Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I have been looking back lately at the things I miss about flying. I remember early on right after I earned my private pilot license the feeling of release from reality I would get right after takeoff. I so enjoyed turning out onto the center line and pushing the throttle forward causing the aircraft to accelerate towards rotation speed. Then, when I reached that magical point I would gently pull back on the yoke and I was released from the confides of gravity.
It was not just leaving the surface of the earth that gave me the feeling of release, but also so many other restrictions were removed. No longer was there a speed limit to adhere to. There were no roads to follow. I could bank the airplane into a turn and go where ever I wanted. Flying was my way to escape reality.
I look back at my life and and realize that flying did much more for me than give me a way to earn a paycheck. Flying gave me power over demons within myself. Demons that could have turned me into a drunk or a drug addict. I have suffered many afflictions in my life. Many due to circumstances of my surroundings and others due to poor choices. I have often told my wife that I am lucky. I have seen many people who have been through much less in their lives that have found themselves in a gutter somewhere.
I have thoughts coming to my mind now that are causing me to change what I write. When I first sat down at my computer I had a general idea of what I wanted to say, but as I script the words my mind seems to go another way. I just started to think that I really was strong enough to overcome the hardships of my past without flying. If it would have not been flying that I found release in perhaps it would have been something else. I simply thought that my love of flying was what gave me character and strength. In a way that makes my love of flying seem more pure to me. I do not love flying to make me a better person, but I simply love flying, well, because I do.
Does a person need a reason to love what they do? What makes a person love anything they do in life? Why does a chef love to prepare meals for others? Does not a florist receive great joy in watching planted seeds sprout to life as plants? What is it in each of us that makes us love what we do?
I remember meeting a young man who worked with my wife. (My wife is a social worker.) He was impressed that I was a pilot and got to fly jets all around the country. I told him all I did was push the power levers forward and fly rich and sometimes famous people around the country. I then told him what he did truly made a difference in the lives of others. I liked the humble and appreciative look in the young man's eyes.
I think that we too often judge ourselves by what we do for a living. I guess that is also what makes it so hard to not be able to pursue my chosen career any longer. I have lost my identity. If you have watched the video I made you might have noticed I hide my face. I did this in part to have some fun with my alter ego, Prozac Pilot, but also as a reflection of how I feel. I wonder who or what am I now? Yes, I am doing other things as a source of income, but it just is not the same. If a chef could no longer cook or a florist no longer plant seeds would they feel the same way?
I know what I am writing now are just ramblings from the mind of a grounded pilot. These things may not be of any significance to anyone who has taken the time to read this far. But then again, if you are still reading this post and gotten this far it must be of interest to you for some reason.
Well, I have gone on long enough for now. If anyone has read this entire post I hope that perhaps I have given you some things to ponder on. What I was trying to get across in my ramblings is that life is what we make of it. Luck just does not happen. There is good and bad in this life and we have to take both to become better people. Flying was a great part of my life, but it was not my entire life. There is life after flying. My true identity is not being a pilot, but the man that I am.
I am a man who has been very blessed to be able to go after childhood dreams and make them realities. WOW, I guess I am stronger than I thought. LOL
Keep your eye on your strengths.
Monday, June 29, 2009
I was looking at a profile of someone who follows me on Twitter. I was very impressed with the dedication this individual has to eating and exercising properly. I have had passion towards many things in life, but taking care of myself sadly has not been a priority. As I read the profile of this person I started to think about what my doctor told me a few days ago. I was told that in the near future my depression could possibly be controlled by diet and exercise.
I am not sure why I have not been passionate about taking care of myself before. I have only seriously thought about taking care of myself physically after I lost my medical. Even not being able to renew my medical was not enough to do it at first. I had to have a pre-operation examination nearly two weeks ago. Part of the exam was an EKG. When the doctor told me I had a slight irregularity in my EKG due to my blood pressure being elevated is when I started to truly think about how I do not take are of myself.
Most people would probably think that pilots take pretty good care of themselves physically. We are just like any other group of people. Some pilots enjoy working out and some do not. Just because a person flies for a living and has to take a physical exam every six months does not necessarily mean that same person is wise with his or her own health. But there is one thing that all pilots with depression have in common and that is we do not want the FAA to know of our ailment.
Taking antidepressants is the reason I cannot fly at this time. Looking at myself reaching a weight of 245 and having my blood pressure getting higher is the reason I started thinking about taking better care of myself. Perhaps if I started to care more about myself and less of being a pilot I could be healthier all the way around.
What I am learning from this experience is that I not only need to love what I do for a living, but also I need to love myself. If other pilots who suffer from depression are like me they love to fly, but have a low self-esteem. Most people who know me would say I am a confident person. My wife who knows the depths of my pain will even say I am confident. However, much of the outward appearance that others see are one of the ways that I mask what I truly feel.
I am excited about the possibility of becoming better through diet and exercise. I have recently started martial arts. I seem to work on the theory in life that if you are going to do something make it fun and entertaining.
If anyone has any ideas I can use for posts I hope you will share them with me. I know there is much to talk about when it comes to pilots and depression. But I do not want to restrict the blog to depression. Please share with me aviation topics you would like to read about. If I feel I am qualified to write about that topic I will.
Keep your eye on the sky!
I have heard many stories from fellow pilots who suffer from depression and did not know that it was a problem until they went to renew their medical. I recall the story of one gentleman who had filled out his form for the doctor and listed "prozac" as a medication he was on. The doctor looked at the form and told the pilot to come back in a couple of days and fill out his medical for leaving the medication listed off of the form.
I think this is one of the most dangerous instances I have heard of. In this case there was a medical doctor telling a person he had only seen one time to go off of medications cold turkey. This medications had been prescribed by a physician who knew the individual much better than the FAA medical examiner.
This is just one example in who knows how many stories of pilots who are forced to hide their disease. In this case there was a person who suffered from depression and was getting the help he needed. After being on medications long enough to do him so good there was an FAA examiner telling him to go cold turkey. This is almost like putting a loaded gun into a person's hands.
There has been much written on both sides as to why pilots on SSRI's should or should not be allowed to fly. But no matter which side of the fence someone stands on this story I have told is dangerous no matter how you look at it. Prozac is not a medication to drop cold turkey without being monitored. From what I have read a scenario like this can cause great confusion in the feelings of the patient. There are many documented cases of patients abruptly stopping the use of Prozac or similar medications without the proper medical treatment. The documentation has been recored in the patients autopsy after he or she committed suicide.
Are depressed people suicidal? Some are yes. But do not label everyone who has depression as suicidal. Medications do not cause a person to commit suicide. But improper medication usage and lack of monitoring of these meds can be dangerous.
All too many times I have heard of people stopping their meds because of the judgement that is passed on them by society. Often times this judgement comes from family members of others who are close to the patient. Someone who suffers from depression does not need more shame in his or her life. Victims of depression are already hard enough on themselves. Putting on top of their own shame the judgement of others can lead to a catastrophic event.
I had a neighbor who is a private pilot who recently found out I was grounded due to the medications I take. He proceeded to tell me of all the people he felt "inspired" to approach to tell them he would pray for them so their lives would be filled with joy. At a later time he told me that I just needed to quit my medications and get back to flying. It was at that time I politely told him to mind his own business.
Do not get me wrong. I have a great faith in God. I would not be alive today if I did not have God in my life. He gives me great courage. But I also believe that God had a hand in all things that are good. He has given man the knowledge to have the medications that can assist people with what ever it is they suffer from. Yes, people can be healed by faith. But sometimes we have to have faith in the fact that perhaps God led us to the doctor for the treatment that is needed.
I considered my nosey neighbor to judgmental and sanctimonious. I barely knew this man and he is trying to give me advise on my medical well being. This is just another way that people with depression are forced to hide their disease and feel even more isolated.
If you know someone who suffers from depression do not treat them with bias or ignorance. It due to discriminatory practices and attitudes that have put such a stigma on pilots who suffer from depression. Please, treat them as you would anyone else. They do not want your pity. They simply want to be able to go on with their lives and be the best productive members of society they can be. They want to provide for their families. They want to be noticed for the positive things they do in life. And pilots with depression simply want to be able to do what they love..... FLY
I remember the day I made the decision to go on medications. I knew that it could possibly ground me for life. I knew that I may never again sit at the controls of that jet I so much loved to fly. The thought of not being able to fly around the country at point mach something still breaks my heart. But I knew I needed get help. Tears flood from my eyes as I reminisce about the flying the I miss so much.
I started this posting with just a few short words on depression, but I have gone on with far more words than I had anticipated. Perhaps, I should break this down into a couple of postings. Thank you for reading the thoughts of a person who is missing the second love of his life. The first love you ask? Well, that is simple to answer. My wife.
Keep your eye on the sky!
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Simply passing the FAA exams to obtain an FAA Certified Flight Instructor Certificate simply means a person is now legal to give flight instruction in certain situations. Having a CFI does not mean that the holder has become a professional flight instructor. Professionalism is an attitude. The proper attitude for a good CFI is to have respect for the profession and those being instructed.
The attitude of an instructor shouts loudly to his or her students. The way one dresses or conducts business with customers can reflect on how the airline hopeful will treat passengers in the airline industry. A CFI who feels he or she does not need to dress in an appropriate manner for students will mostly likely complain about having to wear a company uniform when working for the airlines.
When I was instructing I made sure that I was dressed in a professional manner. I did not wear shorts. I always made sure that my slacks were neat and not wrinkled. The shirts that I wore were neat in appearance as well. I feel the way a person dresses while conducting business is a direct reflection upon the dedication of the person to his or her profession.
Guys, wear shirts and slacks that look neat. I know it gets hot in the summer, but wear something light weight. Gals, I cannot think of a reason in the world to wear a top that reveals cleavage. This type of appearance is highly unprofessional. I do not care what profession a person is in when a woman wears shorts or skirts that are too short and or a revealing top it just yells out that this woman wants some kind of attention. I remember asking a hair dresser to put her sweater on because her top was so revealing. I mean come on, lets have at least a semblance of modesty.
OK, now that everyone has the proper clothes on and is starting to care about their students, remember students are customers. Customers put not just hours in your logbook, but money in your pocket. When a professional businessperson comes into an FBO to learn how to fly that person is not looking for the good ole' boy network. He or she is looking for a professional who will be respectful and earn the money that is being paid.
Well, there is a great deal more I can say about professionalism, but I will hold off until another time. I just wanted to get a few thoughts out there for those who many be considering being a CFI or looking for one.
Keep your eye on the sky!
Friday, June 26, 2009
One of the things that bothers me about the aviation industry is the lack of good instructors. Most of the instructors I see are the younger people who only care about building time to go onto the airline jobs. However, with the economy being what it is right now perhaps some of these young hopefuls will have the opportunity to instruct longer and actually begin to love the profession.
I have jotted down a couple of things I would look for if I were shopping for an instructor. The MOST important item to me is professionalism. Find out how interested in your training is the instructor. Study your instructor as he or she calculates your flight time with each flight. As the flight time is being tallied is your instructor adding his/her times or yours?
Does your flight instructor value ground school time or is he/she more eager to get in the air. An instructor who is impatient about spending time with you on the ground is only thinking about the precious flight time he/she is losing. An FBO/School can sometimes even build into its culture an intolerance for ground school. I have noticed some FBO's that will charge less for ground time with an instructor than it will flight time. Additionally, some schools may charge the same amount per hour to the customer, but pay instructors less per hour while on the ground with a student. In either case the message is clearly being sent that ground school is not important. This message could not be further from the truth.
It is important to have a good thorough ground school session before and after each flight. Paying for this time on the ground with an instructor will save a student money in the long run. Remember, each second that engine is running is costing you money. Just because the engine is running does not mean you are learning. Time in the logbook does put you closer to those FAA minimums, but it does not indicate you are a better pilot.
Take the time on the ground to know the material that will be covered in the air. If your instructor is not excited about spending that time with you simply remind him/her that you are the customer. No customer, no student, and no flight time. Talk to your instructor in terms he or she will understand...... hours and dollars!!
I would like to end on a positive note. There are many great instructors all over this country. Finding the one that is right for you and having that individual care about your needs is what is important. Take the time to find an instructor that you are comfortable with. Remember, your flight instructor is actually helping to reach a childhood dream.
Keep your eye on the sky!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
I have purchased my own domain. I am learning slowly about how to do a blog. As I learn I will ensure that this domain is of higher quality. I look forward to having anyone who is interested in my topic follow what I write.
I welcome stories from pilots in the same situation. Also, if you have pictures you would like posted, please do not hesitate to send them to me.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I must go for now. Hang in there and always keep your eyes on the sky and your hearts on the flight-deck.
This is the video that got the attention of CNN. I have made this recording both for fun and to inform people of the problems that pilots with depression face.
I know the sack on the head is a bit strange, but it is supposed to add to the fun of these videos. I figure a person should have fun with what ever they do.
I hope everyone enjoys the release of the Prozac Pilot video.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I was almost off of the meds, but many life altering decisions got in the way. My wife and I are looking for ways to move closer to family in the west. My wife's family is in Southern Utah so we are looking at employment possibilities there or Las Vegas.
Ironically, my wife is a social worker. She noticed some change in my moods as the doctors were backing me off of my medications and asked me to tell my doctor about these changes. Well, as you might have guessed, the dosage amount of my meds were increased.
I am not sure if anyone will ever read these ramblings of mine or not. If so, I hope that others can relate to what I am going through and perhaps find some solace in my words. I know what it is like to do what I love and then have it ripped from me by an ailment that can be controlled. What is difficult is having a cure for my condition, but the cure is what keeps me from doing what I love.
I have made some attempts to contact various organizations today regarding any changes in FAA regulations on the use of antidepressants, but so far I am not making any progress.
Hang in there all and do not give up the fight. Giving in to the dark side of depression will only means we sink lower. There can and will be a way out. Find something each day to tell yourselves you are worthwhile.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Well the docs went in and repaired a ligament on my left wrist. I am will doing some small postings over the next couple of days, but nothing significant. I have supplies to pick up to make the videos look better than what they would be right now. I am searching for ways to link my site to the sites of those who can get me more attention.
See ya soon,
Monday, June 22, 2009
I am just getting ready for my wife to take me to have my wrist operated on. Once I am back and feeling up to it I will begin the series of the Prozac Pilot video postings. These will contain some information about the progress of the use of anti-depressants for pilots as well as some advice from health care professionals I plan to interview.
Additionally, if any readers have a personal story they would like to have read by Prozac Pilot, please send that to me. I would also like to post pictures of cool places that readers have been to. I will post the name of the person if the individual so desires.
Remember, depression is a physical health problem. Having depression is nothing to be ashamed of despite what the FAA says about us. Hang in there all.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I am having outpatient surgery on Monday. I am not sure how long I will be down. I hope to have some fun things on the site once I am back online. Look for what hopefully will be fun and entertaining video updates from Prozac Pilot soon.
I am actually learning how to connect my You Tube videos I am creating with the blog and Twitter.
But hey, I am grounded so I have some time right? Well, I guess I should be used to sitting around doing nothing. It kind of brings back memories of sitting in FBO's waiting on passengers who are always on time.
Back in a few days I hope.
This is the first posting of the Pilots With Depression blog. I have created this blog for several reasons. First, let me tell everyone about myself. I am a pilot with an ATP and typed rated in an airplane that will not be mentioned. I am trying to keep my identity as low key as possible. I was flying charter and loving life. However, there was one problem. I suffer from depression. How could ask how I was loving life and suffer from depression. GREAT Question I say. But I am not sure I even understand the answer to that.
Depression is a physical condition not mental. It is caused by an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain.
My wife convinced me to go on medications when I was laid off. I simply did not go renew my medical and now here I am on the ground.
I know what it is like to fly and love flying, yet not understand why I was feeling the way I did. I have a great wife. I flew a new jet with all the fun toys. I flew with some great people. I loved working with the passengers. But yet, I still needed the medications.
Now the FAA would label me as unfit to operate an aircraft.
I was a safe pilot. My doctors cannot understand why I am not allowed to fly.
I will be posting pictures on here from anyone pilot who has cool pictures they would like to share as well as some videos I will be recording.
Check in for some views from Prozac Pilot. I hope everyone who reads this blog will enjoy and perhaps find some comfort in my words and thoughts.
If you are a pilot who is grounded due to medications I say, "Hang in there brothers and sisters you are not alone."
If you are a pilot who is in fear of a loss of income due to the FAA regs I know how you feel. Hopefully there will be some change of regs soon. I will be posting updates as I get wind of them. There was to be a change last year, but you know how that goes. The feds work at two speeds, slow and slower. One would think since the FAA is in the aviation biz that they would be faster. Oh well, look for more updates soon.