One of the days I have been counting down since starting this ride has finally arrived. Tonight my daughter Anna flies into Denver to begin riding with me for the next 2500 miles. When I was thinking about this ride and what I wanted to accomplish, one of the things I really wanted to communicate is depression, like every other serious issue, impacts the whole family. Even though my children were young when I went into the hospital, my depression had a very real and negative impact on my whole family. The person most affected was my wife Amy. I wasn’t much of a husband, I was disengaged as a father, and I was unpredictable and unreliable. My children suffered by the fact I would often avoid them, was short and ill-tempered with them, and I wasn’t connected to them in a loving and caring manner. I sure wish I could have that time back, but I can’t.
The symbolic nature of Anna riding this ride is to communicate how important it is for families to deal with depression as a team. I know when I was depressed I was difficult to be around, but I am so thankful my wife stuck it out with me through all of our difficulties. As I started to get better, my family absolutely became my source of comfort and peace. As I regained a more stable mood I began to experience the joys and challenges of being a parent. I started to look forward to the time we had to spend together; the camping trips, the coaching of soccer, hockey, and softball games, the reading stories at bedtime, the listening to my kids’ struggles and fears, as well as hopes and dreams. The whole experience has been unbelievable since overcoming my depression. If I didn’t have my family, I wouldn’t be in the good place I am today.
So let me paint a picture for you of what Anna is doing in the name of family and beating depression. Anna is 14 and will turn 15 while we are on the road. Anna plays softball and swims for her high school in Minneapolis. Anna is active in our church and sings in the church choir, not to mention she is an unbelievable student. But beyond and way more important than any of this, Anna is remarkably kind, thoughtful, motivated, and conscientious person.
How many 14 year old kids do you know who would give up their friends, their favorite summer activities, and their time to join their dad for the unknowns of a summer long bike ride? I would venture to say there aren’t many. Anna knows if I were still suffering from depression our family would look a whole lot different. Who knows maybe Amy and I aren’t married or maybe I am not involved in the kids’ lives. Anna wants other dads to know just how important they are to their kids and how important it is for them to get help for their depression. Pretty admirable in my opinion! So to my wonderful daughter Anna, I offer up these 3 simple words to express my gratitude, I love you!