Think about and ponder this for a moment: What is the absolute worst punishment a person can be given? I mean realistically, and legally, what is the worst type of punishment that can be handed down to a person? I understand that I am asking a question who’s answer is a matter of opinion here, but humor me a bit. Is it the electric chair? The firing squad? The gas chamber? Is it the movie style torture interrogations that we sometimes see in scenes of Spy films, done by the counter terrorist groups? I don’t think so, you see with all of these previously mentioned terrible situations a person can find themselves in as punishment, they’re all typically quite brief in length. They’re all very short lived and temporary, no matter how awful they may be. I would think that life in a really shitty and dangerous prison is about as harsh of a punishment as possible, but there is still one rung to go down from there. After all, they still have a way to punish you while you are serving life in that shitty prison. And that way is to place you in solitary confinement for very long periods of time.

Solitary confinement, the hole, Seg. (Segregation). They strip you of all of your privileges, all of your commissary, and put you in a cinder block room all by yourself. With zero human interaction, often for many months at a time, and if the sanction is to be harsh enough, years at a time. And this just goes to show you, that no matter how hardened the criminal, or “bad ass” a person is, the basic need for human connection is something that we all need in our daily lives. Without it, we can go clinically insane.

I came to Indiana with my family, only to once again be living with another aunt and uncle very much warped. I had experienced my first 12 or so years feeling very invisible and very unimportant. I had experienced many things by my 13th birthday that some combat vets never do. I certainly was not lacking in crazy stories to tell, or in the wide breadth of experiences that I had had up to this point. But I was lacking so very much in the areas of human connection, bonding, emotional regulation, communication skills, anger management, overall maturity, relationship skills, and processing and coping abilities. I didn’t know what I had actually experienced intermittently to be trauma, or what I was feeling at any given moment, and I certainly didn’t know how to communicate the feelings I was having, or who was safe to do so with. So this was a really bad state to be in. I was very much at a disadvantage here.

So here I was, living with an aunt and uncle who I had never met before and all of their biological kids, plus a bunch of foster kids, in a state I had never been to, fully traumatized and violated. I remember having the “left for dead” feeling often, although I couldn’t really identify it at the moment. I just knew it didn’t feel good and I often felt like an alien in my own skin, even in a room full of people. I always carried this shame with me, every where I went, like somehow everything that had happened up until this point was my fault. I know how ridiculous that may sound, but as I understand it now, it is actually quite common. To bare the shame and guilt of past events, as if they had happened because of me, not to me. And what’s interesting too, is that even the adults around me at any given time didn’t seem to pick up on it. We would be at family functions, or family would come over to my aunt and uncles, and I would recoil and isolate from my own cousins and other family, and the over all consensus was that “Oh, he’s just shy.” Nah, man, I wasn’t shy. I didn’t actually know these people and I couldn’t trust the humans I did know, so I definitely wasn’t gonna get close enough to them for them to hurt me, so I would just hang back away from most people. And this is kind of the whole “loop” of it, is that because I had become so isolated and emotionally withdrawn from people as a result of everything that had happened up until now, now I had a hard time making friends, or connecting with people because of my hyper vigilance thus reinforcing the feelings that I had of “I am not likable, no one wants to love me”. And as a result of all the constant movement, and relocating, being passed from relative to relative, I never established a sense of belonging. The only place I ever really felt like I belonged up to this point was on a baseball field.

Playing baseball was where I felt seen, it was where I felt valued. It was where I felt like I actually had something to contribute. And baseball was a way for me to lose myself. It was a way to escape all of my thoughts and feelings. The only thing I had to think about was playing the game that I loved. There was no pain here, there was no Trailer Trash, Violence, Molesting, Fear, Abandonment, Worry, none of that was on the diamond. It was just me and my teammates playing a game for the pure fun of it. And I was pretty good at it too. In another life and under many different circumstances, perhaps I would have been able to go pro. Not in this life though, and that’s okay.

But, what was particularly damaging to me personally, was that a vast majority of the trauma and pain that I had inside of me came at the hands of my own blood family. (Again, I am NOT placing blame here. As of right now, January 24, 2023 I have better relationships with my family than I have had in a very long time. I loved them all then and I love them all now. I am not trying to sit here and paint my parents, or extended family in any kind of negative light. I am simply trying to convey how things throughout my life made me feel, and ultimately impacted me in the long run). So it made feeling safe at home or wherever I was living at the time very difficult for me. And I believe this is why the second I “caught a whiff” of independence I took it an ran. I also believe that this is why I always found myself people pleasing and trying to fit in. Fitting in is the opposite of belonging. I know that now. When someone doesn’t have a sense of belonging within a certain system or community, they will reach for validation by fitting in where they don’t belong. And that was me to a T, and that is also a very interesting concept. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, so I try and fit in where I certainly don’t belong. This left me again and again still feeling very isolated and very much alone. Even once my parents finally got on their feet, as promised.

We finished up the year at South Central, and moved into an apartment in Valpo. I was going to be attending school at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. I remember being nervous about this, because I had heard the adults around me talking about how snobby valpo is. (Their words, not mine. Although I don’t all the way disagree). But, I was very much accustomed to the starting a new school thing. I had done it like 8 times now, including this one, so what the hell. It couldn’t be all that bad. And it wasn’t. I had become very chameleon like, in my ways of survival. I could “get in where I fit in” pretty well, because I carried with me a sense of not belonging. So it was the only real means I possessed at getting along. I remember the first day of school at T.J. I was standing in line for lunch, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to find a girl standing just behind me. “Hey, my friend thinks you’re really cute, I think she likes you.” And she points over to a group of chicks sitting at a lunch table. “Yeah her name is Lauren Laurenson” and started laughing in my face, as all of her little friends joined in. She had learned my name/nick name was Steve, Steve Stepherson (Pronounced Steverson) and decided she was going to deal a major blow to my already frail and damaged sense of self, self esteem, and self image. With a damn name joke. What a fucking bitch. Well, this oughta be fucking interesting here in valpo. The adults were right, these kids are fucking snobs.

Bullying. Rejection Trauma.

But whatever, I don’t even know why I included that last little bit, but it came out so it’s staying. It’s not like in the grand scheme of things it’s really all that important. The timing of it all really did suck though. I was already ate up with all kinds of negative shit, and now I’m essentially getting bullied by a little four-foot-nothin-female. It was just about the status quo though. Move, making a fresh start, get settled in and get some hope, and then BAM- kick to the nuts. I was used to it by now. (And yes, this entry that I am writing here sounds really “Victim-y” I know, but I am trying to convey to you what kind of head space I was in at the time. Don’t worry, it changes. Trust me. If it hadn’t, I wouldn’t be able to write about it like this).

So I ended up pretty hurt by the lunch line thing, and kind of resigned myself to just try and make friends a little closer to home. So I started with the kids who lived in my apartment complex, and then the kids who rode my bus, and then outward from there. But the overall theme here, was that I was always seemingly searching for a place a fit in. And this was because I always felt so isolated, I felt like an alien in my own skin. I carried so much shame and guilt over things that were not my fault that they became my identity. I constantly felt like I had no where to go. I remember throughout my life thinking, “I want to go home, the only problem is, I don’t know where that is.” I wanted to experience some kind of real human connection. Some actual bonding, a real lasting friendship. But, as I would find out over the course of my life, is that I was not well adapted enough to maintain and nurture friendships and relationships once I had finally obtained some. Because of how my perspective had been shaped, and how essentially deformed my mind was, I ended up running people off, or walking away from them once I had experienced any kind of vulnerability with them. I was totally fucked. It was not a good stretch of life, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. It seems as though I had been born into and raised in my very own solitary confinement.

“Spent my lifetime in this cage I built around me. Bangin on the door.” (Cody Jinks)

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