Fighting For Pilots' Mental Health

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

2 Responses

  1. Dear Prozac Pilot. I too surrendered my medical 18 months ago due to a major depression. I was captain on a wide body Boeing, like you, had no choice but to declare myself unfit. I knew that it was going to be a very tough road, both in recovery from depression, and possibly back to work. Sounds like you and I have many things in common. What I can tell you is that when I was first diagnosed, it was devastating. What me! Mister Captain, now way! Yup! yes way! I sat around for about 6 weeks feeling sorry for myself, and then decided to dig in, and dig deep. Through CBT, the books Mind over Mood, and Mindfulness through Depression, I am finally on the back side of things. I was told not to mention the diagnoses t my employer, but being the honest guy that I am, I marched right in, had a meeting with the DFO, CP, asst. Cp, and spilled the entire story, from beginning to end. The response was astounding! The CP confided with the group that his wife was currently fighting depression. The DFO was so supportive! I was told to come and go as I pleased, that they would find me a position of my liking if my medical would not be re-instated, or just stay away till I get better. I actually welled up as I was caught off guard. Here in Canada, we can fly while taking some depression meds, with a few conditions. I am going to request the process to re-gain my medical next week. If it goes, great, if not, oh well we pilots are a resourceful bunch, I'll make it somewhere else. All I can tell you is that with CBT and mindfulness, you'll make it, actually shine. This whole thing has really been a remarkable journey. As silly as it sounds, I'm glad it happened, I have completely transformed myself, evolved if you will. It is the first time in 25 years that I actually like myself! If you need to talk or want some help, please do not hesitate, without the help of others I would still be in the deep precipice of depression. Its not easy, but the payoff is huge. Hang in there.

  2. RT,
    I hope you read this response to your post on my blog. I am grateful you have shared your story with me. It is great to hear from someone else who had the well, courage to to what you did. I hope all is going well for the re-instatement of your medical.

    Keep and eye on the sky!

    Prozac Pilot

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