Every time I think about my childhood, I get angry. A time that should have been filled with happy moments spent learning and growing was ruined by physical abuse. This wasn’t just spanking — it went far beyond that. Chairs, lamp switches, and sticks were used as instruments of punishment. The scars I developed went far deeper than the surface of my skin.
At 17, I’d had enough. I remember coming home from school to two angry parents. They had somehow heard I was dating someone at work. I assured them I wasn’t, but I guess they didn’t believe me. Before I could say anything else, I was being beaten with a stick. Rather than continuing to subject myself to that, I chose to live on the streets
It was hard leaving a two-parent home — and my two brothers and sisters — but I had to do it. I left without a dollar to my name but felt free for the first time in my life. I dropped out of high school and got three jobs just to survive. Once I got myself on my feet, I studied and earned my GED.
Once I’d gotten off the streets and gotten a place of my own, I started trying to build a life. But I still had to recover from the physical and mental abuse and the trauma I experienced while homeless. That’s when the scars opened up wide. Every relationship I had — platonic or romantic — was a struggle for me. I couldn’t open up and face the demons that terrorized me daily. Eventually, I realized I wouldn’t be able to find happiness until I dealt with them. Here are a few of my struggles and the solutions that helped me conquer them:
1. I felt anger from my abusive past.
I grew up with strict punishments that involved being spanked and more. The spanking wasn’t limited to my butt; I was beaten all over my body. This led me to be an angry adult who always wanted to resolve arguments in a physical way. I also struggled with fits of anger at random times. Through counseling and becoming self-aware, I was able to get better. I still struggle with anger, but it’s not the crazy outbursts that I used to give in to. I gained control after months of therapy and taking up meditation.
2. I was frustrated by my lack of education.
Because I had dropped out of high school, I always felt dumb. There were things I missed by dropping out that hurt my dream of being a writer. I was often frustrated by my lack of grammar skills and I let that hold me back. Eventually, rather than just whine at the universe, I decided to work twice as hard to learn what I wanted to know. I read books on grammar, took some online courses, and became an editor at The Good Men Project to learn. Today, I’m the author of four books — three of them traditionally published — which have sold more than 100,000 copies.
3. I had developed unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I turned to food in moments of depression and pain. I stopped exercising and slept too much as a way to escape. At the worst, I was 170 pounds overweight. Eventually, I prioritized healthy habits. I regularly started exercising and watched what I ate. Every choice I made supported living a healthy lifestyle. I lost those 170 pounds in a two-year span, after finally acknowledging the source of my poor choices.
4. I suffered from a lack of self-esteem.
The excess weight and lack of education contributed to my poor self-image. I felt fat and stupid. Losing the weight and chasing my dream of becoming a writer — despite my fears — is how I learned to love what makes me. For most of my life, I’ve battled self-limiting beliefs because of my past.
I let my abusive past, lack of education, and internal struggles prevent me from taking the first steps to creating change in my life. When I finally decided to move forward anyway, I started on the journey to a life I love.
5. I was ruled by doubt, fear, and the negative voices of others.
Making any change is hard, and it’s especially hard when you’re starting from a disadvantage. I had to overcome my doubt, the fear of failure, and input from people in my life who said my dreams were impossible. I wrote for months on my blog without seeing any results. Then, out of the blue, I got an email from a random person saying my writing was helping him. That was all I needed to continue to push forward.
6. I got involved in toxic relationships.
The negative people became toxic by trying to project their self-limiting beliefs onto my life and dreams. I had a best friend at the time who did everything he could to persuade me I was crazy. I asked for his support, but he was convinced my dreams weren’t possible. I had to purge the negativity from my life to move forward, and that meant putting distance between myself and certain people.
It wasn’t easy to part ways with friends, but I was honest about what I needed in my life and told them all that I hoped we could reconnect at some point in the future. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I did.
I can honestly say that I’m happy with my life today. I have beaten my demons through counseling, self-awareness, and concerted effort, and by opening up to the woman I love. The scars have healed. You can conquer your demons too. Don’t just try to shove them deeper inside yourself. Get counseling, talk to a trusted friend or family member, take up meditation. Don’t stop until you figure out what works for you and you experience real healing.
Life is hard, and it doesn’t get easier. If you want to be happy, you have to make that choice, every day. Open up, get help, and forgive. That’s how you can let go of the past, the painful memories, and begin to move toward the life you want. It’s not easy, but it is possible.
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