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I’m Still Standing
As a child I was taught God does not give you more than you can handle. However, when the evidence of the abusive childhood came up in therapy three years after the onset of congestive heart failure (CHF), I was sure someone had lied to me. It was a flooding of information. To return to the highway metaphor in Texas, something began to clear and traffic began to move as if for no reason, a magical moment, a flash of light, the highways were rejuvenated. The roads to my heart came alive. The year was 1998 and three years into my CHF recovery.
With the Taiji practice I also continued to take the western medicine, diminishing the amount over time until now I take only a pill for hypertension, a diuretic, and a daily aspirin. My story has turned out well, so many others were fatal. I continue to take supplements like flaxseed and Vitamin E, but once the child trauma emerged from therapy and was verified by some family members, I decided to stop the antidepressants. Lithium, as I knew it, could be a dangerous medication for CHF patients and possibly may have contributed to my condition. I had been treated for depression for many years, but now I could envision a healthier way toward managing sadness if I could tackle the abuse constructively. I continued working with my therapist and started working with a team that included a massage therapist, a chiropractor, and an acupuncturist. Trauma is a cellular phenomenon. It lives in the flesh.
With all of this I came to understand that for most of my adult life I had been struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). A partially repressed abusive childhood and the loss of the first child from my first marriage threw me into a tailspin in my twenties until my late forties. That’s when things began to make sense to me, terrible at some points and beautifully hopeful at other times.
My journey to hopefulness, created an opportunity for me to receive a Fulbright Fellowship award to teach in Taiwan, and while there my heart returned to normal efficiency, which is where it remains today. My health is good as I enter my sixtieth year of life. I have chosen to live spiritually with daily meditation and prayer.
Forgiveness is a requirement for recovery from abuse of any kind in my opinion. It may sound overly generous to those feel differently. But forgiving the relative in my extended family for the abuse is something I have found to be absolutely necessary. And the cliche is true. Forgiveness is for he who forgives. Guilty parties may not even remember what it is they did. Victims of abuse must move forward and not allow any abuse, no matter how traumatic to stifle them. The alternatives are not pretty. For me it was lying on the tech table in the cardiac treatment center and hearing that your heart is breaking down under the weight of a life complicated by indiscretions. For too many, it is substance use, promiscuity, food addiction, violence, etc.
In all of it there is hope. Hope requires faith, courage, and strength rooted in the willingness to be vulnerable. In that spirit I offer this view into what life is for me and to me. I hope you have enjoyed reading all three parts of my journey. Be well, my brothers. Value your health.
Afaa Michael Weaver
Afaa Michael Weaver is a highly respected poet, playwright, author, and journalist. Visit his website here for details about his published works and other events. Stay tuned right here for the next installment of his story of surviving CHF.