If you had met Nate some years back, you might have made up your mind about him pretty fast: wealthy businessman, handsome bachelor. The guy who made it. The man who has it all. This is the image he presented – but as always, every person has a story, and every story has at least two sides.
Fast forward to 2020. Nate has returned from months of traveling the world. He does not spend his days committed to success but he reads, enjoys hot yoga and most importantly, he allows himself the room to breathe and the time to heal.
Nate´s story is one of trauma and abuse, but it is also one of strength and authenticity. More importantly, Nate´s story is one that gives courage and inspiration.
At the beginning of the interview I asked Nate to describe three typical days in his life.
As a teenager
When I was a teenager, I went to school for four hours a day and then I took a co-op marketing training. So, in high school I was able to leave school at 12 o’clock every day, then I went to work, and I worked until 8:15 pm Monday through Friday.
We were very poor, and I think I learned around 14 that you had to do certain things for survival. I lived in a really small town in Alabama and had always had a really strong work ethic. And I loved my job. I was a camp counselor for kids. I always loved working.
Nate grew up in a small town in conservative Alabama. He was surrounded by boys who learned to be men. “Masculinity was attached to football, hunting, and the pursuit of a woman,” he recalls. It is the standard definition of what it means to be a man. It excludes many other aspects of a person, like being creative or getting to know someone emotionally. Most of all, it strictly excludes being homosexual, as did the religion Nate was surrounded by– a form of religion in which God does not love you as you are but that will fix you if you don´t fit the mold of a good Christian.
A lot of work. A lot of anxiety. My 20s were a lot about survival, and I remember resenting other people my age for feeling like they had all this freedom that I didn´t have. I felt tormented in my own skin. I spent my 20s proving to other people that I was likable, that I was equal, and I did most of it by work. My entire livelihood revolved around my career and success and making sure that was feeding me. The career allowed me to avoid things in my life I did not want to think about.
Nate had to undergo conversion therapy. This so-called “therapy” is a pseudo-science that is cruel in the way that it frames heterosexuality as a sickness that can be cured. The “cure” mostly focuses on prayer, but sometimes electric shocks are the means of choice.
As I am writing the article, Germany is discussing to ban the therapy, as is Oklahoma and the UK. The argument is less about the therapy being anything but science but more about the damaging and lasting effects it can have, from self-harm to suicidal thoughts.
The conversion therapy and the shaming Nate had to endure lead to deep trauma, and he is slowly healing with the support of professional therapy.
Yoga. Meditation. Healthy eating. Writing. Hiking. Exploring. Healing. Two and a half years ago, I felt like I had missed so many years because of religion and several other things. I was at the peak of my career and just hit a wall where I thought, if I don´t make a drastic decision now, I will have a lot of regrets. That´s when I left the United States and traveled for six months all over Europe, Asia, Africa. It was an unbelievable experience.
Nate has recently launched his latest project: Story Connect Coaching. You can contact him when you need to find an honest and skilled life coach.
Fighting to become your truest self
Lacuna: When did the process of healing begin?
Nate: A decade ago, I had a nervous breakdown. My brain was revealing things that my body could not handle. I spent most of my life with a Christian counselor who was telling me Bible verses to memorize and prayers to pray. I should have been medicated for anxiety. I gained 50 pounds. I was part-owner of a real estate company, and I just walked away overnight. I shut the blinds and curtains in my home. I stopped living. I wanted time to stand still so that I could catch up and understand what was going on.
After ten months of suffering like that, I stepped outside of my religion and got help on my own for the first time. I went to an out-patient center that was luckily just an hour away from my home. That was the first time in my life I had been exposed to an educated and licensed trauma therapist. It changed everything. To be in that out-patient center, I was able to experience what it was like to reconnect with the trauma for the first time. That awakened my body and to my mind a way that I have not experienced before.
That was ten years ago, and it started my journey through EMDR shortly after. I would attribute most of the healing to inner-child work and EMDR therapy.
Lacuna: You had to forgive a lot of people for the things that were done to you. Did EMDR help with it?
Nate: It´s interesting because I talk very openly about the fact that forgiveness has nothing to do with healing trauma. Forgiving someone does nothing to the trauma that is inside of your brain. I think there is a misconception, especially in the Christian community, that says, as a Christian you have to do this and that. Those things have nothing to do with becoming a healthier person. I believe forgiveness is a beautiful, powerful thing, but I think it is a very individual and very private, sacred thing. I don´t think it´s a tool that helps you relieve trauma inside your brain. It´s not trauma work.
For me, it is more about identifying fully with self and accepting other people where they are authentically. When that´s done, you don´t feel harmed anymore. You understand that there was a circumstantial situation that took place. Accepting it authentically is a much more powerful move than forgiving.
Lacuna: When you understand why people do things and that everybody has a background too, you are not able to hate them. So you don´t need to forgive them either.
Nate: Yes. I can´t think of anyone that I hate. I can think of circumstances that are so repulsive they infuriate me. To this day, I don´t ever want to stop being mad about any kind of leader who harms people. But when you learn to deeply connect with self and your own story, there is no room to stay attached to someone else´s story as well. When we embrace the harm that´s done to us and do the work to heal from that, it´s no longer about the other person. That´s their story, and what they do with that is totally up to them. To me, it´s very freeing to know that when you connect with self, you are able to embrace what has been done, and it does not mean that it was just. It was very unjust. It was wrong. Forgiving and anything beyond that doesn´t really come into play. It is about accepting things as they are.
Lacuna: Today, you have accepted yourself fully. What does self-love look like?
Nate: Self-love is how I view myself and connect with myself, and that has been such a huge powerful movement. I have gone back looking at things that happened to me and reuniting with that part of myself and understanding that I have endured some pretty significant trauma.
At 42 years old, it is a gift to me to go back and affirm those parts of me and say, “Your response to this is completely normal. You were six, you were ten, you were thirteen. However, that bled into your life right now, and we need to do some work.”
That´s where self-care comes in to help feeling safe in your own skin. Ten, fifteen years ago, living inside my body was so exhausting because so much trauma was there that I didn´t understand. I thought the key to everything was becoming heterosexual. I´ve learned that my unsettledness was because I had these feelings which they called ´same-sex-attraction.’ The reality was that the trauma needed to be addressed. That was the key to reconnect with myself.
Lacuna: What is the small happiness in your life that you treasure the most?
Nate: When I go to bed early, at eight o’clock, and I know I´ll get a goodnight’s rest, and when I wake up the next morning, it´s going to be really quiet, I get flutters of peace and happiness in my chest.
I had an epiphany when I realized that, as a child, I loved it when people read to me before I went to bed. I´ve got pictures of it. One of my happiest moments is every night there is a guarantee that this physical thing in my chest when I have a book in my hand is affirming the three-year-old who loved being read to before he went to bed.
Fighting for others
Lacuna: You tell your story so openly because you want to help people who suffer from trauma and similar experiences. How did you get the idea to write your story and host a podcast?
Nate: Years ago, my EMDR therapist sat in front of me, and in the middle of one of my sessions, he became very emotional. He said, “Will you please excuse me.” I was so embarrassed because I thought I said something that was either offensive or hurting him somehow. A few minutes later, he came back into the room, and he said, “Nate, I am so sorry for walking out and for crying because it´s very unprofessional. However, I am also a human, and I have been working with you for years. Once in a while, I hear you tell a story, and I recognize that you have no idea how harmful what you´re saying is. It´s really painful to watch someone have such naivety and still believe that their circumstances were normal when they were inhumane.”
That did nothing for me at that moment. There was not really room for me to process this. After I came out, I really started to understand how sick so much of the other things that happened to me as a child and all these years of sexual abuse and physical abuse. I was born into trauma. As an adult, the number one affirmation I got was how successful I was. Everybody was fascinated with businesses I´ve built and the success.
Two years ago, I thought, “You have a lot more to offer. This success is a dead end. You´re miserable. It does nothing for you. There is no amount of this that is ever going to satisfy what you´re made for.”I really started to consider what it would be like to openly share my story and share it in a way that is really authentic and raw and reaches the people who had such darkness and feel alone in their pain. I made a commitment in the very beginning where I just said, “I´m going to write this in a way that will reach them.” When you had really deep trauma, you know when someone is being honest.
When I started to travel, I started the blog and the podcast at the same time to share my story.
The first three months, it just took off. It had a huge response, and hearing from people on a daily basis who are sharing their stories is really empowering. Until I wrote episode number 9 and 10. On the podcast, you can hear my voice change, and you can hear I am very ill. My body completely shut down when writing the story. I traveled for four more months past that, but I stopped sharing my story because there was nothing left in me. I think I didn´t understand the impact of having the freedom to explore myself. In the last year and a half, I just spent healing and moving that trauma out of my body. This has been an incredible gift. It continues to connect me with other people who need to hear that there is someone out there who understands what it is like to either gain 10 pounds in a week because you are compulsively eating or wrestle with addiction and then be ashamed of that or barely functioning because the depression is so hard. I don´t understand why we are not talking about those things and also providing a platform of grace and mercy to say, “You of all people who have already suffered trauma deserve kindness and compassion as you sort through this.” Instead, it seems like, when you´re suffering from depression people think, “ What is your problem? Why can´t you get it together?”
I´m going to spend the rest of my life advocating for people who have experienced trauma to love themselves and connect with that pain so that they can move through this life authentically. That is the whole basis of sharing my story.