Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

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!
Prozac Pilot

2 Responses

  1. I hope you stick with your new multi-tactic strategy for working through depression!

    While I don't agree with the opinions of the people you described who scoff at anti-depressants or recommend going off them cold turkey, I also can't honestly say I approve of how they're distributed today.

    I've been struggling with a serious chronic illness for almost four years now. In the early stages, when I was going from doctor to doctor to specialist to specialist trying to figure out what was wrong with me, I had three separate doctors spend five minutes in an exam room with me and try to write me out a prescription for antidepressants and tell me it was all in my head (I refused to take them. I knew I wasn't imagining it.).

    As it worked out, my condition quickly deteriorated and just before I completely lost all control of my body I was eventually diagnosed and given the right treatment.

    But it still outrages me that these doctors would prescribe such powerful drugs rather than admit that they didn't know what was wrong with me, and that I might be crying over a SPECIFIC problem that needed a solution.

    And even if I WAS depressed and just craving attention, I think it's horrendously irresponsible that they would put me on pills without setting me up with counseling appointments and recommending small changes to my daily life which might dramatically improve my condition.

    I rarely watch TV, but almost everytime I do I see commercials for antidepressants, which I think it a little wacky. I can't help but feel that a lot of people who are on antidepressants (no claims that I can tell who is who) might be better off seeing a counselor and a nutritionist than popping a pill (especially given the side effects they spout on the commercials!).

    Though I'm 95% recovered from my disease, on my bad days I still struggle with despair (that I'll never get better) and depression (that I'll never be able to live my dreams). For a while, I was at least close to the brink of committing suicide (I thought my friends and family would be better off if I died, that they could grieve and move forward instead of spending their lives worrying about and caring for me).

    My ways of coping:

    -When I eat well, I have more energy to do more fun and fulfilling things. And, eating well is more fun and exciting than eating junk out of a box. I love trying new ethnic foods and exploring farmers markets and meeting people. And fresh produce is just beautifully colorful! Cooking a healthy meal is making a work of art.

    -Exercise falls in the same gives me energy category. And running a marathon in May felt like I was saying to the world you can kick me but you can't keep me down! And there are so many fun things to do that are exercise — hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, kayaking, skating, biking, dancing.

    -Keeping a hotline number on the fridge so it's there if I need it and get close to the brink again (probably won't since I'll be 100% better, soon!)

    -Constantly remembering everything I have to be grateful for, and frequently doing things that I can be proud of, that make me feel like I'm a positive influence in this world (hanging out with my little brother or my grandparents, doing something special for my husband, friends or coworkers, volunteering, etc.).

    -Dreaming (looking to the future — planning trips, having kids, etc.) and escapism (books and movies with HAPPY ENDINGS!)

    Good luck!!

  2. PS. So far as aviation topics… I don't know if this counts, but I'd be curious to know what planes you've flown, what your favorites were, and what you'd like to fly someday!

    I'm taking lessons in an Archer right now, but I'm looking forward to transitioning to a light sport Zodiac when I get closer to soloing – it sounds like it might be even more fun 🙂

Leave a Reply

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