Exposing Yourself For Career Success

July 8, 2007

I am about to take a chance.  I realize that this posting may have consequences for me in the future in terms of career options, however it is something I must do.  As I have mentioned in previous blog postings, I believe in authenticity and transparency in both business and life and so in keeping with my values I’m going to open up to any readers and tell them a little about myself.  In my Top 100 Goals posting, I had listed a couple of goals that had to do with my involvement in mental health initiatives and had explained that in a later posting I would explain the reasoning behind those goals.  So that is what I am going to do.  Some would say this is career suicide.  Well for those people, I would say that if any potential employer or business partner were to opt to work with me because of what I’m about to write, that’s fine.  I probably wouldn’t want to work with them anyways.  I believe in business that exposing yourself as a person or as a corporation, “warts and all” will be imperative for success in the marketplace in the coming years.  With all the hoopla surrounding the many high profile corporate scandals in the past few years (Enron, WorldCom, Conrad Black’s trial) public perception of the corporation and the corporate exec are in a dark place.  Public trust for large companies is almost nil and that is why I believe being completely transparent now and in the future will spell success for companies willing to take the risk because it allows for trust to develop between seller and buyer, or company and company, etc.  Rather than committing career suicide by discussing some of my struggles in life, I believe this is going to prove to be a wise career decision.  In fact, my struggles have played a huge part in forming the value system I now have, and in fueling my burning desire to change the world for the better.  So here goes.

For those of you that don’t know, my name is Justin Davey.  I just turned 26 last week and have been married for almost a year to my beautiful wife Kaitlin.  We have no children yet as I’m working my way through school at the moment.

I’ll skip the entire life story, but I’ll give a short preface to the tumultuous times.  For the most part, as a teenager things looked promising for me.  I excelled in school without too much effort and was beginning to show promise as a distance runner on the national scene.  After I graduated from high school in 1999, I enrolled at the University of Manitoba receiving both academic and athletic scholarships my first year.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study at the time, which is the case for the vast majority of first year students, but I was pretty sure I would eventually go the Science route, leaning toward a B.Sc. in Biochemistry or Pharmacy.  Throughout my teen years I struggled a little bit with low level depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but it was manageable with medications and probably played a good part in some of my early successes due to my ability to focus on a specific goal to the exclusion of almost everything.  Of course, as an adult that’s not always an attractive characteristic, but as a teenager with no real responsibilities it seemed to help me succeed.  Very soon into my first semester at U of M I could tell something was not right.  I wasn’t able to concentrate on my studies and my athletic performance started to suffer as I would skip training runs due to an extreme apathy that seemed to run right through me.  It felt to me as if a depression was setting in, but this one felt different.  It had a surreal, disconnectedness to it.  Total contrary to my usual character I began to drink heavily.  It didn’t help that there was a bar on campus.  Eventually they banned me due to my erratic behaviour. 

 I still lived at home at the time and my parents were kind enough to cover my remaining tuition expenses after my scholarships.  I made a little extra money by working at a new Italian restaurant near the university, but eventually I couldn’t handle that either.  I had a complete and utter emotional breakdown at work one day and promptly quit.  Not long afterwards, I came home one day and to my parent’s understandable chagrin explained that I was leaving university and no longer running.  Why they asked? I just can’t do it right now was the extent of the explanation I was able to offer.

I had quite a bit of spare time at that point, so I would take a bus downtown almost everyday and just read for hours on end.  I become enthralled by Beat Generation poets and writers such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and especially Jack Kerouac.  “On The Road” strangely became my story as I slipped further into depression.  One day I decided that, being the next Kerouac, I was going to leave life behind, move to Vancouver, British Columbia and roam my way around the world.  I had no money and no plan.  By this time, psychosis had gripped my mind and things started to become pretty hazy.  All I really remember was coming back to Winnipeg a few months later convinced I was dying from a mysterious illness.  I wasn’t but it took a lot of convincing by medical professionals to convince my I was physically very healthy.

Somehow I managed to get through this period without anyone really knowing the extent of my illness as the worst had occurred when I was far removed from family and friends.  I think subconsciously, the need to hide from the truth was behind my Kerouac delusion.  Once back home I settled for a while and decided to try taking some courses via correspondence.  It didn’t work out however as very soon I began to fall into a horrible depression again.  And then I was back in my Kerouacian fantasy world and back in Vancouver.  I found work out there and seemed to be okay for a bit, but before I knew it I was placed in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver and they send me home to my parents, delusional and psychotic.  I lasted back in Winnipeg at home for all of 3 weeks before it was painfully obvious to my family that I was very sick.  Scared and unsure of what to do, my dad drove me to the hospital one night where I spent the next 3.5 months.  At first, the doctor prescribed me with psychotic depression but while in hospital I had what would be my first manic episode and probably my only full blown one.  Despite being heavily medicated I would stay up all night long writing anything and everything.  Before I was completely psychotic I was able to read a book pretty well everyday.  I read some of my writings a few years after and it reminded my of a ticker-tape of my thoughts.  To get a picture of the thought process of a manic person, think of a ticker-tape displaying stock prices, much like the one you see at the bottom of the television screen if you happen to watch CNBC.  Now imagine, you can physically take that ticker-tape and cut it into many pieces and then put them back together randomly.  You end up with a ticker-tape that is virtually impossible to follow but still has a measure of connection between the pieces.  That’s what the writing was like and is very typical in the speech patterns of a floridly manic person as well.  It’s one of the tell-tale symptoms.

It took about 6 weeks to get me back down to a normal level and eventually left the hospital as your classic, overly romanticized manic-depressive.  Bipolar I according to today’s diagnostic manual.  I didn’t return home after my discharge from the hospital.  Mental illness is known for doing a number on families and my followed the usual pattern.  In fact, it’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve been able to begin repairing my family relationships and I still have a ways to go but there is progress.

The next year consisted of further hospitalizations, homelessness, and a descent into alcohol abuse that would have further consequences down the road.  Eventually I sunk back into the worst depression I’ve ever experienced in my life and with no connection to my family or friends, finally in an apartment but lonely, sick and in a chronic alcohol glaze I decided I no longer wanted to live.  One night I wrote an explanation to my parents, drank a huge amount of rum and downed about a month’s worth of anti-psychotic medication, mood stabilizers, and tranquilizers and I don’t remember a whole lot after that.  In a bizarre event that saved my life and began to make sense in the context of further events that occurred later on, I made a phone call that I was supposed to make earlier that morning and apparently collapsed while I was on the phone.  Whoever the recepient of that call was (I don’t remember) called 911 and I was rushed to the hospital barely breathing.  I miraculously woke up in the ICU a couple of days later after not really being expected to live.  In my lost mind, I hadn’t thought of the fact that the date of the attempt was also the date of their wedding anniversary.  While some people argue that suicide is a selfish act, I don’t agree because a suicidal mind can’t see any way out.  It would be selfish if the suicidal person could see other options and see the pain he or she is about to cause and chooses to do it anyway.  When your mind is in that place, you can’t see these facts, making the concept of selfishness completely irrelevant.  However, the guilt of that night weighs on me to this day and probably always will.  Not surprisingly, my parents split up after 27 years of marriage.

I recovered with no lasting damage, apparently due to the strength of my cardiovascular and circulatory system for my years of running.  I spent a couple of months in hospital, had my diagnosis changed to something called schizo-affective disorder.  Typically with bipolar disorder, psychoses only occur at extremes of mood.  At some point my mood returned to normal and my psychoses stayed for a brief period leading to the change in diagnosis.  For all intents and purposes, if people ask I usually stick with bipolar because the difference between the two is insubstantial.  Additionally, schizo-affective disorder, being rarer requires more explanation.

I started to get back on my feet after this.  We had finally found medications that were effective in treating my illness and I was able to find menial work as a first step in re-integrating.  My problem now was since I had self-medicated with alcohol so extensively I was in effect an alcoholic.  I was also still alone which combined with the substance abuse made me vulnerable to be preyed on my those who pretended to give me their friendship.  I stopped taking my medication and this combined with alcohol meant disaster.  One night, after never ever having any legal involvement in my life, under the influence and falling into illness, I along with my “friend” took a vehicle that did not belong to us and in trying to get away from the police who soon were following us crashed the vehicle.  It was a write-off and I ended up spending a few months in jail due to the incident.  I’m still working on paying for the vehicle and just yesterday I did the paperwork for my pardon and waiver to cross the American border.  My actions cost me reputation, employment prospects, potential earnings, and a whole lot of money.

I must clarify that I don’t have a criminal personality.  I would never do such a thing before my illness and I would never do such a thing now.  It happened as a result of poor decision making, illness, substance abuse, and a negative social environment.  While in jail, I began to read the Bible after years of cynicism and non-belief.  It felt like I could rely on the Word it contained for strength.  I also attended church services offered on our range.  I was forced to take my medication so I stabilized and once released started to get back on my feet again.  I found a job and was able to secure a stable living situation for the first time in 3 years.  I began dating my now-wife Kaitlin and while I had no clue what she could possibly see in me and really liked her alot.  Due to her insistence, I was able to quit drinking and took my medications properly.  I eventually found an apartment close to her residence and eventually met her family.  Her family is a very devout Christian family.  I was absolutely amazed that they knew a fair amount about my history and still gave me a judgement-free chance.  I don’t know if I’d have the strength to give my daughter that much rope!  I attended some church services with her family and began to find that it was something I needed.  I resonated with the brokenness so prevalent in the Bible.  I began to see that all of us have a purpose.  We are given gifts and we need to use them to help others

Last summer, Kaitlin and I were married on July 23 and baptized together on August 27.  I have been employed with the same employer for 3.5 years, have maintained a stable living situation and have been miraculously free of serious mental illness since not long after being released from jail.  Even my doctors call it a miracle.

kohoko-879.jpg 

                 Me, Kaitlin, And A Friend Of Ours With Her Daughter

 These days I’m back in school studying business.  I see it as the most powerful tool for social change in the world today by far.  I believe that I can help more people through business than through any other career niche.  And I plan too.  Currently I’m working on a for-benefit, for-profit business serving the needs of the developing world.  I aim to have a initial business plan completed by the end of 2007.

I realize that this posting is very revealing and could have some negative consequences for me.  But I also believe that people see the power in honesty and transparency and I believe telling this story is the best choice.  I don’t believe that it will have any consequences that aren’t positive.  If it ever does have negative repercussions, I am comfortable with the fact that I made a choice that is in line with my values and that no matter what I can still do all I can possible do to change to world for the better.  That is my purpose in life and I will pursue that purpose with a fanatical zeal until my dying day.

Amusing afterthought:  After all of that, I thought maybe I should lighten the mood.  Yes, the title of this posting is a bit of a play on words.  It sounds crude, yet it accurately describes the content of the posting.  I’ve noticed in my early days of blogging that it is titles like this that seem to make it to the first page of sites such as Digg and Reddit.  To tell you the truth, I understandably feel fairly naked right now!  Never, ever take yourself to seriously!

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