Personal Growth and Transformation



"When the bottom falls out of your reality, you then pay attention to yourself, your fears, dreams and needs in a very different manner. You have nothing to lose in letting the smoke screens in your life fall away. As you can learn to look at your life honestly, without excuses and self-imposed, preconceived conditions, you will find the levels of fear and anxiousness diminish. The willingness to re-evaluate the current ‘you" and the possibilities for a new "you" is what turns limitation into opportunity and destructive, old patterning into viable, healthy new paths of growth."

Meredith Lady Young
Language of the Soul: Applying Universal Principles for Self-Empowerment


How does one heal and grow from an unthinkable traumatic experience? It helps each of us when others open their hearts and tell their stories. In this issue and several following, personal stories illustrate how we can move beyond staying a victim and how to use painful events to grow spiritually. Know that the events that wounded us, whether or not they are as severe as those in these stories, can deepen our relationship with our Self and be used for the upliftment of our consciousness. To raise our consciousness out of the consensus reality of victim/victimizer consciousness, takes tremendous courage and vigilance.

Allow these courageous people to impact you and show you the way out of trauma. Their sharing is very personal and each of them hopes to show you that no matter how challenging a life situation, there are ways to grow and heal from the experience.

Some of the best teachers and healers are the wounded healers who have healed themselves. In the following months you will read others. If you are drawn to write your story, send it to me. If you missed previous stories you can read them now:

Story number 1, Overcoming Sexual Assault

Story number 2, Moving Beyond Childhood Abuse

Story number 3, In Memory of Betty Sitzer

Story number 4, A Turning–Point in My Journey from Being Born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy
to Leading a Productive and Fulfilling Adult Life

Story number 5, Letting Go: My Life After My Teenage Son’s Suicide

Story number 6, Moving Beyond Blaming Myself for My Son's Mental Illness


The Silence Is NOT Golden: An Exercise In Dysfunction

by Chris Rivers McCown

I'm sure my life would make a fine case study someday, but putting my words to these keys and typing this comes out making me feel somewhat hypocritical and out of place for my perceived "boundaries" of this series. I don't have your typical sad kid stories. I wasn't molested, I didn't join a gang, I didn't commit a felony, I didn't get a girl pregnant; The reason I am writing this is not because of what I did, but because of the circumstances of my childhood. 

My parents divorced when I was two, and I was volleyed back and forth between houses every day for much of my childhood. The tennis ball that was me grew up in a pretty sheltered environment for a number of reasons. My father was a very poor influence on my early life. He smokes, he's been addicted to painkillers, and he generally wasn't there much for me while I was an adolescent. A lasting image of him throughout my early years would be me coming out of my room to see him asleep in his underwear on our aqua blue sofa, his snoring scaring the birds away from lingering by the nearby window, his ashtray fat with it's gray ashes, motionless while the TV projected images of Roseanne or maybe a Cubs game on his pale, skinny, legs. 

I can vividly remember calling my mom, trying to talk over his snoring while she tried to help me decide whether I wanted a Ninja Turtle theme or a Casper theme for my birthday. I can remember everything that I did while I played YMCA Basketball not being good enough for him. If I scored eighteen points or if I got twelve rebounds or if I hit a half-court shot it was always about how I really dogged it out there in the second quarter or I committed too many fouls.  I can remember a lack of communication at all times that I did not initiate it, and while he's become a much better father as the years have gone on, this all played a big part in me becoming who I was. 

Mom had her own sets of problems, which were much more based in lack of time than lack of effort, but were damaging nonetheless.  As a single mom, she ran her own graphics company, drilling the unique Texas accent in "UUUUUUtopian Art!" into my head with a light-hearted voice and a smile. She lived in a neighborhood without many people my age, and we had a registered sex offender at the end of the block in suburbia until I was about eleven. She was overprotective, and maybe rightfully so, but I was cut off from a lot of healthy activities and interaction because of the way I was brought up. Going to a private elementary school also didn't help me much in terms of my social skills, although as you can see, it wasn't the only factor at work here. 

Along with these two came some other basic consequences of their situations. We weren't exactly well off (or as mom likes to say, we were "temporarily out of cash" a lot), so I didn't really get to go on many vacations or get to see much of the outside world. Their immediate families provided some relief in terms of Rockets games and birthday parties, but my Grandfather (on mom's side) played a very key role, because even to this day he owns the house she lives in. He's a man with such devotion to his religion that even when threatened with a situation that involved his step-daughter trying to brainwash his doting wife in an attempt to try to finagle his money, he tried to stand by her emphatically, just for the sake of Catholicism.  One of mom's big battles with him was over what I would believe in, and she fought valiantly to give me a chance to grow up free of not having Grandpa's spoon shoved down my throat.  He's a very stubborn old horse who survived the Depression, he has his own ideals for what I should be and how I should act that I could just never live up to. He would just shake my hand firmly, pull his head up, and peer from behind those small glasses covering his beady little eyes and ask if I got in to Notre Dame yet.

So what did I grow up with? I grew up with Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, and Super Mario. I grew up with South Park, Beavis and Butthead, and the Power Rangers.  I parked myself in front of the TV, with the action figures, or with the Nintendo controller for a good 70% of my childhood. And hey, I haven't ever tried to kill anyone or go out of my way to curse anyone out in public like Joe Lieberman said I was supposed to!  A good portion of my interests can be explained through my childhood, particularly my fascination with games. Basketball, RPG's, Risk, Poker, MLB Showdown, The Omega Virus, these were the ways I interacted with other people mainly. They were the ways I met most of my friends, and the mental processes that my mind got caught up with and devoured hungrily. 

Things looked to be taking a positive turn in 7th grade. My mom re-married, gaining 2 new kids and processing one additional one, it was an exciting time and we finally looked to have some financial security and a new neighborhood. We went on trips out to Lake Travis, started eating out as a family at Guadalajara's or The Mason Jar. From the view of any of the people who we sat near at these restaurants, it would've seemed like we were a pretty normal and perfect family.  

 I was always the wallflower of the group though. My step-dad was boisterous and loud, he was a straight shooter with a devilish brown goatee, he was the kind of man who would paint your fingernails if you went to sleep during a party. My step-brothers had perfected fighting to the point where they could just look at each other and know it was time to drop the gloves, they fought for attention, fought for their father, fought for their mother, for the top bunk, for which Spice Girl was the hottest, for the right to pick first in Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, they became a little pinball of red and brown hair that rolled around the house bouncing from bookcase to bookcase. They both had ADD and ADHD, and many a summer day did they waste taking up every ounce of mom's attention span, making them call their dad at work to explain who had knocked over the pillar angel in the hall first, and why it was the other one’s fault.  Then of course, you add a baby to the mix, and I was amazingly dealing with even less attention than I had before. 

I had problems switching from a Montessori school with 20 people to Bellaire High School, with around 2000, I was painfully awkward and shy. For the first month or so, I was pretty open to giving things my best try and attitude. I was the best student by the repainted beige heater from the sixties in the history class held at room S262.  But as the home situations weighed on me, I became the kid who walked around with his head staring at the floor, the kid trying to fall asleep on his backpack in the back of the class, the kid who didn't do last night's discussion questions and couldn't even give you a real explanation why, the kid who didn't pay any attention to my surroundings. It's much easier to pretend you are a ghost when nobody cares that you are alive, and while that wasn't entirely the case, it was pretty easy to come to that conclusion as a teenager. My goal every day of school was to get there on time, sit down quickly, and drown out each teacher's voice. Find a quiet spot to eat lunch, usually under a stairwell, make it back home in one piece, eat dinner, and enjoy the few hours of solitude I could muster with the door to my room closed, Eve 6 on the stereo, and my eyes at the ceiling or the television. 

After a brief respite between sets, it was time for the tennis ball to be served again. My mom and step-dad split up over irreparable circumstances, mainly due to his misguided beliefs in his kids’ cries for attention over my mom's rational logic. We were dragged through the mud by Devilbeard on the way out. I was picked up by the CPS (Children’s Protective Services) at school, accused of molesting my now three-year-old little sister, and forced to spend most of the day in a room with a bunch of kids with dead parents, kids who never even had a chance to meet their parents, kids who had been abused by their parents. They called it the waiting room, but it might as well have been the room that time forgot: computers still running on Windows 95, a Genesis, Lincoln Logs all over the white tile floor, cries and shrieks of terror and confusion and a plastic canister of Nilla Wafers.

They made me give interviews in rooms with hidden cameras, like a focus group without the incentive. My self-esteem was so low at this point that I was ready to just say I did it, anything to make these people leave me alone. It was almost to the point where I could mentally create a plausible scenario for that happening, but I just knew in my heart that I could never do something so disgusting to a child.  No matter how low my esteem hit, I knew that I was not a bad person, just a person in a bad situation. Obviously the unmerited charges were eventually dropped, but it has left a lasting scar in my brain tissue.  I still am very tentative around kids, especially with regards to tickle fights and the like.

About this time, I found writing.  Writing and me are not a perfect match yet.  I'm not one of those people who just jams out a thousand words on my laptop when I get home from school and then moves on to other things.  Writing, for me, is a release. A release of things I couldn't say, wanted to say, couldn't face up to. A release of insecurities, of the fear my stomach gives me when I find myself in unfamiliar places, of the paranoia that came from the accusing stares of the kind, little Indian woman who dragged me out of high school that one day for CPS, the bitterness over the attention everyone got from their talents that I couldn't bring myself to share, the girls who doted over me but could never bring themselves to be single when I finally came around, the realization that a five foot nine white boy with little endurance was not going to play high school basketball, the futures and presents that could've been carved out had I been brought up in different scenarios. Writing is a way to shut my mind up from going a thousand miles a minute at three in the morning when I still can't get to bed. It's one of the few things that both relaxes me and fuels me. It's what I want to spend most of my life doing, assuming I can work up the nerve. 

Today, I have an associates degree from the Houston Community College, and I'm slowly but surely taking the steps to move on with my life, getting ready to move on to a 4-year university, probably far way away from my current residence, and trying to find myself out completely instead of going on guesses. It was a long series of baby steps to get to where I am today, but I'm not afraid anymore. I've got a long list of people to thank for where I am today, primarily my parents in their later days, Suzanne Harrill, my friends that I've met from all of the games I've played that are too numerous to get into in an essay already nearing the twenty-five hundred word mark. I'm going to have relapses sometimes, it's inevitable. Thanks to the way I grew up, there will always be things that will be triggered. I have reached out with my neediness and tried to emotionally suffocate a female for past love and affection that I didn't receive, a classic projection scenario. I get down on myself very easily and am prone to needing reassurances. I'm a work in progress, but I'm not on the scrapheap anymore. At the age of twenty, I finally have the tools and the will to actually make life work for me.

I started an exercise program recently, especially helpful since I put on about 50 pounds during the divorce situations. I've started to eat healthier; only one non-water drink a day and three concrete meals instead of a bunch of snacks. I've started to care about my future and my life and what I want to do about it. I have always had to grow up by myself, but I've never been good at taking care of myself. This new period of my life will bring many challenges, many new experiences, but the important thing will be to do things that are healthy for me. I don't pretend that I know exactly where life will take me, but I will do as much research and contemplation on it as I can, I will have facts that I can gather, and I will make the decisions as best as I know how. 

I think what I can offer to all of you is the opportunity to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of my family. If you are a parent of a large family, a single parent, or even just the head of a typical family of 2.5, give each of your kids the time he or she deserves, even if you are just the grandfather, uncle, or a family friend. Give them a reason to look back fondly on you when you dote into old age, without pushing them into something they don't want to do. Support them regardless of the situation, gay or Goth, cheerleader or rapper. Talk to them about the important issues without being confrontational or biased. 

If you are a kid in my situation, find a mentor! Remember that while you may or may not believe that you are special, this is your only chance to live the life that you have in this time period right now.  Being a victim is a course of action that has a short-term reward, but doesn't set you up for the rest of your life. Turn off Adult Swim, turn down Eminem, and think about what you want and how you can get it. Make plans and act on them. You'll be better off for it in the long-term, no matter how scary it feels when you think about doing it. 


I had the privilege of being Chris’s counselor in high school. As you can see his sensitivity and depth, as well as his ability to express himself is special. It was very gratifying for me to find out how he is doing when Chris wrote me recently giving me an update on his life. I appreciate his positive message for youth and their families in similar situations.

You may contact Chris Rivers McCowan at
Or view his website at:






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