Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mark's Illness

My dad died unexpectedly last week. Mom wants to share their story. These are her words:

Depression, OCD, mental illness, unexpected death, suicide, related issues

Please, if any of these issues are triggers for you, make the healthy choice to move on to another post. Choose to stay mentally healthy - choose what is best for you.

On February 12, my husband Mark died unexpectedly. His death was an unintentional overdose; he did not intend to die that day, but it was as a result of his illness. It is important to me that his death not be whispered about or dealt with in a hush-hush manner, so I have written about his illness in a straight-forward manner and my daughter has published it here. It is my hope that we will continue to bring mental illness out of the shadows and into the light.


***Trigger warning***

I’m going to talk frankly about chronic mental illness, as someone who has intimate knowledge.

My husband had life-long, debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder, exacerbated by depression. I walked his journey with him for 43 years, as he fought to focus on all the many and wonderful positive things in his life, and to not spiral down into the over-focusing that is OCD.

Depression is not being sad. OCD is not counting your steps, or straightening pictures. Chronic depression includes being overwhelmed to the point of inertia, sometimes by the most simple things of daily life. OCD involves over-thinking, which can lead to getting stuck in a loop that repeats over and over. OCD is not a punchline, nor is it a plot generator for a situation comedy or a movie. It has always infuriated me that a show like Monk would be so well-received, with their running jokes about the title character’s tics and rituals. I cannot imagine a comedy based on the cute trials and tribulations of a person with cancer or type-1 diabetes, but it was apparently OK to take a light-hearted approach to chronic mental illness. There is nothing light-hearted about chronic mental illness.

Over the years, Mark used a combination of psychotherapy and medication to manage his symptoms, and there were some times that were very good. But there were some times that were not good. Times when the depression would become the focus and he would start to spiral downward. I could usually spot the beginnings of a spiral, and we’d work through it with the strategies he had learned to use.

The last year was especially difficult, dealing with such disparate things as the current dreadful administration and the decline and death of his father. His spirals were more frequent but recovery was also more swift. A couple of weeks ago, Friday was a very bad day. He considered going to St Vincent’s but after talking it out with me he decided against it, and he accompanied me to the drumline competition on Saturday, helping move the kids on and off the floor and hanging out with me in the directors’ room. We went out into the neighborhood and walked for about a mile and ½ and it was a very nice walk - positive and pleasant. Sunday was a good day, getting a few things done around the house, planning the next week, and evening church. At church, we were the greeters and Mark was the head usher. We collected the offering and then he decided to wait to go put it away, because he was appreciating the songs and what our guest speaker had to say and wanted to participate fully. When we got home, I checked in with him and he said things were much better – again, a fairly quick recovery. Monday morning was a good morning, with Mark getting up right away, taking care of our cats, fixing my oatmeal, and doing his exercise bike shakeout and stretches. He had plans to hike at Tryon, to help my dad on Tuesday, a list of things on which he was making good progress. And then something happened that got him stuck in a loop. He took his medicine – all of it. I could not find a triggering incident – there was no email, no phone call, no text, no note. My best guess is that he started to over-focus on something and took his medicine to make it better, and then got stuck in taking it over and over, questioning whether he had taken enough, until he became disoriented.

Here is what I know for certain – he did not take his medicine for the purpose of dying that day. If so, he would have emptied the medicine cabinet. He would have taken my medicine, and the 500-tab bottle of Tylenol, and the bottle of aspirin all people over 60 are supposed to take, and everything else. He took only his own medicine, which he used to help with his symptoms. I know he did not plan to die that day. Mark was incapable of being duplicitous – he truly WAS having a good morning, not just pretending to have a good morning. Those of us who know him know that he could not have planned and hidden a plan – he was incredibly transparent, and self-control was never something he did well. And he did not undergo a sudden personality change – that’s the stuff bad TV and movies are made of. And yet, he died. From an overdose of the medications that, for years, had helped him manage the awful combination of depression and OCD. Nothing about the day pointed to an intent to die. When Mark had a meltdown, it was messy. Monday was not a messy day, in any way. And when he had intrusive thoughts, he could not keep them to himself. There would have been a call, or a text, or something. He did not plan to die that day. And yet, he died.

Mark fought depression his entire life. Childhood school records show indications that OCD came along early as well. He fought long and hard and well. The OCD made it so that he could not ignore the symptoms of depression. The depression made it difficult to manage the over-thinking of OCD. Together, the two diseases were a formidable opponent, and he fought long and hard and well. He trusted deeply in the love of God and the grace of Jesus and he believed God’s people have a moral imperative to work diligently to help right wrongs, here and far away. And his life reflected that belief. When he was not in a downward spiral, he was helping others. Those who know him, know this as the biggest defining factor of his life. Not the OCD, and not the depression. Helping others. Helping. Others.

It is imperative that the rest of us need to continue to shed light on mental illness, so that those who are affected are not afraid to get help (we would NEVER suggest someone needing dialysis should just “try harder”). To not make fun of those who are affected, but to be there to support (we would NEVER make fun of someone fighting cancer). To never let any aspect of mental illness become a punchline (we would NEVER create a comedy around the trials of someone with chronic pain). To help people understand that mental illness does not mean violence. To help people understand that mental illness does not mean weakness. To not look at evil and instead call it mental illness. 

Resources to help:
Crisis Text Line
National Alliance on Mental Illness - Crisis Services

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

No. 3, 4

No. 3 of the year was David Baldacci's The Christmas Train:
 I listened to this one on audiobook while doing chores and cruising around town. It kinda freaked me out, as I've had some bad luck with trains. But I did like the Christmas theme :)

No.4 was Elizabeth Lee's Nuts and Buried,  the third in the Nut House Mystery series:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

100 miles for January!

I hit 100 running miles for the month of January!! That's pretty good, especially since I'm not training for anything big right now :)
A few days ago, I realized I was close, and my competitive/OCD/love-a-challenge self decided that I had to make it happen. My schedule was a little tight, but I worked in some extra runs to top it off.

I ran a few miles Tuesday night after family dinner. Then my alarm went off before 5 a.m. Wednesday for a few early miles. Finally, Brad and I hit the road Wednesday evening to finish with 3+ miles:
It was a perfect night for running - about 45 degrees, dry, and calm.

That last run was part of the Ragnar/REI No Buts Night Run

The virtual event was to encourage people to ditch the excuses and get out! And for everyone who committed and then followed through with any distance, REI donated $1 to the American Hiking Society. Win-win!

I'm starting up a fitness challenge at my kickboxing gym, so my mileage will likely drop some this month, but I plan to keep the miles coming :)

Happy February!!


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Silly Gizmo

Does your cat like water? Mine loves it!

Gizmo loves to splash in the water - so much so that we have to put her bowl in the tub so she doesn't just dump it all over the floor! She loves to stomp around the bathtub, splash, and sit in the water. I captured some on video earlier this week:
She also loves laps. Whenever I sit on the couch or in the office chair, she settles in for a snooze:
Isn't she the cutest?? :)
Gizmo's a very sweet, funny girl :)

Monday, January 22, 2018

No. 2

No. 2 was Snoop to Nuts by Elizabeth Lee:
This is the second in a new series about a family of pecan ranchers in Texas. The first book was a little slow to start, but this one was quicker. Good entertainment for a gray day :)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Beach getaway with a hike, trail run, sunset, spindrift and bald eagle

Oceanside was the destination last weekend for a little relaxation and fun with friends.

Brad and I arrived at the family house after dark, opened the car door, and exclaimed - it was so strangely warm! We did our daily required burpees on the deck before bed:
Sunday sunrise view:
It was supposed to be nice Sunday and rainy Monday, so Brad and I hit Bayocean Spit Sunday morning for a trail run. It was 60 degrees and sunny!
We ran 4 miles to the end of the jetty and then took a short fueling break before the return trip.
I finished my 8 miles and soaked in the beauty of Tillamook Bay while Brad finished a couple more miles. The weather really doesn't get better than it was that day!
After showers and lunch - and more burpees on the deck - Connie and Marc arrived. We changed into hiking gear and headed to Cape Lookout for a sunset hike.

Looking south toward Cape Kiwanda:
The whole weekend, the wind was coming from the east, creating strange clouds patterns and spindrift off the crashing waves. 
We hung out - all alone! - at the end of the cape, hoping for a spectacular sunset. Instead, we got just a tiny sliver of red way out over the horizon.

We took group pic and then headed back, a little disappointed that we didn't have a better sunset.
Then about a half-mile back, we rounded a corner and I looked over my shoulder to talk to my friends, and I spotted a FLAMING red sky!!!!! OH, MAN - we missed it! We left too early.

We turned around and raced back down the trail to an opening where we could see the sky:
It was already fading quickly, but WOW!
So glad these guys joined us!
We hiked back in the dark, guided by headlamps through the mud. It was a definite adventure :)

After staying up way too late (that always happens at the beach house!), we all slept in before exploring nearby Cape Meares:
The rainy weather held off, and it was nearly perfect. We sat for a long time just staring at this mesmerizing view:
A bald eagle flew right over our heads, adding to the amazing beauty.

We're so fortunate to have this beauty just 90 minutes from home. So much thanks to Ma and Pa for their willingness to share! :)