Monday, June 19, 2017

Perfection (Impossible Goal) Versus Acceptance (Realistic Goal)

"I'm paralyzed
 I'm scared to live but I'm scared to die
 And if life is pain then I buried mine a long time ago
 But it's still alive
 And it's taking over me where am I?
 I wanna feel something, I'm numb inside
 But I feel nothing, I wonder why
 And on the race of life time passes by"
Paralyzed  - NF 

In my last post, I briefly mentioned my race at Rev 3 Quassy, which I raced two weeks ago. I know, in the past, I used to be quick about race reports but I will admit, adopting Spike did down play the race. 

I know.......that is a shock to many of you as you may have come to believe that I all cared about was competing and beating my competition. And yes, I do care about competing and pushing myself to my limits in training and racing, but something needs to change!

Change? What could that be?

In my months of therapy, I have learned that the thing I enjoy so much, triathlons,  has also been one of the biggest contributors to my depressive state over the years. I really should not single out triathlons as much as I should say....competition.

Over the years, competing in anything has been a double edged sword to me. While I have enjoyed the process of pushing myself to my limits and I have had some very successful results (by standards of others), no race has ever matched up to some crazy expectations of perfection I have put on myself. You did read that correctly..... no race result has ever made me happy, And that includes qualifying for and finishing the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and winning several triathlons over the past 3 years. 

I have no idea where this desire for perfection ever came from but in my months of therapy, I have learned this desire has cost me many moments of pleasure over the years. Even in the victories the past few years, when people would congratulate me on the overall wins, my first comment would always be about a lack of competition in the race. In my mind, I had already convinced myself that the only way a person my age could win a race would be due to a lack of quality competition. Yes, you read that right, even an overall victory never satisfied my need for competition or made me happy.

So what is next........Damn, I wish I knew.

I have gone back and forth in my own mind on how to handle this race season. I did go into the season thinking my ultimate goal would be to qualify for Ironman 70.3 World Championships since it was back in the US for 2017. But recently, I have begun to think, a better goal might be to get to a point where I am satisfied, mentally, with my results. 

What that means.....I have not really defined that yet!

While to some it might no make sense but for now my race schedule will be a fly by the seat of my pants thing. I will race when I feel mentally ready to handle any result versus when I feel feel physically ready to race. If things work out, I will be ready for a potential Ironman 70.3 WC qualifier but I can't keep beating myself over my results and I can't make it my first priority.

So for now, no official races on my schedule but I have my eye on some low profile races to keep the competitive juices flowing but allowing me to go into these races with no expectations....Just me and the clock! This is the reason I go into the sport in the first place and somehow I  need to find that same passion.

So while I figure out this, my focus will be on coaching my athletes (collegiate and post-collegiate) and stressing to them to appreciate ever opportunity they get to compete! These moments are few and far between and will not always be there. Recently,  I have found that my journey in dealing with my PDD has made me a better coach in regards to understanding my athletes and stressing to them to take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to them and most importantly...... Enjoy Them!

Plus, I need to take time to be a good adoptive parent to Spike! It may sound weird, especially with him being a dog, but in the two weeks I have had him, he has taught me a bit as well! I am so lucky he fell into my life! 

Spike & Me

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hindsight Is 20/20 But If I Could Go Back

"I am not the only traveler
 Who has not repaid his debt
 I've been searching for a trail to follow again
 Take me back to the night we met
 And then I can tell myself
 What the hell I'm supposed to do
 And then I can tell myself
 Not to ride along with you"
The Night We Met - Lord Huron 

I know it has been two weeks since I have posted but it has been an hectic two week, especially last weekend. Last weekend, I competed in my first triathlon of the 2017 season and picked up Spike after the race. More about Spike later.........

If you take the time to read the lyrics, you may wonder what does this song have to do with what I am going through. You are not the only one! My therapist asked the same question last week as she read from my notebook of random thoughts. As I mentioned in one of earliest post, I keep a journal of my thoughts throughout the week and each week typically starts with a lyric that sums up that week. I originally heard this song while watching "13 Reasons Why" and probably had a much different interpretation as most see it as a break-up/love song. My therapist agreed and asked what it meant to me and how did it fit with what I am dealing with........

Obviously, I am the traveler who has not repaid his debt and my therapy is in a way repaying that debt.The therapy has been my way of searching that trail to follow again, maybe a trail that I followed before PDD (Persistent Depressive Disorder). And as you can guess, the PDD is the the thing (not a person) that I met that makes the We.

Having learned a lot about my thought errors, through CBT, for what has probably been decades, I wish I could go back to that moment when PDD truly set into my psyche and speak with my younger miserable self. What would I tell myself:

  1. Of course, the first thing I would tell myself is to seek help regardless of the stigma of getting help. 
  2. Start learning your thought errors and learning new ways to perceive things that make you suffer from PDD.
  3. You are going to accomplish a lot of things in life and if you don't change your thinking now, you will not enjoy any of them. 
  4. You are good enough.
  5. Everything is not black or white, this is middle ground. 
  6. If good things happen to you, you deserve them. 
  7. If bad things happen to you, it is not because you deserve it or bad things only happen you. 
  8. Don't push away everybody who gets close to you. 
  9. You are not better off alone 
As they say, hindsight is 20/20 so the best I can do now is to work hard on my CBT and change my the perspective of my thoughts.

Oh yeah, I mentioned Spike. Spike is my my new bulldog puppy (large puppy) that I adopted last week! Spike just turned 11 months old this past week but he is a big puppy. He just might be the most adorable bulldog with his wrinkles and demeanor! He is so friendly and loves people and other animals. I also believe Spike will do wonders for me as I work my way through the process of getting better and changing my perspectives!

Just Look At Those Wrinkles!!!!

Monday, May 29, 2017

I want To Get Better!

"Out of the blue into the black
  I give you this, but you pay for that
  Once you're gone, you can't never come back
  When you're out of the blue, into the black!"
Hey Hey, My My - Neal Young Cover by The Chromatics

I will be honest....... 

Each week, I can typically come up with 2-3 aspects of my depression to speak about but it does not get easier to do it with each passing post. 

I know at times it might seem like I am comfortable with this but it has been because I have talked about the easy parts so far. I really never discussed the darker side of my depression in the earlier post. But I started to think, if this is going to be truly therapeutic and helpful I would need to get out of my comfort zone and open up to all of you. And, most importantly, if I was going to tackle my recovery in a proper way, I would need to acknowledge how deep I have sunk this time and quite often in the past. 

As I sit here.....I can assure this one is the most uncomfortable post to write as I fear the judgements that people will pass on me because of this. Once again it comes back to the stigma of getting help, a stigma that still does not make sense to me given the stats of depression. 

Maybe I am weak for getting help but I think I am stronger to to get help, where things are private with my therapist, and at the same time stronger for putting these post out for all to read and exposing myself to the stigma. This post is somewhat inspired by my recent therapy session and watching "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix. Check it out...It is an amazing show and maybe because of what I am going through at the time but I watched all 13 episodes of season 1 in an 18 hour stretch.

Here it is....I'm tired of running!

And I don't mean running in regards to my triathlon training, I am referring to running away from my issues and from people who are/were close to me, and that includes my family. All my life, all I have done is run away! Too often, instead of getting help or opening up to people, my answer was to run away and lose myself somewhere far away from people I knew. Sometimes that even meant picking up and moving far away like Baltimore, MD; Wilmington, NC; Las Vegas, NV; West Springfield, MA and now Selinsgrove, PA. 

Where ever I have lived, when my issues got to be too much for me to handle, I only knew one way out......Disappear/Fade Away! Which over the years has made things worse. Until now, I always thought running away would be the answer I was looking for in life and a fresh start would get rid of my issues. As I mentioned in my last post, this running away was my idea of suicide as at least I would stop being a burden to those I left behind. In my mind, I believed if I went somewhere that nobody knew me I could start over........... I know it is not the most reasonable thinking! But if you never reached as low as me, you would not get it! I wanted to live but I could not live somewhere I thought I could not fit in or felt like I was a burden to people.

Do I want to keep running away? 

Fuck no! (Excuse the french!) I am tired of it. I am tired of being miserable, I am tired of shutting people off from my world when they get too close. I am tired of saying I'm fine even though I am not. I'm tired of being socially awkward, OK, that one might be a tougher one to deal with my shyness. Ha ha! 

I'm tired of ruining my life.

And yes, I have ruined my life! So if you happen to be well younger than me, reading this blog and feel as I do, I implore you to seek help now before it is too late!You don't want o end up like me.....miserable and alone.

It might be a little late for me but I can assure I will be doing my best to make the most out of what life I have left! I get it, that sounds depressing (no pun intended) but it is the direction I need to go. I know I have a lot of reconnecting with people, while it won't be easy, I know it has to be done. I have alienated so many people in my lifetime that it is amazing I have any friends or acquaintances at this point or a family that actually will claim me. 

I just know that I can't keep running and I need to tackle this head on! So from here on this blog will will deal with the process of dealing with my Persistent Depressive Disorder and my recovery!

I truly believe I have reached my lowest point. 

No where to go but up!





Saturday, May 20, 2017

I'm Fine ............. (Save Me)

"But it's all right
 When you're caught in pain
 And you feel the rain come down
 It's all right
 When you find you way
 Then you see it disappear
 It's all right
Though your garden's gray
 I know all your graces
 Someday will flower
 In a sweet sunshower"
Sunshower  - Chris Cornell 

Going into this week, I kind of had an idea of the next post for the blog but after hearing the news of Chris Cornell, I knew I needed to go a different direction before I could move on to the more positive post of my learning to deal better with my Persistent Depressive Disorder. 

The unfortunate and sad news of Chris Cornell just shows, regardless how happy or successful a person may appear to you, you never know what inner daemons they are dealing with deep inside. Despite having a song title "My Depression", people were surprised when Bruce Springsteen announced he had dealt with depression. But like a lot of people, most thought, what do they have to depressed about??? They are rich and famous! But does that exclude people from being able to be depressed? Despite outward appearances, nothing excludes anybody from the ability to be depressed or being affected by a mental illness.

Obviously, given all that I have been through and some of the low points I have hit the past few months, the news of Chris Cornell hit very close to me. Now, before you delve into things, I am not suicidal and yes my psychologist asked that as well as we discussed the situation with Chris Cornell. As I explained to my psychologist, the closest I could get to suicide would be to pack on my stuff in my car and disappear for awhile! I still have races to do! So, I am not offended if you did think that initially........but rest assured, I'm Fine!

I'm fine........

For years, that was my response to everybody who ever asked me how I was doing. Regardless of how I was feeling, my answer was always these two words. Whether if it was family or friends asking, the response was the same. A few times, my answer was honest and I was fine. Most of the time it was double edge sword reply. It was the answer to stop people from asking again at the same time it was cry for help. 

Why did I not directly say I needed help or just say I was not fine?

There are several reasons (while they me be stupid reasons):
  1. The stigma of asking for help
  2. My social anxiety
  3. Feeling like a failure
  4. I could handle it myself
  5. Shame of possibly being clinically depressed
I was part of a very disturbing statistic in the treatment of depression and other mental illness. Depending on the study, it is either 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 people with suffer from a mental illness at some point  in their life. Of that number, well over 50% will not seek or get the help the need. The major reason that is stated for such a disturbing number.....the shame of seeking help especially for depression. I was one of the ones who suffered from the fear of the stigma of getting help!

I am fortunate I was able to get over that shame and finally seek help. It might have been long overdue but I started. For my birthday, 12 days ago, I got new ink to remind myself of my answer for years but also a reminder to not be afraid to ask for help when needed. I found a tattoo online of the words "I'm Fine". It was done in a font that when you flipped it over it would read "Save Me". The way the tattoo faces people, they will read I'm Fine but when I look it, I read Save Me. The picture of it is below and if you have a laptop you can flip it over and read it both ways.

It is a reminder to me to not be afraid to ask for help or to not be afraid to discuss with people what I am going through.It is also a reminder that saving me starts with me. The ability to discuss this with people has become a lot easier the past few weeks especially as people have approached me about my blog and thanked me for doing this. I have even become more comfortable telling people I am seeing a psychologist and Thursday has now become known as "Therapy Thursday"!
This post is reminder to all that no matter how happy somebody may appear there could be something seriously bothering them deep down especially if you can see a difference in the person. If somebody seems down to you and they answer I'm Fine...........(they might be) but a few more prying questions could go along way. 
I'm Fine/Save Me

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Comfortably Numb (My Lowest Point)

"There is no pain you are receding
 A distant ship, smoke on the horizon
 You are only coming through in waves
 Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying
 When I was a child
 I caught a fleeting glimpse
 Out of the corner of my eye
 I turned to look but it was gone
 I cannot put my finger on it now
 The child is grown
 The dream is gone
 I have become comfortably numb"
Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd

All my life I have had my bouts of being depressed and feeling low but they would pass overtime and I would not feel so miserable, maybe feel more indifferent. But it could have been the culmination of many factors (numerous health issues, personal relationship issues, stress, social anxiety....etc.) but about 2 months ago I probably reached the lowest point I have ever fell to when dealing with one of my depressed episodes...........

Comfortably Numb. 

This lack of feeling lasted for a stretch of 5-6 weeks but in all honesty it scared me at the time. As you read this post, I want you to know.... I hope you never get to this point

Now, I have often been accused of being emotionless but this went beyond this.

What is it like to feel numb?

Basically to me, as things were happening, it was not a matter of having an inappropriate emotional response or feeling to a situation, it was a stretch of literally having no emotional response or feeling to anything. Even when going through this bout, I found it difficult to describe the feeling or lack of feeling to my psychologist. It was almost like being a robot. I was able to function and do everything I needed to during the day but it was void of feeling, good or bad.

Maybe some people could tell, but I was doing my best to fake it and be myself as much as I could around people and at work. I made sure my workouts were completed and my teams got the best coaching I could give them. During this stretch, I made sure every detail for our home indoor track & field meets was handled and the meet would be very efficient. By the end of the day, this going through the motions, left me even more emotionally and mentally drained.

It was as though I could not wait to get home and shut my brain off! This faking through the day was adding to my numbness but it was all I could do to get through the day. At this time, nobody knew I was seeing a psychologist and the blog did not exist, so this hiding this secret was wearing on me as much as the diagnosis.

So each day during this stretch, I would go home and sit on my couch and decompress. This decompression or escape took on many forms:
  1. Watching television 
  2. Listening to music 
  3. Both watching television and listening to music
  4. Having a beer 
  5. Mustering enough energy to make dinner 
  6. Trying to not fall asleep on the couch (many failures on that)
  7. Trying to figure out why I am so miserable buy yet not feel anything
Thankfully, this state of feeling numb has passed. I can honestly tell you that getting to that point was pretty scary as it began to make me wonder if I would be possible of an emotional response ever again. 

Things are better and moving in the right direction again. Obviously, my psychologist was a very big reason in turning this stretch around. I believe being honest with people about my diagnosis with PDD and the blog are helping me to feel better about myself. I can say I feel a bit more relaxed knowing that people know and I am no longer hiding my depression. It has also helped that everybody has been so supportive through all of this. In some way, all of you helped me through this low point. 

I have a feeling that majority of post from this point will be more on the positive side.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Waiting For My Real Life To Begin

"Any minute now, my ship is coming in
 I'll keep checking the horizon
 I'll stand on the bow, feel the waves come crashing
 Come crashing down, down, down, on me
 And you say, be still my love
 Open up your heart
 Let the light shine in
 But don't you understand
 I already have a plan
 I'm waiting for my real life to begin"
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay

Getting near the of the month and my phone rings...........

I recognize the number...... ***374-2764......Ugh....WTF!!!!!

I let it go to voicemail. Not because I don't want to talk the person as I already know it is a recording! probably caught me on that one, there is a good chance (depending on my mood) I would have just let it go to voicemail and avoided any potential "real" person on the other end!

But this phone call is regarding my automatic fill of my prescription for Lexapro.

There, it is out to part of my diagnosis of P.D.D., I am currently medicated for it.. 

Lexapro (escitalopram) is an antidepressant belonging to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The way escitalopram works is still not fully understood. It is thought to positively affect communication between nerve cells in the central nervous system and/or restore chemical balance in the brain.

Even though, I have come to believe the medication is helping me but unfortunately, in my mind,  I have not fully accepted the fact that I reached the point where I needed to be medicated. I think this is because of the stigma and to me it shows an extreme sign of weakness in dealing with the diagnosis. If I do mention my medication to those close to me, it is always in a joking or sarcastic manner making it out to be no big deal.

I did not start on medication immediately when I started working with my therapist (psychologist). She mentioned it could be a possibility but wanted to try CBT and get to more know about me and where I was mentally.  I felt good about that decision as I felt, probably like most, that I could beat this without help of medications as only those truly depressed (I did not believe I was that bad at the time) resort to medication.......

How bad could I be? 

Hell, I am supposed to the strong coach for 80+ athletes each year......Nothing is supposed to phase me. I am the one who is supposed to be the rock and voice of reason for the young impressionable student athletes. If I show a weakness what will that do for them?

Who was I kidding?

Well.......that lasted four months. Little did I truly realize how far I had sunk in my depression this time or better, how much did not want to realize how far I have fallen. Not knowing I was P.D.D officially all these years, I have dealt with my miserableness for years but never let it get as bad as this. Don't get me wrong, the CBT was helping and I was recognizing issues and the errant ways of my thinking but I was just at such a low that I needed help in being able to break my current train of thought patterns. 

My therapist, being a psychologist and not being able to prescribe drugs, she scheduled an appointment for me to meet with a psychiatrist she works with in early December to see if that medication would be the proper way to proceed at this time. 

Going into the appointment, I was hopeful and nervous at the same time. I was still hopeful that I could beat this without medication and he would feel the same, but nervous because I knew I was fooling myself and I was starting to realize I had hit an all time low. I guess in some ways I was mad at myself for letting myself get to this point and not being able to help myself without the help of a drug. I was also nervous because now I had to expose a lot of my issues and insecurities to yet another person......and this is not easy for me and I hate it! 

Well.......after a nice discussion and review of my psychologist's notes, he agreed that Lexapro would be a good option and hopefully a temporary option! He reiterated that as low I have sunk that this will help my mind accept CBT more and move me in the right direction of getting better.....whatever getting better means...... Indifferent or maybe even happy?At that point, I would take indifferent over being miserable!

I do realize as I move through this CBT process and wrap my mind around the process, I will be able to ween on off the Lexapro and handle my diagnosis on my own. But for now, I am on a daily does of 10 milligrams of Lexapro. 

Is it working? 

I believe so as it has made me more receptive to CBT but now I am dealing with a lifetime of thinking errors that make it tough to change the way I perceive things........

But that is yet another post........I do have to keep this blog going! 


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thinking In Absolutes

"I am covered in skin
 No one gets to come in
 Pull me out from inside
 I am folded and unfolded and unfolding
 I am colorblind
 Coffee black and egg white
 Pull me out from inside
 I am ready, I am ready, I am ready,
 I am fine"
Colorblind - Counting Crows

I was not sure where to go with this week's post but then I heard this song and I was reminded of something that my therapist and I discuss quite often...... (Never thought I would be comfortable to share what was discussed in my therapy sessions each week)

The way my mind works or better yet,  the confines in which my mind seems to work.......

Thinking in only absolutes or simply thinking in black or white. Most of the time it is either one end of the spectrum or the other and never any grey areas. 

Sometimes called Splitting, in psychology it is the failure in a person's thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism used by many people. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

This is a common theme in my therapy sessions. Unfortunately, too often my thinking goes more towards the negative extreme side of things. I am not sure where this started in my life or what caused most unnecessary pressure or expectations I put on myself.

This way of thinking has effected so many aspects of my life and in some ways fulfilled my negative prophecies of myself. Worst off, this thinking has added to my depression over the years while also preventing me from seeking help and causing me to alienate people in my life.

Here are some common black or white thinking errors of the years that have possibly led to my depression or in some way made me the miserable person I was for the longest time and  yes I know some of these will seem very depressing and I am working on the way I perceive things but in my mind being able to share this is a major step in the right direction. (Please understand these are just the thoughts in my head and nobody did anything to cause these thoughts in my warped brain)

  1. Only one in immediate family that has been divorced and has no children.......feel like a failure to them and societal expectations. Unfortunately, this has caused me to alienate them and be a bad son, brother, Godfather and uncle.
  2. Won my first triathlon at age 44 and belittled it by saying the competition was weak and I was not challenged. I have won two more races since then and had the same exact thoughts. I could not be happy with winning the race,
  3. Many failed relationships & almost everybody I know is married and with children....... Maybe at age 47, soon to be 48, maybe I am just meant to be alone. This has caused me to shun people who have attempted and prevent them from getting to close. If I don"t let people close enough then there is less of a chance of rejection and adding to my thoughts of being better off alone. Unfortunately, this has led to many of those failed relationships. 
  4. Even if a race result is good, by other people's standards, if I can find even the tiniest flaw in a race, the race is a bad race.This has led me to delve deeper into my raining and pushing me harder and thus shutting me off from people.
  5. At the time, seeking help for my depression made me feel as failure as person. I hid my going to see a psychologist for 6 months before I felt comfortable enough to let it out. Even still, I have trouble facing some people, especially family, that I am in therapy.
  6. Soon after, and a topic of another blog, having to be medicated for my depression made me feel like a bigger failure! 
  7. Probably the biggest thinking error of black and white thinking....... I have been depressed for so long that I started to believe I am just a miserable person and that is who I am just am and will always be. 
I understand this thinking did not start for me overnight and it will take some time to get over this way of thinking. Hell, it has been been 30+ years of thinking this way that is ingrained in my head  and it will take a lot of practice to change some of it.

I am am hopeful that I will soon be able to find some middle ground in the way I think!