Tim Markison is a hyper-paced, quick-minded sort who races through life and normally shoots off replies without hesitation. But, when asked if he considers himself to be lucky, there’s a long pause and a gear shift.
When you’re the victim of child abuse, life stops becoming a simple puzzle and becomes a convoluted, three-dimensional maze – inexplicable and unescapable.
Even years later when they become adults in what appear to be “settled” lives, victims of child abuse can experience severe emotional, mental and even physical problems.
According to one study, “Mental health problems associated with past histories of child abuse and neglect include personality disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorders, depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis... Depression is one of the most commonly occurring consequences of past abuse or neglect.”
Check, check, check, check, Markison said, when the above was read to him.
“Many of those things you listed, I suffered from,” the 59-year-old Mesa father of two said. “Much, much less today than I did in the past. I feel fortunate I was able to get the help I needed.”
Though he feels blessed to have resources required to get help and an exceptionally supportive wife, he remains hesitant to call himself lucky.
“I also did a lot of hard work to get to the place I’m at. You make your own luck,” Markison said. “Yes, I am fortunate with the abusive childhood I endured and the psychological damage it did to me, I’m very fortunate to have the life I have now.
“I’ve been married 41 years, have two kids and a grandbaby...All that happened because of a lot of hard work on my part, and my family and support.”
For the likes of Markison, getting to and maintaining mental and emotional stability is a journey down a long, twisting road, filled with blind curves and arduous, uphill stretches.
It’s not unlike bike riding across the country – which is what Markison started last week.
Though his 3,000-mile journey certainly is metaphorical, Markison intends it as a direct statement: Stop abuse and begin healing.
As he puts it, the purpose of the ride is to increase awareness of child abuse prevention and to promote healing for those who were victims.
Markison is a patent attorney...and an inventor. He is founder, CEO and primary inventor of Athalonz, which makes “golf shoes that are disrupting the golf industry due to its patented technology.”
Monday morning, he’ll be at 2716 N Ogden #101, near McDowell and Greenfield roads in central Mesa, which doesn’t sound like a big deal, as that’s the company headquarters.
But it’s how he’s planning to get there: By bike.
And not from his home a few miles away in east Mesa.
He’s biking from San Diego.
“I’m sitting with my team now, mapping out the route for tomorrow,” Markison said from Southern California the night before beginning the epic journey.
He will be accompanied by an RV, with Markison and his support team, mixing hotel stays and camping along the way, with an anticipated end date of Nov. 7 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Along the way, with support from the Interwoven Circles Foundation, Markison hopes to raise $1 million for nonprofits that focus on child abuse prevention and/or healing the wounds of child abuse.
Mayor John Giles, also an avid biker, will greet Markison at the Athalonz headquarters in Mesa at 11 a.m.
Asked if he thinks the long bike ride will itself be helpful, Markison said, “I think so. Part of talking about what happened to me is therapeutic. The more I can talk to people...and the more people we can get talking about child abuse, the more good it will do. Most abusers were victims of childhood abuse.
Markison has been living in Mesa, where he launched Athalonz, since 2011.
He grew up in Chicago, where he said he was victimized repeatedly as a child.
As he describes his abuse online (interwovencircles.com/tims-story), “I was raped from age 5 through age 13 by both a family member and a school administrator. I was also beaten. I was choked. I was locked in a freezer. I was consistently berated. I was told I was worthless. And that was on a ‘good day.’
“My defense mechanisms were to disassociate and to forget. While an incident was occurring, I disassociated and, as soon as it ended, I blocked it out. I forgot the incident along with most of my childhood.”
Markison told the Tribune he “didn’t even remember what happened to me until my late 20s. Most of my childhood, memories of my childhood are gone...When my oldest daughter turned 5, I started having – it wasn’t quite memories, it was feelings.”
While he was in law school, one panic attack after another hit him, with flashbacks and a feeling of utter worthlessness: “I was miserable. I was depressed...I sought counseling and memories started to come back a little bit.”
He chokes up a bit, recalling a night 30 years ago when “I woke up from a flashback dream in terror. I could not close my eyes. Every time I closed my eyes I thought I was going to get choked and killed. Literally for four weeks I couldn’t sleep.”
Markison checked into a mental health hospital, where “more memories came back, things became clear...It was pretty horrific. It wasn’t just at home or at school. I was raped at home and school.
“The two places you’re supposed to be most safe were the two most dangerous places for me.”
Asked if he ever confronted his attackers, Markison said, “I did confront my parents. I was hospitalized three times in my late 20s and early 30s because of how severe the depression came.”
During one stay, encouraged by a therapist, he called his parents and told them his horrific memories.
“They said, ‘Oh that’s preposterous.’”
Shortly after that brief call, his parents called his therapist.
“The only question my parents asked my therapist was, am I going to kill them?” Markison said, his disgust apparent.
He said his recovery would have been eased “if they would have just taken ownership: ‘Yes, we did that, we were sick.’”
Now that he has the courage to publicly speak about his experiences, Markison said he is amazed by how many people are approaching him, saying, “I can’t believe I’m talking about this, but this is what happened to me.”
As he writes: “Until a few years ago, I had no intentions of sharing my story.
“After 20 years without a flashback, I started having them again. These flashbacks shifted something in me. I had to break the silence. I have to share my story, to be a vocal advocate for child abuse prevention, and to be a vocal advocate for victims to heal their wounds and create a positive self-image.”
One of the most important messages he wants to share with his fellow victims is that it’s possible, after years of self-loathing, to come to peace with yourself.
“I like the person I see in the mirror,” he writes. “This is a biggie for me because I used to hate looking at myself.”
To donate or for more information, visit interwovencircles.com. The Arizona Child Abuse Hotline is 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)