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!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

depressed is a feeling

Recently someone left a social media comment on a post I made about depression which began with, "We've all been depressed... " The person who left the comment went on to explain that she/he was currently dealing with this and that and therefore depressed. While the commenter was trying to empathize, and I realized that, the statement, "We've all been depressed..." really irked me.

My post was about depression, an illness, which everyone has not, in fact, experienced. The writer was referring to feeling depressed, not an illness, which most people have likely experienced. Feeling depressed is not the same as depression, and others mistaking the feeling for the illness is one of the many difficulties of living with depression. Depression is an illness. Depressed is a feeling.

When I speak publicly about my illness, I always talk about the difference between depression and depressed. The problem is everyone has felt depressed. Therefore some feel they know what depression is and what needs to be done to cure it. After all, they were depressed once.

This confusion is the root, I believe, of the unhelpful advice we sometimes receive. Advice to "just smile more," or "think happy thoughts," or "just get out of the house and you'll feel better," is not helpful because those of us with depression know there's more to it than that. We have more than an unpleasant feeling to deal with. We have symptoms to manage.

You'll never hear me say, "I'm depressed." When I speak about my illness, I always refer to my symptoms. I say things like, "When my depression symptoms are more prevalent..." Just as cancer patients do not say, "I am cancer," and people with MS do not say, "I am MS," I very purposefully do not say "I am depressed." After all, I am not depressed today, but I still have my illness, and that illness is depression.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Combating the Black Dog

Things have been a little tough lately. While I've had some good things happening, like the publishing of one of my blog posts on the website, The Mighty, I'm still down with my right Achilles injury. My mood has definitely taken a blow as a result. I have not yet been able to run. In fact, I haven't trained since injuring it April 25th. I've crossed The Med City Marathon, which will be run May 24th, off my list. And I'm not even sure at this point whether I will be able to run my favorite marathon, Grandma's Marathon, in mid-June. I'm so frustrated and disappointed. Being injured is tough, but feeling low again has been even tougher.

I'm trying hard not to worry about my mood, and I'm doing everything I can to keep the downward slide to a minimum. I'm doing the exercise I'm able to do in an effort to stay in shape and stave off depression. I'm throwing myself into my patients at work. Focusing all my attention on each of them relieves my worries and almost always improves my mood. I'm trying to eat well, although this is more difficult for me when my mood is low, but I'm trying. I'm also getting the sleep I need while not giving in to the urge to snooze too much or too often. It's taking a concerted effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but it's worth it. I don't want to slide into the abyss.

Getting more information about my injury will certainly help my mood and my anxiety. Knowing what's wrong will at least give me some direction. I saw my orthopedic doctor last week. He took x-rays and did an exam. He's worried about a few things he felt and saw, so I'm having an MRI on Tuesday. He's concerned I have partially torn the Achilles tendon. Hopefully the MRI will give us the information we need to proceed mindfully forward.

Until that time, I will do my best to focus forward, attend to my responsibilities, and keep this dip to a situational low. So far I think I've been successful. I'm satisfied with that. I'm not chipper, but I've been able to keep the black dog from moving in. And I know I will feel better. This is a temporary situation, and it will pass. It will pass. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting Around

Getting around, etta is. I find myself humbled and honored once again today. The website, The Mighty, is featuring one of my recent posts on their site. The post titled, Dear Friends and Family, published in January, caught their eye, and they generously offered to post it on their site. I'm always surprised when my little blog is discovered or recognized by a much larger entity, but I am proud to have this post out there where it might be seen by a larger audience. I'm hopeful it makes a difference in the life of someone. And I'm very grateful The Mighty gave me the opportunity.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Don't Call Me a Consumer

I rarely do this, but this is a post I originally published in 2008. The subject came up again the other day in my therapy group, so I thought it was time to run it again. I'd love to know what you think.

Consumer. Whose idea was that? When did patient become a four-letter word? And why is it only a four-letter word for me, a person with depression, but not for my neighbor with cancer? Please do not call me a consumer. When I am in line at Starbucks, I am a consumer. Shopping at Wal-mart I am a consumer. But while conversing with my doctor, I am a patient.

Who came up with this idea that we were not patients, not people with an illness, but consumers? While I stand in front of classrooms enlightening the charges that mental illness is no different than cancer, MS, or any other illness, someone somewhere decided that it would be too stigmatizing(?) to call us patients? In an effort to make us less different, we just rocketed ourselves into another plane of difference. How can we say we are the same, but please don’t call us the same? We have a biological, treatable illness, but the word patient is pejorative? Cancer patient, woman with MS, guy with heart disease; no problem, it is okay for them. But we are different. We, those of us with depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, have an illness just like they do, but please don’t refer to us in the same way. We are not patients. We are consumers. Huh?

Consumer? Talk about stigmatizing. I have a biological brain disease. When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown or a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, diabetes, or depression. All are illnesses that may lead to death if we do not allow ourselves to be treated, to be patients.

I am a person with a mental illness. While visiting my psychiatrist, I am her patient. While visiting my psychologist, I am her patient. While getting my blood drawn, having an MRI or getting an EKG, I am a patient. Regardless of my diagnosis, when getting treatment, I am a patient. Why, if the diagnosis is depression, undergoing the same tests and treatment, must I be a consumer?

We can’t have it both ways. If our premise and platform is that we have biological, treatable illnesses, just like everybody else, how can we define “patient” as a stigmatizing word? We can’t fight for research dollars. We can’t educate the school children. We can’t demand equal insurance coverage. We can’t reduce stigma. We can’t align ourselves with other biological, treatable illnesses if we continue to separate ourselves by denying our status as patients. We can't have it both ways.

Choosing between Ajax and Comet? Consumer.
Choosing between Prozac and Paxil? Patient.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Injury Update

I'm unhappy to report my mood has taken a bit of a hit this week. The primary reason for the downturn is my injury. I injured my right Achilles tendon toward the end of a 17.5 mile run while on vacation about 10 days ago. I have not been able to run since. In fact, walking has even been challenging at times. I think things are very slowly improving, but the lack of major improvement worries me. I'm worried I might have more than just some tendinitis. I could possibly have a partial tear, and that would require a lot of healing time.

Right now I don't have that time if I want to keep my training on track. I was not able to run my half marathon two days ago. My 20-miler, scheduled for this weekend, looks doubtful. I was hoping to run The Med City Marathon on May 24th and of course, Grandma's Marathon in mid-June. Those dates are fast approaching, while my injury is too slowly healing.

I'm also frustrated by this injury because I was just getting back to the point where running was feeling easy and joyful again. Coming back from hip surgery required work, and that's what running felt like for several months, hard work. Over the last few weeks, I felt the flow returning. Now I'm faced with possibly having to begin all over again. That is, if this ever heals!

Of course, I know the tendon will eventually heal. It's just not going to be on my timetable, which would have been yesterday! Patience may be a virtue, but it's not necessarily one of my virtuous characteristics when it comes to running. I'm so anxious to get back to training, it's difficult to see others out running around the neighborhood. Kind of silly, but that's where I'm at.

Interrupted training is not my only concern. My mood has definitely been knocked down by this injury. When I can't run my mood is not well protected. I'm susceptible to emergence of depression symptoms. I know this. And I'm doing my best to combat it. But my mood has taken a hit. I feel it slowly creeping downward. I need to keep working hard to stay afloat.

And that's what I've been doing, working hard. Even though I've yet to find a suitable substitute for running, I have been exercising vigorously daily. I need to keep the endorphins flowing, or I know I'll soon be dealing with more than just an Achilles injury.

Since I injured myself, I've biked for at least an hour several times. I swam a few days ago. And today I ordered some inline skates. I'm hoping I can achieve similar cardiovascular and emotional benefits by substituting skating for running. Hopefully I won't break my neck in the meantime. I'll let you know how the story continues.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Honored

depression best blogs badge  
Healthline

I was contacted this morning by the website Healthline.com and informed that my humble little blog here has been chosen as one of their best for 2015. I'm humbled and honored to be thought of as a resource for others suffering with depression. A huge thanks to Healthline for the recognition and the award.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Unpacking


The worst part of returning from a journey is unpacking. Don't you agree? I just returned from vacation. For the past week, my boyfriend, D, and I have been in Arizona. We stayed in Scottsdale at a cool, retro 60's hotel. They even played 60's music in the lobby. It was pretty neat. We enjoyed running, shopping, eating and hiking in warm sunshine. It was really nice.

The picture above is of us at the top of Camelback Mountain. Camelback is about 2,700 feet high. To get to the summit we climbed the 1.2 mile Echo trail, which at points is nearly vertical. It is difficult climbing, but the workout is great and the views are spectacular! We definitely deserved our big breakfast after we finished.

I did my best to keep up with my training while I was away. I did my long run, 17.5 miles, along a canal path through Scottsdale and Phoenix on Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous day for a long run, sunny and in the 70's, and there were many others out running, too. Unfortunately, my right Achilles tendon, which had been sore recently, got very sore over my final miles. It swelled up later, and I was unable to walk without limping. In fact, I've been unable to run since Saturday because of it.

I'm a little concerned, as I've got a half marathon with my brother scheduled for this Sunday. I've had Achilles tendon issues several times in the past, so I'm familiar with the problem. I'm betting my right hip is still a bit weak, causing slight alteration to my gait, which likely flared up the tendon. I think it is improving, so I'm hopeful I'll be able to race on Sunday. Knowing me, I'll race even if the tendon is not 100%. I'm looking forward to spending the time with my brother, and I'm anxious to see where my fitness is at currently. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Anticipation

I'm feeling a little giddy. I had a really nice, productive day, including a stellar run. I'm also getting prepared to go on vacation soon with my boyfriend, D. I'm really looking forward to seeing him. We haven't seen each other since Christmas! We're heading off to a warmer climate. I'm looking forward to some heat, as it actually snowed here today. It was very cold and blustery. Ridiculous for this time of year, but that's the great state of Minnesota for you! Regardless, I'm still feeling a little giddy.

Maybe the crazy weather is actually contributing to my giddiness, as I can't wait to get away from it. I was cursing it earlier today. I had a nine mile tempo run scheduled, and I just couldn't face the cold temperatures and high winds. The alternative, of course, was to run nine fast miles on the treadmill, which as you know, I frequently curse! But the weather pushed me to the treadmill, and I actually did my tempo run inside.

I knew running nine miles on the treadmill was going to be a significant challenge, and running at tempo pace, which is defined as comfortably hard, was going to be even tougher. I'm happy to report I survived. Not only did I survive, I actually did well. It was very tough, and I had to do a lot of mental gymnastics and bargaining with myself to get it done, but I did it. I love surprising myself by accomplishing a difficult task. I felt very satisfied when I left the gym.

Running well and accomplishing goals has helped my mood remain stable and strong. I expect some sunshine and warm temperatures will also keep me going. I will be running 19 miles one day while away, and I have a half marathon scheduled soon after I return. More goals to shoot for. More to look forward to and anticipate. Anticipation is good. Looking forward is good. It means I'm moving, not stuck, and movement is very good. Keep moving forward, my friends.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A little splurge


I ran 9 miles yesterday morning, less than 24 hours after running 6, half mile repeats at a very fast pace Wednesday afternoon, so I treated myself to a little splurge for lunch. We have a new restaurant in town, and I've discovered they make the best, juiciest burgers around. And the sweet potato fries made it all very healthy, right?

Actually, I sometimes feel the need to eat red meat when I'm training hard. That was the case yesterday. Women do need more iron when training hard, and I don't get a lot of iron from other sources. Plus, I love a good steak or hamburger every once in awhile. And this one was quite delicious.

Tomorrow I'm scheduled to run 17 miles. My 15-miler last Sunday was quite challenging, so I'm a little apprehensive right now. I find I need to mentally prepare for my long runs in much the same way as I prepare for races. I even lay out my clothing the night before, just as I do for races, so nothing gets in my way before a long run. I have few worries and no excuses that way. Tomorrow morning I'll only have to worry about getting out the door. And it's supposed to be beautiful, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Jet will join me for most of my miles tomorrow. He ran all 15 last week and then bounced around the yard afterward as if he'd been laying around all morning! He's a trooper. I love spending the time with him. He's so cute. He actually looks like he's smiling the whole time we run. If he makes it all 17 miles tomorrow, which he will if it's cool enough, perhaps he'll be the next one to enjoy a little splurge.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Building Positive Experiences

One of the symptom-busting techniques I have learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is to build positive experiences, and I'd say this week I did enough building to construct a house! I had a really good week. I built positive experiences working with others, helping a friend, celebrating another friend, and taking good care of myself throughout the week. I feel so fortunate.

I had a great week at work. My patients were particularly rewarding to work with this week. Sometimes that happens. I can't explain it. I just had the pleasure of treating a group of very motivated, hard working, fun and appreciative patients. It made work very enjoyable, and more importantly I felt like I made a difference. That's always nice.

I think I also made a difference helping a young man I know. It was my pleasure to assist him as he prepared for his first job interview. We went over his resume, how to write a cover letter, and every aspect of the interviewing process. From the hand shake to thanking the interviewer for his time, including practicing actual questions and answers, we covered it all. It was awesome! I mentored this young man when he was in high school. To see him now, all grown up, and to still be called upon for assistance, is absolutely one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I'm so proud of him.

It was my friend Wendy's birthday this past week. I had fun surprising her at work. I brought her some good Tollhouse cookies, a bouquet of flowers, and her favorite, Diet Pepsi. Wendy has been so kind, generous and supportive over these last 3-4 years. She's been a true friend. I try not to let an opportunity to show her how much I care for and appreciate her pass by.

I also cared for myself this week. I'm happy with my stable mood, and I'm feeling more functional than I've felt in a long time. Jet and I ran 5 days for a total of 33 miles, including a challenging, hilly 15 miler today. I feel like I'm getting back into racing form. I continued to work on my eating this week, and I ate well. I stayed away from the sweets, which I love. That's a first! I'm still not losing the weight I'd like to lose, but my clothes are fitting better, which is satisfying. Finally, I took my medications as prescribed, slept when I needed to sleep, and attended all my meetings and therapy appointments. It was a good week filled with positive experiences. I'm grateful and pleased.



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