A Letter To My Inner Self

Dear Scott,

I hear that you’ve been pretty down lately, feeling as though you’re being crushed by the world and shut out from it. Questioning your value as a professional, a man, and a human being. We’ve known each other a long time, so I feel like I can be honest with you. I don’t know another person who has accomplished what you have, even if there hasn’t been another notch added to your belt in the last three or four years. I’m not looking for a debate or to coddle you back into good spirits. Sit back and allow me to tell you who you REALLY are.

  1. You have a great sense of humor and can pop off random witticisms at the drop of a hat.
  2. You are a risk-taker, willing to put yourself on the line in the pursuit of excellence.
  3. Your intelligence at times is mind-blowing. No wonder you were able to pick up two graduate degrees in completely different fields.
  4. The creativity you have shown in the development and authoring of the first three books in the “Love Out Loud” series is a reminder that you have always had the chops when it came to writing, be it research-based, technical, or fictional.
  5. You’ve always been a great self-esteem booster for others, their own personal cheerleader and hype man.
  6. Your heart cares tremendously for those who may not have had the same level of opportunities as you were given.
  7. You are loyal to a fault most of the time.

Having said that, there are a few things we need to work upon.

  1. Your inability to let yourself say what you truly think and feel for fear of rejection or a misunderstanding.
  2. Related to that, your current risk-adverseness is leaving you in the dust when it comes to opportunities both business and personal.
  3. The anxiety you carry around to keep things calm and non-confrontational is holding you back from being a better version of yourself.
  4. The living of an inauthentic life because you’re afraid to ask for what you want and desire.
  5. How you get paralyzed when confronted by thoughts you want to have but believe you shouldn’t acknowledge.
  6. How you let people slip away from you because you’re either too aggressive or too reserved.

Something needs to happen, and I’m not exactly sure where that “boost” will come from. Go to Corner House on Wednesday, have the sit-down with Rachel that you told Stephany you were going to have a month ago., and get your ideas for the OTHER 6 four-years in or abutting the county on the table. See where it goes. Keep reaching out to people you want to make a connection with, and hopefully there will be a positive response. I see the loneliness you carry around and it has to be a pain in the heart to feel like you’re being ignored or unacknowledged. One day at a time, brother. One day at a time.

Scott

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I Am Busted

The last week has seen my emotions spiral out of control and I am truly afraid that I might never return to a normal range of feelings. I had a full-blown depressive episode in public on Friday evening, a second one last night at home, alongside what I would call a “numb” episode on Sunday (imagine talking to a brick wall, where your words aren’t heard and there is no emotional response to them) and a minor panic attack on Monday morning. For all the positives that are occurring for me cognitively and the hurdles I’m clearing to return to a productive existence (getting into individual therapy, getting back to work, my curling blog), they are being outweighed for me by the roller coaster going on in my spirit and soul. The depression and anxiety that are replacing the anger and mental churn/rumination scare me, because they debilitate me rather than motivate me or spur me forward. I feel as though these episodes (starting with the two at the beginning of November that put me into the hospital) have changed my brain chemistry so that future ones come on quicker and with less “stress” and I am less capable to respond to them. Is this possible? I’ll start one-on-one therapy at the end of January (earliest appointment I could get with someone who specializes in Cluster B personality disorders) and have an appointment in two weeks to see if I should/wish to start medication. If I happen to see you over the holidays, and I don’t seem right, know that you’re correct, that I am not right at the present time. I may get back to “right” at some point, I may not. Love me, care about me, and help me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the repaired Scott instead of the one sitting broken in the shop.

18 Inches of Anguish

My name is Scott, and I have a mental health problem. Finally admitting that to myself and others is a bit scary, yet relieving. I’ve never looked down on others who have struggled with things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse caused by underlying issues, or the like, but I have been less-than-patient with them due in no small part to my own unclassified struggles. I never thought I had a problem, that what I recognize now as symptoms were how I was wired. When taken as a whole and translated over the span of my life, they chart up to a condition that, on my good days no one would ever suspect something is wrong but on my bad days makes me a person you don’t want to be around.

My Type-A mindset and ultra-competitive streak can be traced back to childhood. I hit academic benchmarks slightly ahead of others (though not as quickly as high achievers are hitting them nowadays), I was always into sports (though more on the mental side than the physical), I was high-strung and structured, I didn’t get into trouble, and I was looked up to for my smarts. Combined that with what I felt were certain birthrights (fed to me in part by others, but to which I bought in completely), it started the process by which I viewed myself as “superior” to others (based on just those areas where the evidence backed me up) and began what would be a bloodless (or at times bloodthirsty) quest for power and control. It made making friendships with peers difficult because everyone was a competitor, but I was able to seek out friendships with those I felt were clearly above me (to be utilized to help me move up to their level) or those clearly below me (with whom I didn’t have to compete/compare resumes). I wanted to date, but would never put myself out there for fear of failure/not being liked, which I think is chicken-or-egg with my natural shyness/reservedness/borderline introversion.

In adulthood, that mindset would play itself out in a variety of ways. I didn’t care a lot about money, but having it and keeping it gave me security and a tangible scoreboard of my own value to the world. Gaining or seizing power/influence/control would allow me to put in place “the right way” of doing things, but if others couldn’t live up to that standard I felt no use for them and would “do it myself”. It led to inappropriate behaviors (mostly ones played out in my mind, since I am also conflict-avoidant and rules-adhering) and caused problems in relationships with those closest to me. Events in early adulthood came together to propel me deeper into my condition and would see aspects of it manifest themselves. It caused a long-time rift with my sister (which has never been completely resolved), it strained my relationship with my wife (which years later led to me leaving her for a time), and ultimately would lead to my current state of affairs. I attempted to get counseling years ago, but in the end either I was too stuck in my mindset for it to work or the therapist wasn’t showing me how she was attempting to address my condition (don’t know which one is necessarily true, but both are plausible).

This past week in the Partial Hospital Program (all-day programming, but home in the evenings) has helped me in a number of ways. It has extricated me from the environment which triggered my anxiety attacks/mental breakdowns while giving me a supportive place to express what I’m feeling/thinking and to begin learning coping techniques and come to terms with the condition I feel I have always had but couldn’t label as one (I had tried with previous therapists, as mentioned previously). Whether I get an official diagnosis of what I think I have or just a general one that is less-defined/stigmatizing, I have gained access to resources to begin dealing with it so I can move closer to better mental health and living with it (much as one would with high blood pressure or diabetes or a chronic illness). I hope also that this will be the kick-start to improving other areas of my life for my own betterment (though what “for my own betterment” is vs. other motives has never been clear-cut because of my mindset). I go back tomorrow and should be discharged to outpatient care sometime this week. Keep me in your thoughts, reach out if you want, and thank you for listening.

Calling Time

I am very good at telling myself what I need to do, and knowing what should happen, but then not acting on it. On my sabbatical last fall, I said that I needed to re-consider my employment situation and see if something better was possible. Fast-forward a few months and the resulting changes to the management team at my place of employment should have been the signal that I needed to move. The past month, however, has been the 2×4 to the side of the head that was necessary to spur action. After 11 years with my current employer (in a job that was supposed to be six months at most to get us re-settled in Wisconsin back in 2005), I am going to be departing at some point in the near future. The physical, mental, and emotional manifestations of the stress I encounter there on an almost-daily basis make the situation untenable, and since I can’t eradicate the cancer which is causing the distress (and believe that advanced intervention has done and will do no good in relieving it), it’s best that I remove myself from it. I am meeting this afternoon with a couple of trusted men who have gone through job transitions in the past couple of years at around the age which I am now. Hopefully, they will reinforce my own thinking about the situation, share their experiences with moving jobs (or industries) in middle age, and offer some guidance on how to get from Point A to Point B. My sincere hope is that I can land something new soon so that I am able to transition to the new gig following the new year, with my separation from the current one coming prior to the holidays.

If you want more details, feel free to email me (sviar@hotmail.com).

Getting My Mind Back

I had another blow-up at work on Friday, and this one almost got me the ziggy because store leadership actually saw me light up one of my fellow team members. The outbursts have been more frequent in the past couple of months as the higher-ups keep changing our processes for the sake of efficiency, modeling “best practices”, and meeting goal times and payroll, which has caused them to shift my primary work area and not provide sufficient support in that part of the process (goes back to payroll and the best practice issue, but doesn’t change the facts of the matter or the necessity of what is needed to make it work). After stepping back from it and looking from the outside, the main trigger is that the day job is the only thing I have more or less going currently (and that is NOT how I operate), thus leaving me with no place to stimulate my brain or practice creativity like I had when I ran MUSC.

A short day yesterday (made so by that aforementioned payroll problem) left me with a three-plus hour gap between my ending time and that of my wife. When that happens on the weekends, I head home and use the time to take care of housework. During the week, however, I don’t want to necessarily go that route, and doing so would not have helped with my “nothing to do” issue that has been bogging me down. I also realized that if I am serious about my new path back into sports, then I need to block out time to work on it, both as a means of advancing on that path and as a way to use my brain in productive ways that aren’t happening at the day job. Hence, I took what I called a mental health morning and, after a long post-work conversation with a longtime friend of mine (I’ve known him for more than half my life), sat down and started playing with this “spiel-for-all” concept that I have mentioned previously and which I hinted at in my last piece on growing the sport. Got some goals/objectives on paper, jotted out a framework schedule, tested some various sizes of fields (it’s not as easy to fit the format into the desired time frame and meet some of the goals upon which the event would be based). It’s nowhere NEAR ready for public consumption (I need to do a LOT more research and learning about how these events run), but it’s a positive step forward and brought me an odd sense of accomplishment and inner peace.

It’s Tuesday, which means a day off from the store, cheap pizza from Papa Murphy’s to procure, and the weekly run of laundry to handle. The dishes can be done another time.