Straps and demeaning words leave life long scars…by Chuck Duboff

©Chuck Duboff

I was always afraid.  My mom would finish her wooden spoon ritual, a few more nails broken on my fingers and then she’d utter the words “wait until your father gets home…” Try going to school feeling fear all day; try concentrating on the provinces and their capitals, while at the same time worrying about getting the strap from dad.  What was it this time? I only got a B+ on a subject rather than an A…that certainly warranted the wrath of the strap.

I was always afraid.  “Do you think money grows on trees?  Who do you think you are going out with girls and spending money?”  Nothing I ever did was deemed acceptable.  School not good enough.  “you’re too fat, we have to buy you special clothes.”  Too fat, too “stupid”, waster of money, “you’ll eat that food the way it’s made, I don’t care what you like”

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I’d escape into baseball.  I’d read magazines, create my own games and leagues.  It was my temporary escape from the insanity of my house.  I’d be the shortstop for the New York Yankees for a few hours; I’d be the starting pitcher in the World Series.  Baseball helped me to escape.  My body would be in horror “waiting for your father to get home.” while I dreamed of being Mickey Mantle.

When he’d get home, I’d hide in terror in my room.  Sometimes under the blankets, other times just lying staring at the ceiling waiting once again for the punishment.  Some nights he’d be too tired to come in and destroy me, while other nights he’d enter and unleash his frustrations and failures upon me.  I cried for hours and hours and hours.  There never seemed to be an end to it.

Fast forward five decades; “now you know why I am so fucked up Carly”  To this day I feel the pain, the hurt, the worthlessness of those terror filled nights; those demeaning hurtful comments which are seared into my soul. “you’ll drive me to Selkirk”  I walk around aimlessly filled with the question: “Why, what did I ever do…” I always tried to behave, to be the good son, but even today it doesn’t matter what I do.  I am still begrudged any happiness…”why would your student get up at 3 in the morning and drive you to the airport?”  Maybe because my students saw the good side of me that you and dad never did mom.

Your straps and mean words forever scared me…and I still live with that pain today.

They watched…by Chuck Duboff

grave

©Chuck Duboff

Assembled,
Hands held,
Tears…
There were few.

Casket lowered,
Eyes saying goodbye,
Sadness,
Relief…
For the tortured soul.

An other world
Joy,
Within the coffin…
No more charades,
Hypocrisy,
Crocodile tears.

They went their own way,
Deep in thought,
Pondering a life…
Ravaged,
Broken,
Alone.

Not a baseball story, but rather, a Winnipeg baseball fan courageously shares a very painful part of his life…by Josh Alen.

© Chuck Duboff

Editor’s Note: I have known Josh from a distance at Goldeyes games; he has always seemed like a very devoted fan…yet, I didn’t really know him.
Josh regularly reads my Goldeyes blogs and leaves commentary.  I was very impressed with this young man, yet still, I didn’t know his story.  Little pieces would come out, but it was still a puzzle.
Recently Josh posted some very personal thoughts on Facebook about the challenges he has faced in life.  I reached out to him and asked if he’d like to share his story on the blog…I sensed at first some hesitation, but with time and thought, Josh eagerly agreed to share his story.
What follows is the story of a transgender youth trying to find himself.
Well done Josh…very proud of you for having the courage to write this.  I know Luis Alen is proud of you also…as are all your friends and Goldeyes family.

 

© Josh Alen

Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local indy-league baseball team brought a rookie bat catcher onto the roster, a little guy from South America with decent numbers. His name was Luis Alen, and I guess that’s where this story starts.

I didn’t know the first thing about baseball back then. I followed the Winnipeg Goldeyes casually, solely because they were the hometown ball club. That changed pretty quickly after that signing.

You know that feeling when something happens, and you feel a click, as if to say this is going to be important? That’s the feeling I got, reading that press release.
It would end up being six years before I got to see that kid from Venezuela play a game in person, but man, was it ever worth the wait.

I went to my first Goldeyes game on March 18th of 2008, my first words? “Where’s Alen?”
“Oh, he doesn’t play for us anymore.” I was told.
Needless to say, that was a disappointing summer. I didn’t end up going back for a while, but the reasons were unrelated.

In May of 2012, I was reeling from years’ of mental illnesses, abuse trauma, and a couple failed suicide attempts.
I didn’t want to live anymore, let alone go to a baseball game. I did anyway.
It was the 30th, just days before my nineteenth birthday. The night was warm, the breeze was perfect, and the sunset was one of the more beautiful ones I’d seen in a while. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would end up being the first day of the rest of my life.

“Just one game” I’d said.
That “one game” ended up being close to fifteen or twenty by the time September rolled around, and turned into becoming a season ticket holder by age twenty-one.
I don’t remember much about the 2012 season,
I remember that first game though. I remember finally seeing Luis in person, I remember seeing him interact with fans, how kind and sweet he was, how genuine he seemed, I remember watching him walk up to bat. It was like being a kid on Christmas morning again. I remember watching him hit, hit after hit, after hit…it’d be a while before I saw him strike out. He was a genius behind the plate too, called the game like few others.
That game set the stage for the coming years. I don’t remember if we won or not, it wasn’t important. I remember feeling, a certain safety, a sense of home (there was that click again).
I’d continue to feel that throughout the rest of the year, as I became more familiar with the team that was quite quickly becoming mine.


Everything was so new, and so fun, getting to know some regular fans, some of the staff, and some of the players themselves.
It was refreshing to have something to look forward to, something exciting, that was bringing me out of my shell after so long; the championship run that fall certainly didn’t hurt either.
Still, the best part of that first summer was watching, awe-struck every time #18 walked past, or went up to the plate.


That would be the case every year. I’ll never know exactly why, but nothing else ever seemed to matter quite as much. Maybe it was simply how good he was on the field. Maybe it was how he carried himself as a professional athlete, or how humble he was. Though it could have been that in getting to know him I’d come to find that the kind, gentle soul I’d seen interacting with kids on that night in May wasn’t the same act that most athletes put on to impress; but in fact just who he was. It was likely a combination of all those things, mixed with a little of the world’s best hugs.

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Whatever it was, it kept me coming back, not just in 2012; but every year that followed.
Life didn’t just magically get better after one summer, no. That has been a lengthy process that has lasted up until this day, and will continue for as long as I live.
There has been hurt, there has been heartache, there have been more mental illnesses, there have been my first steps in the world as a transgender male, there has been loss, so, much loss.
Though, no matter the mud that I’ve been dragged through, no matter how far past rock bottom I’ve sank, there has always been a light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve always had my boys. Even when I didn’t have “my” boys, even when every other player I’d liked had left for whatever reasons, when a large portion of the friends I’d made in years past had decided to not return; there was always, my catcher. That was what got me through even the darkest nights and back through the doors of my beloved ballpark every spring.

Until one day, he wasn’t anymore.

That’s when it became real.
That was the point which I had to sit back, and reflect on the years I’d spent telling myself that this one, amazing player had kept me coming back long enough to love a team that I kept claiming saved my life. I came to a crossroads at which I was forced to look at whether or not those claims were true, or if they were just the rugs under which I’d been sweeping my problems.
It was agonizing, to say the very least.
I was convinced that I didn’t have a chance in hell at recovering from the loss of the person who’d been there from the very beginning, who was the catalyst for all the friendships, all the happy memories, the person who none of this could be at all without.
I did have a chance though, after months of self-destruction and doubt I overcame, and I conquered with such tenacity that even as I write this a year later, I still cannot fathom.
I spent the last three hundred and sixty five plus days moving one of the most enormous mountains that life has ever dropped in front of me.
I didn’t do it alone though, not for a single second.

On a frigid, January morning the safe, familiar home that I’d built for myself burst into flames, and burned to the ground; leaving me buried so far beneath the rubble that I was rendered virtually unrecognizable. At the time I was thought that everything I’d come to know was over, when in reality it was just beginning. Slowly, everything that I had gained from the interest in baseball that a catcher had sparked a decade prior started to unfold everywhere I looked. All the happiness that reminded me of why I started this chapter to begin with, the memories that I’d miss making, the love that would be left over with nowhere to go should I make good on my “resignation” from my Goldeyes, the friendships that I’d come to cherish that would likely be lost.
That last one was the most important, and ultimately what has gotten me to the place I am in right now.

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The friends that I had made and continue to make, the people who found the multiple feet of rubble, and chipped away to find me at the bottom. The people who pulled me out, and dusted me off, the people who held me up and showed me not only how to stand again, but how to walk on my own; those who stood on all sides of me, and picked me up every time I fell, every time I still fall. The people who believed in me, who loved me until I could be myself again, the people who ended up showing me what it meant to belong, and to be truly accepted.
The people who I would never have met, had it not been for the love I developed for that rookie catcher from Venezuela, who I’ve now come to call My King.

I will not forget the bad that came with this last year.
The sheer terror on that morning, the devastation I felt when walking away seemed like the best and only option, or the weeks I spent lying awake at night, most of the time fairly intoxicated.
However, I will also not forget the good.
The leaps and bounds I made towards recovery after so many years, the obstacles that I laughed in the face of, as I surmounted them.
The night before my twenty-third birthday; on which I summoned the courage to tell the man that started this all, a watered-down version of this story. The same night that I asked him for his blessing to take his last name as my own (I should mention that he said yes, and I’ve never been more proud of anything in my all my years).
The new people I met along the way that help each and every day to shape me into the man that I hope to eventually become.
Oh, and the championship run at the end of this season wasn’t too shabby either.

14424708_258700601196799_3623375460493997764_oI have learned so much about the mental strength that I did not know I possessed, about perseverance, and resiliency. I’ve learned what it means to truly love, and to be truly loved.
I’ve learned about taking risks, and making the most of every precious moment you’re given, how not a single one of those moments should be taken for granted, and making damn sure that you tell the ones you love that you love them while you still have the chance.

I’ve had proven to me the meaning of fate, and destiny. I learned to trust that click, to trust the feeling of this was meant to be. If something screams “this is your purpose, this is what you were meant to find” for a decade, you should probably stop being stubborn and just listen.

I am finally on a road to a real, and long-lasting recovery after over a decade of suffering, I am on a path to becoming the most authentic me I can possibly be; none of which could be possible without the environment that a small sports organization in downtown Winnipeg creates for their fans

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Sometime in the spring of 2007, my local independent-league baseball club signed a soft-spoken, catcher, with a heart of gold, and one of the most beautiful souls this world will ever know. His name was Luis Alen; and he, along with his team changed my life forever.

Clara Hughes: “Education is the most crucial component to breaking down the stigma attached to Mental Illness.”…by Chuck Duboff

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I suffer from depression; I have been blessed with many who have stood by me and helped me through the difficult times.  I believe this is a very important blog…I thank individuals like Clara Hughes, Michael Landsberg and Howie Mandel for being just a few of the many individuals with mental health issues who have chosen to speak up and help de-stigmatize this disease.  I ask that you please pass this blog on, so that others may learn from it…I know in the past, when I have written blogs about my own depression, I have received many private messages from former students and friends thanking me for opening up and talking about my challenges.  I ask that you share this…and if someone reaches out to you or is struggling, take the time to try and understand what they are going through.

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© Chuck Duboff

“Every single day I struggle, I have those thoughts.”  Howie Mandel.

Mental illness, depression, bi-polar disorder, OCD, anxiety…they have all been stigmatized throughout history.  Individuals who exhibit traits synonymous with mental health issues have been ostracized, belittled, laughed upon and shunned from society.

Speaking as an individual who has battled depression throughout my whole life, my most common refrain is that far too many people assume that individuals who suffer from mental illness, choose to live their lives in this manner.  Whether it is family, friends or outside observers, it saddens me that individuals will get upset, castigate, belittle and shun me when the illness takes control.

I have been fortunate to have several individuals who have stuck with me, not given up and have tried to understand what I go through.  The respect and appreciation I have for these individuals can’t be put into words.  Knowing that these people are not giving up on me, helps me to get through the “difficult days”.  Though they may not fully understand what I am experiencing, they do recognize that it is not something I choose, but rather a disease which I live with.

Thankfully, through much hard work by many individuals, those of us who suffer with Depression and other mental illnesses, have felt safer sharing our stories with the world.  It truly helps when I know that individuals like Carrie Fisher, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Gwenyth Peltrow, Billy Joel,  Jon Hamm, Clint Malarchuk, Stephane Richer, Darryl Strawberry, Angelina Jolie, Catherine Zeta Jones, Charlie Sheen, Britanny Spears, Terry Bradshaw…and so many more…all struggle with this same debilitating disease…

There are three Canadian individuals whom I must single out for their efforts to improve, increase and positively accentuate the understanding of Depression and Mental Illness.  Clara Hughes, Michael Landsberg and Howie Mandel have become the “noted” spokes people for the annual Bell Let’s Talk campaign, a day dedicated to increasing the understanding of what individuals with mental disorders go through.  On this day, for every tweet and other social media interactions, Bell Canada will donate 5 cents to Canadian Mental Health.  I know that this day is making a tremendous difference in the attitudes which individuals are exhibiting towards those of us with Mental Health Issues.

I thank Bell Canada, Clara, Michael and Howie and all the others involved in putting this day on.  You are making a difference…writing this blog today is a lot easier than it would have been even five years ago.

Saturday Morning Random Thoughts (with several important Thank You’s included); by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

  • Thank you to Clara Hughes…while laid up in a hospital bed after surgery, she took the time to encourage me through a difficult week.  You are a champion in so many ways Clara…most importantly, you are an inspiration to all of us who face the daily challenge of Depression.  Your being so open about the challenges you face with Mental Health Issues…you make it easier for all of us.clara huges
  • Al and Geoff…thank you for last Monday afternoon.  Thank you.
  • Completed watching Breaking Bad, all 5 seasons, for the third time.  Walter White and Jessie…daymn, it doesn’t get much better.
  • As I said yesterday:  “Winnipeg, where you get up in the morning and check the wind chill, -29, and you go: YES!!…now that’s better.”
    blizzard
  • I say this to friends and family of those who suffer with Depression; it must be difficult to watch someone you love struggle and make decisions which seem irrational; but, I would ask you to ask yourself this question: “Would someone like Chuck, a supposedly educated man, consciously choose to go through what he went through last week.”  The next time you get frustrated, upset, angry with them for doing something which you can’t understand…ask yourself that question.
  • Given all the injuries the Jets faced in November…and the heavy schedule they were given…it’s amazing they are still at.500…playoffs may be tough…but, I think, if they could beat Buffalo today, making it 3 in a row, they could go on a roll.
  • Think about this: Scheifele, Ehlers and Laine…just those three, 51 GOALS!!!!!
  • The beaches of Puerto Vallarta, the ocean, the mountains, the hot sun…are now within my getting excited time!!!  Two weeks away from this frozen city!!!
  • In the midst of a very difficult birthday on January 1st, the birthday wishes kept pouring in on Facebook…don’t have the words to express what that day felt like, but I do want to thank those that took the time to send their birthday wishes.
  • The Russians, Vladamir Putin, manipulating the American election, is beyond believable…if a direct link to Trump’s campaign is exposed…Trump should be tried for treason and there should be a re-election.  Woodward and Bernstein…go get ’em boys!!
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  • These two leaders are destroying the very foundation of Democracy.
  • Watched the Secret Life of Pets with Laine and Ben; man did I ever enjoy that!!
  • Bell Lets Talk…January 25…a day of discussion and understanding about Mental Health Issues…leaders like Clara Hughes and Michael Landsberg, who face the daily challenges, have been courageous in bringing this debilitating medical issue to light.
    clara-25
  • Thursday evening, December 29th, I went to the Jets game with Laine; we had a fantastic time; came home in a great mood.  Woke up Friday morning, December 30th; within minutes, I knew!!  I felt it!!  Ten minutes later I wrote this blog; reading it now, it just blows my mind how the Devil (Depression) can take hold and not let go.  https://chuckduboff.com/2016/12/30/the-devils-death-grip-by-chuck-duboff/
  • Brian Pallister, hope you’re having fun down in Costa Rica plotting more ways you can cut jobs, salaries, services in Manitoba.
  • Been in a Led Zeppelin headspace for weeks now…Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham!!led-zeppelin-ii-1400175028
  • Thank you Al; thank you Geoff; thank you Clara.  I’m writing today, because the three of you took the time to be there for me.
  • Al inscribed the copy of his book, Saskatchewan Farm Boy, that he gave me; some important words were said: … “the best and longest of friends are those who accept each other for what they are.”
  • This is classic, couldn’t resist:esl

REM: Everybody Hurts; Pink Floyd: Comfortably Numb.

Comfortably Numb…Pink Floyd

Hello? Hello? Hello?

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?
Come on now
I hear you’re feeling down
Well I can ease your pain
Get you on your feet again
Relax
I’ll need some information first
Just the basic facts
Can you show me where it hurts?

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child I had a fever
My hands felt just like two balloons
Now I’ve got that feeling once again
I can’t explain you would not understand
This is not how I am
I have become comfortably numb

Okay
Just a little pinprick
There’ll be no more, ah
But you may feel a little sick
Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working, good
That’ll keep you going through the show
Come on it’s time to go

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb

Everybody Hurts…REM

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life
Well, hang on, don’t let yourself go
Everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong, now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone, if you feel like letting go
(Hold on, hold on, hold on)
When you think you’ve had too much of this life, well, hang on

Everybody hurts, take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts, don’t throw your hand
Oh, no, don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone
No, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on.

The Devil’s Death Grip…by Chuck Duboff

devil-depression

© Chuck Duboff

The devil arrives, deep sallow eyes, a chilling smirk announces: “I am here and it is you I shall take control of you.”
Uninvited, arriving on its own timetable, I shake.  My soul recognizes the episode which is about to occur, as the devil’s grip tightens.
The thoughts become unruly, irrational, confused; yet it’s the devil standing there, sneering and bellowing with a haunting voice: “Hope you have none…for as long as I shall decide to play with your mind.”
With all my will I dig deep and fight the irrational thoughts; drink lots of water, green tea, get in exercise, talk with others…you know this is your best medicine to fight off the strangulating grip.
So many will be let down, I think to myself.  This is the rationale mindset, yet the Devil sneers, smirks and emits: “you know this will last as long as I want to play with your mind. Your so called medicine, water, green tea, exercise, friends…I Laugh at your pitiful attempt to defeat me.  I will just tighten the grip and your irrational mind will go to a darker place and you will be mine!!”
d62 years and 364 days later…I have come to believe this…all my strength, courage, internal will, do not stand a chance in the face of the devil; you are right, the light gets dark, the music haunting, the thoughts knowingly irrational; the walls arise, the energy dissipates, the self loathing ensues…
And I…a mere pawn in the palm of the Prince of Darkness.
As my muse Hamlet uttered: “Oh that the everlasting had not set his cannon against self-slaughter.”

A letter to my dear friend Lisa; it’s been one year…you are missed, so very much …by Chuck Duboff (reblogged)

It’s now been two years since Lisa left us; she has been on my mind so much these past few days…couldn’t sleep last night thinking about her…and how much I miss her.  I could be so real with you Lisa..I could share the pain with you that I knew you understood…your empathy was genuine and when I needed a swift kick in the ass, you gave it to me!!

PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE TO READ MY WORDS FROM ONE YEAR AGO…

I MISS YOU TERRIBLY LISA!!

© Chuck Duboff
Lisa S

Lisa. I walked into the gym this morning and you weren’t there. You weren’t there yesterday either…and I’m pretty sure you won’t be there tomorrow morning. I keep waiting for you to say: “Chuck, we came here to workout, not listen to you sing!!”. I’d give anything to hear that one more time, to see “the look” one more time.

Lisa…it’s one year since you left us. Deep in my heart I knew the unbearable pain you were in. When I heard that you had had enough, I was shocked, but not surprised. You were such an intelligent, beautiful woman who lived her life filled with pain, self-loathing and insecurities.

Lisa…our friendship was so very special and unique. We understood each other at a level that most people couldn’t relate to. One minute you and I were making plans to go to 529, the next minute you were yelling at me that you didn’t want anything more than hello’s from. I understood…I go to the same place Lisa; you knew that…and you understood that…you understood me as I understood you.  You understood me as no one in my life ever has.

Lisa!!!

There are evenings when I just lie in bed and think about you and the tears start; sometimes for the fun things like the floppy hat by the pool or the debates we got into about favourite ice cream flavours. Other times the tears are for the dark days we helped each other through; I remember the sadness in your voice when you talked about my angels Laine and Ben…I know how very much the thought of not having a family pained you. The tears really start when I remember how much you helped me get through the nightmare of Tannis; you knew how to get on me, to raise your voice, to elicit the words that got through to me. I miss that Lisa…

Lisa: I put on Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah when I started writing this letter; last September, while I was in a state of shock about your suicide…I listened to this song over and over and over. Somehow the words, the music, Cohen’s voice helped.

I listen to this song Lisa…and it brings tears…I listened to it for weeks on end after you left us…it’s cathartic.

Lisa: you know this more than most anyone…there are days when I wish I could just join you and see that smile one more time. But, I am so very blessed with my kids Carly, Matthew, Chris, Laine and Ben; they keep me strong, they give me hope, they give me that one thing that I know you missed in your life. I will be with you one day, that we both know.

Lisa: I still have your self-written obit on my kitchen fridge; the other day Laine and Ben were over. Laine asked what happened to you and I simply said that you weren’t well. Laine commented how very beautiful you were, while Ben said: “that is so sad Zaida Chuck..she looks so young.”

Lisa: it’s a year now since you left us. There are days when I simply can’t process you being gone. You’re on a holiday, right? You’re having a difficult time and just staying in your condo, right? You’ve gone to a facility to get help, right? There are days when I hope and pray that perhaps you will walk into the gym in the morning.

Lisa: I still say a peanut butter crunch blizzard is the best; I sure hope that where ever you are that they are serving you the absolute best ice-cream.

Lisa: I miss you so very much. The special love we had for each other will never change…when I’m going through difficult times, I hear that voice of yours getting after me. Big hugs Lees…love you.

A club I’d rather not be a part of…those who suffer from Depression; by Chuck Duboff

© Chuck Duboff

The monster known as Depression has grabbed hold and not let go of me for about ten days now.  Below you will see a quote from Brad Pitt who also suffers from Depression.  He talks about coming home every night and just wanting to hide out…

I would suggest the hardest part of Depression is not the actual suffering, but rather the judgement from those who do not understand the hell that is Depression.

It is NOT A CHOICE that is made; “oh, I think I ‘m going to feel depressed today”…it is a moment when a switch is flipped in your brain and the monster will let go when it decides its time.

Below are pix of  some  other members of this club: (sadly, a few are no longer with us, as the monster decided it would never let go.)

Brad Pitt

Terry Bradshaw

Rowling

The Rock2

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jon-hamm-depressed

johnny-depp-and-his-social-anxiety-battle

Lisa!!!

Robin 5

Bruce thinking

ernest-hemingway

Me

Brad Pitt 2

kurt cobain

clara huges

Landsberg