Saturday, March 4, 2017

Highs & Lows

Life is full of highs, but there are plenty of low points that each person must also deal with throughout their time on this planet.  In the past few days and weeks, I have addressed some pretty amazing highs, but I have also coped with some horrific lows as well.  As excited as I am to reveal a tremendous new chapter in my life, I also feel that it important to address something that carries enough weight that it could potentially save somebody's life.

This is, by far, the hardest thing that I have ever written.  It is also, quite possibly, one of the most honest and revealing things that I have ever written or said.  In writing this, I am not looking for sympathy.  I am hoping that by revealing my personal struggles, I can help others to realize that it is alright to admit that they are struggling and to seek help in those struggles.  If one person reads this and does something to make a positive difference in their life or in the life of others, then I have accomplished what I am setting out to do.  

If you have ever read my blog or met me in person, I exude an appearance of someone that is happy, positive, and looking to make a difference in others' lives.  For the most part, this is an accurate description.  However, there is a darker side of me that I don't let out very often, even to those that are closest to me.  Some things have happened in the past few days that have made me finally realize that I can no longer continue to bottle up my struggles and try to deal with them and hope that I can resolve them on my own. 

I struggle with depression.  Most of the time, I am positive and happy, but I have moments on many days, or even for days at a time, where I do not feel right and I have nothing in the form of reasoning behind why I feel that way.  Triggers for these feelings vary, from times I think about my brother (more on that momentarily) to watching something sad or horrific on the news.  Sometimes, the feelings aren't triggered at all; they just happen.  In the past few days, I realized that I can't continue to go on this way and that I need to seek some help.  

I don't think that this is something that I have always dealt with.  Throughout my life, there have been things that have triggered depression that would happen to anyone.  Breaking up with a girlfriend, getting into a fight with a friend or loved one, losing a loved one, and so many other things have contributed to times of natural depression.  My earliest memory of continuous, unexplained bouts of depression came about around the time my brother passed away in 2010.  Cody had been enlisted in the Army since the fall of 2004, surviving 15 months in Iraq from 2006-2007, then 12 months in Afghanistan in 2008-2009, returning from his tour in December 2009.  During his tour in Afghanistan, he survived an IED attack that left him about 60% deaf in his right ear.   On January 14, 2010, Cody did not report for his morning duty and was found dead in his apartment.  After an autopsy, it was determined that my brother had contracted pneumonia and while sleeping, his lungs filled up with fluid, causing him to stop breathing and eventually succumb to the lack of oxygen.  After his death, I went into a spiral of drinking and eating that was certainly not healthy.  At its worst, I was consuming several beers and whiskey on a near nightly basis.  I was also gaining weight like I never had before.  After about 9 months, I decided it was time for a change.  

I had realized that I had to do something about my weight, so I started attending Weight Watchers meetings.  My leader there not only helped me to start thinking about my food intake and the triggers that cause me to eat, but he also saved me from having to start attending other meetings.  I dramatically cut back on my food intake and drinking nearly ceased.  It eventually led to losing over 60 pounds. However, in the years since, I have gained the weight back, much of which I had attributed to terrible excuses.  I had started to feel better, but I was still having moments here and there of depression, something that I had chalked up to dealing with my brother's death.  

I have never been somebody to talk about my issues.  I am not good about communicating emotions and I also don't like the idea of thrusting emotions and issues on others, not even those that are closest to me, including my wife.  It is a fault for sure.  As much it pains me to admit and will be a shock, I have contemplated taking my life at times.  I have not attempted to, ultimately because I care for my family and friends enough to the point that I couldn't bear to think how it may affect them.  There isn't any excuse for why I have let things build up.  There isn't any excuse for things that I have done or said, or sometimes worse, things that I have not done or said.  I am taking full responsibility for my words and actions and I am seeking professional help.  This week, I went to a therapist and discuss with her many different things that can get to the bottom of why I feel the way that I do at times and to get better.

Now that I have gotten that off of my chest, on to the good news!  Over the past several weeks, I have applied for several administrative positions at schools throughout my district.  Most of them were at high schools, but a couple was at middle schools, and one was an elementary position.  On Wednesday, February 22, I learned that I had been appointed to a new school, where I would serve as one of the deans of students.  I had about 36 hours between learning of my appointment and starting my new position, so it was a hectic 36 hours.  I am very grateful for the past few months at my previous school and I look forward to the new opportunity.  Since my appointment, I have jumped off of the board into the deep end of a pool of lava, learned a ton, met some great people, and I am starting to get to know middle school kids for the first time in my career.

Because the new position will be very demanding, my frequency of posting may suffer for a bit.  Once I get into a routine, I will be sure to continue to share my learning and experiences.

Until next time, please share my story, not to sympathize, but to help somebody come to the realization that it is okay to seek help if you need it.  Thank you.