Category Archives: Mental Health

Week 4 Training Update

Exactly one month ago I started my suicide and mental health awareness campaign as I train for the 2016 Boston Marathon. Today I passed $7,000!!! Wow! Incredible. Powerful. Touching. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the support in your messages, donations, and helping share this message, as we ALL save lives.

Speaking of all the help I’ve been getting. My parents were just in town and this was my dad’s idea of how he could help me train harder.
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And here’s how I improved on his idea…
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Week 4 is done! Only 14 weeks of training to go! My back started hurting the week before Christmas (in a way that it never has before). I took it easy a few days, but I wasn’t sure if running was helping or hurting it, so…I went for an 8-mile run. Not a good idea. After that I couldn’t reach to touch my toes for days (with my legs bent even!). Nothing was helping so I decided to really rest. Tough decision when I’m supposed to be running 6 days a week. Tough decision for anyone who knows how rarely I sit still. Here were my sad stats for that week (one very slow run in seven days – yikes):

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I learned last year that the mental aspects of training for a marathon can be even more challenging than the physical demands on your body. Cutting an 18-week training plan to 17-weeks, plus not knowing when/if my back will heal, was driving me crazy. Doubts creep in. How long do I rest? Do I push it? What if I can’t do any long runs? Will I be ready for Boston? And it goes on and on. But I trust the journey. I listen to my body. While I was stretching/rolling more I started meditating each day to calm my mind. I eased back into training and slowed down my runs. I decided to only run 5 days a week going forward (back to Hal Higdon Novice 2 again). Doubts, struggles, stories we tell ourselves…they all can start downward spirals like I mentioned in my holiday letter this year. Here’s an excerpt from what I mailed out, listing some things I learned this year:

If you learn just one thing while reading this letter then I have succeeded. Neuroscience continues to advance, and many great books show that small daily changes can rewire your brain (e.g., The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, PhD and Uncovering Happiness, by Elisha Goldstein). The simplest thing you can do is listen. Listening shows that you care, and can give someone a greater sense of connection and control (especially to someone who doesn’t see other options). Small steps to create positive upward spirals include: mindfulness (practicing “nonjudgmental awareness”; making any decision reduces anxiety); exercise; sleep; long hugs (give someone a lingering hug right now!); breathing (breathe in through your nose while counting to six,  and let it out just as slowly); support networks (downward spirals are more likely when you’re alone; even movies together are a step for someone who doesn’t seem ready to talk); and gratitude (e.g., think of one thing you’re looking forward to each day when you wake up – even if that is just breakfast!).

What else have I learned? Strong support networks from family and friends are critical to get through tough times. Stigma around suicide and mental illness exists everywhere, causing people not to get help, and to feel isolated, judged, and alone. Suicide happens to “normal” families. People who commit suicide don’t want to die, but they don’t see any other way out of their current feeling of hopelessness. Mental illness is a disease like many other diseases. Depression creates physical changes in the brain, but people can get better. We’ll never get the answers we want, and we can’t fix the past, so we must move forward and honor our loved ones by living for today and helping others along the way. If you or someone you know is talking about suicide or exhibiting suicidal tendencies, get appropriate help right away. The Samaritans’ website is a great source for information.

Believe it. Share it.

My oldest daughter, Colleen, joined me on my first day back to running. We had a great 4-mile run, slipping and sliding a bit as we dodged patches of ice under the fresh snow on a beautiful winter day.
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Cool how many different tracks can be found after a new dusting of snow. Not long after this I saw four deer while on my run. I continue to add to my collection of pictures of blurry brown deer-like blobs.
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Thankfully this has still been a relatively mild Minnesota winter so far. Not a lot of snow and not any really cold temps. My new gear is making a huge difference!
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I’m so thankful for the support from those closest to me. It was great to see my parents for several days before they headed back to New Hampshire. We have all been through so much in the past four years, and we get through it all, good & bad, together. The Boston Marathon is a powerful journey for all of this year and helps us feel like we can channel energy and emotion into a great organization that touches so many lives.
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And finally, pictures from my long run in Week 4. It was supposed to be 11 miles, but I realized at mile 10 that I was missing my hood (crazy that I overdressed on a 20F day and ended up having to remove gloves and the hood). I ended up jogging back to find it and then taking a shortcut home, for 12 miles total. Funny how things work out, the last two miles after I lost my hood were the best part of my run. I ran through a wooded area around a lake, got to run through some unplowed paths, and ended up talking to a fellow runner. Plus I got the satisfaction of finding what I lost! :)
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Peace and happiness in the year ahead. Here’s to a great 2016. Happy New Year, and thanks again for all of the support!

If you missed it…I was one of three runners featured in the Samaritan’s December newsletter (scroll down in this article).

Look For What You Want To See

I’m starting Week 3 of my Boston Marathon training for Samaritans to raise money to save lives and create awareness towards suicide prevention and mental health illnesses. So far the weather has been great – I hope it continues all winter!

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As I ran this week, I was thinking about challenges and obstacles that so many face. Guess what I found everywhere I looked? Yep, challenges and obstacles. Every step seemed to find another gotcha, warning, and hazard, all filled with risk. My negative thoughts compounded, turning into doubts and fear, and made me want to turn around.

Our minds are crazy powerful

Our brains can work either for or against us. When we shift our thinking to positive thoughts, our minds can be our greatest asset that keep us going and stay motivated! As you read my alternate responses below for each picture, see which ones make you feel stressed versus relaxed. Which make you want to run versus stop in your tracks? What is your typical reaction? In the week ahead, I ask that you reflect on your reactions to all things. Think positive thoughts and get some upward spirals started today!

Obstacles I found this week & my reactions…

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Initial negative thoughts: Aaah, a gaggle of geese! They could turn on me at any moment! Why are they looking at me? And why are they so spiteful to do this to the sidewalk?
Positive thoughts: Look! An obstacle course that will help me strengthen all sorts of muscles in my legs as I dart back and forth. Thank you for waking my brain up as I have to pay attention to the road in front of me. So cool to see animals that will brave the outdoors with me all winter long!

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Initial negative thoughts: Seriously, a banana peel on the side walk?!?!? One false step and I’ll be flat on my back! How could someone be so inconsiderate? What a mess!!
Positive thoughts: Wheee – I could slide down this hill! Soon I’ll be home and can refuel with fresh fruit! This peel will compost and give life to so many critters. Ha ha – had some good laughs watching MythBusters fall on banana peels.

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Initial negative thoughts: A knife on the sidewalk? Seriously? How did this get here? What if I fell on it? Was it part of a crime? Kids causing trouble? What kind of neighborhood is this?
Positive thoughts: You can’t make this stuff up – I’m in awe of how well the universe listens. I start thinking about danger and the next thing you know I’m jogging over knives! My mind has incredible power, and I need to use it conjure up money next time! And make sure I keep it focused on helping others and spreading encouragement to all.

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I jogged over this giant ball of thistles many times. As I started thinking about challenges I got this great thought to take a picture of it in my hand. The thistle called to me. It beckoned me and played me its Siren Song. How much trouble could it cause?

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Initial negative thoughts: Are you for frickin’ real? Seriously, I just want a picture for my blog and you attack me? I’ll be picking thistles out of my gloves and shoes for weeks? Crap – I shook my hand and now I’ve got thistles on my shoes, socks, pants and glove! I’ll get splinters in my feet? I’ll cut myself when wiping my nose now with my gloved hand. The more I rub my gloves together the more thistle parts are everywhere and they don’t come out!
Positive thoughts: I can’t lie, my initial reaction was a bit of shock and a few seconds of frustration, but if you would have been driving by you would have almost immediately seen me laughing and talking to myself. It was a riot to see how fast I got covered in these things. Wow – nature, you impress me! Is this similar to the story that inspired the invention of velcro? Ok, I got myself into this, now I need to get myself out of this – one burr at a time – how can I best apply this to helping others get through their struggles? The same way – we’ll get out of it together, one burr at a time.

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Initial negative thoughts: Unstable ground? I could twist an ankle in Week 2 of training. What’s the matter with this neighborhood – fix your crappy streets! Am I making mountains out of mole hills? Why would you put your dirt here on this area of town that already has no sidewalks.
Positive thoughts: More paths to make my knees and ankles stronger, keep my body guessing, and give me power. I always stay more engaged on unpredictable terrain. Thank you city for saving tax dollars and creating a fun run for me!

What did I learn this past week?

Reminders once again that the universe listens. We create opportunities (or obstacles!) by what we’re already looking for ahead of time. If you start taking steps (even small ones) and think positive thoughts, you will see things in a positive light and be happier. Our emotions are created by how we interpret everything. We can have fun and learn in every situation around us, but we have to be open to new experiences. Be kind to yourself, believe in what’s possible, and think happy thoughts (regardless of how many burrs just attacked your hand), and your challenges will start to go away! In the weeks ahead, practice being positive regardless of what you’re facing, and support and encourage those around you!

Tap Dancing in the Street

Need a pick-me-up?

Listen to the last Wits show of the season (or ANY Wits show – you can’t go wrong!).

I got to see Cary Elwes and Kat Edmonson at the last show of the 2015 season. Fantastic guests! So thankful for the way their hard work has payed off in life, and really showed that blessings multiply with positive attitude, dedication and sometimes just being there in life.

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It was a great lesson in trusting and enjoying the journey.

At about the 26:30 mark on the recording, Kat is talking about movies and songs from early films that she grew up with. She said lately she has been tap dancing* ( * NOTE: “tap dancing” = whatever your current dream is!).

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John Moe jumped right in with, “Let’s start with WHY, WHY are you tap dancing?”

To which Kat emphatically replied, “WHY NOT!” (along with a signature giggle)

Not defensive. Not embarrassed. That’s perfect! When we believe in our dreams, we are never offended or lose confidence when someone asks a question with the intent of “Why would you ever want to do that?”

Share your dreams. Share them confidently! Who cares when somebody asks “Why?”. Proudly and enthusiastically, say “Why not!

She added, “…it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do…it was on my list of things to do and I realized I hadn’t gotten to it last year and so I started taking classes.”

That’s the way you dream!

Pick dreams that resonate with you. They are YOUR dreams. When the time is right, make each dream a top priority and then start taking steps. Small steps are fine at first, but just start taking steps. E.g., Look up tap classes. Research tap shoes. Buy tap shoes. Sign up for a class. Go to class. Repeat. Dance along with Fred and Ginger. Talk about it on Wits. It’s that easy.

:)

[Kat] “Actually…when I started watching these films, I actually thought…I would enter into this world where, when you went somewhere, and something happened, and…”

(she then goes into a cheery singing voice) “…you’d start to sing about it”,

“you know, and then somebody would be walking by, and they would…”

(cheery singing again) “…join in”“,

“…and then it would be this big number and everybody would be friends afterwards, and then you’d all happen to see each other at the supper club that night, drinking champagne, and then maybe you would get up on stage and sing, and then you would tap. And so I had to have tap in my arsenal…”

:)

[John Moe] “I just really DESPERATELY want to live in that world that you described!”

[Kat] “Oh, sometimes it is a lonely world.”

Sad.

Poignant.

Powerful.

But it shouldn’t be a lonely place.

What if we all REALLY listened to each other?

What if we all lived carefree, got along, supported each other and didn’t judge? What if we all paused long enough each day to listen (REALLY LISTEN) to each other?

Did you hear that?

Did you?

Watch out for those around you all the time. Let someone near you know if YOU are the one that needs to be listened to. Don’t hesitate. Get the conversation started. You never know when that can make all the difference. Maybe it’s looking for someone to dance with in the street. Maybe it’s just a pick-me-up. Maybe it’s something more. It doesn’t matter, say the first words and create a space where good conversations can happen.

Get out there. Do things. Experience life.

Don’t worry about justifying why you want to do your dreams. They are YOUR dreams. Support from others is critical, but we don’t need anyone’s blessing about why we have a dream on our list. We may not be clear why we are chasing something – but the secret is just to chase it.

I often don’t realize until later why I REALLY had a dream on my list. There are so many blessings in disguise that you’ll never realize if you don’t take that first step. Dare to dream – good things will happen.

Still need a pick-me-up?

Here’s your homework (wait…come back here…sit down…it will only take you 3 minutes). Watch the quick video below. Listen to the words. BELIEVE every word. Repeat until you believe them. Here are the simple but great lyrics.

Live some of these words today: “Happiness…heart upon your sleeve…be free…cast your troubles…lucky you, lucky me!”

Not quite ready for prime time

This web site isn’t quite ready for prime time. But…wait, wait, wait…

…if you’re here you must have seen my shirt in the Minneapolis Marathon (and, hopefully by now I’ve successfully finished my very first marathon).

I printed the shirt. The marathon came (5/31/2015). And I ran out of time to really spend the energy that I wanted to on this web site (e.g., cleaning up past articles, adding links & pics, new content). But hey, I’d rather have finished a marathon and only have a partial web site than the reverse! I do have some content…it will only get better (and more frequent)…so keep scrolling down and clicking around. Give me feedback too. Where should I take this? What would be helpful?

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(UPDATE: I did survive my first marathon and had a blast doing it.)

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Please let me know that you were here…and please come back. Leave a comment below…or send me an email at dcthmpsnep@gmail.com

My goal is to run in the Boston Marathon next year (2016) to raise money for suicide awareness & prevention and to fight the incredible stigma that exists every single day around suicide and mental illness. I will need your support (happy thoughts, encouragement, money, etc).

We’re all in this together. Thank you for your support and happy thoughts. Enjoy today. Please come back to this web site and give me any feedback that you have – and I’d love to hear thoughts on what topics you’d like me to blog on related to suicide and mental illness. I am absolutely willing and ready to share all of my thoughts and perspective from the tragedy of losing my sister to suicide just three years ago (March 26, 2012). No topic or question is off limits – let’s hit this head on and kill the stigma.

Two Year Anniversary

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 27, 2014 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

It’s been two years since my sister, Katherine, died.

That first year was insane. It was a whirlwind of emotions. We were constantly watching out for ourselves and each other – or just trying to get through each day as we cycled through all stages of grief. It forced all of us to deal with emotions that most of us had never even considered. But we got through it, and we continue to heal and rebuild.

The second year has been more educational & reflective for me

I’ve started to think more and more about my purpose in life. I still think about Katherine every single day, and I never know when grief will hit. The biggest mental turning point for me has been my understanding that mental illness, depression, anxiety, etc are no different from any other disease. We can watch for signs, we can take steps to reduce our risks, but in the end they are diseases that can’t be controlled. This means that people with these diseases don’t have a choice in the act of suicide. They died by suicide. They died as a result of depression. Just like you died by heart attack as a result of heart disease. They didn’t commit suicide. They didn’t choose to die. They didn’t choose to leave us. Professor Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University has a great 24-lecture series on Stress and Your Body. He very clearly states that major depression is one of the worst illnesses out there. With other illnesses you get a wake-up call and find joy to keep on living but with depression, by definition, people have lost the ability to feel pleasure and find happiness. Anxiety may be even more prevalent than depression, and again, anxiety is also a real medical disorder.

I knew nothing about any of this two years ago

I had opinions that were wrong. I wanted to know why she chose to leave us. Why she didn’t ask us for help. Why she would want to leave so much behind. I used phrases that weren’t accurate and unknowingly perpetuated stereotypes. I come across the word “stigma” frequently and it always seems so blameful – such a negative word – I don’t like that one, which may be the point. Even in yesterday’s Facebook postings about Katherine it was very easy to find words that are wrong and mask the truth. And these are comments by loved ones who have been part of this experience. If it’s so easy for us to capture this inaccurately then of course it’s impossible for the general public to relate to and understand the complexities of mental illness and suicide. But we have to try.

Feel compassion for their death

Here’s a great short article (with audio if you prefer that) by Alan Lessik offering a great perspective from someone who lost a loved one to a fatal mental illness (and coincidentally has a connection to Pearson): Judge Not His Death

“I had to let go of my thought that if he somehow tried harder he would get better. He tried, we tried everything that medicine, psychiatry, therapy and alternatives could throw at him. Unfortunately no one can know that a mental illness is terminal until the person dies.”

We shouldn’t judge

And isn’t it amazing now how many times we see awful news about suicide. It’s all around us and can impact anyone in all walks of life. It’s still hard not to judge or make generalized assumptions when you see that it is related to a celebrity, CEO, etc. But we shouldn’t judge. It’s no different than what we’ve been through. I just read Highest Duty: My Search For What Really Matters, by Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. This is the pilot who landed a damaged US Airways flight onto the Hudson River in January 2009. It’s a good book and really shows how all of his life experiences and training put him in the perfect spot that day to save so many lives. One impact on his life was that his dad died of suicide at the age of 78 when Sully was 43 years old. He says,

“Naturally, I was distraught, angry, and upset with myself. I thought that I should have been paying closer attention to him. Intellectually, my mom, my sister, and I knew better. As with so many suicides, I don’t think any of us who loved him could have prevented him from doing what he did…After Flight 1549, people wrote to tell me that they could sense how much I valued life. Quite frankly, one of the reasons I think I’ve placed such a high value on life is that my father took his…his death did have an effect on how I’ve lived, and on how I view the world. It made me more committed to preserving life. I exercise more care in my professional responsibilities. I am willing to work very hard to protect people’s lives, to be a good Samaritan, and to not be a bystander, in part because I couldn’t save my father.”

It’s up to all of us to help raise awareness.

Take care of yourself first. But if you’re ok then keep reading. We should share our experiences. We should proactively ask others how they are doing, especially if they have given us any depression/anxiety/suicide comments or hints about themselves or others in their lives. And then listen to them and be there for them. We should be conscious about our choice of words. I meet with anyone that wants to talk to me about related topics…once I’m aware (and that is the hard part). I have met with co-workers and friends, people concerned about their kids, and people concerned about their parents. I have a Pinterest board. I have offered to help anyone at church who needs to talk on topics I can relate to. These are just some of the ways I try to spread positive values and help others. We’ve been through it, and we are better equipped to help others.

So what can we do?

Professor Robert Sapolsky (who I mentioned above) acknowledges that he has 22 lectures of bad news before he gets to some positive messages in his last two lectures in that series. His focus is on stress and how bad that is for us. But my particular interest was the connection to depression and anxiety. Here’s what we can all do:

  • Take care of ourselves. Do the obvious things like eat well and don’t smoke. Duh – you’ve heard it before.
  • And you need to exercise. You’ve heard this how many times before? Yes, exercise. 30+ minutes every day. It needs to be something that you enjoy doing. Make the time for this. I have made this change in my life and can stick to it most weeks. But I have to be intentional about it because it is important to me. I don’t know if depression sneaks up on you or if wham! one day I get hit by it, but if finding 30 minutes a day will help me (and provides so many other benefits) then sign me up.
  • He also recommends transcendental meditation and having a strong support network. I’ve been very blessed to have a small group of people who watch out for me and that I feel comfortable talking to. I don’t shy away from any conversations about what I’m thinking about and how I’m feeling. It’s good for me and good for others too. Hearing about vulnerability in others makes it ok for more people to share.
  • He also mentions having a religious belief but it is harder to show correlation since people with these beliefs are typically doing other things right and their church provides them a support network that is crucial.
  • The last thing he mentions is essentially your coping strategy. Knowing what you can change or control and what you can’t – when to accept and when to move on. Knowing when to change your strategy. Keeping the right things in perspective. I have learned how to be open and share what is on my mind. I absolutely try to continually educate myself so I am best equipped to make the right decisions. Sharing this information with each other is essential to this and part of my process.

“Mitigate the alonenesss”

Here’s a short related excerpt from an interview with Andrew Solomon who has suffered from depression and his advice on how best to support others:

“I often say to people who describe having a friend who’s depressed “You need to make sure that the person is never alone.” Sometimes that means talking to them, and sometimes when they are too miserable to talk, it means sitting quietly by their bed. And sometimes when even having another human being in the room feels overwhelming to them, it involves sitting right outside the bedroom door. It never involves going away and it never involves taking seriously their claims that they want to be alone. Depression is a disease of loneliness and the best way to address it is to mitigate that aloneness.”

My purpose in life

I was in a discussion recently with someone in a book study at work about our purpose in life. I don’t know how I would have answered that two years ago. I don’t think you can just pick your purpose and expect to get it right and for it to be meaningful. Sometimes it finds you, like it or not. I’m not sure that we can help or save everyone. But what we can do is live for being happy today, be there for those around us, chase your dreams, and live life with no regrets. A huge focus in my life now is thinking about how I can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Concepts from The Dream Manager have absolutely changed what I focus on in my life in the past several years. I talk about these principles at work and with friends. I am working on doing the same at church this year. I am looking at more local groups on depression/grieving/suicide to see where I may fit in to help. I’m trying to build a larger presence on Pinterest. If you’re interested in talking more about any of the things I mentioned and seeing how we can make an ever bigger impact please let me know.

I want feedback for future articles

I also am thinking about changing some of my writing style to be more focused on an audience that doesn’t know me and my story. Largely when I write it is very beneficial for me – but I get great comments from some of you throughout the year too. But could I write on topics that I know about and help others on their journey? Other than these being way too long (I know, I know) I’d love feedback. Respond in comments or send me a separate email. What do you like about how I write? Where can I improve? What topics should I cover? What questions do you have? Misconceptions? Uncertainties? Things you’ve learned that I could elaborate on and share? How about this – would you like to hear more on happiness and pursuing dreams?

Take care of yourself

Dream big. Be there and even just listen to those in need. Educate others. Think about your purpose in life and what more you can do.

Only 10 people on average will cry at your funeral

One last comment. Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge referenced an article saying that only 10 people on average will cry at your funeral and that

“the number one factor that would determine how many people would go on from the funeral to attend the actual burial would be…the weather.” “If it happened to be raining, said the article’s author, 50 percent of the people who attended my funeral would decide maybe they wouldn’t go on to attend my burial after all, and just head home.”

Katherine touched lives

Just think of how many people cried at Katherine’s funeral. Think of how many lives she touched. Think of how long that line was. And think of how many people did go on to the actual burial and stood in the rain on a cold New England day for Katherine. She was a special person and is still loved and missed so much.

When…

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 26, 2014 (note: his sister, Katherine, died March 26, 2012)

In the beginning
all the time
when I woke up
when I went to bed
any time in between
when I walked into work
when I walked out of work
but I kept it out of work
had to then
when my phone rang at work
you are never prepared for that phone call

when I drive up the street to my parent’s house
when I drive down the street away from my parent’s house
when I think about that first moment at their house
and we all stand in the kitchen and catch up on things
and get to see and hug each other for the first time of that visit
and joke and laugh with each other
and get some cookies from the cookie jar
that’s always a special moment
it’s still special
but is missing something now

when I think about my parents
and all the things they did right
and all the love we showed each other
and all the happiness waiting for all of us
together in the future

when I think about future family reunions

when I look at our last family pictures
and thought we were doing it for another reason
it wasn’t Katherine that we were worried about then
you never know the reason
take the picture

when I think about my brother
and his family
and my parents
and Katherine’s family
her husband
and girls
those smiling, happy girls
we worry about them remembering too much
yet not remembering enough
those precious, special girls
and extended family
and her best friend
all of her friends
and her co-workers
and anyone fortunate enough to see her beautiful spirit shine
you never know the reason for making all those connections
make the connections

when I think about New Hampshire
Boston
Maine
New England
a trip to Disney
a trip to Grand Marais
she said a summer trip is “good for us!” 2 weeks before she died
the struggle to live
and to die
at the same time

when I think of a cold and dreary New England day
or see a timeless New England cemetery
when I hear bagpipes
wow were they sad that day
and yet beautiful in a way I’d never heard before
and don’t want to hear again

at any holiday
when I have a birthday and turn a year older
New Years
Christmas
Thanksgiving with family
it’s so odd that my happiness related to aging and family holidays
triggers sadness
the happier I see us all
the sadder I want to feel sometimes

when I think about my childhood

when I see anyone take their family for granted

when I hear anyone say the word “sister”
or “brother”
especially if they are complaining about their siblings
hey grown-ups
please don’t complain about your siblings
I know kids will fight with each other
that’s normal, and part of every childhood
watching my children do that stirs up many emotions in me
frustration, sadness, hurt, mad, plus others I guess
I have to leave the room and not deal with it
guess it makes me miss Katherine even more
and wants me to have them appreciate each other all the time
I know it’s not realistic
but wow does it overwhelm me

when I see other families fight
over the silliest things
and just not get how precious life is
especially when these families know my story
but they forget
please appreciate what you have
or if you don’t appreciate it
please don’t do that in front of me
especially during holidays which are already tough on me
help me every day continue to live my life positively
and inspire others
and not judge
and have patience
and respect all those around me
and help me “be kind” as the quote says
because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle

when I worry about telling my kids
when I worry about not telling my kids

every time one of my children says they hate me
yes, it happens to all of us
hopefully not often
but all kids say it
it digs deep
in ways it wouldn’t have two years ago
or when they cry over friends
or not fitting in
how can you not worry?
do you overreact?
underreact?
love them
listen to them
be there
don’t judge
create that loving environment.

when I think about how Grandma T would always pause when we’d go
through old photos
when she got to Grandpa T’s sister Margareet who died when
she was in her early twenties of cancer
something about the way she said it or paused I think
showed a profound impact on Grandpa T for the rest of his life
it would be interesting to hear if he ever talked about her
or how that impacted him
and how his life changed
does anyone know?

when I look at draft emails still addressed to Katherine
or the messages from her still saved in my phone
or read her comments in my blog
so glad I created that blog
it is the 1st item I ever pursued after reading The Dream Manager
Katherine always talked about creating her own blog
she really wanted to do it
but it never happened
so glad she read my blog
so glad she wrote comments
you never know why you do some things
and the benefits they will produce
chase your dreams
write your blog (or whatever is on your dream list)
who cares what others think
take small steps at first
but just do it
support other people’s dreams
write those comments
they mean so much

when I have great memories of her
it’s so true that we remember and miss the small things
the imperfections, crazy moments, and unique traits
those random, funny email that I still have saved
jigsaw puzzles of course
that wonderful laugh/snort/chortle/burst with that smile
the awesome gifts she bought me
will I ever throw some of those away now?
how long will a G. H. Bass jacket last and still be so stylish?
don’t answer that
I say I need to get better at buying gifts like she did
talk is cheap, huh?
when I hear “wicked awesome”
ok, I never hear that
when I drive past where she got pulled over by the police
for speeding in Minnesota
while in her pajamas
with no I.D.
with her best friend
and not really knowing where they were
must have made that cop’s day

when I watch my children grow older
when I see my daughter dancing
and growing older
and making lifelong friends
when I fold her flannel pajamas
when she wears new dance costumes and make-up
I can picture Katherine at that age doing these same things

when I still think about calling Katherine out of the blue
it just doesn’t seem real some days
this really happened to our family?

when I connect with a song
For a Dancer by Jackson Browne
“And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know”
find songs or poems or stories that have meaning to you

When I see my grey hairs
when I don’t sleep well at night
because my mind is up
I sleep better now
but those grey hairs don’t turn back to brown
thanks Katherine

when I hear people say
“suicide”
“I’d kill for that”
“he’s dead to me”
“slit my wrists”
“hang myself”
they are just words we all use
but I pause on them now
and try to be intentional
and thoughtful
in my words and actions

when I try to think about what she must have been thinking
and going through
so much that I don’t understand
and can’t relate to
but I’m learning a lot and continue to learn
and not judge
anxiety
depression
Crohn’s
OCD
are scraping sounds of teeth against a metal fork or spoon
a warning sign or just a way to annoy your sister?
who knows.
when I tap my fingernails on the wall
as I walk down a hallway
or stairwell
but I can stop tapping my nails
I control it
but others can’t
so hard to understand

when I lay my shoes side by side for the next day
the right shoe goes on the right
the left shoe goes on the left
now that can’t be changed
don’t mess with my shoes
right?
what makes it anxiety and OCD?
versus just being silly?

when I jog past a certain area in this loop that I do
I talk to her there
we all need to handle this in our own way
find that special spot
talk to yourself
talk to her
pray
don’t bottle it up

when I pause and hug my kids real tight

when I see a beautiful sunrise

when I have a bad day

when I get in a slump for a day or two

when I let small things frustrate me

when I think about others going through struggles
and I still don’t ask them about it enough when they say they are “ok”
it’s awkward
or we forget weeks later
and I can’t assume just because someone is having a bad day
that it will end up in suicide
but you never know
so live a good life
and always be there for others
listen and watch for signs

when I see awful stories in the news
when I hear others make judgments about suicide
and state why people did it
and how could they leave so much behind
or be so selfish
we have so much to learn

it’s a disease
just like a heart attack
you can’t control it
and shouldn’t be judged

when I hear a judgment come out of my mouth
I hope this doesn’t happen often
we all do it
often without realizing it
you never know the other person’s story
or what they’ve been through
or what they are going through
nice words and thoughts go a long way

when I try to think about what day to honor her each year
but really it’s every day
every day is a great day to remember her
and live a life that she would be proud of
but it’s not enough to say every day
I really want an intentional day to celebrate her life
or do focused good in the world in her name
I’m open to ideas

every time I tell someone new who I am
I may not tell them about this right away
but I’m thinking about it
it’s a huge part of me
it has shaped me
and focused me
and helping me define a purpose
and to live intentionally
without judgment
not take any day or moment for granted
and be there for others all of the time
but I’d trade it all back in a heartbeat

when I think about what I want to focus my life on
when I think about what truly matters
when I think about what I would change in this world if I could
when I help others understand why it’s important to have dreams
and pursue them
and live for today
and be happy now
because that’s the only guarantee that we have
and I’m inspired by the people
who have already used this as a wake up call
and are pursuing their dreams now

when I think about dream lists
Katherine had 19 dreams in her list
I think she accomplished one of those
do the rest of us live the remaining dreams for her?
do I just need to post something to Etsy?
or does someone have to actually buy it?
heh heh
is it ok to share most of her dreams?

when I think about the good person I want to always be
and the shining example I want to set for others
and the best that I can be

when I think about if I can really ever save anyone
all we can do is try
be there for people
spread happiness
share some smiles
don’t judge
give people space
but not too much space
but how do you know where that line is
all we can do is try the best we can
and be good people

those of us that can control our lives
should control our lives
and help others
and learn
and do better
because we know better

when I think about keeping our entire family together
when I think about how fragile life is
when I think about living each day to its fullest
and treasuring the blessings we have before us each day
and being there for others
all the time
even when we don’t feel like it
yes, even then
all the time
and how far I’ve come in the past two years
I think the best thing I can do to honor her memory
is continue to improve and live the best life I can
smile
help others
listen
give back
just be there
focus on today
that’s all we can guarantee
life is precious
enjoy each day to it’s fullest
because you never know

Quoted quote with a quote as I reflect on Katherine and this past year

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on IronMegan.com personal blog, March 26, 2013 (exactly one year after the death of his sister, Katherine)

Think positively

When I traveled to Spain with friends years ago we learned a valuable life lesson. It was a long trip (and an awesome, incredible, amazing trip with great friends) but we had a few stressful points so at one point I started saying “ sucks” (I’m sure one of them remembers specifically what sucky part brought this on – another detail I’ve forgotten over the years). We soon realized the more we said that the more it really did suck and the more things went wrong. So we stopped saying it. We started thinking positively. Things got better. The trip turned out awesome! This lesson applies to each of us every day. The books The Secret and The Power of Positive Thinking capitalize on this.

Spread good vibes

I try to be positive. I’ve made great strides the last several years – and I try to share those good vibes. In the spirit of that, last February (2012) I wrote a blog post entitled “Good things happen to good people” – that whole post was about positive things. Oh, the irony. The whole post was about ‘how great Spain was’ – all good stuff. Amazing how that same world can be completely turned upside-down a month later. It makes me think of that great Woody Allen quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

Assume good things are always happening

Don’t read too much into any of that. God isn’t laughing at us, and I’m not cynical to positive thinking. But I doubt you’ll see another completely, totally, absolutely positive post from me about all the great things happening. Even if and when they are happening I’m not sharing so blatantly – you can just assume it’s always happening, ok?

Finally finding peace with my sister’s death

I read God Never Blinks this week – it’s a collection of short newspaper publications by the author, Regina Brett. She had a chapter titled “It’s okay to be angry with God. He can take it.” That made me laugh & relate to it. My range of emotions this year have been all over the place. It took me a long time to understand and accept that Katherine didn’t have a choice – she had an illness that took over and left her no other options. It took me a long, long time to let her know that I understand and hope that she’s in a better spot for her and at peace. And for me to tell her that. I don’t like it but I can’t change it. Of all places and people, it took a night in a bar, with the spouse of a friend directly in my face sharing a crazy-unreal, goose pimple-inducing story and then asking what felt like were awkward and personal questions to make it click with me and change my thoughts.

Here come the quotes…

I’m not sure that I’m ready for the messages in all of the quotes that follow, and I’m not always ready to focus on the future, but I will continue to ponder and learn from these quotes.

This same book goes on to say,

“You don’t need a cancer verdict to start living more fully. Every day, light a candle. What a great reminder that life is short, that the only time that matters is now. Walk out of boring movies. Close any book that doesn’t dazzle you. Greet every morning with open arms and say thanks every night with a full heart. Each day is a precious gift to be savored and used, not left unopened and hoarded for a future that may never come.”

I also read Beauty Beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope After Crisis, by Cheryl McGuinness today. Her husband was the pilot of one of the planes that hit the towers on 911. She has a strong religious focus that I won’t go into but I did like these lessons from one of the chapters.

(1) Life goes on. As unfair, unreasonable, and impossible it seems, we still have work to do after a tragedy occurs. We still have roles to fill. We still have responsibility to family and others. The stuff of life may pause for a while, but it doesn’t stop. Fair or not, that’s reality. (2) Healing requires active participation. If we can summon the strength to take the first steps, the healing will come that much sooner. If we don’t take those first steps and participate with God in our healing process, we die while we are still alive. God tells us to trust him, get up, and take one more step of faith toward healing – in spite of our feelings. (3) Many details about the future remain unknown. Walking with Jesus involves walking by faith. Our attempts to control the future are fruitless. Those of us who have suffered loss understand only too well that we control very little in our lives. The promise of tomorrow is given to no one. We need to appreciate each day as a special Gift from God and focus our hearts on him, seeking to know and understand his will on a day-by-day basis. We need to take God’s Word to heart when he tells us in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” My prayer is that you will also come to know hope, not despair; courage, not fear; love, not hate.

Yes, I’ve been busy reading this week. Here’s a similar thought from Suicide and Its Aftermath, by editors: Edward J Dunne, John L. McIntosh, and Karen Dunne-Maxim.

“Moving on does not mean forgetting. It means gaining freedom through closure and giving up feeling victimized. It means going on with our lives, with each other, with our living sons and their families, with other relationships, and with life as it really is, not as we would like it to be. It means eventually being able to move beyond the event of suicide to remember and celebrating the life of our daughter. We are facing our future with a greater sense of who we are. Our awareness to increased divorce rates to parents of suicide recommits us to working through our thoughts, feelings, and differences, determined that our bonds of loving and struggling should not be broken. We now know that we cannot control what happens to us, but we can take charge of how we respond. We can no longer change the destiny of our beloved daughter, but we can be sure that our lives will be more meaningful, purposeful, compassionate, forgiving and loving. My life has changed and I will never again have the same innocence. But perhaps there is hope for others more newly bereaved in the fact that life has continued on with a new awareness of the fragility of life, with a deepened spirit and commitment to life and with the certainty that, although life is not perfect, it is good.”

Ok, one more…Suicide: Why? by Adina Wrobleski says something similar:

“While we cannot bring the person back, and while there are no second chances with the person who died, there are many second chances with the living. There is an opportunity to make up in the present what is desperately wished for in the past. The death of a loved one changes people; how they change is up to each individual.”

And just a few more quotes I’m still noodling over…not sure what I think of some of these…

I’ve come across this quote a crazy amount of times recently, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” -Philo of Alexandria or Plato or maybe somebody else. If only we knew about those battles.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself, Can make Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven” -John Milton

How about this one? “You got to go through hell before you get to heaven” – maybe this is taken out of context from what the Steve Miller Band meant, but after this hellacious year I’m taking this to mean that we’re all going to heaven.

We’ll get through this together

It’s been a tough day but cherish those memories and we’ll continue to get through this together. Love to you all. Rest in peace my beautiful sister.

Orange You Happy

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, January 29, 2013

Why do we create our dream lists? In it’s simplest form…happiness. That’s it. It all boils down to happiness. Putting that smile on our face, or someone else’s. Living life. Having some fun along the way. Helping others. Making connections. Who doesn’t want happiness?

A year ago I had never heard of or had a connection with the Samaritan’s group in Boston…but a lot can change in a year. They are focused on suicide awareness and prevention and they have a series of social experiments going on as part of their “Happier Boston” campaign. Their goals align perfectly with the power of how I pursue dreams:

“making sure that peoples’ voices are heard, we help them feel better about themselves and their lives. In our experience, when people are heard, they go from feeling overwhelmed to empowered, from discouraged to encouraged, from feeling all alone to being part of a bigger community

How many of you have felt varying degrees of being overwhelmed, discouraged, or alone when facing your dreams, goals, or any other challenges in life?

I’ve been there.

It’s frustrating at times. It’s hard to stay positive all the time. Things will get better. Your future is bigger and brighter than you can ever imagine. But we’ve got to get through today first.

Simple frameworks (such as suggested in The Dream Manager) can help…capturing dreams, sharing dreams, achieving dreams, meeting informally & regularly with a peer (accountability or dream partner) – they all help you feel better about yourself and your life…and empowered, encouraged, and connected to part of a bigger community. And this all leads back to happiness.

Here are some of the events the Samaritan’s are doing to help people find happiness every day:

  • Welcome parties at the T (subway) for Monday morning commuters in Boston
  • Asking people to list places that make people happy (“happy spots lead to happy thoughts”)
  • Singing a cappella to people in elevators (this one is my favorite)
  • Giving away oranges (“orange you happy”)
  • Hi Five in the 5th at Fenway Park (high 5’s to everyone around you in the 5th inning)

You can check out their videos here: http://happierboston.org/blog/. They were also profiled on the Today show if you’re interested in seeing more about their activities. You can’t help but smile at these events – they engage you and make you happy.

Whether you add something on your dream list or just take the time to spread some happiness, I challenge you to think of how you can build connections and make someone around you smile EVERY DAY THIS WEEK. I won’t sing in the elevator but I’m definitely up for High Five Friday’s :)

Make your own d@mn sandwiches

Originally posted by Dave Thompson on work blog, May 22, 2012

Maybe some of you have heard this one before…

A story about Mike, who visited Seattle, and encountered an old priest who got up early every morning, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, walked downtown, and gave them to the homeless. Mike was moved by the old priest’s good deeds. So when he got home Mike wrote the priest a check and sent it to him, saying it was to help his ministry. A few weeks later Mike got the check back in the mail with a note written on the check – “Make your own d@mn sandwiches.”

This applies to so many things in life! It’s often way too easy to “write a check” when instead we should get in touch with the details of life and work. It’s about getting involved, getting connected, and making conscious decisions. We need to work with others, get our hands dirty, make a difference, and experience life.

Watch out for all those around you. Listen to others. REALLY listen. Create some dreams that involve staying in touch with people around you and REALLY connecting with them. You never know when that could make all the difference in the world. So, cherish today, plan for tomorrow, be intentional with your dreams and your purpose in life, and let’s all start making our own d@mn sandwiches:

  • explore your dreams;
  • write them down (100 is the goal!);
  • commit to achieving them by taking steps every day

Let me know how I can help with those dreams.