06 Oct Caught in the Quicksand Epilogue: On Solid Ground
Eight weeks ago, I posted part one of Caught in Quicksand. Many thoughts and feelings have swirled inside me since. I was surprised by the reactions I received. Of course, whenever you choose to be vulnerable and share yourself and your struggle with others, there is no guarantee people will respond (1) the way you expect, (2) the way you hope they will, and (3) the way you really need them to, and/or (4) at all (just silence).
Only a handful of friends have reached out to me. Their responses have ranged from:
“I had no idea” to “You should make these posts private.” My brothers were very supportive and told me they were proud of me because it took courage to put myself out there like that. My father asked, “Why would you make something like that public?” My father is from the generation of Americans that never talked about problems publicly, and mental health issues were and are especially taboo. Most people of his generation grew up in a society that hid everything behind closed doors and then created the facade of perfection. Research has shown that in the last 15 or so years, people are becoming more willing to discuss challenges, seek out therapy, and join support groups. The shame is gradually being lifted from all of these issues. I hope this trend continues.
It’s strange and painful to not have the support you would expect from your friends and family members. In therapy, I was told that my friends and family would stand by me because that’s what real friends and family do. These are the people who know me best, who watched me struggle, and who should have had the greatest investment in me. I was shocked that they generally had the worst responses. This can be extremely painful and disheartening.
Conversely, the greatest outpouring of love and support came from complete strangers. I’m receiving messages from people who have told me that my story helped them and gave them hope. Ironically, it is these messages that mean the most to me. It’s interesting that in life you might be born into a family that is supposed to love and support you come hell or high water, but when it comes down to it, the experiences we have in life lead us to people who become closer to us than anyone we share blood with. Life can help us find our tribe — people who really know how to love and support unconditionally because they have been through it and they know how it affects a person. I have yet to find my “people”, but I know I will. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and put yourself out there first. I have taken that first step.
I have felt a mix of emotions. The overarching feeling is relief. I feel like I have been hiding for years — living a lie. I did an excellent job of putting on a facade; no one thought anything was wrong. My close friends and family knew I was struggling but not the extent to which my life was imploding. But complete strangers or people I worked with or around in my industry assumed I was wealthy because I posted about selling my company in 2013. The reality was just the opposite: I was failing and wanting/needing help. I take full responsibility for this. I didn’t trust people enough to share with them what was really happening. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to fix everything on my own before I told anyone what had happened. I wanted to be out of the quicksand, on solid ground, before I let people in on the secret I had been keeping. Having published my story, I feel a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders. I have chosen to be vulnerable and give people a look into what I have been going through. While my primary purpose in publishing this was to help myself continue to heal, I also truly want to help anyone else who is struggling. It can be a very isolating experience.
I chose to share my experiences publicly for several reasons. First, this was an efficient way to share the story with the people in my life that actually do care about me. Sooner or later, they will stumble across it. Second, getting this out of my head and onto paper will allow me to finish addressing it and my healing can continue. Recording life’s journeys and challenges on paper helps clear your mind in a way that nothing else can. Finally, I wanted to come out of the shadows and acknowledge what I have been battling for years behind the scenes. Currently, I am a more public person so I feel obligated to put my truth out there so people not only know who I am but why I am that way.
I feel really good. In a way, my past is behind me more now than it ever was before. Even with all the therapy, I have participated in, posting my struggles in a public forum has helped me accept what happened as part of my life. All of us have chapters in the books of our lives that we don’t want to acknowledge. Many are tempted to rip them out and burn them, but that will not help you grow through your challenges. When shit happens, and it always does, you can use that experience to get better or get bitter. I chose to use my challenges to become a better version of myself, and I am hoping others may benefit from reading my story. I feel lighter and more resilient. I am enjoying the new life that I have – that is built on solid ground.
The Silence Can Be Deafening
It was discouraging not hearing from the people I personally shared this with. When I mentioned the lack of response to my friend, Kyle, he said, “It’s hard for people to converse about personal tragedy. It’s difficult to find words that convey compassion and not judgment. Also, almost any word would seem trite or inadequate as a response to something so big and challenging.” What Kyle said is profound. I know when people share their painful stories with me, I’m not sure what to say. And the fear of saying the wrong thing often leads people to say nothing. I see this as a human weakness, but it is also something all of us need to overcome. Hearing or seeing someone suffering and not doing/saying anything is a horrible response. If we are truly going to make a difference for people who struggle, we need to start saying to them, “I see you. I’m sorry you are hurting. What can I do?”
Do It Again?
If I had to do it again, I’d still publicly share my story, but I would post it all at once instead of in a series. It was a long story and it covered eight years of my life. Personally, I feel like it dragged on . . . but that may be because I lived it and then I relived it when I was writing and reading it afterward. Others told me that they liked the format and looked forward to each week. Regardless, it feels amazing to close that chapter in the book of my life.
I am now on a better path to find my people, my tribe. Often during these painful journeys, we lose people. But, having strong values, standing up for the things that matter, and being willing to be vulnerable about intimate details of your life is the best way to form true relationships and live a healthy life. People will fall away — let them go and wish them well. The people who are best for you and your development will find you and stay. You may be alone for a time, but you will find real family and real friends.
I sincerely appreciate all the support, comments, feedback, and advice I have received from you. Thank you for the time you took to read what I wrote. It means a lot to me.