Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cameron Gallagher

Only sixteen, doing her best to beat childhood depression, this beautiful young woman lost her life last March running a marathon. She fell into the arms of her parents at the end of the race. Cardiac arrest, cause undetermined.
Cameron Gallagher in a photo taken by her dad at the race.

This is a kid who posted notes all over her house, uplifting quotes that lifted her spirits. Affirmations, we call them.

She believed in getting better and intended to promote awareness, to destigmatize childhood depression, help other young people get help. Like she did.

In her room, a few days following the tragedy, her parents found a marketing proposal. Cameron had been enlisting sponsors for SpeakUp 5K, a community footrace dedicated to raising that awareness about childhood depression.

She had already invited her psychiatrist to speak at the event. She solicited local business sponsors, including the hospital that contributed to her wellness. She landed a national sponsor, sweetFrog yogurt. Nothing short of amazing, a campaign like that, from someone so young, someone who probably had many thoughts of suicide throughout her short life, who had surely spent many, many hours struggling to get out of bed in the morning, and missed school, that formal education, often. Concentration, if she made it to school, had to be difficult. Cameron probably had an endogenous depression, from the sound of it, nothing to do with life's little and big ups and downs. No reason to be sad, but always sad.

We often tell people who suffer from depression, no matter their age,to exercise at least a little, because it raises endorphin levels. All that oxygen helps, if temporarily, and toning the body feels good. Cameron listened to her doctors, or maybe she was a natural athlete. She swam every morning, even in the winter, when her depression was at its worst, early, about the time the sun rises, when the rest of us are only beginning to seize the day. And she didn't have the kind of disease that inspires that sort of thing.

She suffered lethargy, fatigue. Once I treated a teenager who could sleep 23 hours of those 24 (before her hospitalization). Her parents forced her awake to eat something, then she slept another 23 hours. That's how bad the disease can be. Still, this kid got into her swim suit and forged her way into the water.

And she trained for the Virginia Beach half-marathon in March.. That was the race that stressed her heart, that killed her, maybe from medical complications, from the treatment that had helped her get well.

I'm so sorry for her family. Her father, Dave, wrote a beautiful tribute, worth a look. It is about faith, but what speaks to me is that this kid really worked to stay alive. She constantly spoke to her disease, shouted it down. She had no intention of letting depression get the best of her.

Her psychiatrist must be devastated, and her friends, heart-broken.

Her mom, speechless.

Thousands attended that funeral, and thousands send mail, are running races, all to make it happen, wake us up about mental illness, that it is all around us. Just Friday night a young adult, 22, Elliot Robertson Roger, suffering from mental illness, (he claimed he suffered depression but it seems he had an antisocial or narcissistic personality disorder), killed six people, wounded 13.

"Tomorrow is the day of retribution. The day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you," he said.
"For the past eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I've been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me."
Women rejected him. Blonds were his particular target for retribution. He tells his story on YouTube, and now, on every television news station, he has achieved fame.

If you want to support Cameron's last project, take a look at the SpeakUp 5K website. The race is actually going to happen on May 31, Brown's Island in Richmond Virginia.



Essie said...

Lately we've been inundated with cheery instructions on how to feel better, how to be happy, how to take control of your destiny, etc.

My family has four generations of mood disorders, yet people deny the biological and genetic origins of depression.

I'm tired of "What do you have to be sad about?" question.

I'm posting a link to this. Thanks.

P said...

I'm a runner, finishing 30+ races over the last 4 years. Stories like this are so touching because I get it. If I didn't run, I probably wouldn't be here today. My depression and anxiety would keep me tucked away. Instead of spending hours & hours in bed, I spend hours every week training for races. It's my reason to get up and my reason to keep going.

Anonymous said...

Today Cameron's parents ran a race - half marathons - in honor of their daughter and her fight against childhood depression.

I hope it isn't a disservice to anyone to say the following: her depression may well have been linked to her heart condition.

In young and apparently healthy children and adolescents, there are a number of cardiac anomalies (usually anatomical but sometimes metabolic/chemical) linked to depression.

It is possible that it was responsible for her struggles all along.
Children with depression need medical evaluation and cardiac issues need to be considered.