Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Physical Therapy

I walked into physical therapy and Troy greeted me with, "So, did you run last week?"

Me, sheepishly: "Just a little bit."

Troy: "How little."

Me: "Just one minute."

Troy: Knowing smile.

Me: "At a time..."

Troy: "Come on, how much total?"

Me: "Only five minutes in all with one minute of walking in between."

Troy: "I knew you would. That's why I told you no. I knew if I said yes you'd overdo it."

Me: "So I can start running now?"

Troy: "No. But I know you will anyway, just try to take it really easy."

Seriously, I get winded just walking and with just the little bit of running I do once a week I can feel that my foot, ankle, calf, and lower leg aren't ready to sustained running so I'm doing the elliptical trainer, stationary bike, and walking. My ankle was still swollen from running yesterday so today I just did the bike. My ankle is feeling really good though, it just swells up quite a bit when I overdo it.

Protests in Front of LDS Temple in LA

It's no surprise, given the church's involvement in Proposition 8, that people would protest against the Mormon church. I do find it telling that the only reported violence was a group of apparently South Pacific Islander Mormons who assaulted some female protesters. You can follow the link above to the LA Times web site for text and video including an attractive woman with a bloody nose being cared for by paramedics.

The church has been persecuted in the past, but this current incident gives insite into the type of things that Mormons past and present have done to incite the anger of their neighbors. Of course, they see this as just another example of the armies of iniquity fighting against the truth.

I found out about this from an email that was forwarded to me by my in-laws. I thought that it would be interesting post it to show how the faithful feel about the protests.

A Letter from a Worker at the LA Temple

As additional information for those who missed the news, I was at the temple assisting in the security efforts and it was quite an experience. Our temple is safe and no damage was done on the grounds.It was a site I never expected to see. At one point we had let in about 20 police vehicles through the gates because they were afraid their vehicles would be damaged as civilian cars were being vandalized. I removed the Utah plates from my truck just so I could drive through the mess and park blocks away. Two fullsquads of LAPD in riot gear set up their base inside the temple grounds while SWAT vehicles and hundreds of officers followed the crowds run up Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards. I've heard that the crowd was estimated to be over 2,500. The officers inside the temple grounds made a line on the front lawn by the fence. At one point, with 7 news and police helicopters overhead, the crowd began to climb the fence and it looked like there was going to be a lot of trouble. We had, it seemed, a good fourth of a Polynesian ward there so it could have gotten very interesting very fast. While I was there, I was not aware of anyone actually breaching the fence, but we were asked to move far across the parking lot as they were anticipating the need to shoot tear gas canisters. I never thought I would see the day when police officers would sit perched on the spire of our temple as lookouts. All of this happened at about 7:30 PM. It should be remembered that most likely many of the law enforcement were not in favor of our stance on Proposition 8, but nevertheless, the men and women were there doing their duty and protecting our property. For that we are grateful. And yes, there was an incident with some of our members who had gone to remove the protest signs from the front fence. One of the protesters did initiate physical contact with one of our sisters so the details are uncertain as to whether the response was fully justified. The lesson to be learned is that it's important to anticipate and avoid such confrontational situations. Remember the world is watching our reaction and the media is everywhere. In the end, when we keep our cool, the video footage speaks the truth regarding which side is really intolerant and appears hateful whenwe simply do not respond or do so in a loving and controlled manner. I can testify that I felt the presence of others protecting the temple..those we could not physically see there tonight. We areprotected and our Father in Heaven is mindful of our efforts and willingness to withstand persecution. As far as the temple being open or not, I do not have any official word. The decision to close it today came from Church headquarters in the afternoon and I imagine they will have to evaluate the situation day to day. Since protesting has occurred the past 2 days, I imagine in will happen again tomorrow and as long as people can keep it up without losing their day jobs.
My response to the email was:
Wow. First blacks, then women, and now gays. When will the church learn...
It's difficult to feel sympathy for the church for when it supported stripping rights from people through a campaign of systematic misinformation. Now they act surprised that people are exercising their rights to fight back.

I've posted before on why I think the church does this. The reason is retarded, mind you, but it makes since to them and their sexual purity obsessed culture. To them marriage equals permission to have sex and if you allow gays to marry then you are saying it's okay for them to have sex. And for them that's unacceptable. So they see it as a moral fight to continue to officially and legally condemn homosexuality. It doesn't affect them, but for them it's a moral struggle and they see losing that battle as a downward spiral into immorality. All the other reasons are simply pretenses as the rebuttals to their propaganda have shown.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Still Don't Understand It

I started this entry months ago and finishing it has been difficult because it admits something that I don't every like to admit: weakness and vulnerability. But reading about friends struggles have made my personal struggles particularly poignant and I want to share my experiences on this subject in part to let them know that they aren't alone, in part to help someone who might read this, and in part at a catharsis.

I've written about my sometimes turbulent upbringing, but it wasn't all bad. I sometimes wonder if it was really bad at all or if it was all my perceptions and just in my head. Part of the point of my recollections is to remind me that at times it was actually bad and that I had some reasons to feel fear, anger, hatred, and sadness. But I don't know if it really justified the sometimes overwhelming feelings of loneliness, unhappiness, and hopelessness that I remember growing up with.

I remember often crying myself asleep as a child. I felt unloved. I was incredibly unhappy and didn't foresee anything ever changing and wishing I could die. I remember thinking about suicide. My dad had a huge Bowie knife that I'd imagine pushing up under my rib cage into my heart. He had a 32 caliber pistol in the top of his closet. We had rifles and shotguns around the house along with ammunition and none of it was locked up. Taking my life would have been easy and part of me really wanted life to just end. I knew I could do it and the main thing that stopped me was the sheer futility of the act.

It seemed to me that God had perpetrated a cruel joke. My Mormon upbringing had taught me that I'd always existed as a spirit child of God and that my spirit was eternal and could never die. I learned that life was a time of forgetting and probation where I was being tested to see if I was worthy of the greatest gift God could give: becoming a god myself. There were really only two alternatives, exaltation and godhood or eternal damnation as a servant of the exalted in various degrees of lower glory. In the grand scheme of things, there was no escape. Suicide was just an illusory escape from a mortal torment to an everlasting one. As soon as I died, I knew I'd wake up in the spirit world feeling just as unhappy but with the bitter knowledge that I was now damned for all eternity. I found myself wondering why God didn't leave open the option to just cease to exist. I found it a bitter pill to just have to be long suffering, not only for this life, but forever. Instead of providing comfort, my religion made me feel even more hopeless; it was like a grand eternal game that I just couldn't win. I thought that if God really loved us then he'd give us the opportunity to just end it all and blink out of existence.

The greatest blessing in Mormonism is to have an eternal family. However, in our family we prayed together daily for harmony in the home and rarely seemed to experience it. The thought of spending forever with my family usually didn't seem like a blessing. One of the happiest days of my life was the day I left for college at BYU. I had hurried through high school in 3 years mainly so I could escape my house and unhappy public school experience and move out on my own. My mother was crying as I got into the car with my dad to make the 1000 mile trek to Utah and it was a struggle to keep from laughing out loud and busting out a huge smile because I was so incredibly happy to finally be making my escape.

College, by and large, was great. My social awkwardness still left me with few friends, but being in control, studying what I wanted to study, and setting my own direction felt great. I associated with the people I wanted to and did the things I wanted to do when I wanted to do them. I even became very marginally active in church for quite some time. Strangely, to me, I felt very happy on Sunday mornings reading my scriptures with the dorms to myself while everyone else was at church. It seemed strange to me at the time that I felt more spiritual and comfortable in the quiet of my room than I ever did in the meetings.

I exercised regularly, played intramural sports, and carried a very heavy load of engineering classes while keeping my grades up to maintain my academic scholarship. I didn't date much because I'd left my first true love back in Iowa. I was at peace, but I don't know if I was very happy. I do remember times of extreme sadness and loneliness however. I remember one instance where I was so depressed that it felt like I simply couldn't get any lower. In the depths of such sadness I found myself on my knees praying and I felt a wash of warmth and elation flood through my body. This had to be the burning in my bosom, the Comforter, that I'd learned about in the scriptures. It felt like pure love and convinced me that God loved me and cared.

I experienced peace and comfort from reading the scriptures and pondering how I could apply them to myself to be happy and to make those around me happy. My religious experiences drew me back into church activity even though they rarely provided the same comfort as my private studies and after two years of college I left on a church mission to Bolivia.

From time to time I post recollections of my mission. It was very hard in every way imaginable, but I had a sense of purpose and it gave me a confidence and brightness that I'd never had before. I lost a lot of my fear of social situations and matured into an adult and gained experiences that helped form me into who I am today. I suppose that it helped that I completely believed in what I was doing and teaching without any doubt. It was no cake walk, but I loved the experience and was proud of my service.

But through it all, I struggled to find happiness. In some ways I think I'm a "can do" person who tries to find the positive in things and tries to make the best of situations. I've tried to focus on things that are within my control and ignore those that aren't. So, why have I always struggled with these periods of unhappiness and gloominess?

A few years ago a friend related that anti-depressants had literally saved his and his wife's lives. This surprised me because he seemed like such a positive, happy guy. But apparently he struggled with deep depression and managed it successfully with happy pills. I wondered if they'd help me and he encouraged me to talk to my doctor.

Over the years, our society has become much more accepting of happiness through better pharmacology. I've read many articles explaining the dangers of depression along with the little 10 question pop quizzes to assess whether you might be depressed. I always felt dismissive of them because the quizzes seemed like they were designed to diagnose everyone as depressed. At least they always seemed to show me to be moderately to deeply depressed every time I took one. Since I felt normal I figured that it was just part of a publicity campaign to sell more drugs.

This spring, when marathon season was over, I felt burned out. I figured it was just from the effort of a long, aggressive training season and the stresses of work and family. But I just felt no motivation to train, I was constantly tired, and all I wanted to do was sleep or watch TV. I'd be riding along on my motorcycle and wonder what would happen if I crashed and realize I didn't really care. I'd come home and not want to walk through the door. I felt pretty hopeless and sad and like I was sleep walking through life. I felt so crappy that I went to the doctor because I was convinced I was anemic, or had diabetes, or hypothyroidism or some other physical malady that was causing me to feel so bad. I just felt like crap, all the time. I didn't want to come home, I didn't want to go to work, I really didn't want to do anything. I was just going through the motions and figured something must be wrong.

The doctor listened to my symptoms and ordered up blood work but then he said, "What do we do if the blood work comes back and everything is normal?" I said that I didn't know, but that I guess I'd just have to get used to the fact that the way I was feeling was normal. He asked if I'd considered that I might be depressed. He started to say there are no tests they can do, but then stopped and pulled up a list of questions on his PDA. I laughed as he started to ask the questions because I knew where it was going. They were the same questions I'd answered before and they showed the same thing they always had. I was depressed.

I left the office with a some samples and a prescription for an anti-depressant. The next day the doctor called to tell me that all my blood work was normal, but I already guessed that it would be and had already filled the prescription. Fortunately, previous conversations with my friend and reading had left me with at least the intellectual understanding that the drugs might help me. I also suffer from migraines, so I'm particularly aware of how altered brain chemistry can affect mood and perceptions.

The pharmacist and the enclosed literature suggested that it might take several weeks before I'd feel any difference. It didn't. Within just a few days I felt much better. Things didn't bother me as much and, it's difficult to describe, but things just felt normal. But normal without feeling down. I felt alive normal. Not magically happy or anything, but the things that I thought were making me unhappy no longer seemed to matter. I had more perspective and things felt good, rather than hopeless.

My family doesn't see any difference. That bugged me at first because I thought surely everyone could tell. I kept waiting for someone to notice or comment. But I think that the main thing that changed was my internal view of the world and how I perceived it. I guess my behaviors, good and bad, are ingrained, but I feel better.

After a little while, the blues came back, and when I went in for a prescription refill I increased my dosage. Things evened out again, but the drugs have a niggling side effect for me; they make it difficult for me to have an orgasm and in fact make sex much less pleasurable. I've been feeling so good that recently I tried cutting the dosage back. Sex returned to being great, but I slowly drifted back down into a deep depression. All of a sudden things that had receded into the background emerged front and center and once again took on a significance that they had ceased to have for while. I still felt normal and my feelings seemed legitimate and I found myself wondering if the anti-depressants weren't masking legitimate issues that were the real source of my unhappiness. But I resumed my normal dosage and the feelings receded. Maybe those feelings weren't so objective as they seemed.

This is so weird and part of what I struggle with. Part of me feels weak for needing anti-depressants. Shouldn't I just be able to control my emotional balance on my own? With all I've accomplished, mastering my own emotional climate shouldn't be beyond me, should it? But then, I also realize that I have to wear glasses to see clearly. If what the medical community claims is true, and depression is a manifestation of an imbalance in my brain chemistry, then I'd be a fool to not use the drugs. It would be like not wearing glasses when I need them or for a diabetic to not take required insulin. Feelings seem real. Are they? It seems strange that this since of "I" can be so influenced by a little white pill.

So, that is where I'm at right now. I'm resigned to taking a little pill each night to prevent a state of mind that I'd grown accustomed to for my whole life and trying to learn a new normal. And I'm thinking that the second half of my life seems much more hopeful than the first half did. I just wish that I'd taken that step 20+ years ago.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ran 1/4 Mile Today

At lunch today I excitedly told a friend that I ran a quarter of a mile this morning. He looked at me kind of funny and said, "That's not very far." Well, maybe not for him, but it's the furthest I've run since the beginning of August when I found out I needed reconstructive ankle surgery and it felt pretty damn good!

It's been a while since I posted so I'll fill you in on how it has gone. I had surgery on September 8 and I spent the next 4 weeks on crutches and wasn't allowed to put any weight on my foot and I had to wear a bit boot on it so I couldn't move it. After 4 weeks they put me in a lighter brace that let me move my foot up and down, but not side to side and they allowed me to put partial weight on my foot.

When I started out it felt like the sole of my foot was a big sponge full of goo that squished out when I put it down. It was a weird sensation but didn't really hurt. It was more of a pins and needles type of sensation. I still had quite a bit of swelling in my ankle at first, but as I started walking, even with crutches, it helped pump some of the swelling out of my lower leg, ankle, and foot. I started out at 1/4 weight the fifth week, then 1/2 weight the sixth week. On that Thursday one of my crutches broke so I walked with just one crutch with about 3/4/ weight on the ankle.

I had been planning on running the Kansas City marathon on the 18th of October which was at the end of my sixth week post surgery. I took the crutch along, but I cheated some and walked some short distances without it. It was weird. The most painful part was my heal where the achilles tendon attaches and by the end of the weekend my left calf was really sore and stiff.

The next Tuesday I showed up at the physical therapist with no crutches. He was funny because he checked the calendar to make sure I wasn't jumping the gun. Apparently some patients have a problem with patience and get ahead of themselves.

Over the last two weeks progress has seemed glacially slow, yet somehow in only two weeks I'm walking without a limp and I'm putting more trust in my ankle. I'm actually more comfortable walking now than I was before the surgery so that is good. My range of motion is nearly back to normal. I still have swelling after exercise, but apparently that's okay for now.

The most painful part of my ankle ever since surgery has been the front of the ankle and my heel. Right after surgery I couldn't hardly point my toes down at all and until the last couple of days, that has been the most painful area. I had to be very careful going down stairs or ramps because of the pain, but over the last couple of days that pain has almost completely disappeared. I suspect that it was caused by the device they used to pry open the joint to drill the fracture out inside the joint.

When I got off the crutches I started going to the gym again. For the last two weeks I've been doing very light (30 pounds) leg presses for about 10 minutes to help with range of motion, riding a stationary bike for cardio, and doing light weight lifting. At the end of last week I tried about 10 minutes on the elliptical trainer. That felt okay so I started working up until I got to 20 minutes yesterday and 30 minutes today.

Last Friday I tentatively tried a very slow jog and felt pain immediately and stopped. Yesterday I tried jogging on my toes and that was okay. I gradually let my foot strike move back toward the heel until I was using a normal foot strike. After 1 minute at 4 mph I called it quits and called it a success. Today I went for two minutes a little faster and ran nearly a quarter of a mile. My foot and lower leg were fatigued even from that, but I didn't have any pain and only a little swelling afterwards. Considering that I've only been walking without crutches for 2 weeks I'm pretty excited by how good I feel.

Overall, everything is feeling very good and I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm really, really out of shape and my legs aren't ready for running, but I'll slowly work up to it and everything should be fine.

I have my last visit with the doctor tomorrow. About my only concern right now is the swelling and whether that indicates a problem or if it is just a symptom that the joint still doesn't have full range of motion. I'd also like to finish up with the PT because the cost adds up and we're not doing anything that I can't do on my own at home and in the gym. So, I'm going to suggest that the PT give me a list of exercises to do on my own with followup appointments only on an as-needed basis.