Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Of Anthems and "Taking a Knee"

I've struggled to find the words to express how I feel about the #TakeAKnee protest, but I came across this and it summarized perfectly my own take on it. The author's name is Mike Wiley, and I will include a link to the original post when I am able to track it down.

"No one has asked my opinion on the #TakeAKnee protest in the NFL, but since it seems to be setting Facebook on fire, I guess I’ll weigh in. We are constantly being told we must come together and get along. I agree with that, so that means we must try to understand people we don’t agree with. So I made an attempt to do just that. Here’s what I found:

Why is Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem? This protest has been going on for a year. It was in support of the Black Lives Matter protest. Here is Kaepernick’s reasoning on his protest:

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color…[T]o me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder…[T]his is not something that I am going to run by anybody ... I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right."

So Kaepernick sees a perceived injustice in society and he’s using his Constitutional right to peacefully protest that injustice. Is he the first athlete to do so? No. Muhammad Ali protested being drafted into the military and took his protest all the way to the United States Supreme Court. All 50 states denied Ali a boxing license from 1967 until 1970 and his passport was revoked. Ali’s age at this time was between 25-29, prime earning years. He lost millions to stand up for what he believed was right.

Here’s what Ali’s said about the draft: "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?"

Ali was despised by people at the time for not being patriotic. Yet somehow in his later years, he was held in high esteem, not only in this country, but around the world.

Some of you from the older generation might remember the 1968 Olympics and the Black Power protest of Tommie Smith and John Carlos. During the National Anthem they raised a black-gloved fist and put their heads down. Their statement on their protest was "for those individuals that were lynched, or killed, and that no one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the Middle Passage."

Smith went on to say, “We were concerned about the lack of black assistant coaches. About how Muhammad Ali got stripped of his title. About the lack of access to good housing and our kids not being able to attend the top colleges.” Smith and Carlos were suspended from the Olympics and told to leave the village immediately. They, and their families, received death threats when they returned to the U.S.

(An interesting side note: The IOC President who suspended Carlos and Smith, had no problem with the Nazi salute given by athletes in 1936 when he was also the IOC President).

If we move from politics, of course Martin Luther King, Jr.’s protests come to mind. King believed in non-violent protest, but his non-violent protests often led to violence from the other side. King’s protests were met w/ fire hoses, police dogs, and beatings.

King was considered a rabble rouser, unpatriotic, communist, and of course, all sorts of slang terms used for African Americans. He was spied upon by his own government. Yet somehow today we revere the work that he did. He has his own holiday to celebrate his efforts.

There’s one final person I’d like to mention and that’s Rosa Parks. When Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat to a white man by the bus driver, she refused. But she didn’t violate some longstanding custom, she broke the law and was arrested.

Of course, all she had to do was give up her seat on the bus like the three other African Americans did when the driver directed them to do so. But she decided “The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed, I suppose. I had decided that I would have to know, once and for all, what rights I had as a human being, and a citizen.”

Parks wasn’t idolized at that time; she was seen as a law-breaker because she refused to follow what was considered “normal” at that time. And of course, in the South at that time, she didn’t “know her place.”

So I bring up these other four famous protests or protesters to prove a point: They were the Colin Kaepernick of their times. Their protests were denigrated, and deemed disrespectful, un-American, and unpatriotic. They were called all sorts of names and they just didn’t appreciate what they were given. Yet somehow, all these years later, we’ve deemed these protesters worthy of our admiration.
Protest isn’t supposed to feel good. It’s not a warm-fuzzy moment. It’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable and angry. It’s to bring to your attention, something someone perceives as an injustice. You may not agree with their perception, but you have a responsibility as an American to at least hear them out and do a little research before you call them some name that belittles their belief.

Do I think people should stand for the National Anthem? Yes. Do I think people have a right to protest the National Anthem with a peaceful protest? Also yes.

We have a serious racial problem in this country and it did not end with the election of a black President in 2008. We can either stand and shout at each other, or we can try and hear each other out. Calling Colin Kaepernick a “spoiled whiny baby” and then promising to boycott the NFL isn’t the American thing to do.

And stop playing the “he’s-being-disrespectful-to-the-military” card. This has nothing to do with the military, and when you say that, you only hope to shut down any debate. Our Armed Forces didn’t fight so we could sing a song to the flag; they fought for every principle and ideal the flag stands for ... one of which is the right to protest."

Edited to Add:
Personally, I choose to stand for the playing of the national anthem. But I do so under the protection of the Constitution, which also protects those who choose differently. I support their rights, as well.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Hello, New Drug. ("Life, Medicated." Part 13)

It's been nearly three months since my psychiatrist recommended adding a new medication for my depression, and the results have been good.

I swear, I feel like I've been very lucky with meds. Only once has a medication not worked for me, and my doctor took me off that right away. But other than that, we've been hitting the nail right on the head with what I need.

So right now, I take three medications. I take Abilify for anxiety, Wellbutrin for depression, and Temazepam for my insomnia. The dosages are small for each, but they seem to be enough to make a difference for me.

Specifically, what is each drug doing for me? The Abilify helps calm me down. Without it, my mind races a mile a minute and I can never relax. The Wellbutrin keeps me from getting too sedentary and stationary. It allows me to feel energized and able (and willing) to take on each day. And the Temazepam helps me to stay asleep and get a full eight hours. So far, so good.

I'm not saying that medication is a cure-all for everyone. That is a decision best made by each person in consultation with their medical professionals. For me, though, this combination seems to be doing the trick.

So what's missing? Honestly, I have not been scheduling therapy appointments. I know that talking things out with a licensed therapist is good for me, but something keeps holding me back. I think I feel almost like, "what am I going to hear that I don't already know?"

But that's just a cop-out. Each time I see my therapist, I walk away with a fresh insight into something that has been challenging me. I know going is a good thing, so I am going to make those sessions a priority and get in for them.

What I want people to know most is that I am doing okay right now. I know low moments, and I have weathered many of those. But right now, I'm feeling more balanced and in control of my emotions and thoughts. After so much time moping about or anxious about everything, this is a good place to be.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed, there's help available for you. Learn more about both here. Reach out to your friends, your family, or medical professionals. You are not alone and you are not the only one struggling.

You matter.
You are loved.
And we need you to stay.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back In Training

It's been quiet around here at Runner12.com, but that's about to change. I'm back in training for my next event - the Rock -n- Roll Los Vegas Half Marathon. It's not until mid-November, so I have plenty of time to get back on track and ready to run.

Vegas, here I come!

Friday, May 19, 2017

It's Okay To Talk About It.

This. Read this.

It happens just like this.

Thoughts, seemingly out of nowhere, that reach into the dark places and try to manifest the very worst of me.

I ask you, no, I beg of you, please read this linked article. The author so eloquently explains what happens when logical thoughts become irrational. What seems unthinkable – killing oneself – suddenly and without warning seems like the right thing to do.

It’s exhausting, living like this. Medication and therapy help, but they aren’t a cure-all. There are always moments of doubt, of criticism, of flat-out failure. And those are the times when people like me are most at risk of harming ourselves.

For me, and for many others that I know, it’s not about wanting to die. It’s about wanting whatever negative feeling is happening in the moment to just stop. And death appears as a solution to all the troubles on my shoulder.

To be clear, I am fully aware of the risk I face. So I work hard to inoculate myself against such feelings. They are inevitable, but drastic consequences to them are not. I have done everything I can think of to protect myself.

I am honest with myself about my own feelings. I am honest with others, letting them know when I feel myself drawn to the darkness. I surround myself with good, strong people who remind me daily that I matter to them.

In other words, I have tried to proactively protect myself against thoughts of suicide. And so far, I’ve been successful. But part of me fears that it will only be a matter of time until the dark feelings prove to be too much for me.

Think that’s scary to read? Imagine being me and writing those words. They terrify me. And they should.

I will continue to reach out for help. I will continue to work with my therapist and my psychiatrist to find the right medications. And I will continue to write and share my struggle openly. Because I don’t want to be just another statistic, someone with so many reasons to live who just gave up.
I’m alive. And I plan to stay that way.

And if any of this rings true for you, talk to me. Talk to someone else. Talk to a counselor or a therapist or a hotline. Raise your hand and say, “I need help!”

Because you matter. You are loved. And we need you to stay.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Words For Chris

For a man I didn’t know
And for the songs I did
For the happiness you shared
And all the pain you hid

There’ll be talk in days to come
Discussions about blame
Fingers pointing at you but
We’ll all still know your name

I listened to your albums
I cheered from in the crowd
I stood in the black hole sun
And yelled and screamed out loud

Maybe you were feeling lost
Confused by your own mind
Maybe that was why you chose
To leave this all behind

I don’t know what to learn here
Whatever lesson taught
Whatever pain you battled
Whatever fights you fought

I just know I could be you
At least the way you left
I could break a hundred hearts
And leave them all bereft

But I still choose to stay here
Remaining in the fight
Waging war and holding back
The dying of the light

So I bid a sad farewell
To a heart that didn’t harden
May you finally find your peace
Home in your sound garden

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Two Steps Back. ("Life, Medicated." Part 12)

It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I wrote an update. It’s even harder to see where I am right now and be willing to share that openly and honestly. But that’s my thing, right? So here goes.

On the upside, my medication appears to be working. I’m able to function without descending into overwhelming moments of sadness. That’s a good thing. My emotions feel like they have balanced out for the most part.

But there’s a downside. For the last several months, I feel like I have been floating on auto-pilot. I am going through the motions each day but I am not fully functional. I am not writing, not working out, and not eating healthy. I’m really not doing much at all.

I am sleeping, though. A lot. I go to sleep each night by 8:30pm and wake up for work about 4:30am. I get home around 2pm and I fight to stay awake until bedtime. I’d rather just nap the whole afternoon away.

That’s not good.

As happy as I am with my medication and to no longer be dealing with crippling sadness, this can’t be a solution, either. I can’t sleepwalk through life.

I am scheduling a follow-up appointment with my psychologist to see if there is something we can do to modify my medication. I feel like we have a handle on the too-far-down but we have also overly impacted my daily activities.

Is there a solution? I have to believe that there is. And I have to trust that we can find it soon.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Thinking Out Loud

The more the world challenges us with nonsense and angst, the greater our responsibility to respond with control and reason.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Facing A Hard Truth. ("Life, Medicated." Part 11)

I realize this may be a scary thing for some to read, but my promise in writing this series was to stay honest and candid. So here goes today's shitty realization:

"Depression is going to kill me."

Like I said, not a great thought. But there it is. It hit me this morning like a brick. And I don't know what to do about it, exactly.

What am I talking about? Not actually taking my own life in a depressed state. That isn't what this is about. I am confident that I have safeguards in place to protect myself should I ever get to that low a point.

No, I am talking about something different but related. I am talking about the negative physical consequences of depression.

One study found that depression is as harmful to the body as obesity. 
Depression is almost as likely to cause heart disease in men as obesity, according to new research.

Another study found that ongoing depression is as bad as smoking. Seriously, smoking. Holy crap. Like I needed another thing to worry about, right? I thought I had a handle on my depression and coping mechanisms in place. But I hadn't taken into account the negative physical impact of depression.

Again, to be clear, this isn't about depression leading to suicide. This is about the adverse physical impact that depression has on a person's physical health. And that scares the crap out of me. Because I am already fighting obesity and my depression makes it harder to stay motivated to do anything about it.

What a vicious circle. Feel depressed so don't work out. Don't work out so don't lose weight. Stay heavy and feel depressed. AND then, suffer physical health problems on top of all that.

Okay, okay. I get it. I need to fix what is happening before it does even more harm to my body. 

So why do I feel even worse knowing all of this?


Friday, March 24, 2017

Hello, Depression. ("Life, Medicated." Part 10)

It's been nearly two months since I blogged here. In blogger-time, that's forever. But it doesn't feel that long to me. And that's because everything seems to be a bit of a blur right now, time wise. Days are slow but weeks are flying by.

"You're depressed."

My husband said those exact words to me yesterday, and since then, I can't stop replaying them in my head. It seems so obvious - now - but I really didn't see it while it was coming on.

I don't feel like reading.
I don't feel like writing.
I don't feel like watching TV.
I don't feel like listening to music.

I don't want company.
I don't want to be alone.

I don't want to to work out.
I don't want to go out.
I don't want to hang out.

But I haven't a clue what I want to do.

Depression is sneaky.

Depression is not always a dark, sullen mood filled with horrible thoughts and endless tears. Sometimes, it's just the steady drone of nothingness. And in some ways, that's worse than the dramatic depression.

When I've been that low, I've been smart enough to reach out for help.
"Hey, I'm bottoming out and I'm afraid of being alone." 

But this? What the heck would I say to people? 
"Hey, I'm feeling absolutely nothing and want to do absolutely 
nothing, so let's not get together for a beer, okay?"

Depression is in for the long game.

I have been depressed for weeks now, if not for months. I've struggled to find excitement in any of the things I usually do. But I don't want to do anything but sleep. I've gone from being busy each day with workouts and friends to coming home from work, napping for an hour or more, having dinner, and then killing time until I can go to bed.

Looking back, I can see that this has been going on for a long time. I have covered it up with bursts of "the old me," but it's just an in-the-moment fix. Afterwards, I'm right back to being this non-person.

I'm not sad, necessarily. I mean, I feel sad when I sit and think about where I am right now. But overall, no, I'm not feeling sad or gloomy. But I'm not feeling much of anything, to be honest. I'm not excited or happy about much right now, either.

I did talk to my therapist earlier this week, but I think I really glossed over how I'm really feeling. I said all the right things, but until my husband called out my depression, I didn't really believe things had become this bad.

There is no quick fix.

Fighting depression isn't as easy as just snapping out of it, anymore than mending a broken leg is as easy as just walking on it. It's not really possible to jump from depressed to just fine. But there are steps I can take to start moving in the right direction.

First, I can move my body. I have a group run scheduled for tomorrow morning (that, of course, I have spent the day trying to find a reason to not attend). But I will go and I will run some miles with my local Fat To Finish tribe members. That will be a good start.

Second, I will continue to write daily, positive affirmations here at the Daily Dose of Good. It may or may not help anyone else, but starting each day off with a positive statement helps me.

Third, I will talk with my Psychologist and let him know how I'm really feeling. I don't know if he will want to make any adjustment to my medications, but that's always a possibility. I just know I need to be honest with him if I am going to address this depression head-on.

Fourth, I will find a reason to engage with other people each day. It might be as simple as a text message exchange or as involved as meeting for dinner, but I will stop isolating myself away from everyone.

This isn't a feel-good blog entry, I know. But I promised myself when I began writing the "Life, Medicated" series that I was always going to be honest. Well, here's some honesty. Thank you for reading along and I hope that it offers some insight into what others - or you, personally - might be going through.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Relays: More Than Just Running

I've just finished running the Ragnar Relay Series Del Sol event in Phoenix, and I am still on a high from my adventure. I spent thirty-six hours with my team, Kilty Pleasures, and we had such a great time that I have difficulty even finding the words to describe it.

Looking back on the relay, I realized that when I've described it to other people, I've focused on the running exclusively. "Oh, you run thirty-six legs, three per person." But that really only scratches the surface. There's so much more to running a relay race than just the running. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to explain the different roles people play during the event.

Of course, there are runners. Twelve of them, usually. And each runner does run three legs each. So runner 1 goes out and runs anywhere from two to ten miles, on average. Then runner 2 does the same. Then runner 3. And on it goes until runner 12 finishes. At that point, runner 1 starts again and the cycle repeats twice. Some runs are easy while others are difficult. Some are flat and some are all uphill or downhill. Some runs are during the heat of the day and others are in the cool of the night. But rain or snow, sun or shade, all the runs must be done.

While the runner is on the course, the rest of the team is either off the course inactive (six members) or in the van leapfrogging. As the runner goes out, the van will pass him, wait to check on him and make sure he is okay, then drive ahead, then wait on him, etc. This happens until the runner is close enough to the exchange, at which time the van drives ahead and the next runners gets ready to go out. Being a driver at a relay can be incredibly stressful. You have to watch for regular traffic, other vans, and all the runners out on the course. You have to stay awake when others are napping, stay alert behind the wheel, and stay focused on everything around you. It's a lot of pressure but it has to be done.

Navigators/Safety Officers
The driver is assisted by the front-seat passenger. This person acts a navigator, making sure the driver knows where they are going. This can be extremely confusing, as there are potentially three different routes - the runner's route, the directed van route, and the most direct route offered by GPS. Sometimes it's easy when the runners all go down a long, long highway. Other times, it's made difficult by lots of turns and different roads. This person is also the designated Safety Officer, tasked with helping keep the driver, the other passengers, and the runners safe.

Keeping time in a relay race is super important. The first part is paying attention to the time your runner has been on the course. You need to know when to expect them to run by during a check-in stop and when to expect them to come into the exchange at the end of their run. You don't want to screw it up and miss your runner. The other important element of timekeeping is when you are switching from one van to the other. The inactive van needs to keep up with the active van so they know when to get to the exchange and take over. Screw up the timekeeping and you end up with a runner coming in and no one there to replace him.

Social Media Team
Be honest, half the fun of running a relay race is the chance to show off your adventures on social media. But that takes time and energy, so it's good to designate a person to keep up with Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, etc.

On Deck and Recovery Runners
While one runner is on the course, there are two other runners to deal with. One is the person who has just finished. She needs time to recover after her run, so she will usually settle in the van and spend time cooling down, getting out of her running gear, and often grabbing a quick snack and a drink. The other runner is the On Deck runner, who needs to spend time getting ready to run. That means they are fidgeting with their earphones and music, GPS watch, running shoes, etc. They are focused on themselves and need that time to get prepped to run.

This may be the most important role of all. While your runner is on the course, you want to make sure that you stop alongside the road, wait for them to pass, and then cheer and encourage them. You might also meet them with water or snacks, depending on how long they have been on the course and what they need. You also want to be at each exchange to cheer your runners in and out.

If you're counting, you'll see that makes eight distinct roles, but each van only has six people. And that means that people often have to cover more than one job at the same time. Teammates will shift around and take responsibility for different tasks based on the needs of the van at any given time. And each job is important.

So, if you want to run a relay race, be prepared to do more than run. This is truly a team event, and there is something for everyone to do at any given time.

Okay, now who wants to run a relay race with me?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Project One Five - Day 001 (Actions 001-005)

With a single Tweet, this project has now gone from "I wonder if I should" to "so this is happening." And that increases my likelihood of sticking with it.

Not everyone is on board with something like this, so why engage with them when I'm trying to focus on doing something good for myself? Nope, no need. So it's time to clean up my social media feed and make sure it's positive and affirming.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Working while standing is a great way to increase my energy levels, burn more calories, and feel better all day. It's a win/win.

I'm not pretending to swear off junk food completely, but today, I'm choosing a better lunch option.

This is the start of this one hundred day journey, so I'm making an exception to my once-weekly planned weigh-in. This is embarrassing to admit, but the truth is the truth. This is what I weigh. Catch me again a week from Saturday and we'll see some changes. Count on that.

And that's Day 01.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Project One Five? Yes, Project One Five.

There is a craziness about doing the same things over and over despite knowing they don’t work. I mean, repeat the same behavior and you get the same results. It’s that simple. And when the behavior is bad or ineffective, the results will be poor.

What hasn’t worked
Quick fixes. There is no way instant solution that fixes everything. Expecting that to happen leads to disappointment and I ultimately fail.
Extreme shifts. All or nothing behavior isn’t sustainable in the long run. I change drastically, then cave back to my previous behaviors and ultimately fail.
Scale-based challenges. As much as I want to see my body weight numbers fall, I know that physical health is more than digits on a scale. Sooner or later, the scale stalls, sending me into a tailspin and I ultimately fail.
Myopic changes. Being focused on just one piece of my overall health means that other areas are neglected. I become unbalanced and ultimately fail.
Small goals and short-term plans aren’t cutting it. They all lead to failure.

What has worked
Back in 2012, I signed up to run the Pasadena Marathon. But at the beginning of the year, I knew I was in no shape to run it. I had put on weight since running the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2011. I was (not) dealing with depression. And I felt completely adrift from training and preparation. I was just stumbling from day to day, honestly.
But I found a way. I created Project One Five, a hyper-focused training program to prepare me for Pasadena. I made a one-hundred-day commitment. Each day, I would find five different ways to help me get ready for my upcoming marathon. Items would include physical training, emotional recovery, spiritual study, and mental planning. Anything counted, provided it moved me from where I was to where I wanted to be.
It was a total success. Without working on a specific weight loss goal, I still managed to drop to 182 pounds. I raised more than $2500 for Semper Fi Fund Injured Marine Fund. And I ran a 4:40 marathon, beating my previous PR by nineteen minutes. By all measures, Project One Five helped me get completely back on track and reach all of my goals.

All that said, it’s clear to me that I need to kick off another Project One Five if I am to be successful again.

It sounds intimidating, I know. Five hundred actions between now and June 16, 2017. But when I break it down to one action at a time, five actions per day, it becomes possible. And when I look back on my previous experience, I know it is more than possible. It’s absolutely doable.
Wednesday morning, March 8, 2017, is day one. Feel free to follow my progress on my blog (Runner12) or on Twitter (@JohnHulsey).

I can do this. Again.