The Demons Inside Us

My brother sent me a link to an interesting article recently, Record-Setting 70-Year-Old Marathon Champ Disqualified For Cheating. As a long-time runner myself, I wasn’t surprised. In a world with doctored baseballs and underinflated footballs, there is no reason why this sport should be immune to seeking an edge illegally. Marathon-running is now a high-profile Olympic sport with prize money and sponsorships for the top runners. And the personal rewards can be substantial too.

What did surprise me was the follow-on article, 70-Year-Old Disqualified Marathon Runner Found Dead In The L.A. River. What was going on here?

Of course, I have no way of knowing what exactly happened. But assuming this is a suicide (at this point an admittedly large assumption), I immediately thought back to an event in my life.

In the mid-1980s I was in the Air Force, stationed in Southern California, and had some time on my hands, so I volunteered for Big Brothers. I went through a thorough screening process which included a psychological test. One of the test’s conclusions was I showed symptoms of depression and should seek help. My reaction? “No big, that’s just my personality.”

The results did get my attention — After some reflection, I became more conscious of my moods and did join a support group for a year sometime later. Maybe there was something to that test after all.

My point is these mental conditions can be insidious. Without an objective basis of comparison, it’s difficult to judge normality. Is it you, or does that weird friend really have an issue? What does normal look like, anyway?

All around us are signs that we need to think long and hard about the mental aspects of health — from high suicide rates to mass shootings to child/spouse/elder abuse. I certainly don’t have the answers, but the first step is to ask the question. What are we going to do?

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