A One Year Anniversary, 28yrs In The Making
< This was originally posted on my personal Facebook page on 9/11/2022, but I agreed with my team to repost this to our website to share with The Network community>
I’m multitasking, creating the one-year anniversary newsletter for The Hope For Us Network and organizing a committee for the 20-year reunion of Adlai E. Stevenson High School.
If you knew me at SHS, it's ok if you’re laughing; 16-year-old me is also laughing.
20yrs could feel like a flash or a long time ago. It's a bit of both for me. I decided to take on the reunion while looking at my old journals I wrote from that period.
I’ve kept journals since I was an adolescent and still do today. While skimming the HS collections, I’m reminded that I liked HS…Or rather, I had fun…maybe too much fun if you ask my Dean, Mrs. Ihmels.
Looking back on my journals, two things stand out about these early writings.
One is just how protective and deeply concealed I was of myself.
I never brought the dark stuff into school. The things I didn't know were trauma or, rather, PTSD and all its signatures. I never walked into a party thinking I was “hiding my pain.”
If anything doing anything social was part of the concealment. The looking “normal.”
I was even protective in my journals. When I wrote about dark things or even just partying activities, I would write them in a “code” in case anyone found my stuff.
The code appeared as fictional stories about a character named Ronny the Red Eye Rabbit and his hijinks in the land of Hollowshire (I grew up in a town called Lincolnshire–GET IT).
The second thing is just how deeply obsessed I was with pro wrestling. I’m still engaged, but it was far more anal-retentive when I was younger.
I have consistently journaled since I was 11, and every single journal, until I was about 19 has notes on big title changes and angles. I wrote more about the end of the “Monday Night Wars” in Spring 2001 than I did about 9/11.
There's evidence of tears on the pages when I wrote about Owen Hart’s death in May 1999. There’s evidence of happy tears on the pages I wrote about my hero Mankind/Mick Foley’s first title win Dec 1998.
Aside from the pages of these journals, people didn't see me cry, especially as I entered middle school. As a kid, I always thought of it like wrestling. I knew Undertaker wasn't Undertaker 24/7.
There was a public Carl, and then there was alone real me.
The first journal I kept wasn't my choice. It was a clinician’s idea. When I was in 3rd grade, my parents made a deal with school that if I “saw somebody” to address my explosive behavior, I could stay in dist 103.
It's impossible for me to forget life from 1st to 3rd grade, despite not having any journals to reference.
I saw the clinician from 3rd thru 4th grade, and the district was convinced I was better and no longer causing problems because publicly, I wasn't blowing up anymore…except when fouling out of Springlake Park League basketball games.
I hated writing by the clinician’s mandate. I hated our sessions. I hated getting in trouble for the explosions. I hated that I didn't have the words to explain the explosions. I hated that I didn't have the words to describe the problem from 4 to 9 years old.
Ultimately, I hated being forced to do something with my body I didn't want to do, but I didn't know how to say that to the specialist, my parents, or even myself, and I would come to hate myself the most for not having those words.
It would take me 28 years to find the words.
Twenty-eight years concealed in silence behind smiles, jokes, self-medication, super high-risk behavior, self-harming coping mechanisms, and three ineffective suicide attempts before age 13.
One conversation with one person in the summer of 2006 re-oriented my entire view of mental health (thanks, Jen). It leads to the journey of finding effective therapy. It leads to me building a theory for improving suicide prevention.
Over the past 15 years, I have been committed to mental health, preaching the power of Proactive Prevention.
Last year, I formed a coalition of those who share my convictions that effective mental health care has to be more than a slogan and a wristband. Proactive Prevention is a mindset we must embrace in our daily lives.
In September 2021, we raised The Network’s flag high. As we circle one year in action, our first major fundraiser effort will be a pro-wrestling event; imagine that we're doing it with the fantastic WrestlePro promotion (thanks, Jamie & Kevin!).
There is a significant difference in my journals from before 2006 and after. There is no longer “public Carl,” and “real” concealed me. Just one complete “work is always in progress,” Carl.
Looking at my high school 20-year reunion on the horizon makes it easy to be pensive, but for as much fun as I had, I never felt they were “the best days of my life.”
And I’m sure I'm not alone in that, but I didn't truly begin to enjoy my life until I began to address my mental health.
The Hope For Us Network may seem like a huge gamble on my part as I’m no spring chicken.
But there is no gamble about this. I’ve dedicated myself to Proactive Prevention because we don’t have to wait 28 years.
Together we can educate and teach ourselves to remove the biggest obstacles to mental health care.
Together we can save lives from mental health crises right now.
Together there is Hope For Us!