Friday, August 31, 2007

Why Yesterday was a Personal Milestone

Thom is ever so observant. I discussed in my previous post about how yesterday marked a personal milestone, and yet really didn't explain why. I thought I had in previous posts, but looking back thru them, I really didn't. So, here is a bit of an explanation on why yesterday was a personal milestone.

Your mind is an interesting, and often complicated thing. People often go thru their lives and don't really take the time to consider, or are even aware, of how powerful the mind is. Some of us experience it's power, and it's very intimidating. Almost humbling . . . and this is how I learned to respect it.

No big secret, I'm a survivor of childhood abuse. Won't go into the gory details, but it happened from the time I was 6 until I was 12. Funny thing is, the memories surrounding the event used to not be there. My mind buried them, deep deep deep. I know while it would happen, I would just shut down. The way I learned to cope and live thru it was to supress it and not ever be able to recall it. The interesting part was that I couldn't really remember anything from my childhood around that age. It was just kind of a fog. Come to find out this is a very common coping technique.

Well, the thing with supressed memories is that eventually, your mind recognizes that you are old enough to process them, and they suddenly reappear. In my case ~ vividly. So much so that my body would actually experience them with me . . . from the heart racing to the very detailed and I won't explain here. My mind decided at about 27, I was old enough. One day while at work, as I put it, my mind exploded. Come to find out that this is known as PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So, after all these years, I begin to remember my childhood. And lucky me, it gets to be this! Stating that I didn't handle it so well would be an understatement. I don't think anyone would actually handle this well though, so I handled it the best I could. These memories drove me to seek out help, in the form of a psychiatrist. Well, actually the fact that one of my friends found me in my house using a knife to cut small cuts up and down my arm drove me, literally, he drove me. (not a suicide attempt, i'll touch on this a bit later)

So ~ we go thru some testing and lots of talking and we come up with this ~ the PTSD diagnosis and the diagnosis of depression. He's not so sure that the depression isn't something else, but we go with it for now. I begin therapy and taking medication. The memories start out way too much, way too fast ~ and that triggers nightmares. It gets to the point that I sleep with nightlights.

Shortly after all this, I get offered an opportunity to leave Texas. While I'm not all that keen on having to find new dr's and such, I'm rip snortin' ready to get the hell away from my family. I wanted a chance to get away from everyone trying to pull me in 100 different directions and have the chance to just focus on me, and sortin' this whole mess out. So I take it . . . and that's how I end up in Topeka, KS.

I get really tied up in all the commotion about starting up a new facility and living in a new town, meeting lots of new people, and I stop taking my meds (b/c I ran out) and don't find a new doctor. So, my little cutting habit intensifies. I had been doing this for about 2 years, but I went into overdrive. It's not an attempt to commit suicide or even a cry for help (as some people think). It's different for everyone that does this, but for me it was a way to have my world make sense. I would start having a memory, and the emotion would start. Then the body responses. Then the adrenaline would hit. The only way I found to stop it was to cut myself. It was kind of like shocking my system into having to suddenly take care of me and therefore, the memory loop would just stop and go away. I could understand that physical pain and take care of myself ~ where I couldn't understand the previous mental pain at all. It just made sense to me. I always pretty much just fell asleep afterwards, I think because at that point my mind was overloaded and just shut down.

Well ~ after a few months of this, I knew it wasn't right again. So I went and got a new dr, and she in turn hooked me up with a new therapist, and we started again. Couple of changes though . . . remember when I mentioned that my 1st doctor wasn't so sure about the depression diagnosis?? Seems that he was seeing me bounce between my super highs and drastic lows. (Gave new dr. permission to look at old dr's files . . . good idea.) New dr adjusts diagnosis to bipolar. This was probably the first huge step in recovery, because the meds changed and I started to feel better. Way better . . . and I began to learn what bipolar was and am able to identify it now in myself and deal with it. This was a huge relief.

So, continuing with my therapy (she specialized in those that suffered severe trauma) I was able to process the memories, emotions, and such safely. I was headed down a path of recovery. But, with all things, there were relapses. Rome wasn't built in a day. So, I'd hit a rough spot, take a few steps back, and get frustrated. But I learned that this was normal, and then I was able to forgive myself for, and slowly trod ahead.

My last relapse happened 8/1/2006. I was at work and the memory loop started. This hadn't happened since I lived in Texas. I didn't know what triggered it, but I couldn't stop it. I just knew I wasn't good, and I wouldn't deal with this well. I just knew it. I instantly had the urge to cut myself, and I didn't want to do it anymore. Looking back, this was probably the first time I didn't give in to my impulses, and the ensuing crash makes sense. I was determined to handle this the right way, and not revert back to my old behaviors. So, I checked into a hospital. Three days later I checked out, and by the end of the month, I was out of the partial hospitalization program (where you spent all day at the hospital, but got to go home and sleep in your own bed) and back to work.

So, cut to today . . . I've been able to accept who I am, and have really started to become happy with who I am. It's the first time I can really remember being able to say that. I'm completely off medication, and have handled some pretty tough issues medication free. I readily identify my triggers and am able to appropriately take care of myself. Most importantly, I know I don't have to do this alone and know who to call (both personally as well as professionally) to get the help I need. My success in this journey isn't measured in no symptoms or no triggers, that's unrealistic and impossible really. It's measured in my ability to handle it in a healthy and constructive way. I've been able to do that now for 1 full year.

Today is the first day of year 2 . . .

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Joe Joe's very own Goblet of Fire

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So, there are so many reasons that I love where I work. One of them is the time we spend working on becoming better leaders not just for the people that work for us, but for each of my peers as well. We are expected to always strive to be the best leaders we can be. You don't know how awesome it is to work for a major corporation that puts one of it's footholds in treating people with dignity and respect. In all honesty, it's why I still work there after 8 years (among other things).

So, today, we were having what's called a "developmental learning group." This is a group of execs that are discussing their opportunities (i.e. like for me, listening to others - I tend to interrupt, staying focused, being comfortable without knowing everything) and your strenghts (i.e. building teams people want to be on, connecting my team to the business as a whole, rebuilding struggling teams). {Go with me here, I'm gettin' to the point!}

We were doing an exercise where we pass a cup full of random questions around the group, you draw one, and answer it. It has questions ranging from "What's your most embarrassing moment at work?" to "If you could meet someone famous, who would it be and why?". So, the cup comes to me and I draw -- "What makes you most uncomfortable at work?" I know this answer immediately, but I don't want to share it. I don't want to tell anyone what makes me most uncomfortable . . . because it's also deeply personal. Even now, I'm still so protective of who I really am. I know this is because of two things, the fear of rejection and the fear of ridicule. Silly I know, but very true.

Being the cut up I am, everyone is expecting a smart ass comment or something dripping with sarcasm, and instead I take a deep breathe and really tell them -- "I am most uncomfortable at work telling people about my personal life. I only let people in so far, and then I try to divert attention. I need to work on this, and I know it. I need to let people know that if I don't want to share it, then I don't. Not just change the subject."

The room kinda went really quiet. Everyone looked at me for that uncomfortable minute, and I saw a few people nodding. It's true, I don't open up at work. I don't talk about who I am and what interests me outside of work. I'm very scared of sharing ~ mostly again because I'm afraid of the response I might get. We'll see how this new road opens up ~ because if I'm uncomfortable doing it, then I am growing.

Somehow, I feel the game of 20 questions is about to start . . .

Sunday, August 19, 2007

An Open Letter to My Brothers

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Below is a posting on my MySpace page (see blog roll). I'm not going to switch or anything crazy, buy my 3 brothers are all myspacers. So, I got a page to start keeping in touch with them. I have really been untying those emotional knots that I tied so long ago, and am to the point to ask for forgiveness to those I hurt, starting with them. I miss them . . .

I sat down tonight with a retrospective look on things. I’ve been doing it a lot lately. As you probably know (or maybe not) I came out. Accepting myself was hard, very hard. For the longest time I didn’t like myself, so I didn’t want anyone else to like me either. Sounds stupid, but the logic was that if no one liked me, then I wouldn’t have to either. Problem was – not a really good way to live, or experience life for that matter. So, here I am, 3:30 in the morning, in Topeka, KS, thinking about you 3 (And yes, I’m sober! I sometimes just can’t sleep.)

First to John & Jeff, I have to say, I’m ashamed to say I don’t know y’all very well. It’s something I’m not proud of by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s safe to say I regret the fact that I allowed my anger and selfishness to affect our relationship. I am very ashamed and embarrassed to admit that I ignored you for so long. To be who you are today – to reach out to me after how I treated you for so many years – truly humbles me. I’m not deserving now, but hopefully one day I can be.

To Jim, why on Earth do you put up with me? The twists and turns that have been our tumultuous relationship have been a bit much. I wouldn’t blame you if you never spoke to me again. But you do. You’ve dealt with all my crap, all my anger, all my negativity for so long . . . and you still are there for me.

So, guys, I’m sorry. More than you’ll ever know, I am sorry. If I ever hurt you or someone that you love, I’m sorry. I want to make it up, make it all go away, but I can’t. All I can do is let you know that if you’ll let me, I’d like to try to be the brother I should have been so long ago.

I want to listen to what’s going on in your lives. I want to know the struggles you face. I want to learn what you enjoy doing, and what you absolutely despise. I want to get to know you. But most of all, I want you to know that I love you.

Who knows why we do the things we do, or why we make the choices we make. I can only ask that you forgive me for mine.

I’ll end with this – I was thinking of y’all and Dad and this idea popped into my head. I know it’s been awhile, but thank you for waiting for me to figure things out.

Running from me, running from truth, running to cry.
Anger inside, burning throughout my soul
Hatred at the world, no one can console.
From beneath my heart, the coolness grabs a hold –
Push everything away, no one gets close.
Why are you still there?
Running from love, running from hope, running to hide.
No one knows the prison in which I reside –
No one experiences that trauma that I resist –
No one understands my pain, no one recognizes –
No one gets to know, no one gets to reply –
Really, why are you still there?
Running from feeling, running from home, running to fly.
From the world, I withdrew – deep into my prison
Without contact, myself, I did not have to envision.
Who I became – it appeared to be a contradiction.
The desires I had – conflicted with my conviction.
No really, why are you still there?
Running from acknowledging, running from peace, running to disappear.
I would melt away into this vast land – I retreat
I would exist alone – from life retire
I would hide in shame – angry and resolute
I would ignore all – only to be with my regret
Unbelievably, you are still here . . .

Take care – jj:)

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm going to use and age old technique . . . Deflection

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I have shown UNBELIEVABLE restraint on not posting or commenting on this picture. But I'm going to deflect now . . . and blame Thom (see his Ewww . . . posting) for letting this dark evil side of my personality out. (For those taking notes -- this is the ancient art of deflection. Trying to divert attention to someone else so they forget what you did.)

So, being from the country (and I ought to spell that kuntree based on where I'm from) anytime I go to a major city, I love it. Being the avid people watcher, having my attention diverted at any given moment, and having no control over my mouth in certain social situations, I'm pretty much gonna see and comment on anything I see. So, while snapping pictures of random people I work with playing in a fountain in downtown Kansas City, Ms. Hot Mess walks up.

I can't control myself. I'm not as good at self control as Thom. My mouth is moving drawing attention to this situation before that filter kicks in and stops me from sharing what I'm seeing. I really should see a specialist about it . . . it can be quite embarrassing . . .

This is how the scene plays out --

"Smile everyone!" goes the camera facing the fountain

"Oh, you want in the picture. Okay go ahead get in there." goes the camera facing the fountain

"Ok, now I want ----- oh no she is not -- oh hell no --" goes the camera facing to the left of the fountain, I'm still facing forward -- goes the camera facing the fountain taking a random picture so it appears I haven't really noticed her.

My coworker Alison (who knows my lack of tact and that I'm usually funny) begins to dart around and exclaim "What Joe?? What??"

"I'll show you in a minute . . . act casual"

I did. I couldn't pass up the moment to actually take this picture and share it. Yes, it's a train wreck, and yes, it's highly inappropriate. And it is also a bit sad . . . my heart goes out to her in that she feels this is her only option in life. But in the end it's also comedic (tragic, but still comedic). It was really funny . . . and I did black out the face so only the person actually wearing the outfit and working that street corner (or her pimp) will know for sure . . .

Oh, and Darin . . . yes I did actually post this!