When I first read that today’s post is a picture of myself, I thought, “No sweat. I’ll knock this out in a few seconds, then get on with my day…” I did not consider that I would need to pick WHICH picture.
I don’t have many pictures of myself. I don’t particularly like to be in pictures. If other people want a photo, that is fine, but I will never ask for a copy for myself. Posed pictures are the worst. I know that in most of the pictures before my therapy began, I was either extremely depressed and/or obsessively trying to think of ways to kill myself. But I learned the photography trick: I just need to pretend to be happy for about 1/100 of a second for the shutter to capture my micro performance of being happy.
This picture was not posed. I was completely unaware of the camera. Instead, I was engaged in a much more elaborate performance: work. In this picture, I am speaking with my boss. We are at an awards ceremony that I helped to organize and execute. Everything about this event was outside of my comfort zone. During this event, I was sick with anxiety and trying to convey calm and confidence when I was hating myself and wanting to die.
This contradiction in thoughts, feelings and performance was a daily dance that I performed at this job. However (and perversely), one of the things that kept me going was the thought that the soldiers and families that we were serving could be going through things much worse than I. So, I would minimize my misery, find some internal strength, and do absolutely any- and everything for the soldiers and their families. My personal motto was, “Never say No. Say, I’ll find a way.”
I was pretty damn good at my job, but it was killing me from the inside… and I refused to acknowledge what was happening. I wanted to believe that if I worked harder, it would get better. I wanted to believe that if I helped the lives of enough other people, that eventually, I would help my own. My needle was on empty, but I still wanted to believe that I could find a way to win. In retrospect, it is little surprise that it would be a work event For the children that would finally trigger a response that would initiate my therapy in a clinic.
Now I have learned that I had my model backwards. I can do much more to help other people when I am strong and healthy first. The idea of putting other people first is fine, but I must remember that I must be fit and able to do so.
Wow! All of that from a photo. I think I may have under-estimated this challenge…