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A Childhood on Fire – breaking the cycle of childhood trauma


When Magnus was born, I brought him home, I had all these feelings of immense love and joy and excitement and I also had this, this feeling of anger towards my father and my stepfather Being a father made me question why my father abandoned me and it made me angry to think that my stepfather could treat my brothers and I the way that he did One of my first memories was waking up early and playing in the house while my mum and stepfather were in bed My brothers and I were playing around the oven or playing with the oven and my stepfather must have heard that or thought that that was going on and he woke up and came out and as a form of punishment, he decided to show us what fire would do and he set us on fire

I don't remember being afraid or scared or thinking like, what's going on? This is crazy This was just, this was just my life We were frequently made to like hold burning matches in our fingers or there'd be some other forms of punishment that were really abusive So, yeah, he lined us up in the house, it wasn't even outside Watching him strike the matches and light my brother on fire and hearing him scream and cry and then that happening to my next brother

And I remember the pyjamas that I was wearing and how thewhen the flames touched the shirt it was, it was like plastic melting that like, you know, you could smell the stench of the material and the skin And they were so significant that, like, the burn, the pain, just it was almost like there was no pain in it

When it was done, being consoled by my brothers and me trying to console them and then just really, like, moving on with our day For some reason, I feel like it was a weekend and relatively soon after that I was back in school and obviously my teacher discovered the burn Almost immediately after that, of course, you know, I was taken out of my house and away from my mum and stepfather and so were my brothers and we were moved into foster care Magnus, you and your brother are the most important thing in my life I will always love you no matter what

Remember, you are a human being first See everyone the same way The connections you make with other humans are the most important investment you'll ever make Please don't forget to connect to something greater than yourself The abuse that he enacted on me was not isolated

This wasn't a one time, I set you on fire and then we move on After going through foster care and then returning to my mum's house and his house it continued The type of abuse and the severity of the abuse had changed, but it was like living with the torture There were still beatings but probably more mental and emotional abuse He would beat me and then when I sought love and attention from him afterwards the verbal abuse would come in, you know, reprimanding me for trying to, trying to find comfort or going to my mum to try to find comfort or to one of my brothers or something

Name calling, you know, he loved to call me nigger, one of his main nicknames for me for most of the time that he was my stepfather was nigger Nick He would say that in front of my mum, my brothers, friends, in public, it just became a part of who I was It didn't register as being something wrong at a young age because you don't even know what that means or the context of it And then as I got older and did realise what it meant, and just had been happening so long that more than anything, it just, I felt embarrassed about it I think that the military was as a fantasy place for me as a kid

When I was growing up, the commercials that the Marine Corps showed were just really simple They were looking for men, they were looking for men who were going to go out and slay dragons And so as it played out in the moment, I don't think I was directly saying to myself, I'm going to sign up for the Marines to escape abuse, but I'm going to sign up for the Marine Corps to escape, to escape everything, to get away from abuse and poverty and the neighbourhood and it just seemed like a better place The few, the proud, the Marines Ten years after being in the Marines, I deployed to Iraq

My platoon provided security and escorting a convoy, our convoy came under heavy fire We're going through this with returning fire and, you know, it seems like an eternity and it's probably a few minutes and we push through that and keep going and realise it, you know, nobody has been injured And after the firefight I realised that it wasn't the first time that somebody was trying to kill me or somebody had done something so significantly significant to me that I could have died Odin, I've been scared many times in my life I was scared when you were born in the living room

I was scared sometimes as a marine Trying new things can be scary Being adventurous can be scary I will always be here if you need to talk about fear and courage Love, dad

In my second tour all these questions started to come up and I wanted to believe in the president, our politicians, all of the people that got us there and when I got home, I stumbled across this movie, you know, and inside it sort of confirmed my worst fears that we've been lied to and I was duped Seeing that on film just really upset me It made me feel like I was disposable, that I didn't matter It was like seeing the fall of your hero in front of you America's the hero and I'm a part of that inept machine, the colonisers, the oppressors, the bumbling military machine that went into this other country and utterly destroyed it

This failure was the last failure in a lifetime of failures by my stepfather who tried to kill me, the state in providing a plea deal for him, my mother for remaining with him and not being there to protect me, my father for not being around and being a part of my life and ensuring that that wouldn't happen to me or it wouldn't happen again to me It was clear that I would have to protect myself and that no one else would be there for me Years later, when I had kids, I knew that I would have to be the person that was going to protect them, that I would have to be there for them, that there wasn't going to be someone else that was going to ensure their safety or their wellbeing, that I would have to be the person to do that When I sit down to write notes, I'm obviously writing them to my sons, Magnus and Odin, but I'm also writing them to myself Are you making a movie about my dad? I am

Just my dad? Just my dad? I have a beard I don't know if I am the first person but I suspect that I am or one of the first people that is saying these things to them, is telling them that their skin is beautiful, just the way it is, their skin, their nose, their eyes, all of those things and before they get to a place in life where people begin to use words to describe them that they would not use to describe other people, they've already been told, they've already felt what it's like to believe in themselves, to think positively about themselves and not have to be reactive to other people's feelings or beliefs about who they are And it's empowering to write notes like that to them I wish somebody would have done something like that for me Dad, dad

Source: Youtube

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