Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday April 29, 2013

The Chair

It’s funny how something can be out of mind and out of sight for so long that the fact that it’s been out of mind and out of sight can suddenly be noticed. Such as it is when it comes to Peter, my ex whom I’ve mentioned on and off on this blog.

My last post on the subject, Five Years On, was specifically me noticing that I no longer thought much about him at all.

My mind no longer wanders down those well-worn tracks of its own accord any more.

Many may wonder why my mind often did go down those same mental paths when the relationship was all of 2 years long and now over 5 years in the past.

That’s Clinical Depression for you folks! The Depressed often obsess about things, the mind of a Depressed individual being drawn into those same repetitive patterns, like the needle of a record player playing one of my grandmother’s old worn out records.

Since Peter was and is still to date my only significant relationship, naturally the mistakes and foolhardiness of it drew me in making me an obsessive depressive.

That this has been ending has been the surest sign I am slowly mending.

Naturally, that means something had to come back and remind me of all of this again.

As part of this recent trip to Vancouver, I decided to go ahead and close out my storage locker. A few months ago I would have considered this “quitting” but now I’m seeing a bigger picture, a picture of what I want to attain for myself.

And maintaining a storage locker, with the attendant fees, for the remainder of the year and possibly longer, isn’t the smartest thing to do.

And well, frankly, I’d like to have some of my stuff back.

But there in the storage locker, waiting for me, was the chair.

It’s just one of those leaning Ikea Chairs, nothing really all that special. The cover should probably be replaced.

It’s also the most significant remaining item of my relationship with Peter that is still in my possession. I’ve gotten rid of everything else over the years as I moved about and pursued different goals and life paths.

Somehow though, the chair has always survived every purge. It’s now literally the only pieces of furniture that I actually own, since I have been staying with my parents.

I’m pretty sure there’s some sort of irony in that.

The chair was a Christmas gift from Peter on our first Christmas together. We had been going out for almost a year and he was spending Christmas with my family.

It was the biggest box under the tree. Ever.

It actually couldn’t even fit under the tree so had to be positioned sort of behind it. I have to admit I was really surprised.

I commented on wanting a chair like that in the past but I had never anticipated he would get one for me as a Christmas gift that year.

It quickly became my favourite chair to read in and relax in.

After Peter left though, well things changed. Suddenly my house began to feel uncomfortable to be in. Objects that reminded me of him were undesirable.

Somehow, through the ensuring purges and removals the chair remained in my possession although it was downgraded from “place to sit” to “laundry holder” or “cat residence” or “box storage.” And now its spent over a year in storage.

I opened up my storage locker and there it was, boxes on top of it, a layer of dust collecting around it. The cover will have to be replaced for sure now.

And yet looking at it there, all of the ambivalence was gone.

This is my chair and I want it.

It still symbolizes the same things, love and loss and a person who is no longer in my life. But that’s all a part of my past and my past is a part of me.

I may never have a relationship like the one I had with Peter again. I may never have love (even if he was the wrong person, there was still love) like that with someone in the future.

But I did have it once. This chair is the proof of that and the only thing in the world that can take that love and those memories away from me, is me.

I’m not running from my past anymore. It’s mine.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Wednesday April 24, 2013

Over the Finish Line

Waiting with everyone in my wave to start the run. Took a while to get through.

Waiting with everyone in my wave to start the run. Took a while to get through.

Crossing the finishing line was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my entire life. Days afterwards I am still grappling for words to describe the sensation.

Joy, wonderful joy, I had forgotten you.

Waiting to go....

Waiting to go….

Last Sunday marked the end of a journey started 10 months ago when I found a running training program online having me run in 1 minute intervals and then walk in 1 minute intervals. For all of 20 minutes. Seems a world away now. How far we can come in a year when we put our minds to something.

Why the Sun Run? Why not a smaller local event that didn’t require 9 hours of driving to get to? Why go straight to a 10K event with 48,196 participants, the biggest 10K event in the world as my first running event?

I don’t think of ever adequately explained that before now so I will take a stab at it. There’s the obvious, of it being such a big and important civic event for my other hometown, participating in it giving me a chance to maintain some of that connection while I continue to (convalesce? recover? find new and imaginative ways to go mad?) back in Calgary.

But there was something else too. The seed of this idea was first planted at the Sun Run 2 years ago. I was just starting anti-depressants and I was walking home from something my friends had coerced me into going to, in an attempt to raise my spirits. I remember navigating through the huge mess and being annoyed and frustrated with it all that these people were causing a pedestrian traffic jam on a Sunday morning.

But I remember after pushing through and looking back at the queuing crowds of runners thinking that this was something I could never do. The walk component I could do, but at the age of 31 I was sure that running 10K was beyond me.

It was flat-out impossible, quite simply far outside my capabilities or any future ones I might discover.

The printed results the next day, note my legal first name, John.

The printed results, note my legal first name, John.

Flash forward 2 years and what a different place the world is. And by that I mean what a different mindset I have towards these things.

It is possible. It can be done. I did it.

After everything that I have been through, I needed this triumph and it is for me an unequivocal triumph. A final time of 61 minutes and 51 seconds. Almost achieving the original overly ambitious target I had set for a first run like this and far surpassing the more reasonable goal of 65 to 70 minutes.

Watching the cheery groups of joggers out and about this morning as I stumble towards Tim Horton’s for breakfast, I am dreading resuming training again later today.

Me just after crossing the finish line.

Me just after crossing the finish line.

But I can’t rest on my laurels either. I may have ended one journey but I have started something that isn’t wrapped up by crossing a finish line. So there’s still much more to come in my run against depression.

I am still formulating my next step but one thing is certain: you’re not going to see me miss a chance to start getting in some renewed training along Vancouver’s beaches.

One journey ends and another one is about to begin.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Sunday April 21, 2013

Go!

So if everything has gone according to schedule, as of now, 9:00am PDT the Vancouver Sun Run has begun! With luck, I’m off. The video above is the ‘launch’ song in my playlist for this event, it’s called ‘Go Do’ by Jonsi, an Icelandic singer.

Below is a map of the course. Fun fact: I used to live right by the ‘4K’ flag, that was actually where I happened to be living when I had my big Depressive episode.

Route Map for the 2013 Vancouver Sun Run - from www.vancouversun.com

Route Map for the 2013 Vancouver Sun Run – from http://www.vancouversun.com

Hope you are all having a good Sunday and I’ll be tweeting after the run is finished!

Posted by: Jack Hope | Wednesday April 17, 2013

Carry On

So only six days before I’m about to run my first actual event run some deranged lunatic decides to attack the Boston Marathon.

I really don’t know what to make of the world sometimes.

What on Earth was the point of this? How could any cause be served by this random violence and the death of children, the maiming of innocents.

It boggles the mind.

And it rattles my mind too. I’m ashamed to admit it but this has definitely ramped up my own anxiety about this run, taking it from modest to moderately severe.

I know that the statistical odds are overwhelmingly against anything like this happening in Vancouver. As terrible and gruesome as they are, they are a rare way to die, something on the order of winning the lottery and getting strike by lightning.

But that’s now anxiety works. Anxiety doesn’t listen to numbers and sweet reason. It sees horrifying pictures on the television and immediately says: that will be YOU!

Come too far to stop now though.

And I’m not going to let my life be dictated to by fears of what some evil person with high school chemistry skills and a mimeographed manifesto may do.

Anxiety  can be your very own built-in emotional terrorist: it only wins if you let it.

I don’t think words are adequate to convey the emotion at times like this. There’s no sentiment that can relieve the pain and suffering caused by a tragedy like this.

As with many other Sun Runners, the victims, their friends, family and the City of Boston, will be in my thoughts today and this coming Sunday when I will take to the streets for my very first running event.

And like so many other Sun Runners, I’m dedicating this one to Boston and to carrying on.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Wednesday April 10, 2013

The Finish Line is in Sight

So it’s now less than two weeks to go before the Vancouver Sun Run, my first competitive run and in a way, the culmination of my running since I started it last August.

Just getting this far has turned out to be a pretty amazing journey. I’ve gone from huffing and puffing my way through 20 minutes of walking/running to running nearly 10K and going for over an hour.

All I can say is that I am grateful that the weather has finally gotten nicer though as race day has neared.

For whatever reason it seems I’m a bit of a strange runner in that I find running on the treadmill much harder and more frustrating than running outside. I’ve discussed this with my sister (also a fellow runner) and she’s pretty sure it’s me and not the treadmill.

I have to say that I’m feeling pretty excited. I’m not going to be able to complete the race in under an hour, yet I’m still excited to be going, feeling the enthusiasm as I do my last batch of runs ahead of the race.

As I get ready and while I’m away my posting schedule here and on Twitter will continue to be light but I hope you’ll bear with me as I’m working on a few interesting things.

I will be providing some live tweeting from race day and a complete follow-up post. It’s been quite a journey to get this far and I can almost see the end of the line.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Thursday March 28, 2013

A Brief Break

Just a quick heads up to my followers and readers that posting is probably going to be sparse for the next one to two weeks. Don’t worry, everything is fine, especially health wise for a change.

Rather, I can happily say that I’m actually quite busy and on non-depression related matters. When I am back on, I hope to have reports on how I’m doing with the other components of my 2013 plan, as well as new components to start adding.

In the interim, I am still continuing to run and today was the first day that I could run outside which was a huge improvement over the treadmill. I was ready for the change and I’m going to be ready for the Sun Run in just under a month.

So back in a couple of weeks! Take good care of yourselves!

Posted by: Jack Hope | Monday March 18, 2013

2013 Plan: Report from the Mood Trenches

Component: Support – Medical

The first post for this component can be found here: A Theory of Bipolar

My 30 Day Mood Chart as recorded by the Tracking Software on my iPhone.

My 30 Day Mood Chart as recorded by the Tracking Software on my iPhone.

Well one week ago today I had my first follow-up appointment with Doctor Z on how my new treatment is going, an enhanced lithium regime. According to the blood tests that were run, I have reached our first target amount of lithium in my blood stream.

And I also have numbers now too, the daily logging in of my mood which you can see above in the chart. This chart covers the preceding thirty days from today.

It’s generally quite spiky, although generally within a band on the top half of the chart.

There’s also the big dip, albeit one that I bounced out of fairly quickly which was a relief given that such dips before have usually led to periods of several weeks of low moods.

According to Doctor Z I’m now reaching the point where the medication (if our bipolar theory has validity) where I will start to see the effects. Hopefully, future versions of this chart will be a bit more even and fluctuations less pronounced.

If they aren’t, well then we’ll have to consider increasing the dosages or changing strategies. But the great thing now, is I have some real data to provide insight.

One change that I am going to make from here on in is to start a daily log. I’ve tried journals and diaries and the like before and I’ve never been good at them. But a basic log of the major events of each day would be very helpful.

It might help me to better understand what some of my triggers are and what situations or problems continue to recur with negative impacts on my mood.

I’m also attaching the PDF report for those whom might find it interesting. It covers from the start of this component on February 4 up till today. One interesting note: the overall trend line appears downward but for individual indicators it appears upwards.

I’m not quite sure what to make of that right now, but I hope to have a better idea when I next report in on this component in about 4 to 6 weeks.

View the PDF of the Mood Tracker Report Here.

The website for the mood tracker can be found here: T2 Mood Tracker

Posted by: Jack Hope | Wednesday March 13, 2013

Downhill Run

Vancouver's Burrard Bridge, the Sun Run crosses False Creek here. © Ramunas | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge, the Sun Run crosses False Creek here. © Ramunas | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

With about six weeks and change to go before race day I’m starting to feel a sense of anticipation about a trip to the West Coast. The race itself is, obviously one of my  bigger goals for the year, although in keeping with yesterday’s post I’m also looking further afield to what comes afterwards.

I’m also starting to think about what it will be like to spend a significant chunk of time back on the Coast, the place that I’d prefer to be living versus where I am actually living. In a way, it’s going to be taking a holiday with my life rather than from my life.

Still, I’m trying to keep my mind on the here and now and my more immediate goals, the things that will make resuming life out there possible.

In terms of training, I’ve decided to start tort… erm, strengthening myself by setting steeper inclines on the treadmill for the shorter runs. This stretches out my times but it also strengthens my muscles.

What I really need is some good weather and a lot less snow on the ground. The running inside staring at the television is starting to drive me around the twist.

Treadmills aren’t the most accurate way to measure the distance a person can run and you can see a marked drop off in the distances I can run in a given time on the treadmill versus those tracked outside using RunKeeper.

A couple of runs outside in half way decent weather (where I don’t run the risk of hitting a bad icy patch and breaking my neck) is exactly what I need right now.

Hopefully, I should be able to conduct of few of those in the next couple of weeks.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Tuesday March 12, 2013

Marooned in the Possible

‘I will fail,’ said Seldon.
‘Then we will be no worse off. Will you try?’
And against his will and not knowing why, Seldon heard himself  say, ‘I will try.’ And the course of his life was set.
-Hari Seldon and Chetter Hummin, from the novel ‘Prelude to Foundation’
written by Isaac Asimov

A few weeks back while I was out driving some errands I happened to catch ‘Tapestry with Mary Hynes‘ on the CBC, the weekly radio show about religion, philosophy and the latest in pop-spirituality. Not usually one of my favourite CBC productions.

Nonetheless I found this episode to be quite interesting. It was entitled ‘Lamenting the Road Not Taken‘ and the first portion is an interview with author Adam Phillips.

For those interested (and I recommend it highly) here’s the podcast.

In particular one of the phrases Phillips used during the program was ‘marooned in the possible’ discussing the state of being unable to move from possible to actual.

The phrase has stuck with me, prompting me to re-listen several times.

Prelude to FoundationThe quote above is from a novel from my favourite science fiction series (written by my favourite author) and encapsulates a moment when possible goes to actual.

The hero of the series, Hari Seldon, in this moment makes a choice that will shape the rest of his life, even though he believes that he will fail. He is taking a leap here, without understanding why and with ramifications far beyond what he can imagine.

This passage very much encapsulates to me this idea of choosing one of the multitude of possibilities open and deciding to make it into something real in the character’s life.

From that moment forward the path for the character of Hari Seldon was set.

The Myth of Our Potential

According to Phillips we live in a culture that encourages to believe that we have infinite possibilities. The culture does this in spite of the fact (and without acknowledging) that the resources in this world are finite which places limitations on us.

Phillips contention is that many of us are suffering because we’re focused on what could have been instead of finding ways to take pleasure in our ordinary, un-special lives.

It sounds like it’s a big downer and depressing but somehow it really isn’t.

For one thing, Phillips speaks with such passion about the possibilities for happiness that may lie in these “ordinary un-special lives.”

It also has something else: the clarion call of truth.

We have been raised in cultures that have tried to impart the limitless potential of every person, perhaps with benign intentions but often just to feed consumerism.

Every human is unique and one of a kind, just like a snowflake. This is the ordinary condition of both human beings and snowflakes.

Every human is unique and one of a kind, just like a snowflake. This is the ordinary condition of both human beings and snowflakes.

The Age of the Extraordinary Ordinary

Yet here is where I part ways with Phillips in at least one sense and that’s perhaps in just taking a different perspective. Phillips speaks very convincingly about the pleasures of these ordinary lives but in doing so he misses something important I feel.

Perhaps this comes from being raised on Star Trek then graduating to Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov but I see our current world as an extraordinary place.

This is the age of everyday miracles.

We often forget that because we’re still caught up in all of the usual triumphs and struggles of being human or otherwise despairing over the state of the world.

That’s not to say that the world doesn’t have problems. It has huge ones.

Yet at the same time, human beings have accomplished amazing things, wiping out viruses or going to the moon. Or heck, even the fact we create more literature in a year now than we did in a century or even a millennia past.

For those of us fortunate enough to be living in the developed world and even in much of the so-called developing world, our ordinary lives are filled with things our ancestors could never have imagined.

Perhaps this is one of the pleasures of the ordinary life that Phillips was referring to, but if so, it’s a relatively recent one, being able to appreciate just how amazing our ‘ordinary’ is.

Puts the un-special life into perspective.

Recovering Potential and the Possibility of Painful Choices

Even if our possibilities are not infinite and endless we still all have a potential that we can possibly fulfill or not fulfill.  However there are things that interfere, things that can be beyond our control, such as a major physical or mental illness.

Depending on the nature and severity of the illness this can ultimately take from us whatever remaining potential we may have in our lives.

But then for those of us fortunate enough to recover, we gain new potentials.

I think for many of us recovering from a major illness we experience this sensation of being marooned in the possible as our new potentials open up.

For a while I believed I was going to die. For a while I believed any future life I would have would be severely curtailed. For a while I believed that I would never be “normal” or functional again.

The idea that my future life might actually be better than my past was, and at times still is, overwhelming. Life for a long time has been exactly the opposite.

A long downward spiral, getting sicker and sicker.

Finally reaching a point in which it seems like the only possibility is that life will come to an end in the very near future and all that was possible is reduced to that one fate.

And then to come back from that and to have all those possibilities re-opened.

It’s easy to become lost in all the renewed possibilities, especially if it has been a very long time since all the possibilities of the world were open.

And perhaps this is where some of my recent troubles lay.

Being marooned in the possible is actually an enticing experience. You have, what feels like, all the choices in the world open to you. Why rush in making them? Especially when you’ve experienced the feeling of losing your possibilities.

Why rush to collapse down all these wonderful potentials, all these interesting directions down to a path that will be shaped by just one?

It’s one of the most comfortable traps a person could be in.

For me, someone who has often looked to the future, it’s been overwhelming. I’ve enjoyed the feeling that almost anything could happen now.

And why shouldn’t I after what I’ve been through?

But now it’s become a feeling of aimlessness, of drifting. Where am I going? What am I doing? How do I start moving forward again?

My 2013 Plan has been in large part in response to this and to the need to set a direction, at least for my immediate future. My first reports on this project I’m going to start posting next week, with generally good outcomes.

As my plan has brought more of my immediate life into focus, now I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

Today is the one year anniversary of my blogging here on Beyond Depression. One year ago today, I published my first post, ‘Letter to a Friend Who’s Not Here,’ a letter to my friend Terry. My blog started out through these letters

Since then it’s grown quite a bit and become about much more than just a plaintive cry for a friend I missed. It’s become an important instrument in my healing.

So it seems appropriate that I would be reaching this turning point now.

A Very Nice Paradigm

To help bring this post to a close, I’d like to share with you (thanks in part, to the miracle of Google, since my copy of this book is currently MIA) this passage.

It’s from the novel ‘Leaping to the Stars’ by David Gerrold, noted author and most famous for writing the classic Star Trek episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles.’ Leaping to the Stars is the third novel of a trilogy.

In this passage, Charles “Chigger” Dingillian, the thirteen year old protagonist of the series is having a discussion with HARLIE, an AI lodged in a robotic monkey.

 HARLIE said: “What is different or unique about you, Charles? What is it that you represent that no one else does? Work this through-“

“Okay-I’m not the stuff that I know. Because anybody can learn what I know. So I’m not that. I might be the unique combination of all the stuff I know and all the stuff that I’ve experienced-but that’s still stuff, isn’t it? That’s all stuff….that happened in the past.” I felt a sudden rush of energy. “I just got something, HARLIE. I’m not the story that I tell about myself, am I? That’s what all that stuff is. It’s just storytelling.”

“Go on….”

“You’ve figured this out already, haven’t you-?”

“Keep going, Charles.”

Suddenly, everything seemed to be fitting together-Douglas, J’mee, Whitlaw,even HARLIE. I started working it out aloud. “So, okay_so my history is part of me, but it’s not me. It’s just more of the stuff that….I used to get my bearings. This is about telling right from wrong. I need my history and my stuff and all the other context as a way to tell which way I’m facing. So that stuff is useful. But it’s still stuff. And if I’m looking in the past-’cause that’s where all that stuff is found-then I’m looking in the wrong place because that’s like looking in the rear view mirror….instead of out the front window.

“So I’m not in the past, and the now is always happening too fast- so the only place to change things….is in the future!” My brain was starting to hurt. “Because-” I almost had it now. “It’s all in the plans you make.”

“Very nice paradigm,” said HARLIE. “So who you are is what you’re planning….?”

“I guess,” I said carefully. “It’s what I’m committed to, isn’t it? Who I am is my commitment.”

from the novel ‘Leaping to the Stars’ written by David Gerrold

First Book in the Series

First Book in the Series

The Starsiders Trilogy, as it’s known, is actually a youth oriented book that took off with adult fans as well, similar to Harry Potter although on a vastly smaller scale.

The series is about the highly dysfunctional Dingillian Family trying to escape an Earth that is about to experience a drastic economic and social collapse. It’s an excellent family drama set in a very plausible future of unrest and chaos.

But aside from its literary merits, the series imparts many interesting philosophical nuggets, such as the above’s forward-looking way of seeking identity.

We are what we commit to.

And every commitment begins by making a choice, by taking one of the possibilities and then making it an actuality.

And then sticking with that choice, even when it’s uncomfortable and difficult.

I don’t know whether my potentials and possibilities and choices are leading me towards an ordinary life or an un-ordinary life.

So far, my life until now has a decidedly un-ordinary feel and I would like to keep that.

But I do know that in order for me to have a life where I can enjoy the good and happy things I will need to start choosing some possibilities. Make some commitments.

Everyone’s inevitable fate is still out there, we will all face a time when all that once was possible in our life will come down to its inevitable conclusion. But between now and then, our choices are what will determine what goes from the possible to the actual.

For additional information about some of the materials used in writing this post follow the posted links:

David Gerrold’s Homepage
Asimov Online (Be Warned, Dates from the Early Web)
In Lieu of a Webpage (He doesn’t seem to have one) a Review of Adam Phillips

And for everything else you do for me too Charlotte (not her real name, but she knows who she is!).

And for everything else you do for me too Charlotte (not her real name, but she knows who she is!).

First time on beyonddepresion.ca? Or been here since the start? Comments are always welcome. Let me know what you like, what you didn’t like and what you thought was just plain crazy! 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Posted by: Jack Hope | Friday March 8, 2013

Wise Enough to See the Sun

This week I thought I’d share ‘NYCE 2 Know Ya’ by Canadian rapper K-OS. Based in Toronto, K-OS was one of the artists that performed at the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver BC. The video was also filmed in Vancouver, although its doing what it so often does, playing Anytown, North America.

I find the lyrics very apropos given my last post and also from a mental health experience. I think a lot of us can relate to the experience of living inside our heads and being the new kid in town.

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