By Steve Cichon
When I look at old photos of three-year-old me crying or listen to whiny old cassette tapes I made as a five-year-old, it’s pretty clear that I was a sensitive little boy.
Because of that, some things that most people roll with— left me traumatized.
Now I was surrounded by a huge, loving family— but it was also a family which was (and continues to be) filled with every sort of mental illness imaginable.
This was true in close relationships, very close relationships, and very, very close relationships.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about the difference between building a house on a foundation of rock versus building on a foundation of sand.
There was sand in every crevice of my young life.
Things like moving seven times and being in seven different schools by the time I was in sixth grade, just for starters.
As a kid, rolling with it was just fine. I didn’t know any better, even as I stumbled around trying to find my own way.
What seemed everyday normal to me maybe should have had a giant warning sign on it, but it didn’t. And from my perspective at the time, why would it? Isn’t this the way it should be?
The most important skill I learned during that time was to make sure I outwardly looked like all was swell— even as the stormy, weak, and teetering emotional foundation upon which I’d built my life was crumbling and constantly being patched in real time.
I’m happy to say that the space in my head and my heart has been reimagined and refortified, and, while I’ll spend the rest of my life finishing the rebuild and getting used to the new space, I’m feeling more more grounded these days with far less anxiety and far more direction.
Sadly, finding firmer ground for a less chaotic life hasn’t come without cost.
Looking back I realize that never having developed a good sense of self, I was always willing to play any role in a relationship I valued— right down to doormat if necessary.
Most of my friends and loved ones are happy to see me strong, healthy, and happy— but a few of the most cherished people in my life couldn’t stand the idea of me standing my ground for my own health and well-being.
Its not easy to stay away from these people, some of whom are dealing with (or not dealing with) their own dilemmas in their own lives. That they can’t make room for me working to make my own life better hurts.
And the hardest part of that is— whatever anger, bitterness, and even hatred some of these folks have for me— I still love each of them with the same intensity and commitment as I always have.
Only now, that estranged love comes with intense and haunting sadness.
I love them and wish them well— but if you can’t be part of my new adventures… or at least be happy that I’m happy— well, necessity makes our relationship a memory.
And that aches, but it’s growing pain that’s better for all of us in the long run.