It Took A Long Time To Find Me

ViviLnk

Karen Van Benschoten

First of all, and most importantly, I am a survivor of incest – father. My first blog post started out in limbo, but gravitated to poetry, written to express feelings as they arose.

But I also had an ongoing fear relationship with my mother, whose moods were unpredictable, often changing at the drop of a hat. These moods were almost always negative, and I lived my life in fear of her. She was also a mean person, to us kids (3), towards my dad, grandmother, and even to her boyfriend, whom she lived with after my dad died.

I have MS and sometimes write about struggles that I sometimes experience. I also do adaptive sports from my wheelchair. I’ve played table tennis, 9-ball, archery, air rifles, bowling, softball, kayaking, basketball, Pickle ball, and more things that don’t come to mind now.

My goal is to stay active, continue to travel, and take pictures along the way, as I carry my camera everywhere I go.

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Photo Credit: AnnMarie Aoyogi

I remember, even as a small child, being told constantly what she wanted me to do, and what she didn’t want me to do. It never seemed that I could do anything right, and I couldn’t seem to please them. This carried on into elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was constantly causing trouble while I was in school, since I couldn’t do anything fun at home. I got myself a reputation for being a brat, sassy, and refusing to behave. This behavior was the result of physical, mental and sexual abuse at home.

I started learning to play the clarinet, when I was ten. I kept this up. I got involved with the Music programs at school, and I finally found a direction. I thought. I stopped causing trouble and concentrated on my music, teaching myself some piano, learning how to play both the alto, and tenor saxophones, and this filled up all my free time. My plans were to major in Music at a college, and become a music teacher. Good intentions. I applied at schools and was accepted at a 2-year school two hours away from home. I was on my way. I thought.

I moved away home and found a new freedom that I’d never experienced before. I became a full-time cigarette smoker, and started drinking mixed drinks. After about a year, alcohol became more important than school, and by my fourth semester, I dropped out. I soon ran out of money and had to move back home.

After all that freedom, I was right back where I started from. To me this was intolerable. I applied to join the US Navy, and within two weeks, found myself on an airplane, headed for Boot Camp in Orlando, FL.

I do not remember much of that night before I raised my right hand and committed myself to serving my country. I was back to having someone telling me what to do, what to wear, when to wear it, when to eat, when to sleep, and pretty much everything else they wanted me to do.

Scan_20141111Somehow, I made it through Boot Camp and was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Station, in Great Lakes, IL. Once again, I found that freedom, just not as much of it, and I was on my way. I thought. After 9 months of Naval service, I was discharged for unsuitability due to alcohol abuse, and not recommended for re-enlistment. I had failed again.

After my discharge, I wandered aimlessly from one abusive relationship to another, seeking out those who would be abusive, because that was all I knew. I eventually stopped drinking enough to get myself through a 4-year school, and graduate with honors. I started working almost immediately, in a position that suited what I had just finished school for. This was it! I was on the right track. I thought. Trouble was, that track was going in more than one direction. I left that job that I was very good at, to start work at a new company. This was it. They sent me to another company to learn a new software program, that was to be used to keep track of inventory. I learned it well, and I came back to my job, armed with a purpose, a task, and a direction. I thought.

Unfortunately, due to stress from this job, which I was not performing in the way I should have been, and a family history of mental illness, I caved in to my own mental illness. I lost that job, and spent the next couple years, jumping from job to job, and psych unit to psych unit. I was lost and I feared I was never coming back from that abyss. I spent a lot of time in therapy sessions, both group and individually, went through several medications, therapists, and even doctors, before they seemed to find the proper mix of all the above, and I started to find myself.

I learned that if I kept my mouth shut, I would stay out of trouble, just like in Boot Camp. This time I was not going to give up. About three years later, I was diagnosed with MS, and that brought me to a halt. I had a disease, though not terminal, would eventually wear me down to become bed-ridden, and then die. This time, though, I was not going to give up. I decided I was not going to give up on me.

I had learned that I needed to find a direction to go, and to go there. I needed to diligently follow this direction, and stay active in the process. While I was still in the hospital, I learned about their adaptive sports wheelchair team. This simply amazed me.

Run Off TrackEvery year, I would prepare for the upcoming trip to a new city, honing my skills in one sport or another. I found I liked being in competition with other veterans who were in wheelchairs, in a multitude of sporting events.  I was also in competition with myself, to do the best I possibly could.

Something else happened after I got out of the hospital. I needed an aide three times a week to help me with the household chores and such. My second aide was a Pastor’s wife. She liked to ask me a lot of questions about my past experiences with religion, until I told her that I didn’t want her asking me these things, as this made me uncomfortable.

But something changed, and I started asking her questions about her church, which was a biker church! I asked her if she would pick me up for church. She did, and continued to do so. I had found God, and I found my direction.

I made it my goal to become a better person all together. I started being nice to people, and was treated so in return. I learned what was expected of me due to my religious beliefs, and I started living my life this way.

Day by day, I roll on, doing the things I need to do, to please God and live the life He wants for me. Now, when I get up in the morning, I know what the day is going to be like, even if I don’t know what is actually going to happen.

Today, I don’t walk with intention, but I roll with intention, with goals and a new-found reason for living. Now, I live that life as best I can. I sometimes fall, but I just pick myself back up, and keep on going. People who know me have seen the change in me that has occurred during the past few years, and they like what they see. I like what I see in others, and want others to have the life like the one I was living.

I strive for improvement, and knowledge, and a life filled with opportunities for so much more than I never dreamed of. Now I roll with intention. I have found out who I am, and who I can be. And I never thought that was going to happen.

Turning In A Different Direction – Dungeon Prompts

As a child, I was abused physically, sexually, and mentally, and this shaped my life for many years to come. I started off in the wrong direction as a young child, causing trouble, and allowing others to abuse me, as that is the only way I knew how to behave.

It took many years of more abuse, drowning myself with alcoholism, and sinking into the abyss of mental illness. I was hospitalized, jailed, and put myself into relationships where the abuse continued. When I wasn’t in a relationship, except for the last, I subconsciously sought out people who would sexually abuse me. The relationships I had, were all abusive in one way or another, except for the last one.

After years of living alone, and staying by myself, I was diagnosed with a disease that was incurable, that would gradually debilitate me throughout the rest of my life. This changed my whole perception of what I was doing and where I was going.

I no longer put myself into the hands of others, but into the hands of the Lord. I stopped abusing myself, and letting others abuse me. I wanted to obtain goodness and a different direction in which I wanted to walk, and eventually roll, in a wheelchair. I thought that everything was about this disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and where it would take me, and decided that there had to be more to life than just sitting in a chair.

cropped-035.jpgI started going to a biker church, which is quite different from the church your grandma went to, to quote my pastor. The majority of people who were going to this church at that time were, of course, were motorcycle riders. And they did not act like what most people would think. They lead decent lives, try to raise good families, and try to be quite faithful to God and to the Bible. They also ride motorcycles, and even I got a chance to ride along with someone on three separate occasions, during a church retreat for bikers and anyone else who wanted to come along.

My behavior at home changed. I started to treat others with respect and kindness, and was shown the same in return. I started learning about God, and the Bible. I started to live my life, as best I could, according to the Bible. I no longer look at the disease I have as ‘my MS’, but just plain MS. And I want more out of my life than being a recliner potato. I learned how to play the guitar, which I seem to have an affinity for, to play the piano, and a host of computer abilities, where I took courses in programming, and in accounting.

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I was also introduced during that ensuing year, to wheelchair sports, adaptive sports that were designed for veterans from all over the country, and Puerto Rico and Great Britain, that use wheelchairs to participate in adaptive sports. I started going to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games every year, each year in a different city, all around the country, including Denver, Dallas, and Tampa, to name a few.

I had found my niche. I started to spend more time out of that recliner, and started seeking out different venues for adaptive sports, and become involved with the Valor Games, which are held in the Southeast, which is in North Carolina somewhere, Chicago, which is the Midwest, the Southwest, which is held in San Antonio, and the Farwest, held in San Diego.

I am also discovering other events held for veterans, all around the country. There are the Golden Age Games, for 55+, the Endeavor Games, and the Wounded Warriors games, which are held in Quantico, I believe.

Run Off TrackStarting this past year, I have tried playing different events, pushing myself to become active in different sports, such as Track and Field, Hand cycling, Kayaking, and even wheelchair basketball.

ViviLnk

ViviLnk

ViviLnk

To this date, I have won medals in almost every sport I have participated in, including two silver medals in Kayaking, a silver medal in basketball, a bronze in hand cycling, and numerous gold medals in everything from 9-Ball and Table Tennis, 100-meter track, and both the motorized Slalom, and the manual slalom, which are obstacle courses, with the difficulty varying, to accommodate different levels of ability, to name a few.

I have started living a whole new life, with sporting activities, doing volunteer work at the VA Hospital Clinic, in the next city, and going to church. I am meeting new people, and making a lot of long-term friends, both locally, and from around the country.

I have found a life where I don’t put myself in abusive environments, except for the physical abuse upon myself playing wheelchair basketball. I have also discovered that I have the ability to write, both prose and poetry, which sort of just IMAG0006started on its own, when I started writing a blog. I found great satisfaction in photography, specifically things that are in patterns, things of beauty, and pictures from cities all around the country.

IMAG0011I have learned that I am not a bad person, that I can live a positive life, that I have a plethora of abilities, and that I can help others obtain what I have obtained, not just sports or writing, but in living in the way of the Lord, by what is written in the Bible.

I turned from a life of self-abuse, and abuse from others, to a life filled with many different types of activities. I am not going to sit here and let myself decline both physically and mentally, but push myself to be a better person, to take part in new activities, and most importantly live as godly a life as I possibly can. My life no longer revolves around ‘my MS’, but in positive activities and adventures, that have become available to me, both as a Navy veteran, and as a good person; I have learned to love my God and myself, and to live a life free from abuse. I am living a life filled with as much as I can find available to me. And I love every minute of it.

Now I Get It – Dungeon Prompt

For years I had been going to the doctor, with this problem, or that problem, or the other, yet we couldn’t seem to figure out why I was having any of these problems.

One especially bad day, when my limbs all felt like they weighed 200 pounds each, and while just sitting, I felt like I was going to pitch right over onto my face.  I went to the Emergency Department at my VA Hospital.  They ran tests, they did a CT-scan, and after eight hours in the ER, I was admitted.

There was still no explanation as to why I felt the way I did.  The next day an MRI of my brain was done.  Four days later, on Friday the 13th of July, 2007, I was visited by my neurologist, who then told me that she was 99.9% sure that I had MS.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, they also found a 9 mm aneuryism on my right, inner carotid artery, which required surgery ASAP.

Two weeks later, the surgery was done, but the MS was still there.  It came to the point where I needed some help in order to keep on living independently.  The VA ordered an aide for three hours, twice a week.  That was the beginning of the rest of my life.

I got an aide who was the wife of a biker church minister.  I hadn’t thought about religion, or anything close to it up until then, and I didn’t want to hear anything from her about it.

Then one day, I asked her about it, checked out their church, and continued to go until I found God, which didn’t take very long.

That was when I had my now-I-get-it moment.  Things weren’t just happening to me, there was a plan in place that no one but God knew about, or why it was there.  I one day suddenly realized that if I hadn’t been diagnosed with MS and the aneurysm, I would not have found my way to God.  What a rough road it has been, but the benefits of this plan, way out-weighed any need for an explanation to the question, “Why?”

Now I know.