Change starts with me

Owning My Thoughts May Be More Important Than My Actions

I keep waiting for someone to post my exact thoughts and emotions from this week. Some get close but then lose me for a variety of reasons. I’ve been saying lately that we can all make a difference by how we act. But I’m realizing that it’s acknowledging and owning the thoughts behind our actions that may be more important.

I see denial most everywhere I turn lately. If I’m being honest, I’ll admit that I have judgments about all sorts of people and situations. Some are great, but some I wouldn’t want to say outloud. I am guilty of that. I own that. What I continue to get better at is observing my own judgments, and exploring what is behind them. And then deciding who I want to be, and how I can take actions to make a difference.

One Level of Giving Back

This isn’t meant to be braggadocious, but instead is part of my reflection, and maybe it will inspire you to take action or share what you’ve been up to and what you want to do for next steps. In the past two days…

  • my youngest daughter volunteered at Feed My Starving Children (she and a few friends did enough work in under a few hours to feed eight children from Haiti for a year each);
  • my son and I cleaned out our toy closet and then took lots of stuff to Goodwill;
  • I revealed a wish to a new wish child for Make-A-Wish yesterday;
  • I signed up for the Moustache Run to help raise awareness to men’s health issues;
  • and, last night my three children and Beth went to our church to spend time with Families Moving Forward, to help families that are currently experiencing homelessness.

But What If I Do More Outside of My Comfort Zone?

I’m very proud of these activities, but I’m realizing all of these are relatively safe for us. These efforts may not be enough, especially now.

Maybe if I push harder outside of my comfort zone in my giving, I can make a bigger difference…:

  • I’m proud that my church welcomes and accepts everyone – how can I get more involved with showing public support for others who may be different from me?
  • I see many posts from friends whose skin is a different shade than mine, expressing anger or fear lately – and I don’t know how to express the right emotions and give support – what if I reach out to them and sincerely ask what I can do to help, or let them know I’m here for them, maybe by simply ‘liking’ what they post on Facebook?
  • In this past week, Beth had friends who were taunted on campus, and I saw friends called vulgar names online for expressing their beliefs – how can I be better at getting more involved in the fight against hate, discrimination, and truly deplorable actions?

Change Starts With Me

Change starts with me. My thoughts become my actions. I ask that you take time to observe your thoughts, be honest with yourself, and reflect on who you really want to be in this world. Own it. And then go be that change and make that difference.

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I share over 20 videos below on all sorts of suicide and mental health topics – be sure to scroll down

Pick Me, Pick me

There’s an Internet challenge going around to raise awareness to the 22 American Veterans who die on average each day from suicide. I felt like I was the kid on the sidelines jumping up and down, waving my arms, saying “pick me, pick me”…and then I was nominated by Kelly Hanink (we were on the Eden Prairie Fire Department together – and we both are well aware that suicide and PTSD also affect our police officers, firefighters, EMS providers, and ER staff).

My 22 Days

I did my push-ups from August 6th, 2016 through August 28th, 2016. I’m grateful for all of the people who joined, encouraged, or filmed me during these 22 days, and especially to Tracy McKibben (Pearson co-worker) who accepted my challenge and continued doing push-ups for 22 days to help raise awareness to this important message.

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Educational and Inspirational Videos & Articles

Most days, in addition to the video I posted of myself, I posted a link to new educational and inspirational videos on suicide and mental health issues. I hope some of these videos land well with anyone out there who needs to hear these messages. Here are the links and brief messages I posted on Facebook throughout my 22 push-up challenge.

Day 2 article. A perspective on depression. Be there for all those around you. If you are struggling in any way, please let others know.

Day 3 article. Six-time U.S. Olympic swimming medalist Allison Schmitt recently shared her struggles with depression and suicide. Way to go Allison for sharing your message, fighting stigma and helping save lives. A few key messages I took away are when Michael Phelps sensed she was struggling and said, “I know you’re not yourself…I’m here for you if you need help.” The article also says they “thought it was a passing phase” and “I really underestimated the depth of what was going on”. Yep – that’s how depression works. It’s sneaky. Watch out for those around you – it can make all the difference.

Day 4 video: Here’s one of six, short Talk With Me videos. These are put together amazingly well (by Peter Cannon), and they get my heart racing and put me through all sorts of emotions. The whole point of these videos is that people who are struggling want and need to be heard (“talk with me”). Watch out for those around you & listen – it can make all the difference.

Day 5 article. From Amy Ferris emphasizing the importance of really connecting with others – and keeping the message simple (“i. know. how. you. feel. i have your back.”)

Day 6 video. An article from Guideposts in their “Our Returning Troops” section. This story gives the perspective of a soldier struggling with PTSD and suicide, and how he continues to get through that every day.

Day 7 video and Chirpstory. Echos comments I heard John Moe say during last year’s Stomp Out Suicide 5K keynote, something like “You know what depression hates? Depression hates sunlight, matching t-shirts, and balloons.” You know what else it hates – crazy push-ups and funky dancing with great friends. Thanks Kristin Danner, Wendy Cummins and Colleen Thompson for making our Sweet Corn 5K on the brick streets of Adel, Iowa so much fun today. Today is also the last day to sign up for the Stomp Out Suicide 5K (on 8/20/16) and be guaranteed a t-shirt. It’s a meaningful event filled with celebrating life. Sign up today to help make a difference and save lives!

Day 8 video. From the Veterans Health Administration, explaining PTSD. If you like this style of video, there are several more in this series from the VHA. Several of them focus on next steps and treatment. Let someone know if you’re struggling. Watch out for those you love. We’re all in this together.

Day 9 video. From the Directing Change contest associated with Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement.
There are a ton of great videos in this contest – amazing what these students have created to raise awareness and fight the stigma of mental health issues!

Day 10 video. A short but powerful video about the toughest battle the military is currently facing. Help our troops get the support they need as we raise awareness, save lives, and fight the stigma of PTSD and suicide.

Day 11 video. Interview from this morning of Sean and Katie Haines by BOB Country FM, ahead of the Stomp Out Suicide 5k. I hope to see you there!

Day 12 video. Short video from Major General David Blackledge. I struggled with finding messages from military leaders that seemed heartfelt and didn’t feel forced. It was refreshing to hear his message, “Hey, I’ve been through this. I’m not just telling you something that I’ve read off slides or a pamphlet. This is something I’ve experienced. It’s important to come forward if you’ve got these issues. No one should have to deal with this on their own. The help is there. This is no longer a mystery. The medical and psychological practitioners know how to get you through this and help you out.”

Day 13 video. So this happened at work today – eight of us did somewhere around 186 total push-ups. I’m blessed to work with so many amazing people that will jump right into almost any activity as we raise awareness and support each other.

Day 14 video. (actually came from Day 21 but I had extra videos that day). A SoulPancake video (if you’re not familiar with their work, you should check them out – they create many meaningful, uplifting videos that are good for your soul). This video is about anxiety and panic attacks. And about fighting stigma. And about steps that might work for some people..

Day 15 video. A short but very impactful video from the This Able Veteran organization. In addition to my pushups, I shoveled crushed granite all weekend and completely built the two paths behind me – glad I still had some arm strength left :) Only a week left of my pushup challenge – hope I make it ;)

Day 16 video. An entry in the 3MT (3-Minute Thesis) competition on the topic of how personalities may impact PTSD. The extra cool part is that I was thrilled to have Beth join me in push-ups tonight, and that just this year she also put in tons of hard work and preparation to compete in a 3-Minute Thesis competition at the University of Minnesota!

Day 17 video. Video I created. Yep, me. My voice, my content. Maybe not my hand doing the drawing. I created this to wrap up my St. Thomas coaching certificate program earlier this year. I fully believe that taking steps every day to chase your dreams creates positive reinforcements and upward spirals that strengthen and build resilience in your mind, heart and body. “You matter. Today matters. Your dreams matter.” Believe it!

Day 18 link. Local group in Minnesota that raises awareness to suicide prevention while fighting the stigma of mental health issues. The Steuernagel’s lost their son, Jake, just three years ago, and since then they have been very active raising money and awareness on Facebook and at events such as their 4th annual ice fishing event (Feb 4th, 2017).

Day 19 article. Minnesota State Fair edition. I only saw one other person at the fair wearing their Stomp Out Suicide t-shirt from last week. A few years ago I met Bill Goldberg at the state fair (you know, WWE…always spearing people…ok, nevermind). So what celebrities have done the push-up challenge? Here are a few (and I love that Ludacris did this at his concert – so cool to raise awareness with a big crowd!).

Day 20 video. Another video that got my heart beating faster up front but then ended in a much better spot. These videos can be tough to watch but just think of all the people out there suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues that can relate to all these voices going on in their heads. As the video says, you got this, you will get through today, you are enough.

Day 21 videos – video 1, video 2, and video 3. Hopefully anyone with PTSD can relate to some of the messages I’ve posted, even though they may seem to be created for different audiences. I’ve tried to find videos on PTSD in the military that are short, informative, impactful, authentic, etc. It’s tough. Many of the military-focused videos are longer and are much more intense. Here are three longer military-focused videos I’ve found that may work for some people.

Day 22 video. My final video is a simple and heartfelt “thank you” to all those that have served our country in the military. To any of my Facebook friends who have served – thank you for your service!

Boston Marathon – done!

Wow! So hard to believe that I’ve already driven to and from Boston and run the marathon! Yes, I finished :)

What a crazy, energy-pumping, goosebump-inducing, powerful, emotional, physical, reflective, cathartic experience that I will never forget. No other marathon or race will ever be the same. The people and city of Boston are absolutely incredible! And it was so great to be surrounded by family and receive so much support from so many people. THANK YOU all for thinking of us throughout this journey. This may be my last marathon-related post (and it may have a few lines copied from an email that I’ll also blast out – sorry for a bit of repetition). Thank you for putting up with my fund-raising plugs over the past four months for this cause that is so important and personal to me. Hopefully I mixed in enough fun pictures and facts to keep it more interesting than annoying :)

The marathon is done but my mission is far from over (and will never end). My $18,000 raised covers over 2,300 support calls by the Samaritans’ team. That is 2,300 people calling or texting in a time of crisis. YOUR donations made that possible. I had the opportunity to stop by the Samaritans’ office in Boston before the marathon. Every person I met had a story to share about how their lives have been impacted by suicide. They are wonderful people doing great work every day. I’m still aiming at raising $20,000 to support this great organization. Donations will be accepted throughout May so it’s not too late to donate today.

HERE’S THE DONATION LINK ONE LAST TIME: https://www.crowdrise.com/samaritansboston2016/fundraiser/davethompson

And now for many photos and probably way too much info about the marathon – enjoy.

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It didn’t look so far from Hopkinton to Boston in this view ;)

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Here’s my Samaritans team at Boston Common before the marathon. This was the first time that I met any of my fellow runners. Many of us have tough stories to tell and are at various stages in our healing process, but I felt an instant connection to all of them and only wish we had more time to bond…and on a day when we didn’t have so much else going on :) Such an awesome (wicked awesome!) group – I hope we all stay in touch for years to come.

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I’ve been to the infield of the Kentucky Derby many times. On first glance, Athlete’s Village looked to have a lot in common…people and trash scattered everywhere (but with less armed guards)! We arrived here after a 40-minute bus-ride from Boston. We found a spot in the shade and spent over an hour applying & re-applying sunscreen (yet, somehow I missed the back of both arms, which were a beautiful shade of bright red hours later) and looking for the shortest port-a-potty lines. Amazing how fast the time went between 7:45 a.m. (meeting for group photo) to 11:20 a.m. (my approximate start time). The sun was out and hot by this point of the day.

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Hopkinton’s claim to fame!

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Despite thousands of people in a large area, we somehow kept finding other team members…here we are just before we started our 1/2 hour walk to the start line. All smiles at this point (little did we know…).

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Chills of anticipation just before the start…

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We cut-up my marathon shirt from last year…and ended up pinning this to the back of my shirt for The Boston Marathon. This kept me going. I heard a few comments from other runners throughout the marathon, and I even had a woman start a conversation with me based on my shirt and we ended up running together for over 10 miles I think (thank you so much for keeping me going Mary!).

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Here’s my cheering section at Mile 14. I love the #ThompsonStrong tag :) Thank you Dan and Jackie for finding a way to make it to the race!

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Mile 14…still smiling :)

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Can you believe the crowds and # of runners at Mile 17? My parents and Beth had a hard time just crossing the road. Can you find me?

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My parents and Beth were at mile 17, along with the Samaritans team. It was a hot day, and despite my smile, I was starting to feel the heat getting to me. They gave me a frozen washcloth that was absolutely the perfect Mile 17 gift :)

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I didn’t see anyone from my Samaritans team after about mile 4 or 5, but somehow Ray and I ended up meeting after the finish line. Ray was also my school bus seatmate for our 40-minute ride from Boston to the start line. Fitting that we started and finished together! I ended up 2nd in fund-raising, and 3rd in finishing the marathon, for my team. I’ll take those stats any day :)

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Here’s all of the trash produced by just ME during the race! Ha!

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Beth and me at the finish! This was after walking around for 20 minutes (trying to cool down still)…I found my smile and a bit of energy again by this point!

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My parent’s hotel was close to the finish and packed with runners. The energy and atmosphere in their hotel was great – loved every minute of it. SOOOOO glad we all stayed downtown – crazy cool to be there with my family. We’ve been through a lot and this marathon was good for us in many ways. After this we all headed to the Back Deck for a post-race event by the Samaritans (shockingly, WE closed the place down).

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Anyone who knows me, knows a huge part of travel for me is for the food. Here’s my lobster roll the next day (and cup of clam chowder). And, of course, malt vinegar on the fries. This is at the Atlantic Fish Company which was right in the blast of one of the bombs from the 2013 marathon. The last two turns of the marathon are beyond words to describe (“Right On Hereford, Left On Boylston”). When you make the final turn onto Boylston and can see the finish line in the distance, you can’t help but be almost overcome by the crowds cheering and energy in the air. The streets are absolutely packed with people – I can’t imagine a bomb going off in the midst of all this. Boston definitely shows its strength and resiliency for the marathon. A few days before the marathon, my brother and I walked a mile down Commonwealth Ave to get to Fenway. I was glad we made that walk so I at least knew how the last mile of the race would go (although at the time I didn’t realize Commonwealth was the road I’d be running down).

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My mom proudly wearing my medal. Her leg had a short-lived pain after the marathon so she was limping around for a bit as if she’d just finished the race :)

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And here’s my sad workout stat. I only managed to get in one workout last week ;)

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Thanks again for all of the support throughout my journey. I couldn’t have done this without all of you. WE are saving lives. As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. Thank you.

Ok, last time, I mean it…here’s the DONATION LINK – let’s hit $20,000!!! (thanks for putting up with me and my requests): https://www.crowdrise.com/samaritansboston2016/fundraiser/davethompson

Peace in the year ahead.

24 Hours To Go

Tomorrow is the big day! What a blur of a week! I started by driving over 1400 miles from Minnesota to New Hampshire to get to my parent’s house. The drive was exactly what I needed to clear my brain & heart a bit. Before I left I said I’d match any donations received from the time I left Minnesota until I arrived in New Hampshire. I was blessed to receive 12 donations during that time totaling $450. I’ll get my matching check written once I get back home! I saw 39 different state/province license plates during my drive here – maybe I’ll get the rest on the drive back home ;)

I stopped after 15 hours the first day in Buffalo, NY. I jogged the next morning before finishing my drive. It shocked me a bit that cold temps were following me: 21F for my 4 mile jog. I unexpectedly came across this great Naval and Military Park. Cool stuff.

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It’s always a mix of emotions to be back home now. So many memories of great times, but also of what is now missing. It’s beyond words to be surrounded by my incredibly supportive family – they are all doing great and the marathon journey has pulled us even closer together. New Englanders are wicked awesome – love the people out here. And I’m very grateful for the visits, calls, and email from so many people this week – I absolutely feel the support. Thank you all.

My brother and I went into Boston on Friday. It was a powerful day. We first went to the Samaritans’ office where we got a great tour (including seeing the call center that answers the 24/7 Crisis Services phone & text lines: (877)-870 HOPE(4673)) and were able to meet so many wonderful people who make Samaritans’ what it is. The staff and volunteers are amazing, and we got to have good conversations with many people. Here we are with Steve Mongeau, the Executive Director.

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April 15th is now known as One Boston Day, and the energy, pride, and spirit of the city could be felt all around.

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I unexpectedly was invited to a small event put on by John Hancock for certain fund-raisers. My brother and I got to hang out in a private suite (with maybe 40 people) and see the Red Sox beat Toronto. Two of the people from our group even went down to throw out the first pitch at the game (a father, and his son who has early onset Alzheimer’s, who will be running the race with two guides – very inspirational). I met many great people who are running in support of charities they strongly believe in. I was the only one there from Samaritans. Part of this event included getting pictures and a chance to talk to past marathon legends who stayed with our small group for over an hour. Bill Rodgers (“Boston Billy”; won Boston 3x in a row, plus other victories in Boston, NYC and other marathons) and Greg Meyer (until 2014, he had been the last American to win the Boston Marathon for over 30 years). Both ran crazy fast but the advice we heard for Boston was, “If you feel that you’re running too slow…slow down” – I like it :)

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Here’s some of my pit crew (thanks Mom and Martie!) working on making my marathon shirt memorable for me. Watch those fingers!

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And, of course, two reminders about why I’m running. My sister’s girls (and all my nieces and nephews out here) are getting so big!

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Today we go back into Boston to get my official race bib. I’m #31114 if anyone wants to track me using the mobile app or via text alerts.

Boston Marathon race-day temperatures were forecast at over 70F a few days ago. The first half of the course is still forecast to be that high, but it looks like Boston’s forecast has dropped a bit. Amazing to think that I trained in temperatures 90 degrees colder than this – ha!

Thanks again for all of the support. We are all in this together. Be there every single day for those you love. Treasure today. Tell someone if you are struggling in any way, and don’t ever hesitate to reach out for help. You will be met with love and compassion. You are not alone.

It’s not too late to make a donation to help support Samaritans life-saving and support services: https://www.crowdrise.com/samaritansboston2016/fundraiser/davethompson

Thanks!

Week 16 Training Update

Week 16

Wow – where did the time go? An 18-week training plan seems crazy in Week 1, and now I’m at the point where I might just be dumb enough to sign up for another marathon if someone asked me. All of my “long” runs are done – now it’s time to taper. Taper. What a beautiful word. Tapering is

the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition…for many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance…the final three weeks of any marathon-training program are the most critical stage of training.

Seems hard to believe – the final three weeks of training are the most critical! How often in life do we go-go-go and don’t pause to slow down, save up our energy and re-charge. What is an area of YOUR life that could benefit from tapering in the weeks ahead? Any marathon training plan clearly calls out the days of exercise and also the days of rest. The rest days are even more important to honor each week. Make sure YOU take rest time to reflect, recover and recharge THIS week.

Who’s sick of seeing me in pictures each week running in snow? Me too. I’m ready to take some pics of me in shorts and sunglasses. Well…if that’s what you want then this post isn’t for you. Last weekend, Eden Prairie literally had 1-2″ of snow on the ground for 4-5 hours, and then it all melted away. Guess when I planned to do my 20-mile run? Yep. I ended up running 21 miles in snow and cold yet again :) Had to get out my snow running gear (wishful thinking that I packed it away I guess) . So…I ran 21 miles wearing extra gear, requiring extra effort to breath in the cold, and needing to stabilize every step…hopefully all that extra work helps me get up ‘heartbreak hill’ at mile 21 in Boston.

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As I was getting ready to leave the house for that long run (the longest run of my training plan), I kept looking outside at the snow and thinking how far 20 miles sounded. This is when your brain starts to work against you. I looked over to see what the outside temperature was, and I was instantly inspired – THIS was the sign that I needed (26.2 is the distance of a marathon!):

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And then I had my hill run on Wednesday (down to twelve “half hills” now). Yet again, “time to run” somehow translates to “time to start snowing”. Fun times. I’m getting a bit faster on hills, and I feel great the entire time, but what I’m most proud of are the near perfect sine waves I can create :)

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Thankfully, through all of my runs I only fell once (and let’s keep it that way!). It was the night that we got 9-10″ of snow, I had driven up our driveway and by the time I could get out the door for a run 1/2 hour later there was snow covering my car tracks. I got about 20 steps from my front door, stepped on a slippery spot where my tire had compacted the snow, and I fell in my own driveway. Sigh. That’s one of those that you bounce up from as fast as you can and pretend that nothing happened and hope that no one saw you. At least I fell into fluffy powder.

I was slowed by a few obstacles this week. Twice in the past week (and it hasn’t happened throughout the last four months), I was stopped on my run by trains. And I also kept running into massive snow piles on sidewalks. Again, this didn’t happen all winter, but for some reason this week the plows clearing parking lots decided sidewalks were a better place to pile the snow than in far away parking spots. Bring on the trains and snow piles and whatever else ya got – nothing is stopping me at this point :)

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This is the time during training that I feel “fragile”. Your mind starts thinking about every little hazard that could twist an ankle and impact your race. Do I stop playing racquetball? Do I stop kicking the soccer ball with Megan in the backyard? Who left those shoes just laying in the hallway and the dog toys scattered everywhere? Do I dare risk carrying the laundry basket down the stairs? Do I stop taking stairs in general? If you see me wrapped head-to-toe in bubble wrap next week just smile and wish me good luck in the race. No need to judge. Until you’ve run 450+ miles (so far) in my shoes, you don’t know what I’ve been through – heh heh ;)

There were several cool, powerful, and impactful things this week:

  • I got a full-page article with a big color photo in the Eden Prairie News. Great article to create awareness and spread messages of fighting stigma. I was shocked to see this article taking a full page – so cool! The sports reporter who covered this grabbed some things throughout several of my blog pages and even came up with the “Dos & Don’ts” section (maybe only visible in the printed copy) – glad I agree with it :) I’m not so hip on the news lingo (which I think is used in web page design too – funny how things do or don’t translate). Someone asked me if I was “above the fold”. Well…maybe I wasn’t “above the fold” (front page articles used to entice people to buy the paper) in Eden Prairie, but this month I was “above the fold” in the Rochester Sentinel – sure it was only 10-pages but at least I wasn’t below the fold – ick, how embarrassing.

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  • I got my official marathon running jerseys. One is long-sleeve and the other is sleeveless. Yikes, I’ve only been running for training – now I need to start doing some curls and shrugs to build up my arms and shoulders in case it’s a warm day for my tank top finish photos :)
  • I got my Boston Marathon welcome packet in the mail. It has my runner passport (necessary for me to get my official race # when in Boston), a welcome packet, and a catalog from Adidas where I can spend up to $250 for a 120th Limited Edition Varsity Boston Marathon jacket (zowy – maybe I’ll start another fund-raising campaign for that!)
  • March 26 was the four year anniversary of Katherine’s death. The support I got (especially online via Facebook) was absolutely amazing. On December 8th (Week 1 of my training) I wrote a post “YOU are running with me” – I absolutely felt that this week – thank you all! My sister loved doing jigsaw puzzles and none of us could come anywhere near the crazy talent she had for putting them together. We did a 1,000 piece puzzle that day in her honor, although we broke every rule of hers when we did it (e.g., we did the edge first; we did the edge at all; we did a puzzle with writing/pics so we could see where they all could go; we laid all the pieces out on the table so we could see them all). Everybody helped but Megan was my true partner in making sure we got it done that day. I don’t think any of us know quite what to do on this day, but doing a puzzle just feels right as we can bond yet also have plenty of time for quite thoughts and reflections.

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As of this post I’m over $15,600 in donations. I continue to be humbled and so deeply touched by the support I receive every single day. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many generous and loving people. What a great way to honor my sister’s life as we all are saving lives!!!

YOU can still help with a donation by clicking here. I am definitely hitting $20,000 – one way or another that is happening!

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Hey Boston, see you in three weeks!

The Lesson a Giant Pumpkin Can Teach Us About Depression

I lost my sister, Katherine, at the age of 37, to suicide on March 26, 2012. I didn’t think about her every day before she died. I think about her every day now. Yep, nearly four years later – every single day. Who should you be thinking about every day? Take a few deep breaths…think about those people now. Repeat each day!

It’s amazing the lessons and reminders we get all around us when we find a moment to pause and reflect. My sister, Katherine, could brighten any room with her smile and laughter. She smiled until the end – keeping a brave face and hiding her struggles. So many of us were not aware of the signs of mental illness, depression, and anxiety, and how very real the possibility of a suicide could be.

Bear with me. We grew a giant pumpkin in our yard last year.

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In December it snowed, and I had visions of sprinkling the pumpkin with birdseed all winter long to watch birds and squirrels have fun with it.

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But then it warmed up a bit, and the pumpkin started to sag. As weird as this may sound, it was about this time that I had this random thought that my sister kept right on smiling and putting on a show that everything was ok, even though she was feeling bad. The pumpkin kept right on smiling. Every time I saw the smile on the pumpkin I thought of Katherine.

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I have many random thoughts, some I shoo away, some come back to me often, and this thought kept coming back to me. No matter how bad that pumpkin must have been feeling, that darn smile wouldn’t go away. And I thought of the struggles that are hidden every day by so many people.

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I kept thinking of this connection to my sister and complications associated with depression and the stigma of mental illness…still smiling.

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Of course. Still smiling. “I’m fine” said the pumpkin.

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I thought about the pumpkin while buried under snow and frequent sub-zero temperatures for over two months. The pumpkin could be seen again in March…still smiling. “You ok?”, “I’m ok, don’t worry about me. Check out my smile.” The smile is there, but the pumpkin is not ok.

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We had so much fun growing this pumpkin, showing it off to people, wondering how big it would get, etc, etc, etc, but I never ever would have thought the more the pumpkin rotted away, the more I would feel this connection.

So many people face struggles every day. They try to hide it from the world. They try to hide it from themselves, and they don’t share everything with their loved ones. They don’t know or see any way to get better. The rest of us don’t know what to look for, or think this will pass, or don’t pause long enough to look past the smile.

We cared for our pumpkin and watched it every day when it was growing and healthy.

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Maybe it felt heaviness from us.

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Being pushed or pulled in too many directions.

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Feelings of pressure.

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Or of emptiness.

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That it wasn’t good enough.

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Or was scared.

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But that darn pumpkin kept smiling through it all. Check in on those around you – listen to them. REALLY listen to them. Notice their changes in behavior and understand how very real suicide can be. If in doubt, get professional help. Mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc – they are so tough to talk about and share. You feel judged. You feel like you won’t get better. You feel helpless. With suicide you are fighting to live and die at the same time. It’s not that people in this situation don’t want to face the world and get better, they just don’t know how and don’t see a way out. Smiling puts people at ease and provides some escape from facing your reality and having to share the uncertainty that you have. Smiling on the outside, while caving in from all directions.

That’s what I learned from our giant pumpkin last year. It’s important for all of us to smile, but please be open and share how you’re doing with others. If you’re struggling then please let someone know. If you’re concerned about someone, don’t keep that to yourself. Reach out to them. Last year I wouldn’t have done this, but recently I noticed someone’s post on Facebook and sent them a private message, “…checking in to make sure you have people to talk to and have a good support network.” Sometimes that’s enough to get people talking. And to get a conversation started. But we have to pause long enough to make it happen. Peace in the week ahead.

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CLICK HERE to support this cause and help me save lives.

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 13 Training Update

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Like my new shirt?

If you hit your initial fund-raising goal in CrowdRise they send you a shirt. I chose this one over “Decent Human” :)

Want to feel better? Happier? Healthier? Donating to my cause of suicide prevention and fighting the stigma of suicide and mental illness, will do all those (I’ll let you google ‘donating and happiness’ on your own).

Want to fight depression? Want to fight YOUR depression? Same answer – donate to my cause :) Don’t believe me? You just said you wanted to be happier, healthier, etc – how’s not donating to me treating you ;) Heh heh. It’s against my nature to always be asking for donations, but guess what? It works. No guilt here (I’m learning). WE are saving lives. A simple donation will fight depression in so many ways. Other small steps referenced in this article that we can all do each day to impact our well-being:

  • Be kind to others
  • Express gratitude
  • Think optimistically
  • Meditate on the good things in life

Today’s the day. Pick one of those. Go easy on yourself. Have fun with them. Make connections. Share these easy tips with others. Save lives.

Training continues to go well. Crazy when 13 miles now is a “short week”. What Yogi Berra said about baseball definitely applies to my training, “…is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical.” It’s crazy to think that I only have five weeks of training left, and only two more long runs (a 19 mile run, and a 20 mile run, and then supposedly I’ll be ready). The closer the race gets (< 50 days!) the more questions I get from people. I love the energy, excitement and support around this. Thank you everyone for your thoughts and encouragement.

I also watched a movie this past week, Spirit of the Marathon. It got my adrenaline pumping several times as it followed six runners preparing for the Chicago Marathon. A great quote from the movie was from John Bingham, who said:

“So most of us are out there for the same reason, right? We just want to have a good time. You paid for that course to be open as long as it’s going to be open. And the faster you run, the less value you’re getting for your marathon dollar. So the wise marathon consumer is going to be out there as long as we can…you do not want to rush that experience.”

I love that. I don’t want to rush my marathon experience. If you donated to my cause and have expectations that I’m going to run fast…well…you may want to try getting your money back from me? Ha – good luck with that!

It’s been a great past two weeks in terms of support and awareness. I’m over $12,000 thanks to all of your support – only $7,500 left to hit my next target of $20,000! A highlight is that I was the “Top Story” in the Rochester Sentinel (Rochester, Indiana) on March 2nd (it costs a minimum of $4.50 to see that article – sorry). Rochester (“City of Friendship and Pride”) is the town that my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc are from and/or live in still. It holds a special place in my heart and I’m thrilled to make the news there. My first marathon newspaper story!

And did I mention that I got a free t-shirt :)

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As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 11 Training Update

Here’s a mix of fun and sobering facts. Reflect. Enjoy. Learn. Grow. Share. Make a difference. You’ll find my week 11 training updates and pictures after the data.

Number Description
121 million ~# of people in world who suffer from depression (Healthline)
42,000 ~# of people who committed suicide in the U.S. in 2015 (AFSP)
31,000 # gallons of sweat that 26,000 people running the Boston Marathon could produce (ick) (Boston Marathon)
27,167 # of people who started the 2015 Boston Marathon (BAA)
26,598 # of people who finished the 2015 Boston Marathon (BAA)
10,000 # of lives I pledged to touch while raising awareness to suicide prevention
500 # of suicide attempts in the U.S. in the time it takes ME to run the Boston Marathon
126 # of people who have donated to help me save lives so far (THANK YOU!)
117 ~# of people who die by suicide each day (AFSP)
53 # of miles I ran in 8 days last week
37 age of my sister, Katherine, when she died of suicide
26.2 # of miles in a marathon
21 marathon mile marker when many runners may hit “the wall”
20.5 Boston marathon mile marker when you hit “Heartbreak Hill”
20 # of suicides in the U.S. in the time it takes ME to run the Boston Marathon
11 # of people over age 80 who started the Boston Marathon in 2015 (BAA)
11 # of people over age 80 who finished the Boston Marathon in 2015 (BAA)
1 # of people that it takes to MAKE A DIFFERENCE (you!)

In the span of eight days I did a 17-mile run, 5-mile, 8-mile with seven full hills, 5-mile, and an 18-mile run. And I took two naps :) The 17-mile run was dark, below zero, windy and snowing. Blah. The 18-mile run a week later was supposed to hit 50 degrees but instead I ran early in the day so I didn’t see anything above 35F (but it was the first time I only wore two shirts & only one pair of gloves, in a very long time!). It rained the day before so the entire 18-miles was an adventure in not trusting any of my steps. I didn’t fall but I had many, many, many slips and near misses. This was the closest I’ve come to quitting a run this year – not because I was tired, but because it was so slippery EVERYWHERE. My picture below doesn’t do it justice. Regardless, the 18 miles felt really good. Could I do another 8 miles? Yep…uh, maybe…I’d at least give it a shot now :)

Here’s my 17-mile run.

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And here’s my 18-mile run just a week later. Weather is getting nice. Crazy it is February with these high temps (it’s all a matter of perspective).

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Ice. Ice. And more ice on my 18 mile run. When it looked dry it was ice. When it looked wet it was ice. When it looked icy it was ice. I’ll soon find out what muscles I was using to stabilize – hope those muscles are the same ones that will get me through Boston!

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Here’s data from my “7 full hills” day. My phone still hasn’t quite figured out where I am on the hills. The red line should be going between 806 elevation up to 933 elevation each time. Honest – I run all the way down – I’d only be cheating myself ;) And the blue line…well, let’s just say I’m not quite as fast going up as I am going down. And does this picture look like 50F and sunny to you? Me neither.

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As of this post I’m at $11,040. The support I’ve received so far has been absolutely AMAZING!!! I am so touched and blessed to get this support and honor my sister’s life. WE are saving lives!!! YOU can still help with a donation by clicking here. I’m chasing that NEXT $10,000!

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 10 Training Update

The top questions I’ve been getting lately are something along the lines of, “You’re running all of your training miles outside? What?!?!? Why???

In my original Giving Tuesday message, holiday letter, and CrowdRise donation page, I pledged,

“to run all 500+ training miles outdoors in Minnesota to give me continued awareness to the daily struggles that so many people face.”

I don’t get to pick and choose the days that have good weather, whether or not I want hills scheduled in my training plan (I did 12 half-hills today!), or how my body feels. I think about the struggles that others face on every single run. This gives me strength. Focus. Determination. Pride. A sense of purpose. I give thanks that I do have control over how I feel. I give thanks that I’m healthy enough to run. I give thanks for all of the support that I’ve received on my mission to create awareness to prevent suicide and fight the stigma of mental illness. I don’t take any of this for granted.

This means I run while 10″ of snow are coming down…

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This means I run when cities and citizens don’t clear their sidewalks (I’d like to dedicate my calf muscles and ankle strength to these two pics – this frozen, crusty, icy fun is what I face on every run)…

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A great friend of mine posted today on Facebook, “Davey! I ran in 19/feels-like-5 degree weather just now in solidarity. I only cursed your name a couple of times ;) Cheers, buddy.” How cool is that? So powerful. We are all in this crazy race through life together.

I ask you, what do you have control over? What exciting but scary challenge can you face today or tomorrow? Pause. Think about it. Seriously – right now – think about it. What can you do? It may be just getting out of bed in the morning. It may be telling someone that you’re struggling. Or running outside in crazy cold weather in solidarity with me. Or checking in on someone and letting them know you’re there to listen. Or taking the first steps toward a new dream. Whatever it is – find something that excites and scares you tomorrow – and take a step to start making it happen.

What’s the easiest way you earned $100 in a bar? Wait – don’t answer that. Thank you to a coworker for hearing my story over beers and handing me $100 without hesitation – I turned the money in, I promise. If you had to pick a 39F degree day with 20+ mph winds & snow, or sub-zero the next few days, which do you choose? My 13 mile run was Sunday – so I chose the wind and blowing snow. I think Ben Franklin’s expression says all you need to know about that decision. This was also my second run using a metronome. Yep, for 2 hours I heard beep-beep-beep (every time I put down my left foot). Working on my cadence is my next step (ha, step) towards making my back woes go away.

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I love this pic. Out for my run over lunch and a whole group had shovels and hockey sticks. They cleared the snow away and played some boot hockey. Also went old school with my Prairie Dog hat.

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And finally…look what else I got (don’t be distracted by the ice castles in the background)? Yep – it’s official. Accepted. I’m in “The Boston”.

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As of this post I’m at $9,795. So close to $10,000 – I can’t wait to see who will push me over that goal (YOU can donate by clicking here to make it happen). And then let’s chase the next $10,000!

As always, I can’t thank you all enough for reading these messages, being there for those around you, and helping me fight the stigma of suicide and mental illness. WE are saving lives. Thank you.

Week 8 Training Update

THANK YOU for all of the support, donations and sharing my message. WE are saving lives! Week 8 Update: I’m over $9,000 in fund-raising and my long run was 15-miles!

My 10-mile run last week (Week 7) was sponsored by Prednisone (it was only 7 days – and I’m off it now). I ran fast (for me), I ran without pain, I felt great, my head was clear, my outlook was so positive. I hadn’t run and felt like this in over a month. I didn’t realize how really bad I’ve been feeling the past month, and how much my back pain had been getting me down. It took a good day to make me realize how bad I’ve been feeling. I kept telling people all was well. I kept going through the motions. But until I saw a doctor last week and got some medication, I didn’t realize how much this was impacting my life and those around me.

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It hit me on that run how ironic it is that I’m telling people to share what’s going on in their lives, yet I’ve been running in pain and getting down on myself for a month and haven’t shared it with that many people. Is it because I didn’t want to burden others? I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or judge me for not being tough enough to handle either the physical demands or the stress of prepping for “The Boston”? Because I don’t yet know what’s wrong with my back and whether I would be able to pull through this, or that I didn’t want to deal with going on medication and wondering about the side effects? Or is it because I didn’t realize how much this was really impacting me, and I was in denial?

This is hopefully a relatively minor back issue, but it completely changed my outlook and attitude each day. People struggling with mental health issues go through similar patterns and downward spirals all the time. These spirals build and build on each other, making it hard to ever think you can escape it. I was getting down on myself because my dream was in jeopardy, and I couldn’t stick to my plan. I felt like I could be letting myself and other people down. I had physical pains that plagued me throughout each day (and night), but the mental aspects, uncertainty and doubt were increasing all the time, and I wasn’t realizing it.

We don’t know how depression starts. It’s a combination of many things, but it can be triggered and worsened by downward spirals that get bigger and bigger and feed on themselves. The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, by Alex Korb, PhD, is a great book that I think would benefit everyone. It gives great awareness to the importance of starting upward spirals in our lives, to escape downward spirals “pulling you into a vortex of sadness, fatigue, and apathy”. Small things that spiral upward each day, reinforce good patterns in the brain. Chapters in this book include: exercising your brain (e.g., physical exercise – but call it “having fun being active” instead!); setting goals (what’s even one small, positive step you can take today?); making decisions; giving your brain a rest (sleep!); and developing positive habits (e.g., remember positive events that happen in your life). These are often simple steps, and this book does a great job giving clear examples, while explaining the positive impact in our brains.

Medication helped me get through my small hurdle, but even seven days on medication gave me side effects that impacted my personality. I also started sleeping more and focusing on proper exercise, but what really helped me first get help was talking with a few friends that I knew were listening to me. Be there for those around every day – it can make all the difference.

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I also continued my hill training this week. Although the graph doesn’t accurately show it (red line), I ran all the way to the bottom of this hill many times. What I love is that my pace (blue line) doesn’t even hint at me running up and down hills. What hills? Where? Heh heh – I can only hope Boston will feel the same :)

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Ready to make a donation. Here you go: https://www.crowdrise.com/samaritansboston2016/fundraiser/davethompson

Be there for others. Listen. Don’t judge. Have an amazing week!