Tuesday, September 24, 2013

One More Post on Depression

Before I move on to blog about other topics I wanted to post one last thing about my journey with depression. It is a letter I received from a friend I love dearly. She was trying to reach me in my darkest moment. This letter I have shared with others. If you are ever in this dark place please reach out.

So high, I can’t get over it 
So low, I can’t get under it 
So wide, I can’t get ’round it 
I gotta go through the door  
-Lyrics from the gospel hymn Rock My Soul

I have a friend who is in the battle of her life with depression, and my heart breaks for her. Like many people, I have lived with depression for the last 9 years. It has been a hard battle, but I've been able to get through it, and I'm so glad I'm still here and that I can once again say that life is good. 

Depression is a chronic illness that affects more than 21 million Americans annually.  Depression is more than just "having the blues". Depression is more like feeling that you are lost in a dark abyss, and you can't find the way out. You can't function. You get tired of "shaking it off", of struggling to feel better, of forcing the smile, of acting "as if". There is no "fake it till you make it" when you live in the dark days of depression. 

And so, my dear friend, I know you are struggling. I know you are having one of the most difficult times of your life. When we text or talk on the phone, I can feel your pain. Believe me when I say, I know what it feels like. I wish I could make it better for you. I know that there are days when you feel like it's hard to breathe, it's hard to open your eyes, getting out of bed feels like the most difficult thing in the world. I know that you are losing hope, and at times, I'm afraid that you will lose hope completely, and I'll call you and you won't be there. 
Know that I love you. Know that, although you feel now like you don't have anyone else who cares, or understands what you are going through, that I do. And having one person may not seem like a lot, but believe me when I say that I am grateful for having had a friend who I could call when I was suicidal, and I am so grateful for her endless patience to sit on the phone with me when I was away from home on a layover, and sometimes all she could do for me was sit on the other end of the line, hearing me say over and over "I can't do this anymore, it hurts too much". 
It sucks. The pain from depression is hard to describe. It's like having an anvil sitting on your soul, and you just can't shake it off. 

I remember the day I wanted to quit. I remember walking on that overpass in San Diego one day in April, after going for a walk to try to feel better, to "shake off" the pain, and suddenly thinking "I could jump and not hurt anymore". I looked at the cars on the highway below me and thought that jumping would be my solution. It all happened so fast. Before I realized it, I was climbing the fence of the overpass, and if it wasn't for the stranger who intervened, I wouldn't be here today. I am forever grateful to that kind stranger. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life. And the beginning of my battle to stay alive. 

 When I text you to see how you are doing, and you say you are hopeless, that you are angry with life, that you don't see the point in all of this, I feel your pain. I hope and pray that you don't get to the point where suicide seems like the solution. 

 Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. 

And I know, I know that this struggle with depression feels like a permanent thing right now, like there is nothing else you can do. I know you feel like you are exhausted from trying, tired of feeling how you feel. Or even worse, tired of feeling numb. 

 After my suicide attempt, I struggled for years, yes, years, to feel like myself again. I cried, I fought with people who wanted to help, I reached out when I felt desperate. I, like you, went to day programs for weeks to get treatment. It wasn't easy. It's not easy to have to have your soul biopsied in front of strangers, to have to open up and say the things that are in your head, to have to share the pain that lives inside you. It's also not easy to hear other people's stories of pain and struggle. But in the sharing of the pain and the experience, there is healing. Little, tiny, almost unnoticeable morsels of healing that added together become a ray of hope.
I want you to hold on. I'm begging you to. I know you feel like you have nobody, but you have me. I'm here. I may not be enough, but I know that I can't imagine my life without you in it. 

 The other day I told you that if I had succeeded in my suicide attempt, I would've never met you. You said "you wouldn't have missed much". That is so not true. I would've missed out on my best friend. I would've missed out in all the love you give, all the silliness, the things we share, the stupid funny jokes. I would've missed out on YOU. 

 You are one of the brightest stars in my life. Yes, you are a little dim now, but I know that your light is still there, shining bright and strong behind the darkness. I know that when you finally come out of the darkness, my little star will shine again. 

 So, fight my friend. Fight the battle. It will be hard, it may be long, but I know you can do it. There will be tears, frustration, anger, but in the end, there is hope. There is life. You will learn so much about yourself and about life through this. And no, I'm not trying to say that depression is a gift, because it's not, but it certainly has been a learning experience for me. I would even say it's made me a better, stronger person. 

 Know that I love you always. Know that I'm here, reaching out my hand, hoping you will hold on and fight. Believe me, it's worth it. I'm so glad I held on. I'm glad I didn't quit. Even with its ups and downs, life is good, it IS worth living. I've gone from wanting to give up to, as one of my friends calls it, being a "lifer". 
I also know that I could've said all this to you in a private email. Maybe I should've. But I also know that there are so many people out there who either personally struggle with depression, or have someone in their lives that does, and it is hard to know what to do, how to help. It's as frustrating for the people supporting the person living with depression, as it is for the person suffering from it. 

 So, for those of you who have someone in your life struggling with depression: don't give up on them. If they don't reach out, then you reach out to them. Help. Listen. Be kind. Ask them what they need from you. Don't take it personally when or if they lash out. A big part of depression is anger, and it is not directed at you, the support person. Don't quit fighting for them when they can't fight anymore. If the person in your life had cancer, you would do anything you could to help them, right? So do the same for the depressed person. 

They say that depression is cancer of the soul. If only the treatment could be as streamlined and direct as it is for cancer. Actually, from my experience, and I'm only speaking for myself, cancer was easier to deal with than depression. My cancer was surgically removed. You can't do that with depression.

And last, to my friend: I FUCKING LOVE YOU, AND I NEED YOU IN MY LIFE. So, please, I'm begging you. HOLD ON. It's worth it. I'm here. I'm ALWAYS here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Rest of the Story

This weekend is Rev 3 Cedar Point, I have been reflecting on the events leading up to the race and the life changing finish last year. I figured it was time to tell the rest of the story. Everything that has been said or written about my Cedar Point race is true but only a few people really know what happened out there on the course that night in the darkness.
Each of us train and race for a different reason; fitness, a challenge, something new or so we can buy new toys. My reason for racing CP last year was none of those; it was because my therapist told me to still race it. The year leading up to CP was the hardest and darkest year of my life. It was even harder than my cancer. With cancer the Doctors can tell you what you have, what needs to be done, treatment, recovery and off you go. I had been diagnosed with Major Depression and all I wanted to do was die. I never knew what was happening until I hit rock bottom. I won't go into all the details that led me to that point but I was there at the bottom as I call the darkest period, the cave. I was a Senior Leader in the Enlisted force of the Air Force, how can this happen to me, well depression does not care your job title, your rank or position. I was the one looking out for my troops but had not been looking out for myself. As I said up until CP all I wanted to do was die, I thought about, contemplated it, how to do it without screwing it up. But during that time every day there was this four legged silver guardian angel that never left my side, Kiwi would stand and look me dead in my eyes like a real person. But I knew any one of my friends would take awesome care of her.

(As I am, writing this Kiwi just came over and liked my ear)

Fast forward to CP race. I went to the race; it was nice to see people but could not really care about the race too much. During the swim my goggles filled up with water, struggled but did not drown, dang it. Then on the bike if I had crashed or got hit it did not matter, you get the point, my frame of mind was still not healthy. When I was out on the run/walk, for those that know the course, the part where you are on a path in a park, I stopped running and just stood there. It hit me this is the race that almost did not happen, because I was supposed to be dead. I stood there thinking about Coach Ed and the Rev 3 staff telling me if you want to finish we will be here. Team Z members who had raced that day were out there providing me support so the volunteers could go home. It was in that moment in the dark that the switch flipped, I wanted to live again. Something as simple as a race, where people were showing me that they cared through their support made the biggest difference in my life. It was not pills, therapy, and an outpatient program that made it happen it was Team Z and the Rev 3 staff. I was going to finish even if all the lights were turned off and it was just Coach Ed and maybe someone from Rev 3, I was going to finish because I wanted to live again.
The second loop was pretty quiet since there was no one else still racing, at least not where I was at. On a section where it was dark a white van pulled up and some people jumped out. I thought OH NO; now that I want to live I will be mugged! It was several members of the Rev 3 staff, whew. These were people that I did not know, did not know me but came out in the course to check on me and see how I was doing. You see that is what Rev 3 is all about, the racer the person; they truly are an exceptional group of people that I now also call my family just like Team Z. We all know about the celebration at the finish, while everyone was celebrating that I finished, inside I was also celebrating my return it life, wanting to live again.
Why share the rest of the story now?  I wanted Rev 3 and Team Z to know how you affected my life. You might not always see it but you make a huge difference in people’s live, never lose sight of that.  As I have said before you never know what is around the corner, so never stop, never ever give up. There just might be fireworks, music, screaming, hugs, and laughs waiting for you around that corner. Whether you were there or cheering from afar you made a huge difference in my life and I thank you for that from the bottom of my heart. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Something New

I have decided to try something different, a personal coach. I have found one that I truly respect as a coach and as a Triathlete. It is easy to just pick or find a coach but to fine one who matches my ideas, goals is huge. I have asked the coach to entertain me as client. Once all is set I will let you know who :-)
I am excited to push myself, see what talent lies beneath and make huge improvements.
Next up Rev 3 Williamsburg


Friday, December 28, 2012

End of 2012 and looking ahead

Today I am officially RETIRED after 25 years, I retire with no regrets only looking forward. 2012 has been a year of challenges that I want to leave behind so I anxiously await 2013's arrival. One of my close friends has had a goal of RUNNING not walking a 5K for quite some time. For some that may not seem like a huge task but for others their 5K is their Marathon their Ironman. Before I started all my marathon and triathlon craziness that too was my goal, to run 3 miles. So I GET IT. It will take commitment from her to achieve that goal just like the rest of us. To plan that workout, manage life, work and family around that commitment just like we all do when we are training. I believe in her, I believe that she has the desire, the passion, the drive to do it. Talking with her about the 5K and hearing the excitement reminds me of how this all felt for me in the beginning. A fire I have lost this past year but through talking with her and helping guide her I can see a little ember still smoldering that can be turned into that fire of passion inside of me again. So you see her 5K is also my beginning again. Yes I can do Marathons and I can do Ironman races but to me if it is with an emptiness on the inside what is the point. I race for me except for when the race is raising money for Cancer or another foundation. No one makes me race, there will never be a cash prize at the end but sometimes that feeling you get when you cross that finish line, well you can't put a dollar figure on that. It is a sense of accomplishment that nothing can ever take away and helps you to see anything is possible. It will be one of the greatest moments of my life to see a friend I care about cross the finish line and SAY I DID IT.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Last Official Workday

November 28th was my last official work day, HAPPY DANCE. Now the fun of out-processing, papers, more papers and running around. Although it is not the retirement day it is so very close. As I think about people that I have worked with over the past 25 years that have retired it seems funny that now its my turn. I have seen many who have said I can't wait to retire then when they day comes they wish for more time. Me, I am ready, new adventures and new chapters. More, much more time to train. To fully live my TRI passion.