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.
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.
Somehow, 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.
Every 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.