Friday, July 21, 2017

Crawling In My Skin

" Discomfort, endlessly has pulled
   Itself upon me distracting, reacting
   Against my will I stand beside my own reflection
   It's haunting how I can't seem
   To find myself again
   My walls are closing in"

Crawling - Linkin Park

I know in my last post I mentioned about getting more positive about my dealings with depression but given the news of Chester Bennington, I figure I needed one more reality check for the masses post before moving on! 

Some facts about depression:
  1.  Even positive events such as graduating, getting married, a new job can lead to depression.
  2.  At some point in their lives, about one in four Americans will experience depression.
  3.  More than 20 million people in the United States suffer from depression in a given year.
  4.  As many as 15% of those who suffer from some form of depression take their lives each year.
  5.  Because the brains of older people are more vulnerable to chemical abnormalities, they are more likely than young people to suffer depression.
  6.  Approximately 80% sufferers of depression are not receiving treatment.
  7.  The World Health Organization estimates that depression will be the second highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, second only to HIV/AIDS.
  8.  Many creative individuals have experienced depression, including Robert Schumann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Peter Tchaikovsky, John Lennon, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Sylvia Plath.
  9.  Depressed individuals have two times greater overall mortality risk than the facts general population due to direct (e.g., suicide) and indirect (medical illness) causes.
These are just a few facts about depression that I found that I thought would hit home similar to the suicide of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. These nine facts are from a list of 57 facts on Fact Retreiver.

It is amazing to think that one in four Americans will experience depression in their lifetime, more than 20 million people suffer from depression in a given year and as many as 15% of those who suffer from some form of depression take their lives each year. If one in four suffer depression, I can guess you know or unknowingly know somebody who is suffering from depression. If reading this, I am that one in four for you!

So as you can see, someone suffering from depression, in any form, is very common. 

So is if it is so prevalent, why does it take suicides of celebrities such as Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington or Robin Williams to bring attention, albeit briefly, to the issue?!?!?

If it is so prevalent, what is the stigma that causes  80% of those suffering from depression to refuse to get help?

In addition to my own denial, I was also a victim of that stigma of getting help that existed and left me where I am in my own situation. I am no longer afraid to admit, I am one of four that suffer from depression but I am finally no longer apart of the 80% that do not receive treatment.

Here are some reasons why people, including myself, do not seek help:
  1. Fear and shame - Most people realize there is a negative stigma associated with having a mental illness and fear being labeled “mentally ill” or “crazy.” They are concerned about how such a label could negatively impact their career, education, or other life goals.
  2. Feelings of inadequacy  - Many people believe they are inadequate or a failure if they have to admit something is “wrong” with their mental health. Further, they believe they “should be able to handle things” on their own without assistance and that they must be weak or inferior to have to ask for help. 
  3. Distrust -  It’s difficult to consider revealing personal details to a doctor or counselor. Many express concern about “telling a stranger” about their problems. Additionally, they worry that their personal information won’t be kept confidential.
  4. Hopelessness - Some people have become demoralized by their mental health issues and believe “nothing will help me” or “I’ll never get better.” These beliefs can be due to depression or hopelessness, and can be substantial roadblocks to seeking help.
Yes, I know, situations such as Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell and Robin Williams drawn more attention to depression/suicide because of their fame but I think the point people could get most of their situations is this......You just never know! Too often, we are great at masking our demons and looking happy and when asked how we are, we deliver that convincing "I'm Fine" answer.

If you are curious, here are signs to look for if you believe somebody might not be themselves lately:
  1. Loss of interest in things that previous brought the person pleasure
  2. Sleep difficulty
  3. Eating changes - Either too little or too much
  4. Anger & Irritability
  5. Expressing negative thoughts
  6. Suicidal ideas
  7. Loss of confidence in oneself 
We will not stop depression but we can stop the stigma of depression so more people are not afraid and get to the point where they see no other option than suicide!

#StopTheStigma #ImFine #Iam1in4

My next tattoo

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

In Repair (Have To Start Small & Somewhere)

"Too many shadows in my room
  Too many hours in this midnight
  Too many corners in my mind
  So much to do to set my heart right
  Oh, it's taken so long
  I could be wrong, I could be ready
  Oh, but if I take my heart's advice
  I should assume it's still unsteady
  I am in repair"
In Repair -John Mayer

This post came to me as I was sitting on a park bench with Spike!  Yes, he loves to take breaks on our walks and sit on the benches and watch the cars drive by and people walk by (hoping they pet him).

For the most part, I know my post have been very enlightening to some and at the same time a very dark look into my psyche. I have also spent a good amount of time on the importance of not being ashamed to seek help as 1 in 5 people will deal with a mental disorder at some point in their life.

Now, I want to start with some of things (somewhat more positive side of this) I am doing to help me get a better handle on my Persistent Depressive Disorder. These things, I will discuss from time to time, are in addition to my therapy and medication.

First....what to do about the race season?
Recently, I scrapped my entire race season. I threw all my goals and my potential race schedule out the window. Trust me., this was not the easiest decision to make but I know it is the smartest decision. Without rehashing the reason I mentioned in a previous post, I decided a bigger goal than qualifying for Ironman 70.3 World Championships was to get to a point where I can be satisfied with my results.

Now, how do I do that?  Is it possible? We will soon find out.........

My focus for this season is to race when I feel mentally ready (physically ready is rarely an issue). And when I race, I am sticking with more low profile races.

Why lower profile races? When I say lower profile, let's first say, I mean races where a qualifying spot for a major championships is not at stake. These smaller races will allow me to set goals that I have more control over during a race. My goals will be more focused on times versus overall placement. The purpose of is to help myself to learn to focus more on the process of race day versus the outcome of race day, which focusing on the outcome has not been very successful for me. I guess the idea is that if the process goes as planned then I could be satisfied with my result, which oddly enough is what I tell my own athletes. 

The funny thing is...... I have always enjoyed the process leading up to race day. Training has always brought some satisfaction to me and kept me motivated. It has also served as my escapes from reality when reality became to overwhelming.

I believe, my enjoyment of the process is the main reason I find satisfaction in being a coach. There is a distinct satisfaction in coaching others to achieve their goals in triathlons and running, Maybe in some way, while coaching them I could learn a few things at the same time. It is kind of strange when I can be happy when one of my athletes achieve their goals but I can't be satisfied with my results.

So far this season I have raced twice. I mentioned Rev 3 Quassy  Olympic Distance several weeks ago but since I did race the Millheim Sprint Triathlon, which I won for the second year in a row. Did the new focus work? Just a tad and for a short time, so I guess that so that is a start but I was satisfied with the free beer I got as a prize from the Elk Creek Brewery, who sponsors the race.

I am not sure when the next race will be (I have a couple in mind)  but I am going to focus on my coaching and helping others achieve their goals!

And of course......spend a lot of time sitting on benches with Spike!

"I'm in repair
 I'm not together, but I'm getting there"

#StopTheStigma  #ImFineSaveMe

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Is My Mind?

"With your feet in the air and your head on the ground
  Try this trick and spin it, yeah
  Your head will collapse
  But there's nothing in it
  And you'll ask yourself
  Where is my mind?"
Where Is My Mind? - The Pixies (Covered by Sunday Girl)
A question I have asked myself in the past, but more recently in the past 2-3 days since my parents informed me of some very surprising news on Monday informing me that my cousin, just 3 years younger than myself, had committed suicide. They did not have many details regarding how or why at the time.

Since that call, I have debated whether or not this would be an appropriate post, given the situation, but I figure I have already shared some of my darkest details, so why stop now. I will go into small details but will not name anybody or the circumstances behind the decision made by this person.

The news stunned me as in my eyes my cousin seemed to be living a much happier life than me. At least that was the impression I got the last time I saw him, several years ago, and from hearing random things the few times I decide to be a good family member and visit for a holiday. Yeah, I know, I am a horrible person! 

Not sure why, but my initial thought was guilt. I think this feeling stemmed from the fact that my cousin and I were more alike than I thought and some of the guilt was from being a horrible son, brother, cousin and uncle to everybody. But mostly, I had a feeling of guilt because initially I felt like I could have done something. OK, maybe not done something to prevent this but at least been able able to speak with him. I could have assured him that he is not the only one that is depressed or in therapy. Though in another state, I could have been that person he could reach out to in his moments of darkness. I am not sure if that would be like the blind leading the blind but it is what crossed my mind.

I am not sure where this post is really going as I have had numerous rambling thoughts in my head over the last two days. This is actually my second attempt at writing this. I guess the biggest thing for all to understand is you truly never know what demons that a person might be dealing with deep inside, despite outward appearances. And I get that family and friends will be trying to make sense of this particular situation but I will be brutally honest, only from my own experience in receiving treatment, you will never be able to make sense of it. And the worst part, while probably a correct statement, it won't make anyone feel any better about the situation. 

What can we do?

To be honest....... I really don't know other than trying to be as understanding as possible when somebody does reach out to us if they reach out at all. And quite often a person will reach out in kind of an inconspicuous way so we need to do our best to read these signals. Here are some things to look for in a person who we may feel is in depressed state or maybe even suicidal:
  1. Sometimes that reply of I'm fine is a scream for help!
  2. General irritability and fatigue
  3. Anxiety
  4. Excessive drinking or drug use
  5. Suicidal thoughts
  6. Trouble making decisions
  7. General stress
  8. Isolating oneself from friends and family


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