The journey: Finding your path

One of the oldest trees at our farm near Windsor, Nova Scotia. 

One of the oldest trees at our farm near Windsor, Nova Scotia. 

I was different. That was my crime. I was judged and found guilty of not being like the others.

Being different led to bullying, avoidance, and molestation. Looking back on my childhood now, I think what was said to me left even more lasting damage than what was done to me. No matter what they tell you, words leave scars. To this day, I struggle to overcome them. They still echo in my mind.

Those words ripped away my sense of worth and any belief in my own value. And the judgment from others led me to become a much harsher judge of myself. In the end, I was left with no feeling of self-compassion at all. To a great extent, I could not feel anything.

To escape, I went into my head. I was lucky to have a clever mind and I used that to disengage from what was happening around me. Even after the abuse stopped, I kept putting up the walls so no one could get in. While my sharp thinking helped me to get away from what was happening, I became trapped, alone inside my mind. And I could not get out.

What happened to me is not unique. Sadly, many others share my experience. I hope that telling my story gives some light to those struggling to find their way forward. And there is a path. It is a journey we all take. Although it took me a lot longer than many, I am winding my way along the road. I feel for kids going through similar situations and just want to let them know there is a light. It may seem so dark right now but there is a way to not just endure but to survive and thrive.

It is a journey that starts with a big step — one that is almost unimaginable — trusting someone.

The way forward begins with finding someone to talk to. And not just anyone, but someone who you can trust with your feelings. Many may not hear you, believe you, or understand you. There are those who will not be able to relate to your pain, and back away. Amazingly, there are even others who will take advantage of you.

You are cautious when you are hurting. Still, you need desperately to talk to people. And for someone to hear you. You may mistake someone for the right one but forgive yourself when they are not. And keep searching.

And then you will find that person who does not just listen but hears you — and feels your pain. He, she or they will help you simply by hearing your story. At this point, you will have found the path to understanding how to get out.

The one who will help you is not always a family member or friend, it may be someone new to you. But you will know them by their eyes. I had so much shame that I could not look into people’s eyes. I thought if they looked into mine, they would see who I was. And that would scare them away. It took me years to trust enough to actually let the mask down and look directly into the eyes of another person. And, in doing so, I came to know whom I could trust.

Reaching people who hear and feel your story will lead you to the second step of the journey. Once you can trust, then you desperately want to make sense of it all. I know what happened, but why me? Was it something in me? Did I ask for it? This is always what I thought: there was something very wrong with me, I was different, and so I deserved all the abuse. I even built a huge voice inside of me, who constantly told me how awful, useless, ugly, and unlovable I was. Anything I tried to do, the voice told me I would not succeed, as I was not worthy. That voice kept me from life.

Finding out that you are human and have value gives you an amazing energy. It takes some time to believe it — I am still trying to get there. This part of the way forward is simply trying to understand that all that happened is not your fault. In fact, being different may actually be one of the best things about you!

Making sense of it lets you stop hiding and start becoming you.

The final step is one we all strive for, no matter where we started. We all want to find our place in the world. Where do I belong? How do I live my best life? It is something each of us deserves and it is our choice to find it.

Having started the journey so beaten down, it is incredible to find that you are worth it.

I am still trying to make sense of it all. Although I think I understand it intellectually, I am not sure I have actually felt my way through what happened to me. A part of me — that young kid — wants to live and be him, just as he was. The adult part of me is not quite ready yet.

I have incredible supports around me: a therapist who cares about me and supports me, while challenging me to grow, family who are there for me and friends who accept, even love me as I am (this is even difficult for me to write). But still, the most important person has not accepted me yet: me. I have a lot of years of self-judgment to overcome. I see the progress but there is still a long road ahead of me. And all of the steps have been rewarding and I feel stronger than ever before.

What is done to kids is, at times, unimaginable. Why do these things happen, and keep happening? I have found no answers.

In sharing my story, I hope that it moves a young person to find that special someone who can help them on their journey. And I encourage you to be that person for someone else, to reach out and help if you can.

Now, being different is actually something I celebrate. We are all different in our own way. And this is exactly what makes us worthy.

Phoenix Journey Project 

The Phoenix Journey Campaign is focused on having the courageous Phoenix Youth heard.

In their own words, we will hear about the reasons why youth came to Phoenix, how Phoenix was able to help them help themselves, and about their future aspirations.

Through this innovative approach to fundraising, engagement and youth empowerment we aim to set-up a private funding stream capable of allowing Phoenix Youth to continue the powerful and inspiring work that they do.

My commitment is to match each dollar of your donations to a total of $25,000 so we can raise $50,000 to support these brave young people.

Please help the most vulnerable in our community by visiting our Canada Helps page and donating now.

Tyler Batten