That one blog post where I lay it all out on the line

Over the course of the eleven years of sharing #DoTheDaniel moments, memories and so much more with you all, I’ve been many different versions of myself. I shared a post on social media this weekend where I opened up about my mental health and how often times over those same years when people would ask me how I was, I would respond with “fine” and “good” when I really wasn’t.

While I didn’t see me sharing the following blog post like how I am about to, I think it’s important amid a journey of introspection and making real change that I acknowledge the life I have lived and the things I have endured.

I want to make it very clear that the following post contains trigger warnings of sexual abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders and trauma.

I should preface the following with the fact that more often than not, I have used my blog and connection with you reading it as a form of catharsis and release. At times of course I won’t lie, it’s been the validation I wasn’t receiving from those I needed it from. But at the end of the day, the blog posts that are still up and the ones I have taken down are all pieces of who I am and who I have been. The good, the bad, and everything in between.

The following is my story, and I really hope that when you finish reading it, you can come to understand why at times I may seem a bit much, but that in actuality I am just trying my best.

The following includes excerpts from a book that has been in the making for twenty years. I hope one day I have the strength to try and get it published.

Let’s take it all the way back to when it started. Born in 1983 to my incredible parents, I quickly was recognized as a headstrong child with a sensitive demeanor. Mama Sue and my Dad were 20 and 21 when they had me, and if you stop to think about that in today’s terms, they themselves were still sorting out who they were as human beings while trying to raise one.

We didn’t move a lot, but often enough that my memories of childhood include a sense of never really feeling too stable in one home or one city. At 40 years old, I know that my resilience to change and adaptability come as a strength out of this difficult challenge, but as a young boy it made things rocky. I was born in Montreal, but there is no one city that I would call 100% home which is a strange thing to admit. I became a bit of a liar at a young age as a means of gaining attention and trying to make friends because it felt as though every time I did, we left, so I had to make them quickly. We would move, I would change schools, and the cycle restarted.

Now of course it wasn’t all bad. Mama Sue likes to tell a story I love about a young Daniel in kindergarten who would get in trouble for talking too much (shocking, I know.) One day the teacher told me to go sit in the corner – or to today’s standards, take a “time out.” I huffed off to the corner and she turned back to the chalk board to proceed with class. When she turned around I was back in the circle, looking up at her. When she asked me what I was doing my answer was quick and to the point.

“You told me to go to the corner. I did. I’m done now.”

So we see, I was quite the personality even as a little boy.

Flash forward several years to being ten or eleven, and we made the move to Ottawa. We were slowly progressing up the socio-economic ladder and had found a townhome in a mid to lower income neighborhood, but one that had a beautiful community. I remember my brother and I made friends quickly, AND we had a community pool that people in our complex could swim in during the summer. This blew my mind and I loved these years, until I didn’t.

Around this time in my life there was one specific neighborhood boy I had befriended, and one day he invited me over for a sleepover. What I hadn’t realized, or had any comprehension of yet, was that most of the boys at my age had slowly started to hit puberty. I was actually a very late bloomer and didn’t go through those changes until almost 16 years old. During several sleepovers at this same boys house, his older brother actually fondled and even went so far as to rape me. I didn’t really know what was happening, and I thought this was just normal. Remember that I didn’t have long term friendships, and the new ones I had I was terrified of losing. So when I finally told an adult about it, and it was dealt with like I was again lying, everything changed.

I was being raped and I was told I was lying.

I’ve since addressed this with many therapists and most of them agree it can be attributed to why I stayed in the closet until I was 22 years old and couldn’t come to terms with my sexual orientation, look at myself as a sexual being, or be able to trust authority figures and those closest to me. I wasn’t believed or heard when I really needed to be, and when I needed someone to come and save me.

While I wish this was where this blog post ends, unfortunately it’s not.

My current psychotherapist has helped me to realize that most of my insecurities, actions, impulsive tendencies, trauma, addictions, and very terrifying psychotic breaks over the course of my life stem from that one moment. I still have a very scared little boy inside of me who just needs to be heard, and validated.

At 22 I came out of the closet and came face to face with being a gay man. There was a whole new world for me to explore, but much to my detriment, I had no experience navigating a world I knew little to nothing about. I have always been so envious of people who knew who they were as members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community at a young age. I was thrust into a world of dating, sex, self-image, all while trying to find love.

For a very long time, I had a very altruistic idea of “true love” at first sight, of what a “perfect” relationship was, of marriage, of monogamy, and so many more topics that I would have to ultimately rewrite and learn the truth about.

My first boyfriend will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first time I didn’t stop myself from being attracted to a man and allowing myself to act on that attraction. My whole life I hid from those feelings out of fear.

Over the course of the next few years I would date, I would have my fun, I would develop an eating disorder to lose weight, I was put into categories I don’t think I identified with (like think and bottom because I was young, thin and had feminine characteristics) which bothered me but again I just put up with because I was supposed to i thought. I would be introduced into the world of hard drugs by people I thought I loved, and ultimately they would take a hold of me for decades.

The thing was I had no idea what love really was. Or further more, who I was and wanted to be. I just kept trying to fit into the definition of me that others had made for me, and that’s what I thought love was.

At 25 or 26 I moved to Toronto for the first time with two friends. I had no money, no job, and we shared a bachelor apartment. It was wild, but I was chasing my dreams and trying my best. One night, while we couldn’t really afford food to eat, we had a bit too much to drink. When we got to the club the bouncer wouldn’t let me in. I told my friends I was fine – a pattern as you’ll now come to learn – when I wasn’t. I stumbled away and at one point I remember someone calling me a faggot from a car.

Drunk and not thinking, I think I kicked the car and told them to fuck off.

Big mistake.

The next thing I knew I was thrown into the back seat of the car, and all I remember was being at the waterfront somewhere on a beach, having my face being pummeled and getting kicked in the ribs. I don’t remember much else other than hearing “you’re lucky we don’t drown you you fucking faggot” and being left on the rocky beach. A few hours later I somehow managed to make my way home and my roommates burst into tears upon seeing me. The doctors put a cast on my hand and made a joke about “well, at least you fought back and hurt someone too.”

Being gay bashed was probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever lived. For weeks I was terrified of everyone and everything, and ultimately I moved back to Ottawa to try again at a later date. I didn’t appreciate the joke about my broken hand and busted up face then, and to be honest I still don’t now.

In my late twenties, after moving back to Toronto, I met a boy after many failed attempts at relationships and chasing my idea of love. I fell in love very quickly, some might say a bad habit of mine, and soon enough we moved in together. My best friends at the time lived in London, England and I planned a trip to take him to visit because I missed them terribly. I also planned a trip to Scotland because that’s where his family was from to propose.

I’ll never forget getting down on one knee, and when I asked him to marry me, he said maybe.

Shortly enough afterwards my life went up in flames at my own hands, and he left me immediately without a second thought. A close friend at the time told me he had been waiting for an excuse to leave and it only reinforced the feeling I had that I was worthless, worth leaving, and completely unlovable. I moved back to Ottawa again with my tail between my legs, with no answers, no closure, and a heart so broken it felt like it would never heal again.

In 2012 on Christmas Day after licking my wounds and finally closing the chapter on mourning that long gone relationship and engagement, I moved to Toronto and this time it stuck. I wasn’t looking for a relationship and then the best one of all found me. I’m not here to relive the hard times my husband and I have faced because anyone who is married will know that marriage is hard. But I am so lucky to have met him after all that time of thinking I was so unworthy of love.

In 2016 my entire world was shattered yet again when my Dad died suddenly of a heart attack. I wasn’t prepared in any capacity for that loss and I don’t think I ever properly dealt with the grief of it. Losing a parent is something only someone who has lost a parent can understand. It is a deep wound and one that never truly heals. You simply have to learn to cope with it, and unfortunately I don’t think I’ve ever had good coping skills. I thought I did, but the reality is my anxiety and fears only intensified from that moment on. I dove back into work too soon, I still don’t like to talk about it, and I miss him today just as much as I did that day. I love the dimes I find (if you don’t know you’ll have to ask) but I would much prefer my Dad to be here.

This past January, Canela had to be put down, and it broke me. After almost ten years of being a family, and having a beautiful soul like hers vanish from my life, it really shook me. She was a soothing presence and so much more. I am still recovering and adjusting to life without her. When things got hard, I would take a few moments to cuddle with her on the couch and I don’t have that anymore. Even just writing this again makes me miss her so fucking much.

With unhealed traumas and very deep wounds from the moments above, and many that I haven’t mentioned and don’t care to relive, I did my best to be fine. I did my best to be good. I did my best to be happy, and for the most part I was. But now that I am being completely honest, I had many vices that I used to just get through it that have turned off and on more times that I can to acknowledge.

I’d start NA and AA meetings and eventually they would fall off my radar and I convinced myself I was healed and better. That I didn’t need help anymore.

I’ve never properly been able to heal, trust, or love. And I just don’t know what it feels like to feel 100% safe.

Today I am doing my best to be honest with myself and with you. I’m on a new-ish anti-depressant. I have support group meetings. I am looking for a new psychiatrist and will be addressing possible other medications. I have to do a lot more work on myself because band aid solutions and short term work simply haven’t healed the wounds I need to heal. I have severe emotional scars from many moments over the last decade and I have to say, I have a hard time trusting people.

I don’t know how to ask for help. I feel like a burden. I miss my best friend. I miss a lot of people really. But I do know that now is the time to put in the work for myself and to help myself finally address all of the moments I have shared with you, alongside the painful unnamed others.

I am not trying to make excuses for the people I have hurt in my life. I take full responsibility, and to those of you who this reaches, please know that you still are a part of me and I am truly sorry. I am not trying to diminish the horrors I have been responsible for. I am not expecting you to forgive or dismiss what I have done. I am just asking for you to try and understand a bit more why they happened.

Some people think I haven’t suffered enough, and to them I want to say, I don’t think you can ever really know how much someone is struggling or what darkness they have faced that could bring them to a breaking point. I hope this blog post helps to open your hearts a little bit, but I understand if it does not.

All I am trying to do is to come face to face with who I am completely and to show myself today that I have to love that scared little boy who has always felt he doesn’t deserve love. Who feels he deserves to be left, lied to, be cheated on, to be hit, to be verbally and emotionally abused, to be raped. Who to his core believes he has to work twice as hard for love, and to be loved in return.

I am absolutely terrified to hit publish on this, but I am going to. I have to finally lay it all on the line and acknowledge that the things about myself good and bad, that have brought me to this moment.

To those I love who are there for me, I love and appreciate you sticking with me through the chaos. To those who couldn’t take it anymore, I don’t blame you and I completely respect your decision.

We are all just doing our best out here amid our lives, our lessons, and our traumas.

Don’t forget to be kind & a little more honest with yourself this year 

Daniel Reyes Cocka xo 

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