Many are still closed in 2021

I am Closed. Not really, but this is Debra Hester. Welcome to Mother’s Backyard Buzz and #empathyforgrief and loss episode, 18 entitled, “I Am Closed.” How many times have we seen closed in 2020? Who thought these ones would be a phrase of global importance due to small and large business closures? Because of COVID-19. I did a Google search on the term. I am closed and got 5.81 billion results in 59 seconds through Google search engine, based on the search results.

I can not say it’s a unique phrase, but here we are talking about being closed due to COVID-19 for the second time in 2020, I’m here to talk about what happens when we close off from each other emotionally and physically when we are grieving. Do you believe I am closed, works to our advantage. When we struggle in silence from grief and loss? As with all my episodes, I’ll focus on breaking the silence, struggle around grief and loss.

Podcasting since 2018

My podcasts are based on my personal grief and loss journey and reflections from my book, My Backyard Garden, A Memoir of How Love Conquers Grief. I’m reflecting on Chapter One of my book entitled, “A Change of Planes.” I have about three more podcasts that I’ll produce from this chapter and I’ll move on to Chapter Two intensive care.

My book is a quick read and is designed for continued reflection. For those of us who are on this life, changing grief and loss journey, or know someone who is. We want to show people who grieve more empathy than sympathy, or as I like to say, show yourself and others, #empathyforgrief and loss.

Loved ones, I love my new interview podcast format. I had planned to add interviews periodically, but the universe started sending me such great and inspiring people. They are people who are like you and me who have gone through challenges and made it to the other side with some insights to share.

Meet My Guest

I met my guest that we’re going to hear from today through a virtual meeting. Actually, I have to thank a mutual friend of ours for the introduction. She lives in Atlanta. My guest lives in Detroit and I live in Memphis, Tennessee, Metro area. She didn’t let distance stop her. That alone is a topic for another podcast. But back to my guest, his name is Dr. Billy Taylor. He has a very inspiring story that will highlight this episode’s issue, I am closed.

Based on Billy Taylor’s story and documentary, he was closed. He was closed for good reason though, in his senior year at the University of Michigan, as he began his transition to pro football, he lost his mother, uncle, and girlfriend. All four of his loved ones were lost suddenly and tragically over his senior year in college. Do you think he was closed? You’d better believe he was so stay tuned for this interview with Dr. Billy Taylor.

Dr. Billy Taylor Was Closed

Yes. Touchdown Billy Taylor, as he is called by the University of Michigan fans. He was a former pro football running back and currently a successful businessman, motivational speaker, and the author of Get Back Up, The Billy Taylor Story, Dr. Billy Taylor was born in Hoxie, Arkansas. And I love that because that is my home state too. Dr. Taylor is going to share his life story so much better than I can. So as always loved ones, I hope you find this interview with Dr. Billy Taylor as part of episode number 18, “I Am Closed, “helpful and inspirational.

Debra Hester: Basically welcome! The podcast is all about breaking the silence, struggle with grief and loss now with COVID-19. And one of the things with this particular episode is about “I am closed.” I know you wrote your book, Get Back Up, and what we’d like to hear is why were you closed? What happened? Why did you close yourself off from your family, your coaches, your friends, you had such a great career.

Dr. Billy Taylor:  A lot of people handle grief differently. That as well as the fact that was, you know, 19 years old when my mom passed being the youngest of seven, and I lost my dad when I was five years old. And so I really didn’t get to know him, but my mom was my everything, all through my K through 12 years and into college. And I had set these goals that when I was in middle school, I wanted to get a doctorate degree one day like that of Dr. Martin Luther King, which of course meant attending college. And then I wanted to play college and professional football. With that, with the money I earned, I was going to purchase a new home from my mom and just take care of her. Cause I’m the youngest of seven. And I know how hard she worked, you know, raising seven kids on her own.

Dreams and Goals

Dr. Billy Taylor: That dream could not come true because she passed on January 4th, four days after my second Rose bowl. And my whole world came crashing in on me. Life’s rug had been snatched out from under me and I went into this deep depression. I was just lost. My older brothers and sisters were old enough to be my parents biologically, you know. They were gone and on their own and had marriages and children and relationships, occupations. And I, I think in retrospect, you know, that had a lot to do with how poorly I handled it. Although losing the person you love the most in the world is devastating. I think for anybody, but a lot, I think in retrospect, thinking back because my other brothers and sisters didn’t go off the cliff, so to speak. I mean, we all love mom and we all missed her, but for me, it was just totally devastating.

And my dreams and goals were out the window. You know, I didn’t care about anything or anybody or even myself. That’s how, I felt, I was not suicidal from a standpoint that I’m going to take something or do something to end my life, but my behavior changed and I could have easily lost my life. And I began to drink, drink and use drugs. And, and I, I didn’t go to people that I should have gone to, you know, for help for guidance or direction. I held it in, you know, that was my way of dealing with it. And, you know, being brought up in a Christian home and as an athlete, a strong survive, you know, you don’t give in, you don’t quit. You can handle whatever comes at you. All of that sort of stuff played into it. And it led me down a very negative path to alcohol and other drugs. And just through the grace of God that I was able to come out of that. But it took 20 years.

Bankruptcy Beyond Money

Debra Hester: Now, what happened? What was the incident that happened that made you realize that you were closed off and you needed to get help? You need to change that.

Dr. Billy Taylor: When my addiction got so bad, I couldn’t keep a job and I was wound up living on the streets and I will mention that I was praying every day for God to help me. Cause I had, I was brought up in church, but my depression was so bad that I also felt I had to drink. You know? And when I did drink, when I was high, I didn’t hurt so much. I didn’t cry so much. And yet I prayed, you know, for God to help me, but that went on for years and years. And I just say hey, the Lord is not listening to me. So yeah, it was really, really bad. I became someone that I really wasn’t. I deal with addiction with rehab professionally today. And, and I see the same behaviors in other men and women. Addiction is a form of, it’s a mental illness. It’s a form of insanity. You keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, you know? And that doesn’t happen.

Debra Hester: Yeah, that’s a very good point. Right? One of the things that I really want you to focus on was that, you know, so many people now are closed off, right? Not only because of grief and loss, we talk about the loss of a loved one, but also the loss of a lifestyle. And you are a person that really sort of lost both, right? And I know I didn’t ask you that initial question, but you had been exposed to quite a bit. I mean, a lot of those goals were almost there for you. So sort of, can you tell me what your background and your history is and, and how you, you sorta got to that pinnacle and then what happened at that pinnacle? And then you dropped and we talked a lot about that, but then what made you get back up? When was that moment?

Dr. Billy Taylor: Huh. Wow. Let me go back to the beginning. I was born by midwife on my grandmother’s sofa in a little small town called Hoxie, Arkansas. And then we moved to Memphis. Dad worked on the railroad, that’s why mama went to my grandmother’s house, to her mom’s house, to have me. So she’d have some help. And from what I understand, my dad blessed me because he’d always prayed for a son. And he said that at age five, he would put him back in the hands of the Lord. My mother never knew what that meant until I was five years old and my father passed. So, wow, I’ve been blessed from the beginning and not even really realizing it, you know, growing up, we were poor. We didn’t have much, we had a lot of love. So mom always pushed education.

Dr. Billy Taylor: I have developed these goals about getting a doctorate degree, really respected and looked up to Dr. Martin Luther King. And I still do, but I was developing into a pretty good athlete. So being a good student and a good athlete that earned a scholarship to the University of Michigan, where I was very successful. A three-time, all-American running back. And, I remember a friend and alumni said, “B.T., You’ve got the world by the tail. Just hang on.” You know, and right after the Rose bowl, four days later on January 4th, my mom passed and my whole world ended in my eyes, my dreams, my goals, or doctorate degree, the NFL taking care of my mom, everything was out the window. I was just so depressed that I just cried. And I hurt all the time.  I had moments where I tried to get back up, if I may, and just rely on my background, as a young Christian man, but the pain was too great. I self-medicated,

Debra Hester: You experienced multiple tragedies that year too, right? That’s another thing.

Dr. Billy Taylor: Yeah. In January, January 4th, my mom passed suddenly. And then in June some for four and a half months later, my uncle, my mom’s brother who was like a father figure shot and killed my aunt and killed himself. And this knocked me down again and more drinking and substance abuse. And I tried to get back up. And in September, the girl that I was dating was brutally stabbed to death. And I just totally lost it at nine months and 20 years old, you know, my mom, my uncle and aunt, my girlfriend, it was just more than I can handle. Like I said, my dreams and goals were out the window. And when I drank and got high, I didn’t hurt so much cause I cried and hurt inside, you know, every day. But of course, that lifestyle is a very negative lifestyle. And it sent me on a 20, 25-year downward spiral.

Dr. Billy Taylor: There were times when I would stop and get a job. But then I couldn’t keep a job. The depression comes back. So I battled depression for years. There were people that I could have turned to and I recommend and suggest that to anybody that’s dealing with depression. Find someone to talk to, you have to open up, don’t try to deal with it yourself because it will overcome you. But sometimes that’s difficult to do, you know, and part of my upbringing as an athlete and we, men, we have this testosterone thing going on at the same time. And I, I just felt that it would be weak to cry or to go to somebody else or with your problem, you handle it yourself.

Closed or Open Choices

Debra Hester:  That’s one of the reasons why we talk about break the silence, struggle, with grief and loss because it’s very human. And sometimes we talk about being strong, but being strong, but still being human and having emotions and feelings are all apart of what we’re trying to get people to understand. And then another thing is that we grew up in a time where people didn’t understand depression, depression was a bad thing. It had a stigma attached to it and mental illness had a stigma attached to it and people didn’t know what to do with it.

Dr. Billy Taylor: You didn’t want to appear weak, you know, immature or whatever. And that’s really nonsense. But at the time that’s exactly how I was feeling. I was fighting a losing battle, you know, with addiction and trying to handle it on my own. That’s what I would say to anyone dealing with depression in difficult times, you know, whether it’s the loss of a loved one or divorce or whatever, talk to somebody. Talk to somebody about it. That’s, that’s wisdom. That’s really a strength. It’s not a weakness. And you know, get the help that you need because most people have someone in their life that they can count on, rely on that cares enough about them to give them valid information. So yeah, go to the right source. You know, not necessarily Shanae and Mooky. You want to talk to someone, a family member that cares about you. A pastor, counselor, a teacher, a coach, not just one of your street buddies. No telling what they might say.

Debra Hester: This is Debra Hester, and we are covering podcast number 18, “I Am Closed” with Dr. Billy Taylor. He is a successful businessman, a motivational speaker, a former pro football player, and the author of the book, Get Back Up, the Billy Taylor Story.

Stay tuned to our next podcast, I’m Closed, an interview with Touchdown Billy Taylor.  Continued in Part 2.