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Friday, July 31, 2009

Thank you Dr. Shock

I was quoted by Dr. Shock recently. I went to his to post a thank you. Below are the comments that I posted.

I am honored that you would quote me from my blog. It is good to see words of encouragement. Not being able to peruse my chosen profession has been extremely difficult. But this is a decision my wife and I made together knowing what the consequences would be. I could do as other pilots do and simply not report the medications I am taking. But the ramifications of such a decision are endless. First, I could no longer consider myself an honest person. Secondly, if an accident occurred for any reason and the medical reports showed antidepressants in my system my company and family could face litigation. Once again, thank you for quoting me. Yes, I am at home and not allowed to fly, but I do so with honor. Keep an eye on the sky! Prozac Pilot

The Discrimination Continues

My wife and I are working on moving to the west to be near family. Currently, we have our health care coverage through a group plan where my wife works. This of course will change with her starting a new job when we move. We have a quote as to what it will cost to have group coverage for both of us from a company that wants to hire her. Our out of pocket cost is about $400 per month.

After finding this out I started looking at rates for a plan for myself since most of this out of pocket cost is to pay for my coverage. In receiving quotes I looked at the limitations of the insurance being offered. Of course when covering mental health the coverage is limited. Mental health coverage is limited on one plan to a LIFE TIME maximum of $3000. Currently, I see my doctor each month to monitor my medications. I have not been in therapy for a couple of months, but I am looking for a new therapist. Once I start therapy and going to the doctor I am sure that it will not take long to go through $3,000.

I did not see any stipulations in this plan limiting a life time maximum on the treatment of cancer or any other disease. The stigma placed on mental health causes a great deal of discrimination. I am beginning to think that when someone seeks help for depression that the depression deepens simply from all of the road blocks placed in the way.

My current insurance also treats mental health differently than other medical needs. My in network co-pay for most needs is $20 for an office visit to a doctor's office. This co-pay does not vary from my primary physician to going to a specialist of some kind. However, when going to a mental health provider the co-pay goes out the window and my responsibility is 50%.

Well, get out your wallets and be prepared to pay if you want help. I am guessing that this is something that not many people have tried to stand up for. After all, if someone needs help with mental health they are crazy right?

Well, my ramblings have continued again. I am not trying to be negative all of the time. I am just venting I guess.

Keep and eye on the sky!

Prozac Pilot

No News is Bad News

I took some time to review what I had posted recently and noticed that I have been getting a few comments from people who have read my blog. I appreciate any and all comments. I followed the links of those who had posted to find out a little about those who have shown an interest in what I have to say. I was honored to find that I had been quoted by Dr. Shock in his studies about pilots and depression. To have been quoted by a medical professional helps me feel my words have validity. Now if I can only get some people in key positions that can make a change read my words and take some action.

I called the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) today to see if there are any further updates. However, I was told the same thing that I was a year ago, which is that changes are coming soon.

I contacted the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and spoke with Dan Hubbard. The only responce I got from Mr. Hubbard what that he researched it and was being told by his people that a pilot on antidepressants are grounded no matter what the reason for the use of the medication. I have one response for Mr. Hubbard. "DUH" I had told him going into the conversation that I was grounded for this reason and wanted to know if the NBAA was doing anything to stand up for pilots who are affected by this discriminatory regulation. I wrote Mr. Hubbard back for further comment, but received no response.

The main contact for medical questions at the AOPA is out of town this week attending the fun at Oshkosh, WI. The person I talked to in his stead informed me that there were being some questions asked during Oshkosh that could have additional answers. However, this is the same thing that I was told last year. I see these organizations that represent pilots lobby for many other things, but have heard little as to what they are actually doing to stand up for pilots with depression.

Perhaps I will start my own lobbying group. Let me see what could I call it? Depressed Pilots of America (DPOA)..... How about Pilots With Depression Fight Back (PWDFB)...... Pilots For a Hopeful Tomorrow.......(PFHT)..... Well those are just a couple of ideas. Please feel free to shoot me an email with any ideas you might have.

As I am writing this today I am able to hear aircraft passing overhead. My home is a few miles north of a Class C airport and under the final approach for its major runway. I sometimes go out onto my balcony and watch as aircraft pass overhead. I love the days when it is already dark and there is somewhat of an overcast. I can see the lights of aircraft on final approach. I enjoy watching them break out of the clouds. As I watch I imagine myself at the controls shooting an ILS in instrument conditions at night. I always loved breaking out and seeing the runway lit up in front of me.

Another thing I used to enjoy was taking off during the day in instrument conditions. Climbing up through the clouds and being focused on the instruments. Inside the clouds can be dark, but as the aircraft climbs towards the tops the sun starts shining in. Then suddenly breaking through the tops of the clouds the blue sky with all of its glory welcomes you with an invitation of beauty. One of the most incredible views I remember was breaking out of the clouds just as I was reaching an assigned altitude. I had the aircraft on autopilot, which had captured the altitude. The other pilot just then pointed to something above us. I looked up just in time to see the belly of a 737 which was directly overhead 1,000 feet above us. Ahhhh, gotta love RVSM to get those closer views.

I think each day of the fun that I miss out on while I am not able to fly. To me it is not just the flying, but working with the passengers as well. Flying charter gives a pilot a greater opportunity to interact with passengers. A charter pilot gets to meet some interesting individuals. I always enjoyed if a passenger was private pilot and wanted to come up and look around at the fun toys I had up front in my little jet.

Well, I have probably rambled on enough for today. Remember, if you have any ideas for the name for thy lobbying group for depressed pilots let me know. My email is listed on this blog. Also, I welcome your comments. One more thing, please sign up to follow my blog if you like what I have to say. If I can get enough people to follow, then more will want to follow and ect ect ect.

Keep an eye on the sky!

Prozac Pilot

Friday, July 17, 2009

Stop the Discrimination!

I saw my doctor yesterday and told her about the blog. She was excited to hear about what I was doing and encouraged me to be an activist for pilots with depression. She went on to ask me more questions about other types of conditions that may disqualify a pilot from obtaining a medical. She still finds it hard to believe how an antidepressant can keep a pilot from performing his or her duties.

I was getting hopeful for a while. I had started a plan with my doctor to reduce and then come completely off the medications. At first, I thought the plan was going well. However, as I was close to being completely off the medications I discovered the timing just was not right. My wife and I are going though the process of moving closer to family. With the added stress of planning a move--which also means looking for employment that will meet our needs--I could tell that I needed to go back on medications.

The experience was not a fun one. I can understand why there should be a waiting period to be able to fly for someone just going on medications. The side affects at first until a person's body is accustomed to the meds can really do a number on someone. For economic reasons my doctor tried a new medication with me. This particular medication did not work well. I went through periods of higher anxiety and was physically ill. We found that this particular medication did not work for me. Now we are getting things squared back up on a med that does cost more money. But from what I am finding it is the best thing to do. Ahhh, but I am so grateful to the doctor's office for SAMPLES. Samples are free.

In going through this change of meds I had many thoughts about what I was going through. However, the one thing that stood out was the fact that I may never fly again. This is a thought that truly saddens me. I think of all the pilots that are flying that suffer from depression and cannot reveal their secret due to the knowledge they will no longer have a job. I am still trying to figure out which is worse.

What I did discover is that when first coming to grips with the disease that keeps me grounded is that it gets worse before it gets better. I sat around the house for several weeks doing nothing and feeling sorry for myself. Once I got through that and started to deal with the facts I was able to pull myself out of my slump and start looking for another source of income. It is hard to try to start a new career in todays economy. Well, now I am trying to start my own business.

I know this sounds like rambling to many who may read this. But hopefully it may help someone else who may be in a similar situation. My story may not seem like a good example of hope on the outside, but take a closer look. I have the energy and drive to start this blog. I made that silly video (more to come soon) and I am at least working on some plans for feeling better.

I guess the hardest part is when people find out that I suffer from depression. I get looks like I am a total outcast. I am not sure why those of us who suffer from such a disability are made to suffer even more by others. Why do people have to look at us with such degradation? Are we really that much of a social stigma?

In a day and time where views are so liberal how is it that a person with a mental illness is still made to feel so unwanted by society? It is ignorance that drives the publics perception. It is such ignorance that keeps pilots who are medicated and fully able to perform the duties of their jobs safely that grounds them. It is this same ignorance that forces pilots with depression from seeking help and keeps them flying without treatment and putting public safety at risk.

I was even ashamed to tell my own mother the reason for which I can no longer fly. I have never felt such discrimination. Is it worth it? Time will tell. Hopefully, I can touch some people with this blog. Hopefully, the right people will read this and help do something. I am also contacting my elected officials. But I am only one person. Pilots with depression need to stand up for what is right. The so called pilot advocacy groups need to help more in this struggle.

Please, stand with me and let's put an end to this discrimination. Let's put good pilots back in the sky. Let's get help for those who are forced to hide their pain. Let's do the right thing.

Keep an eye on the sky.

Prozac Pilot

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Early Mornings

Here I sit at my computer unable to go back to bed. I wonder in my mind what it is that keeps me from trying. Thoughts that fly around of my worth and why I feel about myself. Most people that know me would say that I am a good person. I am not sure why I do not agree with them. I am haunted of years gone by and being told that I will never amount to anything. I do not know why cannot overcome that by looking at the accomplishments in my life.

I mean I am among an elite group of people. With nearly 307 million people in the United States and only about 150,000 ATP rated pilots. That puts me in a bracket that comprises only .005 % of the population of the US. You would think that I would look more at the positive and at least like myself.

There are other things I have done in my life as well that I should be thinking of instead of depressing thoughts. I have given lectures on a stage with up to 2,000 people in attendance and received a standing ovation. I have opened for some big names in the music industry as a stand up comedian. I have done all of these things, yet I keep coming back to the negative.

I can see one part of the FAA's stance on anti-depressants. I know what it is like when a person first starts on these meds. A person can go through many things until the medication is fully in a person's system and doing what it is supposed to be doing. But once the medicine has the person stabilized there is nothing that should keep a medication person from operating an aircraft.

I guess I keep coming back to wanting to fly because I have found so much beauty in what I did. I actually felt some worth of self when other people looked at me and knew what I did for a living. Many people I have met when I was flying envied me. Well at least what I did. That was a great feeling. It helped me feel accepted in life.

But now I look at myself and I wonder just who I am. I am no longer a working pilot. I am a person on medications who is supposed to feel better about myself. In some ways I do, but I long for the sky. I ache inside knowing that I may never be at the controls of a jet again. It was not just the flying it was the lifestyle. Racking up the points at Hilton and Marriott hotels. Points that could be used for free stays with my family. Serving the passengers. Making sure that their car or ride would be at the FBO when we arrived. Ensure that their luggage was all onboard and they had everything they wanted before we took off. Letting the passenger who is a private pilot stick his head up front and look at the instrument panel that he could only dream of. Taking pictures from the flight deck. The list of things that I miss goes on and on.

I know I am rambling here a great deal. But I just had a great memory pop into my head. I so enjoyed meeting the passengers and talking with them some. I remember one lady in particular. But it is not her so much I remember as I do her pet. She had an Alaskan Malamute. This was a HUGE dog. When I found out that big thing was going to be on my airplane without any restraints I was worried. We loaded up and took off from Montrose, CO (KMTJ) without any problems. It was only a couple of minutes after we took off that this dog walked up to the front and then laid down with his head between the two pilot seats. Every so often he would look up and glance at one of us and then just lie his head back down. I was disappointed that this was one trip I did not have my camera with me. I will never forget the flight of the Malamute.

I have done a great deal in my life. I have much to offer, yet I still do not see myself as worthwhile unless I am at the controls of an airplane. Perhaps if I see myself as a good person and not be at the controls that I feel I would have overcome the demons that hold me back.

If you have read this far today and not been bored. Then either my writing skills have improved or, well, I will just leave it at that and give myself some credit.

Keep an eye on the sky,

Prozac Pilot

Monday, July 13, 2009

Aircraft I Have Flown and Would Like to Fly

I just got home from a vacation with my family. My son-in-law departed two weeks ago for basic training in the Naval Reserves and will be gone for three months. My daughter is now left at home alone with a three year old girl. My wife and I thought it would be a good break to wisp the two of them away and have some fun. So we did.

It was good to get back home and see that I had a couple of requests on my blog along with some comments. Thank you to those who have posted.

I realize I have covered a variety of subjects on this blog so far. I liked the idea of sharing a little about the types of aircraft I have flown and what I would like to fly in the future.

I started my flight training in a Beech Skipper. It was a fun little airplane to fly. This was the airplane I soloed in as well. I had 11 hours total time when I first took the controls without my instructor onboard. Up until my first solo landing I would have sworn that my flight instructor was doing everything.

I changed flight schools when I discovered that my instructor was billing extra time on the ground. I realize I have blogged about ground time being important and instructors should get paid for their time. However, I also feel that an instructor should be doing something of value during that time as well.

The next school took I experimented between Piper and Cessna aircraft. I did the bulk of the remainder of my training in a Cherokee 140 and took my check ride in a Piper Warrior. The FBO where I rented has a Grumman Chetah and Tiger for rent. Those were the airplanes I was eager to get my hands on. Since this was a small FBO I got to know the owners and was able to get some free flights in here and there when it was appropriate. That is how I got checked out in the Chetah.

There as a saying back then, "You drive a Cessna or a Piper, but you have to fly a Grumman." These little airplanes are responsive and a great deal of fun to fly. I rented the Chetah for a cross country from Iowa to Houston, TX. The only part I did not like was getting stuck in Houston due to weather. As soon as I landed weather went below VFR mins and I was not instrument rated. Oh well, I had fun.

I have had the the opportunity to fly a wide variety of aircraft in my time. Let me see if I can list them by manufacturer.

Piper
Cessna

Well, I could go on with other manufacturers, but it would only get boring. I think one of the most memorable airplanes I have flown (other than the CJ2+) is the Twin Bonanza. That is truly a classical old bird.

I have also flown a North American T6, which was used for training pilots during WWII and have been given a ride in a P51 Mustang. Now that was a cool ride.

OK, now for the list of airplanes I would like to fly. Hmm, that list is so long. Having hundreds of hours in the CJ series makes me miss flying jets. I would love to return to the 2+ or the CJ3 and now the CJ4 should be out soon as well. The strait CJ was rather anemic in compared to its more powerful counterparts. It is a good little jet, but I much preferred the 2+.

The avionics suite on the 2+ is far superior as well as the takeoff weight capacity and the capabilities of the airplane.

I of course would love to fly some larger aircraft. The 787 would be an experience. I have always enjoyed the experience of being a passenger on a 757 and thought it would be incredible to have the opportunity to fly.

Flying a fighter jet of some sort would be a complete rush of course. Now I am going to get closer to reality. I have looked at some of the light sport aircraft that are on the market now. I do not know the makes and models well enough to speak of them by name. But these little airplanes look like they could be a great deal of fun. Some of them have avionics superior to most of the larger airplanes I have flown. The glass panels in such a small aircraft is a great idea. I feel these types of airplanes could be a great way for someone who wants to learn to fly. A person can get a sport plane rating in less time that a private pilot license and start racking up the hours for more advanced ratings.

Well, I have rambled on enough for today. I hope all who read this blog enjoy. I think I am going to have another video posted soon.

Keep an eye on the sky,

Prozac Pilot

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Be True Unto Thyself

I have often wondered what it means to be true unto myself. How can a person lie to himself? It is obvious if a person lies to another, and I believe it will be apparent to the victim at some point. Yes, I said victim. If one person lies to another that person who has been lied to has been victimized.

But lying to yourself? I grew up in a home filled with negativity. I was told on many occasions that I did not have what it takes to do some of the things I wanted to. I would ask my dad if he were going to come out to watch the sporting event in which I was going to play in. He answered saying it was not worth his time because I would not get to play anyway.

Now let's look further at a situation like this. Did the father lie to the son? I can see two answers here. No, he did not lie. The son usually did not get asked to play. Yes, the father did lie. He most certainly should have been worth his time to go to the game even if it were to sit behind his son and give encouragement.

It is from interactions like these that causes a person to lie to himself. As the boy becomes a man he has that learning embedded in his mind. The new man may go watch his children do things just because he know how painful it was not to have his father there. But he will start lying to himself. He will tell lies such as, "I am not good enough to do this task. I do not have the qualifications for this job." The list goes on and on of the lies he will tell himself each day. "I am not a smart person."

These are not just lies, but they are irrational lies. They are irrational due to the fact that many of the things I told myself I could not do I had done before and done them well. Yet each time I faced challenges I would have it in my mind that I was not capable. That was a lie to myself. By lacking the confidence in myself---even in areas where I had proven myself--- I stunted my opportunity for future growth in that area. My lie to myself damaged me. It could also affect those around me. If I were to limit myself as the bread earner in my family, then my family would go without. I could have also been limiting the possibilities of those who would use me as an example.

Lying, no matter how you look at it does damage. I have suffered from the lies of others and many years ago before making big changes in my life I had hurt others with my own lies.

Therefore, be true unto thyself. Give no reason for others to doubt you. Give yourself no reason to doubt you. Go forward with faith and confidence. Yes, there will be times that we will have failures along the way, but it how we look at those failures that could help us be successful in the future. Think of a professional basketball player. In his early years he would practice free throw after free throw, perhaps even thousands of free throws before he could make the basket on a routine basis. How many less famous basketball stars would there be if these individuals had not been true to themselves.

I was not sure what I wanted to write today as I sat down at my desk. I am glad these words were able to come to the front of my mind. I felt the need to put something down.

I will not be posting for a few days. I am off on a vacation with my family. There will be no electronics allowed.

Be true to yourself,

Prozac Pilot