Painful Pasts Leading to Extreme Risk: Dickey (Review)

There’s more than one way to commit suicide.

For some, a painful past leads to extreme risk and can result in death. If you struggle with your past, seek hope and healing instead of putting yourself in harm’s way.

 

Wherever I Wind Up

Extreme Risk Suicide Attempts: Don’t let something in your past lead you to commit suicide through extreme risk.

I remember “Extreme Risk,” an episode of Star Trek: Voyageur, where  B’Elanna Torres is suffering from various injuries because she is going on dangerous holodeck programs with the safety mechanism turned off. She eventually tells Chakotay that since she learned of the death of most of their Maquis friends, she has been numb. The risks she’s been taking have been to try to find out if she’s still alive inside.

In reality, this is clinical depression. And B’Elanna might very easily have died.

An accident? In some ways. But it’s also a form of suicide. People who play with fire usually get burned.

I was reminded of that episode recently while reading the book Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perfect Knuckleball, by R. A. Dickey, with Wayne Coffey.

R. A. Dickey is a baseball player, a knuckleball pitcher, and last year’s National League Cy Young Award winner.

But while his book certainly chronicles his journey to become a major league baseball player, it’s about a lot more than that. Like B’Elanna, R. A. did some crazy things because he felt numb inside.

Dickey’s parents got married because his mother was pregnant, and according to him “the marriage didn’t last five years.” They divorced when R. A. was 8 and his mom turned to alcohol for solace. His dad, who had been a good father, gradually eased out of his life. R. A. felt alone and confused.

Then, when he was 8, a 13-year-old babysitter abused him sexually. Afterwards, in his words, “I feel discarded, like a piece of trash. She acts like she’s mad at me, like I didn’t follow her orders properly. I lie on my bed by myself, wondering if what just happened is real. I am trembling, still sweating. I feel paralyzed, my limbs leaden.”

It happens four or five more times that summer.

But something even worse happens that fall.

While visiting with family in a farming area, a boy of 16 or 17 finds him alone and grabs him, then overpowers him and abuses him.

R. A. boxes all these memories up and hides them in his mind as far away as possible. And he becomes numb. Until he’s 31 years old, he never tells anyone, doesn’t even let himself think about them. On the outside, he appears to be normal, but without his even realizing it, the memories are impacting him, telling him he’s “filthy and bad, like the scum of the earth, only worse.”

This goes on until he’s 31 and his own marriage is in serious trouble.

He finally breaks down and tells a counselor about the babysitter. He feels a measure of freedom, but he can’t go all the way; not to the brutal experience with the teenage boy.

A year later, on June 9, 2007, he does something absolutely crazy. While in Council Bluff Iowa with his triple A baseball team, the Nashville Sounds, he jumps in the Missouri River to swim across it. The water is brown and sludgy and there are strong currents and undertows. He’s wearing boxer briefs and taped-on flip-flops. He is basing this swim on the fact that he’s in good shape, and once upon a time, years ago, he swam the 200-meter freestyle for a local team. He believes he can do it.

And that’s where I was reminded about the Star Trek episode.

Because this isn’t the first time he’s done something crazy. In his words, “You could say—and some have—that I have a death wish. Not sure. I think it’s more accurate to say I have a risk wish, somehow clinging to the notion that achieving these audacious feats will someone make me worthy, make me special, as if I’d taken some magical, esteem-enhancing drug.”

He doesn’t make it across the river; instead, he almost drowns. But as he realizes he’s going to die in the muddy water of the Missouri, he finds a new desire to live. And afterwards, he’s finally able to talk about the worst experience of his life, and face the darkness and the anger that has burned inside him for all those years. Anger at the boy, anger at himself, anger at his life, anger at the God he believes in but up until now couldn’t fully embrace . . .

And he begins the journey to freedom, to feeling truly alive, and to helping others break their shackles of self-condemnation and shame.

Terrible things happen to most of us.

They don’t even have to be huge things, like sexual abuse or violence. Sometimes it’s just a person who constantly puts us down or tells us we aren’t good enough that stays within us and makes us numb inside.

No matter how much we try to pretend they never happened, they don’t go anywhere. They stay inside and tear us down.

We have to find the strength to bring them out and examine them, talk to people we can trust about them, and let God heal us and cause good to happen.

R. A. is now passionate about helping kids who have suffered from abuse.

Check out what he had to say recently.

More about the book, Wherever I Wind Up.

Sexual Abuse from a Trusted Coach (Olympian Kayla Harrison)

By Dianne E. Butts:

Kayla Harrison, on having been sexually abused by her former coach and overcoming suicidal thoughts.

 

 

Image from Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kayla Harrison started judo at six years old when her mother, Jeannie Yazell, a black belt, introduced her to the sport. She showed promise, winning two national titles before her 15th birthday. But behind the scenes, she was being sexually manipulated and abused by her judo coach, and that sexual abuse led Olympian Kayla Harrison to think about suicide.

The abuse started when Kayla was 13.

An article in the New York Times online, “For Judo Champion, a Painful Path to Gold” by Campbell Robertson revealed that “sexual contact led to sexual intercourse over a period of years, on trips to Venezuela, Russia and Estonia, until she was 16.”

In an article in The Telegraph (www.Telegraph.co.uk) titled “London 2012 Olympics: US Judoka Kayla Harrison overcomes horror of sexual abuse to aim for gold,” by Ian Chadband, Kayla said:

“When I was young, he would say, ‘We have to keep this between us or we will get into trouble’ and, honestly, as I got older, I was pretty brainwashed. I knew it was wrong but I thought I loved him. And I thought he loved me.’”

After three years, Kayla confided in her friend Aaron, who told her mother. Jeannie Yazell then “smashed out the coach’s car windows with a baseball bat” according to the NY Times article.

After Kayla exposed her coach as an abuser, she confronted him in court. Daniel Doyle was sentenced to ten years in prison and banned from the sport.

“I couldn’t look in the mirror and had no self-esteem. Now I can’t imagine not speaking up against that. It’s so wrong and I don’t want others to have to suffer what I did,” Kayla told The Telegraph. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned through all this is that you’re only a victim if you allow yourself to be. And though it feels like hell and it feels like it will never end, it will. But you have to have the courage to say ‘I won’t play victim’.”

Going for the gold in the Olympics kept her going. Her mother teamed her up with coach Jimmy Pedro, who helped her overcome the trauma of abuse and make the Olympic team. Her mother told the NY Times, “‘We just felt like she just had to get back to what she knew how to do… She could have control over what went on on the mat.’”

On August 2, 2102, Kayla won the first gold medal in judo for the United States.

But that’s not all. Kayla is now engaged to Aaron Handy, the friend she turned to for help. He’s a firefighter now. After the Olympics Kayla may return home to take the E.M.T. test and continue the process of becoming a firefighter herself.

Sexual abuse led Olympian Kayla Harrison to think about suicide. But she overcame abuse and suicidal thoughts to become a Gold Medal Olympian with a future filled with love, marriage, and a meaningful career. You can overcome your circumstances too, and have a future filled with hope.