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The Overnight Walk to Prevent Suicide 2019

I’ve attempted suicide twice — once a short time after I was disowned by my mother for being gay, and again after a bad break-up with my first real boyfriend. Both times, I felt completely unmoored after severing fundamental relationships that also disconnected the fragile support networks that came with them. There was no one I could tell about the persistent, gnawing pain that hollowed me out until there was only numbness, which felt even worse.

It got to the point where I didn’t just want to feel nothing; I didn’t even want to be aware of feeling. There was no way to step outside of myself, no way to know that I could eventually feel different. There was only the awful, disintegrating pain and the cold fog beyond it. Oblivion had to be better.

It took a long time to put my life back together again. While I still have a brain that I struggle against constantly, I also have a loving husband, an incredible community of friends, and the great fortune of health insurance that covers mental health services. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful every day for these blessings and the sense of perspective they’ve given me.

But there are so many people like me who aren’t as lucky. People of color have to navigate a hostile country that looks at them with disdain and suspicion. People with mental illnesses have to bear the torture of misfiring synapses with no idea what’s happening — much less how to manage it. LGQBT people of color not only have to deal with the isolation that comes with their race; they also have to face isolation from their communities because of their sexual preference or gender presentation.

Every year over 45,000 Americans commit suicide. Most of them are men, and LGQBT youth are at a much heightened risk. Without access to mental health services or an understanding support network, they’re as disconnected as I felt at my lowest points. Even though I’m doing so much better than I was, I can’t forget about the people who are trapped in cities like Baltimore or small towns like Fayetteville, AR without any tools to cope with their situations. There are so many people out there who wrestle with the idea that oblivion might be better.

That’s why I’ll be participating in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk to Stop Suicide in San Francisco on June 8th, 2019. Hundreds of us will be walking across San Francisco that night to raise awareness and money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an organization that educates the public and medical professionals about mood disorders and suicide prevention. Their work is extremely important, offering a way to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues and showing both therapists and patients how to connect in ways that help those suffering feel less alone.

I know there are a lot of causes passing the hat around these days, for issues as huge as climate change or as personal as helping someone pay for their medical costs. But if you have any funds to spare for a worthy endeavor, please consider this one. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has an 89% rating from Charity Navigator, so this isn’t an outfit that squanders the good will of the people who donate. If you would like to give what you can, please visit my walker’s page here:

https://www.theovernight.org/participant/David-Cowan

Thank you all so much for helping out and spreading the word. I appreciate all of you!

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2019 in mental-health, Self-Reflection

 

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(Fundraising) Foxtrotting for Parkinson’s

Self Improvement 150Parkinson’s Disease sucks. There’s just no escaping it. Like most neurodegenerative diseases, it can strike anyone as they age and there is no cure for it — just treatments that can help alleviate symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. While researchers have noticed a few differences in the brain scans of Parkinson’s patients, exactly what’s happening to cause the disease and why it happens is largely a mystery. The puzzling affliction gradually degrades the neurons responsible for movement in about five million people worldwide, and there will be 60,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States alone. As the population ages, it’s possible we’ll see that number rise year over year.

I know that 2018 has been…a lot. As a society we have lurched from disaster to disaster, leaving a huge trail of needy people in our wake. It seems like every day there’s a new Gofundme so someone can pay for much-needed medicine, or a Kickstarter for a passion project someone wants to get off the ground. There are Patreons popping up all the time, regular calls to donate to a political organization or candidate, the steady need of relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders or UNICEF. Over the holidays (and this close to the US midterm elections), that din is going to rise to a fever pitch. So many of us are barely able to keep up with our own finances. I try not to ask for donations unless it’s a cause I believe in because I know how much we’re being asked to support our communities. But I’m going to ask for donations now; help me raise money for the Bay Area Foxtrot for Parkinson’s Disease.

In the early morning on October 14th, I’ll be shivering at Coyote Point Park in San Mateo with a host of other folks for a 5K walk/run. Thankfully a whole lot of my coworkers will have my back; as a company, we’re hoping to raise $1,500 this year. My personal goal is a mere $100 — but it’s cool knowing that every cent will be going towards funding better treatments and research for a cure to Parkinson’s. The Michael J. Fox Foundation has done some pretty amazing work, and my company has been doing its part to advance research and awareness of this disease.

The Foundation has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into research for restoring some function to the neurons that have been damaged by Parkinson’s; research for definitive biomarkers that will allow doctors to detect the disease with greater speed and accuracy; finding better treatments for symptoms suffered by patients; and organizing tools that help coordinate the efforts of the scientific community. This has translated to a deeper understanding of how Parkinson’s develops, developing new treatments to improve quality of life for patients, and making the R&D process way more efficient. But there’s still a lot to do, and that’s where we come in.

I get to run a 5K with my coworkers, and you can cheer me on by donating here: https://foxtrot.michaeljfox.org/bayarea/davcowan. Any little bit you can spare will help my team reach our fundraising goal and help the Foundation push that much harder for research, treatment, and eventually a cure. If you can’t donate right now, I totally understand. You can still help! Spread the word, point others to my fundraiser page, and if you’re local — come out to Coyote Point Park and join us for the Foxtrot!

At any rate, thanks a whole lot for anything you can do. Even if you’re not donating to this particular cause, anything you’re doing to make the world a better place is appreciated — from helping a friend in need to donating your time, money or passion to another cause that helps to ease the suffering in the world. Do what you can; even a drop in the ocean contributes to the power of the waves that comes to shore.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in Buddhism

 

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Clarion Write-A-Thon 2015: Why Am I Doing This, Anyway?

Writing 150The sixth annual Clarion Write-A-Thon is underway! I’ve already explained just what the heck the Write-A-Thon is in Friday’s entry, so I thought I would take a little bit of time to explain just why I’m doing this anyway.

I’m not a rabbit who likes to pass the hat around and ask for things. I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the long weekends I’ve spent trying to get people to read our literature and sign up for bible studies really ground whatever fundraising drive I’ve had out of me. Asking friends, acquaintances and strangers for money is one of my least-favorite things, so I wouldn’t do it for just any old thing.

FUNDRAISING
The Clarion Workshop is an amazing experience; when Ryan went last year I got to hang out with the class of 2014 for a night, and they’re an amazing group of people. They came from all over the world to spend six weeks with each other and their instructors, and most of them weren’t well off enough that leaving their day jobs for six weeks and sinking thousands of dollars into a workshop didn’t come with a tremendous amount of sacrifice. But they believed in their writing enough to make it.

There are scholarships, of course, but in order to offer them Clarion has to rely on donations from folks who want to support it. The Write-A-Thon is a great way to do that — it provides writers who hope to one day get into the workshop (this guy!) with an incentive to push themselves towards a lofty goal for a good cause. It brings visibility to the work that’s being done there, and allows me to help in some small way by drawing donations to their scholarship and teacher’s fees.

I’m hoping that I can raise $500 this year for the Workshop. The top fundraisers will have a work of theirs critiqued by either a teacher (top three) or alumnus (top ten). It would mean an enormous amount to, say, have the story I’m writing for Defying Apocalypse critiqued before I sent it off. A donation from you, dear reader, could help make that happen!

WRITING
The big thing about the Write-A-Thon is the opportunity to write. There are so many things going on in all of our lives, and sometimes the demands of the day make it impossible for us to follow things that we want to do. When you have to work and run errands and be with the people you love and wash the dishes and do the laundry and cook dinner, it’s so easy for something as nebulous as writing to fall by the wayside.

For the next six weeks, I want to remove the distractions and excuses from my life. I want to dedicate myself to my writing the way the 2015 class at Clarion have done — well, almost. This is my chance to get just a taste of what it is to be a Clarionaut, to put myself into a pressure cooker and produce. In order to keep up with my word count, there isn’t much chance for me to second guess myself, give in to doubt or fatigue. If I’m going to be a writer, I’m going to need to write. Every day. A lot.

And unlike other events like NaNoWriMo (not to knock that fine, fine crucible) I get to do this for a cause I believe in. It also pretty much forces me to talk about myself, which is something that I don’t like to do for a number of different reasons. Part of being a successful writer is self-promotion, in its way. I prefer to think that you’re so excited about the stories you’re telling that you can’t help but talk about them. I’m hoping that this immersive experience will re-awaken that passion within me, that I’ll be so excited about my stories it will overcome my natural aversion to talking about them — and by extension, myself.

So, in summary — this is a cause I really believe in. An international group of students who might not be able to afford to have this experience might just get to go because of the money we raise here. I get to immerse myself in the writer’s life for six weeks, clearing aside all distractions and personal hang-ups to push forward, engage with my creativity and be an advocate for not only my own work but this awesome workshop. That’s why I’m doing the Clarion Write-A-Thon this year, and that’s why I’ll be asking all of you to make a donation through my writer’s page.

If you’re interested in helping me out, go here: http://clarionwriteathon.org/members/profile.php?writerid=599479

I’ll be sure to post updates on my projects here on the blog and on my writer’s profile!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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