“Self-knowledge is the first step to maturity.”
I love this quote by Jane Austin. I mean, in the end, it’s a pretty simple concept. The more we know and understand about ourselves, our motivations, behaviors, etc…the healthier we respond to the world around us. It sounds pretty easy, right? Yeah…wouldn’t it be nice if it was that easy?
Unfortunately, it is never that easy.
When I went out of work for my surgery at the beginning of September, I thought I had everything in place and was as mentally ready as I was going to be for what was to come. I had worked with my counselor. I had everything lined up at work. Had my support system in place. I was ready. In some arrogant moments, I literally thought I had everything in place to get through surgery and prepped for my return to work and beginning my new life. I thought for sure I was all set and ready to go, other than some last minute shopping.
I was so horribly wrong and unprepared for what I was about to encounter. As a result, I trusted some people I shouldn’t have trusted, isolated myself from people who I should have leaned on…and hurt some people that I shouldn’t have hurt. And in the end, I left myself feeling incredibly alone, isolated and afraid during one of the most challenging times of my life. I also hurt some people I care about by not being present for them.
As I shared an apology with to one friend last night, and I believe I have shared here in my blog before, my family dynamics taught me some truly atrocious coping skills. In my family, my needs were often not listened to or I was flat out told to be quiet. If I did manage to express my worries, concerns and needs, I was typically told that my needs came second to the family, my mother’s or someone else’s needs. What that resulted in was by the time I reached college, I didn’t know how to ask for support. So over the past few weeks, as my stress levels and anxiety continued to spike…I remained quiet.
Additionally, I was never taught to accept praise or how to accept support as a child. I have been incredibly slow responding to many of your comments on Facebook. A lot of that is because I struggle with feeling like I am worthy enough to garner praise and then, when it is given, I struggle with how to respond to it. I share this because I worry at times that I may not seem appreciative enough for all of the support and sweet words so many of you have shared with me. Granted, some of my delay in responding was the light sensitivity I had follow surgery. But even with that, I would also read so many of your comments and cry, not knowing what to say and struggling to figure out if I was worthy of your words. That also lead to me stepping away.
Then there was being hurt by someone I trusted. The details of the incident aren’t important and I don’t believe in airing dirty laundry publicly anyway. But after letting someone in, closer than I should have, and having them hurt me the way they did…well, it was a crushing feeling. So what does someone like myself do in a case like that? Probably the last thing I should do…withdraw from those who do genuinely care about me. Talk about a horrible coping mechanism.
And lastly was both the anxiety of every day at work plus the fact so much of my personal life is just out on display in RL.
Some may not believe it, but in RL, I am an incredibly private person. There aren’t many I open up to and few TRULY know who I am inside. Along with the struggles I mentioned previously, I have this huge fear of abandonment and because of that, and also as a result of the gossiping and back stabbing that my ex-wife resorted to during our divorce, I hold things incredibly close fearing if others knew the true me, they would run for the hills and leave me. It’s a truly nasty cycle to live in and one I am not proud of at all.
Between that and the fact I am bombarded with so many questions about my transition at work, I pretty much shut down. Part of it has been fear and part of it has been exhaustion. I mean, forget about the fact I returned to work and went right into nine straight days in the office. But there also was all the questions as my computer logins and emails didn’t match the name in my signature file. There is the fact that as I walk through the halls of the hospital, people recognize me and I am bombarded with 100 questions. Some people have been amazing. Like today, I have been in the Command Center all day due to an incident here at work and the Chief Operating Officer came up to me. He never once asked the personal questions I get asked so frequently. He just pulled me aside, told me he was glad I was back and proud of me…wanted to make sure everyone was treating me well…and made me promise to come to him directly if I had any issues.
In all honesty, that was one of the best first encounters I have had here at work. He never asked a personal question. He didn’t want to know the full story. He was not playing 20 questions with me. So, after that conversation, I had to excuse myself to go cry.
For an introvert who remains so private in RL, having all of these personal details put out there in the open for everyone to see and know is emotionally, and ultimately physically, exhausting. It makes you feel weak and tired. It makes you question yourself. Doing the soul searching I did to reach the realization that I had to take this path to be the real me was a true journey of self discovery in and of itself. But in the end, that journey to self discovery didn’t even compare to actually living it.
I share all of this not to make any excuses to anyone I may have hurt or let down since having my surgery. I know for a fact I have hurt some friends and I have, in the end, isolated myself from some. Regardless of my past and my poor coping skills, it was ultimately my decision to make poor choices that impacted some of my friendships. I made the choices to not communicate well with people I needed to communicate with. I made the choices to withdraw and ultimately leave myself feeling more isolated.
But that’s the great thing about both true friendships and self discovery.
I’ve learned a great deal about myself…how I still react to some situations in poor ways and changes I need to make. I have also learned the power of forgiveness and true friendship. I have rediscovered something in me that I lost though all of the chaos of this transition. I have been reminded of the power of love of friends and family and, as I have spent the past few days looking back on things, I am finding my faith in humanity is being restored on this journey despite how exhausted I am at times.
Last night, I was swapping messages on Discord with a friend about who was the more amazing woman. My friend, well…she was determined to win the argument and in the end had me in tears with what she had to say about me. I couldn’t even respond to what she said except to tell her to kiss my ass for making me cry. lol But you know what? This morning, as I was struggling to get out of bed and come to work, not wanting to face another day of questions, arguing with IT, etc., I pulled up the conversation she and I had last night. Her words helped give me the strength to make it out of the door today.
Having said all of this, I want to say a few things…
First, to my friends who I have withdrawn from or hurt over these past six week, I am sorry. For those of you who I have spoken with and have forgiven me, thank you both for listening to me and for your forgiveness. I know forgiveness is optional…so the fact you chose to forgive me and still see me as your friend is a precious gift.
Next, to those of you who have supported me…I cannot thank you enough for your words. I may struggle at times to truly believe what you say to me, but I am trying. I say this because I am awkward at times because of not knowing how to react. It’s something I am working on and thank you for pushing me to be better every day.
To those of you in my inner circle who have stood beside me…who I have shown the darkest and ugliest pieces of myself to…thank you for seeing me differently than I see myself. Thank you for standing beside me. Thank you for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself. I just…I love you so much. ♥
I’m working to get my head on straight and hopefully some normalcy will come soon that will help to take away some of this anxiety I am experiencing. I’m working on it. Thank you all for being patient with me as I work to rediscovery who I am yet again. ♥
See it on Flickr.