The First Years (1992-1997)
In a time not so long ago; but also what would seem to be many lives ago; I was born in a ‘little city’ known as London, Ontario. Located two hours south of Toronto, and known as the forest city, London can best be described as a place where not much happens.
Of course I can’t remember those earliest years in the greatest detail; so this first chapter will be relatively short. Think of this as a quick introduction that will set the stage for my life story, and the stories of those I first came to know in this world. After all, everyone has a beginning, and if we are able to be honest; if you’re lucky, your first years of life should be pretty much a template.
After all, babies literally do not have personalities in their first year. You can feel free to argue that your baby is a genius; but, none of us were. Actually, it seems we are born before we are finished being made; but, I am not a science major, so I won’t get in to that either.
I myself was very lucky to be born to two loving and protective parents that had stable incomes and lots of care to give their children; and for that I will always be grateful.
But, no matter how much a parent wants to protect their child, some things just cannot be helped.
I was just under a year old when I began to walk- a happy moment for any family. That was when my mom noticed I was leaning more to one side. She had no idea what could be causing this, so, she took me to a doctor- having no idea that a simple visit would change my life, and or families life in the blink of an eye.
At this check-up, my parents were given the news- that I was leaning due to something quite rare, Idiopathic Infantile Scoliosis- a curvature of my spine. And, they discovered I had a spinal syrinx- essentially a fluid filled tumour like ball located in my spine- one that would slightly obstruct te flow of fluids required to give us our basic functions.
This included walking, talking, and even our sense of hot, and cold. Both of these conditions, according to science, made their son part of less than 0.05% of all cases of Scoliosis and Syrinx known worldwide.
The Scoliosis diagnosis meant I had to begin using back braces to try and control the severity. As for the syrinx, it would require monitoring for any growth.
That is because a spinal syrinx can either:
Stay the same, and do nothing to further limit functions.
Grow, and take away any range of things. From my ability to walk, us my arms, talk, and in some severe cases, cut off my ability to breathe- which has lead to some people with syrinx passing away in their sleep.
This was devastating news for my parents, as I myself was too young to have any idea what was going on.
So, my mom and dad did what any parent knew they had to; and began my treatments and constant visits to neurosurgeons and orthopaedic specialists to save their baby from as much of the worst effects of my health issues.
For that, I will forever be grateful to my mother for being by side through all of it.
In spite of my disabilities, I lived a great childhood in those years at home with my parents.
I felt nothing but love.
I was also so lucky to have an older brother I look up to, even to this day. I can still remember waiting for him to get out of school each day, and being so excited to start attending and making friends the way he did.
And that, was why starting school would prove to be a shock. Because, school is where I first learned just how cruel the world can be. And apparently, friends were something people like me were not allowed to have.
So, at a young age, I learned just how quickly children have already been taught by their parents to hate anyone that is different from them.
Not just to hate that person; but, to remind them every day that their existence was worth less.
For, you see, London Ontario may be located in Canada - a place everyone see’s as opening and inviting to all; but, the reality was that at least at this point in time, London was a very conservative place.
You were truly only welcome if you fit in to a very small box.
I fit in to none of those boxes.
I couldn’t play sports, so I played with Barbie and enjoyed art.
This only made is even easier for me to be the odd-one-out.
I will never forget the first time I was told I was not allowed to join a group of friends playing in kindergarten, because, and I quote, ‘Your spine is jelly, and you are gay’.
I mean, I’m paraphrasing a bit; but, you get the jest.
At that moment, I had no idea what to do other than to cry. Little did I know, this was just the preview of the next sixteen years; and that this was far from as bad as it would get.
That the first rejection, would create a domino effect. And that one little, pardon my language, snotty, cruel, little girl would make it her mission to make sure nobody ever played with me again. It was like she had a pringle chip on her shoulder or something.
Except pringle chips taste good, and the words that would come out of this girls mouth tasted like garbage.
The first major lesson I learned in life, was that not all people were kind. And according to the kids at school, I wasn’t even a person. I was some freakish monster.
Don’t get me wrong- I know kids are not well equipped with knowledge and that they can say really dumb shit; but, this group seemed to be so bored with themselves that the only fun they had was in tearing other people down.
But, as in any class- I wasn’t the only one that didn’t ‘fit in’. I managed to find the one friend we all need to get through the hardest of times; and little did I know, that friend and her family would be the first people outside of my own family to truly let me be who I wanted to be.
At that age, I couldn’t be a boy running around in the dirt. So, I decided I would be pretty and play with dolls. I loved the Spice Girls, and I owned every piece of Britney Spears merch that existed in the 90’s. I even dressed up in gowns and lipstick, something my friend and her mom were happy to let me do at their home, just as my mom would allow me at home.
After all, who with a heart would try to stop a child with so much going against them from doing what makes them happy?
Well, some of the teachers at my catholic school would disagree. In fact, some of their comments toward me even as a child probably only made the other children feel it was even more ok to say all the horrible things they would say to me.
Little did any of these people think just how much all these little words they’d say to tear me down, would make a developing brain believe it deserved the cruelty instead of love.
I don’t so much blame the kids my age, as I do their parents and the adults around us that didn’t correct their terrible behaviour; in fact, these students were treated like angels.
How fucked up is that?
Honestly, the Catholic church and whole mindset of being shitty to people and praying it all away can go fuck itself.
So, as a child going to doctors all the time, and being old enough at the age of four to realize I had health problems that could really take everything away from me, my only safe space was with my family and one close friend.
The thing was, that made me realize we do not need much in life. And having that one friend and a loving family would get me through a childhood filled with laughter, tears, pain, and lessons in who people really were.
And, I will say, I have forgiven most of the people who did these things to me in my formative years; but, there are two I will never forgive. And, if they’re reading this, I wish you bliss, and hope you don’t choke on these words; because, I haven’t really gotten to you yet.
After all, this is a story of healing, and sometimes, as I have also learned; healing is actually telling someone how much they hurt you.
I won't sugar coat it, none of the process is easy, and it takes failing so much that you lose track of just how many times you've tried, and how many times you thought you possibly couldn't go any further.
For all these little words have consequences, and all these lessons I have learned may help you in ways you never imagined.