why i can’t just “get over it”

At age 13, I was raped by a member of my church.

The “molestation” (oh how I HATE that euphemism!) was covered up by the clergy with one well worded threat to me regarding my future.

I had my first crush at age 14 and would repeatedly punch myself in the groin when my hormonal body showed the effects of being in the presence of that person.

I started drinking at age 15 – rum and coke eased the confusion, anger and self-loathing I felt.

At age 18, I began conversion therapy in order to heal me of troubling sensations and desires that went against my Anglican upbringing. At the end of my second year, the good “Christian” counselor told me that the therapy wasn’t working and that as I was going to hell anyways, ending my life might be the best thing for me.

The government pulled the funding for the therapy because it was misguided and actually making things worse.

From 19 to 21, while attending university, I was more often than not found propping up the bar at Mr. Greenjeans in the Eaton Center. Being so close to Toronto’s gay village while attending Ryerson and denying who I was was confusing and painful – it was easier to be numb than see the handsome bears and get THOSE feelings.

At age 22, while working weekend nights at an electronics company, the company doctor provided me with a medication to help keep me awake on my night shifts while being able to attend midweek management meetings during the daytime. At the end of my shift, I needed to counteract the effects of the medications, so I turned to rye whiskey.

For two months in a row, I was employee of the month at the Jack Astor’s near my employer – I was there so often it seemed I worked there.

At age 23, I met the man of my dreams who patiently talked me through my issues as I accepted my homosexuality. I began to pick up the pieces, while medicating.

At age 26, I quit the electronics company and started at my current work. My prescription for amphetamines ran out so I medicated with coffee and bourbon to ease the withdrawal.

I continued eating as if I were on the diet pills however. I was always a husky child, portly or big – I soon ballooned to fat and morbidly obese.

My husband was diagnosed with liver cancer and had to sign a contract regarding alcohol intake before being put on the transplant list. He rarely had more than a beer with a meal so that wasn’t a problem for him.

The morning after my 30th birthday, I could not recall the two days prior and felt like shit. I vomited the contents of my stomach and a fair amount of blood.

I booked the week off work and with my husband’s help kicked EVERYTHING, dealing with the withdrawal by locking myself in the guest room and going through the physical agony.

I turned to food to ease my pain. Eating a large bag of Doritos and a 6 pack of cola if things got tough at work or I struggled with my sexuality.

Just before Christmas of my 35th year, my husband received the gift of life. After nearly dying due to an infection, he rallied and I realized that he needed me healthy to care for him.

While going for therapy to help me deal with our marital issues after the transplant, I began working on my food issues. I started by giving up sodas and lost 45lb almost immediately. I signed up for bariatric surgery and began to work with a dietitian, my doctor a psychologist and a trainer. I went from almost 400lb to the high 100’s. I’m hovering around 200 and am comfortable and happily active.

During all of this, I peeled back the layers psychologically until we got to the rape and my subsequent struggles with my sexuality. I did all of this with NO medications due to my history of chemical dependency and two suicide attempts while on anti-depressants.

At age 38, I was working for a person who had made off color comments about my husband and I, refused to let me work from an office close to the hospital where he was receiving treatment. Her reasoning was that our marriage didn’t count – when I and coworkers pressed her to clarify her statement, she began a two year campaign to make my life as miserable as possible. I had to leave the office and faced Human Resources more than once because of this individual’s attempts to impugn me.

In my 39th year, my husband succumbed to cancer after the third round. Let’s add grief counseling to my psychological treatment. After years of struggling with my faith, I found a spiritual home who accepted me for who I was – flaws and sexuality intact.

On my 40th birthday I rented a dumpster and purged the house, starting the ongoing journey to reclaim my home and establish Myke as a “me” instead of one half of a “we.”

My Dad died unexpectedly in November of that year. The minister who threatened me at age 13 was there as he passed. I tried to be strong but the cracks began forming.

One month later, after Dad’s funeral, I had a nervous breakdown and let a man I respect and admire greatly down as I couldn’t even do something that usually came to me as easily as breathing. That night, if it weren’t for Michael Morin keeping me talking, I would have killed myself – everything that made me Myke was gone.

After 27 years, at least 15 of which in some form of counseling, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Again I refused medications because I was already suicidal enough, and started Eye Movement Desensitization Retraining.

So here I am – the remains of almost 30 years spent covering up my past, trying to deny or destroy who I was.

Grief is difficult enough – losing my husband was hard, losing my Dad reopened old wounds that had temporarily scabbed over – but losing my voice and ability to express myself was devastating.

It’s been a difficult couple of years as I work through what I’ve gone through – I know it hasn’t been easy for many who are close – I hurt my brother and his family after a panic attack during Christmas 2015, I’ve made my Mom cry more than once.

But I’m trying. It doesn’t excuse my behavior and I AM trying to mitigate my anger, fear and rage.

However over 30 years of pain, confusion, rage, self-loathing and repeated attempts to medicate, cover up, change or destroy who I am isn’t something that a person can get over in a few weeks, months or perhaps years.

My mental and emotional health is a work in progress. Yes I have bad days and I wear my heart on my sleeve – after decades of bottling things or filtering them through a pill or liquor bottle…they need to be aired out and released.

So I’m working on getting over things – it may not be as quick as you and I prefer, but it is a work in progress. If you can’t handle that…get over it!

on passing me by.

passing me by. was written November 2009 on Art Crawl night, while sitting at The Brain on James St. N. in Hamilton, Ontario.

the air grows chill and the days grow short,
the twilight hours are beckoning.
the animals have departed, nature’s slumber begins;
winter is the time of our reckoning.

As it was early November, the nights were growing longer and the days were growing cooler.  I was quietly watching the Art Crawl crowd, drinking my pot of coffee (The Brain serves their coffee in a 4 cup Bodum).

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

At this time, Larry’s liver cancer had progressed to the point where he was barely functioning due to the hepatic encephalopathies – essentially his liver was no longer functioning and the ammonia building up in his body was poisoning his brain.

The medication to treat hepatic encephalopathy in end stage liver failure is lactulose – a strong laxative that forces the body to purge.

I was trying to balance his ability to function cognitively with his ability to go about activities without shitting himself.

daylight fades, the sun grows wan;
the night becomes increasingly longer.
the land grows barren, fading out to white;
winter’s grasp grows stronger.

It’s pretty clear that I was beginning to feel the effects of 22 years of denial and anguish and my struggles with faith, my sexuality and my distaste for organized religion.  At the time a good friend had resurfaced in my life, now a Presbyterian Minister, and in the pulpit at the church around the corner from my house.

I’ve written about this person in the past and won’t rehash his betrayals in my life.  I love this person dearly and wish him the best but don’t have room for people who cannot set their egos aside and act in accordance with their faith.

another year is gone –
life keeps moving on.
this year has come to an end;
time no more is a friend.

my hair’s grown grey, my eyesight blurred;
my life spent setting the stage.
my body weakens, my soul grown weary
as i struggle into middle age.

Between drama in the workplace, Larry’s failing health and yes my failing health (I was topping 350 lbs by this time), I was feeling run down and tired pretty near all the time.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  The greying of my hair was progressing quicker and I was eating my stress and feelings by this time, having exchanged my alcohol and drug dependence for Doritos and diet cola.

another year is gone –
my life keeps moving on.
my year has come to an end;
time no more is my friend.

This song was the last thing I had written before Larry had his liver transplant.  It sums up my state of mind and the bleakness I felt at the time.  It’s also a good general “dull grey day” kind of song too…

movin’ on – a week filled with opportunities and change…

Poignant adj  (1) painfully affecting the feelings; (2) deeply affecting; (3) designed to make an impression

Yup it’s been a week filled with poignant moments for me.  Life has been providing a combination of opportunities (for a number of my friends and myself) and resulting setbacks (for me).

I am happy to state that two of my best friends have received incredible opportunities to move on in life and I am incredibly ecstatic for both of them, however saddened that my time with them will be further limited by reduction in our ability to maintain contact in person.

You see, throughout all the changes in my life in the past three years, I have been blessed with an incredibly strong support team.  Some of whom have stuck through everything I’ve been through thick and thin, despite my mood swings and resultant ups and downs.

ME, the person who has kept me grounded at work and responsible for kicking my ass and keeping me honest with my cycling, has received an incredible opportunity at another company and will be moving on in the next few weeks.  I am incredibly happy for her as our mutual employer has become less generally supportive of her position and she has been expressing much frustration seeing the role she performs become increasingly marginalized by the employer.  Her new opportunity provides her a chance to use and increase her skills in a vibrant, proactive environment.

I am just saddened that I will be losing my coffee buddy, grounding agent and confidante.  I’m sure we will remain in contact, but I already miss her smile, sarcastic comebacks and laugh – she hasn’t even left yet!

DM1 has been a good friend for almost two decades and we have shared our thoughts, triumphs and tribulations throughout our lives.  He’s always there to listen and is willing to help out, despite living in Boston.  He has recently decided to pull up his roots and move out west to be with the woman he loves and seek out new opportunities in life.   I am happy that he has made this choice, however am saddened that he is no longer a mere 45 minute flight away.

I am certain that both ME and DM1 will remain in my life, but mourn their moving further from me and that the opportunity to be around their spirit and positive influence will be reduced.  I am happy for them and love them dearly as friends and confidantes and continue to do so!

On other news, after my weight loss, there are some issues that I’ve had due to loose skin.  I have no one to blame but myself about this and I accept total responsibility, however I am taking steps to remedy this, including doing appropriate physical exercises and various skin-care regimes.  However there needs to be more done to prevent further health issues (running and other impact sports are difficult as well as some bodily functions can be affected if I’m not careful) and also improve my self-image.  So yes, I have contacted a plastic surgeon and am exploring my options.

I am rather excited about this and am looking forward in what is available to me.  It will cost me something indeed (however my eating and other vices also cost me money over time as well), but will represent a good investment in my future health and, indeed, my self-esteem.  The assessment was rather tough to handle as it involved stripping down in front of a stranger and having him assess, handle and photograph my problem areas, however DH was present the entire time for support and a friendly face and it was nothing that a chat with my counsellor couldn’t handle <grin>.  Now just to save my pennies…

So yes folks, I’m continuing to move on in my own way as well, equally as drastic but on a much smaller scale!  A poignant week indeed!

Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Bulgar wheat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup dried whole grain breadcrumbs, plus
  • 2 teaspoons dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, minced
  • salt
  • olive oil flavored cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil and remove from the heat.
  2. Mix in the bulgur.
  3. Cover well and allow the wheat to sit until all the water is absorbed — about 20 minutes.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a small pan and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until the onion is just transparent.
  5. Add red chili flakes, cumin, and coriander and saute for 1 more minute.
  6. Combine the chickpeas and bulgur in a food processor. Add the lemon juice, bread crumbs, cilantro, parsley and salt and process until just mixed, and has a pleasing texture.
  7. Set mixture aside for 15 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  9. Form falafel mixture into 2 inch balls and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan.
  10. Spray the balls with some olive oil.
  11. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden, turning the pan once during baking.

fear and loathing in the orifice or why myke uses music and art as a catharsis

I promised myself on starting this blog that I wouldn’t use it to bitch about my day job.  So I will endeavour to keep the actual bitching part limited to this particular posting.  However…

I was just informed that I am getting a new neighbour at work.  This neighbour has been off work for the past few years due to various health reasons, mainly of the mental variety.  Now, I am usually a tolerant person for the most part, various members of my family have their issues and, until last Christmas, I was able to overlook them with most of my family members.

In fact a good portion of my day job involves helping people with disabilities of all varieties get the treatment, help and support they require in order to carry on with their lives and return to work if possible.  I try to be a patient man and find assisting people who want to get better or cope with their issues to be rewarding both as a career, as wel as emotionally and spiritually beneficial to me.

However people who refuse to deal with their problems or accept treatment really annoy me.  Lord knows I’ve had my issues, been in denial about them or kept them buried in the past, however I realized that keeping them around did me no fucking good.  Yes it is painful to take them on head first, but in the long run, it works, is good for personal growth and helps you to move on in your life.

And I also understand that part of mental illness can often be that when its sufferers are feeling better, they feel they no longer need treatment and then the downward spiral begins.  I get that, really I do!

However I have a co-worker who is bipolar and very aggressive and confrontational when they are in either side of their spectrum.  Sadly, I often refer to them as “batshit crazy” co-worker on public forums as they can often cause quite a disturbance at work, rendering it near impossible to get any productivity out of my day.

I found out yesterday that I’m getting this new neighbour at work, who is coming off long-term disability for stress leave.  This co-worker is extremely passive-aggressive at the best of times and I have also had run ins in the past with this person, including one where they were loudly discussing my weight issues with a co-worker while they thought I was not paying attention (we all were in the lunch room and I was sleeping poorly at night at that time).

As this person has had their struggles with weight themselves, I was quite offended and confronted them regarding this conversation about me.  Combined with their usual passive-aggressive nature and other assorted issues I’ve had with this person on a professional level, I am now apparently their neighbour and being asked to “mentor” them as they return to work.

I expressed my concerns to my manager and HR about this, noting my past run-ins with this co-worker and the official response was that I was to try to remain “professional” and “adult” about the situation.  The key is that when this person feels a slight (actual or implied), this person becomes quite aggressive and will try to sabotage the person who they felt slighted them.  I know this as a fact as I have been in this person’s sights since the episode in the lunch room.

I noted that I can guarantee I will remain professional about this however expect the return in kind from this co-worker.  However I know I won’t get it and will expect to be told to “suck it up” despite the stress this will cause me daily.

It’s the daily shit like this which explains why my music, writing and visual art are so important to me.  If this goes down as planned, expect a lot of “catharsis” from me here and in my other outlets of creative expression.

You’ve been warned!

you can’t go home again

In his novel “You Can’t Go Home Again,” Thomas Wolfe’s character reflects:  “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

A week ago, I tweeted the following to a friend who still lives in the town where I grew up:

@hentor:  sadly Ajax hasn’t felt like “home” in years

This past week has been a reminder of that for me.  Recently a friend from high school was diagnosed with liver cancer (ugh, how well DH and I know the brutality of that particular disease) and was given months to live.  Despite the best efforts of the medical profession, he succumbed after a hard fought battle.  The funeral was this weekend.

As he was a friend of both my brother’s and mine and his father – who was my high school music teacher – was quite instrumental in getting my music career started, it was a no-brainer for me to travel from Hamilton to Oshawa to attend the visitation and funeral.

Recent events in my personal life have made me realize that my former home town of Ajax feels different to me and that I now feel like a visitor in the house in which I grew up, despite the best efforts of the Parental Units.

This weekend provided the final punctuation to my realization that you truly can’t go home again, because home is more than a place, it is a sense of being and a sense of comfort.  Ajax and its surrounding environs no longer feels like home to me – because it isn’t my home anymore.

I had no idea what to expect at the visitation, beyond the possibility of seeing my childhood friends again (honestly guys we REALLY need to stop getting together at funerals and find happier occasions to share) as well as a chance to connect with a treasured high school teacher – who through his support and guidance – pretty much shaped my adult life for the positive and gave a confused teenaged Myke a positive outlet for all the negativity he was experiencing.

My friends are great.  One of them, I have known since kindergarten and he has grown to become an actor, comedian and just last week a father (he will be the most AWESOME dad out of all of my friends to have kids).  Another (DJ) was my partner in crime throughout gifted school and high school and one of the few people whom I think I could travel with without wanting to kill.  The final was a friend through high school and university and was perhaps my most consistent friend and drinking buddy through the tough years.

The part that finally (G*d forbid me for using this analogy) put the nail in the coffin for me was the reaction of the man who I had contact with at least 4 days a week for four years.  The very person who guided me into a career and made me believe that I had what it took to become a professional musician and bassist.  That person happens to be my high school music teacher.

Let me preface this next statement by saying that I continue to respect the man fully, understanding that after twenty years of being out of high school, ten years of not living in Ajax and the fact that the funeral is for his son, I can comprehend this particular reaction.  The added fact that I am nearly unrecognizable to a lot of people who haven’t seen me in years due to my weight loss almost certainly adds to this; however…

It was truly humbling (and honestly somewhat disheartening) for me to have been reduced to a mere footnote and a vague memory by someone who was so influential in my life.

This was a person who, for four years, I saw on an almost daily basis (starting at 8am for concert band practice, in a class every other day and in a lunchtime jazz band rehearsal three times weekly) and helped me learn and grow on my chosen instrument, developing my voice and abilities.  Who believed in my abilities enough that I skipped my second year in the junior band, missed the intermediate band altogether and went straight to the senior band and even more importantly got me in the senior jazz and stage band.  The person who took me on my first international tour as a musician, playing pubs, outdoor concerts and the Harrogate Royal Hall with. The person who put me in contact with professionals and got me started as a musician.  I pretty much owe (or blame <grin>) this man for putting me on the track I’m on and he barely recognized me by name.

The day prior to this, I received the following tweet and retweeted it.

@gaypridequotes:   Nothing hurts more than being disappointed by the single person we thought would never hurt us.

This man was one such person, and I was disappointed.  I wasn’t expecting accolades and praise, but hoped for something a little more than faint name recognition (I guess).  I know egotistical of me to hope for more than that, but sometimes one would think that the impact would be at least somewhat reciprocal…there were other teachers from my high school days present as well and, although they had less connection and far less of an impact on me, their response was pretty much the same.

It was this precise moment that I fully understood the gravity of Wolfe’s words.  I finally realized that the “home” of my childhood was no longer my home.  I was also reminded of the need to remember the past, but not to revel and wallow in it.

It was on the train ride back to Hamilton that I finally comprehended this and tweeted the following:

@hentor:  Thought of the day, after visiting with old friends & family, home no longer feels like “home”. My home is truly #HamOnt now!

I guess it all boils down to the fact that home isn’t truly a place, but a state of mind and being when you get to that place that represents “home” to you.  The past is the past, nostalgia, memories and history are things that build you and that you need to learn from.  What is important is when you need to realize it’s time to move on and it’s high time for me to move on.

Welcome home!

no sugar cookie dough dip

Don’t knock this one until you’ve tried it!  Filled with protein and healthy carbs, it satisfies a sweet tooth without refined sugars or sugar substitutes.

  • 1 1/4 cup pitted dates
  • 1 can drained chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups of cooked
  • heaping 1/8 tsp salt
  • tiny bit over 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup nut butter (I use all natural “just peanuts” peanut butter)
  • 2 tbsp rolled oats
  • nondairy milk to thin as needed  

In a bowl, cover the dates with 1/2 cup water. Let this sit for at least 8 hours. Then add all ingredients (including the dates’ soaking liquid) to a food processor and blend until very smooth.

This can be served as a dessert dip, as a spread (maybe in between apple slices or crackers?), eaten with a spoon, mixed into oatmeal, stuffed into cupcakes, or even used to top pancakes!

I’m considering adding chopped nuts and sugar-free chocolate chips to mine…