“Nothing is real if you don’t believe in who you are!” ~Rocky Balboa

Following the events of the 2013 assault, I was haunted by not just the events but what I would later find out was essentially diagnosed as PTSD. Over the years, I have experienced complete and total blackouts, which I will not revisit, because I don’t want to relive them again, and I also do not fully recall each situation. They come back in flashes but for the most part, I really don’t remember each incident.

Before I cover the day it all changed for me. I want to cover some aspects that made this whole thing so much harder. Deanna and I have always been involved in our community whether it was volunteering for non-profits, weighing in on issues that affect our community, we had started a business Stark Social Media Agency about a year before my assault and we had quite a few clients in town from small businesses, to non-profits, and few political clients. Unfortunately sometimes when you are involved in your community, you put yourself in a spot where you may find yourself at odds with other people with conflicting viewpoints or who view your community work as an obstacle for their own ambitions.

What I found out was that when you choose to work with high profile clients in community leadership, regardless of your own political views, you are suddenly seen as a target for online harassment, doxing and my assault was used against and spun in horrible ways. If you’re not familiar with “doxing” it is quite literally the practice of searching for and publishing someone’s personal data and information for public consumption. Sock puppets and fake accounts began to surface in order to share information about me from years and years ago without proper context. Everyone has a history, and people make mistakes. But, these people were not interested in knowing me, and while the online issues in Facebook groups were annoying, I realized after a time that it is quite literally an echo chamber.

As someone who prided themselves with supporting the Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies in town, I began to feel dissolution when I started to hear that there were deputies in the local department spreading rumors about my assault and essentially telling lies. I spent hundreds of hours volunteering with the station, doing design work for the Crime Prevention Unit that was put up on the wall of station, and I designed an 80-page Year in Review for the City of Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station which was presented at the State of the City Event that year. For my work, I was given the Sheriff’s Star Scroll! While I was proud of this honor, I had no idea that only a few other people in the community had ever been given that honor. So when I heard these rumors it really added insult to injury.

Several years later, our local town newspaper would be purchased by a new owner who had a less than stellar history in his previous communities, and his path to our town was riddled with rumors of corruption in dealings with businesses. This purchase shook the ecosystem that I had settled into with my family and business. There was suddenly this very deep line draw in the sand, that was politically motivated and there was a very clear desire to take down local leaders regardless of their track record. The new man in charge began to drive the newspaper into debt, and made it very clear one of his targets was a client of ours and his negativity towards this effective State Senator, began to spill over into everyone’s lives associated with him. My family was impacted when this newspaper that did not cover my assault in the least, wrote two libelous pieces about myself and my business without the integrity of actually scheduling an interview with me or quoting me correctly. In fact, my words were paraphrased and edited. Thankfully, the newspaper was sold and when the new owners came in they did take down the articles, but they wouldn’t issue a retraction or admit any wrongdoing.

I bring these two pieces of the puzzle up because I feel that jobs were not done. Had everyone done their jobs in 2013 and followed protocol, there would have been a much different outcome.

The Day It All Changed

April 8th, 2018 I wake up alone in my bed a wave of shame a regret falls over me as I recount what I can remember of the previous nights PTSD episode. How could this happen? We were celebrating the birthday party for one of our best friends? I am so anxious, embarrassed and filled with regret because I am certain that I just ruined everything good in my life. Sure I knew Deanna loved me but surely this stuff has been wearing her down as much as it has been wearing me down emotionally and mentally.

I was pretty sure that all of my friends didn’t want anything to do with me. As it turns out that wasn’t that case, even though they had never really seen my struggle first hand, all of my friends, the Gang as I call it dug in and rallied around. This sorta stunned me a bit because I expected the worse. I didn’t take that moment for granted, and I never forgot that overwhelming feeling of dread that morning was my rock bottom. I knew then I had to make serious changes.

For those who don’t know what PTSD does to a person, I like to make the comparison to Clubber Lang in Rocky III. While Rocky was going about his business, Clubber was in the shadows waiting and watching for the perfect moments to confront Balboa and knew exactly the thing that would get a reaction from Rocky and in the process ended up causing Mickey’s death and a demoralizing defeat that lost him his title. Rock hit the bottom.

This whole situation left Rocky confused and reliving the Clubber match over in his head while feeling guilty over the death of his mentor Mickey. Rocky had lost his “why,” how could he defeat clubber when the last match wasn’t even close. Balboa played perfectly right into Clubber’s hands. The kind of hopelessness that Balboa experienced is very much a byproduct of PTSD, you end up fearing it because you don’t have control of it. This frustration brings a whole host of emotions which you guessed it can trigger more PTSD episodes.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.” ~Rocky Balboa (2006)

PTSD does not just impact the person who has it, it impacts everyone that loves them. Because there is underlying tension that something could trigger an episode along with the frustration of watching someone you care about struggle with what feels like an undefeatable foe inside their head. The inner dialogue causes a person to have “self-limiting beliefs,” saying things like “I can’t,” “I am not strong enough,” “I just can’t win.” You can see this in the first part of Rocky’s training in Los Angeles, in his head he had already lost the rematch. It didn’t matter how much Creed or Adrian wanted Rocky to beat Clubber, no person can change another person’s inner dialogue. It wasn’t until Rocky got honest with himself and admitted that he was afraid of Clubber that he was able to throw off the limiting beliefs and get into the proper mindset to defeat Clubber Lang.

You can’t defeat PTSD with negativity, because negativity makes PTSD’s grip stronger. April 8th, 2018 I made a promise to myself that I was going to do whatever it takes to defeat my Clubber. In the final chapter of this series, I will go over some of the changes I made that helped me to get up off my knees mentally and move to a positive healthy mindset.

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