Lakeville man ‘pedaling’ his story of mental illness

Courtesy, Tom’s Big Ride

Tom Mork has a story to tell, one that’s replete with ignorance, despair, bewilderment, humor and, he says, hope.

He’ll tell it while riding his bike 2,320 miles.

This week, Mork, of Lakeville, started riding a bike from New Orleans back to Minnesota, to tell the story of raising a daughter who is bipolar. Along the way, he’s stopping to talk to parents in the hope they won’t make the same mistakes he made, he says.

So far, he’s reached Baton Rouge, La., a rest day on the schedule. So he talked to the local Rotary Club and writes on his blog that he found people more than willing to share stories in return.

Like the young man who told me how his ADD condition as a youngster made life so difficult for him that, in his words, he would have rather died of a heart attack because at least people then would have understood that he had an illness.

Or the woman who told me how she has battled…successfully…clinical depression for 18+ years through medication and therapy. Standing next to us was the club president, a man who presumably had known her for a long time, and he had never heard her say anything about her struggles. She has dealt with her mental illness and it has not defined her!!

Or the two people who openly talked about mental illness in their families…one with tears in her eyes because it was her child who she has watched suffer for so many years.

Or the club member who heard me talk about my reliance on alcohol as medication during the “lost years” of a few years ago and proudly told me that he has now been sober for over five years! Each of us sat at a different table, and each of us heard more stories that I don’t have time or space to share here.

I had the good fortune of meeting Rob Treppendahl, who four years ago paddled his kayak from the headwaters of the Mississippi River downstream to New Orleans to raise money and awareness of the plight of the homeless …many of whom, as we know, suffer severe mental illness that leads to their homelessness.

Rob told me that they’re doing a documentary about their adventure, and referred me to his website: I’m definitely going to check it out.

He says tomorrow he’ll begin the longest part of the ride — 511 miles over the next six days.