Tuesday, 29 December 2015

29

From the whomb


I find it very hard to believe that it’s been twenty-nine years since the day I was born; it feels like with everything I have been through and accomplished in life I should be so much older. 6 Schools. 13 different places I found myself living. 39 Hospitalizations. 2 marriages. WOW! Just reread that and felt overwhelmed.  I guess it’s why certain people over the years have said I have an ‘old soul’, because most people haven’t gone through in their entire lifetime what I have had to endure in my short twenty-nine years, especially with regards to my battle with Cystic Fibrosis.

I called my mother last night to get some details of the night I was born. I also can’t believe that it was the first time we were having the conversation. I know almost every detail about my being diagnosed with CF at three months, but knew almost nothing other than the time of when I was born. I guess this in a way is symbolic of how much the disease has captured my attention and the attention of those around me who watched me grow up. My Mom said it was a rough Christmas that year because she was uncomfortable from being 9 months pregnant. She was so excited though as with her first child, my big sister, Kayla. She recalls having a very good pregnancy, with no issues whatsoever.

December 30th, 1986. I googled what the weather was like that day because Mom didn’t remember. It was -4c, cloudy and very high winds. My mother, Charmaine was admitted to St. Claire’s Hospital after her water broke early that morning. With very little happening, Dr. Sevier’s intern decided to start her on the drip to try and get things moving along, and soon after decided to have an epidural. It was soon time for her to push, but things took a scary turn and Mom remembers very little after that. My heart rate was dropping rapidly, and it was determined that the cord was wrapped around my neck, cutting off oxygen supply to my brain. Things happened pretty fast after that Mom said, as they literally reached in and pulled me out, unwrapping the cord along the way.

At 19:33, weighing 8lbs 9oz, Jamie Lee Francis Chafe was born into the world.

Mom said it took about half an hour for me to transition from a blueberry to a bright, peach colored baby because of the issue of being corded. She was very scared but once she held me in her arms, saw that I was ok, she says that it was the ‘greatest relief’. Not knowing she was expecting a boy, she was excited to now have a girl and a boy. And a mommy’s boy she got!! Little did she know at that time that there would be more of those uneasy moments throughout the life of her precious baby boy. I guess maybe a little foreshadowing? So that’s that! How I came into the world.


Approaching thirty

I discussed in the blog prior to this one how difficult my 28th year was, so it’s been really difficult for me to look forward to turning 29 with anticipation. With that said, nothing pisses me off more than hearing people complaining and literally dreading turning another year older. Growing old is a privilege denied to many people. So yea, I have had a very shitty year, but to be honest I am still in shock I made it through and I am blessed to see another birthday.

It’s funny cause I remember being a young boy, 8-9 years old when I learned the reality of the disease I suffer from, and at that time of course the average life expectancy was nowhere near what it is now, and I remember thinking, “If I live to be thirty, I will be ok with that!” Kids at that time were lucky to start kindergarten, so I was already beating the odds, and it appears I am still doing so. When I was sick back in 2012 I was so convinced that that was it for me, that was the end and here I am, almost 4 years later and still kicking.

As I grow older though, so do my fellow friends and fellow war mates. Having friends with Cystic Fibrosis was really rough this year. I lost a total of 14 friends, Megs and Cory taking the greatest tole on me because they had such a direct impact on my life and who I am. I guess words are words, and no one will ever grasp how much I mean it when I say that I continue my own war with this disease in their honor. I fight with it every day not only for myself, but for them. Because even though fighting everyday with this demon is a challenge and can be very exhausting and I would just rather not have to deal with it sometimes, I STILL get to deal with it. In my own dark moments, I complain to myself about how shitty life is, and their defeat reminds me of what’s important. And that is that I am still breathing. For them. For me.

I’m pretty sure this time next year I will be having my mid-life crisis. I think the reality that I will have made it to see 3-0 will just be a very overwhelming experience for me. I am already working on big plans to celebrate, (please God I am still here) with my family and friends in Las Vagas. I’m really hoping that the people who mean a lot to me will be able to make the journey to help me celebrate the milestone and nothing short of a miracle.

The year ahead

But first I have to get through twenty-nine. My biggest goal for the coming year, and I guess goes along with a new year’s resolution is just to get back to ME. I spent 171 days in the hospital this past year so I feel like I have lost a little bit of myself during that time, and I want it back. I want to get back into reading as much as I did because I find it really good for my soul and meditation. I haven’t been to the gym or walking since I can remember, so I really want to get back into that. I am giving up soda. (Some reading this who really know me are laughing), but I am serious. I hate how it makes me feel and I’ve seen what it can do to rust on a car, ok, so I really don’t need that shit in my body.

Since I can remember I have wanted to write a memoir. And thanks to my Aunt Heather who has already written one for sending me some tools to do so, I plan to do that in 2016. Since I can remember I have wanted to write my story on paper because I truly believe that it will be inspiring to others. To overcome what I have in my lifetime hasn’t been easy but it has shown that we can get through a lot more than what we think we can, and we can rise above spiritually the hardships that befall us in life to make up better people.

My health has to become priority again, which means I have to find a better balance between work, pleasure and personal life. After all, I am no good to no one if I am in a hospital bed.  And I do know that emotional and spiritual health have a direct correlation to physical health and well-being so if I get back to doing my self-care then I think that will give my body the boost it needs to get me on the right track to Vegas!

A heartfelt Thank-You

There are no words to express the gratitude towards the people; family, friends, acquaintances I see at the grocery store who ask about my health, people reading this blog – How does one manage to find the words to say Thank-You for the love and support I have and still receive on a regular basis? It’s like the words don’t exist in the English language to express my gratitude to have you all along for the ride. I feel like I have a bunch of warriors standing at my side so that when I can’t perform at my potential, you guys pick up the slack and make life worth living. So if thank-you is what can be said, though I feel it’s not enough…..Thank You. From the bottom of my heart.


Please raise a glass with me to 29, and 2016!!!!

Peace and love,

Jamie 

Monday, 14 December 2015

2015, A year in the life

It’s been so long since I last wrote a Blog that I don’t even know where to begin. What a year 2015 has been for me! I wish I could say that it was the best year of my life thus far, to continue the pattern that is my life for the past 4 years. Unfortunately for many, many reason’s, it’s actually been the toughest year. Starting January 2nd until now I have had 6 hospital admissions with Cystic Fibrosis related exacerbations. The longest admission taking in the months of May-August really took a tole on my mental and emotional health, and I feel like I haven’t had a chance to really get back to me because since then I have been slammed with 3 other admissions. So needless to say this year has been exhausting in every way imaginable. It’s really opened my eyes to the reality that is Cystic Fibrosis and my fate that I will eventually have to face.

Through pain and suffering though, life has a way of teaching us lessons about ourselves. For example, I have learned that I am an Oscar worthy actor. So much of my life, I have had to put on a happy face and pretend that everything is ok. Going to school as a child and hiding the fact that I lived in an abusive household. Having CF check-ups and lying to the Doctors saying I am taking my medication and no, my mother does not smoke in my face. Marrying a woman, knowing full well that my human nature included little attraction towards the opposite sex. So you see, I’ve spent so much time acting that I guess I have just carried that unhealthy habit with me throughout different areas of my life. Unlike the examples I just gave though, now I am only hurting myself. Before it was effecting other people, but now I am only causing damage to myself.

I understand though why I wear that ‘mask’. It’s because of fear. It’s hard for a 28 year old man to except his reality when his reality is not typical of a normal 20-something. To admit to oneself that you have a chronic, life threatening illness is proving to be harder for me than coming out. It’s a very hard pill to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, I am not in denial in no way about the reality I live, but when your mind and spirit are as strong as Goliath, to accept the reality of failing lungs is devastating. 6 admissions is not my normal. Normally I am admitted once, and at worst, twice in one year. So this has been a record breaking year, and not in the same way Adele is breaking records and everyone is partying and sending congratulatory gifts. No, this is in way that leaves Jamie to spend a lot of time in private, crying and wondering when the next ‘battle’ will be with my ailing health.
The other part of why I wear this face for the world is because I don’t want anyone to see me as a scared little boy who just needs to be held. All my life I’ve had to be the strong one. I couldn’t let people see me as anything but that for survival purposes. I was victimized enough as a child; I can’t bare to let people throw ‘poor Jamie’ pity parties to help me further accept my own limitations.

Turning point

The end of November I was admitted to the hospital once again for pneumonia. I spent three days in the ICU (that I can barely remember because I was on such strong pain medication) and spent a total of 11 days in the hospital. My best friends from town, Deborah, Becca and Amy had a preplanned trip to Clarenville to spend time with Perry and I and I just assumed that they would want to cancel because I was sick in the hospital. To my surprise however, they insisted that it was even more reason for them to come and visit. And it was through that whole experience that life taught me something. I assumed they wouldn’t come. I figured when life gets tough, people don’t need to hang around and hold me up for support. If I am feeling sick, I can’t expect my clients to understand that I need to make different arrangements to get a project done. When I feel like doing nothing at all because it hurts to simply breathe, I am the chef in the family so surely I can’t expect Perry to make his own dinner after working a long hard day himself. But see, all of these are assumptions. And all of these things go back to me being such a great actor! (Seriously, someone call the Academy) My friends coming out taught me that I have a struggle but it doesn’t mean I have to make my struggle any worse than it already is by assuming no one will help or be supportive. We had such a wonderful weekend. They spent most of the time at the hospital, heightening my spirits and feeding my soul with the medicine I so desperately needed at that time. My Dad and my little sister and baby nephew even made the trek out from town to see my at the end of my admission when my spirit is most fragile. All of these people that LOVE me made the decision to not allow me to sulk in my despair and in fact taught me that allowing people to love you through the storms we all face in our lives is actually the most beautiful form of compassion and love there is. And not to be ignored, Perry’s love and grace was there as always.

So I guess what I am trying to learn from all of this going into 2016, is that maybe it’s ok to say no to something I feel I should do. My lung function is resting in the mid 30’s, so it’s not like I don’t have a legitimate excuse. After all, I am no good to anyone if I am in the hospital and it’s no good for me to burn myself out. I may be able to extend my life before transplant by learning to say No, who knows! 

Where I am now

Right now as it stands, I am getting closer and closer to transplant. I haven’t felt the same health wise since my January admission. Something is different. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it’s different. Sleep is so difficult and I am not a fan of sleeping meds because they make me so damn groggy the next day. My breathing is so different. I can’t do stairs like I once did. Even the thought of going to the gym and getting on a treadmill makes me tired. Basically I feel like my body is telling me and giving me no choice but to slow down.

Taking one day at a time is proving to be quite the challenge especially with my career. Not knowing what to and what not to take on. After speaking with my transplant team in Toronto, they said unfortunately there is no guide book at this stage of my transplant journey. They just told me to listen to what my body is telling me and do the best I can, and that is changing daily. What I could do yesterday may not be what I can do today.
I missed my entire summer, so I am counting down the 190 days until Perry and I head over to Europe for our next adventure, please God I am able to go. I just live for travelling with him and seeing the world and its wonders. I’m putting that before me to give me a goal and keep me motivated and focused to get to that point. It’s so important for me in my battle with Cystic Fibrosis to continue to set goals for myself. I would really like to get back to the gym after Christmas as well, even if I walk in for 10 minutes to go on the treadmill and walk out again, I’m over what those built, muscular jocks think of me up there! I am after all on a journey of my own.

Confidence Restored

One positive thing that came from this year though is a huge boom in my Interior Design business. If someone was to tell me that I would be this successful as an Interior Designer out of a small town I would have laughed at them. I have had a total of 14 compete projects this year, a big jump from 6 last year. And although business has picked up, I was really starting to let my depression creep up on me and convince me that I wasn’t talented or worthy enough to be doing what I love. But I thankful had one project that taught me quite the opposite. The homeowner’s game me full reign on the end result and their trust in me was exactly what I needed. The result was astounding – some of my best work and will be featured in the Spring issue of Home&Cabin magazine.

I have always had a passion for singing. My lungs prevent me from being as good as I once was, but I did post a few videos to social media and got such a great response. It was very cool to see that even though I am limited with air right now, people still appreciate my voice and hear the message I am trying to spread, that even when weak, we can thrive and bring joy to others. I’d be lying if I said that’s one of the things I am looking forward to most about having new lungs, is the ability to sing the way I once did. To be able to have enough air to carry notes. It’s going to be such a thrill!

Bent, not Broken

So that’s been my year. It fucking sucked for the most part – health wise that is. I chose to live my life with the idea that pain is inevitable. It’s how we react to it and let it shape us that matter. Everyone has their own battle to face and someone always has it worse than I do. Just recently in the news I was reminded of that with a little girl who was the only survivor in her family from a house fire. All she wanted was Christmas cards. A lesson for us all, indeed!

I wish I could tell you that I don’t have bad days, but I’d be lying. In fact most are lately. It’s hard to keep positive when you have a dark cloud hovering over your head. But I am trying my best, and right now my best is the best I can do. 

Peace and Love,


Jamie 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

So she got remarried...

There are so many emotions that I went through when I decided to leave my ex-wife. It’s almost as if I was looking at a puzzle and each piece represented a different emotion and there were so many pieces. And then each of those pieces could then be broken down into even smaller pieces. For example, I felt a lot of fear. But what kinds of fear and fear of what that could be broken down into small parts. Well my biggest fear was that I was leaving Alicia broken, unable ever to be happy again.

It’s very strange how much fundamental religion can have so much power over the brain and the heart. As I have said in previous posts, I had myself convinced and truly believed that if I was to be who my heart said I was, then God would not accept me and would not spare me the wrath of his judgment when we leave this world. So every day after meeting Alicia I would just literally say to myself over and over “this is for the best, this is what God wants…..” and that is so powerful that it overshadows the little inner voice that was telling me that what I was doing was wrong.

People ask me all the time when I got married did I truly believe it was going to last long, and my answer to that was yes. I honestly believed that Alicia and I would live a happy life together. I really thought I was going to be able to keep it a secret until the day I died. I loved her, genuinely loved her and still do to this day. I just wasn’t in love with her. There is a huge difference. We made each other laugh until we both couldn’t breathe. We sat and had the most beautiful conversations. We took to greatest little trips and shared all of what life had to offer to the both of us. But it turns out that lying to the outside world was much easier than lying to my inner self.

In March of 2011 is when I first started telling my family individually that I was gay and maybe a couple of close friends. I’m often asked why it took me until October to leave and come out as a homosexual. And the answer is simple. Fear. I had made so many close relationships with people whom I thought were my friends as a Jehovah’s Witness, and I knew that by my coming out I was going to lose each and every one of them. The bible says that ‘men who lay down with men will not enter into the kingdom of God’ so clearly they frown upon homosexuals and anyone of the LGBT community. So fear of displeasing or letting down the people who I had built relationships with was terrifying. The thought of losing all those friends at once gave me a terrible sense of being alone and in the dark. I would basically be starting a whole new life, and as you can imagine it was scary. Even now, 4 years later not one of the hundreds of ‘brothers and sisters’ I had made in that organization has said but one word to me. And at times that makes me said, but then my self-worth kicks in and reminds me that those types of people I don’t want as friends anyway. So it’s amazing to me how fear has transformed into power. Because what once I was afraid of now makes me even stronger. I guess it’s because when you are in that fragile, trapped state of helplessness you really truly feel like there is no way out.

I was afraid of how my family would react. My mother raised me and my two sisters to have morals. That marriage was sacred and that divorce was not looked upon as an easy option to out a union of that nature. My aunts and uncles I wasn’t overly close with as the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t agree on mingling with ‘worldy’ people even if they are your family so I wasn’t tight with them like I was before I got involved with religion. Yet even still I wondered how they would react. But knowing that I had two openly gay cousins in my family helped me get over that fear. And again that fear has transformed into power because now there is no more lies. No more pretending to me someone I am not, and me and my entire family are closer now than they have ever been and love me and solute me for being so brave and courageous to be myself.

But my biggest fear was leaving Alicia. In the days and weeks prior to my leaving, I wondered a lot of things. Like would she blame herself? Would she think that she turned me gay? Would she believe I didn’t love her? Would she think that everything we had was a lie? Would she never speak to me again? Would she ever love again? Would I break her? Would she be alright? The fear related to all those questions at the time was almost unbearable and even looking back on it sitting here typing these words I don’t know how the hell I ever got the nerve to leave. Because let me explain something to you……even though Alicia wasn’t the one for me sexually, she was an amazing woman and human being. We had been through so much together. And there is something to be said for anyone who is willing to take on a partner with Cystic Fibrosis. There is a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of care needed to do that. Our nephew Rorry was killed in a tragic car accident. We had it rough financially sometimes finding it hard to put food on the table. And with those bad times we also had some amazing moments together. She has and always will hold a special place in my heart.

I never really thought about how I would react if and when I found out that she got remarried. I guess because I was concentrated on the fear of her being alone that I never allowed my mind to open up to that possibility. I mean when I left of course I hoped that she would move on and find someone to love her and start a family, but never gave much thought to how I would feel.

I found out that she was remarried about two weeks ago. My little sister is still friends with her on Facebook and sent me some pictures. I immediately started to cry, my heart exploded and I could not control my emotions. I went to the window in our home here, looked up to the sky and said “Thank-You”.

It was in that very moment that my FEAR that I had made the wrong decision vanished into thin air. It was then that I realized I had made the right decision for the both of us and that leaving her truly was the right thing to do.

Everyone deserves to be loved. EVERYONE! Time heals all wounds and growth happens when we challenge ourselves spiritually to reach far beyond what we think we can. It was a very tough time in my life but hearing that she has moved on, that her heart is open to this man, and that she has a twinkle in her eye was truly an AH HA moment for me.

Sometimes we don’t do things for ourselves out of fear of how it will affect other people. But this was a major life lesson to me that when you follow your heart, everything works out in the end. It may take time, and it may take a lot of work, but just like a puzzle, all the pieces will eventually find their way together.

Peace and Love,

Jamie 

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Mourning the Loss

Mourning the Loss


No one could have ever prepared me for the feelings I would have after I left the Jehovah’s Witness organization. It’s been over two years, several counseling and therapy sessions and yet still I sit here with this blank page before me, unable to write my feelings and feeling numb to the overwhelming pain that still burns inside my heart. I’m forced to wonder will this pain ever go away, and if it doesn’t, how can I learn to cope.

It’s been a debate for centuries. Why do people CHOOSE to be gay? Several LGBT groups have tried to help the world see that this is not a choice, this is who we are, who we are born to be. And even today I find it difficult to grasp how people cannot understand this simple concept. When I was a Jehovah’s Witness, even down to the final days talking to Val about what I was planning to do, she asked me to talk to the elders for they may be able to ‘fix me’ and that if I did decide to leave I would be making the CHOICE to live a sadistic lifestyle.

I can assure you and anyone who wants to challenge this fact that as a gay population who are the target of hatred and prejudice around the world that we did NOT chose to be this way. I think of Jesus actually and his time on earth. He was the object of hatred to many. And he too suffered adverse criticism and suffered dearly for what he was trying to accomplish when he was here on earth. But he did it because that was his purpose. He was born to fulfill a role that he was born into. Jesus tolerated and eventually was killed because he knew in his heart that what he endured was worth it because of who he was. It’s the same I feel with gay people. If this was a choice I feel like everyone would have stopped after so many people have been beaten, assaulted and even killed because of their sexuality. But we have not. And it’s because we are born this way and there is nothing we can do, even if we wanted to, to change it.

As I said, it’s been over two years since I heard their voice. In fact I wasn’t expelled from the JW organization until 3 weeks later and yet they still didn’t try to reach out and ‘save’ me, even when doing so was permitted and didn’t mean any form of religious discipline towards them. Our friendship I thought was genuine and one that would withstand anything. I viewed them as my parents. They were so good to me, and I now know that it was only a friendship as long as I was doing right by them and the religion. I don’t know why I can’t let go after all I was lying to them. Heck, I was lying to myself. But still deep down I thought they would at least talk to me. Instead they have banished me, like I have some kind of disease. And I got to be honest, it fucking hurts. The pain sometimes is unbearable. At times I want to show up on their door and knock and make them listen to how much it hurts to know that I was gay all along, and they loved me, but because now that I am being honest to myself and honest to the world, I am a Satan worshipper and deserving of death.  

Today marks their 39th wedding anniversary and I guess that’s why it is hitting me so hard. Anniversaries are the only thing that they celebrate, so it was a special time of year when I got to show the two of them just how much they meant to me. And now the only thing to do is sit here at my computer and be angry at how religion has caused so much destruction in the world and is the very reason I have lost the two of them. I’m glad that they are the only ones that I really miss. I certainly don’t miss the Reg Snook’s or the Bruce Whalen’s who are only there to fill their pride by being Elders and like to abuse their leadership and are the most hypocritical people I have ever met. That’s the biggest eye opener and lesson I learned. Pema Chodron says that our circumstances in life do not change until the present teaches us what we need to learn. And somehow that wisdom has helped a lot. Because I have learned that no matter how Godly people claim to be or how righteous people say they are…… they are still PEOPLE. Human beings with imperfections. And just because Jehovah’s Witnesses come and knock on your door doesn’t make them holy. I witnessed more ‘sinful’ things happen when I was a part of that cult then now.

So I am sorry Al and Val that my lifestyle doesn’t live up to your standards, but neither does yours! I do not like to judge people. I do not like to isolate people and treat them like garbage because they have an imperfection that may appear to be a ‘greater sin’ than yours. But above all else, I don’t tell people I love them without meaning it!

So Happy 39th Anniversary! I hope it’s a good one!
I mourn the loss of you much the same as I would if you were dead. Because when I was true to myself and to the world, it wasn't you who died, it was me who was dead to you.
Peace and Love,
Jamie Leigh Francis

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Unspoken Words


The earliest recollection I have of his abuse was about the age of 3 1/2 – 4 years of age. It was late at night and I had been awakened by the sound of them struggling together. I turned into their room, which was on the lower level the same as me and my two sisters, to see my father strike my mother in the side of the head with her handbag. He was looking for the keys to drive and as he had been drinking my mother hid them from him to try and protect him. I’ve replayed this incident over in my head countless times growing up. I remember from that early age the fear of my father being instilled deep into my heart and soul. Never would I have imagined the brutal attacks that I would be a victim too before my mother decided to leave him at the age of 12.

Most of the attacks and abuse are vague, though a few occasions are still very fresh in my mind. I’ve wrote in a previous blog about how around the time I started school, the sound of my heart beat beating in my head, I thought were sounds of footprints outside my ground-level window, the footprints of my father coming to attack me. Can you imagine being that young and having that fear? Or having to fall asleep to what you think are footsteps of your alcoholic father coming to release his wrath on your young, frail, innocent body? I remember wondering from a young age if it was because I was the ‘sick’ kid out of me and my sisters. Why me?

Most of the attacks were either a hand or a belt taken across my bum or back. I remember lying in bed for hours after because the pain would leave me paralyzed. I would cry myself to sleep on most occasions, asking that God would please just let me die so I could escape this ‘hell’ that I was living in.

My father never understood the concept of proper discipline, or even communication for that matter. His was of communicating was with his limbs or screaming unholy words at people. I shouldn’t expect anything different from him I suppose. He was raised in an alcoholic home. I am not making excuses for him, believe me. But they say that you learn how to treat people through how you are raised. Sometimes I wonder why I turned out so good.

The footprints in my head continued…..

I was about eight years old when the worst attack happened. We were arguing over something. I can’t remember what it was, something stupid I would imagine. Before I knew it my father had grabbed me by my ear, my legs dangling, and then I was thrown onto my bed, hitting my head against the wall. A headache and an immediate bump I could feel. I still have the scar at the top of my ear where it tore a little from the weight of body being carried by my tiny little ear. In fear of him returning for a second blow, I jumped out of bed and propped my desk chair against the door so he would not be able to get in even if he tried. It didn’t take long though until he noticed the door had been closed. He tried a few times with little force to try and open the door, to no avail. But it didn’t take long until I witnessed the chair crumble into little tiny pieces as the weight behind my father crushed the chair to allow him to enter. The door was hanging off the hinges as I looked behind him getting closer towards me when I felt the next blow. First a smack across my rear end, then he lifted me the second time and flicked me against the wall. I then remember crying, hurdled in the fetal position hoping he would have mercy on my lifeless form just lying there, silently begging not to be beaten anymore. It must have worked because I remember falling asleep that night, pillow soaked with tears.

The footprints in my head continued….

I cannot remember any abuse towards my sisters, except for one incident with my older sister where my father flicked a garbage bag full of clothes at her in our living room. My little sister was his favorite. And my old sister wasn’t far in line for second place. My entire childhood, even sometimes now I would ask myself, “why me?” Little do they realize they have been abused by my father, just not in the same ways as I have been. His manipulations and emotional and mental abuse affected us all. And I still see it evident in my two siblings lives. Even though they never suffered any physical pain from our father, they do not recognize harmful traits in men they date and see the damaging effects as harshly as I do of alcohol and drug abuse.

It was summer of 1997 when I had reached my limit. We again were arguing and fighting over something stupid when I remember seeing that rage in his eyes and he proceeded to attack me. At that I started to run away from him, but he was too fast. My mother had a crystal ashtray laid on the sofa table that was in the hallway of our home. I turned just in time to see it heading straight for my face. I didn’t catch it, but hit it with my hand and it shattered all over the floor. I grabbed a chunk, cut myself with it, and then running towards the exit to go find help, I cut my father with it, hoping it would cause him to bleed out. Ending my suffering. Ending my pain. But sadly that didn’t happen. I ran to a nearby neighbor, Joanne who lived behind our house and made up a story of self-defense, hoping my father was dying in our house from the blood pouring out of his wrist. The police were not called and when everything settled I returned home. It wasn’t long though until the regret of what I had done was felt all over my body with another attack. It was after this day, that I had reached my breaking point.

I’m not sure if my mother still has the letter I wrote to her at that tender age of 9. But I basically wrote her and said it is time for you to make your choice. It’s either Dad, or me. I even gave her a deadline of when she had to make her decision or I was going to run away. The pain was too intense for me to have to suffer another blow, and my soul was almost dead.

It wasn’t long after that I remember waking up to a lot of hustle and bustle. We were at my aunt Linda’s friend’s house and we were up oddly early and packing our things like we were finally going to go on that trip to Disney I had dreamt of for so long. My Aunt Karen and my then Uncle Barry came and met us there, and then we pilled in the van, just me, my mom and little sister. We stopped in Mount Pearl where we left our burgundy van and hopped in the car with my aunt and Uncle. Before long we were on the highway and the only thing my Mom would tell me is that we were going someplace safe, and that was good enough for me. Before long we were on a big boat. Learning after that we were heading for Nova Scotia. It was starting to make sense in my head. “She chose me! Mom chose me! And I don’t have to be beaten anymore!” After I realized that the trip turned into something fun. Didn’t know where we were going, all I know is that I was safe in the arms of my mother.

Wasn’t long and we were at my Aunt Bonny’s house in Quebec. There we said goodbye to Aunt Karen and Uncle Barry and caught a train heading to my Aunt Linda’s house. “A new life”, I thought!  This was just what I had been praying for!

We finally arrived, unpacked our things, and things felt strangely normal right from the start. Mom and Linda tried to find us a school to attend and our two cousins made us feel so at home introducing us to their friends. The dream didn’t last long though, until I saw a chocking story on the news.

The footprints in my head continued….

NTV news had my face and my sister’s face plastered on the news and my mother was up for abduction charges. I saw our home on Greg Place, and my bike still in the driveway and the subtitle, “Man missing his family” displayed on the bottom of the news screen. I later found out that my mother had gone to a lawyer and was given wrong information on her being allowed to take me and my sister out of the province, away from my abusive and sly alcoholic father. She was given a time limit on when she was to have both of us back in the province. Wasn’t long after that we were on a flight back home and what awaited us there was nothing short of a nightmare. We were barely off the plane when my mother was handcuffed, like a criminal and taken away from the airport within 5 minutes of being on the ground. Like she had murdered someone! We were then taken by my uncle Randy and Aunt Kitty to stay with them for a few days before we finally ended up at the Kirby house, a shelter for battered and abused women and children and we were reunited with our mom.

We stayed at the Kirby house for a while before moving into a town house. I felt liberated to start living a new life, abuse-less and free of an angry monster. My sister and I started attending Virginia Park Elementary School. We didn’t have a lot, but I felt like I had the world because I was free of living with constant abuse. I no longer had to live in fear of when the next attack would come or when my father would have his next drinking binge. The fairy tale didn’t last long though, when right out of the blue, the most unexpected thing happened.

I will never forget that day. I was sitting on the couch in the living room when I heard the knock on the door. My mom answered it, and in came my father! I was so angry that all I could do was storm off to my bedroom, which thank-god had a lock on it. “How could my mother do this? How could she end this peace we had been experiencing for so long? With everything he just put us through, how could she take him back now?” I remember hearing his footsteps come up the stairs, much like the ones that I had imagined before sleep…..creep….creep….creep…..until I heard him lay down outside my door, saying how uch he was sorry, and how much he had changed and how things were going to be different! BULLSHIT! I saw right through him, but sadly my mother fell for his manipulative ways and before I knew it we were packing back up, yes you are reading this correctly, and moving back into Greg Place. Back where the horrors of my childhood played out. Back to the one place where I hated to be, and was so grateful to be away from. This was definitely not HOME to me.

The footprints in my head continued….

It wasn’t long before my father returned to his abusive ways and this time my mother had gained a little strength while we were absent from my father to take matters into her own hands and kicked him out. I would say we were back there for a total of 6 months to a year. And this time, thankfully was the last time they split. I guess my mother needed to see one last time that a leopard cannot easily change his spots and that my father would forever remain the same. In 2002 they were legally divorced. It was only at that time since she left him the second time that I was at ease that she wouldn’t take him back yet again. Finally, it was just me and my mom and my baby sister. My older sister quit school to help care of my father for a year, seeing past his imperfections and wanting to make sure that he would be ok.

And here we are 11 years later. There are few days that go by when I don’t have PTS (Post-traumatic stress) related to my childhood and memories often come out of the blue to remind me of the realities that other kids like me face every day. It is extremely difficult for me to talk about this issue but it feels like the right time to talk about it.

A couple of days ago I posted a picture of me and Perry’s father from our wedding day. I posted on how I had longed for a father figure my whole life for someone who I could look up to and admire in a male-leading role in my life. Perry’s father is in my opinion the ‘ideal’ father who treats his entire family with love and respect. I cannot imagine him even raising his voice. He has become such a good influence in my life. After I posted this photo on MY Facebook page I received a post from my little sister saying that she took offence to me making reference to dad being an abusive alcoholic, and that it makes her sad that I view him this way. But the reality is, their father is NOT my father. I am terribly sorry that my reality and the life that I had live offends them. But it is MY truth and I am entitled to speak of my truth. In response, it makes ME terribly sad that my two sisters cannot acknowledge the abusive childhood that I had no choice to be subjected to and that they view our father as some kind of hero. They view him as doing no wrong and that ‘he didn’t know any better’. But does that excuse the terrible things he said and did? Absolutely not!  And NO ONE has the right to tell me that I cannot express my story, and what happened to me only because it hurts them or offends them. They just don’t want my father to be depicted as the monster that he was growing up.

I share my story because I have first-hand facts that it helps people. Someone reading this will be able to empathize with my pain and may help them heal in their life journey. No one besides my mother has to this day acknowledged what happened to me as a child. The day is coming when I plan to confront my father and get him to apologize for what he subjected me to as a child. As for my sisters, they will remain in the sidelines of my life until they accept that my reality is my reality and that they had it good growing up. They have no right to tell me that what happened to me didn’t happen, and that I need to love Dad and have a relationship with him despite what he did to me.

The footprints in my head have stopped.

I now have a beautiful husband and a great father-in-law who makes me feel like I am a great young man that deserves fatherly attention. He has shown me how to care for a car, how to properly hang a new light fixture and even how to be a great supportive husband. I am so grateful for that. People give me a hard time for not letting the past be in the past and leave well enough alone. The funny thing is, is that I have 100% completely forgiven my father, though he has not asked for my forgiveness. I have learned through counseling that holding on to that anger takes a huge tole on my mental, emotional and physical health. And I have improved in all areas since I have let it go. But this week’s remarks by my little sister have made me have a huge set back. I have been in bed all day and I realized that I needed to write a blog because it is so healing for me. Instead of pushing everyone away, I need to express myself, to get people to get the real picture of why I reacted by deleting my Facebook and crawling into my shell.

From this day forward I am making a promise to myself that NO ONE is going to make me feel like things that happened to me in my life are insignificant. In fact I often wonder why I turned out so well, despite my dysfunctional and painful past. Maybe it is because I always wanted something better for myself and I truly didn’t want to live a life like that. Never let anyone make you feel bad for expressing your truth or the reality you have lived. Until they have walked in your shoes, they have no right to speak.

I feel so much better after writing this blog. Maybe no it will allow my sisters to see why I have acted the way I have with my father over the years. Maybe they will appreciate the fact that I simply talk to him and maybe they will second guess pushing me into having a relationship with him. He still drinks and his still abuses drugs, both things that I disagree with. And I often have disturbing flashbacks whenever I am in his presence.

Me and Perry's Dad
I dedicate this blog to anyone and everyone who has experienced abuse in any form. May you find the strength and courage to change your life, and seize the day by taking   control of your life and making the abuser know that it is NOT ok to hurt you!

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered”
~ Michael J. Fox

Peace and Love,
Jamie Chaulk
xo


Friday, 30 August 2013

Our Wedding; Saying I do (The second time)

Our Wedding; Saying I do (The second time)


It’s hard to believe that almost 6 year to the day I said “I do” to a woman, I said “I do” to the man of my dreams. Though both were weddings, they each represent a very different chapter in the story line of my life. My first wedding was a death of everything I could and wanted to be. The second was a re-birth of hope of finding an even greater self.

I remember very few things of my first wedding. It was all such a blur, and I think I would have preferred it that way. One of the main things I remember is when everyone was walking down the aisle toward me I cried and everyone thought it was because I was so in love and so excited to start this new life with a woman. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I remember staring at myself in the mirror of the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall bathroom, and saying, “Ok, so you’re really doing this?.....you are really going to try and live this lie and bury deep the man you so desperately want to be?”

A little while later we were all celebrating with our friends and families. I wondered was anyone thinking that I was gay at the time, or found it odd that ‘Jamie’ was marrying a woman. Perhaps he would just live a life alone instead of marrying a woman. That way he could still serve the God of their choice and not hurt anyone. Turns out that trying to ‘pray the gay away’ doesn’t really work – and thank-God for that! I have never been more proud to be who I am now that I am re-married.


August 24th proved to be the best day of my life thus far. Had anything gone more perfect I would have thought it was a dream. I woke up snuggled into my niece and my two sisters, one of which was home from Winnipeg. It was raining outside at the time, however it didn’t dampen my spirits in the least. As the hair stylists piled into the room to get started on the girls hair and make-up, I had to run out to get a few last minute things done. And no wedding would be good without a “Tim’s” run. I wasn’t nervous. Or scared. Only 100% excited to marry my best friend. Most people don’t get a guarantee that their partner would stick with them through the worst of things, in fact finding that they leave during trial and tribulation. But Perry met me and took me under his wing when I was knocking at death’s door remember? He has seen me at my worst and as I said in my vows, has ‘brought me to my best’.

The time started moving really fast and before I knew it, it was time for me to hop in the tub and put my suit and tie on. I was amazed at how the timing of the day went just so. 11:30am we were due to be on the bus, and I’d be damned if 11:29am we weren’t pulling out of the Ramada parking lot. We were off to Fort Amherst to meet our amazing photographer Courtney Dinney, from Courtney Dinney Photography. Not sure if all photographers are willing to go where she went to make sure Perry and I got the best shots possible. The rain held off thank god for the first few hours of shots. We got some great ones. It was great to just have Perry and I and a camera to capture the love we have for each other. I have only seen a couple of teasers but I think Courtney nailed exactly what we were looking for. A couple of the girls complained a lot about the mist and cool air, but Perry quickly told them to knock it off as this was not an everyday thing! We had full suits on, and they had skimpy dresses so I can imagine it was a little cool, but they were troopers and made the best of it.

We did have the party bus rented that we enjoyed riding around on, drinking on, and dancing on. The bus driver proved to be quite the hunk too! So both Perry and I and all the girls got to enjoy that extra bonus!! J The party bus was the probably the best decision we made. We didn’t have to wait on anyone for pictures, we all just got off and then when the pictures were done, just jumped right back on the bus.

We stopped on the boat dock to get some ‘newfie’ inspired shots before heading under the overpass to get some high fashion shots that are worthy, (in my opinion) to put in bridal magazines. We continued to take pictures until heading to Signal Hill for a little drive and ending back to the hotel for 4pm. Supper was at 5pm so it gave us and the girls a chance to freshen up and catch our breath.

People wondered why Perry and I decided to change the line-up of your traditional wedding and go with something different. I HATE when people have their ceremony at like 1 or 2 in the afternoon and then if you are not invited to the supper, you are sitting around in your good dress clothes, just trying to pass the day away until around 7:30 when you are invited back for the reception. This way, we had people come to supper, and then stay for the ceremony at 7pm, where all 140 guests were invited to join us, and then hard the party right after. No one had to wait around, and instead of tying up everyone’s day; it was an evening event, not a whole day thing.

Supper was DELICIOUS!! We chose the menu. We had a creamy strawberry-mandarin spinach salad to start. Wine was served and supplied by my Auntie Heather and Uncle Len, which we were informed through a whisper as the waitress poured our glass – a very nice gift! The wine even tasted better! Then the main course! A herbed-nut and cheese stuffed chicken breast with dutches potato and grilled veggies! It was SOOOOO good!! And then carrot cake for dessert.

The speeches were what I will most likely treasure most from the day, second only to Perry’s vows to me which we exchanged a little later. One after another some of our girls brought tears to the entire group of family and friends, sharing their stories of love, laughter and joy. Deborah started the affair of telling of our school days and how we have been friends since the very beginning. I couldn’t imagined having a more perfect fit for maid of honor then this incredible woman! She looked so stunning that day and made me so happy to have her by my side. She even sang for us and played her guitar which was just the perfect gift for that day. ( I will never forget that D!) Next was Sam, Perry’s maid of honor who shared details about their life-long friendship. The most emotional speech was from my cousin Megz who basically gave a thank-you speech to Perry for saving my life on behalf of my family. It was the most heartfelt thing I had ever heard uttered from a human’s mouth and there was not a dry eye in the house. Thank-You Meghan!  

Once the speeches were finished from the rest of the girls, including Candice’s attempt at rapping, Perry and I thanked everyone who was involved with making our wedding the best day of our lives. There were so many incredible people who were involved with making our day such a success. I’m sure there were those we forgot, and I hope they know how appreciate they are.

There wasn’t a lot of time left before we all filled the ceremony room. It was beautifully lit with soft lighting and white linens covered all the chairs. There was such a crowd, some even standing outside! The music started and Perry’s brother Jamie was the first to enter the room. Then one after another, spaced by about 20 seconds, the remained of the girls walked down the aisle. I was the first to travel down with my beautiful mother on my arm and I kissed her cheek and sat her in her seat. And then as the music escalated into a climax of violin, Perry and his mom entered the room. He took my breath away, like it was the first time I had seen him that day. He truly was a vision in white! Looked just like the angel that walked into my hospital room in February of 2012. As he walked towards me, we held each other’s eyes. This time it was different. This time I wasn’t afraid at all. I was more than willing to give my heart to Perry knowing that not even death would separate the kind of love we have for each other.
As love was described in 1 Corinthians, I couldn’t help but reflect on how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that if you are not one of them, you don’t have any respect for the bible or God for that matter. And here I was devoting myself to a man who loved me for who I am, and that the love that was described in those verses was more realized now then in my previous marriage because of truth…….no lies.

As we exchanged vows there were even more tears. Including Perry and I. I honestly felt that it was just the two of us in the room. Reflecting on that feeling send chills through my spine even now. “Before you I lived in a world where nothing made sense. The sky wasn’t blue and the grass wasn’t green’…..I said to him. And promised my heart to him until the end of days, and he did likewise. And then we shared the perfect kiss.

Shortly after we were introduced as Mr. and Mr. Perry Chaulk and walked, hand-in-hand, down the aisle to greet everyone with their warm wishes and congratulations.   
Then the party started! We danced our first song to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years”….the lyrics were just perfect for our story. It was magical dancing in Perry’s arms in front of our family and friends. Our bridal party song was “Raise your glass” by P!nk, and then “Mother like mine” by The Band Perry we waltzed with our moms to. Finally with our nieces and nephew, “I hope you dance” by Leanne Womack.

Then, the floor was free to everyone. We danced. Oh did we dance. And everyone had such beautiful smiles as we spent the first few hours as a married couple. It was so great to catch up with family and friends we hadn’t seen in so long!
It was an early night for everyone. We were all so tired but everyone had such a great time! The feedback we got from the wedding was that it was the ‘wedding of the year, if not the wedding of the decade’.


Thank-You to everyone who made our day so special and showed us so much love weather you were there or posted on Facebook! It made our day PERFECT! XO
It truly was……the perfect day!



I Love you Perry Chaulk!
xo


Peace and Love,
Jamie Chaulk
xo

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Giving Light to the Darkness

Giving Light to the Darkness


I’m not going to lie; I’ve been having a really rough week. And it’s about time I come clean to everyone about a dark part of my life that has been affecting me for 5 years now.

I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I knew that my being gay yet living with a woman was causing me to feel down, but there was more than that. I was sad all the time and lost a lot of the love for things I enjoyed doing and became a hermit. I was not devoted to my bible studies nor was I doing anything for myself. I simply existed, but was not living.
After my nephew died, it seemed as though nothing would ever make sense to me anymore. I questioned every belief that I had, and wondered if I believed in anything. Being trapped in a world where you feel there is no escape is one of the scariest feelings I think someone could ever feel. It was very lonely.
So I decided to see a doctor about my mental health. I had never properly dealt with the abuse my father exposed me to as a child, and I certainly never even told anyone about my uncle raping me. And now this feeling inside that was about to explode of wanting to break out of this cultivated world I was living in a be true to myself and those around me was causing me a lot of anxiety that I just simply did not know how to deal with.
My sessions were really hard at first. I spent most of the time crying over my stumbled words as I tried to express how troubled my life was.
Shortly after I tried to take my own life.

It became evident to my doctor that there was something more medical going on than just dealing with a lot of shit. It wasn’t long after that, that I was diagnosed with Depression.

It has been such a hard battle to get to where I am to today. And sometimes I question how I managed to get where I am. And often times, like this past week, my depression creeps up out of nowhere and again makes me have doubts and question things that I thought were certain.
You most likely will never understand the brainwashing that occurs in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, but it is deep rooted. I’ve said before in my blog that they believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that anyone who practices such a lifestyle will suffer everlasting destruction at the hand of God. I remember sitting in a meeting where the elders would discuss this topic and I would tense up feeling ashamed of who I was. Have you ever been ashamed of who you are? It is not a nice feeling. Needless to say my self-worth was non-existent and I tried my hardest to ‘pray the gay away’, to no avail of course.

Yesterday I seen a ‘friend’ of mine had posted a picture on Facebook that said “Click ‘like’ if you think that marriage should be between ONE man and ONE woman”.  Immediately the bullied and depressed insecure child in me took this as a personal attack and I had to defend myself. I wrote her a message on Facebook saying that I had to delete her because I found her take on something she knows nothing about very offensive. I told her that I would pray for her that God would help her learn the true meaning of what being a child of God is really about. She then attacked back and this went on for about an hour or so. I’m getting to a point here, bear with me. By the end of the conversation I had gotten nowhere with her because her ignorance prevented her from seeing that I was trying to open her mind and make her understand why her attitude contributes to so much hate in the world. She basically said that Satan had a good hold on me and that I should pray to God – yet again – for deliverance from my evil.

It was this conversation that made me realize something that I hate about myself. Why is it that my self-worth and self-esteem is dependent on what OTHER people think of me, and little on how I think of myself? Have you ever been in that situation? We somehow manage to adapt someone else’s opinion of us as the opinion of our own. And this type of thinking usually worsens when I’m having a ‘down’ time in my life.
It reminds me when two of Perry’s friends, April and Stacey whom he was really close with, one being his ‘best’ friend, decided that they didn’t like me. They felt that I was a liar and that I wasn’t good enough for Perry. They voiced their opinion to Perry and of course he told me, and for some stupid reason, I almost tried to believe them. I looked for the worst attributes in myself and reasoned that maybe I wasn’t good enough for Perry. Maybe he is better off with someone else. And I sincerely thank him for reassuring me that their opinion was their opinion and that he knew who I was and there view of me was not about to change that.
Perry no longer speaks to them, and it saddens me because again I don’t understand why people have to act that way. And I am learning that though I may never understand or accept the actions of other people, it doesn’t mean that I need to attach myself to them or accept them on my own. It’s all about my new project my councilor is helping me work on in setting limits for myself and for others. I need to be readily conscience of when I feel the voices of others get in my head and try and make me believe that I am not a decent person or that I am somehow unacceptable as a human being. She even suggested going as far as putting little sticky post it notes around the house reminding me with quotes and sayings of praise and self-worth.

Depression is something I am still medically treated for today. It is something that I also have to deal with every day, because everyday changes and presents itself with new challenges. But bringing my thoughts and feelings to this Jamie’s Journey blog sure gives me an avenue where I can express myself freely and openly because it is my  journey. And to know that there are people out there rooting for me and do feel like I am a good person gives me the courage to leave the house with my head held high, knowing that I am a good person.

“Life is too short to waste any amount of time on wondering what other people think about you. In the first place, if they had better things going on in their lives, they wouldn't have the time to sit around and talk about you. What's important to me is not others' opinions of me, but what's important to me is my opinion of myself.” ~ C. Joyes

Peace and Love,
Jamie Leigh Francis
xo