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, 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.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Seven miles

My big news today is I ran 7 miles this morning. It's below zero here, so I ran it on the treadmill. I focused on running it one mile at a time, with one minute walk breaks at each mile. With a 5 minute warm up and cool down, I was on the 'mill for 75 minutes. And while it was tough, I actually felt pretty good! I was quite pleased.

My right hip did get sore, but it was muscular soreness, which doesn't concern me as much as joint soreness would. I know my hip muscles are weak. I'll keep working on that. My hip joint felt good though, and it still does hours later. That pleases me, too.

I really didn't know what to expect when I got on the treadmill. I worked two long days on Friday and Saturday, and I was totally wiped out last night. I slept fairly well overnight, but my energy as I stepped on the treadmill was still pretty low. Nonetheless, I knew I wanted to run long. I had a plan, and I stuck to it. I'm so glad it worked out well.

I'm grateful to be running again. Starting over after my three month layoff has not been easy. I knew it wouldn't be. I'm trying to stay positive through the tough, heavy runs. Having a quality run like I did today, with my legs churning and my breathing controlled, is medicine for my soul. I am a happy soul right now.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Still better

I have big news. I still feel well. With every passing day, my mood continues to either improve or at least hold steady. Perhaps the combination of beginning C-PAP therapy, running again, and eating well have made a difference.

I'm certain being able to run again has made a big difference. I've already run 3 times this week. I'm still inserting walk breaks into my runs, but I've been able to increase my pace and lengthen the running segments on almost every run. It's been very cold the last few days, so I've spent most of my time running on the treadmill, a.k.a. the dreadmill. But I'm not complaining. I'm happy to be running, and so far my hip is holding up well. I'm pleased with my progress this week.

I'm continuing to adapt to the C-PAP therapy for my mild sleep apnea. It's difficult wearing something on my face all night, but I'm sticking to it nonetheless. The first few nights were amazing. I woke up rested for the first time in years! I had forgotten what that felt like. But over the past few weeks, I've had many nights which weren't restful as well. We're making adjustments and continuing to tinker with the settings in hopes that more nights will be restful. It's not been the miracle cure my doctors and I were hoping it would be, but I do think better sleep has positively impacted my mood.

The other change I've made recently is eating better. I gained almost ten pounds over the past 3+ months since my hip surgery. I really felt that weight when I began running again, and that discomfort finally gave me the impetus to do something different. So I've been using a free online program and mobile app to track my calories and exercise. I began earlier this week, and I've already lost two pounds! Paying attention to what I put in my mouth really encourages me to eat less and to eat healthier. Eating well also makes me feel better. It's all good.

It's interesting. My mood and my energy had to improve in order to make these changes. At the same time, these changes have definitely helped improve my mood. When my depression symptoms are bad, I eat junk and I don't care, I don't move as much, and I don't sleep as well, or I sleep too much. It's nice to care again. It's nice to be moving again. And it's nice to sleep enough that I'm not walking around tired all day. I like feeling better. I'm hopeful it will continue.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Better?

The past month and a half has been a bit of a slog for me. If you've been following along, you know that. But things may be changing. Once again, the light seems to be returning. I'm not dancing a jig just yet, but I'm hopeful this brighter trend continues. The simple act of feeling hopeful is in and of itself an improvement. Hooray for improvement!

I'm leery of getting my hopes up, of course. The rollercoaster of symptoms has taken its toll. But I'm enjoying feeling better today. One day at a time... I'll take it one day at a time, keep taking the next right action, and use the supports I have in place to (hopefully) finally disembark this ride.

I had a good day yesterday. It was cake night. Cake night is a night of celebration where family and friends are invited to celebrate sobriety anniversaries with those of us in recovery. It happens once per month. Last night we gave out 14 cakes and celebrated 167 years of sobriety. I was responsible for 9 of those 167 years.

Prior to the meeting, I had a wonderful steak dinner with friends, some of whom were also celebrating, and then we all attended cake night together. It was wonderful to be surrounded by a room full of family, friends, and miracles. I never tire of hearing the stories of lives changed by sobriety. I am so grateful for the life I have today, depression and all; a life that would not be possible if I were still drinking.

Today is dawning bright, warm and clear. I'm looking forward to going for a run/walk with Jet. I'm having coffee and catching up with an old friend this afternoon. And I'm hoping to begin putting my house back in some sort of order. Depression has taken a toll on my surroundings, too. I know I'll continue to feel better if I can clean up a bit. Hoping you all have a bright, clear day, too. Carry on, my friends.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hanging in there

Life is moving forward. I'm hanging on for the very slow ride. I'm feeling a little better. Maybe? Actually, I'm not sure. At least I'm not feeling worse. I'm hanging in there, I think. I continue to work 4-6 hours every other day. It's been a bit overwhelming, especially at the start of each day, but once I've gotten going my patients have kept me distracted. My exercise has slowed again, but I did get a run/walk in tonight. I ran 4 minutes and walked 1 minute for a total of 3 miles. That was my first run this week. It wasn't much, and it was slow, but I did it even though I felt like staying on the sofa. I see my doctor tomorrow. She's thinking of changing my meds. That process scares me, but I'm willing to do anything to feel better. This has been a long, slow stretch of not feeling entirely well, and I'm getting tired. But I'm hanging on, moving slowly forward, trying not to fall off the ride. Hang in there with me, my friends.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Beginnings

I just came in from a run/walk. Yes. I ran yesterday and today. It was my first time out since my hip surgery October 21st. Specifically, I ran for 3 minutes and walked for 1 minute for a total of  2.3 miles yesterday and 3.2 miles today. Both days were crisp and gray, and the cold air felt good on my face and in my lungs. My gray mood had kept me inside for the previous 13 days. It was a relief to get out the door, and even more of a relief to put one foot in front of the other down the street.

My depression symptoms are still hanging around. Some moments feel better than others. I think I'm beginning to feel a little better. But my thinking is still dark and even, at times, a little paranoid. It's depression. My brain only lets such thoughts seep out when the darkness has set in. Like I said, some moments are lighter lately. I'm still making it to work. Adding exercise to work means I actually got two things accomplished yesterday! It's a beginning.

In other news, and possibly related to my depression symptoms, I was just diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. Basically, I stop breathing multiple times each night. My sleep is disrupted every time I stop breathing, which may explain some of my fatigue. Fortunately, it's treatable.

Fatigue has always been a part of my depression. The worse my symptoms get, the more tired I get. My psychiatrist is very hopeful that beginning C-PAP therapy (wearing a breathing mask at night), which I began a couple of days ago, will put an end to my fatigue. That would be incredible. I can't imagine my life without fatigue.

I appreciate all of your supportive comments lately. You guys really hold me up when I'm feeling down. I write this blog in hopes of helping others, but at times like this, it turns out I'm the one being helped. I'm so grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

barely here

I'm still here. It's been a week since I checked in. That's longer than I prefer to be away, but life has been incredibly tough lately. Depression has me. It's holding on so tight I can't slip free. I'm confined. I'm constricted. I'm struggling. I'm exhausted. I could care less about anything and everything. I'm sad, and overwhelmed, and barely functioning. Functioning? I'm barely moving.

One thing. That's all I've been able to do. I have continued to get to work. That's it. My house. My body. My exercise routine. My chores. My errands. All of it, other than work, has been totally neglected. It's getting ugly around here. The uglier it gets, the more overwhelmed I get, and the more suffocating my depression gets. I can't breathe. Fuck depression! Fuck it.



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