Following The Big Swim

There are several options for following along as we make our little journey across the lake.

1) Facebook: The primary way we’ll be sending info and keeping the world updated as we go.
2) SPOT Connect: This page will show a map that actually tracks our location while we swim.

Thanks for all our support and kind words. We will post updates to this blog when we return home after the swim.

S.O.S. / Save Our Swim!

We have faced many challenges on this journey. Some have challenged us physically. Some have challenged us mentally. Some have challenged our marriage. Some have challenged our will and determination. With hard work, strong focus and the support of our friends, family and community, we have made it through. And with one week until we depart for Wisconsin for our swim, we are faced with yet another challenge.

As of this morning, our boats and boat captains, from the Ludington Yacht Club, have backed out of our adventure for personal reasons. This means we now have NO escort boats to help us get across the lake.

So, we are in desperate need of at least one boat, 35+ feet or longer (sail or power) to guide us across the lake or our swim will be cancelled. If anyone has any contacts, please contact us directly as soon as possible as our leave date for Wisconsin is still August 12th.

Please email teamtow@throughtheblue.org or call 616-951-4882.

Hitting a wall.

“Be a part of something bigger than yourself.”

This has been the way I have approached life. When I came up with the idea to swim across Lake Michigan almost a year ago, the sole purpose was to bring attention to an illness I knew little about at the time that I suffered from it. Fortunately or unfortunately, sometimes something big has to be done to get people to really understand or at least pay attention. Mental illness is difficult to understand. I still don’t understand it fully and I suffered from it.

As a secondary “bonus” to doing the swim, Jeff and I felt that it would be something that would bring us closer together. To do something that would challenge our minds and bodies. We knew that it would be an uphill climb. Especially with trying to balance our home and business lives, but we were up for the feat. Like I said, I tried to live life bigger than myself. But…

This week we hit the wall… literally. Our rigorous training schedule with trying to balance business and family life was just too much. Jeff and I realized we were looking into the face of a stranger each day. We had lost touch and our relationship was suffering. Jeff is one of the most loving, optimistic, funny, people that I know. You rarely see him in a bad mood. When I’m down, he always seems to be up, which really helps when you are having a bad day. This week I lost my fun loving husband and I was too caught up with my own issues and stress to notice. Jeff’s words that he felt we were living a lie by giving the impression to those supporting us that our relationship had come full circle, and that we were stronger than when we started this journey, when we were really worse off… cut me like a knife.

But I soon realized, coming full circle is exactly what we had done. Our relationship was suffering as much as it was right after the children were born; without the realization that it was happening. Did we really not learn a thing? This monumental task had challenged our relationship on every level. The only difference was that this time we were asking for help and people have been there for us beyond our wildest imaginations.

We spent some time talking yesterday with little resolution and today we were on schedule to do a 22 mile swim. Last night I had a sleepless night with tremendous anxiety that was affecting me physically and mentally. In the morning, I was not in the right place to complete a 13+ hour swim, but I knew I had to do it. We started the swim like we usually do. The lake was relatively calm, but shortly into the swim, the wind picked up and the waves increased. My stomach issues would not subside and we started to talk. We walked in the waves and talked and talked and talked. It was the first time we had connected in a long time and we realized we were doing exactly what we were supposed to do.

Based on our planned schedule, we did not have the perfect swim, we physically did not meet the challenge before us, but this whole journey is nothing without our marriage intact. We feel stronger physically and mentally today than we ever have. We feel re-energized and with our huge to do list and swim before us, we know we will be successful.

In what way, we have yet to find out, but I think the best is yet to come.

Support

11 years ago we started our journey as parents, and it was difficult transition for us both.

11 months ago, we embarked on another journey. The transition was also difficult, but this time we got the help we needed and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves along the way.

When you swim for extended periods of time, you have a lot of time to think. It’s an active meditation where the constant turning of the arms, kicking of the legs and sounds of the water rushing past become steady like the beating of your heart. Sometimes they are all very loud and in focus, while other times auto pilot is on and the mind and body seem to be two separate entities.

Sometimes, I think of nothing. My mind is blank. I’m looking at the water and watching my arms enter in front of me… the air bubbles rising as my hands pierce the surface. I enjoy these times as I’m fully present to my activity. I’m in the moment.

And, at times, it’s been a soul searching event. Answering the questions that live in my brain – contemplating with myself. It’s been some of these moments that have led me to realize how full circle we’ve come in the process.

When our kids were born, we didn’t ask for support. We did what most parents do, suffer silently as we imagined that this must be the “new normal.” But, this swim – this journey – has made us rethink what it means to get help.

While we’ll be in the water churning away, that is only a portion of what it takes to cross the lake. We need the physical and mental ability to make the crossing as it’s a difficult event, at best. But, it’s not as simple as jumping in the water and starting to swim.

Reaching out to our family, friends, and our community was (and is) a critical part of the process. This has been healing for us both as we’ve learned that it’s usually as simple as just asking for help when you need it. And people are very willing to be a part of that support group.

To make this trip we needed a strong team of people. We reached out and we now have 18 people who have stepped forward to be on the crew for the swim. They will be on duty from before we begin until after we get to shore in Ludington. They are taking time out of their busy lives to give their time and energy to us. This group includes some of our closest friends, medical professionals, and more. All convening together for about 5 days to keep us safe.

This amazing crew also needed boats to be on. The Ludington Yacht Club in Ludington, Michigan stepped up and are providing four large sailboats to guide us safely across the lake and keep our crew safe. They are providing their own crew members, paying for their own gas, and giving their valuable time to us and our crew.

Lake is Good is making sure our crew has the protection they need from the sun and wind with sweet long sleeve t-shirts to protect our valuable team members as they cross the lake.

Just as the boats need gas, so do we. Well, not ‘gas’ as many of you may be thinking… but fuel/food/drink to survive the journey. Shaklee has been with us from day 1 providing incredible nutrition products that give us the strength we need to make the swim. They have been more than generous in getting us what we need.

And you can’t swim safely in the potentially frigid waters without a wetsuit. Aquaman has provided us incredible protection from the elements with top of the line wetsuits. Our training in 54° water would have been limited and difficult without them and the suits will keep us protected during the event in August.

Hand in hand with the wetsuits are goggles and caps. Barracuda stepped up and provided those for us. And, let me tell you… if you swim for 10 or 11 hours and your goggles don’t leak, you stay with those goggles. We tested many brands prior to our major swims and none held up like the Barracudas.

Cold water exposure for extended periods of time also can take a toll on your ears. Hearing Resources provided us with custom ear plugs. Wow. You would have that we had opened a treasure chest and found gold – these things are amazing.

It’s also important to know where you’re going when swimming… and Garmin and Gazelle Sports provided us with the best triathlon watches on the market. The Garmin watches track all of our progress and make our training as effective as possible.

And, The SS Badger out of Ludington will transport our entire crew on a one-way trip across the lake. Sure beats swimming a round trip… we’ll be fresh and ready to go after that restful trip.

Being covered for the swimming itself is important, but all that swimming takes a toll on you mind and body. Scott Hadley of Hadley Clinic stepped up and offered to treat and monitor our physical condition throughout the training as well as on board during the swim. And, April Hadley of the Grand Rapids Center for Mindfulness has worked with us to practice mindfulness and meditation to combat the long hours in the water.

We’re also thankful to Pine Rest for their generous donation that will help cover a significant portion of our other expenses on the trip.

Other people have donated their time, money and valuable expertise and we are truly grateful, thankful, and humbled by it all.

In some ways, coordinating this swim is very difficult, but when it came to the key needs, it was as simple as asking for help

And, because of the generosity of a community, this swim is possible. We’ll step into the water in Wisconsin in less than 4 weeks, but we’re not in there alone. Our team will make the crossing. Our team will be there for each other. Our team will make sure we’re all safe.

The hard work and generosity of the people who have committed to us and raising awareness of PPD is what makes this event a success.

How do we define success on this journey? As far as I’m concerned, we’ve already succeed beyond our wildest expectations. The swim is just the icing on the cake.

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Pine Rest | New Sponsor

Pine RestWe are honored to have Pine Rest as a Deep Water Sponsor for Through The Blue. Pine Rest is excited to announce the start of a new Mother-Baby Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP). They anticipate opening the program in October of 2012.

Pine Rest currently treats women with postpartum depression (PPD) and perinatal mood disorders (PMD) in the hospital, Adult Partial Program and in our many outpatient clinics. Yet the research indicates that better outcomes are achieved when the patient can bring her newborn with her during treatment so that mother-baby bonding can continue.

The development of this program began over three years ago and included contributions by many of our colleagues, care providers and community organizations. In addition, they have collaborated with existing mother/baby programs throughout the country.

All of the information and research identified a gap in care in this region. This led to the decision by Pine Rest to develop this needed program for women with PMD and their families.

The Pine Rest program will be the third of its kind nationally.

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First Lake Michigan Training Swim

Saturday was quite the experience. We learned a lot and are getting both mentally and physically stronger each time we jump in the open water.

Waves started out around 2 feet, but rose to 3-4 feet at times as we swam parallel to the shore. We were getting pummeled from the side as we swam. Sometimes we’d find ourselves almost at the shore. Other times, we’d be on our way out to sea (in a matter of moments).

After a mile or two, massive nausea kicked in and we were both pretty green. Somewhere in that 3rd mile much of the nutrition we drank came right back out. But, we kept going. We forced down more food and swam more. For the entire swim, heading south was like swimming on a treadmill. Stroke after stroke with no forward movement.

High winds continued all day. Water temp was 54° when we got in and warmed up a a few degrees over the duration. We handled the cold well. No hypothermia on this journey.

We have some adjustments to make – primarily in feeding prior – due to the extended length of these swims. Also, need to examine some anti-nausea pills and see what might assist without knocking us out.

We’re pleased with the results of the day, despite the difficulty. The next few swims will be in inland lakes, then back on the big lake for a series of 3: 16, 9, 18.

Thanks for the support everyone! We appreciate it.

WJRW (1340AM) Interview / Tuesday June 5, 2012

Thanks to Dave Jaconette at WJRW in Grand Rapids, Michigan for having us in studio today to talk about the our quest to raise awareness of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders.