By Janet Ohlsen
I Love triathlons. I love to swim, bike and run.
In high school I struggled with negative thoughts as well as to be happy and get great grades. I was very good in art and sports. My art took me to college and I received a degree in Communication Design in 1979. I faired better in college but I partied and drank which made me feel good and tame my feelings-so I thought.
If you were to tell me I would lose interest in my favorite activities I would have said, "No way, not ME," but that is what happened slowly and painfully. I have been diagnosed with a bipolar mood disorder, heavy on major depression and as a topping, alcoholism- resulting in a wonderful compilation called dual diagnosis. These are all things I could not see or admit I had. For years I was slowly sinking into a depression that I used to fight to hide and deny. My focus, concentration, unexplained physical aliments and suicidal thoughts were building up along with anxiety. Then, sometimes, it diminished for short periods of time so I thought I was fine. But. It would not take long until I would be back to a sense of hopelessness, self loathing and not being able to "come out of it!"
It was frustrating not to be able to control my moods, deal with emotions or have the energy to reach out for help. It took three trips to the ER, for complications due to self-medicating, before I started getting help. It has been a long process involving general practitioner visits, rehab and then visits to a psychiatrist and psychotherapy.
Recently, NAMI asked me to be part of a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition story about my experience with getting help and psychotherapy. The topic was "Shop for a Psychotherapist: Avoid the Lemons" as reported by Nancy Shute who is very attuned to the area of mental health. I had a very good experience with the whole process, being able to talk openly, and as it turned out it was a greatly therapeutic way of dealing will my illness. I talked about how important finding the right therapist is. Fortunately I got mine from a friend's referral. It took several visits to understand how it would help, but counseling is the biggest part of my recovery; finding someone you trust and "click" with. I have been working a lot with my therapist on negative thinking, which is a hallmark of depression.
I enjoy books about athletes with health issues who overcome incredible odds to become inspirational sources of courage for others. Courage has become my favorite word. It takes courage to go forth to get help and do what you love to do. After I was feeling better, I got certified as a triathlon coach.
The Project Athena Foundation picked me to pursue my athletic dream of competing in the upcoming IRONMAN triathlon, following my story submission a year ago. They are helping support me with some funds (the entrance fee is $650.00!!) and encouragement as well as coaching advice. In return, will be a "Goddess" to help raise money for the next recipient, which I feel strongly about. "Pay it forward" feels so good.