Hatred Is Alive And Well.

The following are true stories. They are my memories of the events I witnessed, personally. The things people said to me, or to others around me. I share these here for those who claim they are Christian, and who claim they don’t hate anyone, and who claim their faith is being persecuted.

I’ve taken the liberty of removing names and locations from the stories. It’s called defending oneself against lawsuits. And in the USA, at this time, it’s very much needed.


Event 1: On a Sunday morning, during the worship service at a Southern Baptist church, the pastor stood at the podium, preaching (as he should), and declared, “I saw a man wearing a dress, and I thought I was going to puke. To throw up. That was so disgusting. So sick.” And I watched as the congregation nodded, and voices agreed, “Here, here. Sick. Disgusting.”

Event 2: On another Sunday morning, at that same Southern Baptist church, other words, spoken by the pastor, “Depression isn’t real. It’s made up. It doesn’t exist.” And the congregation, once again, agreed.

Event 3: Upon learning of the legal gender change of a member of the workforce employed at a US Naval facility, the base commander ordered all management teams to meet with their workers, and make certain they all knew how to behave properly. The meetings were deemed necessary to place expectations of how to behave like human beings around fellow employees firmly in the minds of all people on the base, with the needed declaration that behaving in any uncivil way would be grounds for review of employment, and possible termination. The commander of the base felt this was necessary in order to maintain proper behavior of individuals in the workforce. Let that sink in for a while, will you? Let that sink in. He had to ORDER proper behavior from fully grown adults, both Civil Service, and US Navy personnel. Because those people were incapable of behaving otherwise.

Event 4: At that same US Naval facility, when two (2) restrooms were converted to unisex restrooms, I was informed by multiple people, they would never set foot in those restrooms again. They would rather piss on the floor.

Event 5: Again, at that same US Naval facility, I was informed by multiple people I worked with, “Mark. You won’t have any problem adjusting. That’s how you are. But me? This will be hard.”

Event 6: At work, just last night. One of the employees I work with, a peer, wore a kilt. Yes, a kilt. And it was a damn good kilt. Have you ever noticed how some people look at men in kilts? And how they suddenly change direction to wander somewhere other than the vicinity of the guy in his kilt? Have you ever noticed how some people actually leave?

Event 7: At a Walmart. I was shopping, with my spouse. She was in another area of the store. And I was there, in my long, stringy hair, with my bald spots, and my scrawny pony-tail, wearing a t-shirt from “The Mountain”. One with a gorgeous pair of roses on it, and a lady bug, and a small fairy. It’s a gorgeous shirt. That’s when a mother, with her son still sitting in the child’s seat of the grocery cart, saw me walking up to the movies to look at them, and proclaimed, “Oh, God!” and hurriedly pushed her cart anywhere I wasn’t.

Event 8: When you visit your family, driving nearly four hours to get there, and you learn, “We don’t go to those places in town. We don’t deal with those businesses in town. Not because they are owned by black  people. But because they aren’t the same. They don’t do the same work. They don’t have the same standards. So, we go to these.”


Christians tell me hatred is not alive. They tell me Christians love everyone. They just hate the sin.

That is a bald-faced lie. They hate everyone who doesn’t live like they believe everyone should live. They want everyone who is not like them to be dead. It’s that simple. It’s that black and white. They don’t want diversity. They don’t want understanding.

They want you to worship their God, their way, and if you don’t. They want you dead. Because. You’re the enemy. Literally. And they believe they are at war for the soul of the human race.

And people ask me why I walked away. Why I turned my back on God’s church. Because. It’s not God’s church. What it has become is the church of mortal men. And God has abandoned it.

The above eight (8) events I report all happened to me. I was there. I remember them. They are burned into my memory forever. There are many more stories I could tell. Many more events I could share. For now, I’ll stop with these. And I’ll say I collect more stories, every week. It never ends.

Do not tell me hatred is gone. Do not tell me Christians don’t hate people. It’s a lie. I know it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Hatred is alive and it is thriving in God’s Church in the United States.

Mark.

Two Headlights In A Sea Of Black

It happens every time
I drive home from work.
In the dark.
I can’t stop it.
I can’t escape it.
It’s everywhere I look.
Everywhere.

Two headlights
In a sea of black.

I see that.
Over and over.
Endlessly.
Night after night.
And I remember.

That’s the last thing I saw.
Two headlights.
In a sea of black.
Too close.
Moving too quickly.
And I hear my voice.
In my head.
Again and again.
“That ain’t good.”

I remember two crunches.
I heard them.
One deafening, overwhelming.
One quiet.
An aftershock.

And me with eight fractures,
And two days in the hospital.
And I’m still healing.

And every time I come home from work.
Every time.
In the dark.
Always.
Everywhere I look.

Two headlights.
In a sea of black.

I know I’ll adjust.
I know it’ll take time.
I know I’ll be OK.
And I know.
On my trip home.
That’s not going to happen.
I won’t let it.

But I still remember.
And may never forget.

Two headlights.
In a sea of black.

Memories : Look At Me When I’m Talking To You!

It was a lesson I learned
A long time ago.
Before so many
Of the people I know now
Existed.

A lesson I learned
In seventh grade.
When my father was
The Protestant Chaplain
For the US Naval Support Activity
Across the Severn River
From the Naval Academy.

I learned it on a Sunday morning.
After the church service.
While I was experimenting with sound
On a piano
In the church activities building.

That’s when a full-grown male
Of the human species
Sat down in a chair
To my right.

He started talking with me.
Or perhaps it would be more accurate
To say he talked to me.
Whatever.
It doesn’t matter.
And it never did.

I heard every word he said.
Clean down to the times he asked
“Are you listening to me?”

I told him what he’d said.
Told him every word.

“I can’t tell you’re listening to me!”
I could tell he was angry.
“You’re not listening to me!”
And getting angrier.

That’s when I learned
What to do.
When I learned
What humans expect.
What humans demand.
As a signal of some kind.
That makes them think
Makes them believe
You are paying proper attention,
Expected attention,
Required attention
To them.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”

Have you ever had that screamed at you?
I have.
I had then too.
More times than I can count.
More times than I can remember.

But that time.
That Sunday.
It was different.
That time I realized
What humans expected.

So, I looked at him.
Straight into his eyes.
Dude.
He was angry.

I wanted to look at the wall behind him.
To look at the ceiling tiles.
To look at the floor.
The piano keys.

I didn’t.

I looked that human in the eyes.
I watched his mouth move
As he spoke.
I observed his facial expressions.
All of them.
I watched how he behaved.
I watched how he moved.
I watched everything he did.

His tie was perfectly tied.
Perfectly.
The collar of his shirt
Looked like it hid a noose
Around his neck.
The jacket of his suit
Was still buttoned up.
Hell,
It even had that fake tie
Stuffed in one pocket.

I saw every detail.

And I learned.
I learned how to shut him up.
How to keep him quiet.
How to make him happy.

A lesson I remembered.
A lesson I mastered.
In those few moments of time.

Pretend you’re looking at someone
While they talk to you.

That way.
They’ll shut up.
And leave you alone.
Because they’ll believe
You’re a good one.
Well behaved.

They’ll think you heard
Every last word.
And understood
Everything they said.

That human never knew
What I learned that day.
No one ever knew.
No one could ever figure out
What I’d learned to do.

It’s a memory
I can’t forget.
I never have.
I never will.

It was the day I learned.
Everybody lies.

Memories : The Story

[Author’s Note : This is an old one. I wrote it on 08 April 1999. But, events of this day have lead me to pull it out, and share it. If you know of any children afraid of monsters in the dark, perhaps you can share this one too.]

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. I do not recall her name. I only know she was young, about four years old. She was a pretty little girl, with curly strawberry-blond hair, and ice blue eyes. But she didn’t really look like Shirley Temple…

This little girl didn’t like to go to bed at night. She would scream at her Father, “But, Daddy! The monsters in the dark! They’ll get me! They’ll eat me up!”

And she wouldn’t go to bed. Her father would sit in his big rocking chair, and she would climb into her Father’s lap, and he would rock her to sleep. When she was asleep, he would carry her to her bed, and carefully tuck her in. “Good night, precious. Sleep tight,”
he would say. Then, he would kiss her cheek, and go do the things that Father’s do after everyone else is asleep.

Eventually, the Father became tired of having to rock his daughter to sleep every night. After hundreds of nights in a row, wouldn’t you? So, the Father decided it was time for his daughter to learn to go to sleep in her own bed.

But the little girl refused. “Daddy, the monsters! The monsters in the dark! They scare me! I can’t sleep knowing they are there!” So, the Father had to tell his daughter about the monsters in the dark. What they were, and where they came from. And how to not be
afraid of them.

So, he got his little girl into her bed, and tucked under her covers. And he sat down on the side of her bed, and held her hand, and told her this story…

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was afraid of the monsters in the dark. And she would not sleep at night, because they scared her so. So, her Father, who was not a wise man, but who knew all about monsters, told her, “You don’t have to be afraid of the
monsters, and tonight, I’ll stay up with you, and I’ll show you why.”

So, that night, when it was time for the little girl to go to bed, her Father tucked her in, and then sat down on the edge of her bed. “Let’s just wait here, and we’ll wait for the monsters to show up.”

And the little girl lay in her bed, and waited. And she watched the shadows on her bedroom walls. And on her bedroom ceiling. And she listened to all the noises in the dark.

And she sat up in her bed, and pointed, “There, Daddy! There’s a monster!” And her Daddy looked at the monster in the dark, resting on her bedroom wall. “Oh, precious,” he said. “That’s just a shadow. And it’s certainly not a shadow to be afraid of. Why, look.” And he stood up, and walked across the room. And he picked up her little, pink Teddy bear. And when he did, the monster on the wall moved, and went away.

“See, precious. It’s not a monster at all. Its just a shadow from your Teddy bear. It’s just Teddy, standing on your dresser, keeping watch over your room. Making sure the monsters of the dark don’t come in. Making sure you’re safe while you sleep.”

And the little girl looked at the wall, where the monster had been. And she looked at her Teddy bear. “Oh, Daddy! I didn’t know it was Teddy. Please put him back, so he can watch me while I sleep!”

And from that night on, the little girl knew that the monsters in the dark were just shadows on the walls. And that they weren’t anything to be afraid of.

 

Memories : Lunch At ODU

It was 1980. And I was trying to be normal. Do things like other people did them. Like being more formal. Dressing more professionally. Carrying my stuff in a case, not in my hands. I’d been trying this for several weeks. And I thought I was getting used to it. Adjusting to the way it felt.

I was so terribly wrong. I found that out one day at lunch. When I made the simple mistake of going to lunch alone. In a place I’d never gone. The cafeteria at Webb Center. I did OK getting there. I did OK getting in line. But then, the line lead to where the food was. It was like this giant buffet place. And there were hundreds of people stuffed in there. Picking what they wanted to eat for lunch.

And there was me. With my case. Waiting through the line. Trying to figure out what to eat. And feeling all my coping abilities crumble. One-by-one. As my ability to think coherently slowly failed. As my ability to process my environment failed. As I become overloaded with information.

I have no idea what I ate that day. I know I ate something. And I know I had something to drink. Most likely a can of Coke. I know I sat at a table. And ate. Alone. Surrounded by an ocean of people. So many people. Too many people.

I remember standing there. In the line, with a tray. Waiting for my turn to pick out food to eat. I remember thinking to myself. I remember very clearly what I thought. “Marcus. No. It would not be a good idea to stand in the middle of the room. Spinning around in a circle, like a top. Rapidly. So your case acts like some kind of giant wrecking ball. And bashing anyone that comes near you. As you scream, LEAVE ME ALONE! Nope. Marcus. That would not be good.”

I never really understood that memory. Until 14 February 2011. When I was clinically diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. That’s when so many things began to make sense to me. My inability to cope with certain environments. Big crowds. The way they overwhelmed me. Left me totally confused. No knowing what to do, or how to cope. And just clinging desperately to a list of instructions in my head. As I tried, desperately, to not panic. To not run. To not scream. To just remain inconspicuous. Invisible. A nobody.

That’s another sign of my disorder, you know. My memory. That I can remember things like that instance when I went to the cafeteria at Webb Center. More than 30 years ago. And I can remember every detail of how I felt. And what I thought.

Don’t tell me I can’t be this way. Don’t tell me no one can be this way. I am. And I know that other people with Autism Spectrum Disorders are this way too. Where a simple walk through the local shopping center on Valentine’s Day, or Christmas Eve is a terrifying experience, and pushes me to the limit of my ability to cope.

In a world I never made.

Memories : History

I no longer remember the date.
Or the number of the room.
But I can remember
So very many details
Of that day.

I was in 7th grade.
It was the first 6 weeks
Of the school year.
Like everyone
In 7th grade.
I was taking US History.

The book was just damn boring.
Brutally so.
It was so very hard for me
To read that stupid thing.
To study history.
Things that happened
Way back when.

Studying how the USA
Came to be.
The vikings.
The Spanish.
The French.
The British,
And so many others.
That sailed across the Atlantic.
Finding their way here.

I ignored it all.

Didn’t read a word.
Until the first test
Came along.
And I realized
I didn’t know a thing.

As I sat there
On that day.
Staring at the grade
I’d made
On that test that day,
I realized I had a choice to make.
It was a choice
Left up to me.

Read the book
Of history.
And learn.

Or perhaps for the first time
Fail a class in school.

I never did take defeat
Lightly.

It was the first time I remember
My anger at myself.
And anger can be
Such a destructive thing.

It was the first time
I decided
To not let that test grade stand.
Instead,
I picked up my history book.
And started reading it.
And asking questions
In almost every class.
Starting with that day.

It was the first time
In my life,
That I’d attacked a class.
With the same ferocity
That I’d used at work
For 29 solid years.

It would not be the last.

I remember that day
Very well.
The decision that I made.
For that was just another step
Along the path
That lead to my destruction.

A path of self-denial.
Of self-inflicted pain.
That slowly turned into
Self-hate.

And as I walked that path
I lost all track
Of me.

Leaving just a shell
Of the person that I was.
A machine.
That could only do his job.

It was a decision
That changed everything.
Leaving only a machine.
With no heart
Or soul.

It was a decision
That lead me to the point
When I would walk
In the ice and snow.
Or in the rain.
Until my toes and heals
Blistered.
And then bled.

Until I couldn’t tell at all
If I was hurt or not.

Until I’d forgotten completely
Everything that mattered
To me.

I remember history
From back in 7th grade.
And the decision that I made
One day,
To never fail
Another test.

I remember
How that day
Changed everything
For me.

And I can’t help but wonder
How many people I know
Made a choice like I made.
Many years ago.
And now are completely lost.
And don’t even know.

And you wonder
What has caused
My soul’s tears…

Memories : This Heartbeat

It started in December.
Of 2010.
When I read a book.
And the author of that book
Wrote such simple words.

“Breathing in,
I am breathing in.
Breathing out,
I am breathing out.”

And slowly.
Day-by-day.
Things began
To fall into place.
To make sense.
For the first time
In many months.

And I started
To understand
What those words meant.
“Breathing in,
I am breathing in.
Breathing out,
I am breathing out.”

I began to realize
That when I felt down.
When I felt blue.
When I felt tense.
When I felt that stress
Across my chest.

It was time
For me to breathe.
Time for me to stop
Whatever I was doing.
And just breathe.

And that gave me
Time.
Time to think.
Time to clear my head.
Time to look
At what was going on.

I learned
To be here.
And now.
In this moment.
Not in the past.
Not in the future.
Not in anger.
Not in fear.
Not in depression.

I learned
To be here.

I learned
To smile.
To remember.
That I’m still alive.
That my heart still beats.
That my hands
Still feel everything.

I learned
That panic
Was not permanent.
It was only fear.

And anger
Was just a feeling.
Nothing more.

As I took the time
To breathe.
I learned the things  I felt
Were transient.
That over time
They change.

That everything changes.
And no matter where I was
In life in that moment.
The next moment
Could bring change.

That everything
That had happened
Up until that moment.
Was gone.
It could not hurt me.
Could not heal me.
Could not help me.
Could not scare me.
Any more.

For like a wave
On the ocean.
Once it comes ashore.
It’s gone.
And will return
Never more.

So today,
When I feel that fear.
That anger.
Or that emptiness.
I know.
Just to breathe.

And remind myself.
That it;s only transient.
And then it’s gone.
A part of my past.

And I am free
To face the moment
I am in.
Free to live
In this breathe.
In this heartbeat.

And that changed everything
For me.

One day at a time.

I write the words
Of this memory tonight.
For a friend of mine.
Whose heart aches these days.
Almost all the time.

I know what it is
When your heart aches.
And your soul
Cries tears of pain.

But maybe.
If you close your eyes.
And just take the time
To breathe.
And remember.

All any of us has
Is this heartbeat.
And nothing else.
Nothing more.

Perhaps that will help you
Like it has helped me.
To walk through your darkest days.
One step at a time.
One day at a time.
While the darkness
Fades away.

And once more
You find yourself
In the light
Of day.

Memories : Unlimited Soda

I remember.
Clearly.
The day I made that choice.
It happened
The first year I ever worked
In a world I never made.

1976.
It was in early October.
I’d managed to get
My very first job.
Working in a grocery store.
As a grocery bagger.
A generic name.
For a generic job.
A job in which
You could end up doing
Damn near anything.

Like straightening out
The contents of
The freezer isle.

Do you have any idea
How frakkin’ cold
500 half gallon boxes
Of ice cream really is?
Momma…
My fingers still remember that.
Even after all these years.

Back then,
Soda was dirt cheap.
Less than 50 cents
A can
Out of vending machines.
And the store had one.

I’d been working
All afternoon.
Into the evening.
I was helping
Close the store.
When I decided
I was thirsty.
And took a time out
To grab a drink.
And chug that drink down
While I was working.

No one minded
In the least.

But as I went
To get my drink,
I remember exactly
What I thought.

I thought
Of my family
History.
Our ingrained abuse
Of alcohol.
I thought of the problems
So very many
In my family
Had had with that.
Going back
For centuries.

I knew then
That a person shouldn’t drink
3 or 4,
Or 5 or 6
Cans of soda
Every day.
That doing that
Would not be a good thing.

But I knew also
About the dangers
Of drinking even one
Alcoholic beverage
In my family.

So I stood there for a moment.
Having bought a soda
From the vending machine.
With that cold grape soda
In my hand.
Feeling the coldness
Of the can.

And I remember thinking,
“I don’t care
If it’s wrong.
And it will hurt me
In the long run.
I’m going to let myself
Drink all the soda
I want to.
Because it beats the hell
Out of drinking
Alcohol.”

So on that night,
Working in that store,
I threw out the rule
I’d been taught
About drinking just one can
Of soda
Every day.

I remember that choice,
Every detail.
Every thought.

And I don’t regret
Having made that choice
At all.

For I’ve never had a problem
With alcohol.
Unlike so very many
In my family’s
History.

I remember.
Clearly.
The day I made that choice.
It happened
The first year I ever worked
In a world I never made.

1976.
It was in early October.
I’d managed to get
My very first job.
Working in a grocery store.
As a grocery bagger.
A generic name.
For a generic job.
A job in which
You could end up doing
Damn near anything.

Like straightening out
The contents of
The freezer isle.

Do you have any idea
How frakkin’ cold
500 half gallon boxes
Of ice cream really is?
Momma…
My fingers still remember that.
Even after all these years.

Back then,
Soda was dirt cheap.
Less than 50 cents
A can
Out of vending machines.
And the store had one.

I’d been working
All afternoon.
Into the evening.
I was helping
Close the store.
When I decided
I was thirsty.
And took a time out
To grab a drink.
And chug that drink down
While I was working.

No one minded
In the least.

But as I went
To get my drink,
I remember exactly
What I thought.

I thought
Of my family
History.
Our ingrained abuse
Of alcohol.
I thought of the problems
So very many
In my family
Had had with that.
Going back
For centuries.

I knew then
That a person shouldn’t drink
3 or 4,
Or 5 or 6
Cans of soda
Every day.
That doing that
Would not be a good thing.

But I knew also
About the dangers
Of drinking even one
Alcoholic beverage
In my family.

So I stood there for a moment.
Having bought a soda
From the vending machine.
With that cold grape soda
In my hand.
Feeling the coldness
Of the can.

And I remember thinking,
“I don’t care
If it’s wrong.
And it will hurt me
In the long run.
I’m going to let myself
Drink all the soda
I want to.
Because it beats the hell
Out of drinking
Alcohol.”

That on that night,
Working in that store,
I threw out the rule
I’d been taught
About drinking just one can
Of soda
Every day.

I remember that choice,
Every detail.
Every thought.

And I don’t regret
Having made that choice
At all.

For I’ve never had a problem
With alcohol.
Unlike so very many
In my family’s
History.

Memories : We Will Always Be Friends

There’s something you should know.
Something you should never say.
Not to me,
Anyway.

Never tell me,
“We will always be friends.”
Never do that.
Never lie to me.

I have the scars
In my heart and soul
That remind me
That those words
Are never true.

And those same scars
Have taught me,
In lessons filled
With my own blood,
And tears.

Those words are a lie.
And when I hear those words,
That’s when I know
That the end is near.

And that who spoke them
Will very soon
Abandon me.

The last time those words
Were spoken to me
Was in late September
Of 2010.
The one I used to call
The Lenten Rose
Spoke those words to me.

“We will always be friends.”
Her exact words.
One month after she said them.
She was gone.
She’d left.
Like everyone else
That I used to know.

I held on to those words.
For months.
In the desperate hope
That someday.
After I’d walked through
The deepest depths of hell.
Depths I pray
You never learn about,
Every single day
That life grants me
Another day of life.

I dared to hope
That she would some day
Talk with me again.
After all,
She’d said,
“We will always be friends.”

She lied.

She was the last person
I will ever let
Say those words to me.
For I’ve grown tired
Of hearing them.

I’ve heard them
Time and time again.
And always.
In the end.

The voice that spoke them.
Is gone.
And I am left
Again.
With one less friend.
One less voice
That I can talk with.

Don’t dare tell me
That it’s my fault!
Don’t you dare!
For I know the truth.
It’s not.

It’s a choice
That people make.
People who become afraid
Of the things that they don’t know.
The things that they don’t understand.
Of people that they call their friends.
When those friends

Change.
Or become ill
With an illness
No one understands.
One that you can’t fix
With a pill.
Or with surgery.

It’s a choice
That people make.
“I can’t get involved!”
And
“I can’t help you
In any way!”

When in truth
The could.
If they were not afraid.

She who was
The Lenten Rose.
She said those words to me.
“We will always be friends.”
She said them
To my face.

And then
She threw me away.
Because she was afraid.

That is just one of the reasons
That I say these words to you.
Never,
Ever say to me,
“We will always be friends.”

For I know those words
Are never true.
And I will not
Let you lie
To me.

Memories : Punish The Sick One

There are many days I can never forget. Among them is one I wish I could. One that I wish I could erase from existence. One that taught me so very much. About this life I never made. And about how people really are. How they really behave. No matter what they say the believe. No matter how they say the are.

It was Monday. 25 October 2010. It was 0830 hours when I got the e-mail message from my boss at work. “The customer has requested that there be no more unsolicited contact from you.” Sounds innocuous enough, doesn’t it. It was a request I knew was coming. One I knew was inevitable. And in one single stroke of a pen. One single move on the part of a group of people I’d worked with for years. Some of them for 13 years. Every person that I knew outside of my family was gone. I was totally isolated. The only people I knew were those I worked with. And  learned that it was a unanimous decision made by the people I’d worked with. I was to have no contact with them. Ever.

Have you ever lived through a panic attack? Have you ever felt the full up, blinding terror of a true panic attack? Where the only thought you have in your head, displayed in large capital letters? And those letters say one thing? “SURVIVE!”

Did you know that a panic attack can last for days, and maybe even weeks?

I learned all about panic attacks with that one single sentence. Blinded by pain. It was as if my only friend in the world had just taken a rusty spoon, and used it to carve my heart out of my chest. The only thought I had in my head was, “SURVIVE!” And the only reaction I could make was to get up,  and walk away. I had to leave. Right then. That instant. That heartbeat.

Betrayal. An ugly word. I returned to my house. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. I didn’t speak to my boss. I simply walked out. And went home. And put a message on my doctor’s answering service. “I need out of work. Now.”

Then I walked. I left my house. And I walked. Something like 4.1 miles. I could easily have walked twice that distance. I had to walk that far. It took me that long to regain the ability to think at all. When I could think again, I called the office. And returned to work. Once there, I waited for the call from my doctor. Which came at about 1030 hours.

My doctor asked me one question. “Do you need to go home?”

“Yes.”

Until I uttered that word, everything that had happened that day was a dream. A nightmare. And I was thinking, praying, I would wake up, and everything would be normal. With that single word, “yes”, I acknowledged that what had happened was real. And that to survive, I had to leave work.

It’s called the Family Medical Leave Act. Usually it’s reserved for people starting a family, or having major surgery. For people that have a stroke, or a heart attack. Something that people understand. Something that people hear about, and they think, “That person will be back in a few weeks. They just need time to heal.”

I went out that morning. On medical leave. Under the FMLA. For mental health reasons. I was to learn, months later, that my doctor’s declaration consisted of two diagnoses. The first being Major Depressive Disorder, single incident. The second being unspecified single anxiety. I was to learn too, that Monday, 25 October 2010 was the first day of a multiple day panic attack. That’s what the American Psychological Association calls it.

I was to learn something about people, too. Something that I still can’t accept. Something that causes my heart to ache. And my soul’s tears to fall like rain. For as a people, I’ve learned that we are afraid of mental illness. Of depression. Of anxiety. Of behavioral disorders. And that our social system punishes those that fall victim to such disorders. Such illnesses.

I know this, because I have endured this. And I am still enduring it. And I know that I will always endure it. It is the way things are.

I got mentally ill. Everyone knew that. Everyone I worked with knew that. And instead of supporting me. Instead of helping me through my illness. Instead of demonstrating that my illness was something that could be overcome.

Everyone abandoned me.

For getting ill.

Punishment was my sentence.

My boss asked me to destroy all e-mail addresses for the people I worked with.  To destroy all e-mail messages for the people I worked with. To destroy all contact information from my cell phone. To destroy any written information on how to contact anyone that I worked with. And then declared, “If you contact anyone, you’ll be fired.”

That Monday afternoon, I walked a second time. 1.3 miles. I walked a third time that evening. After my lady had come home from work. Another 3.2 miles. When I got home from that last walk, I had three toes that had blistered, and the blisters had popped. Leaving raw skin. Exposed skin. I’d torn the hide off my right heel. To the point it was bleeding.

Nothing hurt.

I was numb.

I didn’t feel a thing. Nothing.

Hell, I put on my shoes the next morning, and went to buy groceries at Wal-Mart. My feet did not hurt. I was in too much pain to notice anything else.

I remember going to that Wal-Mart. I’d been there hundreds of times over the years. And there I was. At 0830 in the morning. When I should have been at work. When I would have been at work two weeks earlier. There I was. On medical leave. 30 days at least. Staring at the entire month of November. Wondering if I’d ever be allowed to return to work. Wondering what would happen if I ever crossed the path of anyone I was not allowed to have any contact with. Wondering if I could even make a simple trip to Wal-Mart. And look at the books, and magazines. And look at the video games, and computers. And get the few things I was there to buy.

Knowing nothing would ever be the same.

I didn’t know I was in the midst of a panic attack. I didn’t know what a panic attack was. I didn’t know what one felt like. I felt like, “You are guilty of burning the entire school building to the ground, Mark. Now you get to face the people whose children you roasted alive.” I felt like, “You are broken. A part in a machine that has worn out. Now, we’re sending you into the shop for repairs. And when you’re fixed, we’ll determine if we can put you back into the machine.”

Everything had ended. Everything was gone. Taken from me by the people I worked for. By the people I’d trusted. That I’d worked with. That I’d spent 13 years supporting. And doing what they asked me to. And the reward I got was mental illness and emotional distress. And the treatment I got was punishment. As if I was the one that did something wrong. As if I chose to become mentally ill. As if everything was my fault.

And then, I got angry. My doctor knew. My family knew. I knew. I got angry. For the first time in my life, I found myself hating a group of people. Literally. I found myself wishing they could all experience what I was experiencing. I found myself imagining each of them being isolated. Alone. With every friend they had having been ripped away from them. With the knowledge that it was the friends themselves that had declared, “Go away! Leave us alone!”

I can never forget that e-mail message. I can never forget the actions that the people I’d worked with for years took that day. I can never forget the punishment I endured for having become ill. I can never forget that my illness was my fault.

Since that day. October 25th, 2010, I have not spoken, or heard from, any of those people I once worked with. Save for a single voice. One single voice that overcame his own fear, and talked with me. Briefly. For a few times.

The rest of them declared I was gone. That I’d done something unforgivable by getting mentally ill. For everyone knows, we don’t care for those that get mentally ill. We torture them. We punish them.

Because it’s all their fault.

And if you believe that is the only way things can be, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell to you.

For all I learned by being punished was that people are heartless. Their hearts being frozen colder than any ice. And harder than any stone.  And their souls are cold, lifeless things. As dark as night. Containing nothing at all.

As I’ve healed. As I’ve been walking this path I am now on, and finding new friends. Creating a new life. I’ve found that knowing how the people I once worked with are. Seeing them stripped of the façade of civilized behavior that they dress themselves in. Seeing the social rules they follow as a simple rule set. Seeing all that stripped away, with their hearts and souls being revealed to me.

My heart aches. And my soul cries tears of pain. Because I know that they don’t know anything. And are completely blind to what is real. And how they truly behave.

And I know that none of them will ever understand a word that I’ve just written. For in their eyes, everything they did was right. And justified. And proper. And they behaved in the proper ways. In their eyes, it was me that did everything wrong.

And that makes me sad indeed. Knowing this, how can anyone misunderstand my soul’s tears?