Saturday, July 28, 2018

Three Strikes And you Are Alone

"Put to rest what you thought of me
 While I clean this slate
 With the hands of uncertainty
 So let mercy come and wash away
 What I've done
 I'll face myself to cross out what I've become
 Erase myself
 And let go of what I've done
 For what I've done
 I start again
 And whatever pain may come
 Today this ends
 I'm forgiving what I've done"
What I've Done - Linkin Park  

What I've done?

If I only knew what I did to get to the place I am right now! 

Too often, I get fixated on what made me the way I am versus just learning to correct my thinking errors in dealing with the way I am. 

As I have learned from my two years of meeting with my therapist, not one person or moment is to blame for my battle with Persistent Depressive Disorder but once in a while I get this urge to figure out why. This obsession to know causes more damage to my progression than help........I know it but can't stop it! 

What I am about to explain may come across to personal to some but to truly understand how my mind works I  need to put this out there ........

I believe a lot of my recent struggles are a result of my recent trip to Lake Placid to compete in Ironman Lake Placid.  

While my race did not pan out like I wanted that is not the reason it was a tough trip or I have been struggling with some emotions.......

Race day, even with a sub-par result, was the easiest day of the four days to deal with while I was there.........

While it was due to my doings, the three days leading up to the race and the day after the race were the hardest for me emotionally. 

Simply put....... I never felt more alone and destined to be alone than I did those days. And unfortunately, because of my doings and undoings that is why I was there alone. 

Shortly after arriving in Lake Placid, it all started at race check-in and when asked by a volunteer who was here with you to contact if an emergency should occur on race day .......I replied nobody and they looked at me like who travels to these races alone. OK ......I am that loser!

Strike One

It continued while walking around Lake Placid watching athletes mill about town with their friends, families and their "sherpas". At one point, while most likely far from the truth, I felt like I was the only person competing who was totally alone. As I walked by myself, I got the feeling that others were mocking me as they could tell I was there by myself. While I did run into some friends who were competing, which eased the pain at times, but eventually the idea that they had their travel parties and support teams made me feel inferior and worthless. 

Strike Two 

Post race.......... Maybe it was the idea that the race kept me occupied that kept me from feeling my true emotions but post-race did not help. It was not the idea of not having somebody there to talk about my race as much as it was watching other finishers celebrate with their support crews. While I knew I had many people following me online and even dog-sitting to make this trip possible, it is still very difficult for somebody of my psyche to observe what was happening. After a recovery bucket of nachos and a beer, alone, I did head  back for the tradition of watching the finishers till the cut off at midnight. I will say despite my sub-par race, watching the later finishers put a lot into perspective but it also reinforced the fact of being alone. It was tough to watch their supporters get excited as they approached the finish line then rush down to the finish area to congratulate them .

Stroke Three....

Headed back to hotel! 

Need to go to sleep and wake up and get home to Spike as soon as possible...

As I mentioned, I get many of thoughts were misguided and untrue! And the fact of traveling alone was my own doing but it does not shut my damn brain off. It is just my typical battle of complaining of being alone but when people are close I push them as you can see I can't win....for now!!!

Now one truly good thing did come out of this weekend...........

Next blog, but I have finally come up with a way to use my racing and battle with depression for good! 

Stay tuned and this will be my next post! I assure you the next post will be positive...... 



Tuesday, June 26, 2018

I Am The Change

"Should've stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
 Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
 We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
 There are things that we can have, but can't keep
 If they say, Who cares if one more light goes out?
 In a sky of a million stars
 It flickers, flickers
 Who cares when someone's time runs out?
 If a moment is all we are
 We're quicker, quicker
 Who cares if one more light goes out?
 Well I do"
One More Light - Linkin Park 
If you have previously read this blog, you already know I have blogged, recently and in the past,  about the suicide deaths of celebrities. These were celebrities whom I enjoyed their contributions to the world of entertainment whether music, television or movies. Maybe more now because of understanding my battle with Persistent Depressive Disorder, the deaths of Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and Anthony Bourdain. really resonated with me. 

Maybe it was the false hope, more so with the first three, that the deaths of such celebrities would help people realize that this is more common than most people like to believe. Well, with Anthony Bourdain, I have noticed a bit more urgency from many, including CNN, to keep the discussion going. Just the other night, CNN conducted a Town Hall on the subject of suicide and it included amazing speakers. 

I do realize that sometimes it takes the unsuspecting suicide death of a celebrity to make people realize that this is a topic that needs an open and honest discussion. But as much as these suicide deaths affected me, I do blog about this more on a personal level............. 

And it has nothing to do with my own personal battles with depression......
One year ago today, my cousin, just a few years younger than me, died of suicide. Once again, it was a situation where most people would have never guessed that this person was feeling this way.  And yes, even though I had not seen my cousin in a year or two, I had the natural guilt of what I could have done especially since I was learning so much about through my battle. 

That is when I realized....the best thing I could do, in honor of my cousin and to those who have died of suicide, is bring attention to the subject and the stigma that is associated with mental health issues. I realize that we want to understand why these suicides happened, and it is unfortunate that we will never fully grasp them, but we will be better served to learn from these experiences and maybe prevent someone else from also reaching this point. That doesn't mean we stop thinking of how we might have been able able to help that person or what signs we missed, it means knowing these signs and reaching out to others we know who might be experiencing these sames things. Reaching out to these people and letting them know, it is alright to seek help and talk about it. I truly believe the biggest step to reducing this alarmingly growing trend is to break the stigma of mental illness especially given that 1 in 4 of us will be affected by a mental illness at some point in our lifetime. 

I still want everybody who reads this to go to this site, learn the 5 signs and take the pledge as it can help!

I also hope to have some news soon how I will be continuing to bring attention to this epidemic through my racing of triathlons. 

#stopthestigma #iam1in4 #iamthchange

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

How Do We Make A Difference? It Starts With A Simple Jesture

"Should've stayed, were there signs, I ignored?
 Can I help you, not to hurt, anymore?
 We saw brilliance, when the world, was asleep
 There are things that we can have, but can't keep
 If they say, Who cares if one more light goes out?
 In a sky of a million stars 
 It flickers, flickers
 Who cares when someone's time runs out?
 If a moment is all we are
 We're quicker, quicker
 Who cares if one more light goes out?
 Well I do"
"One More Light" Linkin Park  

It has been 4 days since the Anthony Bourdain died of suicide and since I have wondered, stuck here in middle of nowhere PA, how I can make more of a difference. At the same time, I am encouraged that I still see people posting messages on Facebook about being there to help or listen, but there has to be more that we can do.....

We cannot let this moment pass this time so we need to do more......

Personally, I have been blogging about my own personal battle with Persistent Depressive Disorder for a year and often wonder, other than myself, has anybody else found this blog helpful. 

I get that mental illness is not an easy topic for many people to speak about especially given the stigma of admitting you have a problem.  Well, that stigma made a mess of life and left me quite miserable and ruined any chances of true happiness I may have an opportunity to enjoy and ruined just about all relationships I have had. That was one of the main reasons I started this blog, as I hoped for the few people who read this, may learn from my mistakes and not delay realizing they have a problem and seek help. Trust me, when I admit, I reach the my lowest points but through getting help I was able to get through and feel closer to indifferent than I ever have. And from experience, there is no lower than when you feel numb and you just don't care.  

At the same time, I also wondered how I could do more and bring more attention to the epidemic that suicide seems to be in our society right now? I think one way is taking the pledge........

320 Changes Direction 

While watching the shows on Anthony Bourdain, I came across a news segment that profiled this organizing and the wife of Chester Bennington, Talinda Bennington. It was a movement started so that his death would not be in vain. If you read this blog. please take the moment to check out the website and take the pledge to learn the 5 signs of emotional suffering. I think this takes it one step further than just sharing post on Facebook!

Here are the 5 Signs:
1. Personality Change
2. Agitated
3. Withdrawal
4. Poor Self-Care
5. Hopelessness 

As I have given thought to how I can do more...... I realize my racing in triathlons might be the perfect stage for me to drive the message, I am not sure how yet, but in some way I will be using my training and racing to bring more awareness to mental illness and suicide.

I may need some help in designing the coolest kit ever!!!!

#stopthestigma #iam1in4 #iamthechange #320chagesdirection

Friday, June 8, 2018

Maybe It Is Time To Honestly Talk About Suicide

"Far from the electric floor
  Removed from the red meat market
  I look for a fire door
  An escape from the drums and barking
  Bereft of all social charms
  Struck dumb by the hand of fear
  I fall into the corner's arms
  The same way that I've done for years
  I'm trapped in a collapsing building
  Come find me now, where I hide and
  We'll speak in our secret tongues."
"The Woodpile" - Frightened Rabbit 

Before I rant, I want to share with you some statistics on suicide:

  1. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US
  2. Each year 44,6945 Americans die by suicide or 123 people per day! 
  3. For every suicide......25 attempt suicide
  4. The rate of suicide has increased by 25% in the United States over the last two decades
  5. The rate of suicide is highest in middle age — white men in particular.
  6. Only half of all Americans experiencing an episode of major depression receive treatment
  7. One in seven of those who don;t receive treatment attempt suicide
Seriously....... Just look at those statistics! 

So, can someone explain to me why, as a society, we are so afraid to talk about suicide and for that matter.....mental illness itself! 

One last statistic before my rant......1 in 4 people will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime. 

I know I have blogged about this in the past, but why does it take the suicides of celebrities to realize that suicide is such an issue.  Within the past 3 weeks, three celebrities have committed suicide..... Scott Hutchison (lead singer - Frightened Rabbit), Kate Spade (designer) and Anthony Bourdain (chef and life explorer). 

Now for most people, the natural questions will be ....Why? How? This people had it all.... fame, fortune..... How could suicide be a possibility? 

As someone who has been diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder......I can honestly say, you will never understand the why or how, if you don't suffer from a mental issue. It is very hard to explain but I need all of you to understand, depression is something that is never cured but one learns to change thought patterns to deal with it. And unfortunately, for those that suffer from it, you never know when those demons will resurface and overwhelm the thought patterns you have worked on so hard to avoid it. And I can tell you from personal experience, those demons will always be there and they have resurfaced at the weirdest times.

So what can we do?

First, as prevalent as suicide is.......don't be afraid to talk about it in an honest manner.

Second.... be aware of potential warning signs of people who may be suffering! What are those signs ........

Third..... for those left much as you will feeling guilty, there probably was something that you could have done, as cruel as it sounds. 

Lastly.......don't be afraid to check in on those who you think are strong!

It is an epidemic that all of us can do something to lower the frequency of success. We will never stop it all but if we can stop one is a success! 

His quote below says it all! We all have far yet to go!

#stopthestigma #iam1in4

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Indifferent & Moving Forward

"I prayed
  But that's never worked
  Why would it now?
  Lifted my arms out and tenderly whispered
  “I've lost my way somehow”
  Take, take these eyes
  And all I was and my disguise
  And lay them out, on the beach
  ' Cause I won't need them now them
  To see inside"
Augustines - "Walkabout"

It has been 12 days since I  took a step away from coaching and some people may actually be curious how I am doing and what I have been doing to better myself in this stretch. To the first part, I am the most relaxed and indifferent than I have been in years!


I use that term as I am not sure what it is like to be happy, as I never allowed myself the feeling but have experienced more misery in most people's opinions. As I have discussed often with my psychologist, I will take indifferent over miserable At this juncture, happiness is a long way off and distant goal.

I continue to receive emails and text from so many people, current athletes, athletes and opposing coaches, and I want all of you to know I appreciate the kind words and can never thank you enough. Your words remind me that I did things the right and will always cherish those personal  relationships even more than the championships we won in my tenure as coach at SU.

As for what I have I been up to? You have to remember I live in Selinsgrove so not too much but here goes.........

Obviously, the training for Ironman Lake Placid is the biggest part of my daily routine right now with this much free time. And I may add, well deserved free time after the last 15 years!!!  But training for such a race is one of the things that makes me the most indifferent. Probably the biggest thing in my life that makes me the most indifferent is Spike. If you read my blog before, you know Spike is my bulldog that I was lucky enough to adopt after a amazing gift from my athletes, present and former. When I took a step back, I initially dubbed this as the Summer of Spike. So Spike and I will will take one or two walks a day and just relax downtown on bench and watch the world pass by!

On the first few days of this break, I did binge watch all 13 episodes of season two of "13 Reasons Why". I know, pathetic, but both seasons presented such powerful messages. Check it out on Netflix!

Now, don't worry, the job search and career development  continues in earnest while at the same time I am not rushing into anything too soon. At this point, my net step cannot be something that leads me to the same draining feeling I have had the last few years. Even I know, I can't live this pro-triathlete lifestyle forever!

So for now, at some point during each day, I take 2-3 hours where I focus on my career and where I want to take my next step. During this 2-3 hours, I apply to open positions, gather knowledge in my fields reading the most recent research and working on ways to better my own personal triathlon coaching business. I am also lucky enough that I have developed a lot of great profession relationships that people have offered to help in my search.

As I explore my future career options, I am definitely putting my mental health first as I never want to get to the point I reached in my most recent coaching position. I get that no job is perfect but at least I have a definite list of things that I am looking for and not looking for.

Going into this week,  I do have several phone interviews coming up and several irons in the fire at the collegiate level as people have reached out on my behalf to search committees. I will keep all informed of progress. I also want my former athletes to know, that any position I take may not be a better coaching position as it can't get much better than what I had, but mentally for myself it is a better position!

I do know that in several weeks to a month I will be coaching at some level full time but for now I am going to enjoy this time to get to better know myself, better take care of myself and improve myself professionally for the better.

So for now........Summer of Spike, Ironman Lake Placid training and taking care of myself!

#StopTheStigma #Iam1in4 #NationalMentalHealthAwarenessMonth

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Finally Doing Something That Might Be Good For Me

"Forgive me I can't speak straight
 Forgive me I can't
 Forgive me it's far too late
 Choke down the gateway drug
 Opened the gates, in came the flood, it comes
 Like a blush of love, it hits me without warning
 Long nights of getting lost
 I walk beneath the bridge I don't know
 I need black suit for tomorrow, I'm in mourning"
I Wish I was Sober - Frightened Rabbit 

Well, after 7 months I am back and blogging! Unfortunately, the break from blogging did not mean I cured myself of my depression..........that is never going to happen. Now, I am still working hard on understanding my depression and changing my thought patterns......So I am still in therapy and on Lexapro. 

I guess one of the reasons I stopped blogging for a bit somewhat makes me a hypocrite on why I started the blog about my battle with depression. I stopped blogging for fear that a potential employer might find my blog which went against the entire point of stop the stigma.

Why did I get concerned?

Since the sport of triathlon was named as a NCAA emerging  sport, I think most people know that would be a dream job for me. So as institutions added triathlons, I applied for each open position. Well, in filling out an application for one job, it asked you to list any handicaps you might have........And low an behold, depression is listed as a handicap. WTF?!?!?!!? 

And you wonder why people don't want to talk about mental health issues. But concerned about missing out on a potential dream job of coaching triathlons at the collegiate level, I took a break. And fr all those that read the blog, I apologize and I did feel a sense  of guilt for stopping. At the same time I felt very angry about the connotation that depression was a handicap and it was the topic of several of my therapy sessions. 

If you are unaware, the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so what better time to start blogging. And given a recent decision, I have some time for myself and to blog/ 

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, I stepped down as Head Cross Country/Track & Field Coach for the men and women's programs after leading all six teams (cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field)  for 13 years. It was a job that I gave all I could and cost me so much in return. Over those 15 total years, I gained so many amazing relationships with the athletes I coached, the alumni of the programs and the coaches in the department and I will always cherish those relationships. But at the same time, an email I wrote to the team, I realized how much I have given up, missed or lost in my life over the last 15 years. 

It was not the easiest decision but it was something that my psychologist and I have spoken about in several sessions. There are so many reasons to stay, the biggest being the athletes, but how much longer could I continue to put myself through what I was putting myself through. It was not the easiest decision either with no other job in line yet, but I knew it was time for a change. 

I have to say that the response from the current team and alumni was amazing. In reading their emails and messages, the reassured me that I did things the right way and the understood why I got to this point. 

So for now, I made a decision to take some time for myself and my bulldog, Spike. I have termed this summer as the "Summer of Spike". I have not had any time for myself in 15 years and for the first time in my life, I feel I am doing something that is right for me. 

Some people thought I was being a bit rash but the following morning after the decision assured me I did the right thing.........

For the first time in 8 months, I woke up and instantly jumped out of bed at the sound of my alarm! 

Now, I will be in coaching in some form very soon, in a very scaled backed version, but for now.......

The Summer of Spike and back to blogging explaining how I got to this decision! 

The blog;s music choice is for Scott Hutchison who recently gave into his battles with depression. He was such an amazing song writer for the band Frightened Rabbit. 

#StopTheStigma #MationalMentalHealthAwarenessMonth #ImFineSaveMe

Monday, October 16, 2017

I Know By Now You Think I Should Have Straightened Myself Out

"I'm doing very well 
 I can block out the present and the past now 
 I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out 
 Thank you, drop dead 
 Something is squeezing my skull 
 Something I can barely describe"
Something Is Squeezing My Skull - Morrissey 

I had two motivations for the idea of this blog post, or at least the song selection!
  1. Morrissey @ The Fillmore, December 4
  2. My latest appointment with my therapist 
To the first.....I recently purchased tickets to see Morrissey, which will be the 2nd time I will see him in concert in just over a year. Maybe, it was the dealing with my Persistent Depressive Disorder all those years but his song lyrics have resonated with me very deeply over my life. Though at that time I had no idea why I was always miserable, thankfully not as miserable as Morrissey.... I think, I hope!

The second motivation was a recent discussion I had with my therapist during my last "Therapy Thursday" session. Here is yet another peak into the demented workings of my mind, considered yourself warned.

As we were going over my notebook of Random Thoughts for the week, I had a list under the comment, " I am trying but sometimes but it gets tiresome writing the same things each week." The trying part was to say I am not letting PDD beat me at the same time it is hard to continually feel the same way. The first comment among the list of 9 was "Not An Act." Of the nine, this was the one that stood out to her and she instantly asked what I meant by that. I had to think for a minute, as I wanted to explain it clearly, but here is what I explained to her in the warped workings of my mind......

  1. I tried to explain that between the blog and my notebook, I sometimes think people assume I am playing into the diagnosis of Persistent Depression Disorder to keep the "stick" going. It is as being miserable and aloof is what I want to be and be known for but yet it is what I am known for. At the same time, I expressed to her that in another part of my mind, I know people are not thinking that but that part of my mind rarely wins. I told her it is tiresome because who wants or chooses to be this way. Who really wants to be this miserable? Who wants to be on medications? Who wants to be in therapy every week? Who wants to alienate everybody in their life?
  2. I also explained that maybe because of my sarcasm, that some people may get uncomfortable when I joke in my typical fashion about the diagnosis, being in therapy or being on medications. I sometimes get the impression that some people can't get how one can be so depressed if they can joke about it openly. Unfortunately, because of my social anxieties, it is the only way I know how to deal with it. I am not trying to make light of my situation but in my mind it makes it easier for me to talk about it with others.
  3. I explained to her I have had people, not understanding how deep my depression runs, explain to me that everybody has felt the same way as I do from time to time.  I don't say it out loud to them but in the back of mind I once again think .....Why would anybody choose to be as miserable as I am? Do they think I enjoy this? Or did they think that being in therapy would be instant cure? I just realize they just don't understand at the same time I will add that 99% of the people i know have been very supportive and understanding!
Someday, I will go over the other 8 statements listed along with "Not An Act" but that will take more of a flow chart as in some way they are all interconnected. My therapist thinks that it would make a great blog post because of the intricacies of each statement though it could also get very confusing. Confusing you have to remember who's mind you are working with here! At the same time, I have to leave some topics for the blog to continue! Ha ha!

#stopthestigma #iam1in4 #imfine

Sitting Waiting For Therapy Session