
In the spring of 1990, I was working full time during the day and going to law school at night. I was finishing my second of four years of law school. I was two years into my new job at Motorola as a patent agent, I was doing well, and was making ok money. My wife and daughters were doing well, we had a nice car, and we had a nice three bedroom home. I was living what I thought was the American dream and yet I was depressed, suffered from panic attacks, had no self-confidence, had no self-worth, was extremely self-critical, and struggled with an eating disorder. Basically, I hated myself.
That summer, my wife suggested I get counseling to help with my issues. I despised the thought. Real men don’t have emotional issues, they don’t talk about them, and they certainly don’t seek help. I figured if I just worked harder, worked out more, ate more junk food, and/or kept so busy I could out run my issues. None of it worked. If anything, the more I tried to avoid my feelings, the more intense they became.
So, I reluctantly agreed to go to counseling. During my first appointment, my counselor, Rick, asked me about my childhood. Pretty standard stuff based on what I’d read before the appointment. If I was going to go, I wanted to know what to expect so I read several books.
I responded, “What specifically would you like to know”.
Rick said, “Why don’t you tell me about first grade”.
“I don’t remember first grade”.
“What about second grade”?
“I don’t remember that either”.
This back and forth went on until we got to sixth grade, were I remember a few things. Seventh and eighth grades were pretty sparce of memories as well.
Rick asked, “Do you think your lack of memories is unusual”?
I said, “not to me. Do you think it is”?
He replied, “Most people remember their childhood pretty congruently from first grade on”.
He then asked, “Did anything happened to you as a child”?
I said, “Not that I know of”, and that’s pretty much how my first counseling session ended. I made an appointment for another session the following week.
Over the next few months, Rick and I talked about my self-image, its origins, and how to transform it. At the time, I viewed myself as an “ugly, stupid, worthless piece of crap who couldn’t do anything right” and it was clear that this came from my father. My father was an angry tyrant at home and a submissive pussy outside of the home. So, he took his frustrations out on me and the rest of the family.
To work on my self-image issue, we talked about my father and we talked about my grade school years. As I mentioned, I don’t remember grade school and yet I knew I hated it, I fought all of the time, I was unruly in class, and I ran away often.
In the fall of 1990, I started my third year of law school and continued with my counseling. A few weeks into the semester, a few memories surfaced via dreams. They were much more than dreams, I could feel them, and yet they seemed like they happened to someone else, not to me.. I repeatedly dreamt-felt very large hands around my neck, choking me as I struggled to breathe. I also repeatedly dreamt-felt a very heavy weight pressing down on my body preventing me from moving or speaking. Both were terrifying.
As I experienced more feeling-dreams about being pinned down and my life being threaten, my counseling sessions went from once a week, to twice a week, to almost every day by the end of 1990. I was in more pain now than before I started counseling. The pain encompassed sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, worthlessness, undeserving of love, self-hate, fear, panic, and an emptiness I can’t describe beyond that.
In late February of 1991, I woke from a dream absolutely petrified. In this dream, I was being choked with a heavy weight pressing on my body paralyzing me like before, but this dream also including a figure hovering over me. The figure repeatedly whispered in a menacing tone that if I said anything I would be killed. I don’t know how I know this, but the figure’s name was “Policeman Alice”.
For the next four weeks, I couldn’t close my eyes without feeling Policeman Alice a foot from my face and my death being imminent. So, I keep my eyes open. I hardly slept, I was too afraid. Even without sleep, I continued working and going to law school.
That is, until I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take the pain and the lack of sleep. I needed more help or I was going to die. So, at the recommendation of Rick, I went to a treatment center for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
At the treatment center, the doctors wanted to give me medication to help me sleep and to calm my fears, I refused. Not because I didn’t want to feel better, I had and still have a strong aversion to anything that makes me feel relaxed or causes me to let my guard down. This is the reason why I don’t drink. I hate the buzz feeling that alcohol brings on; it freaks me out.
During my five weeks at the treatment center, I attended group sessions, had private therapy sessions, journaled, and did some drawings. This escalated the memories and now I was having flashbacks in addition to dreams. For me, a flashback would be triggered by anything tied to an abusive moment. It could be a smell, a sound, a phrase, a feeling; pretty much anything.
In a flashback, I’m awake but in the past and the present concurrently. My physical body is in the present and my senses, feelings, and emotions are in the past. It’s a bizarre state. I had flashbacks of being locked in a large freezer like the ones at cafeterias at schools. I was so cold during the flashbacks, no amount of blankets could warm me up. It was very dark and I was very afraid. The flashback would eventually fade, I’d warm up, come fully back to the present, feel empty, and wonder what the hell that was.
I was also having flashbacks of being sexually assaulted, which included elements of being drugged, of being told it’s my fault, of being told it’s not real, and of being threatened by the police. Sometimes the sexual abuse was being done in a group, sometimes it was just one person, and sometimes it felt like people were watching. When this type of flashback ended, I felt crazy. I must be making this up; it’s just too bizarre to be real. What’s wrong with me? And that’s the point! My abusers wanted me to be riddled with self-doubt, with self-blame, with self-disgust, to feel isolated and alone, and, most importantly, to live in fear of what they could do to me.
I wish that when I left the treatment center I was healed from the scars of my abusive childhood. I was not. This was just the beginning of the first layer of my recovery process. I am, however, grateful for the help I received at the treatment center. They helped me learned more about what happened to me, although I still had serious doubts as to how much, if any, of it was real. They also helped me develop a few skills to deal with the depression, panic attacks, self-confidence, self-worth, self-loathing, and my eating disorder so I could get on with my life.
I am the CEO and Founder of Athalonz, LLC., I am a founding partner of the patent boutique law firm of Garlick & Markison, I am a survivor of child abuse, and I am an inventor on over 300 patents.
Athalonz is a technology company based on Mesa, AZ. It develops and sells athletic footwear, which incorporates its patented technology that leverages the laws of physics to improve athletic performance. Website: athalonz.com
Garlick & Markison is a patent law boutique firm that assists clients in building a patent business within their business using proprietary tools and techniques. Website: texaspatents.com
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