View Full Version : Depression

Tom Ellison
October 7th, 2002, 01:31 PM
Ok, here it is. This takes a serious amount of courage for me to post this due to the obvious shame if feel here, but, I think it may help someone out there who is also experiencing the same type of situation..The following is an e-mail I wrote to Jim Thorton reaching out for him for guidance and help in this terrible time.

I have not posted in two months now due to my severe depression. My wife of 25 years (whom I love dearly left me on 5 Aug.--no hope for our marriage). I attempted an honest crack at Jerry's way out that night...and one other time. So far this past two months I have spent one 12 day stint in the hospital and another week stint in the hospital attempting to deal with this very, very serious problem. To date, I have been unable to shake this thing. I see no hope for my life and frankly the pain and torment is so great that I really do not give a rat’s rear end about anything at this point. My problem is a simply one. I HATE being locked up..and all these units can do for guys like me is lock us up. Heck, I take Jerry's way any day to the padded cell stuff.
Any suggestions. Currently I am on Celexa and the pain and suffering are horrendous to say the least.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

jim thornton
October 7th, 2002, 02:18 PM
Tom wrote me this morning, and I applaud him for his reaching out to our forum for help. It takes a lot of courage to air an emotional problem.

Anyone else out there who has had experiences with depression, anxiety, and the like--and I know there are plenty of us!--please send your own notes of inspiration and advice to Tom.

Here's what I wrote him this morning:


I am so sorry to hear about your depression. I have suffered multiple bouts of this myself over the years, and I know exactly what you mean about the intolerable nature of the pain involved. I am an identical twin, and he too has had problems with this hellish disease. Advice, I know, is hard to take at times like this. But what I want to say is this: even the worst depression gets better, in fact, the deeper it is, the more likely it is to get better faster. I know when every second crawls along like it is a year, the prospect of patience-- six months from now, you will absolutely, definitely be feeling better, no doubt whatsoever --seems very hard to muster. But you are a swimmer, and if our sport has taught us anything, it's how to endure pain until we emerge to the other, triumphant side of the race.

In my own case, I have learned that when I am deeply depressed, I can't think well, but I cannot stop thinking. My thoughts, which run riotous, are uniformly hopeless and negative, but they nevertheless seem unassailably believable and logical. This is hogwash. The depressed brain is incapable of thinking rationally about its situation. Do your best to discount any negative thoughts you have. I tell myself whenever I have any thought that causes an intense stab of pain, "This is just a hiccup of the brain, an artifact of my depression; it bares no resemblance to reality. I don't need to pay it any attention."

Whatever, for instance, you might be telling yourself about your wife leaving you, it's almost assuredly not true if it in any way reflects upon you as a bad or undeserving person.

Tom, as I noted above, depression invariably goes into remission, regardless of what you do or don't do, provided you give yourself some time. Don't think about being "locked up"; would you consider yourself locked up if you had diabetes and you went into an insulin coma and needed acute medical care in a hospital?

They used to divide depression into endogenous (i.e., internal brain chemistry run amok for no apparent reason) vs. exogenous (brain chemistry run amok because of some outside stress--illness, death in family, divorce, job loss, etc.) Now it looks like the vast majority are of the latter variety, not that it really matters how things get set off. Once set off, your brain is off-kilter, and it's your brain that needs time to return to its normal state.

Despite the self-limiting nature of depression, you can take active steps to hasten its remission and get the brain chemistry back in good order. Taking drugs like Celexa is a great start. You must work with your doctor, however, to make sure you are taking enough dosage. The single greatest reason for pharmaceutical failure in the treatment of depression is the patient/doctor underprescribe the necessary dosage. If you and your doc give Celexa a good trial, long enough (it took me 5-6 weeks before my medication, Prozac, kicked in) and high enough a dose (I had to double my dosage after 3-4 weeks), you can always switch to another medication and try that. There are numerous classes of drugs, and sometimes combinations work better than individual ones. Again, you are a swimmer, Tom. Your body and mind both have inculcated endurance over the decades. You will need to tap into this and use it as you're waiting for the medication to work (and constantly reminding yourself that the depression will go away regardless of what you do or do not do.) Also acknowledge there may be some side effects. So what? Big deal. I get fatigue, dry mouth, a reduced sexual drive every time I do an incredibly hard swimming workout!!! Swimmers are used to these things!!!

When I took Prozac initially, it plus the depression made it almost impossible to sleep. I'd just thrash around all night, absolutely at my wits end because it meant there was no respite whatsover from my depression; I couldn't even temporarily elude it by sleeping. So I ended up taking an adjunct drug, amytriptiline, or Elavil, an older tricyclic antidepressant. If you are having any trouble sleeping, ask your doctor about this. I slept like a drugged baby!!! Just being able to escape depression at night through sleep was a true miracle for me; at least I had some harbor from it. (Why seriously consider killing yourself if you can just induce some nice sleep for 10 hours a day; you're tough enough to make the other 14 hours, I am sure of it!)

You might also want to consider what used to be a radical solution but is now much safer, in fact, benign: electroshock. I know just the sound of this probably gives you the creeps, but I've researched it and the side effects today are minimal, and its effectiveness is often miraculous. My best friend from college committed suicide from manic depression. I wish to god he had allowed the doctor to administer electroshock. I am certain he would be here--and happy--today if he had done so.

Aerobic exhaustion is also a wonderful thing. You may be out of the pool now, temporarily, but do you have access to an exercise bike or even stairs you could climb till you're too tired to think? Talk to the doctor about how best to get some exhausting exercise.

I know that when I am deeply depressed, I seek reassurance from my friends and family that eventually all will return to normal, that I will someday be myself again. I swear to God this is the case with you. Please, Tom, just hold on. I know how much pain you're in, but I also know that twenty years from now, when you are blissfully remarried and perhaps swimming USMS record times, and enjoying life like you think today is impossible, you will send me an e-mail saying I was right.

For what it's worth, two of the guys on my small swimming team have recently had their wives leave them. I'm not sure how old you are, but these guys are both in their 50s. There seems to be an epidemic of this across the country. You, in absolutely no way, are alone in this situation, nor is your intense emotional pain at all abnormal. Both these guys were basket cases when it first happened (both of them blindsided by an unexpected announcement), and it's taken them a year to ever-so-slightly slouch back. I think for guys, this is maybe the single hardest thing we can endure (other than a death of kid.) It's a massive kick to the balls, and again, all I can say is endurance. You're tougher than you give yourself credit for. Even if your negative thoughts right now don't give you peace, endurance is written deeply into your muscle memory.

Tom, please write me back. I think you should consider posting your note on the USMS forum, and I would be happy to post mine to get a discussion going. I am certain that the outpouring of support for you would be overwhelming. I also think you would be astounded at just how common depression is, and how many Masters swimmers do our sport, in part, to keep this disease somewhat in check. There is no reason for stigmatizing this. The fact that you wrote me at all is testimony to the fact that you understand this. Indeed, I suspect you can help a lot of other people in our boat by sharing your experiences with them.

Tom, you have my prayers and best wishes--and I am sure those of all the masters swimmers who have ever corresponded with you on our forum, and all those who have suffered the pain it is now your turn to endure. You do not need to endure it alone. Again, please write back, and remember: you can and will endure. As open ended as the pain may seem to you now, there is an end to it, and that end does not involve taking your life.

Your friend and fellow traveler who has emerged and can swear this is true,

Jim Thornton

jim thornton
October 7th, 2002, 02:20 PM
Tom replied to me that he also has had trouble sleeping, and this is what I wrote him back. Anybody else have advice for agitated insomnia?


Here's what you have to do. Call your doctor today, right now if you can, and ask him to prescribe Elavil, relatively low dose (50 mg), for sleep. The stuff is now available as a generic, and it costs about the same as aspirin. When I need this, I actually use a pill cutter and take a 12.5 to 25 mg dosage (though this kind of thing is very individual, and when I was extremely depressed, I sometimes was taking two x 50 mg a night). Start off low--no more than 50 mg--or you may really zonk out.

Note: remember this is an adjunct to, not a substitute for, the Celexa.

On the plus side, if you're anything like me, you will sleep unbelievably well thanks to Elavil, almost from the first night you try this. In fact, make sure you're at home when you take it, because you will get so sleepy it will be hard to stay awake. Avoid the alcohol while on it, because the two compound each other's effects. Also, you may wake up at night, but you can easily fall back.

Also on the plus side, some research indicates that the older tricyclic antidepressants (elavil was one of the first) may be more effective even than the SSRI's, especially for men. They've fallen into disfavor because of their side effects. See next item:

On the negative side, there are some noticeable side effects. The ones I noticed were:

1) dry mouth--all in all, not that bad, you can suck on some hard candy if you want or just drink some water every once in a while. A trifling concern.

2) sleepiness--if you're suffering extreme insomnia, this is actually kind of a godsend, but prepare yourself for some grogginess during the day. As the depression starts to lift, you might want to wean off the elavil to give yourself more energy during the day. But for now, sleep at night is definitely more important, in my view. And being a little groggy during the day is also kind of nice, particularly if you, like me, suffer a kind of agitated depression while awake (grogginess takes the edge off this.)

Remember, unlike old sleeping pills, elavil is an antidepressant, non-habit forming, and it won't hurt your sleep long term. If anything, you'll need less of it as you start feeling better.

3) difficulty urinating --not tremendously so, but it takes a little longer to get that urine stream started; if you have bashful bladder problems, this compounds them a bit. Again, pretty much of a trifling concern.

4) a bit of a body buzz. actually, this was a side effect i personally rather enjoyed, but not everybody does. Take it with a grain of salt.

5) a slight elevation of resting heart rate -- again, no big deal. All these things are reversible when you go off it. As an athlete, you might pride yourself on have a low, low hr; this will kick it up a few beats, but it's not a problem, believe me.

I first learned about elavil in the 70s when I had my first bout of depression, horrible insomnia, etc. A friend of my father's told me about it and said that as soon as he took it, he started to be able to sleep at night, and this was the first domino in turning his whole situation around.

Definitely keep me posted on this. If your doctor is at all hesitant to prescribe elavil (generic name amitryptiline), though I see no reason why he or she would be, explain your extreme sleep problem and ask to do elavil on just a trial basis. The doctor may suggest alternative drugs--Trazadone (another antidepressant) or even Ambien (a new sleeping pill)--but I personally would insist on the elavil trial first. This stuff does have some side effects as indicated above, but believe me, it's the closest thing to the Sand Man I've ever found.

Good luck and see if you can try it out tonight. If you get a week or two of decent sleep, you will definitely find it a blessing--and you'll have some heavy duty escape from ceiling-staring misery. Think of it this way--if you can sleep 8 hours a night, as opposed to 4, your depression will be 33 percent cured!

Congratulations on your distance swimming. You will indubitably set more records in the future, too.


October 7th, 2002, 03:01 PM
Now might be a good time to learn how to use the
"private messege" if you don't know how.

jim thornton
October 7th, 2002, 03:04 PM
Excellent advice, Kat.

I would like to add another strategy to place after Do Nothing (which is paradoxically quite effective.) That is Do Something as in Do Something you used to find fun, even if it isn't terribly fun right now. If you can get caught up in a distracting activity, even for just a little while, it can work like a splint on a broken bone, giving a little pressure reduction and healing time.

Music, movies, sports, reading, computer programming, doing arcane math problems! Anything that provides a break from obsessive and negative thoughts is worth doing. You might find you even start having a tiny bit of fun.

October 7th, 2002, 03:18 PM
I'm reposting this, since I accidentally deleted it:

It takes a lot of courage to reach out like you're doing. I have fought depression on and off for a while. I've been in the pit, where there seems no hope for the future, no way out, regardless of what I try to do. I'm currently trying to climb out of the pit again. I can tell you some things that have worked for me to keep myself alive until things get better - and they WILL get better.
1. Get in the pool. I know you don't feel like it, but I usually feel a little better after I forcefully drag myself into the water.
2. Pray. This is where we might have differences of beliefs, but personally, I believe that Jesus wants us to tell him exactly how we feel. The shortest verse in the Bible 'Jesus wept.' was when one of his friends died. I'm not going to say much more on this, because this is a swimming forum.
3. Reach out. You're obviously already doing this, so just keep on.
4. Do nothing. When I experience that overwhelming feeling, I sit down and ride it out for a while. I tell myself that it will get better, that this is just temporary. It doesn't make sense to do something permanent to fix a problem that's temporary. I know that's an overused saying, but it's true.
5. Help others. Find something nice to do for someone else. Just do small things. I bring someone flowers, run an errand for someone, whatever. There is always someone that needs help with something around you. I know it doesn't make
sense, but I actually feel better after I do something for someone else than if someone helped me out.
I hope this helps somewhat. I'm obviously not a professional. There is a lot of stigma attached to depression, which makes things even harder for those that are depressed. It's biologically based, and needs to be treated. Since the Celexa has not worked after 2 months, get with a doctor to see if he/she can increase the amount, change to another prescription, or add another medicine. It can be harder to deal with as a swimmer because the exercise is supposed to prevent this from happening, but it does happen.

October 7th, 2002, 05:24 PM
There has been some interesting research on the power of prayer. I agree with Kat and this certainly is not a religous forum, however, based upon research it is conceivable that if the vast community of Masters swimmers were to say a prayer for Toms recovery it just might help. I for one will do so.

October 7th, 2002, 05:31 PM
I've tried e-mailing you on both your usms and yahoo accounts. Both have been returned. Please e-mail me. I'm pretty sure you have my e-mail address (I'm in the USMS member directory).

Ion Beza
October 7th, 2002, 08:41 PM
Originally posted by Tom Ellison

I see no hope for my life and frankly the pain and torment is so great that I really do not give a rat’s rear end about anything at this point. My problem is a simply one. I HATE being locked up..and all these units can do for guys like me is lock us up. Heck, I take Jerry's way any day to the padded cell stuff.
Any suggestions. Currently I am on Celexa and the pain and suffering are horrendous to say the least.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison
indeed I was thinking last week that you didn't post in a while.

I was also down on myself at times when things I prepare for don't go my way, and from these instances I am motivated to suggest on how to keep on going anyway:

. ) do not accept forceful 'help', like your mentioning of "...all these units...", Celexa which I don't know it but might be a mind altering substance, drugs;
gently cut off these kind of avenues, and heal naturally;

.) ease off on yourself;
you should be your best friend now, in time of crisis;
start pleasing yourself above anything else with simple enjoyments in life like treating yourself to ice cream, playing chess, watching light movies, benefitting from the simple friendship and needs of animals, listening to music that gave you energy at your best in life, staying late at night, meeting people who care and appreciate you;

.) meet many of us, women and men from the USMS forum from whom you have lots of appreciation regarding your identity, as opposed to the "...no hope..." recently thrown at you;
in a swimming competition soon to be, we have lots of jokes and hopes to share with you, when we meet.

Phil Arcuni
October 7th, 2002, 09:08 PM
D**n it Ion, keep your bad advice to something like swimming.

Severe depression is not the blues, and far more serious than you being upset about declining times.

Whatever the immediate cause, depression is a biochemical imbalance, and if not treated well, can lead to serious consequences, as we can see in Tom's case. The drugs available now for psychological problems are a near miracle, and should be used - under the care of a good doctor, of course.

I got in trouble for saying this before, but I will say it again. Despite the best intentions of posters in this thread, we are not your doctor. Treat everything said here with caution, and see your doctor!

Ion Beza
October 7th, 2002, 09:23 PM
Originally posted by Phil Arcuni

Severe depression is not the blues, and far more serious than you being upset about declining times.

I think Phil, that your "...you being upset about declining times.", and "...keep your bad advice to something like swimming.", are simplistic.

"Severe depression..." for example can occur in my life in instances related to immigration conditions, and the offering of mind altering drugs by doctors.
That's why I wrote my previous post.
Have you tried immigration anywhere, and been challenged by unofficial reality?

Aside from this "...you being upset about declining times." and "...keep your bad advice to something like swimming." nonsense in the context of the thread, my previous post is of encouragement suggestions from my life only in Romania, France, Canada and US, not of professional medical advices which are beyond me.

October 7th, 2002, 11:06 PM
I applaud Tom for having the courage to post his recent experiences and I agree that he will find that severe depression is more widespread than a lot of us realize and that many of us use swimming/exercise to combat the symptoms. Some of the comments and advice generated by his openess have been excellent and the general support has been heartwarming.

I do think it is important to remember that it is up to Tom and his doctors to come up with the optimal treatment plan as this is a life-threatening disease. As with all medical problems discussed on the web, we should use caution when getting non-medical advice and contact the appropriate medical professional for help with medical problems.

I am thinking about you Tom and things will get better.

Jody Welborn, M.D.

October 7th, 2002, 11:20 PM
Hi Jim - You may get this twice as I don't know exactly what I am doing on the web. However,I read your note and felt a keen sense of knowing what you are going through. I had a serious bout with depression a number of years ago - hospital, medications, etc. - and have had subsequent mini-bouts since that time.

Recieving the major blow of a lifetime - spouse leaving, job dissappearing, child dying - represents the death of our very own dream. And the best way I finally found to deal with this was to treat what triggered this depression as though it were a death and to deal with it like I would the death of a loved one, going through the stages of death - shock,anger,disbelief, acceptance, etc.

After lots of different medications, one broke the hold of the gross depression and since that time, my job and that of my husband is to recognize when I "am close". We have a series of interventions that seem to work for me.

However, the most important thing I came to realize is that if one can get through this initial shock,things REALLY will get better, and that is not just bs. I found in my deressed state that I was not eating properly, not drinking enough fluids, generally punishing my body for what I though was my failures. Did not work. As soon as I started to eat somewhat sendibly again, my body began to respond, as did my depressed self.

Anyway, you are not alone - obviously from all the responses - in what has happened to you. You WILL be better. Eat you bananas and take your vitamins !!!! Sharon

October 7th, 2002, 11:59 PM
Dear Tom,

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and depression run in my family. I have a chartable cyclical depression. My middle child and my mother can go into one with me on the same day, even though we are all in different states and are not even communicating on that day.

Depression comes from many sources. Bio-chemical imbalances, life circumstances and even our own thoughts can cause it. There is no easy line of demarkation sometimes.

I am in the deepest place I've been in many years. I think Jim Thornton may have written to you about me.

Today I was driving and suddenly a great weight almost pushed me down into my seat... yes, it was emotional, but physical too. Out of the blue. All I could do was cry...

How do I cope? Number one is that I recognize that it is not my "fault." It just is.

Number two is that I know God loves me and if He wants me, He can have me. So far I'm still here, so He must think I'm worth keeping around here a while longer. I yelled at Him today, "Why didn't you take me when you had your chances?!!!" I think I heard some distant chortling. Hey, maybe I'm entertainment... that'd be cool. I think it might be a really nice thing if I could make God laugh. Reading the Bible, prayer and fellowship aren't just for little children and old people ready to die. Oh yes, definition of fellowship: Some fellows in the same ship.

And that's Number three: I refuse to give up my sense of humor. My motto is "Go down laughing!"

Number four is as important as any: Don'y hide it from those who will support you. Talk about it. Share your feelings... in appropriate ways of course, but be open to others. This is what you have done here, and you can see from this that you are not alone.

Number five is "Keep moving." Only a moving ship can be steered. Work out (physical release is great for the rest of you). Visit people. I write essays and poetry and music sometimes. Go do something you enjoy. Force yourself to get up ad just do it. Or like I do sometimes, get pissed; use anger to focus your resolve not to let it beat you. All these combine to lift you in mind, body and spirit.

Number six is to get professional help if you need it, including medication. There is nothing wrong in getting help. If your car's engine is misfiring, you'll take it to the repair shop for a tuneup, won't you?

Anyway, I hope I don't sound "preachy". Just trying to be succinct. Hang in there. You are tougher and better than any mere feeling.

In your boat,

Andre Weisbrod

Tom Ellison
October 8th, 2002, 01:11 AM
To all of you who have shared your thoughts, advice, life stories and feelings, I want you to know that I am heart felt, moved and touched. I sincerely appreciate the kindness demonstrated here and the great advice. I never dreamed I would be ill like this and frankly it has taken a serious toll on my self esteem and my dignity. Having said that, I have three beautiful children that I love a great deal. Mark in MD has so helpfully pointed this out while attempting to guide me through this over the past few months. He has told me many times that I must go on and live for them if nothing else. He is right, but as we witnessed in Jerry's case, sometime this illness wins over our loveed ones, children, family, friends, ourselves and of coarse reality. Masters swimmers like Greg and Jennifer who are team mates of mine have been a God send during this ordeal. Support from people who are my friends and now from people I have never met have kept me from the brink...
I will continue to fight this illness. Again, thank you all for you kind words and support.

October 8th, 2002, 08:40 AM
My family has suffered through a decade of severe depression by our mother. There is nothing I have encountered as upsetting and frustrating as a loved one with depression. Not being a doctor, all I can relate is that a good psychiatrist and an understanding family/friends are the beginning of working your way to good mental health. I wish you all the best in your struggle and will pray for you.

I was severly angered by Ion's response to just basically buck it up and get over it, eat some ice cream and watch a movie. Depression is terrible and not just some sort of blues episode. Do not try to manage this without professional help.

I don't want to get into it with Ion on this. The focus is you and your health.

jean sterling
October 8th, 2002, 09:27 AM
Tom, I was so glad to read that you are continuing the fight. You have been in my thoughts and prayers and will continue to be.

October 8th, 2002, 06:19 PM
Tom - I don't know you personally, and will not even pretend to know what you are going through. I just want you to know that there are many fellow-swimmers out here who are behind you. I will keep you in my thoughts daily, and will pray for a positive turn in your life. Continue the good fight; we all care about you.

October 9th, 2002, 11:32 AM
Tom - Continue to share your thoughts with us. One of the very very hardest parts is understanding and admitting that indeed, there is a problem. You are not the first, nor will you be the last person, to deal with a frightening ordeal like this. Many have come before and survived.

I was very close to someone who was dealing with depression and borderline personality disorder, and she spent several weeks in the hospital as a result. The subsequent emotionally destrictive crumbling of our relationship landed me in some short-term (but hopeless at the time) depression. For me, it look a lot of effort to finally go see someone who could help, and I got the help I needed.

The hopelessness is horrible. I still remember those long nights of deep deep hopelessness. What got me through was a good friend whom I trusted. Even though I was hopeless, I trusted that friend enough when she said there was hope. Even though I couldn't see it, if she could, that gave me the faintest glimmer of hope.

Don't be afraid or ashamed of yourself. You still have people around you who love you dearly. Try to reach out to them a bit.

What also helped me was that I had a small number of good friends that I could call on literally at any time. If the world started to spin around me, I could pick up the phone, and almost always find a friendly voice that I trusted, who could at least talk me through a small crisis.

Hang in there. It's not going to be easy. It's not always going to be fun. Depression is a disease, and it has terrible lows. But you _can_ get through this.


October 9th, 2002, 11:55 AM
My thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.
Please remember there are people who love you and
care about you. Talk to them!! Surround yourself with
caring, supporting, listening people.

October 9th, 2002, 08:55 PM
As is so painfully obvious from this thread, depression is a horribly devastating illness that affects many of us. It is timely that Thursday, October 10th is National Depression Screening Day. You may be interested to check out this website: http://www.nmisp.org/depression.htm

If you or your loved ones have symptoms of depression, I urge you to seek help.

Mary Pohlmann, MD, Ph.D

October 10th, 2002, 03:22 PM
Tom Ellison -

Thank you for having the strength and fortitude to step out from the sterotypic "shame" of depression. Even in this time of difficulty you show you are a leader. The Medical types in this discussion can shed light on my point:

Please keep swimming!

There was a period when I had lost my job, lost my relationship of 3 years (who then took our dog) and faced a future of uncertainty [a friend of mine decided to search out and play for me country songs that related to my situation - they were really bad :eek: ]. It was my lowest point in my life. Amongst my friends providing me support was my RN mother who paid for my YMCA membership and begged me to swim again - only one half-hour/day.

Later she explained to me that the light excersize releases nuero-chemicals that help, help people think, focus, and also combat depression. She warned me against going beserk in the pool - to only focus on "cruising" as she put it - feel the water and pay attention to how your body feels as your arm strokes take you from one side to the next. I eventually "trained" myself to focus on that rythym and how it felt to glide through the water.

I am better today - I think in part b/c I swam that measily 800yds/day. I think it slowly helped me change my thinking. But I will never forget that darkness or the hopelessness...

I hope this provides you with some support and guidance along with some of the other contributors. No matter what combination of tools you choose to use (medications, reaching out, humor, light excersize, hobby work), in my mind you already proven you have the tools within you to get through this.


Chris Beardsley

October 10th, 2002, 04:39 PM
Hey Tom,
At 21 I've been through things like this too many times to think about. At about the age of 11 I essentially gave up- for various reasons that still haunt me 10 years later. My advice is to find a good friend who can be there for you as that is what worked for me back in the day- in fact it was a friend who knew me so well that he knew the best way to get through to me was to do things to piss me off. Not always the recommended way of dealing with people but it worked with me.
Now I'm borderline manic depressive but am not taking drugs due to some bad reactions but at the moment I wish I was- I'm moving in two and a half weeks to LA from Tucson for a job that supposedly will further my career but will have me 500 miles from the one person I love and I don't know how to explain to everyone here why I keep bursting out in tears every 10 minutes. But you will get through this as will I. But honestly- find a friend you can pour your heart out to even at 2 am because even if they aren't offering advice in some ways you'll feel better knowing that somebody is aware of how you feel and what is going on.

Good luck- also do try and get out and swim or do something else. Swimming and rock climbing are my ways of venting frustration and stress when I need to . . . .

Tom Ellison
October 10th, 2002, 04:44 PM
I went back to the pool yesterday and swam 3000. Again today as well and went near 3000. Chris, you are right, it does/will help. I will continue to do so.
I want to thank everyone for thier kind support, Prayers, private e-mails, posts and the outpouring of suggestions, advide, life stories and compassion. Not only am I touched by this, I am humbled to be a part of such a fine group of people. You HAVE made a difference. Thank you...thank you very much...

October 11th, 2002, 01:46 PM
My sole reason for posting here is to share my life story to hopefully enable another human being to continue to cope with their pain. So I begin:

My family; mother, father, older brother, and I had lived a comfortable life till my father's business went bankrupt due to the economic times. I remember the Cadillac car, and the maid who came to clean. I also remember when the comfortable life ended and my parents couldn't pay the rent and would ask either my brother or myself to take the money to the agent when they scrapped together enough money; they were apparently too embarrassed.

I remember when we never got new clothes, just hand me downs from a cousin. I remember the tattered rugs and the broken furniture. I remember
the initial parties I went to in the 4th grade but couldn't or wouldn't host do to the fear of being embarrassed by our home. So I stopped going to parties and probably didn't socially develop as others.

I remember when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and died when I was 14 years old after being in and out of hospitals for 4 or 5 years. I remember her accidentally opening the bathroom door when I must have been 9 years old and seeing the scars where her breasts had been removed.

I remember that I had to fend for myself, if I didn't wash my own clothes I wore dirty clothes. I had mostly dirty underwear for all of my high school years. I remember not being able to socialize with girls in high school. I remember when my brother lost all his hair in high school. I remember that I didn't have one person over to our house all 4 years of high school.

I remember the years when existentialism was popular and the most important question to that movement was whether to commit suicide or not. It was extremely appealing to me due to the few aspects of the life I described briefly above; getting it all over so as not to suffer any longer. I remember that I thought then: "What if this is the only chance I have to live? Maybe I should just try to live out my life and then die? So for whatever reasons I had then I choose life over death. There weren't the advances in medicine to treat depression then.

So my brother and I choose to live rather than to die. He went through most of high school totally bald. Talk about feeling different.

So what happened to us? He went to Harvard and became a professor; he is retired now and is 74 years old. I went to a lesser prestigious college and majored in math and physics and worked for IBM for upwards of 35 years. My career in IBM included management and representing IBM in Washington to a Congressionally chartered committee. I met the
movers and shakers of the US; CEOs and the like.

The most important thing I did though after deciding to live was to get married; we raised 4 sons, and now have 4 daughters-in-law and 11 grandchildren who we love deeply and profoundly.

Oh, and when I retired from IBM I decided it was payback time for all that the US had done for me so I ran for political offices trying to save
the world for our children and grandchildren. I ran for state office and other sundry positions. Oh, I never won. I checked out why and found out
that the word on me was: "Bob, we can't vote for him; he's too honest---we can't trust him." I had the reputation of being a straight arrow. Remember this from a person who had seriously contemplated suicide.

But enough of me. I hope that my brief account will bring hope to Tom that all is not lost.

I also had failed romances that left me again contemplating suicide; I couldn't believe then and even now the intensity of the pain that these rejections caused me. But now I sometimes don't think of these women for years at a time.

Finally, when I grew up in the forties and fifties there wasn't available the modern medicines that we have today. Perhaps I wouldn't have had to suffer then if the medicines were available.

Sorry for the long posting but if it helps Tom in any way, shape, or form then I am happy I did it. Oh, I am going to be 72 next month.

God bless you Tom….. From an anonymous friend called Bob.

jim thornton
October 11th, 2002, 04:26 PM
Dear Anonymous Bob--

Thanks for an absolutely fantastic and inspiring post! Your grandkids are lucky to have you. It may seem almost like a cliche--and I don't mean to suggest that suffering is ever a good thing for its own sake--but perhaps character really is forged to some extent by adversity.

Thanks, truly, for sharing your experience. If depression has any gifts at all to bestow upon its victims, perhaps it is that once you have been there, you will forever have a capacity for empathy that no other experience can quite provide.

So many of these posts epitomize this empathy and humanity.

Thanks again to everyone who's joined in. And Tom: keep up the swimming!

mojo flyer
October 16th, 2002, 08:32 PM
Tom, Just a wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Also, a good book is "The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People" by David Niven Ph. D.


Tom Ellison
October 19th, 2002, 02:46 PM
Bob, Jim and Chris...and all the other posts..
Thank you for your very kind posts.
I am still here..and continue to bang away at getting through this. I am greatful for the support and kindness shown here...

jean sterling
October 19th, 2002, 02:57 PM
Tom, I was so glad to see your post and that you are still fighting the good fight. I will continue to keep you in my thoughts and prayers. As you can see, there are many of us who want you to beat this. You will - it will take time - but ultimately you will win! I believe that.

Allen Stark
October 19th, 2002, 10:18 PM
Tom; I am a Psychiatrist as well as a swimmer. If you are still not finding the celexa very helpful ask your doctor about wellbutrin or effexor.Wellbutrin especially is often better for men than an SSRI like celexa.Male depression is more likely to be related to low brain norepinephrine,where as female depression is more often due to low seratonin I am praying for you.I also think that helps

October 20th, 2002, 02:18 PM
I have been tuning in to this thread from time to time starting when it first appeared. I'm feeling like it's time to chime in and tell you, Tom, that you are in my thoughts and prayers also. You are showing a lot of courage and you'll get through this. I was diagnosed a couple of years ago with depression and sought counseling and am using medication. My depression was mild compared to what yours sounds like. I know how awful even a lesser form can be, so I can't imagine what things are like for you. Obviously, there are many people out there who are "with" ya- we are all thinking of you and saying prayers for you. I'm glad you reply now and then to update us. Take things day to day, or hour to hour if you have to...good luck and God Bless.

Tom Ellison
October 24th, 2002, 11:37 PM
Konw that I feel fear right now...a great deal of it...but I kow the peace to come will out weight this pain....
Good bye to all my friends in the United States Masters Swimming community. I wanted to thank you all for your prayers, kind posts, private e-mails and heart felt support these past weeks. Please know that I am truly sorry I could not beat this illness and go on with my life. In short, it won and I got out of the pool in the middle of the 1650 free, dried off and went home a beaten man. Only in this case…a minute or so after posting this, I am going to take my life in a manner that will have no chance for survival. My life will be over by the time you read my final post.

Please continue to keep this on the sight in hopes that someone out there might seek help much sooner then I did for depression or mental illness. I should have sought help years ago, but felt I could beat this on my own (the old saying that “men are men—where we keep our feelings inside and deal with our problems by ourselves”). Then I lost Kim, estranged my children, lost my dignity, corrupted my self-esteem, my self-respect, my honor, my pride, my home, and my job….which ultimately lead me to this decision to take my life. The pain and guilt were simply too great and the prospects for a normal pain free future were bleak and impossible to say the least.

I want to make a special note of thanks to some truly wonderful, decent, caring and loving people that stood by me through all of this. To Jennifer, Greg, Les and Mark in Md., thank you from the bottom of my heart for your love and kindness. I feel a tremendous amount of sadness that I let you guys down along with my family, friends and fellow Masters Swimmers. I am truly sorry for this and wished it had turned out different. Know that I loved you all very, very much! In Mark from Md’s case, I never had the opportunity to even meet this fine man, yet he demonstrated a tremendous amount of love and compassion that touched me deeply…thank you Mark.

Jim Thornton, I never met you either, yet you attempted to guide me to the right path through your inspiring writing, great advice and words of wisdom. Thank you!

Again, thank you all for your prayers, posts, private e-mails, kindness and support; it helped make my last weeks a bit more bearable. Good bye and God bless you all…
Tom Ellison

Phil Arcuni
October 25th, 2002, 12:51 AM
We called the police in Mansfield, and were not the first to do so. The operator could not find and Ellison in Mansfield, but they are investigating a Tom Ellison in Fort Worth. If anyone knows of his phone number or other contact information Please let them know. You can call the police at 817-473-9381 or 817-335-4222

jim thornton
October 25th, 2002, 10:24 AM
I'm praying that Tom had a last minute change of heart. If anyone knows more about this situation, please post an update. Tom, wherever you are, we wish you well.

October 25th, 2002, 11:54 AM
3rd party information: From what I understand, Tom is currently in an area hospital. No idea of any details: though hospital = life in my book.


October 25th, 2002, 12:15 PM
I wept when I read the latest postings in this forum and castigated myself for not doing more.
I propose we set up a fund to help Tom assuming he is still alive. I will start by initially anonymously donating $200.0

Anonymous Bob

I would set up a method to get the money to him
but for personal reasons wish to remain anonymous.

Bert Petersen
October 26th, 2002, 07:37 PM
I feel so badly for Tom - and so helpless !
I lost a really good friend in 1985, Gerry Macnamee. He too,was depressed.
I don't think it has anything to do with swimming - my friend was also in his early 50's and I wonder to what extent the age plays a part in this.
I hope Tom knows how many people are rooting for him and that they really care................. Bert

Jim Miller, MD
October 28th, 2002, 07:45 AM
Many of you have been following this discussion forum regarding an athlete and his fight with depression, a terrible disease. Depression is just as real a disease process as anthing else. The only exception is that the chemical imbalances that lead to it are contained in the brain. That has made their isolation and measurement very dfficult for medical science. Because of that and the strong hereditary nature of this disease, many fight this battle daily for their entire lives. New medications and a better understanding of diet and exercise, as they impact our lives and balance, are bringing new hope to those with depression and related conditions. Now they can restore balance to their lives.

Selection of medication and achieving this balance are always challenging, with constant feedback from the patient and family to the physicians. It is rarely a condition that anyone can cure themselves. Once again realize that this is a biochemical, usually inherited, disease, though some medications can upset this internal balance. You will always be correct in advising anyone who is reaching out to consult their family and physician for help.

I wish Tom well in his battle with depression.

Tom Ellison
October 29th, 2002, 05:21 PM
Again I feel ashamed, deeply embarrassed and degraded by my actions. I had everything planned until my dear friends Charlie and Kate (young neighbors upstairs) walked around the corner from the parking lot while I was sitting in my lawn chair in front of my apt here in Fort Worth, ready to end my life. Right at that moment Charlie asked me what I was doing and obviously he already knew the answer to his question. To make a sorry story short, I gave Charlie the knife (per his request) and opted for medicine. By the time it was taking effect….the police arrived with an ambulance which took me to the hospital.
I was discharged yesterday evening. I am home…and frankly, do not want to travel that path again. I want to fight this darm thing, but often the pain and despair is simply awful and beats the stuffing out of me. Things are burnt in my brain that out weight my will to live.
I apologize to the entire USMS community for my sorry behavior. The only comfort I have at this point is found in the fact that for the first 52 ½ years of my life…I never quit anything…especially at life.
Thank you all for your prayers kindness, e-mails, support and cards.
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

Ion Beza
October 29th, 2002, 07:22 PM
Originally posted by Tom Ellison

I want to fight this darm thing, ...
Tom Ellison

let's fight the desesperate thoughts together, you, doctors, me, and many USMS swimmers concerned about this happening.

To vent and not bottle the forces of the desesperate thoughts, please post here very often, so that you are not alone to absorb them, because anyone among us experiences painful thoughts and shouldn't be alone.

I will write to you at the address provided by Mark.

October 29th, 2002, 09:18 PM
What at wonderful surprise to have u back on line and still here with us. It scared me so much when I read ur last e-mail that I cried and prayed alot for u.
Hopefully u are getting a lot of good counseling and they are monitoring ur medications.
There is no reason to apologize for what life is handing u. U have done what is right in reaching out for answers u do not know in trying to find out what is the proper thing to do in a very sad and devastating situation. We are all thinking good thoughts for u and here for u if we can help in any way. Please do not think u are all alone with no where to go. Call a sponsor or counselor and have them come to be with u when u think u are really in trouble. This is only my 2 cents but I do care what happens to u.
Be good to urself and recover that self esteem u need to get on with ur life.
If ur a swimmer ur a fighter. So fight the good fight my friend and plz do not give up anymore. Reach beyond.

October 30th, 2002, 02:26 AM
Dearest Tom,
As with many who wrote here, you do not know me nor I you. However, I do know the dark place from which you are emerging. I, too, planned to take my life after my marriage of 20 years ended and I lost my father all within a few months of one another. The pain was so unbearable. I sat at my kitchen table with a bottle of pills laid out before me. I couldn't imagine feeling like that anymore. Somehow I realized that even if I killed my body, my soul would go on tortured and unresolved. Somehow, I found a way to choose to go on -- to fight and try to climb out of that dark pit. It was not an easy decision and the path was not without perile.
Tom, you need not feel shame with me. I would not presume to know how you feel, but I do understand the feeling of despair. I have been so fortunate to have found a wonderful therapist who has helped me to learn to love myself. To learn and know of my self worth. To know that I am only defined by me.
Tom, you are so valued. I truly hope that you will come to know this of yourself and find a way back to you. Know that you have a friend in me.
God bless you.

jean sterling
October 30th, 2002, 04:57 PM
Hi Tom - no need to apologize! I was just so pleased to see your post and know that you are OK. I haven't "been there" as have some of the others like freegirl, so I can't offer the kind of encouragement as somebody who has been there and come back. What I can say is to encourage you to hear them - it will take time, and the light at the end of the tunnel may be far away at this moment, but it's there, and eventually (and it may take a while) you will walk out into the sunlight again.

You are in the thoughts and prayers of many of us. Keep up the faith.

Ion Beza
October 30th, 2002, 08:33 PM
I am thinking Tom, that your stated goal to swim the 1,650 freestyle at the Nationals in April 2003 in Tempe with the intention of "...busting 20..." minutes, might work against you.

The reason I write this, is that what topped all the losses you managed absorbing up to a moment, is the fact that you were in the middle of an 1,650 free and walked out of it;
this unleashed the pressure cumulating, waiting for a 'reason' to trigger the depression.

I figure that during that last 1,650 free you were burdened and swimming in a pathetic way at the 350 yards mark, then at the 383 yards mark, in what usually was a succesful part of your identity.

Swimming 1,650 free and "...busting 20..." minutes, requires a gritty effort, from a serene state of mind to build and to rebuild slowly.

In the incoming months from now, if I were in the same situation, I would compete in the 50 and 100 free.
They don't require a gritty effort like the 1,650 free, and they give instant gratification.
It's good for now.

Tom Ellison
October 30th, 2002, 10:27 PM
Dear Ion:
I sincerely appreciate your post...Having said that...Please watch in Tempe...The 20 minute wall WILL FALL.It has many times before...but..in a very, very different frame of mind....but, I will bust 20....count on it my friend....
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

October 30th, 2002, 11:01 PM
Here here, Mark!

Tom, go for it. It has been said that he who tries and fails is infinitely better than he who fails to try. It is in the trying that we are alive. And I have many failures to prove it! :) Which makes the occasional success even sweeter.


Nancy Ridout
October 31st, 2002, 12:05 AM

You have been in my thoughts and prayers since I began reading your thread about 3 weeks ago. I wish I had added my support earlier. Laura Val alerted me to your initial posting and we both been very concerned.

As you, I have learned that USMS members are caring and willing to expose their own frailties in order to help a friend they don't even know. I have learned that some will go to great extents to be sure their support is heard and felt. I have also learned that one can get exhausted to the point of hopelessness trying to fight an enemy that never sleeps.

When I read your "last" posting, I felt like I'd been kicked in the gut. That's when I realized how very hopeless living had become for you and that life without hope would not be worth the fight; even after all the messages of support and concern, you couldn't find your way out of the darkness.

Perhaps you still had a glimmer of hope and fight left and that's why you're still with us, looking forward to a swim meet. Along with many, many others, I am very glad you ARE with us and are making plans for the future.

One piece of advice, which you can take or leave, is that in your quest to break 20 minutes for the 1650, focus on some process goals along the way, rather than only an outcome goal. Focussing only on an outcome goal can be risky and less than productive in the long run. By focussing on the process goals (stroke mechanics, distance per stroke, streamlines, pushoffs, etc.) and quantifying them, you can find value and satisfaction in the training from something other than the clock. And their value and satisfaction will be measured and evaluated by you, not by an external source, and that is a very productive and positive feeling and way to evaluate your training.

Congratulations on choosing life! As time passes, I hope your life will become full and joyous and that you will experience inner peace. I look forward - along with many others - to meeting you in Tempe. Please keep in touch.


November 3rd, 2002, 11:33 AM
On Tom Ellison's behalf, I would like to say thank you for all the mail I have been receiving for him. I will ensure he gets it promptly!

It is obvious from the writing on the envelopes, many of you are concerned if only Tom will read the mail. Let me ASSURE you, ONLY TOM WILL OPEN THIS MAIL. I have no other interest other than helping my friend Tom through this. This is HIS private mail.

I am sure these letters will have an impact on Tom and with the integrity and concern shown by the members of US Masters Swimming, I have high hopes that we can get him through these tough times. I will thank these people personally for their contributions to aid Tom with letters, prayer, funds, or all three:

Nancy - Oceanport, NJ
Rich - Denver, CO
Kim - Austin, TX
Cinsurins - Castle Rock, CO
Dorothy & Ernest - Dallas, TX
Ann - Galion, OH
Unspecified - Nottingham, MD
Laura - Denville, NJ
Katie - N. Ft. Meyers, FL

These are people taking time to show support by sending letters, I do not mean to leave out my thanks for those responding by email to this discussion thread.

It warms my heart to see the support coming through for my friend Tom. It is with your support that I think we can make him see a light ahead; a light that shows direction, not a rushing train!

The last time I saw Tom was yesterday at Denny's, where I took him to breakfast. He is helping me with a new business venture that I hope will succeed enough for me to show my appreciation for his efforts. Understand this man has shown me a most complete love for his wife and family and it has never stopped there; his love is shown for each and every human being that comes his way. It is a dreadful shame that Tom's life has taken this sour note with the estrangement of his wife and, through the turmoil, his children.

Your letters, cards, contributions and expression of care, are all helping Tom cope with this depression. Our guidance will show him the way and in holding hands together, we can show any person brave enough to share their most severe moments, that we can, and will, be there to help.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all US Masters Swimmers for responding. Please keep the cards and letters coming so I can flood Tom with obvious reasons to live.

My kindest regards,

Les Vollmer
I.C.O. Tom Ellison
PO Box 5071
Granbury, TX 76049

November 5th, 2002, 03:50 PM

Sorry for not putting in my reply earlier but I've been away from the discussion groups...

I applaud your strength and ability to reach out. I just wanted to add a brief note of my thanks to YOU. Over the past year, many of your comments and positive attitude to discussions have been an inspiration to me. This year I achieved competing for the 1st time and then went to compete in Australia at the World Masters competition last month. My courage came from people like YOU who have inspired me to push myself and achieve goals such as this. You've inspired many on this forum and will continue to do so.


November 5th, 2002, 03:57 PM
Indeed Tom -

Your post has caused me to look at my own life, to see if I am meeting my own goals. In fact I going to yet again mount an assult on my own initaitives.

I hope this post finds you in a stable place, waiting out your own storms.


Tom Ellison
November 13th, 2002, 08:18 AM
I want to thank you all for the wonder cards and heart warming letters. It will take time...but I will answer each card and letter. Many seriously moved and touched me during this very tough time. They helped more then you will ever know...
Thank you all!
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

November 14th, 2002, 06:44 PM
Depression caused by inbalance, family situation, job or whatever is more disabling than a broken leg. Like swimming through mud uphill.

We Say Again
we are not your doctor. Treat everything said here with caution, and see your doctor!

With that said

When I was found single many moons ago
1. I became a PT monster. Then I was too tired at the end of the day to care about depression. Helps attracting the oppsite sex.
2. Get involved with something bigger than yourself. You have knowledge and experience (even painting a house for a disabled person, Drive a bus for a sunday school in the poor section of town) There is no shortage of work. Is a shortage of workers.
3. If you do not pray Start. If you do do more
4. By doing the above you will live well and that is the best revenge. This way the person who left you eat's their heart out. Takes a few years but it works.
5. Don't brag if you do refer to item #5.

I evaluated why I was single and found I basicly was a self serving legond in my own mind. Still am but I nolonger deny it.

Tom Ellison
November 14th, 2002, 07:32 PM
Hey Doc:
I appreciated your input..As an old Marine Plt. Sgt. in Uncle Sam's Misguided Children back in 68-71 I love Doc's.
Your wisdom is well taken...Heck, until this junk, I took everything life had to offer full pop...straight on...with no problems...THis however, took me to my knees and the to the prone possition.
Hey, when one is on the deck...all the that can happen is thay go up the ladder way...or they get heaved over board. I have come seriously close to getting heaved over board....but still find my slef standing up on deck...although a bit battered these past four months.
In all honestly...every second of the day is a chore to get through...It is haunting and keeps nawing at my soul all the time.
I'd take the stuff I saw in the corps all over agin twenty five times over before going through this past four months again.
I keep busy, and just now I am able to think about once more getting back into the job market.
Doc, thank you for you advice...I appreciate the words of wisdom...esp from a USN Doc...
Kindest regards,
Tom Ellison

November 15th, 2002, 05:03 AM
USNR Doc no claim to greatness. Uncle Sam financed my midlife crisis. Repelling down a hill while getting paid is more profitable than buying a red sports car and chasing my lost youth.

68 - 71 you forgotton more than I know. Includes 14 years as a Vol Firefighter.

Roger that on getting through the day as a chore. I found nights were hardest. This is why I did the PT Monster stuff in the AM and the charity work later. You cannot eliminate the silent moments but simply reduce them.

I'm looking at two years being away from my family due to my employer outsourcing my job and transferring me. No ship with 1000 lance criminals in the same position all of us fussin. (Family cannot move for medical reasons)

Able to stall it but the best thing was to create a plan of what I will do when I get there.
1. PT Monster
2. Donate time to groups (no shortage there)
3. do not own a vehicle. Walk to everywhere I go thus burn calories and time and save money. (Since I am married again I could care less about impressing the oppsite sex)

Still did not eliminate the depression of a seperation however when I had a plan I felt better.

It does get better but slowly and you have to assualt through many times to get there.

Do not make any life changing decisions for a year.
Late Marine