Like most people, I’ve always tried to attain the best possible quality of life for myself. Looking back on my life now, I can confidently say that I have made outstanding progress over the years. I did what others had deemed to be impossible: I beat The Incurable. I challenged Pure OCD, anxiety, and my reliance on prescription pills and came out victorious. The progress I’ve made can be attributed mainly to my understanding and acceptance of my unique personality and the ways I found to navigate life with it.
I owned my shortcomings and discovered a way to integrate them as harmoniously as possible into my way of living, which I can now do despite my challenges. I really found a way to do the impossible and live without the weight of these illnesses dragging me down; what’s more, I found a way to beat them!
I beat pure OCD, which to this day is thought to be an incurable condition. The realization that helped me to achieve this victory is that all people who suffer from OCD and anxiety (or just one of the two) live in a perpetual state of fear. That fear is the leading cause of the problems they are facing. The medical industry will have sufferers believe that their conditions trigger their fear and drive their anxiety when in reality, fear is actually causing these mental illnesses. I’m here to tell you the truth that I uncovered on my own journey to healing: that you can heal and live a normal life without these problems. It is possible for you to overcome your fears and live a life of freedom.
I suffered quite a lot of trauma during my childhood and I was not spared the resulting issues that plagued my life. Just like the experience of a person feeling a bug crawling on their skin, I felt this when the fear set in and changes started happening in my mind. Initially, I tried to shake off these feelings, along with the new unhealthy habits I was developing, but it quickly became obvious that a problem was building up within me, ready to implode. As a young man with a daughter to take care of, I knew I had to be intentional about my wellbeing so that I could not only be there for her, but also continue to be of sound mind.
As I look back on my life, I can recognize not only how far I have come, but also identify the trauma that started me on my dark road. The truth is that I was not always as happy and grateful as I am now. My childhood trauma left an indelible mark on my life. From the tender age of five, while my friends were enjoying their childish games and basking in radiant innocence, I was being sexually abused, over and over. What made the situation so much worse was that my abuser was known to me. She was an older girl in my church group and a close friend of my family. This innocent-looking girl would tell jokes with my father, share some girl talk with my mother and still have the heart to sexually abuse me every Sunday while we were at church!
I loved this girl with all my heart – so much so that when I was 5 years old, I wrote a note to her that said “I love you.” I was so excited to let her know how I felt and to find out if she felt the same. After reading my note, she then pulled me away from the church group, took me into a closet in another room and persuaded me that loving her meant that I would have to please her. I distinctly remember how sick this made me feel. I was just a five year old boy, expressing my innocent feelings, and in turn, she took advantage of me and altered the outcome of my life forever. She convinced me that we would both get in big trouble if I told anyone what she was doing to me. I became terrified by her assurances that bad things would happen to me if I spoke out. This was my first experience with the all-encompassing fear that would accompany me for the rest of my life.
Although I was young and innocent, a part of my juvenile mind knew that what my abuser was doing to me was wrong and that I should tell my parents about it, but I could not bring myself to say anything to anybody. I was just a kid — how was I supposed to explain what was happening to me? And even if I did speak up, who would have believed that such an angelic, Christian girl was capable of committing such sinful acts in the first place?
I stayed silent about my ongoing abuse for a long time, until I finally mustered up the courage to speak about it. I had just turned nine when I decided to tell my father everything. Unfortunately, the act of speaking up turned out to be one of my greatest regrets. Instead of supporting me, my father told me that I just had to get over it. What was worse, I was left alone again with my abuser the very next Sunday, and for every Sunday that followed from there. I remember praying to Jesus in the altar room as my abuser continued to violate me. I would literally endure abuse under the icons of saints who watched on, motionless, as I begged them to save me. This cycle of abuse continued for six more years until I finally had the strength at age fifteen to tell my abuser to stop on my own. However, I would never forget my father’s instructions to “get over it”, and that singular piece of advice shaped the way that I approached every challenge that followed in the coming years.
My father had always been my idol and his inaction in the face of my abuse crushed my spirit as a child. I always thought my father was my protector; for crying out loud, he was a professional WWE wrestler who once wrestled with Andre The Giant! He, of all people, should have protected me in my time of need. I don’t think my father ever confronted my abuser or told anyone about my confession. It was bad enough that he did not do anything to prevent the abuse from the very beginning, but even after he found out, he still did nothing. I felt that I had no other choice, so I took my father’s advice and I did what I could to get over the ordeal. When I started experiencing intrusive thoughts later in my life, I could not help but think that the seeds of my suffering had been planted when I first experienced this trauma as a child.
Where some children in my situation might have found an escape from their tragic circumstances by throwing themselves into their schoolwork, I was not so lucky. In addition to the sexual abuse I was subjected to as a child, I also received my fair share of racial and physical abuse at school. I suppose it didn’t help that my family had a Middle Eastern background, although we are actually from Greece. I looked different from most of the kids in my school and they made sure that I remained an outsider by excluding me from social gatherings and friend groups. My history of abuse made it difficult for me to relate to my peers, so I remained a lonely introvert with no real friends to speak of.
The only way that I found to channel my frustrations and emotions was through my sports and academic activities. Without friends or home comforts to distract me, I threw myself into every sport I could and, in time, became a highly skilled football player and swimmer. It wasn’t long before I had gained a reputation as an able sportsman, but sadly even the fame I gained from my sporting triumphs wasn’t enough to fix my oddity. It seemed like I was destined to be a misfit kid who was disliked by everyone. In fact, the only people who seemed willing to hang out with me at school were other kids of color, an idea my father was strongly opposed to.
In my freshman year, I decided that it was time for me to join the school football team. I already knew that the other kids on the team didn’t like me but I reckoned that my exceptional sporting abilities would make up for that. Sadly, the dislike quickly turned to hatred when the rest of the football team saw how much better I was than them at their own sport. In their minds, it must have seemed crazy that a “non-American nobody” could just waltz onto the field and steal their shine. Rumors started to circulate that members of the football team were planning to corner me and beat me up on the night of the school dance. When I heard these rumors, I decided it was time for me to stand up to these bullies once and for all.
True to the rumors, the night of the school dance led to an ambush. I made the first move by confronting one of the boys on the team outright. They made me walk away from the school with them, to a field across the street. As we walked, I repeatedly told the boy that I didn’t want to fight with him or anyone else, but my words fell on deaf ears. By the time we reached the meeting place where the other boys were waiting, it became clear to me that all of them were looking for a fight. I had walked straight into their trap.
The boys started by taking turns to taunt and ridicule me in an attempt to get me to throw the first punch. I stuck to my convictions and repeated that I did not want to fight them and asked them to leave me alone. Of course, my refusal to engage in a fight did not sit well with my tormentors and within minutes they all jumped on me. This seemed like the inevitable conclusion of their plan that night, and no matter how many times I revisit the scenario in my mind, I am always assured that there is nothing that I could have done to prevent what happened next.
My ambushers were six-to-eight strong and physically fit boys from the football team. I never stood a chance against them. There and then they proceeded to beat me to a bloody pulp, punching me in the face and stomach, kicking me all over, and throwing me around like a ragdoll. I was beaten so badly that there was blood all over my clothes and shoes. The beating continued for a good 15 to 20 minutes.
Before my vision grew blurry from the assault of punches, I distinctly remember seeing people standing around the fight in a circle, watching as it happened. I kept calling for help, hoping against hope that someone would step in and make it stop, but I was disappointed. The jubilant crowd of kids stood around and watched as I was pummelled and not one individual lifted a finger to save me. In their minds this must have seemed like a typical Royal Rumble grudge match, with them gathered around the action as eager spectators but never participants in my fate. Even my so-called allies, the other children of color, stood by and watched me get beaten.
The strangest part of this incident was that all these strong boys with their six-eight-man effort could not accomplish their goal of knocking me out(this is what saved my life). Despite their best efforts and the fact that I was bloody and bruised all over, I was at no point helplessly unconscious. Perhaps I truly was my wrestling father’s son after all.
The assault eventually concluded when my attackers lost the will and energy to keep beating me down. I learned later in life that the act of beating takes as much energy from the beater as it does from the beaten. By the end of the ordeal, the boys were as spent as I was and barely clutching onto the strings of consciousness. I managed to drag myself away from them and back to the school premises unaided by anyone. All the while, I could hear the taunting jeers of my attackers and their audience of spectators following me. Somehow, I managed to drag myself, one foot after the other, back to safety. All the while, my tears brought joy and laughter to those who had assaulted me so viciously.
This incident brought home to me that no matter how good and talented you are, certain people will always see the color of your skin first and use that as a measure to judge you. I am lucky that I survived this outright assault at such a tender age, otherwise I may have simply become another victim of a minority murder. The fact that I could rely on no one to help me in my moment of crisis only deepened the well of fear that I was already carrying inside me, and the effects of this fear stayed with me for the rest of my life.
From this point onwards, I became afraid of everything. I lived in fear that I might have contracted AIDS from the blood in the fight, even though I knew the blood was my own. I was afraid to be among my peers at school. I was constantly afraid of being attacked again. I was afraid to go to church.
Fear became the ruling emotion in my life, and I existed in a state of constant anxiety and panic. I was as afraid of the color of my skin as I was of the bullies that crowded my nightmares. This fear grew and grew until I was overcome with thoughts (thoughts that went against my moral compass) thoughts of harming the people I loved.
Slowly but surely, I was becoming afraid of myself and the person I was becoming.