“Unfortunately, A Normal Life Was Never In The Cards For Me”

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I Am Alive Because of Colton Haynes, Jonathan Van Ness, and Britney Spears
This Is My Mental Health Story

I was struggling and hit rock bottom more times than I should have.  Few interventions reached me.  I was alone.  Not many LGBT personalities are brave enough to open up and share their mental health battles.  The few who have made the difference in my life. Through the shared experiences of Colton Haynes, Jonathan Van Ness, and Britney Spears I found the strength to overcome and this is my story.  As ‘divine intervention’ would have it, I stumbled across their mental health stories and they saved my life.

I want to level with you. I am in zero way normal. I don’t act socially acceptable. I don’t follow the expected or safe path in life, and I have yet to be affected by the word “shame.” Sometimes memories trickle back to a time in my life when I desperately wanted to be just like everyone else. You know the ones who held power over polite social circles. The ones with seemingly perfect lives void of any messy or challenging character traits that could be used against them. The quintessential ostrich, sand, head, butt type of personality.

Normal seemed appealing to me because it represented security and acceptance. Unfortunately, a normal life was never in the cards for me. I was not cut out to deny all that my humanity encompassed, even my dark. Some have called me broken, but they were wrong. I’m a damaged individual and there is a difference.

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Life affects everyone. Some have a more taxing journey than others through no fault of their own. There are “outliers” that the American social structure just can’t wrap its warped little mind around. Most of those closest to me understood that in my life I had unimaginable struggles, life-threatening situations and traumatic experiences that I was forced to overcome.

Being judged for my mental health battles and openness was never easy and how they treated me was on them alone. I jokingly refer to myself a severely screwed-up person; in actuality it’s the truth.

To be damaged, there has to be trauma; physical or psychological trauma. Traumatic events are survivable, but they always leave emotional scars and there is simply no way around that. Scars are always an ode to remembrance.

Trauma occurs after a disturbing or life-altering ordeal. Sufferers may develop extreme anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They may have continuing complications with relationships and self-worth. About 75 percent of trauma survivors develop addiction issues, which is the “burning platform” that should alarm everyone. I don’t know about you, but I think damaged people are extraordinary. I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for those who have lived through dark and damaging experiences.

Most people write damaged individuals off, failing to see the beauty in their struggles. Reality is that no one escapes life without a few scratches. Some have lived through happenings that have left them permanently scarred and damaged. Money and other social trappings could never begin to help them heal. Some experiences are so traumatic that even surviving them with the label “damaged” says a lot.

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As I see it, damaged people are true survivors. They have been to hell and back, living to tell their tales. They escaped their “dance with demons.” They reentered the light changed and affected, with wounds on full display like a peacock prancing for its mate. Damaged individuals have been witness to some of the darkest experiences that humanity offers, but they are rarely treated as anything other than abnormal.

Few things in life annoy me more than witnessing self-proclaimed, upstanding individuals reject the most vulnerable—those who have no other choice but to grip their dark. Society can be particularly hard on damaged people. Society judges individuals by a blanket understanding of what it means to be normal. Look at the utter social hell people like Angelina Jolie have endured; case closed.

I have found strength in embracing the exquisite mess that I am. I figure there is no way for me to change or avoid the past events that have left me so affected. I choose to zero-in on my future. Most would not survive the experiences that I and other damaged individuals have lived through. This is not meant to build ego, but hopefully lends an understanding on addiction and suicide correlations in the United States.

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In the past few years, I have come to the realization that the things I have survived have equipped me with a knowledge base and skill set to help others navigate situations that they would otherwise not know how to handle. It is not necessarily a toolbox I want to lug around, but if I have it, I may as well do something good with it. When you are trapped in the dark with eyes wide searching for the light, hold on—good is on its way to you. It really is.

My advice: Learn to be a damaged rebel in sheep’s clothing. Socially speaking, we need more personal stories on overcoming trauma in hopes of offering inspiration to individuals who are battling their dark. Through my damage I discovered the gift of empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It’s a very paternal gift to me and has made me see the world from an entirely different perspective. My role in life is to protect, especially those who have been led to dance with demons.

Thank you Colton, Jonathan, and Britney for being brave enough to share your stories; they saved my life. 

C.L. Frederick is an internationally published columnist, reporting on social issues affecting the LGBT community. His articles have been published by numerous national and international publications. A few of the outlets he has written for include The Phoenix Newsletter (Kansas City), DNA Magazine, Prism Magazine, Homoculture, Impulse Group, The Dallas Voice, and The Windy City Times (Chicago). As a writer, he is known for sharing his personal experiences dealing with being a HIV positive gay man and for documenting his journey from addict to being in recovery. He has had several featured acting roles on t.v. shows such as; Modern Family, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, LA Hair, and Empire. As a male model, he has been featured in campaigns for Joe’s Jeans, Quarter Homme, and Andrew Christian. He is single in his personal life, but has his Dimaggio. His greatest dream in life is to have a family and he will build that ‘white picket fence’ with his own two well manicured hands if he has to.

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