And there I found myself watching the sun dive into the lake, staring into the beauty of the moment, befuddled as to why my finances and sanity were diving along with it. I was terrified of losing my home, losing my job, and losing my mind and could feel the ghosts of my past laughing at me. I thought about everything that had been done to me as a child, and I thought about all of those years I called out to the Uncomforting Counselor to remove this feeling of constant panic only for my cries to seemingly have fallen on deaf ears. And I thought about the disturbing body of work that was my life: the overnights at the mental hospital, the psychiatric medications, the baths while staring at a razor blade, the loneliness, the deep desire to die. It was as if I was stuck indefinitely in the fetal position waiting for someone to pick me up and carry me home. As I thought of all these things, I was finally able to speak the unfortunate truth to myself: that life was in fact very cruel, and no one was coming to save me.

I knew I had been avoiding this truth my whole life, hoping that some great father figure would scoop me up, tell me that everything was going to be alright, and make all my problems go away. But no one was coming, and there wasn’t a soul in the world who could undo the past. No one was going to bail me out of my real-estate deals, tell me it was all going to work out, and no one was going to clean up my mess. No sagely father were coming to sweep me off my feet and into his arms and tell me how incredible I am, that I was the son he always wanted, and that he loved me more than life itself. No father was coming to show me how to be a man, tell me I have what it takes, show me what it means to be an affectionate husband and loving father, and how to navigate this world. There wasn’t a father on the earth that would weep and wail for my childhood abuse, no father to mourn the death of my innocence and pray that he could have taken the abuse in my place. I would never see that reassurance or guidance, never feel that warm embrace, and never experience the love that a father feels for the boy who he helped bring into the world.

And as I began to wallow even deeper in a pool of my own self-loathing, I could hear the voice of my MMA coach Amir in the back of my mind speak to me, “Get up, Aaron.” I had been training under his tutelage for about a year now, and the essence of all the training revealed itself to me in that moment. Amir never felt sorry for me and was constantly pushing my limits, taking me to the point where I was so beaten up that I lay helpless on the mat waiting for the end. “Get up, Aaron,” he would chide me, refusing to feel sorry for me, refusing to let me feel sorry for myself, and refusing to let me end my journey of transformation. I would fall apart and keel over from the pain of the moment, but instead of helping me up, he forced me to exercise my strength and mental fortitude to stand up for myself. “Get up, Aaron,” he commanded me as he ordered my teammates to keep attacking me relentlessly, giving me no escape, no respite nor room to breathe. “Get up, Aaron,” he told me until I no longer wished to avoid the pain, until I relished the pain of transformation and could finally accept the fact that life could be infinitely cruel and that I was infinitely strong. And then there was no more pain, only the joy of being alive and knowing that with every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears that were shed within those sacred walls, I was becoming impenetrable. I could see the fear evaporate before my eyes and my subhuman existence diminish as I bestowed upon myself the mantle of supreme warrior. And as the imagery swirled in my head, I looked up at the stars that were finally peeking out of the night sky and imagined the Old Master (God) looking down on me wallowing in a pool of my own self-loathing, whispering to me, “Get up, Aaron.” - Excerpt from Capturing the Ghost by David Tanner Lauka

Author the Author

David Tanner Lauka is a member of Lightning Kicks Martial Arts Academy and author of Capturing the Ghost. He is also the founder of the Slaughterhouse Combat Team, a non-profit organization designed to equip trauma survivors to battle their fears through the martial arts. He is a childhood trauma survivor who suffers from PTSD and hopes to use his story to encourage others in their journey of healing.