7 MIN READ | Mental Health Stories

I am a Bowspirit Kid

Michael Speckenbach

Reading Time: 7 minutes

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The little boy on the photo, that’s me. I am now seven weeks old. And as you can see, my hair stands on end. That may be because my path into life was not quite easy. I was a severe forceps birth. My father had already been asked who to let die – my mother or me. And when I came into the fresh air alive, the midwife did not congratulate my mother, but said exhausted: ‘Half of the child is mine.’ Two days after my birth they took a picture of me. But I will spare you the sight of it at this point: the left half of my head shone in all the colours of the rainbow!

A lucky lad, one might think. But even though I couldn’t think in rational categories yet, especially not in the language in which you read my words now, it didn’t feel like ‘lucky’ or a heroic ‘Done!’. Quite the opposite.

I was sure: They will kill me! That has deeply engraved into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

Fear starts in the mind

When I will be two years old, my father will leave me. Just away! I will not be able to understand that he will study business administration on the arduous second educational path. I will only feel that my father is gone. And I will live three years almost alone with my mother. And even if my father comes to us on the weekends, he will sit in the attic with many books and paper to learn. My mother will stand at the window with me one day and say: ‘Look, Daddy is coming. Aren’t you happy at all?’ My answer will frighten her: ‘Why should I be happy? He will run off again on Monday after all.’

I will be sure: People I love are leaving me! That will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

When I’m three years old, my grandpa will die. I will have just travelled with my mother from Lübeck to Braunlage in the Harz Mountains, where I shall stay with my aunt, while my parents want to go on holidays alone for the first time.

When the news of my grandpa’s death arrives, my mother will shorten the planned familiarisation period and drive back to Lübeck for the funeral service. I will stay with my aunt and uncle and their three children, who will all be completely strangers to me. And no one will talk to me about what that is ‘dead’ or what ‘dying’ means or how I can be sad about Grandpa and yet also happy when something wonderful happens in my life. When I am brought back to Lübeck by my parents after the holiday, grandpa will be ‘away’.

I will be sure: People I love are leaving me! That will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

When I’m seven years old, my father will be very seriously ill. He’ll have pain in his back; at times it’ll be so severe that he’ll get out of the car with his upper body bent forward almost 90 degrees and won’t know how to stand up.

He will eventually have his spine surgically fixed. This will be a very dangerous operation that can end up in a wheelchair for him. I will be allowed to visit him in hospital one day. And it will tear my heart apart to see my father helplessly tied to the bed. He will get better bit by bit. But all of us will now always be very careful with my father and try to relieve him. My strong father will no longer be able to be strong.

I will be sure: Life destroys people, even my strong father! That will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

When I’m 11 years old, my other grandfather will die. Of course I will know by now what it means to die. And I will also be a little prepared, because Grandpa will be seriously ill a few months before and we all care a lot about him. The news of his death will reach us in the indoor swimming pool of all places, where we will be called out. This time it’s my five-year-old sister who will heartbreakingly scream together the changing room of the swimming pool: ‘Grandpa shall not be dead!’ I will never forget this helpless little girl. But what will I be able to do when I won’t know how to deal with grief myself?

I will be sure: People I love are leaving me! That will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

When I will be thirteen years old, I will be seized by sporting exuberance and I will hang myself at the seat of a kids’ ropeway. As soon as the rope, which has been lowered for getting on, locks into place and the seat starts to move, I will no longer be able to hold on and fall from a height of about four metres. I will land on my shoulders with my back bent and luckily a father standing nearby will immediately push me back to the ground. In the hospital I will be lying flat on a special mattress without pillows exclusively on my back, because the x-ray will show a broken thoracic vertebra. ‘We don’t want him to be paralysed,’ will be the only thing the professor will say to my parents between the door and the hinge.

After three weeks in hospital, I will have to continue lying on my back at home. Finally I will be driven to my orthopaedist by ambulance. He will take a look at the x-rays from the hospital and simply stand me up on the stretcher. And I will die a thousand deaths in this moment. My parents will be more frightened by the expression on my face than by the silent action of the doctor. After he has made further x-rays, he will explain to us that it was only a so-called Schmorl-cartilage-nodule and not a broken vertebra. The danger of paralysis will never have existed. But I will never forget this moment when the doctor did without words what doctors, nurses and my parents had forbidden me to do for weeks.

I will be sure: He will kill me! That will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

When I will be seventeen years old, I will notice by chance that when I read with the left eye only the lines run in a wavy line. My ophthalmologist, who will examine me the following afternoon, will turn pale, because about a third of the retina of my left eye is detached and the rest is damaged by equatorial degenerations. He will send me to the regional hospital, where I would be in good hands. The multiple examinations on the following day will be partly painful. And nobody will explain to me or my mother what the diagnosis really looks like and what the therapy will be and what chances of success it will have. I will be the object of assistants and senior doctors. My father will finally make a decision that evening of which he will not know what it will actually mean in the last consequence. With the words: ‘If I can help you in this shitty situation, then my life has had a meaning,’ he will make me a subject again.

The necessary surgery will go well and to the surprise of all involved, I will suffer a nasal visual field loss, but again achieve a central visual acuity of 1.2.

But during the endless diagnostics I will be sure: I will lose my sight! This will deeply engrave into my subconscious – I am a Bowspirit Kid.

No longer being trapped in drama as a victim

All this will happen to me at an age when I should enjoy life easygoing as a child or teenager. You may now object that other children have been and will be much worse off than me. And here I unequivocally agree with you. I can only tell you what ‘dramas’ will happen in my childhood life. And I can assure you that it will not be easy to see these dramas from only one perspective: the one just described.

It will take more than 25 years after the last event for these untreated wounds to break open in my soul. And of course this will be exactly a moment in my life when I won’t need ‘that’ too, because then a completely different drama will take place. But that is another story.

Even if it literally belongs to the ‘game of life’ that everyone has to carry his parcel, some parcels are so misshapen that it’s good if someone shows me in good time how to carry them best, so that they don’t hinder me on my further journey through life. Because a loving environment, as I will have it, and parents, who – like my parents – really do everything for you and do nothing wrong, simply aren’t enough with some dramas.

But I will learn how healing it is to consider a change of perspective. When I will no longer be trapped in the drama as a victim, I may consider whether there is even a gift hidden for me in this stressful situation, because I am a Bowspirit Kid.

Fear starts in the mind. And so does Courage too

At the age of 48 I will make a decision and give a respectively my voice to seriously ill and traumatised children and youths. I will present a vision to the world that will provide an extraordinary offer to seriously ill and traumatised kids and teenagers – a sea voyage that will hopefully bring them into a healthy future, opening a new stage in their life’s journey.

Although we cannot undo them, when the children leave a port with us, they will also symbolically leave behind their bad experiences. After returning home, our young guests will be able to look at their return to everyday life from a different perspective and look forward to living their future lives more ‘upright’.

With little individual effort, anyone could have the good feeling of having helped someone who is in need. So far, nobody has been able to give me one sound reason why you shouldn’t say ‘yes’ immediately. And, do you actually say ‘yes’? The easiest way to show this will be on our website.

I will only be the brain behind the initiative. The vision itself will only become reality if you will help by your small financial contribution and by convincing your fellow men to do the same.


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