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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sometimes I Have To Remind Myself.........

"There is a house built out of stone
 Wooden floors, walls and window sills
 Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust
 This is a place where I don't feel alone
 This is a place where I feel at home"
Cinematic Orchestra - "To Build A Home"

New Tattoo 

As everybody who reads this blog knows, I have a weekly therapy session with my psychologist, which has been helping tremendously, but sometimes that just is not enough. Sometimes I need a that daily reminder and earlier in the week I gave myself that reminder............ the above tattoo 

After everybody who may read this.....I am only human! (Right?)

But for reasons unknown to me........I quite often forget this. 

OK, I need to be honest with you.....The reasons are not really unknown .....Who am I kidding?????

I know the reasons and there are many more than this....

These are just a few of the bigger reasons I forget that I am human..............(Now you need to understand, these are the thoughts I deal with and yet to be able to control and they have nothing to do with how you treat or interact with me)
  1. I feel as though as I am the only who feels this way. Though that statistics say 1 in 4 will deal with a mental illness, quite often I feel as though I am the only one who is miserable. Everybody seems so much happier than me. 
  2. Always feel as though I am judged by everybody...... and quite often judged negatively. Though my psychologist tells me every session, that most people are too caught up in their own little worlds to be judging me, I just can't get over my own perceptions.
  3. To go along with number 2, I deal with the unending feeling that nothing I can do will ever be good enough. It will never be good enough for me, for reasons that are truly unknown, and never good enough for anybody else because of the insane wiring of my brain. In my head, I can never be what people want me to be or be the person I perceive they want me to be. I am not sure where this idea of perfection came from bt for some reason I cannot stop striving for it.
  4. Because of number 3, I have never been able to enjoy anything in my life. Even today this continues, despite therapy and medication! I finished a triathlon in 6th overall and 1st in my age group but nearly went home because I felt my performance was not worthy of standing on a podium. Because of one leg of three being a little off, I felt I let people down because it was not the best possible race I could have put out there. I want to enjoy it.......but I don't how.
  5. And in the immortal words of my favorite television character (Dr. Gregory House), "I like being alone, at least I convinced myself that I am better off that way." This ties the other four points together but yet in some ways, it is still just the tip of the iceberg into the warped wiring of my brain. I have a feeling number 5 will need to be a post soon as it will tale to long to explain now! I have to keep you readers coming back for more!
I can assure you that through therapy and medications, I am working through this and I am improving but it is still a work in progress. And putting this out there is very therapeutic for myself where some may see it as embarrassing but if I cannot be honest with myself I cannot get better!

In addition to the tattoo the big guy in the picture below has also been a great reminder that I amonly human!


#stopthestigma #iam1in4 #imfinesaveme #human

My Other Reminder-Spikethebulldog13

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Therapy Session - A Disturbing But Truthful Look Into The Inner Workings Of My Mind ((Scary!!!!)

"I don't know what's worth fighting for
 Or why I have to scream
 But now I have some clarity to show you what I mean
 I don't know how I got this way
 I'll never be alright
 So I'm breaking the habit"
Breaking The Habit - Linkin Park 

Not sure if this is best the idea but after my session today with my psychologist, I kind of thought that maybe an in depth look into one of my sessions would give people an idea how warped my mind has been for decades. 

In my state of mind after last night, the lyric above resonated with me and for a brief moment gave me the true purpose of my blog and my notebook of random thoughts.The purpose which came to mind last night could have been influenced by the beer or two which I had or could have been me justifying my depression and that maybe despite being in therapy, I am just destined to be this way......miserable!

Where is this post going???? Hell if I know half the time!!! Ha ha!!! I should stop having these beers!!! Ha ha!!

But for some reason on my drive home from the therapy session today, I thought a detailed look into one of my sessions might be a good post! (or not) 

Each week, my entry into my notebook of random thoughts starts with a lyric and the lyric above was the choice for this week. And the start of the session each week, my psychologist ask why this lyric. For reasons not to be explained yet, happenings of the night before brought me to the epiphany of why I need to blog.........

The reason......To keep others from making the same mistakes as me and being as screwed up as I am! I was making myself the martyr for all those screwed up, as I perceived myself beyond help but at least having the clarity to express myself to help others to not the same mistakes as I did.I joked that people would pay homage to me and erect monuments to me as I prevented all misery on life and all would be happy except me!

As frustrating as I can be to almost everybody, in her professional manner, she asked if I really believed this. In all honesty, I explained to her after the previous evening, I am about 50/50 on this one. And trust me, my psychologist should get hazard pay for dealing with me as I know I am not the easiest person to deal with but she humors me when I make statements like this. She then brings me back to reality but and we go into my CBT questions and we figure out how absurd these statements are! 

But then I explained to her that my notebook of random thoughts would make for a great story line and movie that will prevent others from being as screwed up as me! I explained, I picture the movie as something similar to "The Shawshank Redemption" and Morgan Freeman narrating my thoughts. Think about.........How cool would that be????? And after everybody sees this epic film, the world would be filled with happy people because they would see the errors in my ways and not make the same mistakes I did. Imagine that a world of happy  people because one person (myself) is left to make mistakes so others can be happy! 

Before you think how sad that sounds, I will be honest with you.......most people who feel the way I feel at times, we believe we are all alone and the only one who feels the way we do at the time. We often feel like the martyr and the world is against us. We feel as there is no helping us and all is lost. 

As much as I perceive in my own mind, that people think of me as just a miserable person, am I happy with that perception????? 

Believe it or not...... I am not! While at times, I even believe that my miserableness is what defines me, I am not happy about it. Who really wants to be miserable or perceived as a miserable person? Trust me, if you seen how much I have screwed up my life over the past three decades....... you would want anything other than being like me.......

So if you are much younger than me and reading this........make changes now before Morgan Freeman is narrating your memoirs! 

At the same time....not giving up hope here!!! 

#stopthestigma #iam1infour #dontbelikeme

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Where Is The Real Me?

"I'm under water but I feel like I'm on top of it
 I'm at the bottom and I don’t know what the problem is
 I'm in a box
 But I’m the one who locked me in
 Suffocating and I'm running out of oxygen"
Paralyzed - NF

Pretty much describes how my mind works!

Five weeks since last post......Unfortunately, despite the break between post, it does not mean I am cured. Still dealing with PDD, in therapy and medicated! 

It has just been a hectic five weeks of travel, running camp and preseason for my cross country teams. I just have had not time to sit down and collect my thoughts and translate them into a single post till now. And given the messed up way my mind works, there are so many thoughts to go through since my last post and it has made it tough to pen this post. Thankfully, I still had my therapy sessions to keep me on an even keel.

To start, here are my travels/happenings over the past 37 days
  1. Lake Placid, NY - triathlon training trip with 12 others/one house for 4 days
  2. Grand Junction, CO - quick trip of two days and what felt like endless time in airports
  3. Canadensis, PA - working RunningWorks Running Camp for 7 days
  4. Selinsgrove, PA - home for preseason for my XC teams 
What in the world could be so bad with those five weeks? On paper, to most people I know......nothing! It sounds like the perfect 4-5 week stretch for a triathlete or cross country coach.

But to somebody like me.....dealing with PDD and social anxiety - double whammy , it was a veritable roller coaster ride of emotions, often dark emotions. Thankfully, through therapy and medication, I am in better spot than I was 4 months ago to handle (use the term handle mildly) these situations. 

Now, what you are about to read are my perceptions (due to my warped mind) and I know nobody thinks these things (at least I hope not) so you should apologize or feel guilty. Upfront, I have to thank everybody as all of you have been so understanding and supportive and made it easy for me to be so open about this. 

Here are the two major things that occupied my mind the past five weeks and have been the majority of discussion in my therapy sessions:
  1.  The most powerful emotion I dealt with over this stretch was the sense of loneliness that I felt while in the airports on my travels to Grand Junction. Maybe it just the way airports and traveling alone can make one feel, but I never felt more alone or that I was destined to be alone than those few days. Could it have been the walking from gate to gate just observing blank faces without any real human interaction or observing others who seem to be interacting with others while I had nobody, other than some texts? Eerily, it was as though I did not exist and I was just wandering aimlessly lost among the crowd. This wandering the airports aimlessly and waiting on flights did lend itself to a lot of thinking and contemplating did I get so screwed up? Why can't I stop thinking this way? Medicated or not, this ruminating was just killing me. Though many people might want me to believe or even tell me, it is not something I can just turn off or get over. I wish it was that easy! If it was, this blog would not be needed.
  2. The second feeling I dealt with during these five weeks was a sense of not fitting in or having anything to offer a group or even worse, being alone yet in a group of people I know. Even more so than the sense of loneliness that the airport seem to bring out, this one is all on me, as the groups in Placid and RunningWorks are people who I enjoy being around and have been the most supportive. In a  lot of ways, I actually have been most open about my dealings with PDD with these groups yet my anxiety still takes over and my wall goes up. And what a wall I can build! Thankfully, with therapy, I have been able to appear from behind the wall from time to time but in my head it seems fake and emotionally draining when I get back behind the wall. So sometimes, it is just easier to sit back and take it all in and offer something when asked and hopefully not appeared to awkward to everybody else. Unfortunately, to often when given the opportunity, my replies are a few short words as I feel I really don't have much to offer or the person asking will lose interest quickly in my response. 
Damned if do, damned if don't! As much as I hate feeling alone or isolated, the idea of putting myself out there can be even more stressful. I wish I could truly explain this sensation to people. I do try to put myself out there more, especially since starting therapy, but too often it is just to easy to hide behind my wall and fulfill my own prophecies of I am better off alone.
    I know I am on the path to being better,as four months ago I could not have spoken this openly about this. Therapy and medication is working but the real key to getting better, for me at least, is putting this out there for all to read. I can honestly say I have moved well beyond the stigma and hopefully we all can which may help so many more in the long run.

    #stopthestigma #iam1in4

    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