I was born January 18, 1974, in Spokane (now Spokane Valley), Washington. I suppose that at the beginning I had a fairly normal toddlerhood, meaning I grew, I learned, I tried to get into trouble and all that.
But that all changed in the middle of my second year when I had a diabetic onset. The onset, itself, wasn’t too traumatic, seeing as how I can’t even remember that time, but the result of the onset…impacted my start to life.
I mean, how could a two-year-old mind rationally interpret the fact that, suddenly, their mother started to hurt them multiple times a day? Why would their mother stick their thin skin with a dagger-like needle that smelled like old Band-Aids? At that age, all I knew was that I was being hurt by the one who should’ve taken care of me.
I only wanted to be a regular kid, but in my mind, I was something wrong. I felt like I must’ve done something to deserve it, although I could never really comprehend what. It was when I started school that a pattern developed, one of almost self-destruction.
Although I craved people’s company, as we all do, I did everything I could to make sure they didn’t get too close, to find out about the horrible person I believed I was. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I tried to become something odd, something that people would look at and wonder about, something that deserved to be alone. I got used to living like that.
I was about 21 when I moved to Boise, Idaho, mostly to get away from my family and to try and build a life of my own, even though I clearly wasn’t ready for it with my psychology. There, I really started to act the role of the weirdo, I kept trying to get girls to pay attention to me and to talk to me while I acted like the big-shot ladies’ men from movies and TV. I was a real jerk sometimes, but I didn’t see that then. I just figured that I was someone who didn’t deserve to be loved.
And then I started talking to people online.
I could hide from myself online. I could become whom I wanted to be, and not have to worry about people calling BS on me even when I made some mistakes. I could do what I loved to do, write and make up worlds where I could do anything without fear of compromise or rejection. I could be the person I had wanted to be so badly.
And then I saw that e-mail, the one that, eventually, led to me realizing something very important, a truth I’d missed. This came in early 2003.
She was someone I never met, someone who just wrote to me, explaining a bit about herself. I thought what the hell, and I wrote her back.
Her name was Amanda Grace, and she was so refreshingly honest and so open. I found myself wanting to find myself when I talked to her, even though we’d only chatted a few times online and on the phone. We kept talking, night after night, never knowing what the other looked like.
We planned on meeting up that April, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has a conference for the whole of the membership every April, and she had tickets to get in to see one of the sessions. I was so excited because I knew I had been myself with her, I had been a friend and a confidant. We had laughed, we had cried, we had even wondered at a lunar eclipse together.
But we hadn’t shared pictures of each other. All I knew of her was that she was “big boned” and that she had red hair. All she knew of me was that my hair had departed my head a long time ago. Still, we had gotten to really know each other without knowing what each other looked like. It was a refreshing experience, something I had never expected before.
We had a very funny moment when we first lay eyes on each other in the SLC airport, one that I never let her live down. I told her I’d be wearing a long scarf and she told me she’d be wearing a sunflower in her hair. I’d worn my scarf, but she forgot the sunflower so I didn’t think the redhead I’d seen go by was her — until I saw that redhead go into a phone booth and call me.
“Where are you?” She said.
“Right behind you,” I said with a chuckle.
We spent a few days in Salt Lake City, where I eventually proposed to her and she said yes. It was a couple of months later that she moved to Boise so that we could plan our wedding and try and really get to know each other better. We got married September of 2003. That was one of the greatest times of my life, knowing that she just accepted me, faults and all. Especially because I shared them all with her, including the fact that I was not exactly a normal person. I told her everything, and she still wanted to marry me.
That was when I began to realize that, maybe, I wasn’t as broken as I thought I was. Sure, over the years since then, I was medicated for bipolar and general anxiety disorder for the trauma I endured as a small child, as well as my diabetes, but something else had happened.
I was no longer afraid to be myself. I was a new person, a better person, someone who wasn’t a bad person at all. Amanda helped me see that, even though there were times we argued, even fought, we always had a rule that when tempers got riled up, we’d sit down quietly until we calmed down.
She was always one to laugh at even the dumbest jokes I’d tell, and even point out some puns I might have missed. I’m terrible at punning, which means I can’t find them easily. She also introduced me to my current love of animals, especially cats.
And, sure, according to the standards of the world, Amanda wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but she was a babe to me, and I knew that she’d had some experiences of her own that had left her reeling and damaged, but she wasn’t afraid to let me know about them.
We moved to Arkansas to start our lives together and, after a few hits and misses with jobs and with financial problems, we found ourselves in a good rhythm with each other and with our lives. We knew we could count on each other. I finally published some of my own works, mostly because of her belief that I could do it. I don’t make much from them, but they’re still out there, and I’m still proud.
And then, Amanda got sick in early 2016. I think it was her fear of the medical profession that kept her from seeking help, but she did think she could simply get better on her own. For a while, I thought so too, but as time passed, she grew weaker and weaker, and finally, her heart simply gave out.
Her death was a shock to my entire being. I felt like my entire soul had broken into a thousand pieces, my body felt empty, my life felt like a string of nightmares.
In my grief, I sought deep counseling and the support of my friends. While I talked to the people in my life, I realized something vitally important. I realized I was no longer hiding myself away. And as I managed through the roughest parts of her sudden loss, I uncovered all that I hadn’t realized she left me with.
Amanda never judged me by my past. Sure, she knew it. Sure, she knew all the darkness that I tried to keep covered. Sure, she knew the deep sadness and the deep recesses of my neuroses. Yet, she loved me anyway.
And what kind of person would do that? What kind of person would say that the weirdness and the mistakes didn’t matter so long as I kept going forward and trying my best? What kind of person would decide a weirdo deserved to be loved?
I grew up hating myself, believing that I was worthless. I tried to make it so that people would not want to love me because I saw myself as ugly and unlovable.
And then I met an angel who thought I was worth all the anguish and all the trauma and saw the person within. Amanda used to encourage me to do my best at whatever I did, giving me honest criticism and telling me when I needed to do better. Yet, she never, ever made me feel like I was unloved or unworthy of her affections.
And, with that, clearly from the influence of Amanda Thurber in my life, I began to see myself as someone who was lovable, someone who deserved to be liked, and I began to like myself as well.
True, I still have my faults and rough edges. I’m still a diabetic who is dependent on insulin. I’m still a bipolar and anxiety prone neurotic, but they don’t define me anymore. It’s because of Amanda that I found out who I really am, and that person is worth it.
This is the story of Benjamin N. Thurber
Ben is a writer and a widower who spends most of his days with his cat. Growing up with low self-esteem and mental illness derived from childhood trauma, Ben deemed himself unlovable, different, a weirdo. After years of shutting people out, he fell in love with a woman who showed him how to think differently about himself. In her sudden death, Ben came to realize his worth, reflecting on her pure love for him.
Ben claims to try and improve the lives of others daily, whether it be on Facebook or in person, and tries to live the golden rule. He doesn’t dwell on the past as much as he used to, and he also misses Amanda, his wife, terribly after an illness took her.
Life Log #249
This story first touched our hearts on December 27, 2018.
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