A Story by Derek Johnson
“Sometimes life gives you obstacles. Obstacles that may seem unfair or too extreme. But you are given choices. Break through the obstacles or let the obstacles break you.”
As you have read previously, life might have an interesting way of literally slapping the shit out of us. There are those who break when chaos is thrown into the mix; leading some to think we have lost control. Some of us embrace the hardships dealt by taking the good with the bad. For others, our shortcomings and bouts with misfortune will humble us in ways we never thought possible. Part one introduced a story which highlights several key events we may or have already undergone within our lifetime. Situations that are likely to cause a great deal of strain, and apprehension. Problems which could include a financial burden or loneliness. Perhaps feeling a sense of hopelessness, as complications continue to spiral out of control. Upon hitting rock bottom our fictional character, descends into a psychological purgatory; an internal hell. One more commonly known as the Rabbit Hole; where he becomes a victim to his own negative thoughts and ideas. If you are familiar with the story of “Alice in Wonderland”, then you have heard this expression before and understand what it represents. “Rabbit Hole” is a phrase used to refer to a bizarre, confusing, or nonsensical situation or environment. Typically, one from which it is difficult to extricate, (or free) oneself. Although a little stress may act as fuel for motivation; an overexposure to hardship may prove disastrous. What happens when the levee breaks? You witness a loss of property, homes even lives. For some of us the impact is equally as significant. When we undergo greater levels of stress, we not only witness a mental strain; there is also the physical aspect we must worry about. You may find it difficult to maintain a healthy appetite, receive adequate sleep among other things. What if you no longer find pleasure in the thing you used to enjoy; this could be a sign of depression. Everyone weaves a different tale; however, we all have a story to tell. My story is no different from anything you have or could potentially face in your lives. As I stated in Part I, you are not alone. So, without further ado I would like to share my story with you. This is a tale of my fall into the rabbit hole, an exploration into the darkest parts of my mind. A time in which I had no idea if I could or would ever recover. I want to share some of the hardships I personally experienced. Most importantly I want to share how I was able to overcome these barriers and face my demons head on. There is a lesson to be learned. For anyone who is currently dealing with a life that is complicated: regardless of the situation you encounter: this blog is for you. No matter the outcome there is a story; and I’d like to welcome you: to Life: It’s Complicated, Pt: II My Story
“Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”
-Mandy Hale –
let’s rewind to a time and place when my troubles first began. It started during the holiday season; winter of 2018. Ironically since me and my wife left home back in 2010; the holidays have always proven difficult: This year; was different: this was especially difficult. Personally, no holiday has offered the same sense of enjoyment since my grandmother passed away in 2009. Furthermore, being away from loved ones has proven exceptionally hard for both of us. Yet we’ve always found ways to make the most of them; just her and I. Because I decided to try and provide the best life I could, I had to tolerate suffering which came in a variety of forms. I also knew there would be a substantial amount of pain; this was unavoidable: this was our sacrifice. This lifestyle became bearable primarily because it was routine. As with any routine sometimes we become complacent due to the repetitive nature of things. Afterall we shared 8 years together in marital bliss. Aside from the promotions achieved and periods of relocating; it felt as if little had changed, that was: until now. Yet, reality proved that I was in denial. Change was occurring rapidly; accompanied by indescribable pain. Before arriving in this desolate place; conditions within the relationship had become rocky. They have been for some time now, and it was only a matter of time before it would escalate and implode from the inside out like a blood vessel waiting to rupture. Nevertheless, when my wife told me she wanted a divorce I wasn’t prepared for the unthinkable. I was in the process of mentally preparing to embark on my next big move: while engaged in several critical task. It was here that I’d received my dear john letter in the form of a text message: shocking isn’t it. We all have breaking points and for some it takes a while to reach a PNR (Point of no return). I’ve always considered myself resilient. I thought I had to be; as a husband and a leader but underneath any leadership role. Behind every supervisory position; lies a person. A spirit residing within this human vessel, one who thinks, aches, and feels just as anyone should. For me this was my breaking point. I can only imagine her breaking point must have occurred much sooner in order to want to end things this way. That’s why in the minutes following receipt of this digital letter; while trying to process the initial shock. I found myself isolated from everyone, seated in my supervisor’s office devastated; an emotional wreck. I wanted to pull myself together. I tried to get my emotions in check, but this transitioned into an impossible task, it became abundantly clear the minute the boss returned only to find me in dismay. The final nail that struck this unmarked, unnamed coffin came in the form of a question, two words. “What’s wrong”? It felt like the entire world came crumbling down upon me, as I felt every fiber and muscle in my body tense up. I shattered into a million shards of emotions simultaneously. There was grief, anger, anxiety, there was also the embarrassment of tearing up not only in front of my supervisor; but one who happens to be another grown man. The average male has a complex, we want to be emotionless, fearless, strong but men are only human, and we hurt too. I could tell it made him uncomfortable. It was equally uncomfortable for me. Knowing there was nothing he could do for me at that point and time. He released me for the day so that I could take time to get myself and my thoughts together in the comfort of my own domicile. He made me ensure I’d contact him upon arriving home. To which I gave my word. As I left the office so many eyes began to take notice of my somber appearance. My current state had changed the whole atmosphere within the office, and I knew that I couldn’t waste any time. I had to leave. So, I collected my belongings and without another word I departed the work area in transit to my vehicle. I arrived at the car and upon entering the vehicle; I lost it tears splitting the seams of my eyelids like loose stitches. It was here that I would be re-introduced to lesson one: COMPASSION.
PAUSE: In my line of work, we are taught to know those around us, enough to identify when a change occurs. After all the people standing to our left and right are all some may have. We must never assume we know what anyone may be going through. Nor can we always tell how that change may have altered another’s life and their state of mind. That takes time and energy and let’s face it many just don’t want to take the time to get involved. We all go through things of our own. Perhaps we worry what we might hear may be more than we can bear especially as a leader. Sometimes knowing too much makes others accountable. To be frank maybe others just don’t give a fuck. This is a process: in order to be able to empathize and or sympathize it takes time. You should know how to care but you must also know how to show compassion. When dealing with human beings there’s no guarantee that you will get that sort of reaction you deserve; nevertheless, it’s always a possibility. When I arrived at the car, I received a text message from a very unlikely source. While it was no surprise it was unexpected because my mind was siting dormant in another galaxy; where all I could focus on was the problem at hand. That: was until I read this text.
Hey, all rank aside and army aside. I can obviously see you’re upset about something. If you don’t feel comfortable telling me that’s fine but I just want to tell you that you’re an amazing NCO and I wouldn’t trade, you for anyone else. An incredible leader, a person to lean on and talk to and an even better friend. If you ever and I mean ever wanna talk or go out or just wanna hang out. I am here. Idc, I’m just built that way. I will never turn my back on somebody that I care for. But if you ever feel the need to vent talk about anything just know that I will be there for you.
I’m not here to overinflate myself and my ego. I try to do the best I can by taking care of those around me to the best of my ability. I often preach about the importance of looking out for one another, I’m not claiming I’m great at it, but I’ve done my best because: I Care. I have the capacity to express empathy, sympathy, and compassion because of the things I have personally experienced. Yet I am not always the best at showing myself that same level of attention and care. It was in that moment I realized someone took notice of my pain and was willing to care. That is a rarity based on the environment I’ve been exposed to for a couple years now. Yet it is this same person who has been consistent in his ability to show compassion to those around him; even me. It is his example that has allowed me to see how far an act like kindness reaches. After all, looking at my situation my wife doesn’t seem to care about me. Look at how much she hurt me. Hell, in this moment I didn’t care about myself; However, someone else did; and for the first time in a while this gesture brought some light to an extremely dark situation. In the days that followed others would follow suite from the obvious to the least likely and throughout this period, I realized I may not have set the best example for certain situations, but it is obvious that I’ve done something right. I mean if not who would really care. I doubt anyone would. While I will not name this individual, to protect his privacy. If you ever get a chance to see this, I appreciate you taking the time man. You’re part of the reason I’m in a far better place now right now.
The next day I would meet the chaplain and it would certainly put things into perspective but, nothing about this will be easy, moving forward. In fact, this is the hardest thing I’ve ever endured.This certainly would not be the last time I shed tears this way. I would lose my shit several times as the days and months would pass. For weeks every morning a drive to the place I thought I hated most was grueling, however it was the return to my empty home that seemed to hit me hardest. Although I have experienced much over the course of my 31 years of existence. I have never experienced the sort of hurt we have discussed thus far. There were so many around me willing to help me take my mind off things. It made the first half of my day bearable even while in the place I thought I hated most. But after we would go our separate ways for the day, it became far too easy to get swept under this cloud of darkness and misery everything reminded me of her. There was this hatred I had developed for myself. That had allowed me to dive even deeper into the rabbit hole. I felt I did something wrong, day after day night after night; I beat myself up constantly.
The cerebrum is the part of the brain responsible for our thoughts and emotions. The thoughts that pulsated through my mind became infinite and endless. Try to envision how it might feel to become trapped in a hole that is slowly filling with water. Space becomes limited as you try to grip the sides to climb out. With every step up you slip several inches towards the bottom. As the storm began to roll in over me the days would grow darker. Its only a matter of time before the water engulfs you. Will you drown in a pool of your own making, or will you surface for air in order to escape this fate? Next Up: Life:It’s Complicated part III: The storms of our life.