Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 14 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Stacking them up

Things continue to go well here. I'm feeling well. I'm back to running. I'm working at least 3 days per week, and I'm staying on top of my bills, errands and chores. It's the simple things. When the simple things in life are actually simple I know I'm doing well. I'm stacking one good day on top of another. That may be boring for you to read, but it sure is cool to be experiencing it.

Today I had a very good run. It wasn't an easy run, but I'm so satisfied with accomplishing what I set out to do. I set out to run at least 10 miles. I know that may have been a foolish goal, as I haven't run that far in several weeks, but sometimes I'm foolish. What can I say?

It was crisp and clear when Jet and I set out this morning. Having run 7 miles without walk breaks a few days ago, I hoped to run at least that far before taking a short walk break today. In the beginning my legs were tired. My left knee was a little sore. My right achilles was a little tight. I was worried I had set my sights too high. Those aches and worries made for a challenging first few miles, but I persevered. I battled my brain and my fatigue, and things improved. I ran right through my 7 mile walk break. In fact, I ran right through my 10 mile goal. I finished one hour and forty five minutes after I started, and I ran a total of 11.5 miles. No walk breaks. I was smiling a very big smile when I arrived home.

I enjoy challenging myself. I seem to thrive when I have a goal for which to shoot. That's one of the reasons I run marathons. Aiming my running toward that long term goal gives me motivation and direction. And I need direction. Growing up as an athlete my workouts and practices were always geared toward a future goal. I doubt I will ever be someone who exercises just for the heck of it. There's nothing wrong with exercising for exercise sake, but I think I'd lose interest pretty quickly. I need a goal.

Today I set and met my goal. That felt good. The goal kept me going. I'm so glad to back running. Life is good. My goal tonight is to continue stacking one good day upon another. I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Little Celebration

I've had an interesting day today. It's my day off, and I had lots of errands and chores to cross off my list. I got up around 6:30 AM with great intentions but immediately knew I was in for a slow start. I just couldn't wake up. I tried. I ate breakfast and had two cups of coffee, but by 8:00 AM I was sleeping once again. I slept from 8-9 and then got up but couldn't wake up. I laid back down. I slept again from 9-10 and 10-11. Each time I got up I was overwhelmed with somnolence. At 11:00 I got dressed in my running clothes for my now long overdue trip to the gym. Getting dressed didn't help. I didn't get out of my house until 1:00 PM! It was a bit ridiculous. Apparently my body needed rest today. I guess I should be glad I had the time to give it.

Despite the slow start, today has been a good day. I'm having a little celebration right now. I just returned from my first run in 2 weeks. I got on the treadmill at the gym with great trepidation, walked for five minutes, and then set the pace for 9:00 minutes per mile. That first mile was pretty tough. Everything hurt. I think I was so nervous about my right calf seizing up that I was altering my gait and causing other areas, like my left knee, to get sore. By mile two I had relaxed a bit and was able to run without pain. I completed 3 one mile segments with one minute walk breaks between each mile. I ran and walked for 40 minutes total. I'm happy to report I'm pleasantly tired and still pain free right now.

I'm feeling happy and hopeful. I'm hopeful I can get back on my training schedule, get back into regular running shape and start racing again. I've got Grandmas Marathon penciled in for mid-June. If I don't get back to training soon, I won't have enough time to prepare. I love Grandmas. I want to run it. Yet I'm going to try my best to take things slow, give my body a chance to adjust to training again, and hopefully continue to run injury free. Patience is not one of my best qualities, but I'm going to do my best.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sidelined

I got some great news this week. My boyfriend, D, and I are going to New York to run the New York City Marathon on November 1st. We're thrilled to be going. I'm especially excited. Some of you who've been around awhile may remember I was in New York to run in 2012. That was the year the marathon was cancelled as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In 2013, another entry fee ($266.00) and plane ticket were lost when I couldn't run because of my illness. I believe I was in the hospital on the day of the marathon. So this hopefully will be the year I finally get to compete in New York. To share the experience with D is just icing on the cake.

That was the good news. Now the bad news. I am still sidelined with my right calf injury. I have not been able to run for 10 days. I'm going a little crazy. I want to run so badly. I am particularly frustrated because this injury occurred just as I was getting back into running shape after my three month layoff. The day I injured it I was able to run 6 miles at a good pace without walk breaks. That was the culmination of several weeks of hard work. Now I feel the conditioning leaving my body as I try valiantly to maintain by walking, biking, circuit training, and even swimming! But nothing trains the body to run like running, so I'm frustrated to be sidelined again. My running shoes are calling!

As a result of not being able to run I'm monitoring my mood closely. I felt it slipping just a bit earlier this week, but a couple of hard workouts on my bike seemed to help. I'm also monitoring my mood because my doctor agreed, at my request, to lower one of my medications this week. It's a med that augments my primary antidepressant. But this particular medication seems to be interfering with my attempt at weight loss, and since I've been feeling well we negotiated a lower dose.

I wanted to discontinue the medication completely, but my psychiatrist wants me to be further removed from my recent relapse before we think about that. She is concerned about my mood faltering. I promised I would tell her immediately if I felt that happening. I appreciate that she trusts me and allowed me to lower the dose despite her concerns. I certainly don't want to slide backwards, so I'm paying close attention to my mood. And I will increase the med again if the need arises. I'm feeling pretty confident, which might be silly with this unpredictable illness, but I'm feeling hopeful nonetheless.

And that's the news. Despite my injury, life is good. I've got nothing to complain about really. The injury will heal, and I'll be back on the road soon. I'm a lucky woman. Forward, with gratitude, is the only way to go. Carry on, friends.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Another injury

It's been a little while since my last post. Chalk it up to more pleasantly boring living. Well that's not entirely true. While I've been feeling emotionally well, my physical body began a bit of a revolt this week. After five runs last week, four of them very encouraging, I was having another really good six mile run on Tuesday. At mile four, my right soleus muscle (the lower part of the calf) tied up in a knot. Of course I failed to heed the warning, choosing instead to continue running, and made what may have been a slight injury into a major one. I completed my six miles, but I could barely walk the next day. I haven't been able to run since. So much for pleasantly boring.

Being injured is tough on my psyche. I spent a couple of days wallowing in chocolate and cookies. That turns out to be a pretty ineffective strategy for dealing with anything when trying to lose weight. And if I don't lose the extra pounds I gained after my hip surgery my running will suffer. I believe it's called self sabotage. I sabotaged my weight loss with chocolate and cookies which ends up sabotaging my running. And it all started because I felt like a slug when I wasn't able to run. Does that make any sense? It doesn't to me, but it's not the first time I've self sabotaged. I don't quite understand what's behind it, but I'm glad I'm aware of it. It means I can work to change the pattern.

I'm back on the horse today. I'm changing the pattern. I went grocery shopping last night and filled my house with good, healthy food. And rather than fretting about not being able to run, I got my bike out of the closet this morning. I rode hard for almost 22 miles. An hour and seventeen minutes of oxygen sucking, heart pounding hard work was just what I needed. I feel much better now. Perhaps pleasantly boring is on its way back into my life. I'll take it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Springing Ahead

I don't know about you, but I hate losing an hour of sleep "springing ahead" every Spring. I feel like it takes me until Fall to adapt to that lost hour. It's already late afternoon, too soon, and my body is confused. Sure it's nice to stay sunny later in the day, but I'm a morning person. I like seeing the sun when I get out of bed, too. Some states don't bother changing their clocks. I wish my state was one of them.

That being said, it is a beautiful, sunny, warmer day today. We are finally climbing out of the deep freeze up here in the North. I ran outside with Jet and soaked in the warm, brilliant rays this morning. Unfortunately, that was about the only good thing that came out of my run today. I was scheduled to go 8 miles but barely made it, slowly, to six. My legs were dead. It's okay, though. The other four runs this week were quite good.

I'm not surprised my legs didn't respond today. I challenged myself this week with a lot of faster miles. I was on the treadmill for the previous four runs, and I generally pushed it. I'm still taking walk breaks, but my pace has increased fairly dramatically, and my walk breaks have been fewer. I even did some half mile repeats one day. Speed work! How fun! Even yesterday, after working all day, I was motivated and energetic enough to get a quick 5 miler done. So the dead legs this morning actually made perfect sense. I'm accepting it, looking forward to a rest day, and moving on.

One thing I'm struggling to accept, however, is my weight. I don't like feeling so heavy when I run. I've been working hard to monitor and control my intake, while exercising regularly and strenuously, for almost 30 days now, and I've only lost 3 pounds. I was hoping for a more dramatic response to my behavior changes. I have 7 pounds yet to lose, and at this rate, it will be racing season before I drop those last few pounds, if at all! My jeans are fitting better, which is nice, but I'm still too self conscious to squeeze into my running attire. I'm not giving up on the process. It's just taking a lot longer than I had hoped.

My mood remains good. My life continues on its pleasantly boring track, just the way I like it. I've taken the opportunity to apply for a regular, benefited, physical therapy position, rather than working on-call without benefits as I currently do, at a new senior facility. I expect I will hear back from them soon, as I have the experience for which they are advertising. It's always exciting to pursue something new. I'll let you know if anything comes of my application. Spring forward and carry on, friends.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pleasantly boring

Things are going well here. My mood continues to be good. As I said in my last post, there is freedom in feeling well. I am free to make plans, go out, socialize, and most importantly feel. Rather than the numbness of depression, I can feel enjoyment, hope, gratitude, and any other emotion that comes along. Freedom.

My training is coming along, too. I was able to run 11 miles, with a few walk breaks, outside on Sunday. My left knee was a bit sore, but I was able to run with my normal gait pattern, and I recovered well. I've just come home from a great treadmill run this afternoon. For the first time I was able to run 3 consecutive miles at a good pace without walking breaks. Considering it was a treadmill run, which I find incredibly tedious and more difficult than running outdoors, I was quite pleased. I'm now feeling more hopeful about returning to my pre-surgery running form.

Work is also going well. The freedom of feeling good extends to working well. I have more energy to pick up more hours, which helps financially, and I'm able to spend more quality time with my patients. I feel more creative and find interactions with patients more rewarding than when I'm struggling. My brain still fatigues after approximately 6 or 7 hours of work, so I usually keep my shifts to 7 hours or less. I'm actually quite fortunate to have control over how many hours I pick up per shift.

That pretty much covers my life these days. It is pleasantly boring once again. No drama. I like that. I'm grateful to be where I'm at today.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Back to it

I am just back from a good treadmill run at my gym. Although my left knee continues to bother, the pain is much improved. On Thursday, after applying Kinesiotape, I was able to run 10, 2 minute segments with one minute walk breaks. I iced it down immediately following that run, and I recovered nicely. Yesterday I rode my recumbent, stationary bike without difficulty, so I decided to try a bit more challenging run today.

This morning I ran 5, 6-8 minute segments with one minute walk breaks for a total of 5.1 miles, and I felt good. My knee was a little sore, but I was able to run without altering my gait. I'm hopeful I am on the mend. If I recover well today, without any increased soreness, I will try a longer, slow run outside tomorrow.

We're finally going to be out of the deep freeze tomorrow, so it will be nice to spend time outdoors with Jet. It's sunny and crisp today, but too cold to spend much time outside. By the way, my mood continues to be sunny, too. I feel better and better everyday. The darkness of January hasn't been forgotten, but it's getting further and further from my mind. I'm enjoying the freedom of feeling well. I have enough energy to work, exercise, get to my meetings, and even socialize a bit. I feel like I'm mentally and physically mending. It's nice. I'm grateful to be back living, not just surviving, life.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Setback

I had a brilliant run Saturday morning. For the first time since last October I ran long, 10 miles! I ran 10, one mile segments with one minute walk breaks between each mile on a beautiful, crisp winter day. It was difficult but totally doable, and I was thrilled. Unfortunately, the thrill didn't last. Within a few hours of finishing my pain free run my left knee began to ache and swell. By Saturday evening I couldn't walk without limping. It hurt! I iced it, medicated it and tried to no avail to figure out what the heck was happening. I was totally frustrated!

Since Saturday my knee has continued to ache and frustrate. The swelling and pain have been slowly improving, but my running comeback has been abruptly halted. I was forced to swim on Sunday, also frustrating as I haven't been in the pool for at least a year, so I was pooped after just a few laps. By Monday I was able to gently spin on my stationary bicycle, but my hopes of running with a braced knee on Tuesday were quickly dashed. I walked a couple of miles on the treadmill instead. Last night I tried a kinesiotaping method and was able to bike a bit more aggressively. I'm currently contemplating if I'll be able to do a light run today or not. It's not yet clear, but I'll probably tape myself up again and give it a try. If I can't run I'll at least be able to walk, and that may ease some of my frustration.

I'm fairly disappointed with this setback. And while I know it's not the end of the world, and I know it will get better if I treat it, and myself, smartly, I'm still worried. The 10-mile run felt so good. I felt freedom from the post-op heaviness for the first time. My body felt the familiar freedom of clicking along at a decent pace, step after step after step. I allowed myself to look ahead, again for the first time, at the upcoming marathon schedule. I even penciled Grandmas Marathon in June into my schedule. To be brought to a screeching, bewildering halt after all of that is disappointing.

I'm hopeful the pain will pass soon. I'm equally as hopeful I'll be able to figure out how to keep it from returning. My guess is I have some residual right hip weakness, as a result of my surgery, which is altering my gait just enough to irritate my left knee. I have no plans to discontinue the hip strengthening program I've been performing for at least four weeks. Hopefully, increased hip strength and continued taping of my knee will resolve the issue permanently. I pray it will be so, and I'll keep vigilantly working to make it so. I won't let a minor setback stop me in my tracks. No worries, my friends, forward is still the only way to go.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Judgments

I'm currently participating in a dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) group, and our assignment this week is to track our judgments. Have you ever tried this? We are literally expected to carry around a piece of paper and track how many times we make a judgment. I'm finding this assignment a bit challenging but quite enlightening.

The definition of judgment is the formation of an opinion after consideration or deliberation. A judgment can be good or bad. It may be about others or ourselves. Any judgment at any time qualifies. What I'm finding is judgments rush through my brain at an amazing clip. There doesn't seem to be any consideration or deliberation, and that makes them nearly impossible to observe. Judgments are everywhere.

Everything from, "He's so cute," when watching Jet play, to "Geez, she's cranky today," when working with a typically cheerful patient, are judgments I've observed this week. Okay. So what? Well, while those two judgments may seem innocuous, the judgments I'm observing are more instantaneous, almost always negative, and much more difficult to track. They are the steady stream of judgments I make about myself. Innocuous? Probably not.

This is, of course, the whole point to our assignment, to bring into awareness our personally aimed negative judgments. If I stand back and look at what I've told myself in just the past hour, for example, it's a wonder I accomplish anything. According to my internal dialogue, I'm not skinny enough, smart enough, or good enough to associate with any of you. Comparing myself negatively to others appears to be something of a hobby. It's a wonder I'm not curled up in a corner somewhere.

I would never tell my friends or any of my patients the things I tell myself. Yet here I am bombarding myself, blowing holes in my psyche. Keeping track of my judgments has been enlightening. I mean I knew I was hard on myself, but I don't think I realized the prevalence of my negativity. The thoughts occur without a thought, that is without awareness, yet they've definitely got to have an impact.

The lesson is clear. Now that I've been made more aware, I've got to begin to challenge these thoughts and hopefully, over time, decrease their prevalence. The result of doing so can only be positive, I think, and definitely worth the effort.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Experience, Strength, Hope

It's been over seven years since I created and began writing this blog. When I began there were plenty of skeptics among the few people I told. The same questions arose time and time again. Why? Who would want to read about depression? There were worries that focusing on depression would only increase my symptoms. In general, there were more questions and concerns than there was encouragement. I quickly learned to stop telling people what I was planning to do. I just did it.

Writing this blog partially arose out of my frustration with how I had been treated by everyone from friends and family to employers to medical personnel. Depression, I thought, was quite misunderstood. My other goal for this blog was to offer my experience, strength and hope to anyone who might read it. Writing had always been helpful for me, and I was hopeful my words might help someone else, too.

That brings me to the crux of this post. This blog is about my experience, strength and hope. I hope I have succeeded in avoiding political discussions, opinions, and preaching. I have no intention of telling others what I think is best, or better, or right. I have tried my best to educate others about depression through my eyes and based on my research.

That being said, I am a medical professional. And based on research, I have called depression a diagnosable, biological illness of the brain; no different than having a brain tumor, for example, which may cause exactly the same symptoms. Depression is no more my fault than is having cancer or diabetes or MS. I differ with those out there who consider depression a character defect. It is an illness, and I believe it should be treated like an illness.

I have no opinion on the treatment you choose. If it works for you, please keep doing it. I find a comprehensive treatment plan which includes a positive, healthy lifestyle, balanced sleep, quality food, exercise, sobriety, regular professional (psychiatrist, therapist) contact, and medications are required to keep my depression under control. I risk my health if any of these components are lacking or get out of whack.

Recently, I've received many comments questioning depression as a medical issue. Comments which are anti-medication have been somewhat prevalent. Many of these have included links to other sites, which I generally do not publish, so you haven't seen most of the comments. (Links to sites I have no knowledge of do not make it into my comment section. It's my blog. I am here to share my experience, strength, and hope, not the opinions of others.)

I'm frustrated, however, by these anti-medication, anti-illness comments. Maybe I shouldn't be, but I feel like I've failed somehow to get my point across. I know there are natural cures for depression, just as there are natural cures for everything else on the planet. And like I said, if it works for you, keep doing it. But calling medications dangerous and placebos really cranks me up.

It's shortsighted to call all depression medications bad. And I want to know if people preaching the "dangers" of depression meds would preach similarly about meds for schizophrenia, MS, cancer, or diabetes? Medications have side effects. It's up to each of us to weigh whether the direct effects outweigh the side effects for each pill we choose to take. If you can cure your illness without meds, that's great for you, but that doesn't make my choice bad or dangerous.

If I could get away with it, I wouldn't take an aspirin. But I can't get away with that. I'd be miserable and eventually, depression, my brain illness, would take my life. Instead, I choose to stay alive, to live my life to the fullest, and to get everything I can out of it. To do that my illness requires I use medications as one piece of a comprehensive treatment plan. Evil, dangerous, bad depression meds?  That has not been my experience, and this blog is about my experience, strength, and hope.



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