I Don’t Want To Be Strong Anymore
Before I start this, I want to recognize that other people have it way worse than I do. I am not writing this for pity. I am not expressing these things to get a flood of support. I am writing this because I am tired, and I need to process these things. I have addressed them in pieces over the past year, but I need to do it again.
I feel like I have been in a constant state of free-fall. I am hitting every branch on the way down. My body and mind are broken and exhausted from the cumulative losses that I have experienced. I have the scars, bruises, and broken bones to prove all of this.
Around this time last year, we were stepping into our first experience with a global pandemic. This pandemic, of course, was not handled correctly, and it quickly escalated into something beyond our control. I am not here to talk about the pandemic, though. That was just the beginning of the free-fall that I am outlining.
I watched the world turn into chaos before my eyes. I didn’t realize that my chaos was right around the corner, lying in wait for me to become vulnerable. At that point in time, I felt myself slipping away from the strength that I usually possessed. I could get through most things without any emotion and without those things taking over every corner of my thoughts.
As springtime showed up in 2020, I began to hear the details about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. This shook me to my core. I saw white supremacists murder this man in broad daylight, and I watched as Americans furiously rushed to discredit Ahmaud and justify this lynching. I was infuriated, and I felt a sense of loss even though he wasn’t my family. All I could do was think about my Black son and how he will have to navigate a world like this as he continues to grow older.
I then heard the news of Breonna Taylor. A Black woman was killed in her sleep by the cops who kicked down her apartment door and started shooting recklessly. It seemed surreal, but these things were beginning to come to life for me. I felt myself becoming more unstable, and there was a new pain starting to settle in.
Time moved along, and I was presented with the news of George Floyd. The last leg that I was standing on at that point was kicked out from under me. I was enraged. I couldn’t stop crying tears of pain and agony. I couldn’t stop the fury that coursed through my veins. I was angrier than I had ever experienced, and that is saying a lot given my past experiences in life. I kept seeing my son’s face on the body of George Floyd every time I saw that picture of that cop kneeling on George Floyd, and I was completely broken. My soul was crushed.
I was at a point where emotionally, I was in a tailspin. I was constantly angry and heartbroken, and I didn’t know where to turn. I needed some sort of release, so I began to write and make my thoughts public knowledge.
Around the time of George Floyd’s death, I experienced the loss of one of the students I worked with at my job. He was taken from this life early due to gun violence, and this devastated me. I have experienced the loss of multiple youths I have worked with in the past, but this hit me differently. I had fought to get this student into our school despite other staff not wanting him there due to concerns with his behavior and who his family was, and what they were known for. I was personally invested in seeing this student become successful. Then, in a flash, I was at our school spending time with staff, students, and his family celebrating his life.
It was not long after this murder that I experience yet another loss of another student that I worked with at my school. Gun violence also took his life, and I was devastated. This is one of the students that I was pouring into as much as I could. I would drive him home and listen to him tell me about his child, his future, and everything he wanted to do and be once he got out of our city. I was close with him, which was just another loss compiled on top of the other loss that I already experienced.
Moving into the summer months, I began to get involved locally in the fight for Black Lives. I helped to set up a few local protests, and I tried to be involved in my community as much as possible. I would attend protests in nearby cities as well. These events were powerful, and they were consistent reminders of the losses that we had experienced as a country, and they reminded me of my own personal losses. These moments were heavy, but they were necessary.
Summer moved to the fall, and the verdict for Breonna Taylor’s case came out. I heard it, and with fury and pain behind the tears I cried at my work desk, I decided I was going to Kentucky that day to protest this decision. I felt this was yet another loss. The injustices in this country continued to pile up and become even more blatant. It was non-stop.
I went to Kentucky and experienced things I may never experience again in my life, but those experiences have been laid out in great detail in some of the other stories I’ve written.
After my experiences in Louisville, the free-fall accelerated. I got back home, and the culmination of all the revelations I had over the year came to a head, and I decided it was time to end my marriage.
In this decision, I lost my wife of 10 years. I lost all of my in-laws. I lost a relationship with my children that will never return to what it was for the rest of their lives.
We were foster parents at the time, and the minute the agencies found out that my wife and I were divorcing, they moved our foster children. We had three foster children at the time, and they were all immediately moved to new homes, and I was unable to say goodbye to any of them. I loved those children with my whole being. Yet this was just another time where a new piece of my heart was torn out. During this time, we also rehomed one of our dogs as I wouldn’t be able to take care of her due to the pending divorce. We had her since she was a puppy, and our kids loved her. So this was just another loss piled on top of the other losses.
During this time, I lost my best friend of 11 years. He was a brother to me in every sense of the year, and I no longer had him to lean on for anything. I lost relationships with my own flesh and blood family, and I was quickly becoming alone. I was losing every single thing in my life, and I had no idea what to do.
It was also around this time that I met and dated a new girl that stole my heart. She became my rock for everything. However, our relationship became unstable. We broke up multiple times throughout the course of our relationship, so the cycle of loss continued and intensified. We also lost a child to miscarriage during this time, and I could barely find the will to breathe anymore. I fell in love with someone that told me they would be with me for life, and I was continually shown that this wasn’t the case.
While in the midst of all this chaos, an activist in Louisville I had met and spoke to a couple of times was killed. Though we weren’t friends or family, the loss still hit me heavily. All I could think about was losing the activist friends that I had made, and I spent days in deep sadness. Throughout this turmoil, I also left an organization where I thought I would be doing activism work for years to come. While that seems like something small, it was just another loss to tack on to everything else.
At the end of these losses, I am left beaten and absolutely broken. I don’t want to build resilience anymore. I don’t want this burden. I am tired and would welcome a sweet release from this life. To be honest, the only reason I am still here is because of my children, and that reason has only barely gotten me by.
My brain, heart, and spirit cannot take any more losses, yet I know more are coming. I don’t want to do any of this anymore. I wanted to experience love, but I haven’t found that yet. I wanted to be the best father I could be, but I scarred my children for life. I wanted to stand and fight for Black Lives with my community, and my choices affected my ability to do that on a certain level. I wanted to be more than what I am now, but I am not, and I am trying to accept that.
I am having a hard time sleeping; because all I can think about are these losses. They replay over and over in my mind, and they will not allow me to rest. I am trying to be a good dad when my kids visit me, but I barely have the energy to do anything but watch TV with them at times. I want to be a good friend like I used to be, but I can’t even respond to people trying to check in on me; because I simply do not have the energy. I am trying to put on a brave face at every turn, but it is becoming too much.
I don’t need people to be worried about me. I need them to understand that the continual losses I have taken have broken me down, and they are creating a new person that nobody has ever seen. I am experiencing life beneath rock bottom, and there doesn’t seem to be any reprieve coming any time soon. I am gasping for air at every turn, and the oxygen is getting thin down here. I want to climb out, but there is nothing to grab on to.
It is lonely down here, and the people trying to reach out to me are out of arm’s reach. I feel like I’m wandering the underground, dragging the corpse of who I used to be for eternity. It is a new experience to feel so completely dead but having to live regardless.
Pain is my only companion, and I am coming to understand what that means for me. Perhaps life will get better, but who knows, and I’m not in the space for people to tell me that it will. I can appreciate people reaching out to me, encouraging me, and trying to love me, but I don’t know how to internalize those things anymore. I don’t know how to feel loved, and the times I gave all my love, it was spat back in my face and stomped into the ground.
I will keep walking this torturous landscape, but all I can think about is when it will end. Loss is currently defining my life, and I am learning that that’s just how it will go for now. I am limping towards some semblance of a finish line, I guess, but I don’t know what the end goal is.
I am tired, and nothing and no one can provide me with the rest I need.