Thursday, December 22, 2016

How To Save A Life.

Year-round but especially during the holidays, some people are desperate and in pain. For some, it's so extreme that they contemplate taking their own life. And being a decent, compassionate human being, you want to prevent that from happening. So here's what you need to know about saving a life:

You can't.

Not what you wanted to hear? Too bad. It's the truth. You can't save someone determined to end their own life. You can't shield them from a weapon of choice nor the opportunity to take action.

That's the reality of the situation. But, not being able to save someone is not the same as not being able to do anything to help.

There are things you can do.

Okay, so maybe you can't prevent a determined person from taking their own life. And that sucks. But you CAN intervene in such a way that you reduce the likelihood the person feels completely abandoned and alone. You can be the reason someone decides to stick around.

It starts with making sure the other person knows you are there for them. There's no reason to be coy or subtle here. Try, "Jane, I know you're hurting, and I want you to know that I am right here when you are ready to talk about what is happening."

Now that you have their attention, try listening to the person in pain. Maybe they want to talk about what is happening with them. Maybe they want to talk about anything but. Either way is fine. Just make sure that the other person understands that they have an ally when they are truly in need.

Rally The Troops

Being a rock for another person can take its own toll. It's tough to be on call 24/7, never knowing what news might be on the other end of your ringing phone. And no matter how much you want to help another person, you have your own life and responsibilities to handle. It can quickly feel like you yourself are drowning in worry and anguish.

That's why you rally the troops early on. If you know someone is in trouble, reach out to their friends and establish a network of support. Again, no need to be subtle here. "Hey guys, I've noticed that Robert is really going through a tough time and I'm worried about him. I need some help supporting him right now."

Be Obvious

There's no need to hide what you are doing from the friend in trouble. "Jane, a few of us know that you are dealing with a lot right now and we are here to help. Tom wants to drop round tomorrow and bring you some lunch, if that's alright." The whole point here is to make sure that Jane knows she isn't alone, that other people care about her, and that people will do whatever they can to help make her days a little less painful.

Maintain Boundaries

Remember, your friend still deserves respect and privacy. They also need to know that they are in charge of what happens in their life. So don't talk around them and don't try to out-maneuver them. You are not saving them, you are helping them see for themselves that they matter and that life is worth living.

It's a fine line to walk, I know. On one hand, you want to fix things. On the other hand, you have to leave someone to sort out their own situation. So find a compromise. Give them space but make sure they know they are not alone.

So Now What?

All of this is fine, but what about real life scenarios? What can a person really do to help someone else?

I start with this. It's my Cover Photo on Facebook.

And I mean it. If someone reaches out to me, I reach back. I make sure they know that someone is available to talk... and more importantly... to listen. I try to put them in touch with professionals or organizations that are better able to assist. And I tell them over and over again that we need them here in our lives and that they still have so much to offer this world.

Life is messy. Sometimes, people want to check out. And you can't save them if they are determined to go. What we can do is help them see the good in this world - friendly faces, strong shoulders, and safe embraces.

And hopefully, that will be enough to help someone see the world in a little brighter light.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A Blaze of Apathy

It's been nearly a month since I posted a blog, and that seems just about right. The joke is that I'm going out in a blaze of apathy. Not cool. And not funny.

I've shared elsewhere that I'm taking some new medications, and although they are great for my mental health, they have not been as kind in other ways. One, the side effects are increased appetite and weight gain. Two, without my edge, I've been feeling somewhat "blah" and not really motivated to do anything.

It's a bit of a trade-off, actually. It's good that I am not experiencing manic or depressed stages. It's really good. Because those tend to get me into trouble. But I am also having to learn to work a little harder to stay motivated and focused on my physical goals. It's just so easy to be "okay" and let it go at that.

But physically, I'm not okay. I'm behind on my running schedule, I'm out of my workout routine, and I'm way off with my eating habits.

Sure, I'm having some good days.

But two days aren't a very strong pattern, are they?

In fact, the only pattern I see is that this is YET another blog from me talking about how poorly I have been doing and about how much I need to get my act together.

So that's a bit discouraging.

I don't know what it's going to take for me to turn this around long-term. But there has to be something, because I'm not happy where I am right now. But apparently, I'm not unhappy enough to take any real action.

Like I said, a blaze of apathy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Do Something. Anything!

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of asking for help when you need it. But there's the other side of that. There's helping other people when they need it. So let's talk about that.


Helping someone else might involve money, time, or other resources that you have and other people need. It can be as simple as donating to a charitable cause or as complex as offering a service to someone else. It's everything from dropping a friend at the airport to babysitting children to keeping someone company while they sit vigil at a hospital for someone else. It's as easy as giving a buddy a much-needed compliment and as difficult as sharing a hard truth with a close friend.


In the digital age, we can help people next door or half a world away. There's no geographic limitation.


There are two elements to the question of "when?" The first is identifying the need, and that is either because a person asks for help or someone else speaks up on their behalf. The second element is the timing of the actual help, itself. It may be urgent or it may be something scheduled and delayed. Either way, though, when help is time-sensitive, it's important that is recognized and respected.


This is a question that only you can answer. In general, helping someone is best done altruistically, truly done for the benefit of someone else. But it can be done in honor of someone else, for example. And the most common reason I help someone else? Because it lets me take my attention of myself and my own problems and resets my bad attitude.


This is absolutely the best part, the specifics of helping people.

If a friend asks for help, it's easy. Just do what they ask for if at all possible. If they need a ride, or a reference, or a reminder, give it to them. If they ask to talk through a problem, listen to them. If they are struggling with confidence, help prop them up by reminding them of their strengths.

Even if you can't be there in person, you can make a difference for someone. Send them a personal note, or a card, or a little gift. Text them an encouraging message. Call them and give them a reason to smile.

There are a few other things to keep in mind:
  • Be honest. 
  • Be direct. 
  • Be specific. 
  • Be mindful. 
  • It should be about them, not you.

And now for a more controversial opinion: Prayers aren't the answer. At least, they can't be the only answer. Prayer isn't helpful if it isn't accompanied by actual help. And that is an opinion supported by the Bible, itself.

Faith and Works

The Book of James

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Helping others is truly one of the grandest things we can do as human beings. We can literally change the path of someone's life with a simple word or action. Who wouldn't want to do that every chance you can?

And I'd like to hear from folks with examples of helping others. Don't be shy or fear that your comments may seem like you are bragging. I'm specifically asking, what have you done and how did it help someone else?

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ask For What You Need.

How do you get what you want and need? Ask for it.

It's that simple... and that complicated. Fortunately, I'm here to help you navigate the process. So let's do this.

Build the Right Circle

It starts with surrounding yourself with friends that you trust. It may only be one good person, but that's enough. Better to have one or a couple of solid people than to have a whole group of people you can't depend on. Maybe it's an old friend. Maybe it's someone you met online and you've developed a real friendship. Maybe it's a co-worker or neighbor and you just clicked. Where the friends come from isn't important. It just matters that you have someone in your life you can turn to when you are in need.

Know What You Want

Recognizing you are in need is one thing, but it also helps to know exactly what you need from someone. Sometimes, you may want a friend to listen while you talk your way through a problem and possible solutions. Other times, you want someone to distract you from whatever is bothering you. or you may just not want to be alone, and all you need from a friend is their company. Any and all of those things are great, but only you know which of them will help you feel better in any given moment.

For me, there are some days when I just need to be around a friend. I would be okay on my own, I know, but I feel like I would be better off spending some time with a trusted buddy. And knowing what I want makes it easier to do something about it.

Speak Up

This part is so important. People aren't mind-readers, and they need to know what you are thinking.

For example, the other evening, I met a friend out for dinner. On the drive over, I brought her up to speed on an issue I've been dealing with for the last couple of months. We hadn't really had a chance to talk in a few weeks, so there was a lot to cover. After, I said, "oh, and you won't believe what happened when I spoke to so-and-so on the phone."

She said, "okay, but this can't be all about you today. I have some big stuff going on and I need to talk with you about it."

I took just a couple minutes to fill her in on what happened in the phone call, and then she had my full attention. And she was right. Her update was a big deal and I understood immediately why she wanted to talk it over with someone. But the big story here is that she didn't sit quietly and resent me for sharing my stories. She didn't brood and feel ignored. She needed help and she asked for it, direct and to the point. And because she spoke up, there was no chance I was going to somehow misunderstand what she needed from me.

Keep Asking

Sometimes, despite your direct request and a friend's best intentions, you won't get what you need from them. It happens. Maybe they just aren't in a place to give you the attention you need. Maybe they don't have the answers. Or maybe they just aren't listening and are clueless that you are in need.

It happens. But that's no reason to stop asking. Check back in with the person and make sure they know what you need. Or ask another friend. Or ask multiple people. "Hey, I'm just feeling down and would like to spend some time catching up with you." Soon enough, you'll get through to someone and they'll get you the support you need.

Acknowledge Others

This part really matters. Accept the help coming your way and make sure your friends feel appreciated. If your buddy comes through for you, drop them a note afterwards and say, "hey, thanks for coming over, I really needed that time with you." Make sure the good people in your life know how you feel about them and how much it means to you to know you can depend on them. Trust me, doing this will help guarantee they are willing to be there the next time you need someone.

Pay It Forward

Pay attention to other people asking for what they want and, whenever possible, help them get it. This is really the best part. As much as you need other people, realize that they need you, two. Be there to listen, to help, and to make a difference.

Look, life can be complicated enough all on its own. If we all would ask for help, appreciate it when it comes, and offer the same to others, we'd be much better off.

This public service announcement is brought to you by me, a man who has received far more help in this life than he could ever possibly return. And I'm thankful for that.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A New Normal. ("Life, Medicated." Part 8)

Two months ago, I wrote for the first time about my decision to take medication for my anxiety and depression. I've always been an open book, but this was an especially personal admission and I wasn't sure how it would be received.

I shouldn't have worried about that at all. People read "Life, Medicated." and the response was immediate. The blog was read and shared more than anything else I've written here and I'm grateful for all the support.

So what's happening now?

I'm doing okay.

And given how dark some of my earlier days were, this is a pretty big statement for me to make. I still have good and bad moods, of course, and that's okay, too. It means I'm human and I'm not overly medicated to the point of emotional numbness.

I'm taking a very small dosage of Abilify, which is a little scary-sounding given that it is a medication used to treat the symptoms of psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder (manic depression). No one wants to think of themselves as psychotic, right?

But here's the truth. Before I started taking the medication, I was clearly acting out with symptoms of manic-depression. I was running full steam and all over the place for a time, then withdrawing and isolating and suffering through horrible, painful sadness and loneliness. It was a rollercoaster of too much in either direction, and it was taking its toll on me, on my life, and on my friendships.

I am also taking a sleeping pill called Restoril that affects chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced in people with sleep problems (insomnia). It is used to treat insomnia symptoms, such as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Restoril works by slowing down the central nervous system (brain), causing drowsiness which helps patients fall asleep.

Initially, I was concerned about the sleeping pills. But after months and months of barely getting two-three hours of sleep per night, I was desperate. A lack of sleep makes everything worse, and I was feeling ragged and totally out of control. Now, getting to sleep AND staying asleep for seven to eight hours allows me to function throughout the day.

Life isn't all roses for me right now, but it's manageable. When I'm happy, I'm good. I enjoy the moments I'm in and I don't feel like I have to somehow "crank it up a notch" to consider it a good time. Conversely, when I'm down, it doesn't feel like the end of the world every time. It's just a bad mood or an appropriate response to something going on at the time, and I know I'll get through it.

I am struggling with motivation right now. I feel a little burnt out from running too many major events the last couple of months and from over-scheduling myself. So I've cut back on that, I'm doing a little hibernating and recovering, and I'm finding new ways to engage with fewer people in more meaningful ways. For now, it's a coping mechanism and it's working. And as the weeks go by, and I feel more recharged, I expect I will be back to my old self and reconnecting on a more frequent basis with friends. For now, they seem to understand that I'm taking care of myself first.

Now let's talk hard truths.

I understand there is still a stigma that surrounds mental health, depression, anxiety, and medications. I can't change that in any way except by sharing my own story of pain and recovery. So I am doing that without shame or embarrassment.

I wasn't okay.
I was getting worse.
I sought help.
I'm doing okay.

I can't think of a more direct way to say that. I was lucky in that the first medication prescribed by my doctor seems to be working, and that I am able to sleep at night and function during the day. If you aren't experiencing that same healthy balance of rest and activity, and you feel out of control and desperate for some peace, I recommend you get help. Talk to a therapist. Talk to your doctor. Maybe counseling will help, maybe it won't. Maybe meds will help, maybe they won't. But for sure, doing nothing means that things will not get better, and they quite likely may even get worse.

Get help. You're worth it.

I don't pretend that my solution will work for everyone. And I know that the medication is not a magic-pill. For me, and me only, I feel that the meds have softened the edges of my immediate "all or nothing" mood, good or bad. And that gives me that extra moment to think about what is happening and react in a way that is more authentic and true. That's what is helping me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This Is What's Wrong With You.


Nothing is wrong with you. And what would make you click on something like this, anyway? Why would you think some random negative words on the internet apply to you?

None of us is perfect, true. And we each have character and personality traits that others may not like. But that doesn't mean there is anything wrong with any of us. We're just different.

I know, I know. This sounds so touchy-feely, "we're all special," blah blah blah.

But what if I'm right? What if we ARE each special? And what if the biggest thing wrong with us is our belief that we're not okay just as we are?

My Call-To-Action today:
Take a few moments to think about what is right with me, with my life, and with my circle of friends. Spend time celebrating what is amazing instead of looking for reasons to criticize and attack.

Feel free to join me. I mean, we can all use a little more positive in our day, right?

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Limerick for Monday

A wise man who once thought to wait
At the intersection of Chance and of Fate
Decided instead
To get out of his head
And take action before t'was too late.

He started the day in a fog
On the wheel of life, another cog
Then the thought struck
"Man, what the fuck?
I've more to create than this blog!"

A promise was made then and there
The details so sharp and so clear
"I'll publicly say
I'm writing a play"
Imagine the hurrays and the cheers.

I've done it before, back in time.
"Goodbye, David," written in '99.
It was my first
My best and my worst
And I even delivered some lines.

So enough with "what if" looking back
I've got the power to get me on track
If I want to write
I can't say "I might"
I must proclaim it as fact.

Yes, it's true, I'm a playwright
But "one and done" doesn't sound right
What I need to do
Is write number two
A blend of the dark and of the light.

Friends, take note of this date
And then, of course, patiently wait
Because I commit
A play, I'll write it
The whole thing will be done by Feb 28.

The details are beginning to form
But changes, of course, will be norm
Working title, I'll make,
"A Man's Worst Mistakes"
And with that, it's time to brainstorm

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Some twist of fate left a child here
The corner of heartbreak and fear
Struck by closed hearts and closed fists
And all of the love you missed

Silent mornings become drunken nights
No one should live with this fright
A child accustomed to this rage
Grows up and wants to turn the page

And I know you still feel all that pain
Emotions they all churn
But with time and reasons to change
I know you can unlearn

Your childhood has finally past
But scars from that will always last
It defines you and sets the pace
A sorrow that you can't erase

You think you're broken, torn apart
No one will ever love your heart
How could you know what lies ahead
Or know who you will be instead

Life is more than what happened before
All grown up, it's your turn
And life has much for you still in store
It's time that you unlearn

So much pain but now you're grown
Standing tall out on your own
Making friends and meeting those
Who draw you in, pull you close

You take a risk and love so deep
Someone who's promise they don't keep
Again the pain, a familiar ache
Lost in the dark of love's heartbreak

I know you feel that you can't trust
It never was earned
Closed and defensive was a must
But you can unlearn

Heartbreaking what you're used to
Days and nights alone
No door knocks, no messages
No ringing telephone

But time comes when you finally see
It feels so good to simply be
A person who feels strong inside
A peaceful soul who walks with pride

And I know you felt you weren't enough
But this life can turn
And I know that change can hurt so much
But you, my friend, can unlearn

So rise from what you used to be
And let the world around you see
That inside is a warrior heart
And you love hard, and deep, and smart

Then spread that message wide and far
At church, at work, a local bar
And let the folks who know you know
The pain stops here, only love will go

Look at you, at who you are
The child shall finally return
To love, to dream, to reach a star,
You truly have unlearned.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"The 22nd."

A boy leaves home, becomes a man.
Stands tall, does proudly what he can.
Serves to defend a greater plan.
But knows nothing of himself.

Days, then weeks, and months again,
Fighting in the desert sand.
Sees things his friends can't understand.
But can't think about himself.

His mind is out beyond the wire.
Thoughts of those caught in the fire.
The innocents in funeral pyres.
Taking pieces of himself.

Then finally, "you're going home,"
A place that he no longer knows.
Cannot tell a friend from foes.
No longer knows himself.

Long days become longer nights,
Eyes closed but still engaged in fights,
Shadows that don't fade with lights,
A stranger to himself.

That's when the voices come to call.
"Fuck this pain, just end it all."
A hero now becomes so small
He cannot see himself.

A bottle, a gun, a quiet descent,
Hopeless, broken, fully spent.
Too numb to fight, to cry, to vent,
An ending for himself.

How many more will we watch go?
Or worse, backs turned, not even know?
Heroes once, now broken souls,
Nothing left of themselves?

Enough has got to be enough.
The toughest can't always be tough.
And finding words might be rough,
But we owe it to ourselves.

Because we need each one of them.
We need them whole and home again.
So let today be the day when
We truly offer help.

There's so much that we each can do.
Reach out and offer a piece of you.
To one, or two, perhaps a few.
Give them part of yourself.

They may recoil, they may resist.
But steady on, you watch their six.
There is no quick or easy fix,
But trust they'll find themselves.

And when they do, and they stand tall,
When thankful that you heard their call.
When words won't come to them at all,
Know that you've saved yourself.

Monday, November 21, 2016

"I'm Broken."

I'm broken.

It's three am, a pitch black room,
And not a single thought.
It's so much pain and emptiness.
It's everything... and not.

I'm broken.

Hard to hear when said aloud,
Harder to believe.
Harder still to own these words
And wear them on my sleeve.

I'm broken.

It's not like in the movies,
A public spectacle.
It's more a quiet stepping back.
A silence and a lull.

I'm broken.

It's all the fear that follows me,
A past that won't let go.
It's shame for wrongs that still go on.
The me that no one knows.

I'm broken.

Maybe you don't see it,
Or do but look away.
Maybe you are damaged, too,
And don't know what to say.

I'm broken.

It's every day, the struggle,
The battle waged within.
Not wanting this, not wanting that,
But showing up again.

I'm broken.

It's therapy, it's "talk it out,"
It's "learn to let it go."
It's medication, numb myself,
And no one has to know.

I'm broken.

And then there are the moments,
When heart and mind connect.
The friends, the times, the feelings,
So good, it feels perfect.

I'm broken.

It's looking back at fifty years,
And all has come to this.
A broken man, who alternates,
Between despair and bliss.

I'm broken.

But awesome is as awesome does,
And I continue on.
It's six am and still it's dark,
And always comes the dawn.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some Days Just Suck.

Went to Vegas with the From Fat To Finish Line tribe. Had a lot of fun hanging out with the team. Then I ran/walked a cough-filled 5k.

And the good went to bad.

Woke up Sunday morning coughing and congested. Never felt better despite resting all morning, so opted to not run the half-marathon. And that sucked, watching everyone else run and not being able to join them. I was proud of all of them for crossing the finish line, but I'll admit it felt crappy to not be out there with them.

Got home on Monday, saw a doctor on Tuesday, and I'm now assigned to bedrest until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Apparently, running a full marathon, two half marathons, and a 200-mile relay race in just over a month is considered "pushing the limits" of what my body can handle. And now I'm paying the price.

Cue the blues.

I feel like crap. Instead of basking in the glow of a wonderful weekend with amazing people, I'm wallowing in a terrible mood of failure and sickness.

So, yeah, some days just suck. But at least I'm honest. I trust tomorrow will be better, but my expectations for today are going to stay right here at the bottom rung.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Back To The Future, America.

It happened. America elected a thrice-married, four-times bankrupted, repeatedly failed businessman to the highest office in the land. And it happened with the full support of evangelicals, white supremacists, and suburban women.

Congratulations, America. You did what no one thought possible. You took America back to the 1950's. And now, we have to figure out where to go from here.

I'll be honest. The thought of a Trump Presidency, a Republican led House and Senate, and a conservative Supreme Court is just too much to deal with right now.

Marriage equality. Women's reproductive health rights. Immigration. Equitable tax laws. Environmental protections. Religious freedom (and freedom FROM religion). All of these will likely suffer under a self-proclaimed "business first" President.

And me? I'm done. I'm almost fifty years old and tired of fighting the same battles. 

This is what you wanted, America, so this is what you get. You wanted a politically inexperienced leader and a gaggle of sycophants around him, so well done. That's what you have now. Where it goes from here is anyone's guess, but it certainly won't be good for progressives.

As much as it pains me to say this, I give up. I'm through trying to be a voice of reason. I'm through explaining to those who seem completely unaware of what life is like for a non-Christian, non-white, non-straight person in a nation of religious extremists.

"Gays are destroying America."
"Homosexuals are worse than terrorists."
"Atheists should be hung from a cross and crucified like Jesus was."
"Go back to Africa, niggers."

So this is the country the majority of people wanted, where racism, sexism, and homophobia are casually accepted and supported. I mean, the KKK is absolutely celebrating the election results. And you are the company you keep.

Honestly, at this point, there is nothing more for me to do. It doesn't matter. So I'm going to back away from politics completely. Because what has happened in this country makes me feel like my fellow Americans hate me and those like me. And what's a guy supposed to do when he feels like that?

My actions from here on out are simple. Protect my home. Protect my husband. Protect our friends. And protect my tribe. I'm armed and I'm fully prepared to do whatever it takes to keep those I love safe.

Welcome to America in 2016. Where even the most optimistic of us have moved from "make the world a better place" to "I'll protect mine and the rest of you are on your own."

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Increasingly Selfish World of Me, Me, Me. ("Life, Medicated." Part 7)

I already know this is going to be a tough piece to write, because it's only worth writing if I'm completely honest. So let's do this.

Sometimes, I am a really crappy friend. I am oblivious to what's going on around me, and I act like the only things that matter are whatever is happening with me at the time.

There. I said it. And it's true.

What I don't know is how much of this is because of my anxiety and depression and how much is just because I can be an asshole.

That part really stinks. Because I honestly don't know.

No, John. You're such a good guy. Look at all the people you help with your fundraising and community activities.

Yes, that's true. But one doesn't negate the other. I can do the big things and still fail to do the small things. And those small things matter.

For example, a friend of mine recently took a long driving trip. She visited a few states, lots of people, and had quite the adventure. But it was while I was sorting through all of my no-sleep drama and I was mostly oblivious to her travels. Worse, when she returned, I didn't take the time to pull her aside, look her in the eye, and ask, "so, how was the vacation trip?"

Sure, we chatted a bit about it. But looking back, I feel like I really just glossed over it. I didn't press her to share details, say what was great and fun, and tell me all about it. And that's not cool. As a friend, I should want to hear all of that. And I do. I just don't think to ask sometimes, at least not in the moment. Instead, at 3am, I wake up thinking, "well, that was rude."

There are plenty of other examples. I was just asked by a friend if we wanted to join them for a movie. I thought it would be fun, but I needed to check with my husband to see if he felt up to it. But by the time I got back into the house and spent some time talking with him and our house guest, I completely forgot that I was supposed to text the friend back and confirm yes/no for the movie. She had to message me again asking about it.


Am I just a bad friend? Is my depression and anxiety impacting my memory and awareness? Are the meds affecting me?

Here's the really suck part. I have no idea.

And I don't know exactly what to do about it to make things better.

I need people. And when I want to be around them, I really, really want to be around them. Other times, it's like a switch is flipped and I just really want to be alone. In those moments, I don't care about other people or what is going on with them.

Again... rude.

I suppose, like everything else I am dealing with right now, I will just handle this one person, one moment, one interaction at a time. I'll be honest with friends and make sure they know what is happening with me and why I may not be at my best right now.

Mostly, though, I need to make more of an effort to acknowledge other people and remember that they have an entire life of their own. They are also worried about things, happy about others, and interested in talking about themselves to someone who is actually listening.

I can handle this. It's just one more thing I need to do, right?


Monday, October 24, 2016

Lose Some, Win Some.

If I've learned anything about running, it's that it is always a little unpredictable. And that keeps it interesting.

But every now and then, "unpredictable" means that I'm going to have a crappy run. Maybe it's the weather, or my feet, or my legs, or the road, or any of a dozen other things. But it's a crappy run, for sure.

That was my Friday.

Not sure why, but when I started running, my legs felt awkward and clunky. I tried to run, then to jog, and ultimately to walk, but nothing felt smooth and comfortable. I just couldn't get into a groove.

Fortunately, I was running at the gym on the treadmill, so I had other options. I slogged through a mile, then I moved to the bike for four miles and the elliptical for another single mile. I was happy that I didn't give up, though, and that I stuck with the workout.

Contrast that with today. I started out with the same awkward feeling, but soon enough I found my rhythm. The run felt so good that I decided to keep going at the 5K mark and ran a total of 5 miles, instead.

Running. It doesn't always work like you think it should. But that's no reason to quit. Because when it's good, it's really good.

5 miles and lots of sweat later

Friday, October 21, 2016

From Fat To Finish Line - The Facebook Group

If you know me at all, you know that I am very proud of my involvement with the documentary film, "From Fat To Finish Line." It's the story of a dozen people who each lost weight through running and then took on the challenge of the Ragnar Relay Race in the Florida Keys. We battled the heat, the humidity, and the miles, and *spoiler alert* we ultimately crossed the finish line as a team. It was one of proudest moments as a runner.

The film is available now for purchase on iTunes and Amazon or you can watch it on NetFlix.

Believe it or not, the documentary isn't what I'm most proud of, though. It's amazing to be part of it, absolutely. But even more important to me is the community that has sprung up as a result of the film. Let me introduce you to From Fat To Finish Line - The Facebook Group.

Our little group of twelve has become a tribe of more than 7,000 people.

Yes. I said 7,000.

And we're still growing every single day. Because people want to be part of a running community that celebrates who they are right now AND who they want to become. We are fat and thin, tall and short, male and female, young and old. We are every color and religion and nationality. We strive to be the very best at welcoming all walkers/runners/joggers.

We celebrate miles. We cheer finish lines. We applaud non-scale victories. And most importantly, we recognize and support each other when those miles and finish lines and victories feel unattainable and out of reach.

We ARE the reason that people are pushing themselves to try more, to do more, and to be more. We are running buddies and shoulders-to-lean-on and a global support network unlike any other I have ever known.

Thanks to all of you in the group for becoming my running family. And to the rest of you, what are you waiting for? Come join us!

And So I Write.

I make choices.

Feels weird to admit that, given my tendency to act as if things just happen to me.

But it's true. So much of what happens to me is based on the choices I make.

I don't sleep. That's not a choice. But I decide what to do during those long, sleepless hours.

I could drink myself into a stupor, substitute "passed out" for "couldn't sleep." But I don't. That's a dark path that scares me more than being awake.

I could sit and stare at the television. But I don't. I am losing my fondness for that sort of pleasure. I think it's because I can no longer sit comfortably. I fidget. I'm antsy and restless. So I don't sit passively and watch the television.

Instead, I write.

I blog about what is happening with my own sanity. (Or lack thereof, I suppose.)

I write lyrics to songs that will never be sung nor heard.

I write poetry, most of which passes from this world with a well-practiced backspace key.

But I write. Because putting words onto a screen makes me feel like these hours are not wasted. If I can't find peace in a dream, let me at least find comfort in finding my voice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Life Feels Like This. ("Life, Medicated." Part 6)

I've always been an open book to my friends, and since the rise of social media, I've carried that same transparency to my interactions with strangers. What you see is what you get.


When it comes to my struggles with my mental health, though, I carried that much closer to the vest. I wasn't comfortable dealing with that myself, let alone sharing all of that with anyone else.


Since I've started blogging about my mental health and my decision to seek treatment, thousands of people have read my posts. That's a little overwhelming, but in a positive way. It means that my words are resonating with others and that people appreciate knowing they aren't alone with what they are going through.

It's a big change, sharing this last part of myself. But I have no regrets. And I'm going to keep on blogging about this because it's how I'm going to save my own life.

The Short Version

Me, when I stay silent about what is happening

Me, when I share my struggles with my friends

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Funny Until It Isn't. And It Isn't. ("Life, Medicated." Part 5)

I'll be honest. There is a lot of funny to be found in this situation. Changing my brain chemistry is a very inexact science, and it's inevitable that humor finds its way in.

Everything's Coming Up Trouble

I have always struggled with sleep. On the plus side, I can lay down and drift off to sleep almost immediately. On the negative side, I don't stay asleep for very long. After a couple of hours, I am wide awake again. (In fact, it's 3am as I write this, because I couldn't sleep tonight. But more on that later.)

My sleeping problem has become worse with my anxiety and depression medication. My 4-5 hours of sleep per night dropped off to 3-4, at most. That's not good. So I contacted my doctor to let her know and see what she recommended I do. She prescribed a mild sleep aid to help me sleep through the night. I went to pick up my prescription, and when my name was called, I stepped up to the counter and was met by a young-ish pharmacist I'll call Dr. Mumbles. He briefly - and loudly - explained what the pills were, what they should do, and what I should expect. I nodded along, said thank you, and was ready to walk away. Then, quickly and rather quietly, the doctor earned his nickname by mumbling something about additional side effects and a recommendation to "... head directly to the ER to avoid long-term damage."

Dr Mumbles, chatty as usual
Wait. What?!

I stepped back up to the counter, called him back, and said, "excuse me, what was that last part?"

Turns out, one of the rare but possible side effects of this sleeping pill is priapism. I'd never heard of that, so I had to ask him again to explain. Turns out, as I learned in greater Wikipedia detail later, "priapism is a medical condition in which the erect penis does not return to its flaccid state, despite the absence of both physical and psychological stimulation, within four hours. Priapism is potentially painful and is considered a medical emergency, which should receive proper treatment by a qualified medical practitioner."

So, you know, there's that to look forward to. Now not only will I be wide awake, I'll be wandering down to the Emergency Room to let the whole hospital know that my insomnia has turned me into a 16-year-old boy. What else could I do but sit in my car, giggle a little bit, and decide the whole situation was comedy gold? Good times.

Not Laughing Now

Alas, the humor was short-lived. My medication and natural insomnia are conspiring to give me a very bad time, indeed. And it's getting worse each day. I'll be calling my doctor later this morning to discuss the problem and find an alternative solution. Because I can't keep this up.

Yesterday was the worst. I was antsy and fidgety, unable to stay focused on anything. I grabbed the TV remote a half-dozen times but never turned it on, because there isn't anything that I felt would hold my attention. I tried to read and tried to write, but neither activity was enough to calm my racing mind. Ultimately, I just gave up and laid down for a nap. I didn't sleep well, but at least I was able to ease the stress levels a bit.

It wasn't just yesterday, though. In Phoenix all weekend, I really struggled to settle and calm myself. I was tired, exhausted even, but also really wired and unable to sleep. Standing around talking to people, I found myself thinking, "damn, I really just want to crawl into that corner over there and take a quick nap." That's no way to go through life, right? I can't just drop into nap-mode every couple of hours. It started out amusing, but it isn't funny now. Sleeplessness is a significant contributor to a negative mindset, and I really can't afford to slide back into that place.

It's A Problem

I'll be honest. I'm a little worried here. I know that this is all part of the process, but I hate to think that the first medication I am taking might not be the one that works for me long-term. A friend who went through a similar situation said it took him nearly a year, four different medications, and many different dosage changes before he found what works for him. Damn. I don't want that for me. I mean, I want the "this works" part but not the "took a year to get there" part.

But, it is what it is, right? I need to do whatever I have to if I want to get and stay healthy.

My course of action for the day is simple. I'm going to let my boss know I need to take the day off for medical reasons. I'm going to contact my doctor as soon as she is in the office. I'm going to be completely honest about all that is happening with me right now. And I'm going to make whatever changes she recommends to my prescriptions. I trust her.

Yes, this is a problem. But it's nothing that some open communication and a small co-pay won't fix, right?


If you're just catching up, here's what you missed earlier on "Life, Medicated":

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What's Next for Runner 12?

There's a lot of racing up ahead for me.

Three Ragnar Relay Races.
Three half marathons.
Four full marathons.
And a ten mile virtual race.

Maybe you'll join me for a few miles?

Sunday, October 16th - Road Runner Sports Craft Classic Half Marathon Phoenix

Friday and Saturday, November 4th and 5th - Ragnar Napa Relay

Thursday, November 10th - Tun Tavern Ten Virtual Race

Sunday, December 18th - San Diego Holiday Half Marathon

Saturday, January 7th - Citrus Heritage Run

Sunday, February 5th - Surf City Half Marathon

Saturday, February 25th - Phoenix Marathon

Friday and Saturday, March 10th and 11th - Ragnar Del Sol Relay

Sunday, March 19th - LA Marathon

Friday and Saturday, April 7th and 8th - Ragnar SoCal

Sunday, May 7th - OC Marathon

The Long Road to Long Beach (Marathon Recap)

After nearly three months of preparation and training, the Long Beach Marathon - my Marathon Number Eight - is now just a memory. My training was not great but it was definitely better than my training for the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon, so I consider the whole experience an improvement.

Hello, Dexter

The event was in Long Beach, which is at least a ninety-minute drive from my home in San Diego. With such an early start time, I decided it made sense to stay overnight before the race. Hotels in that area are costly and often unavailable the night before a major event, so I opted for AirBnb, instead. Good call. For $80, I found a private room in a beautiful home only a few miles from the start/finish line and two blocks away from the 12-mile mark on the course. That meant a good night sleep before the race instead of having to drive all the way up from San Diego.

The house was also featured throughout Season 8 of Dexter, which is kind of cool. The host was super friendly, too, which reinforces the idea of AirBnb instead of hotels whenever possible.

Pack Carefully

The night before a race is always a little stressful. I have more gear than I can possibly carry or use, but I do like to have options. I opted to carry a few things with me at the start and pick up extras (like my water bottle and sunscreen) from my husband when I saw him at Mile 11/12. 

The Start Line

It's always emotional for me at the start line. I was alone with my own thoughts this time, so it was an opportunity to really think about all the choices I had made that led me to that moment. From a guy sitting on the couch to a man about to run a marathon, it has been quite a journey. 

After crying my way through the National Anthem, we were off.

What A View

The Long Beach course was overall not the prettiest, but parts of it were spectacular. I really enjoyed the sunrise shining down on the water and the Queen Mary. It was so gorgeous, I stopped for several pictures and didn't care one bit about how much time it was taking me. Always notice the scenery, folks.

On Pace

After running a seven-hour marathon in San Diego, I set a goal for myself of 6:30 for Long Beach. I knew that sub-15:00 miles were easy enough to maintain and that would bring me in right around my goal time. My second 5K was actually faster than my first and I still felt strong after hitting ten miles. But me being me, that was all about to change.

Don't Talk To Strangers

Maybe I need to add Rick Springfield's song to my running playlist, because talking to strangers seems to be impacting my finish times. (I tease, I tease. I will always talk to people on the course. That's half the fun of entering a race.) 

I met a man named Rich while we were still finishing our run along the water's edge. He was a friendly guy, running by himself, and we struck up an easy conversation as we ran/walked. Turns out he is normally a sub-four hour marathoner, but he was not prepared with his training for Long Beach and he was paying the price. I opted to slow down a bit to stay with him, since he seemed to be struggling and hadn't yet fully committed to sticking with it and finishing. What can I say? I'm a sucker for helping other people.

Meeting Ric

This race was unusual in that my husband had come along. I expected he would be meeting me near Mile 11/12, and that's right where he was. Seeing him gave me such a boost of energy and momentum just when I needed it the most. I introduced him to Rich and explained that we were going to run the rest together, and he wished us well and sent us back out on our way.

The Long Miles

If you have never run a marathon, let me tell you about the "back miles." They are the ones that you have to run after the half-marathoners have peeled off for their own course. They are miles 14-19, where you have been running for a long time but still have so, so much to still run.

I felt pretty good on these miles, but candidly, Rich was really having a tough time. His body did not want to be out there, and he was physically sick a few times. But he dug deep and refused to quit, so I just kept pulling him along. And by the time we cleared the Cal State University Long Beach campus and hit Mile 20, he was finally convinced that he was going to finish.

No Regrets

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 7:20:XX. It was much slower than I thought I would be, but I am absolutely proud of the race I ran. I could have left Rich and stuck with my original race plan, but that wasn't the point of being out there. I was supposed to catch up to Rich and make sure he finished, and that's what I did. There will be other marathons for me to improve on my last time.

Fun Fact: When we took off at the start line, a Jet Blue Airlines (the marathon sponsor) jet was taking off from Long Beach to La Guardia. The challenge to each runner was, "beat the jet." The scheduled time was 6:20:00, so most people felt confident they would finish before the plane landed. But the unexpected twist was the phrase, "if you can't beat the jet, join it." Several of us that finished AFTER the jet landed were rewarded with a free, round-trip ticket anywhere Jet Blue flies non-stop from Long Beach. Yep, I won a ticket to New York just because I chose to stick with a slower runner.

Who's awesome now? This guy. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

6,000 Members. Seriously. 6,000.

Before the day is over, I expect we are going to hit 6,000 members in our From Fat To Finish Line Facebook group.

Six thousand people in one group. That's a lot of folks, to be sure. But thanks to my teammate, Linda, we have a way to visualize just how many people that is.

This is our team of twelve people featured in the documentary From Fat To Finish Line, captured at the finish line of the Ragnar Florida Keys:

From the original twelve, our group began to grow as fans became friends, friends became teammates, and we all became a tribe.

This represents what our group looked like when we were sixty people:

And then six hundred:

And now, in the next few hours, we'll be at six thousand members. And it will look like this:

Thank you to everyone who has made our original group and our passion project become a movement that continues to grow every single day. We are all so grateful to be part of the ever-expanding tribe of people going From Fat To Finish Line.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
~ Margaret Mead