Updated: Aug 26, 2020
REDEMPTION IN RICHMOND
A Memoir of Resilience in the Face of Extreme Adversity
by Todd Carl
This is going to be one of those books that will make you stop and think: If he went through all that and lived to tell about it, then maybe I can too. The small-town boy who managed to beat the odds and ends up living a life that astonishes everyone.
Though I was born with passion, many natural talents, and so-called good looks, and I've spent time with rich, powerful, famous and infamous people, I've also experienced extreme hardship. I was born with a rare birth defect, I’ve weathered five heart surgeries, I’ve been involved in three car accidents, I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and…I'm bipolar.
I’ve also survived racial discrimination, sexual-orientation discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying, physical and sexual violence (more than ten physical and sexual assaults perpetrated by both men and women), workplace violence and mental illness discrimination. Some of these acts I’ve endured at the hands of strangers—others, at the hands of those who were supposed to protect me. Including people of faith, employers and members of my family.
That was then; this is now. Today, I wouldn't trade my life for anything!
I'm not telling you those things to try to shock or impress you, but to let you know I can sympathize - and, perhaps, empathize - with you and your challenges.
The proverbial straw that finally broke the camel’s back, took place one sunny, pleasant, Virginia morning, when my oldest brother - a former minister - phoned in a shocking, false complaint to the Hanover Country, Virginia, Sheriff's Department. The official, verbatim complaint, reads in part:
ACTIVITY REPORTED: DISORDERLY
NEED OFFICER – MEETING BROTHER TODD, WHO IS BI-POLAR TO EXCHANGE MOTHER AND WOULD LIKE “LE” [LAW ENFORCEMENT] THERE, DUE TO TENSE COMMUNICATIONS. BROTHER WAS GIVEN A KNIFE FOR CHRISTMAS, UNSURE IF HE HAS IT ON HIM…BROTHER SHOULD BE DRIVING A...VA LIC...
Fortunately, my brother unwittingly exposed himself (legally) the preceding day by placing a bizarre, but highly provocative phone call to me in order to set his underhanded scheme in motion. Unbeknown to him, however, that poorly-thought-out phone call ended up being witnessed by two bystanders!
The vague allegations asserted by him to the police that day, still leaves many around me - several years later - struggling to understand his motive. Thankfully, my legal counsel conclusively determined the entire incident was not only specious, but meticulously premeditated. Evidence also suggests it was a form of hate crime.
All of that news - though very gratifying for me at the time - still continues to eat away at me, causing me to wonder about the countless victims throughout our society who've endured similar hate crimes or situations of undeserved humiliation, but don't have access to legal counsel in order to protect their civil rights.
Moving along, the death of my father, another life-altering event, also helped push me to the brink. But that heartbreaking incident ended up being the very catalyst that saved my life and brought an end to my lifelong quest for redemption.
I wrote this book not only to heal, but to also help inspire and encourage you, to never consider throwing in the towel. In particular, if you or someone you care about are in desperate search of answers. Answers to questions I've asked myself, the most obvious being, "Why are these things happening?" Regarding my bipolar diagnosis, a dear friend once offered this profound, comforting statement: "You have a chemical imbalance, not a criminal imbalance!"
At the risk of sounding patronizing, let me state emphatically: It's never wrong to question someone or something. Questions are how we learn and how we grow. But questions require courage. And tapping into that courage may sometimes require one brave person with enough experience to step forward and lead by example. I hope my story does exactly that, and not just in an informative way, but in an entertaining way as well.
Lastly, I wrote this book (initially written as a legacy for my "family of choice") as a cautionary tale of the dangers and consequences of discrimination, bullying, and abuse. My sincerest wish is that every reader of this book reevaluates their lives, consciences, and potential prejudices they might have toward people whom society categorizes as different or undesirable.
Historians are increasingly lamenting how society is breaking down when it comes to how we interact with each other. The human spirit wasn't intended to be abused, bent, or broken, but it has an incredible ability to overcome.
It's never too late for redemption.
No matter who you are, young or old, male or female, rich or poor, disabled or challenged, religious or irreligious, and regardless of your ethnicity, there is hope. Healing is the offspring of courage. No matter what anyone has done to you, is doing to you, or will do to you, self-love can overcome all of it.
Fortunately, we live in a time when people are speaking up and speaking out. People worldwide are stepping forth from the shadows, pulling back their veils of fear (veils which many of us have, but few are able to admit), and protesting, “Enough!”
People who’ve been victims for years – or in my case, decades – of various forms of abuse, are finally being given long overdue recognition as people who “have value”, but more importantly, “add value” to society. Hearts and consciences around the world have been pierced to such an extent, the mindset of “that’s just the way things were” is fast becoming a very distant memory, albeit a painful and dark memory for some.
Decades-old secrets are being exposed overnight, though other secrets and “obstacles” are proving more difficult to the extent, removing them from our paths will require additional courage, determination and time, despite the extraordinary progress that’s already been made. In a profound way, the voices of few are forever changing the lives of many…for the better.
A well-known psychotherapist once asked me “How are you alive?”
When I answered, “I don’t know”, he replied “I know; You’re alive because your will to live, is stronger than your desire to die!”
He was right! And because of Dr. Donnie Conner, I received the gift of “permission” that prompted me to finally begin the process of letting go of the past, which in turn allowed me to free myself from a virtual lifelong prison of self-loathing. I no longer fear the past, or the present. And for the first time in a very long time, I am finding myself dreaming of a future once again. An old adage, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery. But today is a gift, that’s why it’s called The Present!” has now become my mantra!
All things are possible.
This memoir is my gift to you. May you discover something (or several things) within its pages that move and inspire you enough to share the very description of your inspiration or epiphany with anyone you feel may benefit from it.