Functionally Depressed - Part 2

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"Damn it! I Know How I Got Here. I Know How This All Ends!!"

Rolling back (You'll see why I chose this phrase in a second...) off the loss of my father, I continued to build the company and work the contract job. We hired a number of talented people and I did a pretty good job of keeping my energy up while pushing myself to find time for my family.

ImageDuring the spring and summer I continued exercising by riding my bike and training for my annual cross-state (you could even call it Pan-Ohio) bike ride. I was pushing everything by trying to train and still manage both jobs, but the physical activity was part training and part social time with people in my life who shared my love of riding. This was also the first year my second daughter was going to join me on my annual ride. We'd discussed it for years but now she was old enough and had enough training to attempt this insane event for herself.

This brought us up to the middle of summer. The weather for the ride was good, my daughter and I were as prepared as our schedules had allowed - with me working and building a company and her in her second year of college. Every year I'd ridden the ride and trained, we'd done it together. This was her first time in the saddle next to me and I felt proud and strong. I was finally able to share this thing that pushed me to the ends of my mental and physical endurance every year with her directly. No more second-hand stories on our training rides, she was going to experience first-hand the camaraderie, support and friendships that shared goals and hardships create in people. Events like this transform acquaintances into life-long friends. They also pale in comparison to the pain those we were riding for go through every day.

I won't ever claim the ride is easy. I see people every year fly by me in better shape or in better form. I struggle every year to get all the miles and have yet to succeed, but this year I was feeling stronger and more energetic than any previous attempt. My daughter was there. I got to play host, leader, father and friend. It was a nice break from the ongoing stresses because I tend to avoid my stress by putting myself under extreme stress in a very short period of time to make the low buzzing daily stress seem not so "stressy" (That's not a word Shawn.)

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The ride itself went well until day three. My daughter (who like me is a bit of a stress monster and who pushes herself beyond her assumed limits in order to validate her position with her friends and family) was having a rough time.

Day three is.. well.. a nightmare for all of us on the ride. The mileage is at or above a century (Yes, 100+ miles on a bike in a single day - in this case after about 140 over two previous days).

Training for that long a ride can only take you so far. Your body breaks down. Sitting becomes painful. Standing becomes painful. Pedaling becomes painful. You can't eat or drink enough to offset the caloric burn from the effort. (At least neither she nor I are very good at obtaining that balance)

Seventy miles into the day, I decide to show her an infamous part of the older route - "County Road 6." Riding a road bike is always a dangerous proposition, but nothing is more your enemy than loose stone and gravel on the berm of the road where you're forced to pedal. (I bet you can see what's coming here... and let me assure you.. yep that's where this is going)

Exhausted from a day of pedaling, anxious to keep up and not "be a drag" on the rest of her fellow riders, my daughter finds the exact pebble in the exact spot to ensure that the gravity defying act of balancing your body on 1/4" of mostly slick rubber tire while pushing a crank with all your might up a rise in a road transitions into a "sideways slalom of road rash and crunch" as the forward momentum of her tires lost traction and her balance gave way to gravity. (World's most awesome run-on sentence candidate??)

Then it was over. She was down.

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Her head bounced in its protective shell off the heated concrete with a strange hollow "Plunk!" as the bike issued a serpentine "sssssshhhh" and slid out from under her. Her feet, secured in her pedals, folded under the bike as it lost grip on the firmament beneath it. Her trusty cycle immediately made the transition from road bike and rider to strangely placed metal torture rack and victim.

She was momentarily pinned, but managed to pull out one foot and slip her foot from the other secured shoe. Her elbow, hip and shin oozed fresh bright red liquid peppered with black grains of asphalt from long thin abrasions. She was crying more from exhaustion and frustration than true pain as she hobbled away from the wreck and tried to find steady footing. (The above section is only slightly dramatized for literary impact)


Now why would I be describing this story in relation to my "Functional Depression" you ask? 
Well dear reader.. umm.. because I'm obligated to paint the scene of events that in isolation probably would have had no impact on my mental state, but when considered in combination becomes yet another feather applying pressure on this old camel's back... but wait... it'll come back around.

Soft Landings? Never!

The crash was the moment that my daughter decided her endurance was spent. Crashing on a bike is scary even for seasoned riders. It is painful. You're never sure how much damage you've done to yourself or your bike and when the adrenaline wears off and you begin to crash again as your body shakes and aches and reminds you that any accident is a trauma.

Taking a rest, we managed to get everyone up and managed to take pictures at the bottom of the infamous course segment. A little rest didn't offset the remaining thirty miles to the end of the day and the climb off the trails ahead into our destination. Hesitantly and a bit more slowly, we got back on the roll onto the trail that would take us to the days destination. Good will can't overcome a break in morale though, so we pushed on to a scheduled water stop where she decided to end her journey for the day.

We had no clue it'd also be for the end of the ride that year.

Dickensian or just Dickish?

Because I enjoy the concept of non-linear storytelling, let me segue now to a quick tale of how my oldest child and I have had a stressful relationship since her teen years. Beginning around her Junior year of high-school, it apparently became fashionable for her to tell every authority figure that she was abused at home and her father was denying her food, warmth, shelter and emotional support. (Yeah, that sounds exactly like me)

My oldest daughter had spent most of her childhood in therapy and counseling. She'd decided to make some very adult choices at twelve and had (though we didn't recognize it then) decided to do everything possible to "get away" from her mother and I while ensuring we "paid" for our lack of giving her what she wanted. We'd struggled with her since she was three and decided that crying was the best way to get the love and attention of strangers, which was usually preferable to the love and support of family. Oh, and she'd been wearing a diagnosis of Borderline-personality disorder for the last two years - a diagnosis not usually given to children or teens but that the psychologists and counselors made an exception to apply because of the severity of her condition.

This need to jeopardize the cohesion of our family through the constant visits from the local children's services organization went on for almost a year. Each time some caring mandatory reporter would meet her for the first time she would prepare an appropriately dramatic tale of her existence likened to a Charles Dickens novel of Victorian labor orphanages. (Well, that's what I envisioned anyway, how else would all these people keep racing to the rescue of our poor, mistreated children?? Wait, the other children had their own problems, but the stories didn't match up)

Related imageEventually, this daughter changed her tactics!

She dropped out of high-school a month before graduation with a "B average" in her College track courses at one of the best High Schools in the state and married her boyfriend. A young man who at one time had been homeless and sleeping in his pickup truck outside my front door. (That's another story I won't even dive into here) Years later, and at the time of the above cycling story and after the death of both the fathers, this same daughter was pregnant with her third child. Oh and the above identified husband was in jail for spousal abuse.

We'd not heard anything from our oldest in a year, and she and her family were living in my wife's parents house. Until a day in June when we received a frantic call from a relative that the two of them were in a physical altercation and the Sheriff was inbound, could we please come and help. We'd had little to no contact with her or our two older grandchildren because I was a heartless abuser. Her narrative had never really changed.

After the husband went away to do his time, this daughter continued to push us away. Moving from her grandparents homes (and leaving it filled with clutter and filth) to take her children and begin living with another relative. She continued to assure us loudly that we'd never have access to her children or be able to push our abusive ways on her or them ever, ever....

Back to the main thread... now that I've given you some background.

A Fateful Call

The ride from the water stop back to the end of the day's route was somber. My daughter was not talking much and I imagine, because I insisted on stopping my own ride and going back with her. I know she was feeling some guilt over my decision, but I'm her Dad and I was doing this with her beginning to end. We'd crossed most of the state together over three days, as others tell me every time I fall apart after falling short - she had nothing to be disappointed in. For her first time she'd ridden over 200 miles. (Most people faint if you ask them to ride 10 with you, trust me)

Eventually, we arrived at the college where the ride was ending that day and got some water, chicken wings and cheese to carbo-load and refill our very empty energy reserves. We were both finding it hard to revel in our accomplishments, but I decided to give my wife a call to let her know how we'd done and to give her a chance to talk to our daughter about how amazing the effort she'd put out actually was. (She tried this with me too, but I say she's biased - which is totally not a defense mechanism to allow me to continue to be disappointed in myself.  It's my personal hate ploy!)

The call didn't quite go as planned.

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Instead of focusing on the exhaustion and asking for support, I spoke to a wife who was on the edge of panic. She had news that I needed to hear but had not wanted to tell me during the ride because she knew both of us needed our mental strength to get through the day's ordeals. Our oldest daughter (The one who'd actively tried to have me charged for abuse and have her siblings stripped from their home based on her stories) was in the hospital. There was bleeding. There was a risk to her and the unborn child. Things were pretty unknown about how they'd evolve in the next few hours.

We dropped everything. The ride was over. We got in a friend's car and she drove us home.

The "stress therapy" of putting myself under duress on the ride had instantly transitioned to the stress of potentially losing not just one but two family members. Except this time the stress wasn't temporary.

In Part 3: We discuss the joys of family and borderline personality disorder...

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