An Anniversary to Remember

I am not good with remembering special occasions and dates, but I have a few that stick out in my mind. Special anniversaries in this life and yesterday was a big one. It was my 5-year anniversary from going completely bonkers. A combination of extreme and unchecked depression meshed with unethical workplace compromises turned me into a raging open nerve of crazy. It took me a long time to get past. It took a long time to forgive myself. It took a lot of therapy, prayer, meditation, medication, study, grief, continual trauma, PTSD, more depression, terror, and finally acceptance over time.

In quiet moments, I would replay events over and over trying to figure out what happened. I was hoping to find a thread to make sense between what took place and what my crazy brain may have falsely concocted. I imagined filing Open Records requests to get final answers for a full closure but just could not face the idea of revisiting so much that I had already healed. I had taken responsibility for my role in all of it. I had even reached out to those I had worked with and offered apologies for how things ended. I heard back from some, but most never replied.

Two instances occurred this week, reminding me of this past event and just how far I have grown in what feels like decades. The first happened Thursday as a mob of guys who I knew from that workplace gawked, laughed, pointed, and within my listening range, made me their punchline. I could stand there and slowly gulp from my water bottle as I took in the scene before me. They only knew what they heard had happened. I am sure they are unaware of the impact this had on my life and the depths of sorrow, shame, and regret I have carried for all this time. I just stood there, frozen, with my head held high only because I was chugging my water bottle and may have drowned if I did not.

And then I thought, look at them still over there, and I am over here. And five years later, I am in a much better place. I don’t have to wonder if this co-worker is out to get me or if I have to trade another piece of my integrity to keep my job. I don’t have to make alliances at work. I don’t have to kneel and kiss the ring. I don’t have to play the game. And then they became my punchline. I smiled, turned, and got back to work.

The second instance occurred Friday morning as a familiar face found me in a session I had just shared on social media. She had been an insider with certain colleagues in that previous place. She no longer worked there either, but in her time, had been a confidant to my conspirators. Mind you; I wasn’t asking for information. In fact, I tend to give the standard “things didn’t work out” response when asked. But then she shared about her own life and how she felt she needed to make her amends for things she was part of from the past.

She shared how specific people had “relished” in taking me down so well. She knew private conversations. She knew the timeline. She knew the moments, the strategy and was included in the happy hour laughter about my takedown. In less than 15 minutes, she confirmed what I had always suspected but never fully believed people could do unto others.

She outlined the specific crimes I committed in less than seven months on the job:

* I was too successful, too quickly.

* I was recognized by the school board for a successful project.

* I laughed out loud when an administrator asked for my loyalty.

* I was autonomous.

* I refused to bow.

What can I say? I would still be committing these crimes if I was there. But I am not. I was swimming in a pool of sharks and had a bleeding gash of naivety. The herd worked together and finished me off so well that they celebrated their victory. They continued to celebrate how well they took me down during the same time I was wallowing in grief and depression.

It was the absolute closure I needed. As I said, I can admit my crazy and my faults, but I have always felt there was more to the story. There were things beyond my own problems leading up to the end. I just needed verification, and it was received.

Over time, most of the integral people involved in all this have dispersed from that place. I can only hope changes have occurred to hold leaders to be more accountable to ethical standards of conduct in their absence. I no longer blame the institution, but I do fault specific individuals who took bites in the frenzy of it all.

And in the end, all I can do is take responsibility for my missteps. I feel I have and even overindulged my guilt and regrets. And really, this is all closed up for me. No more questions. No more fear. No more reliving regret, shame, and sorrow. I do not need justice. I do not need to hear from anyone. I can only truly hope that those involved in making my life hell live it up in this life as I am certain they will not enjoy the afterlife.

Now I have new anniversaries to celebrate with work and people I am happy to call colleagues and leaders. There were points in my recovery where I doubted I would ever be able to laugh at the past. For a long time, I doubted I would be able to be successful at work again. I accepted at some point that my greatest successes were in the past and I would only be reminded of my old glory days. But in five years, I celebrate not just the recovery but the survival of making it through all of it. In some ways, I am thankful I went through what I did. Don’t get me wrong: it was terrifying and I do not wish it on anyone. But it made me stronger and happier and connected better to family, friends, and my God. And that is all something to remember and celebrate.

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

I remember when
I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that place
Even your emotions have an echo in so much space

And when you’re out there, without care
Yeah I was out of touch
But it wasn’t because I didn’t know enough
I just knew too much…

Cut me and I bleed innovation.