Updated: Jul 13, 2020
| This is the 65th story of Our Life Logs |
My life can be best compared to a Lifetime movie. When I tell people about my upbringing, it’s unbelievable to them, but it happened, and I can’t change my past.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1993. I lived with my mother and my maternal grandparents, because my parents weren’t together when I was born. My mother was young and liked to party a lot, so my grandparents were the ones who raised me for most of my early years.
My father was in the picture for a short while. The inconvenience of the split visitation frustrated my mother, who didn’t like my father to begin with. When I was five, my mother told me that my father had physically and sexually abused me. I knew my father had been an alcoholic and recreational drug user, so the accusations made sense. After my mother had told me what he had done, I began having dreams of the abuse. My mother and I moved to Virginia, not long after she’d told me about my father’s abuse. She disconnected us from any ties we had in Ohio, hoping for a better life.
A few months after moving to Virginia, my mother married a man whom I saw as a stranger. He had bipolar disorder and was abusive, both physically and verbally. The memories of my abuse were still haunting me, and so I felt like I couldn’t escape abuse in the past or present. My mother was married to him for three years, and they had a daughter together. In 2000, when I was just seven, they divorced and my mother, new sister, and I moved back to Columbus.
My mother started calling me the man of the house. I felt it was my duty to protect them and to be strong for my sister. I felt that protecting my family was more important than dealing with the trauma from my past. Whenever I would have a dream or flashback of my father’s abuse, I wouldn’t tell those around me. At such a young age, I didn’t understand that I was creating a worse environment for myself.
Our return to Columbus brought back my mother’s partying lifestyle. We never paid our bills on time because my mother spent any extra money at bars. She didn’t think she could ever be wrong. In her mind, everything was calculated, even if it was rash, which made her difficult to live with. In 2002, my mother met another man. They’d only known each other a month before moving in together. He and I didn’t get along.
My stepfather brought his two kids with him to live with us. It got very cramped. Our two-bedroom apartment had to accommodate six people because my mother was not able to get approved to rent a bigger place. My maternal grandparents saved us from a life of confined living when they offered my mother their old house that they had originally planned to sell. The blessing my grandparents gave us turned into a pigsty. I tried my best to keep my area clean, but my family was never able to take care of anything nice. It wasn’t long until we had messed up the nice house that we were given.
I struggled with my grades in high school because I couldn’t concentrate or sleep well. I had attention deficit problems and kept having recurring dreams about the abuse I’d been through with my father. If it had not been for an invitation to visit a local Christian church, I don’t know where I would have ended up. I felt loved and accepted and found people that were willing to listen. At 14, I went from just going to Sunday morning services, to becoming a member. Through the people I met at church and my new perspective of grace and hope, I was able to cope with the dysfunction that my family ran on.
After graduating high school, I went to Ohio Christian University where my passion for my faith led me to eventually major in Christian ministry. I was the first freshman worship leader at my college and felt proud. I didn’t want to let my trauma affect my education, so I worked hard each day. However, I started having trouble with my personal life.
Until I got to college, I believed I was living a normal life. But as I made friends and was invited into their homes, I realized that most parents don’t beat their children or come home drunk each night. I realized how messed up my life really was. It led to a lot of hurt, anger, and depression for me. I continued having nightmares and flashbacks. I had fits of rage that seemed to come out of nothing. Something unresolved left me empty inside.
Thankfully, I met the person who would help me begin to heal. In my freshman year of college, I started working at a Christian camp as a youth minister, and I met my wife. As we started getting paired up together to lead groups, we began talking more and got closer. During my senior year of college, we got married at the camp where we met.
My wife encouraged me to seek help with my nightmares and flashbacks. I was having anxiety attacks out of nowhere, and it worried her. Without the push she gave me, I may have never gotten help. But she stepped in between my dark thoughts, and I began to see a therapist in 2016.
After months of counsel, I went to see a doctor that said I had symptoms of PTSD. The doctor prescribed me a low dose of a medication that would help with my anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms. Due to my gene type, the medication didn’t do much for me. When I told my doctor this, he doubled the dose. Instead of helping, it magnified the issues I was going through. Despite the problems the new medication faced, my wife never left my side. She helped me through my negative thoughts eating away at me.
As I worked to dissect the dreams and memories I had, I knew something wasn’t right. When I spoke with my therapist, she noticed that the details from my memories weren’t adding up. How could this be? The nightmares I’d been having all my life were so vivid, but the more I talked about my past, I too noticed the disconnect. So, why were there inconsistencies? I needed answers.
I called my mother to ask questions about my father. When I wanted more details about the abuse my father had done, and her first reaction was to scream at me. I asked if she could provide proof to me that it happened, but that only brought on more yelling. Unsure of what to do, I looked to my wife who said in a calm voice, “just hang up.” In the moment of silence after the phone call, I realized what I had to do.
Some people see a figure in the darkness of a room and yell at it. They’re scared, and I get that. But I’m the type of person that approaches the figure and wants to have a conversation. Rather than being angry or ashamed of the trauma I had, I wanted to understand it more. I knew the best way to solve my problem was to find my dad and talk to him.
• • •
After a few weeks of getting into contact with my father, we met for lunch to discuss the blurry parts of my life. As I explained why my mother took me away from him, he wore a face of disbelief. After exchanging details, we realized that my mother had been manipulating me for years. All the stories and memories I had of my father abusing me were planted in my mind at an early, vulnerable age. I didn’t know what to think. I knew for a fact that I couldn’t trust my mom, but could I trust my dad? Would he tell me the truth if he had abused me? My world started crumbling around me. I didn’t know what was real and what was a lie. Going through this paired with the medication I was on, made me feel hopeless. If my past wasn’t real, how was I supposed to deal with the present? Not long after the meeting, I had a plan to attempt suicide. I was put in the hospital for suicide watch for two weeks. I had time in the hospital to think things through, and I realized I couldn’t let my past defeat me.
Through my wife, my therapist, and ministry, I learned to heal from the trauma. Though I tried to end my life, my wife stayed by my side. She encouraged me to seek more help and strengthen my relationship with God. I started seeing my therapist more frequently and through our sessions, I came to see that the memories I had of my father’s abuse weren’t real. My mother had just made them see real by describing them to me until they became a part of my memory.
As a youth pastor, I work with teens and see the resiliency of them every day. They come to me for advice, and I’m able to learn about their stories. They rely on me. When I have hard times and I wonder why I’m alive, I remember that there are a lot of people in my life that want me around and truly need me. Knowing that keeps me going. I find strength in my wife and my friends who keep me accountable. They don’t allow me to wallow in self-pity. They’re the swift kick I sometimes need to see that I have a great life, regardless of my yesterday.
Now that I know the truth, I feel more at peace. I know I can become more than the difficult past I’ve had. Nothing will stop me from reaching my dreams. Depression, anxiety, and childhood trauma all take a backseat to my goals, and I’m driving to the top to reach them.
This is the story of Mitch Boothe
Mitch currently lives with his wife in Columbus, Ohio where he works as a youth pastor. For the first 23 years of his life, his mother made him believe that his father had physically and sexually abused him as a toddler, causing him to have no contact with his dad until adulthood. Through those times of uncertainty, he dealt with a lot of depression and anxiety, but through the good people in his life, he got through it. Mitch would like to teach bible study in a Christian high school someday. Though primarily, he wants to be a pastor. He has wanted to be a pastor since he was 13, and he plans to become one. Mitch loves to sing, rap, and play guitar. On game day, you’ll find Mitch cheering on his favorite team, the Ohio State Buckeyes. In the future, he hopes to travel the world and go to a new place for every vacation.
This story first touched our hearts on March 12, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editor: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |