Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 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!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Heavy heart

Today I write with a heavy heart. One of my high school classmates had a heart attack last week. He was on a treadmill in his employer's fitness center when he collapsed. Heroic efforts from two coworkers restarted his heart before he was transported to the hospital. Unfortunately, what seemed like a hopeful outcome early turned into a grim reality later. Tough decisions had to be made. And yesterday, shortly after he was removed from life support, John passed away peacefully. Though my heart is heavy, I am grateful John's family made the decision to donate his organs. I think that's exactly what he would have wanted.

I watched the journey of John's final days from afar via Caring Bridge and Facebook. It was sad and heart wrenching. Although I hadn't seen him since college, John was one of my group of high school friends. He was a nice, kindhearted teenager. And apparently, he grew up to be a nice, hard working, kindhearted guy. His Caring Bridge site was lovingly updated by his girlfriend, who he planned to marry, and with whom he was about to build a home to house their blended family. She wrote about it all, as she struggled to comprehend this traumatic event.

His girlfriend's post detailing their future plans was especially poignant. I frequently write about living in the moment. It's something I believe in strongly. I'm not perfect at it, but it's always the goal. John's girlfriend ended her future plans post with an admonishment to all. Do it today, she said, as you never know what tomorrow will bring. Amen.

As I ran 12.5 miles with Jet yesterday, John was in my thoughts almost every step. The shock, trauma and grief expressed by those close to him was all too familiar. Those feelings...I've been there.

Thirty four years ago, my 14-year-old stepsister (I was 15) went for a bike ride after dinner. Within hours my father and stepmother were in the very same hospital as John, faced with the very same decisions John's family had to make. In a freak accident, my stepsister was hit by a large truck. She was in nearly perfect condition, except for her head. She died, after being removed from life support, the next day. All of her organs and countless tissues were donated.

John's funeral service will be this Friday, January 20th. My stepsister, Pam, had she survived, would be turning 48 years old this Friday, January 20th. So many similarities to John's story; the shock and grief of sudden loss, the decision to remove life support, the organ donation, and finally the timing of his funeral on her birthday, have me in a very reflective mood. Joyful moments, long forgotten, have come roaring back.

I am remembering both Pam and John today. I am reflecting on how my life changed direction after I dealt (somewhat poorly) with Pam's sudden death. From his girlfriend's writing, it is clear her life will dramatically turn as a result of John's death. So many plans unrealized, yet life moves on. I remember how strange that felt in the moment. As my life moves on, in honor of both Pam and John, today I recommit to continue living right now. I know life offers no guarantees. I need to remember to say it now, do it now, and be what I want to be...now.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I hate being sick!

My coworker awoke Monday morning with a sore throat, muscle aches, and congestion. She came to work for a couple of hours, which is exactly what I would have done because we are so, so busy, but she did go home before lunch. Apparently that was too late. I'm sick. And I hate being sick!

I felt it coming on as I was leaving work yesterday. Now I have a sore throat, muscle aches and congestion, too. My coworker, who never misses a day, has been out of work 3 days in a row. But unlike my coworker, who as a full time employee has benefits like sick time, I can't afford to miss 3 days of work. As a part time employee, I do not have the same benefits. So besides feeling awful, I'm stressed about the potential of missed income.

I'm pretty sure getting stressed about something that may happen won't help me feel any better today. So I'm trying to focus on the things I can actually control in the here and now. I have cancelled all of my scheduled appointments and activities for the day. I started taking a zinc-based product, which in the past has helped me avoid serious illness, but right now I feel like crud.

I don't like feeling like crud because it feels too similar to some of my depression symptoms, and that makes me nervous. That's another reason to really try to take care of this today. In the past I have had episodes of depression arise out of physical illness, and the longer the physical illness lasts, the more likely the depression.

It seems everything which occurs in my life comes back to depression, either avoiding it or treating it. I wonder if that's similar for people with other chronic illnesses, like diabetes or MS? Hmm...interesting question. Anyway, that's all I have for now. I don't want to, but I better crawl back into bed. I've been up for a couple of hours, and I'm already exhausted. Damn.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lazy, but good

Despite continued laziness at home, which I'm still letting go rather than worrying about, I had a good week this week. Work went well. We are still incredibly busy, and we have some challenging patients on our caseload, but we also have some delightful, interesting patients, too. I work with good people. We work hard, keep the needs of our patients first, enjoy our patients and each other, and laugh quite a bit. I feel lucky to work with such good people. It certainly makes going in to work on these very busy days a lot easier.

It's been cold and icy this week, so running has been a bit of a challenge. It didn't even make it above 0 degrees Fahrenheit around here for several days. Making things worse, it rained right before the temperature dropped, so all roads, sidewalks and trails are still covered in ice. I hate the dreadmill, but I was forced to run inside twice this week.

Jet and I just came in from an icy run. It was 2 degrees with a brisk wind, and the footing was often treacherous, but I was happy to be outside. Worried about Jet's feet, I brought him home halfway through my 10-miler. We tried to run outside yesterday, which was a few degrees colder with an even stronger wind, but when Jet got cold feet I cut it short and finished my run at the gym. Despite the challenging conditions, I managed to run 4 days for a total of 35+ miles. I'm happy with that.

The highlight of my week was picking up my 11 year sobriety medallion. Although my anniversary was December 28th, I didn't have the opportunity to get to my meeting and pick up my medallion until Tuesday. It's important for me to pick up my medallion, as it allows me both to be an example for the newly sober alcoholic and to thank the others in the room (i.e. everyone) who have helped me along the way. I couldn't get sober alone. It took a village. I'm grateful to have found my village.

I'm also grateful my mood is good, my house is warm, my Achilles allows me to run, and my coworkers are fun professionals. Things could be worse. I've got nothing to complain about today.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tired or lazy?

I've got a bit of a conundrum. I'm feeling really lazy and unmotivated to do anything...except work and run. And if I didn't have to work, that list might be reduced to just running. My motivation for everything else, the basics of everyday life like errands, chores, eating, and socializing, has completely vanished. At least I'm running, I guess.

When I returned from Little Rock the week before Christmas I wasn't motivated to do anything. I chalked it up to fatigue from the combination of running a marathon and 24+ hours of driving in dicey weather. Of course I returned to work right away, but it took almost one week to get back to running. Since Christmas I've been running well and working when scheduled, but otherwise... nothing.

When I'm not working or running, I'm quite sedentary. I don't want to do anything. In fact, I barely want to move. It's a little weird. My mood seems good. Work is fun and fulfilling. And I'm pleased with my running, both the miles I'm accumulating and the pace at which I'm running them. Maybe when the college football bowl season comes to an end, and I have less reason to sit on my butt in front of the television every single day, my motivation to take care of myself and my house will return. I don't know. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

It would be nice to get my motivation for day to day life back. As it is, I'm forcing myself to do the bare minimum to get from one day to the next. I'm eating a lot of take out, cereal and PB & J. That's made it easier to keep up with the few dishes I've dirtied. I finally did my laundry because I ran out of work clothes. But my floors, bathroom, and empty cabinets definitely need attention. I keep telling myself I need to vacuum, clean, and go shopping, but I don't. I nap, watch TV, or go to bed instead.

I guess I'm tired? Or lazy? Or is this a sign my mood is about to take a dip? Like I said, it's weird. I have enough energy at work. I have enough motivation and energy to run, even on a really cold day like today, but I just can't seem to care about anything else. I'm a little concerned, but I'm more perplexed and annoyed than anything else. I guess I should stop trying to figure it out. It will pass, just as everything does. I have to remember that. Until it does, well, perhaps I'll take a nap.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

11

On December 28, 2005, my youngest brother had his first child. I have 8 nieces and nephews, and with the exception of the aforementioned nephew, I don't know any of their birth dates. Truthfully, I don't even know exactly how old most of them are. But I'll never forget Evan's first day, because December 28, 2005, was also the first day of the rest of my life. Today Evan turned 11, and today I celebrated 11 years of sobriety.

There is no relation between Evan's birth and my last drink. In fact, it took me a few years to even realize we shared this special day. Nonetheless, we both turned 11 today. It is a special day.

To say I'm amazed I'm sober today is a huge understatement. My first years of sobriety were rocky. I was stubborn and self-centered. I didn't want to be an alcoholic, and I sure didn't want to listen to anyone who thought they might have a solution! I was sure I was different. I didn't need any help. After all, I was a professional. I had a car, and a home, and food on my table. I'd never been arrested for drunk driving. I hadn't lost family and friends because of my drinking. How could I be an alcoholic?

Despite my severe case of terminal uniqueness, I somehow made it through those early years. I stuck around the people with the solution long enough, even though I didn't want nor think I needed to be there, that some of the solution actually began to sink in. I shut my mouth and opened my ears. I became willing.

These sober people had lives I wanted to live. They were people of character, compassion and love. And most of them had recovered from more difficult circumstances than my drinking had ever imposed upon me. I was, I figured out, lucky to have arrived when I did. If I had continued drinking 11 years ago I would not have been able to avoid a much darker fate.

Actually, if I had continued drinking I'm certain I wouldn't be alive today. The combination of depression and alcoholism would likely have taken my life years ago. I am so grateful I hung around, opened my ears, and eventually took the suggestions offered to me. I didn't just stop drinking. I changed. I became a kinder, more gentle human being. I learned to live life on life's terms. I am the person I am today because I am sober.

It is a special day. Today. 11 years. Sober. More grateful I could not be.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

I was contemplating being alone on Christmas Eve while Jet and I were out on a lovely, warm, 7-mile late afternoon run earlier. There was a ton of traffic. Between the early service Christmas Eve church goers and the last minute shoppers, the roads were bustling. But Jet and I had the paved bike trails, some of which parallel those busy roads, all to ourselves.

I found myself wondering what those drivers thought about a lone, female (and her dog) running on Christmas Eve. I wondered if some of them, assuming correctly I was spending the day alone, felt sad for me. That was, after all, the common reaction among my coworkers and patients earlier this week. But I wasn't sad then, and I'm not sad now.

I really enjoyed my solo run this afternoon. Unlike the travelers bustling around me, I didn't have any church commitment or last minute gifts to buy tonight. I didn't have to be anywhere except right where I was on that uncluttered bike path with my dog. I felt peaceful and serene.

This morning I volunteered to work some extra hours at the hospital, and I really enjoyed my patients and coworkers. My patients seemed extra grateful for treatment received today, a holiday weekend, even though we always treat patients on holidays. And my coworkers were quite appreciative. They were extremely busy and way under-staffed. I felt glad to be able to help. I left there feeling fulfilled.

I took a long nap after work and before my run, which was also lovely. I just got out of a long, hot shower. And now I'm sitting here, geeking out with my feet up, a football game muted on the television while I listen to a public radio Christmas variety show and blog. Being alone isn't so bad.

I like the peacefulness I feel today. I'm not sure what it's all about. I guess I'm just a loner at heart. I'm sure if I was with family or friends, I'd be enjoying that time, too, but this has been a good day. It's been a day of my choosing. Except for work this morning, I had nowhere to be, no expectations to meet, nobody to please. I did what I did when I wanted to do it. It's been nice.

I have been invited to two Christmas dinners tomorrow. I appreciate the invites. It will be nice to spend some time with friends. I'll go to one dinner, but other than those couple hours, I'll spend tomorrow alone with Jet, too. And that's okay. I'm grateful to feel at peace this Christmas. I wish all of you peace, joy, and serenity, too. Merry Christmas, my friends.

Monday, December 19, 2016

49

On the last day of my 48th year, December 17, 2016, I ran The 3 Bridges Marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was my gift to myself, and it proved to be a tough gift. It was 72 degrees. Yes, 72 degrees Fahrenheit. When I left home in Minnesota on Thursday it was -9 F. It was only in the 30's in Little Rock on Friday, but it was 72 degrees with about 85% humidity on Saturday! Go figure.

Despite the heat, I actually had a decent race. I ran 14 seconds slower than I did in New York 6 weeks ago, but in New York I ran the second half of the race 3 minutes faster than the first half. In Little Rock, I ran the second half 3 minutes slower. The last 5 miles were my slowest miles of the day. It was a true test of perseverance. I refused to walk, but I could not lift my feet any higher or will my legs to go any faster. I was proud to finish without giving in to my fatigue and walking. It was my little victory.

I actually had another bigger, unexpected victory shortly after crossing the finish line. My 3:51:44 was good enough for first in my (old) age division. I received a very nice, 3 dimensional plaque for my efforts. It wasn't a big race. There were about 400 runners, I believe. I finished 27th overall and 10th among women. Overall it was a good day.

I arrived home from Little Rock yesterday, my 49th birthday. (I can't believe I'm 49 years old!) If you've been paying attention to the weather, you know my corner of the world has been extremely cold. I think it was -24 degrees, that's without wind chill, on Saturday night. It was 10 below when I got home yesterday afternoon. And I came home to two more unexpected surprises.

Despite arranging for a friend to clear my driveway while I was gone, it was packed with 6-8 inches of new snow. My friend chose not to clear the snow secondary to the dangerously cold conditions. Okay. Unfortunately, it was so cold my snowblower wouldn't start! I stayed out long enough to shovel the sidewalks and stairs, but the driveway went undone. Frustrating, but not that big a deal, really.

Later last night I had a much bigger, stressful surprise. When I attempted to take a shower I discovered one of my water lines had frozen while I was gone. Instant stress! I worked feverishly for almost 3 hours trying to get the line to thaw, all the while hoping it hadn't split and wouldn't burst, but nothing worked. Finally I gave up and went to bed. I was exhausted. I said a prayer, turned my heat way up, and left the faucet in my bathroom open overnight. At 5:11 AM, the water began to flow. Happy birthday to me.

I wasn't looking forward to paying a plumber to thaw my water line, especially if I was going to have to have my snowblower repaired, too. And did I mention my root canal will be completed tomorrow? As generous as the endodontist has been thus far, I will need to pay her a chunk of cash, too. Financial stress...not my favorite thing.

Thankfully, I was able to start my snowblower tonight after warming it with a space heater for an hour. So two potentially expensive, stressful situations were resolved without too much pain. I'm thankful for that. I was feeling a little snake-bitten last night. Now I just have to get through my root canal. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing after that.

Monday, December 12, 2016

16

Perhaps some of you noticed. My profile underwent its yearly edit. Instead of 15, it now says 16 years. I recently passed the 16 year mark on my journey with depression. After having depression as a teenager, I was mental-illness-free until I was in my early 30's. It was November, 2000, to be exact, when I first noticed the familiar, unwanted symptoms creeping back into my life. Depression descended upon me.

Sixteen years. If you'd asked me early in this journey, perhaps anytime in the first 5 or 6 years, I'd have told you this was the worst thing that ever happened to me. In the early years, my depression was severe and uncontrolled. I lost everything, including my spouse, my job, my house, and even my friends. I was drinking too much and bopping in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. I was unstable and miserable. Life wasn't fair, or so I thought, and I wanted to die.

Something changed in the midst of this journey. It didn't happen overnight, but something changed. I changed. I stopped drinking. More importantly, I got sober. There is a difference. I began to collaborate with my doctors and providers, rather than expecting them to "fix it." Perhaps that's how we found some medications which worked. Or perhaps removing alcohol from my system just allowed them to work. I regained a sense of control. I stopped being a victim and began taking responsibility for my mental health.

The last several years have been more good than bad. The hospital hasn't disappeared from my journey, but it's now a rarity rather than a regularity. Of course I wish I didn't have this illness. I don't wish depression on anyone. But I now feel like I live with depression rather than suffer from it. I can't totally control it, but I can certainly make choices which limit its impact on my life. If I do what I can do, continue to take the next right action, and seek help when I need help; living life, rather than dealing with depression, is where I get to focus my energy.

I no longer feel like depression is the worst thing that ever happened to me. As a result of living with depression, I've learned a lot, taken advantage of many opportunities, and grown a ton over the past 16 years. This illness has forced humility and gratitude and kindness upon me. I am truly a kinder, more gentle human being because of my experience living with depression. But I'm also a tougher, more resilient human being, too. Skills learned through the difficulty of depression actually simplify and enrich my life today. I never would have guessed that 16 years ago.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Stacked Deck?

It's easy to be grateful when everything is going well. But when the deck feels like it's stacked against me, I have to make a conscious choice to look for the positive, to practice gratitude rather than disgust, despair, or angst. Unfortunately, I've had too much opportunity over the past 3 days to practice making that conscious choice over and over again.

Today I'm grateful the bottom, right molar, which has been increasingly sensitive to cold and pressure for 10 days, and which I thought had a simple cavity, wasn't fractured so severely it couldn't be saved. I'm grateful my dentist, who felt so horrible for all the dental drama I've been through, didn't charge me a dime for the x-rays and exam she performed before referring me to an endodontist for further diagnosis.

I'm grateful the endodontist was willing to squeeze me in the very next day and that my employer was willing to let me leave mid-day despite our extremely busy schedule. I'm so grateful my endodontist was then willing to begin the process of a root canal, despite her busy schedule, immediately following her assessment of my tooth. To top it off the endodontist offered her services at a discount, again as a result of her dismay at all I've been through with my teeth over the past 3 years. I'm grateful for that.

My endodontist, who could not get my tooth numb even after 5 injections with two different medications, and who was getting further and further behind in her busy schedule, was willing to try one more injection with a third medication directly into my jaw bone. I'm grateful she took that last step. It worked, and it meant I avoided at least another week of continued pain and fistfuls of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

I'm grateful my orthodontist was willing to see me today to assist with the process of hopefully saving this critical tooth. I'm grateful he was willing to make me a night guard, a complex process when one has braces, in order to protect this fractured tooth and all my other teeth from eventual fracture, as a result of my nightly teeth grinding. And I'm grateful he is willing to work with my endodontist to find a way to protect this tooth 24 hours per day until I can get a crown, which can't occur until I get my braces off.

It's been a very trying three days. I felt an intense sense of doom when first told this tooth was fractured. I felt despair. Another expensive tooth setback, I really couldn't believe it. For a time, it sucked the life out of me. But I kept taking the next right action. I did what I could do. The outcome was going to be what it was, and it could have been a lot worse. I'm grateful it wasn't worse.

The kindness, generosity and care with which I've been treated over the past 3 days has been amazing. I sent thank you cards to everyone involved this morning. Not one of them had to offer the services they did when they did. Yet they each did what they could, as soon as they could, and they did it with great compassion. I'm very fortunate. And very grateful.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Restoring the energy

I was going to call this post rejuvenated, but that wasn't entirely true. I'm not quite there yet. But I do feel a bit restored. As planned, I only worked my regularly scheduled 3 days this week. That made a big difference. I was able to get back to my preferred training intensity, and I caught up on some much needed napping. I love naps! I'm feeling better, physically and mentally.

I'm training for my next marathon, which comes up in just a couple of weeks. I'll be running the 3 Bridges Marathon in Arkansas for my 49th (ugh!) birthday. I had a great, quick paced 10-mile run today. It felt good to go fast. Tomorrow I'll run a 12-15 mile long run and then start tapering again. I'm looking forward to experiencing another new marathon. It will be my next adventure.

Hmm... I don't know what else to tell you today. I'm relieved to be feeling less tired and worn out. My mood eventually suffers, and sometimes suffers mightily, if I stay tired too long. I have a little busier week ahead, but I think I now have the energy to tackle it. And I only have to tackle it one day at a time. Keep moving forward, and carry on, my friends.



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