Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 15 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!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

23 Months, 7 Days

October 19, 2014, was the last time I lined up at the starting line. Twenty three months and seven days ago was the last time I ran and finished a race. Until today. Today I ran a race. I crossed the starting line at 8:01 AM. One hour and forty eight minutes later, after 13.1 wet miles (it rained lightly throughout), I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Med City Fall Half Marathon. My friend, Heidi, took a picture of me at the finish line. I am smiling a huge, joyful, relieved smile. I'm still smiling right now. I am so, so happy and grateful. I'm back. And it feels really good to be back!


Mile 13 Happiness

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lifting a bit

Just a short post to say thank you to all who commented on my previous post. Your feedback helped. After reading what you had to say, I no longer felt so alone. I realized my experience was not unique. That helped. It really helped. My psychiatrist and I also made some changes to my medications last week, and I think those changes have been helpful, too. I am feeling better. My mood has lifted a bit. It's not stellar. It's not anywhere I'd like it to be yet, but I have some hope I'm on the mend. I'm still isolating. I'm still having some trouble sleeping. But my energy, thinking and mood are all improved. I'm so grateful for that. I hope that last post gave some of you the same comfort your comments ended up giving me. Carry on, my friends. We are not alone.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

That sense of desperation

I've been doing this awhile. Since my depression began in November, 2000, I've been through the whole gamut of symptoms and treatments, medications and therapies, and as you know, multiple hospitalizations. I've been through dips, and lulls, and catastrophic crashes in my mood. I've lost time, friends, jobs, and financial stability. Yet I've gained perspective, humility, trusted relationships, and educational opportunities. It's been quite a ride. And while it's not what I envisioned, it is my reality, and I try my best to live through it all with honesty, compassion and integrity.

Despite all these experiences, and especially despite all the depression relapses I've endured, I find myself amazed at the sense of desperation I feel. This is not a new feeling. It's very familiar. I don't always recognize it, but I'm pretty sure it almost always accompanies an extended drop in my mood. I'm noting it today because it's been quite prevalent over the past several days. I don't know any other way to describe it. It's a sense of desperation.

You'd think, with years of this illness under my belt, I'd be better able to ride out the intermittent storms without the sense of panic and doom I currently feel. After all, I've made it this far. History reveals that even my most severe depression episodes have passed 100% of the time. One hundred percent of the time! I've felt hopeless and suicidal. I've been isolated and incapacitated. I've been knocked so low, nobody would have blinked if I hadn't managed to get back up. But I've always gotten back up. So why do I feel so desperate?

I feel scared, alarmed, and surprised by my current symptoms, even though my current symptoms are nowhere near the worst I've ever experienced. I am questioning my ability to function and persevere. I feel hopeless, alone, and lonely, yet I find it impossible to reach out. It's physically painful to be out in public, something I've experienced many times before, but today it's freaking me out. And worst of all, despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself convinced this episode is not going to pass.

It will pass. It will. I do know that. As uncomfortable as it is in the moment, I know it won't last forever. So why do I feel so desperate? Does anyone else experience this?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More difficult

It's been a tough week. My mood continues to decline. Monster fatigue has set in. Everything I do is more difficult. Everything. Big things, obvious things, like work, take more energy, mental fortitude, and patience than I have right now. Running is also more difficult. I'm so tired I need to nap before I go for a run. My legs feel like lead during my run so even a slow pace feels like a sprint. And then I'm exhausted afterward and practically fall asleep standing up. So my 4 mile run tonight, in total, took 3 hours rather then 36 minutes. Everything requires more time and effort when my mood is low.

But it's not just the big, obvious things which are more challenging. Small, less obvious things are difficult, too, when I don't feel well. I have routines which make my life more simple. When I feel low, I get out of those routines. For example, last night I didn't set out my breakfast food, or make my lunch, or even pick out which clothes I was going to wear today. I do each of those things nightly in order to make my mornings go more smoothly and simply. Well, guess what? This morning was more difficult. It wasn't simple. And it wasn't simple because I was unable to find the energy last night to do what I typically do. Seems like a little thing, but it's another example of how everything gets more difficult when my mood is low.

Depression manifests in so many ways. Making life more difficult is the manifestation I'm noticing today. Despite the heaviness, the brain fog, and the fatigue, I at least made it to work and continued to run this week. But that's about it. Meetings, socializing, errands, and chores...not in the cards right now. I know getting out, socializing, and getting stuff done would probably help my mood, but I just can't right now. I can only do what I can do, and I'm at that limit. I'm hoping for a reprieve soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dichotomy

As I laid awake, exhausted but awake, in bed last night, I had a revelation of sorts. Lying awake for 3 hours lends itself to lots of frivolous brain activity. I wondered how it was this illness, depression, could cause such dichotomous symptoms? For example, my depression often causes me to feel sleepy, unable to keep my eyes open, yet in the next moment, within the same day sometimes, depression might cause me to feel wired and unable to sleep. Isn't that strange?

I thought of more examples. For instance, last night I was sad and tearful, which actually rarely happens. Most of the time, my depression symptoms leave me feeling detached and unable to cry. Yet both instances indicate depression is upon me, my depression.

My depression symptoms may include lethargy and restlessness, carbohydrate cravings and loss of appetite, a need to stay close to home and a need to escape. Sometimes I can't concentrate on anything, but sometimes my ability to concentrate is unaffected. One day I might feel better after socializing, while just being seen in public may be painful the very next day. No wonder this illness is so confounding to so many.

Sometimes my depression doesn't even feel like depression, initially, at least not what most people think of as depression. Several times I've had depressive episodes which began with or were preceded by disorganized, scary, or intrusive thoughts. When I start obsessing about bad things happening to people (or animals) I love, it usually means my mood is on the decline. I've learned this, unfortunately, through experience.

This is a strange illness. There is wide variability of symptoms between individuals, and I think that's one of the things that makes diagnosis difficult and uncertain. What signals clinical depression for one person may mean little to another. But as I understood last night, there's also wide variation in my own symptoms, both between depressive episodes and even within a single episode.

Fortunately(?), 15 years of experience with this illness has taught me a lot. I've learned when I need to be concerned and when I don't. If I recognize symptoms early, sometimes I can make changes, medication, behavioral, or otherwise, and cut off an impending decline. Sometimes the decline happens anyway, but at least I'm not caught off guard. Perhaps knowledge gives me a greater sense of control over this difficult illness.

And maybe that's the point of this post. More knowledge. My symptoms, as dichotomous as they can be, have been charging to the fore lately. I'm still doing what I need to do, but day to day activities have gotten more and more difficult. But I'm still moving forward. I'm dealing as best I can with each symptom as it presents itself, trying to keep them from stacking up and weighing me down. I made it through the day despite very little sleep last night, but hopefully I won't have any more 3-hour-long, middle of the night revelations tonight.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Plugging along

I'm surprised it's been nearly a week since I last wrote. Maybe it's because my last post is still relevant today. I've had a decent week. At least there have been no big dramas with regards to work, or my teeth, or running this week. It's been a decent week. I'm plugging along.

As happened last week, some things have gone okay, some things not so much. My mood has been in the latter category. I barely got out of my house at least a couple of mornings this week. I so, so wanted to call in sick, but I wasn't sick. I was heavy, and empty, and hopeless, but I wasn't sick. I didn't want to go, but I knew if I stayed home I would only feel worse. Letting depression control my actions always has that effect, and I didn't want to allow that. Besides, patients and co-workers were counting on me to show up, and that's important to me. So I went to work.

I knew getting to work would likely help me feel better, and it did. Work went well despite my mood. I may have been a little less patient, and was probably a little irritable at times, but I always felt better at the end of the day than I did when I arrived. Working with others, helping others, forced me to shift my focus outside myself. If I had stayed home, I would have had my focus all to myself. That certainly wouldn't have helped. I'm glad I made it to work.

I'm also glad I was able to run this week, again despite my mood. I had to take a nap before every run in order to summon the energy to go, but go I did. I ran Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. And then today, I ran long. In fact, Jet and I ran 15.7 miles today. I was really tired when I finished, but I'm so glad I was able to get it done.

I did have a scare in my 13th mile, as my right Achilles began to hurt. It happened suddenly. I took a step, and it hurt. Concerned, well scared, I slowed down to a walk immediately. I prayed, out loud, to God. "Please give me a break!" I was 3 miles from home, so after a minute I began slowly jogging again. It hurt for another minute or so, and then it stopped. I was okay for the rest of my run. I've iced it and rested it, and it's still okay. I'm so grateful. I'll be back on the ElliptiGo tomorrow.

Or maybe I'll be back in the woods tomorrow. I feel like I may need to do something different, like maybe that will help my mood, so I may go for a long hike in the woods tomorrow rather than ride my ElliptiGo. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. Maybe I'll go to a nearby state park and explore some of the trails Jet and I didn't get to on our last hike. The woods usually help my mood, and spending time with Jet is always good.

After that, and a good nap, I'll keep plugging along into next week. I wish I was feeling better, but I'm grateful my mood hasn't gotten worse. Despite feeling low, very low at times, I've been able to get done what I've needed to get done. I'm also grateful for that. Depression has beaten me down a bit this week, but I'm still standing. I take some comfort in and strength from that. Carry on, my friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Less stress, please

I finished up my mentally challenging, and therefore physically exhausting, week with a nice, sunny ride this morning on my ElliptiGo. I was supposed to run 10 miles today, but I've been having some lingering soreness in my right Achilles tendon, so I fought my urge to run and went for a ride instead.

I needed a challenging effort, one without worry about my Achilles, to clear my head. I got one. I rode an out and back 20.6 mile course on a smooth, wide, country road with beautiful views of local farms and greenery. It was also a hilly road, so I got a really good workout. It took me just over 90 minutes, which is about the same time it would have taken to run 10 miles, so I'm satisfied.

I'm hoping for a less challenging week this week. I'm working my usual schedule, nothing extra. I have one more dental consultation Tuesday morning, and I'm praying that soothes some of my anxiety and worry. I'm also going to dial back the intensity of my marathon training in order to decrease the stress on my Achilles. I have to remember the goal is simply to get to the starting line in New York and to let go of my high performance expectations. If I re-injure myself, there will be no performance at all. Keep it simple, etta. Keep it simple.

Still feeling frazzled, stressed and worried, I'm hoping to get back into some sort of comforting rhythm and routine this week, I've been feeling so close to breaking, worrying about the potential doom lurking around the next corner, that day-to-day functioning has been challenging. I'd like to shed that feeling this week. That will be my goal. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Bad and The Good

I spent 3 hours in the chairs of 2 different dental specialists yesterday afternoon. It was the horrible culmination to what otherwise was a lovely weekend away. Today I find myself overwhelmed and afraid. The drama with my teeth has taken another turn for the worse, but I can't say anymore about it without breaking down into tears, so that's all I have to tell you for now. I have another dental appointment tomorrow. I'm trying to hold it together, keep my fears in check, and put one foot in front of the other until then.

As far as my weekend, otherwise, it was really nice. I spent Saturday morning running 7 miles around some remote lakes near my parent's place. It was beautiful, and I felt great. The rest of Saturday morning was spent helping my mother organize her delayed wedding reception, which took place Saturday afternoon.

After at least 15 years together, my mom and stepfather were finally married in a small ceremony in Florida this past Spring. Since their local families and friends couldn't attend the wedding, they had a small reception in Duluth Saturday afternoon. It went really well, and I think my mom thoroughly enjoyed it.

The reception was the only time in the past 12 months that all of my brothers and I were in the same place at the same time. It was really nice spending time with my brothers, their spouses, and almost all of my nieces and nephews. Like many families, I suppose, we have some interesting, sometimes touchy family dynamics, but everyone was on their best, most loving behavior, and it was quite nice.

Actually, the reception was fun. It was so fun, we continued the party after the party. We all spent the evening together at my brother's house eating pizza and watching the Olympics. We haven't had that much fun family time together in a long, long time.

On Sunday, I spent another beautiful Duluth morning running 14 miles on a bike path through the woods. It was great to be outside, in the woods, feeling good, running again. My mom and I then watched the Olympic marathon together while I recovered after my run. I enjoyed that. The afternoon included more family time, as we attended the Duluth Tall Ships festival on the Lake Superior waterfront. I even splurged for some fabulous, greasy, sugary, mini donuts! Why not? I ran 14 miles.

On Monday, I got some cherished one-on-one time with my youngest brother. I rarely get one-on-one time with him, as he has two very active young boys. We played golf together, on another gorgeous day, for 3 hours. My brother is an incredible athlete, so it was fun to watch him hit the ball. I'm a beginner, so he gave me some good tips. We talked and laughed and simply enjoyed each other's company. Like I said, it was a cherished opportunity.

Finally, I spent Monday evening having dinner with my good friend, Mary. It's always great to spend time with her. We go way back and have a special bond. She's one of those friends I can go without seeing for long stretches of time, and yet we pick up right where we left off when we do get together. I have very few of those people in my life. I value her friendship.

Good times had with family and friends in a place I love, that's what I'm trying to keep in mind today. The stress of the continued drama with my teeth is going to play out however it's going to play out. I can't, unfortunately, control that. It sucks. It's unfortunate. It's not fair. But it is what it is. I'm very grateful to have had such a pleasant weekend away with my family. Those are the moments I need to remember and focus on today.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One foot, another foot

I'm getting ready tonight to get away. I'm going to visit family this weekend, which may or may not be a good thing. Isn't that the way with families? I'm hoping for a nice, not too stressful weekend. I'll be in one of my favorite places on the planet, Duluth, Minnesota, so that should help.

It's been a long week. I'm still not quite right with all the recent stresses in my life. I'm still not sure I'm coping the best. On top of that, the antibiotics I'm taking for my tooth infection have made me so nauseous it's been difficult to eat, and unfortunately, just as difficult not to eat. I'm uncomfortable either way. It's exhausting.

I'm tired, and I've not been able to rest. I worked everyday this week, as I'm covering for my assistant who is on vacation. So besides working 5 days, rather than my usual 3, I've also treated almost twice as many patients as I normally do. Feeling mentally stressed and physically under the weather has made staying focused and patient at work challenging.

I'm thankful tomorrow is my fifth and final work day. And while I'm not looking forward to traveling tomorrow, I am padding my weekend with an extra day off. So if the weekend turns out to be less than restful, I know I'll be coming home to a quiet, totally unscheduled day. I'm almost looking forward to that day off more than the weekend. Until then, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other and do my best to get through.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Coping...or not

I haven't had much motivation to update this blog or do much of anything else lately. I don't think I'm coping too well with the new drama with my teeth. My mood has definitely taken a hit. I've been struggling to move some days. I missed work on Friday because I had a migraine headache and just couldn't get out of bed. And since beginning the antibiotics for my tooth infection, I've been consistently and constantly nauseous.

Physical and mental discomfort has been the norm since Tuesday, which is when the tooth infection was diagnosed. Life hasn't been much fun. I'm not happy with how I've been coping. I'm discouraged. I'm not feeling hopeful. And I'm fearing the worst. It's no wonder I have little motivation or energy.

Fear, I think, is really weighing me down. I've been struggling to stay in the moment. I'm projecting my fears way out into the future. I don't usually do that. But now I find myself fearing the worst possible outcomes, especially where my teeth are concerned. It's mentally exhausting.

I'm not doing myself any favors by focusing my energy on my fears. But I can't seem to stop. I've had so much bad luck with my teeth over the past couple of years, it's hard not to feel cursed. Of course, I know I'm not cursed, but I am feeling incredibly unfortunate. That's the problem.

I need to stop feeling unfortunate, i.e. sorry for myself. It's certainly not beneficial. If I can't cope with today, tomorrow is not going to get any better. I've already proven that this week. Migraines, low motivation, low energy, irritability...not fun. Somehow I've got to get a grip, focus on today and move forward.



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