Questions for Reflection
In each episode, we offer you a few prompts to think about how that day's conversation applies to you. Our supporters over at Buy Me a Coffee now have exclusive access to the PDF versions of all our Questions for Reflection. Join us today!
Beth Demme (00:03):
Welcome to the Discovering Our Scars podcast,
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:06):
Where we share personal experiences, so we can learn from each other. I'm Steph.
Beth Demme (00:09):
And I'm Beth.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:09):
I've been in recovery for 16 years and am the author of Discovering My Scars. My memoir about what's done in the darkness eventually comes to light.
Beth Demme (00:16):
I'm a lawyer turned pastor who's all about self-awareness and emotional health because I know what it's like to have neither of those things.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:23):
Beth and I have been friends for years, have gone through a recovery program together, and when I wanted to start a podcast, she was the only name that came to mind as co-host.
Beth Demme (00:30):
I didn't hesitate to say yes because I've learned a lot from sharing personal experiences with Steph over the years.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:36):
We value honest conversations and we hope you do, too.
Beth Demme (00:38):
On today's show, we're going to have an honest conversation titled. Discovering My Scars:"Chapter Two.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:44):
Then we'll share a slice of life and the show will close with questions for reflection, where we'll invite you to reflect on the conversation in your own life.
Beth Demme (00:51):
Okay, so chapter two, which means there was a chapter one, right? Chapter one was two episodes ago.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (00:59):
Yes. We have started a series that will be broken up by other episodes, but we are going through my book, Discovering My Scars, and we're going chapter by chapter and we're going to play the audio recording from the audio book, and then we will talk about it and discuss some more background information, and there you go. Today we're doing chapter two.
Beth Demme (01:24):
Yep, and I'm excited about this chapter because we're going to meet somebody who we've had as a guest on the podcast.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:29):
Beth Demme (01:29):
So, I think that'll be good.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:30):
Cool. Well, we can definitely reference that. Very cool.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (01:34):
Chapter Two, High School. Where do you begin? When you have a lifetime of memories that precede an event? My childhood was filled with two present parents, a brother, and a nice group of friends. We lived in a quiet neighborhood with a big backyard where my brother and I would frequently dig big holes because why not? I had a best friend right across the street who I hung out with daily, jumping on her trampoline, playing in her tree fort, or making pretend music in our band with instruments we made out of cardboard. Most of life was fun, but school was a challenge in first grade. My dad and my school diagnosed me with dyslexia, a learning disability. This meant I had to work harder than my friends to learn. I adapted though and didn't let it hold me back. Although I can't remember a lot of my childhood, life seemed pretty good most of the time as an elementary age girl.
Beth Demme (02:30):
Okay, so I want to stop you there. First of all, I want to say that your opening sentence in this chapter, "where do you begin when you have a lifetime of memories that precede an event?" That's a great hook. Well done.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:40):
Beth Demme (02:41):
Really like how you started this chapter. Had you ever heard of dyslexia? I can't imagine as a first grader you had any concept of what that was, except maybe that it was part of your dad's work.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (02:53):
Okay. Well, they actually never called it dyslexia when I was younger. They didn't use the term dyslexia. They just said I had a learning disability, so that's what we used for most of my life, and then it wasn't until I got older that I learned that the term is dyslexia. I had heard it off and on through the years of, dyslexia is where you see things backwards. I never really thought of myself as having dyslexia. I've just thought I had a learning disability, but in actuality, all learning disabilities in reading and writing are dyslexia and it's kind of a spectrum, and I still can't tell you if I see things backwards. The way that they describe dyslexia as seeing things backwards. I don't know. I don't think dyslexia is as cut and dry as we try to explain it in the media and stuff.
Beth Demme (03:43):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:46):
I don't know. I don't know how you see a word versus how I see a word, so I can't tell you. I have a friend that is colorblind, not colorblind, just can't see certain colors or certain colors messes up.
Beth Demme (03:56):
That is colorblind.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (03:57):
Colorblind? Yeah. We were building a Lego set together and he would ask, "Is this gray?" and I'd be like, "No, that's green." And then, there was multiple steps where he had to go back because he put the wrong color in because he thought it was orange, but it was red or something. He doesn't know what orange looks like to me because he only knows what it looks like to him, so maybe I do see words backwards based on how you see them, but I just know I read slower. It takes me longer to comprehend things, to write things, that's all I know.
Beth Demme (04:32):
Do you remember first grade? Obviously, you remember that's when the learning disability was diagnosed, but do you remember school being hard or feeling like it was harder for you than other kids?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (04:44):
My brother is very intelligent in the ways of school and all of that very standard smart kind of thing, so I always had that bar to compare myself to, and I never got things as quick as him, and even certain words he would say or my friends would say, and I would have no idea what they meant because they just pick up on stuff so much quicker, but I do remember first grade... I didn't go into this, but in first grade my teacher was pregnant, so she was there at the beginning of the year, and then she was there at the end of the year and then there was a sub or something, I guess, in the middle, and she realized I hadn't progressed from the beginning of the year and it was very noticeable because she hadn't been with me in the middle, and that's how I was diagnosed was, my teacher told my mom's like, "Maybe you should test her."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (05:39):
I do remember being tested a lot. My dad tested me because he's a psychologist, but the school wouldn't recognize his testing because of him being family, so I had more testing done through the school and through FSU. I had a bunch of testing done. I didn't really know... I was in first grade, so I didn't really know why I was doing it. I just knew I had to do it, and I can't remember, I think it was second grade, I actually had to do summer school because I was slower than everybody else. Summer school usually is a punishment because you didn't do well in the school year, but for me, I did well. I did my best and my best obviously wasn't good enough. I had to keep learning more, but my parents bought me a membership to Discovery Zone, which was an indoor playground.
Beth Demme (06:26):
I worked there.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:27):
Yes, and Beth and I were best friends back then. She would-
Beth Demme (06:33):
That would've been hilarious.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:35):
Wouldn't that have been hilarious if we remembered each other somehow?
Beth Demme (06:37):
I worked there in 1994-95.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:43):
That was probably when I went.
Beth Demme (06:44):
Yeah, that's hilarious.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (06:45):
Because I can't remember what year of school it was, but that was probably, I still have my card somewhere, but anyways, they bought me that as a way to show that it was not a punishment and they explained to me and I never felt like it was a punishment, but it was not cool that I had to go to summer school when I did my best, but then I got to go to Discovery Zone, which was fun, so it all worked out.
Beth Demme (07:10):
Hannah was actually diagnosed with dyslexia at around the same age. It was actually second grade, but in kindergarten her kindergarten teacher told us, "I've been at this for 50 years and I just..." In fact, she was retiring.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:28):
Beth Demme (07:29):
She really had-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (07:30):
Okay, 50 years.
Beth Demme (07:30):
She really had dedicated her life to it, and she was like, "So they'll tell you they can't really officially diagnosis this until she's a little bit older, but she's got a learning disability and it's reading related, but she's amazing and wonderful and smart and all that. It's just, she's going to be harder for her to learn to read," and that proved to be true. It was just interesting to me to know that, that happened for you in first grade because of my experience with Hannah, and then also, I just wondered what it felt like for you to be different from your classmates at such a young age, because I think that was formative for Hannah watching it as her mom.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (08:10):
It really wasn't something that was like a super sore spot. I think the school did a really good job at giving me the extra attention, but not pointing it out. I do know that I think in third grade they wanted to put me into a class that had all students that were struggling and my mom really fought to have me in a typical classroom because she didn't think I would get the education I needed in that class, and that proved to be perfect and correct, and the class I ended up being in, my teacher won teacher of the year that year, because she is an awesome teacher. I would always be pulled out for like an hour or two a day to go to an intense class where it was just me and two other people with one teacher that I would have more reading and writing. And then, after school and in the summer times, my parents hired a tutor that I would go to their house and they would teach me some more stuff. There were some computer programs here and there that I would do.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (09:10):
So, I always got extra attention. My parents did a good job at making sure I had what I needed. I personally think that as I get older, I feel like things are easier for me now, but I think it's because I've heard more words and I've lived more life, so I've experienced more words, but I don't necessarily comprehend more words. I'm not really learning them from books. I hear them and I've seen words so much that I know how to spell them now or which letters go in what order, but I do think there's a point where, I do think I still learn every day new things, but I don't think I learn in the ways that other people learn in reading and writing. I think there's only so far I can go and I think life is easier now because I don't have to read and write as much as I did in school.
Beth Demme (10:01):
For a grade.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:01):
Beth Demme (10:02):
You're not being graded on it, so you're not constantly being evaluated on it, but you wrote a whole book.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (10:08):
Yeah, it was hard, and I had a lot of editors helping me, too.
Beth Demme (10:13):
Yeah, but also, and you've talked about this before. I don't remember if you talk about it in the book, but I know you've talked about it here on the podcast that the coping mechanisms that you learned, and the fact that you had to work harder, you learned to work hard, and you're willing to put in that work and it paid off, and I know we need to move on and get back to the recording, but I also want to say that you kind of describe your childhood here on the one hand as sort of idyllic. You live in this quiet neighborhood, you've got two present parents. You've got a nice group of friends. Your brother is around. You guys like to dig holes together. You've got a friend just across the street that you're doing cardboard band with. All of that sounds really good, but then you say that you don't remember a lot of your childhood. Do you think that you remember less of your childhood than an average person?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:03):
I have no idea because I only know me. I know my brother remembers everything and he has a very good memory. He can remember things from when he was a baby. I can only remember certain things from childhood. A lot of things I remember is because there was video of them and so, I can see it. I don't know. Do you remember a lot from your childhood?
Beth Demme (11:25):
I feel like I don't remember a lot, but I remember more than a lot of people. I don't know if that makes sense, but my husband doesn't remember birthday parties and there are pictures. I know that his parents threw him birthday parties or had family birthday parties at least every year, but he really doesn't remember any of that kind of stuff, so I don't know, just wondering what people really remember.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (11:51):
Something weird that I remember so fondly... Two things, which probably makes sense with what I do today, but in our first house in Tallahassee, in our garage, we had the best shelving. It came with this shelving... On every wall, had all this shelving and it was so amazing. You could just put so much stuff up there and it was full of stuff, and I still remember that and I still one day want to do my garage like that. It doesn't make the most sense because then you can't hang other stuff on it, and I don't know if I have any pictures of it, and I don't know if it was as great as I remember, but I just remember the storage was so nice and I was like, that's how a garage should be.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:27):
And then, I remember that we had a shed in the backyard and the shed was like the coolest thing because it was like a-
Beth Demme (12:33):
It was? It wasn't scary? I thought you were going to say it was scary.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (12:35):
No, well, no, it was cool. It was unfinished. So you could see the studs, which was cool, so it was like the inside of a building. You get to see how it's made. I mean, I do remember it kind of smelled and it was hot, but we didn't really use it for storage, so my, my parents let me use it as a fort and a hangout area, and there wasn't lights. Now, I would've totally, as an adult, I would've been like, "We're going to make this great. We could have run electricity out there. That would not have been hard.
Beth Demme (13:04):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:04):
At least run a cable, come on, but I remember those two things fondly, and I still want to build a shed, but I don't really have a place at this house, but I want to have a shed one day. Bring back that childhood joy of the shed. When I was in middle school and high school, life got harder. My parents took notice, and when I was 14, my dad gave me a test for depression. He had given me many psychological tests over the years. It was how he practiced his new children's test. I was his test subject. The tests were for intelligence, memory, attention, et cetera, but this was different. The depression test was not for practice. Dad gave it to me to see if I was damaged, to see if I was sick, like his patients. After dad scored my test, he delivered the results in his work voice.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (13:56):
Mom was sitting to his left. Have you ever had a doctor speak down to you, maybe scold you for not exercising like you should, maybe make you feel like they have a higher place in the world because they have doctor before their name? Well, all that and more is what my dad's work voice sounds like. It's very patronizing and even has a little chuckle in it, as if to say, I know so much more than you. Every word that comes out of my mouth has so much more value than what you say. I might as well call him by his professional name. Dr. Lawrence, because there's no trace of my dad when he talks to me like this. Alas, the test results weren't good. They showed that I was deeply depressed. I had a mental illness. Then, Dr. Lawrence proceeded to go through my answers to the fill in the blank questions and told me the answers he felt were most troubling.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (14:47):
"Why did you write this?" he asked me. "What did you mean by this?" he kept repeating. "I don't know." I answered. I said that because I really didn't know. I had answered the questions quickly as he had instructed and didn't think a lot about them. Yet, now he wanted me to think why. At 14, I didn't know why. I didn't know what was causing me to be depressed and I didn't understand my overwhelming emotions. This news upset my parents, so I tried to act happier around them. My emotions scared me. I didn't know how to handle them, so I shut them down. I did my best to ignore them and fill my time with other activities. I must have put on a really good show because eventually, no one asked if I was depressed anymore. My parents let the depression results drain from their thoughts and didn't seek further treatment for me.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (15:40):
This was the worst. Oh my gosh. I remember this test. I had had so many tests before and I remember taking this test and it was the worst, and I was honest on the test because I knew you're supposed to... I was very trained on how to take psychological tests because I had been doing it from childhood, either for real testing or just for my dad to learn how to administer a test, because that's what he is. He's a psychologist, but that's all he does is administer tests, psychological tests, which I think people don't always fully understand. That is solely his job. You don't lay on a couch and tell him your problems. He just gives you a test, and the scoring is crazy. You have to have a PhD to know how to score these things because they make it complicated. He's shown it to me before and I'm just like, this is so unnecessary, and I made him actually, an excel spreadsheet that will calculate all of these weird numbers for him recently, because they're just stupid.
Beth Demme (16:48):
Yeah. You say you were his test subject, but a less generous description would be guinea pig. Did you feel like a guinea pig?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (16:59):
It wasn't horrible. It was just boring because it would take hours and hours because he's learning to do it. He would fumble and have to figure out stuff, and like I said, these psychological tests are written by psychologists and so they're overly complicated, unnecessarily complicated, so he would have to try to figure them out and it would take hours. It'd be boring, but I don't know. I was just expected, but I don't remember despising it so much. It just kind of was. This is what we do in the family. We're supporting our dad. Okay.
Beth Demme (17:35):
You were so compliant. Another kid might have been like, that is boring. I'm not doing it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (17:41):
I can't remember complaining, but that also sounds like something I would've don, is complain, but I don't know. It was just like, this is what you do and that's how DIY projects were when I was growing up was, we need these projects done. We don't have the money to pay somebody, so we're going to do them, and that was what me and my mom would do because my dad has no skills beyond psychology, so his words and so I'll repeat them. It was just like, this is what we do. This needs to be done, so I guess that's how it was with the test, too.
Beth Demme (18:10):
How did you know this wasn't a practice test and do you think that it would've been different if you had thought of it as a practice test?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:18):
I had taken so many tests over the years. I also thought the results were interesting. That was also part of it was, it was kind of interesting to see where I ranked in different ways. I don't know for sure that I knew this wasn't a practice test. I think it might have been hush tones, like I'm going to give you this test, but it wasn't very clear that I'm testing you because you need to be tested. I think it may have been where I thought I was just doing... What I wrote. I don't think I knew at that time. I don't-
Beth Demme (18:48):
This is the benefit of hindsight. This is, as you're looking back, you're like, oh, he gave me that test because he wanted to see if I was damaged.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (18:56):
Yeah, and he actually still has all of the test forms. When I was writing my book, I asked if he had them and he's like, "Yeah, I can get the file out," so I've seen them and that's where I learned some of these things that I didn't realize. I remembered things, but then I was able to actually see the test. I didn't know I was tested at FSU for a learning disability, but that's where he had the test still from that, so I don't know. It was very much like, and also at 14, I don't understand what depression is really and I don't understand the complexities of all of this. I have my niblings now. We've had them over the summer and we will be watching movies and there's stuff that will happen in movies that I'm like, as an adult, I get what that is, but then I realize, they don't get what that is and they won't get what that is until they're older and just the complexities of that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (19:50):
So for me, I don't think I truly understood what this was, but like I said, I could tell that my parents kind of were acting upset at this news, so maybe I need to act differently. I could tell that. I think kids are in tune to their parents' emotions and can tell, well, they're happier when I do this, so maybe if I do this, then they won't seem concerned. It's almost how kids learn to lie is by seeing how their parents react to the way that they are acting, so nothing was changing, but I knew that if I smiled more, then they would seem less stressed. Didn't mean I wanted to smile more or felt like smiling more, but that made them happier.
Beth Demme (20:37):
Yeah. You wanted to elicit a different reaction from them, and so you changed your outward presentation, I guess. Your dad has read your book...
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:51):
Beth Demme (20:52):
Did he know that he had a work voice or was that news to him?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (20:56):
We didn't comb through every single section, so-
Beth Demme (20:59):
No, that's fair. No, I guess I'm asking if he brought it up, if he was like, "Oh, my work voice. I didn't think about that."
Stephanie Kostopoulos (21:03):
He did not bring it up, but I do think if I brought up this section, if I read it to him, I think how he would react would, he would do the exact little chuckle and be like, hahaha. I think he would do the work voice in a response to the work voice. I think that's what he would do, but I didn't comb through everything with him, but he read it and he's proud of the book, and he was proud that I was able to reflect on everything.
Beth Demme (21:32):
Well, I remember it used to be kind of a joke among moms when my kids, especially when my kids were smaller, everything would be going fine, and then I'd get on the phone, and all of a sudden the kids would need me, and it's like, oh, they heard your phone voice. "Oh yeah, when mom's got her phone voice on that's the time to interrupt her." When I was reading about work voice, it made me think of that. Also, I do know the doctoral work voice. I've heard this voice from doctors, not necessarily from Dr. Lawrence, but from doctors, and I think that the intention might be to come across as someone who has authority, but it can certainly turn patronizing very quickly, and that's what you're describing here. You say it's very patronizing and even has a little chuckle in it. So yeah, I can kind of hear it.
Beth Demme (22:24):
I want to ask you another question and this may not be the right time to ask the question. You may tell me that we need to wait and talk about this later, but as you look back on this time to when you were 14 and you were diagnosed with depression, do you think that was typical 14 year old, middle school, middle school to high school kind of development and finding yourself, or do you think that it was related to things that had happened to you that at that time you weren't able to remember?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (22:57):
I don't think it was typical. I didn't see my friends going through the same struggles. I think there's levels of moodiness and I don't want to do stuff and just puberty that I think we all go through, but there was just, I can't even describe it, of what it was that was going on with me, and it wasn't at 14 I was depressed.
Beth Demme (23:23):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:26):
That's when they noticed enough to give me a test. That means it had been going on for a very long time for them to finally be like, okay, we're going to test her for this. I think what I was experiencing was probably deeper than, it wasn't just puberty. It was probably atypical for someone of that age.
Beth Demme (23:44):
Okay, and probably the test knows how to... The test accounts for that in some way, I would think.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (23:51):
Yes, and the test is based on age groups as well. That's why, I can't remember how he described it, but it was major depression, was the description. It was high, high levels of everything, and that was specifically for my age group. I guess in the results, yes, it was not typical for my age group to be that depressed.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:13):
I joined the Girl Scouts when I was eight years old and loved it. The smell of a roaring fire, s'mores, and dew in the morning always remind me of scouts, but freshman year of high school, that fun was about to end. My troop had a falling out and just two of us were left. I couldn't say goodbye to the camp outs, service projects, and being silly with my friends yet, so I did some recruiting. I planned a sleepover and invited some of my new high school friends. I didn't tell them what I was planning. I just invited them over for some fun. Ultimately, out of the 10 girls I invited to my recruitment sleepover, five of them wanted to join the troop, so the troop was back seven girls strong.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (24:55):
Even though we were in high school, we still had to sell girl scout cookies. We found it hard to sell them in front of the grocery store since we weren't cute six year olds anymore. No matter. We decided to sell cookies at our high school. I don't know many people who would be comfortable selling girl cookies at their high school, but my friends were. We sold so many cookies, after just a few days, we didn't have to sell much more. That's what I loved about my ladies. They were not embarrassed to do out of the box things and have fun with it. Girl Scouts was really what saved me through high school. That was something where we had a set meeting on Mondays and we would get together and we would just be silly and have fun and earn badges, and that was something that I could really put my energy into, so for me, Girl Scouts was everything. I loved it.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (25:49):
I learned so many skills from Girl Scouts that I still use today, and in Girl Scouts, they have something called a gold award, which is the equivalent to eagle award, but no one's heard of it, and that was something that I worked towards pretty much my whole high school time was my gold award, and I ultimately earned it, and that was something that in every job I've had since graduating high school, it's on my resume and people ask about it, because they've never heard of it, and I get to talk about it and I've always gotten the job. It was definitely something that I learned a ton from and I still think of it fondly, and I'm still friends with the Girl Scouts. I was just texting with one of them today, and actually, we've had two of them on the podcast, two of the Girl Scouts. We had Emily and Megan and they were both in my Girl Scout troop.
Beth Demme (26:42):
I think it's so great that it was something you wanted and instead of just going, okay, well, it didn't work out, the troop split up, there's only two of us, that you made the effort to recruit and to build a new troop at an age where most people wouldn't think to do that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (26:57):
I really like to break the norms for stuff. Shocking, but one of the things that I kept hearing through my girl scout life, like as a child and growing up was, "Once you're in high school, you probably won't be a girl scout anymore. You'll get new interests," and I heard that and I was like, no, that's not going to happen to me, and of course it did happen. There was only two of us left and I was like, no, we're going to still have fun. We're still going to be a girl scout. I'm not embarrassed by this, and the other girl in the troop, she wasn't embarrassed by it, and so I was like, well, let's recruit our friends and we're going to tell them how cool Girl Scouts is, and it still does shock me that five girls were like, "Yeah, let's be Girl Scouts," and we're a freshman in high school, and they're like, "Yeah, Girl Scouts, that's fun." It does seem odd, but that's what I loved was, I love to do those kind of things where it's like, this is something that people usually get out of or aren't into, or don't think it's cool anymore. I'm like, I'm going to make this cool, and so I did.
Beth Demme (28:00):
You actually talked about getting your gold award back in episode 76. We have an episode called Girl Scouts is More Than Cookies.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:06):
Beth Demme (28:06):
And you talked about it some and the gold award, that was like you're saying, it was new to me. I know about eagle scout projects and I'm hoping that an eagle scout wannabe, is going to pick my church for his project, so I know about eagle scout projects, but the gold award was new to me, so that's cool.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (28:29):
During my sophomore year of high school, 911 happened. As bad and unimaginable as it was, my brother had joined the air force just weeks before and was in basic training. He called us the night of the attacks, just long enough to say that he was okay. I felt a pain and sadness I had never experienced before. I couldn't wrap my head around so many innocent lives being lost. I still can't imagine what it must have been like on the streets of New York that day and what people can never unsee. In my head behind all that sadness and destruction, was my brother, alone, away from the family, on a military base with little training under his belt. Questions kept swirling in my 15 year old head. Are the bad guys going to target military bases? Are they coming for my brother next? Does this mean war? Does this mean my brother is going to war shortly after he finished basic training, he was sent to Afghanistan.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (29:30):
That was a hard time emotionally for me, the emotions I had shut down so well came roaring back stronger than ever. To cope, I journaled a lot and wrote letters to my brother. We wrote things to each other that we would never say in person. I had less fear sharing my deep feelings with him. I guess the fear that I might not ever get to say those things to him was greater than the fear of expressing them. Most of my high school career was made up of making videos. I took a TV production class my sophomore year and knew production was for me. Making videos was a way to share my feelings with the world in a way I couldn't do with words. With video editing, I could craft a story out of nothing. Early on, my parents saw this passion in me and invested in a professional video camera and iMac computer. They joke that I never needed braces, so my video equipment was paid for, with the money they had set aside for that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (30:30):
I spent hours behind my camera and editing on my Mac. I never had a computer before that I enjoyed using. Computers were always just tools that I had to use for school, but not my Mac. I fell in love with the process of video editing, capturing files, moving each frame, creating a story and exporting it for others to see. I didn't feel depressed when I was working on productions. I felt whole. I felt complete. I didn't know what, and I didn't know how, but I knew my life's work would involve production in some way. Video production became my passion. As high school came to a close, I would see depression in another person for the first time. My girl scout friend, Megan, who just happens to share the same name as one of my college roommates.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (31:18):
My Volvo was packed with four suitcases for spring break. A safety whistle dangled around each of my friends' neck and my own, gifts from my mom that we planned to ditch when we arrived in Orlando. This was the first spring break with no parents, hanging out with my girl scout friends for five days at Disney, but after we made the four hour drive and spent a day in the parks, I saw Megan change. She became a shell of her former self. She didn't want to talk to us. She didn't want to be around us and she didn't want anything to do with the fun we were having. I don't mean that she didn't want to be our friend anymore. It was different. It was not childish and it was not catty. It was the darkness of depression, although I didn't know it at the time.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:02):
We all stayed in a hotel room together and one night, Megan wanted to go to bed at nine. The rest of us were not ready for bed, but we let her sleep, and the three of us gathered in the hallway, sat on the floor, and played cards. I was upset with Megan for not enjoying our trip, but as the weeks went on, long after we came back home, I continued to see a deep hurt in her. It scared me. Probably because deep down, I knew I was depressed, too. I just hid mine better. I tried to convince Megan to get some therapy, but she wasn't open to it. We stayed friends through the beginning of community college, but then she dropped out. I didn't see her much after that. When I started cutting and feeling the effects of deep depression, Megan's face would come to my mind. I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to tell her that I understood it now. I wanted to talk to her for help, but I was too lost for that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (32:58):
Again, I think it's pretty epic that for our senior spring break, we went to Disney World. I also think that, I don't think that's what many kids did their senior year spring break, so that was another thing where I just thought, you know what? Let's do this. This is something that most people don't do and would think is silly and by gosh, it is silly. Let's do it and we still talk about that trip.
Beth Demme (33:26):
Yeah. Well actually, Megan was our guest on episode 86.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:29):
Beth Demme (33:29):
I just looked back at the list and I remember her talking about the trip.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:32):
Beth Demme (33:32):
And I remember you guys joking about the whistles that your mom had given you, these safety whistles as if you would wear them and as if they would help, but it seems like this was an epic adventure that really marked your senior year in a big way.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (33:48):
Yes, it really did, and I look back at it fondly. Megan and I talk about it a lot because she feels like she ruined the trip and she looks back at it now, having dealt with her stuff, and was just like, I wish I could have been this. No, this is exactly how it needed to go. I don't look back at it upset with... I did shortly, but I look at it really fondly, and also, Emily was sick on that trip. I didn't talk about that, but she had some kind of cold or something. We were just a hot mess of a group, but it was the greatest, and Meredith had her 18th birthday there, and we kept a journal of every day and Meredith wrote out every day, and I have copies of it that I have given to them and they look back at it, and as much as it was so emotional and tough with Megan struggling with depression at the time. It was great.
Beth Demme (34:50):
The other thing that you bring out in this chapter is that high school is where you discovered your passion and your love and your skills related to production, and that has been pretty pivotal in your life.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (34:59):
That was another thing that saved me through high school was Girl Scouts and TV production, and I incorporated those a lot together. My girl scout gold award was to make a documentary about a mission project that my church would do, and they were able to get more funding and more churches involved through that video or through that documentary, so they definitely were intertwined, those two things. Back then, obviously there was nothing called a YouTube. I still have VHS tapes with some of my videos on them. Well, I have actually converted everything to digital because I'm pretty good at archiving, but there were some videos where they were on a VHS tape. That's when you feel old is when you realize the progression of media you've gone through when I realized I started with a CD, a DVD, a VHS tape, never put anything on a cassette tape, because nothing just audio, but I do still use my video production skills because I have two YouTube channels now, still making videos.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (36:06):
I actually just taught my nine year old nephew to edit, and that was very cool. He edited two videos and they're really good. I was very proud of him. He learned how to make cuts, how to reverse a clip. He loved doing that. He might have used that too much, so I had to give him some pointers on that, but it was pretty cool, and transitions and titles, so I was a proud aunt. That was chapter two. I don't know if I said it, but it was called High School. That was the name of the chapter. That is from my book, Discovering My Scars, and like I said, we will continue to go through the book in future episodes. If you are looking to read the whole book without us talking in between, you can find a paperback, audio book, or eBook, and those are all online. You can find them wherever books are sold. Obviously, Amazon has them all, Apple Books, my website, smkauthor.com, all the places.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:12):
All right, Beth, anything going on in your life?
Beth Demme (37:16):
Well, you shared a few weeks ago that your car had been hit in a parking lot. Did you get it fixed?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:25):
It was hit when I was at a stop sign and the truck in front of me backed up into me, so their bad.
Beth Demme (37:31):
Was he in a parking lot?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:32):
Beth Demme (37:33):
People don't normally back up at stop signs.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:35):
Yeah, he was too far forward on Capitol Circle.
Beth Demme (37:39):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:39):
And then he realized, and he started backing up into me.
Beth Demme (37:42):
Oh yeah, I totally misunderstood how that happened. So your car was damaged-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:46):
Beth Demme (37:46):
... but did you get it fixed?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (37:48):
Yes, it's fixed. It's completely fixed and I didn't have to be a cent because his insurance covered it all, which was awesome. I'm really happy with it. They had to actually replace the whole hood of the car because they tried to fix the damage because it was only a little bit and they were going to try to push out the metal, but they weren't able to and the color is perfect. I don't know how they... Well, he explained to me how they do the color matching and sometimes they can't even do it, so they have to redo the whole car, but it is matched very well. I'm really happy with it.
Beth Demme (38:23):
My husband was in a car accident-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:26):
Oh yeah. Is that fixed?
Beth Demme (38:27):
... six weeks ago.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:28):
Is it fixed?
Beth Demme (38:29):
Six or seven weeks ago. No.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:30):
He was hit. Someone hit him.
Beth Demme (38:31):
Yeah. He was driving out of our neighborhood and someone was coming into the neighborhood and hadn't secured their trailer and the back door of the trailer, it was like an enclosed trailer, so it swung open and it took out the front driver's side of his Jeep and hopefully, he'll get it back soon.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (38:51):
Beth Demme (38:53):
But our last guest on the podcast was my daughter, Hannah, who I also talked about in this episode and she was leaving our driveway recently and hit the brick culvert at the end of the driveway.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:09):
Beth Demme (39:10):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:10):
With the front or back of her car?
Beth Demme (39:12):
With the whole passenger side of her car.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:14):
Beth Demme (39:15):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:15):
How? Has she not driven out of your driveway before?
Beth Demme (39:19):
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:19):
Beth Demme (39:21):
It's one of those things that she's done so much that I think she just wasn't paying attention. Even once we get the other car back, we're going to be having this other car at the body shop.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:29):
Do you have a picture?
Beth Demme (39:29):
And I'm kind of over it. Let's see.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:32):
It smooshed the whole passenger side?
Beth Demme (39:35):
It didn't smoosh it. It-
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:36):
Scratched it, okay.
Beth Demme (39:36):
... scratched it very deeply.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:37):
Beth Demme (39:38):
She just bought herself new tires. She took a chunk out of the tire.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:42):
Is she going to pay for the repair or no, you're going through insurance?
Beth Demme (39:45):
Well, whatever ends up happening, it will be at her expense.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:48):
Beth Demme (39:48):
Yeah, and she's fully aware of that.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:51):
For sure, her fault.
Beth Demme (39:52):
Yeah. Oh no.
Stephanie Kostopoulos (39:58):
At the end of each episode, we end with questions for reflection. These are questions based on today's show that Beth will read and leave a little pause between for you to answer to yourself or you can find a PDF on our Buy Me A Coffee page.
Beth Demme (40:08):
Number one. How much of your childhood do you remember? Number two. In high school, Steph discovered a passion for production. What are you passionate about? When did you realize it? Number three. What was 9/11 like for you? And number four. Think about a time you saw something in another that gave you insight about yourself. Who was it? What was it like for you?
Stephanie Kostopoulos (40:36):
Discovering Our Scars podcast is produced by Stephanie Kostopoulos and Beth Demme. Thanks for joining us.