Outreach



11 Feb 17

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Autumn amidst the heavy snow banks pose with the traditional "we want your help" pointing gesture.

“We want YOU to help us with our goal!”

I am attempting to give you all a little notice as I ask you to consider helping me reach for a daunting goal.

On Monday, April 10, I’ll release a blog with some exciting news about the  event sponsor for our signature event, Peak Potential Dinner & Auction held every November. In celebration of that announcement and my week of preparation leading up to the Boston Marathon on April 17 (Patriots Day of course!), we will be kicking off the ticket sales for our November 18 event on that day as well.

It is the earliest we’ve begun sales for our event and the timing is key to my stretch goal. While we sell tickets individually, in pairs, and by tables of 8, the most common purchase and best value is the table sale.

What is my goal? To sell 1 table for each mile of the historic 26.2-mile course of the Boston Marathon which I’ll be running during that week. Tracy and I always immediately purchase a table of our own so I’ve got the first mile covered and several family and friends have suggested a few more miles along the route are likely secured as well. Whether I know in advance of the race or catch the mile by update tributes and acknowledgements we’ll send out in appreciation, I will get some significant motivation from all the support which arrives from the various table and ticket purchases.

People having fun at tables at the Peak Potential 2016For that one week (April 10-17), we will offer the lowest table price, $500 for the table of 8 guests. As of April 18, the price will increase to $600/table until June 18. After June 18, the price will increase to $700/table.

Your choice to attend our event would benefit our worthy mission a great deal. Our venue holds 30 tables very comfortably and thus 26 tables at this point will effectively assure us a sell-out at the very start of our outreach. It would allow us to work on obtaining sponsorships and donations to help make the event the most successful yet.

Already in our 8th annual event our success has continued to strengthen and grow fantastically thanks to all of your support. This is why I feel so certain it is worth asking you all to consider joining into the stretch goal now and be preparing for that April 10 opportunity.

Jose and Randy with their hands up running the Marathon.Now, we’re calling this a stretch goal because I do absolutely understand how high I’m setting this goal. When I run a marathon, I take the lesson of my friend Greg Hallerman to set three goals for myself each time: the stretch goal which is hard to reach but incredibly rewarding, the secondary goal, and the comfort goal.

You already know my stretch goal; my secondary goal would be to have 26 distinct purchases even if they were not all tables because it’s still an overwhelming support at this early juncture. My comfort goal is that when April 10 arrives and we make the announcement officially launching this year’s Peak Potential website, many of you will help us share it and inform us you are coming even if you are unable to purchase tickets at that time.

So as I run Boston this year, I have a few goals in mind. I hope to run it under 4 hours once again and I hope to learn that our Peak Potential Celebration on November 18 is matching my efforts stride for stride and mile by mile – perhaps one table at a time as we close in on our goals together.

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7 Jan 17

By Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Jody Sandler

Happy New Year to the staff, friends and supporters of 2020 Vision Quest! I have been asked by Randy to be a “guest blogger” in order to introduce my organization to you, and to give Randy a vacation from blogging!

We are BluePath Service Dogs, a new non-profit that trains service dogs for families with children with autism. The demand for our services is enormous, as 1 out of every 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. We raise and train our extraordinary dogs to ultimately match them with a child and his or her family.

Danny Zarro with Shade

Danny Zarro with Shade

Autism service dogs provide a number of services to a family. First and foremost, our dogs are trained to keep a child on the spectrum safe. Children on the spectrum often show “bolting” behaviors, where they suddenly run away from family, placing them in potentially life threatening situations. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children with autism under the age of 10.

BluePath dogs keep children safe via a specially designed vest, which is tethered to a belt around the child’s waist. Should the child attempt to bolt, the dog will lie down and anchor the child in place. BluePath dogs also provide companionship to a child that has difficulty communicating with other children and can even stimulate social interaction with other children and adults.

Many families with a child on the spectrum curtail trips, vacations, and activities outside the home for fear of their kids’ safety. This affects the whole family, particularly siblings, who miss out on the many things families often do together, like going to a movie, attending sports events or going to restaurants. BluePath service dogs allow families to safely “reconnect,” to go out confidently in their community and enjoy the things that most families take for granted. A BluePath service dog can impact the lives of all of the family members, not just the child with autism.

Although we are newly formed, we have a wealth of experience. Some of us were formerly long-term employees of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. I was the Director of Veterinary Services there for 26 years, and was instrumental in the formation of their “Heeling Autism” service dog program, which was recently closed. This was the motivation to form BluePath, as many children were left without this important service.

Our vision is to become the leader in providing autism service dogs. We are excited to begin helping parents rediscover life’s potential for their children AND themselves. We have great admiration for all that Randy and his team has accomplished with 2020 Vision Quest and we are honored to have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you here.

On behalf of the BluePath team, we extend our wishes for a happy, healthy and successful New Year to the 2020 Vision Quest family!

Jody Sandler DVM
President and CEO
BluePath Service Dogs
www.bluepathservicedogs.org

BluePath Service Dogs

 

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17 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Autumn and Randy walking, but with LEGO robots!Stepping in front of the energized auditorium for the kick-off event of the FIRST LEGO League Animal Allies season, Autumn and I were excited for all the possibilities ahead. We were also lost, as our route to the podium had been a little blocked by standing room only and she had taken a rather creative route to get me to the front of the room. We did a little problem solving and made our way there with her managing the obstacles safely if not necessarily the way I might have chosen. There was a lesson right in our very approach to the podium and in our brief 15 minutes we needed to build on the excitement, highlight and connect to the core values of FIRST LEGO League, explain our connection to the project and robot challenge with just a hint of our own core messaging worked into the mix.

This might be a tall order if our core values didn’t align so well already, which speaks volumes to the successful aspects we experience. This is part of the reason sponsor BAE systems first coordinated to invite us to the event as well as having us included as a fundamental part of this year’s international experience. I must admit there was an extra bit of amusement in learning they had created a LEGO version of Autumn for their introductory video which can be found along with the full description of their organization’s approach which has become so successful around the world here. 

This year the emphasis is upon how humans and animals can improve the way we interact to make things better for each of us. The teamwork Autumn and I employ is exceedingly demonstrative of this and that is why we represent a project challenge as well as a robot table challenge component possibility.

FIRST LEGO League uses three approaches to the season of competition:

  • Core Values
  • The Project
  • The Robot Challenge

The project requires the team of students to research a problem, identify a solution, share their solution and present this process and result to a panel of judges. One suggestion made in their video involved the present Dog Guide harness and there are so many other avenues around service dogs or our 2020 Vision Quest which might qualify for such a project. I’ll be interested to see how creative the thousands of teams prove as they progress forward.

Meanwhile, I want to leave you as I left them with this notion of the seven core values. If they learn those core values they will likely perform better in the competition, but if they embrace them as a part of their approach to life, they will not only perform better in the competition, they will also likely find more success in life. The difference is in the investment to truly understand the reasons why each of those values is a benefit to us, our teams and the world around us.

This should be no surprise because most things in life which we deem worthwhile likely deserve more than paying minimal attention to perception rather than full investment. Perception matters, sometimes more than I wish, but the reality behind our approach will always carry a more lasting meaning for us and those with whom we ally. This is the true secret strength behind the bond I share with Autumn and all my Dog Guides and why we reach our “peak potential” so well together! It is why I was glad to partner a bit with first, BAE and FIRST LEGO League because we hope these messages will help guide students to take tomorrow to better and better places.

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11 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

Your Table is Ready! Join us for Peak Potential 2016.

A leader’s job is not to do the work for others, it’s to help others figure out how to do it themselves, to get things done, and to succeed beyond what they thought possible.
- Simon Sinek

Our Seventh Annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction is November 12. Although you can buy your tickets up until November 1, we set our personal goal this year to sell out by October 12, a month before the event. We urge you to help us reach this goal!

We accomplish many great things with 2020 Vision Quest’s yearly efforts. Each year’s success is largely based upon the support we receive from you and through your efforts on our behalf. Our team of volunteers, myself included, dedicate much time and effort because we believe in what we are able to achieve with your help and we make every effort possible to be worthy of your support. As the quote above suggests, we believe our school presentations help demonstrate a leadership of hard working, positive-minded achievers, while the organizations we support fiscally provide training and partners to strive further than many thought possible.

Peak Potential is a night to celebrate! We are well on the way to our goals of sponsors and ticket sales but we are not there yet. Help us share our goal of a sell-out–and better still, help us reach this goal by becoming part of our team right now.

We certainly have much to celebrate and more importantly we have so much more we can accomplish with your choice to be part of our team. I know some of you live far away (though there’s always the option to stay at the hotel that evening, as I’m doing). I know for some of you this isn’t the right opportunity and I appreciate the encouragement you share in other ways. I also know that we are over 2/3 of the way to a sell-out and already at numbers that would have sold out all our prior smaller venues. But I have a goal to share the evening with a full room of friends and supporters who will make this year our most successful event, and I’m asking you to help make this possible.

Please take a moment to invite a friend or two, buy a table or a ticket, consider a sponsorship, or consider an item for the auction donation. I have been fortunate to hear from so many how much our mission matters. For many, you won’t have to look far to find the same reports because it is likely we have had a positive impact in the life of someone you know. Come to the event and you will get to understand this and more firsthand.

Join me in spending an evening with a community of outstanding people who want to help others reach for the highest peaks and who provide support for the deepest valleys.

Come to Peak Potential!

 

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3 Sep 16

By Randy Pierce

In a week where Gene Wilder took his final breath, I’ve had plenty of reflections upon the many dreams I choose to pursue. Normally September heralds the arrival of my patriotic passions and while this Sports Emmy award nominated video highlights an approach to life far beyond football appreciation, this year is markedly different for me. I still think there is tremendous value in appreciating the messages I had the opportunity to share with many friends in this great piece by “HBO: Inside the NFL Fan Life view”:

Randy and friends celebrate on game day.

Randy and friends celebrate on game day.

So why is it a little more difficult for me this year? I’m always a fan of the belief that each of us should evaluate the things which are important to us and find the ways to make them part of our lives. As we grow and change, so too may our various pursuits and sometimes we may inadvertently trap ourselves in habits which are no longer as healthy for us as they once felt. Simple momentum may keep us returning beyond the level of commitment we might otherwise choose.

Certainly in my very rewarding life there are difficulties in finding time for all of the interests to which I’d like to give my time. Some of this is part of my distraction but not the primary challenge.

I do still love the strategic aspects of the sport and the social community building interactions with which I can bring people together to appreciate the game day events. I have found too many discrepancies of integrity and transparency on important aspects such as player safety, domestic violence, and even fiscal responsibility. In the challenge to rectify these there is an impact to my overall appreciation, dedication and certainly willingness to give of my time, energy, and limited financial resources towards such an endeavor.

I know I am going to spend many game-day afternoons enthusiastically rooting for my team but I made the decision for the first time to not attend any games live this year. I find myself questioning when any organization is making sufficiently poor choices that I must call into question where future paths will lead. I get nostalgic for all the appreciation of the past and possible lost promise of the future.

For now there’s enough to keep me here and mindful and that is the ultimate message I’m trying to take away from this September. I have the mindfulness and focus to attend my choices and ensure that ultimately I do pursue the passions which are right for me. I truly wish the same for each of you, whether in education, arts, athletics or any of the many wonders which may enhance any of our lives.

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14 May 16

By Randy Pierce

A Walk in Autumn's Shoes?While Guiding Eyes trainers and puppy raisers deserve the vast majority of the credit for the quality training in my dog guides, the continued success is based on their helping guide me to methods of ongoing training work together. Their work in teaching me how to continually sustain and advance our training is why I believe I have generally very good success in my teamwork with these dogs. People often see the results and ask me for tips and tricks to help work with their dogs and I’m happy to share a few of my opinions with the above caveat that others have created an excellent foundation for me.

One of the first and most easy reminders is to be steady and consistent with our dogs. This consistency helps prevent any confusion on their part for what we want and expect. I use repetition and consistency to help strengthen the base skills regularly.

Unfortunately for Autumn (and me!), my recent medical challenges have caused a change in many of our routines presently. Understanding that this change has an impact on Autumn is an important part of my ability to manage the response. For all the humor of poor Autumn wearing my size 14 running shoes, the reality is the old adage has value in all of our training work. I want to take a walk in Autumn’s shoes to try and understand what a change may mean for her. Dogs are not humans and do not mirror our thought processes. We can, however, with a little investigation come to better understand their motivations and responses, effectively learning to think a little as they might be thinking.

My doctors have suggested I not walk anywhere outside my home without another person present. This means that my daily longer walks with Autumn have come to an abrupt halt. It’s easy for me to be caught up in my own frustrations with this and fail to realize the impact on Autumn. She is accustomed to getting a higher level of exercise for her body and her mind given how much she is asked to problem solve while we are working together. As such, I need to find positive outlets for her to replace those aspects or I may find her problem solving less ideal solutions of her own. Many dogs exhibit what we deem as destructive behavior when they do not get sufficient outlet for their energy. Understanding this as the underlying cause can lead us to the solution rather than getting caught up in the symptom of the undesired behavior. There are many ways to approach solutions and the real key begins with the awareness which is the core message of this blog. Learn to take a walk in your dog’s paws and you are on the path to building a better training foundation.

In my case I try to schedule people to visit for those walks as one step. I’ve increased her backyard high energy play sessions and I’ve increased our hide and seek games to help her use her problem solving and thinking approach which is lacking. While she loves all of these things, I’ve also noticed that she’s a little more attention-desiring (needy) of me. I understand the reasons for that outreach and am reassuring her with an appreciation for the reason behind her changes. So if you notice an undesired behavior or change in your dog, perhaps ask yourself what changes you may have caused for them, whether intended or inadvertent. Perhaps that may help you grow your own training skills.

Ever the opportunist, why not “take a walk in our shoes” by joining us at the NHAB Walk for Sight coming right up! We’d love to have you on our team.

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13 Feb 16

Randy shouting from the mountaintop

The countdown is finally done and we’re shouting our news from the mountaintops!

By Randy Pierce

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Reverend Edward Hale

I wanted a short and powerful blog this week. I wanted to record a one minute video from atop Sugarloaf Mountain where I was attending the New England Visually Impaired Ski Festival. I was unable to achieve my goal, and yet the news is something powerful and wonderful that I do indeed want to shout from the mountain tops:

We have been granted our *independent* 501(c)(3) status!!

We have been an approved and official 501(c)(3) organization since our inception due to NHAB choosing to fiscally sponsor our charitable efforts. Thanks to an incredible amount of hard work by many volunteers and you, our incredible community, we achieved the enough success that we were required to apply for our independent status. This was granted as a sign of confidence and achievement for which I am incredibly proud.

This changes nothing about our mission or our approach and we hope similarly nothing about the support which has allowed us to reach so many goals. As such I’m also using this announcement as a Call to Action: What choice, great or small, can you make to help our cause?

As we close in on providing presentations to our 50,000 students just within schools and a quarter of a million dollars to the two beloved organizations to whom we pledge our support, and as we continue to provide inspiration, encouragement, and support for an ever growing number of people–will you make a choice to help?

Will you make a donation? 

Will you book a keynote or suggest us to  a company or conference?

Will you refer us to a school teacher or administrator?

Will you connect to us on Social Media or share our links with your contacts?

Would you suggest to us ways you think we might enhance our efforts and achievements? Email me!

I hope you will answer this call to action and I hope we continue to be worthy of the confidence and support we have shared over our first five years. I may not be literally shouting it from a mountain top but I think this news and your choice are both significant and necessary. Thank you!

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5 Dec 15

By Randy Pierce

I’m thrilled to share my second TEDx talk with all of you! My first talk was centered on the notion of how all of us can and should reach for our peak potential. This second talk was asked to fit to the theme of a “Brand New Day” and put focus upon a valuable perspective on Transition Trauma and Social Risk Management.

You may recall that back in October I shared how I develop a presentation as I prepared to give the talk and now you can directly see the results below. I also include that blog link here so you can perhaps gain insight into the process and compare the two different talks.

If you, as I do, believe there is value in these talks, please consider sharing them with all those who might similarly benefit. Thank you again for the tremendous support which helps inspire me to be reaching for new heights!

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24 Oct 15

By Jose Acevedo

Jose and Randy hiking.

Jose and Randy hiking.

On October 21st, 1991, I walked out of Malden hospital just outside of Boston with a new lease on life. Just 3 days earlier, I had attempted to end my life. It wasn’t a cry for attention–I was deeply depressed and honestly wanted to die. I recognized at the time that life had its ups and downs and thinking it through logically, as well as accounting for where I was emotionally, I felt that living simply wasn’t worth it. I honestly don’t know if everyone feels like this at some point, or if it is only a subset. Is it 1, 50, or 99% of us that faces deep depression at some point? Despite varied research findings, I don’t know and frankly, it’s irrelevant to my message. A good friend encouraged me to write down this story when I shared portions of it recently, and I realize that even if it only touches one person, it will have been worth it. As you read, please consider the possibility that you or someone you care about may need help and pushing through any awkwardness towards open dialogue could make all the difference.

Without jumping into all of the details, I’ll summarize the various aspects of my life that influenced my state of being at the time. My home life was terrible with a lot of bad history and I had very little relationship with my parents. I had made bad choices and alienated my closest friends. High school was over and I wasn’t on my way to college, so I felt adrift. The tipping point was reached when a close friend died in a tragic accident, leaving me to face questions of mortality for the first time, seemingly alone.

Alone. What a tricky little concept. When we’re there, in the roughest of times wrestling with our demons, some of us can’t see anything or anyone that we imagine could truly help. Or, we don’t want help for various reasons, including feeling unworthy like I did. In these moments, we feel utterly alone. Yet the reality is that we are surrounded by so many people and resources that can help. For perhaps the first time in human history, it’s nearly impossible to not trip over some well-meaning person or organization that can assist with just about any problem we might have – at least here in the states. In our darkest personal moments, there are almost always a number of people who care about us, either personally, or at least as fellow people.

Self portrait during dark times.

Self portrait during dark times.

When I was at my lowest point in October of 1991, it didn’t matter that my future had plenty of possibilities to be bright. I didn’t care that people loved me – I didn’t love myself. To be more precise, I think I probably hated myself. It’s tough to say exactly through the haze of time and change, but that’s likely true on some levels. Ironically, I had volunteered as a peer counselor in high school and had formal training on this kind of thing. I knew the symptoms of depression and resources available better than most but when it came down to it, I couldn’t see through the fog of my own depression and didn’t value my own life enough to cherish it. I vividly recall considering my options on the afternoon of Thursday, October 17th, when I hit rock bottom. I remember eyeing a local police officer and wondering if I could wrestle his gun away for personal use, sifting through toxic chemicals available in the basement to drink in volume, and watching trains roll by on nearby tracks. What if I failed to get the gun or the officer was hurt? What if the chemicals ruined my internal organs but left me alive, or the train crippled but didn’t kill me? No thank you. I share these details to make it clear that contrary to any sensationalized image of an obviously emotional time bomb ticking away its final moments, I was the picture of rationale thought that day, logically weighing exclusively bad options. In the end, it was 64 over the counter sleeping pills for me. I even went to 4 different stores to purchase them without unwanted attention.

Luckily, the human body doesn’t easily tolerate vast amounts of weird chemicals so you’re more likely to get really sick and vomit than anything else with this kind of attempt. One doctor would later tell me that the manufacturers of such pills put a little something nauseous in every pill, but I’ve heard and read conflicting reports since. Regardless, I wrote my suicide notes that Thursday night, overdosed, and went to sleep – hoping it would be forever. I can’t tell you exactly how sick I got that night or how close to serious harm. I only know that I was found in rough shape the next morning and rushed to the hospital.

My sketchy memories start that morning with trying to make the bed, while it and I were covered in vomit, trying fruitlessly to pretend to the caring person who found me that nothing was wrong. My next memories are in the hospital as my family arrived, then being transferred to another hospital by ambulance, meeting with various nurses, and trying to pee in a cup for them so they could determine what exactly was inside me. I even remember that I was such a mess, I tipped over a full cup of urine in my completely disoriented state, much to the dismay of the medical staff. I probably have about 60 seconds of recall scattered across 12 hours that day, before I started to come down from my really bad trip in Malden Hospital’s psychiatric ward. I do remember that as I tried to eat dinner that night, my arms were shaking quite a bit – a lingering side effect of the drugs still in my system. I was in a frightening place, surrounded by strangers, trying to play it cool, and I couldn’t even get food to my mouth. It’s still hard for me to think about to this day, without feeling minor emotional aftershocks.

I spent that weekend getting clean in the hospital, but only because I couldn’t sign myself out as an adult until Monday. I sat in group and individual therapy sessions, spoke superficially about my problems, and faked a desire to get better. That Saturday, a friend I barely knew at the time came and brought me clean underwear. It may seem like a small gesture, but it meant a whole lot to me and we grew much closer that coming year. Only years afterwards, when we had drifted apart like people do, was I able to express my gratitude for his act of kindness. It had sparked a desperately needed bit of gratitude in me and on some level, revealed a glimpse of the fact that people really did care. On Monday morning I signed the appropriate paperwork and wandered out into the next phase of my life, not much better equipped to face my depression than when I had walked in.

24 years later, this is a cry for attention. I know suicide prevention day/week/month is in the rear view mirror, but this is a topic that simply doesn’t ever get enough attention, so yes, I’m crying out. I’m crying for people to open their eyes and hearts to a massive hole in our society that last year reported the highest suicide rate in the US since 1987. Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst 10-24 year olds, accounting for more deaths each year than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, COMBINED. I’m crying for each of us in a position to help, that we would act with compassion, ask the uncomfortable questions, make ourselves available, and refuse to let the stigmas around mental illness and self-harm continue to be perpetuated. I’m crying for those struggling with depression to take one more chance at life and seek help.

Jose poses at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Reaching new heights on Kilimanjaro.

I was reminded on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro of a decision I came to years ago, after breaking free of my own depression. If I want my life to have any one specific impact, it is to share my experiences in ways that would help others live. That those in need would feel just a little less alone and seek help, and that those nearby would be more quick to offer it. Scaling Kili was one of the hardest challenges I have ever undertaken. I keep telling people, it was only about 30% physical and 70% mental. At that altitude, unless you are an elite athlete or you have trained a whole lot, your body simply starts to fail. You can breathe, but you aren’t getting enough oxygen per breath. By summit day, every single member of our team was dealing with multiple symptoms of altitude sickness – shortness of breath, fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea, light headedness, disorientation… you name it. You don’t make it to the top of Uhuru peak at 19,341 feet because you feel great – you make it because you choose to put one foot in front of the other, over and over again. You reach the top of the world because you persevere, even when you don’t want to anymore and feel like you can’t. Eventually, when you get back to normal altitude and you get more oxygen, you can truly appreciate what you’ve accomplished and be thankful. Before getting oxygen and rest however, I described the summit experience in the moment as the most defeated I have ever felt after a victory.

I sure am glad I went up that mountain, and that I came back down. It is not lost on me that mountain climbing is a great metaphor for dealing with adversity and just as we made our last push for the summit of Kilimanjaro during the deepest hours of night from midnight ‘til dawn, so were the worst years of my depression utterly dark. Just like I stumbled up through switchbacks for hours on end a month ago, wanting to quit and doubting I would ever reach the top, the years after my suicide attempt are somewhat of a blur. If you’ve ever been depressed, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, think of all the dreams you quickly forget each morning when you wake up. Try to remember them even 5 minutes after brushing your teeth, let alone years later, and you can’t even be certain the memories are of your own making vs something you may have seen on TV.

After leaving the hospital 24 years ago today, I politely refused medication and therapy. In my mind, if I couldn’t figure out how to survive without help, I shouldn’t live. What a stubborn idiot I was. I’m eternally grateful it all worked out in the end, but it was touch and go for years. If you knew me between 1991 and probably around … 1996, you knew a dead man walking. I was so depressed during that period that I barely recall the early 90s. Months and months of my past are simply lost based on how little I cared at the time. If you did know me back then, you may have caught a glimpse or a steaming heap of that particular symptom – how little I cared, for myself and others. There was a façade that I was trying super hard to make true, so congratulations if that’s what you saw. The truth is I was extremely selfish and made a further high volume of bad decisions during that phase of my life. What I did do however, that worked out in the end, was to choose one thing I hated about myself at a time and work to change it. It didn’t happen overnight and I still make mistakes today, but eventually the scales tipped the other way.

In the beginning, I thought about killing myself multiple times daily. That faded to once daily, then every few days, then weekly, and eventually monthly. It didn’t matter that good things were going on in my life or that I had great people who cared about me. I was secretly struggling with these emotions and at any moment, I could have ended it. One day, years later, I realized months had gone by and I simply didn’t feel that way anymore. I actually recall the occasion. I was on my way to work one morning and saw a small child passed out in the back seat of his mother’s car. Mom was navigating her station wagon around a rotary and this little boy was only loosely strapped into his car seat, such that he was leaned forward unconscious on the back of his mom’s seat. For whatever reason, this blissfully exhausted child mashed up against the driver’s seat at an awkward angle struck me as beautifully funny and I laughed out loud to myself. I realized in that moment that I had fallen back in love with life again. Perhaps not even again, but for the first time in my adult life.

Where am I even going with all of this? I suppose it comes back to a few key concepts:

  1. So many of us struggle with depression and specifically, thoughts of hurting ourselves or even taking our own lives. Even if only through the power of shared experience, you are never, ever alone.
  2. To borrow from other campaigns, it gets better. Or, I should say that it can. Ultimately, it comes down to choice. Depression may be a phase or a life long struggle, but there are choices you can make and steps you can take to make things better.
  3. Don’t ever be ashamed or afraid to ask for, accept, or offer help. Whichever one of those invisible boundaries you break through, it may just be the connection that makes all other things possible.

This whole experience is something I am completely available to talk about. If you feel alone and ever consider harming yourself, I hurt for you. Whether you are facing your own demons or thinking of a friend, please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help in any way. I own no capes and can’t solve your problems, but I can find time to listen really well and offer my own perspective if you think that may help. Whether it’s me, someone else you know, or specifically someone you don’t, seek help. No one should have to face this by themselves. I’m not a professional in this space and contrary to my own journey, I strongly recommend seeking professional help, but we can talk about that and other options you have. That’s the key: you always have options, no matter what it feels like. Speaking of help, if someone makes the offer, they’ve made a choice – they’ve put themselves out there. They care on some level and have broken through at least some levels of discomfort to be there for you. Try not to dismiss these offers off hand, as is so easy to do for various reasons from embarrassment to attempted selflessness. Respect their choice and effort – see where it may lead. I didn’t accept as many offers as I should have and my road was much harder as a result, needlessly, for me and probably others.

I’m lucky enough that after facing this head on for over half a decade in my late teens and early twenties, I was able to pick up the pieces and move on, depression-free since. I’m still a passionate and oft-times fickle person, and I still make plenty of mistakes – just ask my closest friends and family. But for years, I have experienced a love of life and found joy in the little things. I’ve been able to navigate a successful career, build loving relationships with people I care about, enjoy the present deeply, and look forward to so much more in the future. That’s not necessarily possible for everyone who battles depression, but various strategies for balance and opportunities for happiness exist if you choose life.

If you need emergency help, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline @ 1-800-273-8255. If you aren’t in immediate danger and think trading perspectives with me would be of any assistance on your journey, please email me by clicking here.

I know this was a long read and may have been tough in portions. Thank you for taking the time to get all the way through. Thanks as well to my dear friend Randy Pierce, who has been an incredible source of strength and support to me through the years – including the invite for this guest blog post.

Be well,
jose

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10 Oct 15

By Randy Pierce

IRandy presenting’m very appreciative to be providing a second TED talk on Friday, October 9 at TEDx-Springfield. Being invited once was a great honor and this second time was beyond my expectations. As such, I’ve prepared a slightly different topic and in that process wanted to answer a common question: How do I prepare for presentations? My braille use is not strong enough for me to use prepared notes and I’m obviously not able to look at the telestrator. While I could potentially use an ear bud, that adds an array of complications which I choose to avoid. So how do I actually prepare?

First, I develop an outline based on simple bullet points of what I wish to cover. For TEDx-Springfield which has a theme of “A Brand New Day” I  wanted to address what I’ve come to call “Transition Trauma.” This is the notion that when faced with change or challenge it is initially much harder for us to accept or manage than it will typically become after we’ve had time to accept, evaluate, educate and begin moving forward. How long that process takes is significantly influenced by the approach we take. I can make the obvious parallel to that process being the dawn of a new day for us. While I’m including a secondary topic from there involving the concept of “Social Risk Management” for this blog I’ll just address that first piece.

So I have the first bullet point of the title/theme of my talk and that’s a great start. My second goal is to have something which will capture the attention of the audience and hopefully entice them to want to hear a bit more of the process. In this instance, I ask them right away to imagine a somewhat abrupt transition, going blind, and then suggest I believe they got the imagining wrong and I want to show them how/why. So that’s my second bullet point and a pretty easy two step process thus far.

My next step in the process is to write out a sample of the script as I might deliver it. This allows me to choose wording which both feels natural for me and establishes a flow for the presentation. I rarely force myself to memorize this but rather use it to help me feel comfortable with the concept for which I’ll present. I evaluate possible life anecdotes which are worthy of sharing to highlight additional bullet points in the conversation and I do ultimately attempt to memorize the bullet points to help me work through the full presentation. My final step is to practice while being able to flick through bullet points to remind myself along the way. I typically record myself and play back the recording to help me understand the time and feel of my presentation. Several iterations of this practice and I’m usually ready to deliver. On the day of the event I will listen to my written script and bullet points again not for memorization but one last comfort of the process. By way of example I share with you the opening paragraph for my TEDX talk:

“Imagine at this very moment you are suddenly stricken totally blind! What does this mean for your life and your future?

It’s more probable than not that you got that imagining wrong!!

That’s a bold assertion on my part and I’d like to show you why I’ve made it as well as how that reason might enlighten you going forward.”

Hopefully you’ll all have access to that full talk in the very near future. In the meanwhile I thought this an excellent opportunity to share with you my prior TEDX-Amoskeag talk which was released on the web earlier this year.

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