Reality … Check

Reality … Check

I’ve shared a great many personal stories here at RKP. From anecdotes of suffering to testimonials to the power of flow states, to crashes, to the birth of my second son, who nearly exited this world as hastily as he entered it, I’ve gone deep on the personal. It should not surprise me that the most personal material of it all, the Enter the Deuce series about the birth of my son Matthew, would turn out to be some of the most enduringly popular of all the work I’ve published here. And yet, that was the scariest to write. But write it I did. I didn’t really know what else to do with myself at the time.

It was in writing the feature “88 Temples” for Bicycling that I first ran up against material that I didn’t entirely want to write about. I admit this as someone whose graduate work looked hard at the Confessional Poets. Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton were stars I navigated by. They wrote of seemingly mundane topics: family, marriage, picking fruit, feeding babies, raising babies and infused them with the anxiety that is inevitably found in the heads of writers. So for all the experience I had at confronting challenging emotions and then banging on a keyboard until they were translated into characters, writing “88 Temples” was different. I’ve thought long and hard about why and have come up with a couple of conclusions.

The first is that when I’d written previously about difficult moments in my life, I was either, A) well past that period and was writing about it with the benefit of a rear-view mirror or B) unable to make any significant contribution (like the care for my newborn son) and so had a certain remove from responsibility because no humongous decision was resting on me. I was a passenger, so to speak.

With “88 Temples,” I was wrestling with whether or not my marriage would survive. I was also wrestling with depression, and while it’s going to sound insane when I write this, I must tell you that I didn’t understand I was depressed at the time. Yes, I’d been to see a psychiatrist and he had prescribed me the antidepressant Wellbutrin, but the terminology I used was that I was struggling in my intimate relationships. I never used the word depressed. I didn’t see it. I didn’t attach that term—depressed—to my condition until my editor used it in her revision of the first draft of my story.

Oh. Depressed. Yeah, I guess I am.

So, while I’ve discussed some of this on the Paceline, writing about it is different than talking about it in a conversation with another person and simply allowing a microphone to pick it up. I swear.

For the last two years my wife and I have lived as roommates. I’ll say that we came to the decision to divorce, though the reality is that one of us said they wanted it and the other party simply didn’t argue. We’ve continued to live together for the last two years for two reasons: 1) staying together for the kids a while longer was useful to them and, 2) two weeks after we made the decision, our town caught on fire and within 90 days rents rose so quickly and stratospherically that it became impossible to move.

As suboptimal as that situation sounds, once we had agreed to divorce, even without the existence of an actual game plan (no matter how tenuous), my depression improved rather dramatically. And then last October, in an exchange with my father concerning an RKP post I’d written, our relationship collapsed and the depression returned with a vengeance.

If you notice, I’ve written about two substantive events in my life as if they were so many bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation. The pain that these two incidents has caused me is something that I’ve shared with only three people on this planet. I simply don’t know how to write about either of these things without resorting to blaming, finger-pointing and recrimination. Not to mention self-flagellation. And if there is one thing everyone who loves me agrees on, none of that will solve any of my problems.

What I can share in detail with you is this: I’ve learned that depression has been a feature of most of my life. It has played a role of some sort in the dissolution of every significant romantic relationship of my life. I’d compare that realization to spending a year receiving radiation treatments and chemotherapy for cancer only to find out that the tumor is just as big as it ever was.

Then came Michael Pollan’s book, “How to Change Your Mind.” I’d already read “The Botany of Desire,” and had loved how he had skewered one myth after another in its pages. In “How to Change Your Mind,” for the unfamiliar, he explores how psilocybin mushrooms, also known as “magic mushrooms” are being used in psychotherapy to help alcoholics, drug addicts, smokers, people with PTSD and those with treatment-resistant depression. It’s that last group to which I belong.

I began searching for a way that I might explore psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. It’s a good deal harder to find people to work with when the drug is illegal than why it’s being pushed on doctors by a big pharma sales rep with a low-cut blouse. So it goes.

But about six weeks ago I found a practice in Marin County that was doing this very type of treatment with Ketamine. The way it acts on the body is different than psilocybin or LSD, but it has been used, and favorably. What Pollan described as the state-of-the-art in this sort of treatment is having the drug administered in the presence of a licensed psychiatrist and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapy counselor, one male, the other female. That setting is very important as is the mindset of the patient; it’s important to have an intention for the experience as well.

We began with a one-hour phone interview in which the MFT counselor, with whom I spoke, concluded that I merited the next step, which was filling out a sheaf of documents. I sent those back and then heard from them a short time later that I merited an in-person intake interview. This would be the step that would determine whether or not I became a patient of theirs. I drove down one afternoon and we spoke for an hour, with me running through significant traumas and stressors from my life. At the end, they informed me that they thought they could help. I was now their patient, which meant that I needed to make clear my intention for the treatment. For me, it will be neutralizing (to whatever degree is possible) that critical editor inside.

I drove home giddy that I’d have access to a revolutionary kind of therapy, but also dismayed that even though I felt like I was in a pretty good place that day, the reality is that I’d scored in the low end of the moderate to severe scale for depression on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A), meaning that what felt pretty good to me was still depressed by any objective measure. It was enough to make me wonder just how strong my grasp of reality is.

I share all this for a couple of reasons. This site has been at its best when the veil is as thin as possible, when our heart rate is as close to boiling as possible. RKP has always been about the transformative value of the bicycle. I may not have been able to articulate that when I started this site, but that’s what the aggregation of these posts illustrates. I’m at a place in my life where I must admit that the bike has taken me as far as it may, that it’s time to unclip and walk this next distance.

I don’t want that to sound like the bike isn’t capable of giving to me what I need anymore. It has delivered me to this point. I don’t think I’d understand depression in this way without the bike. And I would never have been open to Pollan’s work had I not done a deep dive on neuroscience because of my interst in flow states. The notion that we are evolutionarily wired for altered consciousness is a relatively new truth for me, one that I’m ready to embrace in a new setting.

The next 60 days may be bumpy ones for me. I say that less as a warning than an acknowledgement. We will file for divorce soon, and I am likely to be moving as well. And then there will be the ongoing treatments with Ketamine; I honestly don’t know just how many there will be.

There will be no episode of The Pull tomorrow. Selene and I will record The Paceline on Thursday … I think.

Also, following a facilities challenge, I looked at moving the date for the Red Kite Ronde et Vous, but when this course of treatment came together, I realized that I wanted less on my plate, not more. I’m considering the possibility of a one-day ride (the Grasshopper’s Old Caz route like last year) and hangout in November. If folks are interested, give me a +1 in comments and I’ll look at what we can do.

If honesty is a measure of value, I’d like to think I and our other contributors have created something that will last in people’s hearts, but that’s only because we’ve been gifted with an audience that wanted something more than a list of product features or the top 10 from that day’s race. We’ve surprised you before, and now it is time for the world to surprise me. Thanks.

 

,

46 comments

  1. Tim Jackson

    I’ll be in touch on a personal level, but wanted to go on the record that you are in my heart friend- all four of you. Just know you have the support of many, some who struggle the same way (that’d be me), and we’re here for you in whatever ways possible.

  2. MM

    Strong. Honest. Painful. Beautiful. Yours is a rare gift, my friend, one that’s lifted many of the boats drifting on those same seas.

    May the road rise to meet you, Patrick. And I suspect that it will.

  3. Dara Rogers

    I am sorry to hear about all you are going through
    But I think you are Incredibly strong and brave to be moving forward in this manner. I want you to know my friend Shanna Angel you may have known her as Shanna Hadlock Now runs a ketamine clinic in Hailey Idaho. She has had incredible luck with this procedure. If you want her information I’d be happy to give it to you. Call me or Tom thanks take care

  4. Rodrigo Diaz

    Wow. Padraig, that’s some deep management needed there. Best of luck with your new treatment options; I think humanity is in diapers with regards to treating depression and understanding how much it affects persons and societies.

    I can’t speak for any others, but I’ll be right here whenever you feel you have something more to share – whether it relates to bikes or not.

    Bon courage,

    Rod

  5. Bill

    Your openness and honesty is of greater value than any other story you could tell.
    I loved Pollan’s book, and hope that you may find some benefit from the experience you’re about to undertake.
    +1 as well, although my November is a little ragged.

  6. Jacob D Bayless

    One of the things I admire most about you is the bravery of honesty. You always manage to spin the plates into poetry, too.

    “I’m at a place in my life where I must admit that the bike has taken me as far as it may, that it’s time to unclip and walk this next distance.”

    I hope you’ll continue to let us hold your hand, Patrick. It’s about community. Time to let us lean in on you a little. It’ll be fine. Keep telling the story.

    XO jake

  7. Emil Gercke

    There are many sites where it is about bicycles, the reason I (we?) come here is because of who you are and what you bring to our lives. I wish you the best, you’ve become important to me over the years even though we’ve never met.

  8. Josh Boggs

    My sentiments echo those of Tim, from above. Having been through bouts of depression, specifically surrounding my first marriage unraveling, and the impending divorce, I understand some of what you’re going through. All situations are different, but rest assured, you are not the first to go through these things, and more importantly, you are not alone in your battles. My first concern when my marriage fell apart was, “how are my kids going to deal with this?” The answer is that kids are extremely resilient… more than what I gave them credit for. A few years removed, as I embark on my next marriage (Saturday’s the day…), I can say that there can be happier times, the kids are fine, and all parties involved are in better places moving forward.

    Being a wordsmith, as you are, I’d recommend some music that you may relate to. As I was going through my mess, I found the album, “True Sadness,” by the Avett Brothers. Some of the tracks weren’t my flavor, but the song, “No Hard Feelings,” stuck out as a touching reminder that yes, we’ve gone through some shit, but in the end, we can move on and finish well, with no malice towards others and a sense of peace with ourselves. After watching the documentary on the band on HBO (“May it Last”), I found that my interpretation of the lyrics mimicked that of the author. The brother that penned that song was going through a divorce at the time that they wrote the album, and it was pretty clear that our feelings were very much the same.

    Myself, and a lot of other friends, are here for you. If there is anything we can ever do, please reach out. I hate what you’re going through, but being a true hardman, I know you’ll come out of this in a better place and will refine yourself in the process. Truly love your guts, brother. All my best.

    – JB

  9. Mark Burgener

    Hey Patrick,
    Thank you for sharing your heart. As you search for resolve and peace in your life I encourage you to lay all of this stuff at the feet of Jesus. Let Him have it and let yourself go. Jesus is the answer. All the best and hang in there.

  10. Richard Robinson

    Just know we will all be here to read or listen to what ever you have to say. This is the only site I check everyday. I read reviews and such but I really like the knowledge you have shared so that I can look at some specs and have a feel if a bike will do what I want. I really hope you can get better. Take time, take care.

  11. Matt

    +1

    many of us have walked parts of your path, if not the whole thing. Bravery is found in small doses, often in quiet, and I think you’re pretty brave Patrick

  12. Dave

    Patrick,

    I’ve been a longtime fan of your writing and though we’ve never met, I think of you and your words often. I too have had a lifelong battle with depression, which in large part contributed to my divorce from my children’s mom. I can tell you is there is happiness ahead. It will take work and time, but you’ll get there. Be patient and kind with yourself and always reach out when you’re in need. It was doing that that got me through my darkest hours and now I’m where I’m supposed to be and you will get there too.

    I wish you the best of luck on this next step in your life journey.

    Dave

    PS – if you need an escape sometime I’d be happy to show you around Maine, either by sail or bike.

  13. Jay

    Best wishes to you. It takes a certain level of courage to put your personal demons out there for all to see. Whatever happens next, I hope that it goes well for you, and you end up in a better place in the end.

  14. eric

    +1
    And a note – while I’m not in touch as frequently as I’ve been in the past, I think of you often, and highly. My ears, shoulder, wheel and heart are open any time… may the road ahead always rise to meet you. -e

  15. Don Jagoe

    Others said it all so well. You have a legion of barely-or unknown friends that admire and like you very much, me among them, from afar. I fervently hope this journey brings you peace, answers and happiness. It can only increase that band of brothers that cheers you on. God speed and keep the rubber side down. Best, Don

  16. wick

    all the best vibes to you brother, it’s a difficult path but acknowledging it is the 1st and best step towards happiness.
    I’m with ya
    all the best
    wick

  17. Ian Penner

    Patrick,
    Knowing some of these feelings all too well, I will just say that I hope you will let those of us who want to be of help to do so, however we can. You have many who would like to be there for you through this process. I hope your journey, while not without bumps, takes you on an ever-ascending trajectory.
    Would love to see you again soon.
    -Ian

  18. Nic

    I like everyone else here, I am fully behind you on this journey. I am proud to call you a friend and know that I am here to help in any way. I know that you will pull through whatever may lay ahead.

  19. Hautacam

    You’ve earned the right to sit in the draft and let others pull for a few. Wishing you and yours all the best, Padraig. Ping me if you’re ever up in Seattle.


  20. Author
    Padraig

    Everyone, thank you for your kind words and warmth and even love. The work of a writer is an imprecise science and there are times when the trials seem outsized and other times when the dividends seem too generous. I’m living both of those today. It was a journey unlike any I’ve experienced, nor one for those with a timid heart. I was aware of a great many of your comments here and on social media before my session started and can attest that you were with me for a portion of that experience. Thank you to all of you for just reading. The reading is enough.

  21. Jeremiah

    I’m terribly sorry to hear about the passing of Matthew. I truly hope the ketamine sessions help you, and that you are able to find the same strength you impart to your readers on many occasions.

  22. Bill Webster

    Patrick, they are no strangers here, just friends you have not met until now. Know that we’re here because of you, and here for you too.

    Bill Webster

  23. charlie fuller

    if only we could bottle up the epiphanies you’ve triggered in us over the years, and give them back to you in a steady infusion…

  24. Scott M.

    A cyclist may unclips for a time — to order a macchiato, to fill bottles, to wait out a red light, to mend broken bones, or restore minds. Unclipping invariably starts a clock counting the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, or years until the ride begins anew. I’m confident that you can restore yourself to a place of peace and joy. And I suspect that your internal clock is already counting down to your next flow state.
    I wish you all the best, Patrick. I’m a long-time reader and frequently recommend RKP to others. While I seldom comment, I always read.

  25. Brett Lindstrom

    You have been on my mind since Sea Otter. I have wanted to reach out for different reasons, but am now wanting to reach out in support of your process. I look forward to this new chapter of your life.

  26. John Knowlton

    Patrick, I will continue to pray for Shalom (peace, wholeness, well-being) to manifest in your mund, heart and relationships. Thank you for your transparency- your readers/listeners consider you our friend and we care about you.

  27. Jeff Leonard

    Transparency is the Key, especially to our own selves.
    Have also temporarily “escaped” from many of pains you describe by jumping in the saddle, only to truly discover that there is no substitute for the “real” work required to reach the core of the “marks” left behind in our journey to the Now.
    After a frantic close of 2018 and most of 2019, I too am stepping back and re- evaluating my “intentions” and how I’m truly progressing in my journey.
    No one can do the work for us, we must reach the place of “Willingness” , to own what is ours and evolve for the better. Each step matters. Wishing you discovery and a rebirth of a new self as you travel the path.
    Look forward to rolling with you once again.
    Take care! JeffL

  28. Flahute

    Sending well wishes from Utah … I’ve been having a lot of struggles myself, and it sometimes takes all the self-control I can muster to not retreat to some of the self-destructive habits I had in the past. And yet, I still manage to find the room in my heart to worry and care about the struggles of others. Keep working at it, my friend, and know that you have the support and love of many.

  29. khal spencer

    Padraig, it sounds like you are in good hands with the counselors and ketamine treatment. I wish you well and trust you will someday look back on this time with the quiet fulfillment of having worked through these painful times. We are all pulling for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *