Depression Marathon Blog
- 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!
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
I had my right Achilles tendon surgery yesterday. I'm back in my boot, non-weight bearing for the next few days, and then partial weight bearing with my crutches for rest of the week. I'm hoping to return to work next week, still in my boot, but without the crutches. I'll be in the boot for 2-4 weeks. Of course, I'm hoping for two rather than four.
The surgery itself was quite simple. I was a little anxious, but after they numbed up my ankle I didn't feel a thing. I'm feeling very fortunate, as I've had no pain since the procedure. I have nothing to complain about.
Today, if I can get through the pending blizzard descending upon us, I have my orthodontist appointment to get my bottom braces. And Thursday the real pain will begin, as I will have oral surgery to remove my ankylosed right canine tooth. It's a jam-packed week, but I'm hopeful it is the start of better health times to come.
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Stuff happens. And I've got a lot of stuff going on right now. I seem to be accumulating more and more weight on my sagging shoulders. Carrying all that stuff around is getting a little heavy. Mentally I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a vast expanse of quick sand looking for safe way to cross without sinking. Somehow I've got to unload the accumulated weight, keep moving forward, and deal with what comes next.
Next. Monday I've got surgery on my Achilles tendon. The three months of recovery begins with 4-7 days of non-weight bearing on my right foot, another 1-2 weeks of immobilization in a boot, at least one week off of work, and no exercise for at least two weeks. And of course those timelines will hold only if everything goes perfectly. With my luck over the past several months, I'm not too confident anything will go perfectly.
Next. Tuesday I'll be back at the orthodontist getting braces on my bottom teeth and preparing my right canine tooth for, next, oral surgery on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon I'll be in pain top and bottom. I'll be sitting in my living room icing my ankle and face, unable to bear weight on my right foot and unable to chew on the right side of my mouth. Perhaps I should get some movies...or maybe a few sleeping pills!
I'm worried. I'm concerned about being isolated in my home after my surgeries. The inability to work makes me very worried about paying my bills. I'm concerned two weeks of inactivity will stifle my physical, and even more concerning, my mental health. I'm concerned about pain running me down further. I'm anxious about what lies ahead.
Feeling weighted down, shoulders sagging, I know I need to fight to hold my head up. I feel like I'm already fighting, but I'm also already a little tired. The physical and emotional toll of what lies ahead scares me. I feel like I've begun a bit of a downhill slide, and I need to arrest it quickly, for I fear I will need all my strength to get through the upcoming weeks. I pray for the strength to carry on, to keep moving forward, and to deal with what comes next.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
They say hindsight is 20/20. I'd have to agree. On successive days this week, Thursday and Friday, I had the opportunity to reflect on what might have been if only I'd made different decisions in the past. Those are not nice thoughts to have, nor are they at all productive, but have them I did.
On Thursday, I met with my orthodontist and an oral surgeon regarding my frustrating teeth. If you recall, the primary reason I entered into the braces proposition two years ago was because of my 46-year-old canine baby tooth. It was loose, and I feared it would decay and fall out any day. The permanent tooth was stuck up under my gum tissue. It never erupted, as they say in the biz, but it was there.
The orthodontist assured me he was 95% sure he could pull the permanent tooth into place. In 20 years, he said, he had only had one or two instances where he wasn't able to pull the permanent tooth into place. Two years and two oral surgeries later, and over a year without a canine tooth in the front of my mouth, my orthodontist and oral surgeon agreed the permanent tooth was not going to budge any further. It is ankylosed in bone.
I will have my third oral surgery, to remove the permanent tooth entirely, on February 4th. After letting the area heal for at least four months, and only after my orthodontic treatment has totally straightened my teeth, can I begin the nine month process of getting an implant. This was not what I wanted to hear, and the news made me sincerely question my decision to begin this process at all.
My braces have already been on longer than originally planned, and we're nowhere near done. I'm going to have to practice a ton of acceptance and patience for perhaps another year or more! The thought of it weighs me down.
While that frustrating news weighed on me, I nevertheless drove to work Friday morning with a bit of optimism. I planned to finally accept the full-time job offered to me in December. As soon as I arrived my supervisor informed me she needed to speak with me for a couple of minutes. Good, I joked, as I wanted to speak to her, too.
Before I could tell her my big news, acceptance of the position I had been doing for several weeks as an on-call employee, she told me they needed to cut back my hours. She pulled the job offer out from under me. They wanted to keep me on, she said, three days per week instead of four, and as an on-call rather than a regular, permanent employee. So no benefits, no guarantee of hours, no paid time off, no health insurance, no dental insurance, no retirement account... I was stunned.
All the benefits of a full-time position, the benefits I had been happily running through my head that very morning, were no longer an option. Just like that. The self recrimination began immediately. Damn depression! If only I hadn't needed several weeks to see if I could tolerate full-time hours, I thought. If only I had accepted the offer sooner, I'd very likely have all those benefits right now. But it will not be.
I'm grateful they still want me to work for them as an on-call employee. I enjoy working there. But as an on-call employee, my work schedule is much more tenuous. I do want a regular position with benefits and regularly scheduled hours. And now I know I can tolerate working up to 30 hours per week. I will again have to practice patience and acceptance as I wait for something else, I hope, to come along.
I'm still reeling a little bit from both of these disappointments. I'm probably being a bit hard on myself, too, as I feel I could have avoided both situations with different decisions in the past. But thinking that way does me no good whatsoever. I know that. Hindsight may be 20/20, but like I said, it's also totally unproductive.
From this moment, all I can do is move forward, so I'm going to try my best to do just that and only that. Life has thrown me a few curve balls lately. But if I want to keep my mental health stable, I need to focus less on the swings and misses and more on the next pitch. I know that, too. Carry on, my friends.
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Delta Airlines got me home from vacation today. We were only 1.5 hours late today. Sitting in Atlanta, after the second delay was announced, I began having horrible visions of another nightmare trip. Thankfully, those visions didn't materialize. It would have been nice to have arrived home on schedule, but I'll take an hour and a half over an 8 hour, overnight spent on a bench in the airport, delay anytime!
After recovering from my nightmarish trip to Florida last week, I did call Delta Customer Care about my mis-adventures. The Delta customer care representative was quite appropriately apologetic, even admitting that Delta "failed in this instance," and she issued me another $100 travel gift card. So I received a total of $150 for my troubles. That will come in handy when I travel this fall.
Thankfully, I am now back in my humble, albeit cold, home. It's nice to be back in my space. I had a great time in Florida with my parents. It wasn't super warm, but the sunshine sure felt nice. My parents, at my encouraging (I'm trying desperately to get them to move more) walked with me almost every day, on the beach and through the woods. I also met some of their friends, and we daily sampled the local cuisine. I enjoyed myself, but I'm glad to be home, nonetheless.
I took a few pictures. If I have the gumption, I'll post them soon. But right now I've got to get ready for my return to work tomorrow. I'm looking forward to resuming my regular routine. Work, Jet, meetings and exercise. Pleasantly boring, I hope, just the way I like it.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
I left home yesterday to begin my vacation. I was so excited to be flying out of my local, small airport, as it is only a few miles from my home. After a friend dropped me off and pulled away, I received a text stating my plane had been delayed. Okay. No big deal. I had a long layover in Atlanta anyway. I was on my way to Florida to visit my parents.
Three texts, i.e. delays, later, my layover had disappeared. No problem. I phoned Delta Airlines, and their polite male agent put me on a later flight from Atlanta to Florida. It was, however, the last flight to Florida that night. Nevertheless, I wasn't too concerned. I mean we'd already been delayed 3 or 4 hours. How much longer could this last, I thought?
Well... The texts didn't end. Soon the last flight of the day from Atlanta to Florida was no longer a possibility. It's okay, the polite agent told me on the phone. Delta would put me up in a hotel overnight, and I'd be on the first flight out in the morning. He explained a courteous Delta agent would meet me at the gate in Atlanta and set it all up. Transportation to and from the hotel, too, I asked? No problem, he said. Okay...
The Delta agents at my local airport were great. They ordered us complimentary pizza for dinner, plied our patience with free soda and chocolate, and assured us we'd be on our way soon. It was seven hours later before our plane took off. We arrived in Atlanta around 1:00 AM.
There was one Delta agent at the gate, just as promised. However, that Delta agent directed me to the Delta ticket counter. She said the ticket agent there would issue me a hotel voucher and get me on my way. The ticket counter, I discovered, was over one mile away (not even exaggerating a little), and the tram from my terminal to the ticket counter was no longer running. Okay. No big deal. It actually felt good to stretch my legs.
I was so proud of myself for taking this "inconvenience," as the Delta agents kept calling it, in stride. Sure it was annoying, but stuff happens, right? On my way to the ticket counter I called Delta again, as I decided I no longer wanted a hotel voucher. I figured by the time I got settled into my room, I'd have to turn around and come back to the airport for my morning flight. I didn't want to deal with the hassle of transportation and getting through security again in a very busy city and airport.
The agent on the phone confirmed I was headed in the right direction, to the Delta ticket counter, and she said that once there, an agent would issue a flight voucher, perhaps worth $100-$150. That's what she said. Well, my take-it-in-stride attitude changed a bit when I arrived at the ticket counter, somewhere around 1:30 AM, and it was totally vacated and dark. What???
At that point another phone call to Delta, my seventh call of the day, changed my attitude a lot! The polite agent on the other end of the phone said, "Of course the ticket counter is closed. It's only open until 7:00 PM." I was exasperated! Even if I had wanted to go to a hotel, it seemed it was actually not at all an option. I had just walked over one mile in the middle of the night, on the advice of two different Delta agents, and not a sole existed to assist me.
What was I supposed to do, I inquired? The agent on the phone offered me the toll free customer care number. I could call them at 8:00 AM, he said. That was all he could do. I couldn't believe it.
I wandered around for another ten minutes. I think I was in such disbelief I didn't know what else to do, and I was so angry I wasn't ready to give up. That's when I spotted a lost baggage office with one lonely worker inside. He couldn't help me, but he summoned a woman in a red vest from a back room. Apparently the red vest denotes some level of power at Delta.
Red vest wasn't too interested in what I had been through over the previous 10 hours. She didn't care that two separate agents had assured me I would be assisted by someone at the empty ticket counter. For all I knew, she was the agent who was supposed to be assisting me in the first place! And I only found her because I desperately wandered into a lonely lost baggage office.
Red Vest flatly stated she could issue me a $50 ticket voucher. Is that what I wanted, she asked? I told her about the phone agent's suggestion that I would perhaps be entitled to $100-$150 voucher. Nope. Fifty bucks. Take it or leave it. I took it. I then asked her for the customer care number the previous phone agent had offered to me. She didn't say a word.
Red Vest printed up my lucrative ticket voucher and handed it to me without a word or a glance. She offered me a meal voucher, which I also took, and which she also gave me without comment. I asked again about the customer care number. She motioned to the paper in my hand. When I looked down I saw an email and a snail mail address for Delta customer care. There was no phone number listed.
That's when I was delivered the final shot. When I inquired, Red Vest flatly told me customer care could not be reached by phone. They didn't have a phone number, she said. I had to use the email or postal address she had provided. She lied. Remember, the previous phone agent had offered me the toll free customer care number just 10 minutes before. I was too tired to argue with Red Vest. I left with my vouchers. Google easily provided Delta's "non-existent" customer care number a few moments later.
I'm in Florida now. I arrived this morning, without incident or delay, after spending the overnight on a bench in the Atlanta airport. Operating on 3 hours of sleep, I haven't yet had the energy to call Delta customer care, but I will. I don't expect much, and I wish I had thought to get Red Vest's name, but I will call them anyway. I'm planning to enjoy the rest of my time here, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about my trip back home. Wish me luck, my friends.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Life. It's throwing a lot at me right now. I admit, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I've been very busy with work, medical appointments for Jet and I, taking care of my house, attending meetings, trying to fit in regular exercise around all of the above, and now finally updating my blog.
I'm still trying to adjust to being away from home for up to 9 hours per day, four days per week. Actually, I work again tomorrow, so it will be five days of work this week. It's a lot for me. I know it's "normal" for a lot of people, but it's not something I've even been able to try for years, and it's still very new. I'm not sure yet if I'm handling it well or not. Fortunately, I've still got some time to decide whether or not I'm going to make this a permanent schedule change.
The work schedule is not the only uncertainty I am currently experiencing. I saw the orthopedic specialist about my Achilles yesterday. An ultrasound clearly showed my Achilles is still torn, and after a long discussion I decided to go ahead with a surgical procedure called Tenex. The doctor gave it a 75% chance of success, not as great as I'd like, but certainly better than doing nothing. Unfortunately, after the February 1st surgery, I will have another 2-3 month period of relative inactivity while I heal. I'm not looking forward to that, but I've got to do something.
I've also got to do something about my teeth. I saw my orthodontist yesterday, and the braces are not doing the job we intended them to do. I'm still missing a permanent canine tooth, more than one year after pulling the 46 year old baby tooth that was occupying the space. We've been trying to pull down the permanent canine with the braces for over a year, but it's not moving.
In fact, instead of the braces working to pull my canine tooth down, the ankylosed canine is pulling all of the surrounding teeth up. I now look worse than when we began this whole process! I'm going in Monday to have braces added on my lower teeth, which we hope will, with the assistance of multiple rubber bands connecting top to bottom, straighten everything out. But there is no guarantee.
In the meantime, I have two holes in my mouth where teeth should be, the fractured, infected molar on the upper left which had to be pulled in October, and the canine on the upper right. I am going to the oral surgeon in two weeks to see what he can do. Despite the considerable expense, I'm hoping he will be able to put implants in both empty spaces.
I'm tired of an ugly, empty smile (missing canine) and frustrated with only being able to chew on one side of my mouth (missing molar). While it is very likely he will be able to implant the molar, whether he will be able to do anything with the missing canine is very uncertain. I'm worried about that.
I dislike worry and uncertainty. In hindsight, which is of course perfect, I never would have begun the orthodontic journey. I'd still have a baby tooth in my smile, but at least it would be a tooth! Looking back, I also would have pursued a second opinion on my Achilles tear much, much sooner. There's no guarantee this surgery will work, but if I had pursued it months ago, perhaps I'd be back running by now. And perhaps not... I'll never know.
Likewise, I have no way of knowing for sure which decision is the "right" decision when it comes to my work schedule. At least I'm getting time to give the potential schedule a trial run. I'll have some first hand experience on which to base my decision. Perhaps that will make me feel more certain when decision time comes. And perhaps not...
Life. Sometimes I wish it came with guarantees.
Saturday, January 2, 2016
Two days into 2016, and I couldn't be more pleased. To 2015 I say, "Good riddance!" While 2015 wasn't all bad, it was a long, tough year in a lot of ways. I can only hope for smoother sailing in 2016. Let's take a look at the record.
I began 2015 in my third month of recovery, i.e. no running, from October, 2014, hip surgery. I did what I could to maintain my fitness, but my mood took a hit anyway. I struggled with my illness for about 6 weeks, from early January through mid -February. I began my slow return to running in late January, and perhaps not coincidentally, my mood began it's slow ascent as well.
By March I was feeling emotionally well again. My life was pleasantly boring for a few weeks. But by mid-March, shortly after guaranteeing an entry into the November 1st, New York City Marathon, I developed what would turn into a debilitating running injury. At that point, I was only sidelined for a couple weeks with a sore calf. Oh, how I wish that had been the extent of it!
April found me running again, albeit with a sore, right Achilles tendon, working regularly, socializing, and otherwise participating fully in life. I was on schedule to run Grandmas Marathon in June. A trip to Arizona with my boyfriend, Don, however, changed that. In Arizona, on April 25, 2015, a date I may never forget, at mile 13 of a 17 mile long run, I tore my right Achilles tendon.
That Arizona trip was a turning point in more ways than one. Within a few weeks, on the exact day an MRI confirmed my Achilles tear, I decided to end my relationship with Don. Our relationship was no longer fulfilling or positive. I needed someone capable of more support and commitment. That being said, ending a relationship after four years was nonetheless difficult and sad.
May, June and July were primarily focused on working, attempting to heal and rehab my Achilles, and forlornly standing by as one race after another passed without my participation. I tried my best to take good care of myself, stick to a healthy routine, and see friends. Unfortunately, by late July, depression began another assault. I could not have predicted what the next 3 months would bring.
A full blown, devastating and debilitating depression relapse took me out of life for almost 3 months. I spent my entire Fall desperately trying to release the grip of depression's stranglehold. Two, 2-week hospitalizations, many ECT treatments, multiple medication trials, silly group programming, and countless appointments and meetings with concerned friends and professionals did not help. Life as I knew it ceased.
I wasn't just walking wounded. By early October, I was walking dead. Desperately suicidal and fearful for my own safety, I wasn't sure I could outlast the depression. In the span of nine days, however, that changed. After yet another medication change, I went from walking dead, to wounded, to hopeful. I began to feel lighter. The depression vacuum released.
After 3 months, I returned to life in late October. But just as I was returning, two emergency, painful oral surgeries knocked me back. I persevered. Slowly, cautiously, I found my way back to friends, work and exercise. And after a 7 month layoff, I even returned to running (just barely) November 1st, the very day I was supposed to be running the New York City Marathon. There was hope.
If you've been following along, you know a lot of good has happened over these last two months. My mood is excellent. It's miraculous when I consider how disabled I was just a few months ago. I'm so grateful we found a new medication that works. I'm alive once again.
My life is moving forward. I just celebrated 10 years of sobriety. I am working four days per week, with the opportunity to lock up a regular, full time position within the next few weeks, if all continues to go well. And while re-aggravation of my Achilles brought a halt to my running, once again, I am hopeful the specialist I am seeing Thursday will be able to fix it. I have to believe that.
And so hope begins a new year. The long, challenging year that was 2015 is now in the rear view mirror. The pain and loss are behind me. I do not have to re-live them. I'm looking forward to healing and succeeding in 2016. I'm sure it won't all be sunshine and roses, but if I survived 2015, I believe I can survive just about anything. And so can you! Happy New Year, my friends!
Monday, December 28, 2015
It's a big, amazing, unbelievable day today. Double digits. It's been ten years since I took my last drink of alcohol. Ten years since I lived in the self-centered, manipulative, miserable world of an active alcoholic. Today, thanks to my higher power, my adoption of the tools of my recovery program, and my work with others, I am a recovered alcoholic. One day at a time, 3,650 days, I am sober, and that truly is amazing.
I'm amazed because ten years ago I could not have imagined a life without alcohol. It was my medication, my social lubricant, my muscle relaxant, and my solution to life. But, and I must remember this, alcohol also isolated me, filled me with despondency, and left me a suicidal mess incapable of coping with life. Sobriety is a gift. It is a gift of life.
The tools I've been so freely given in my recovery have allowed me to live life on life's terms. I no longer try to control the uncontrollable--that is, the people, places, and things outside of myself. That is truly a gift. Drama has been removed from my life. I now have the internal resources to deal with that which is in front of me, whether it be a crumbling relationship, a debilitating injury, a job decision, or major depression.
Of course it's not all sunshine and roses. Life never is. I struggle. I hurt. I feel. But the gift of my life today is I don't have to get drunk over any of it. Even in the depths of my mental illness, the darkness that is depression, I know it would only get worse if I took a drink. I'm so fortunate to understand that. And I'm so grateful I do.
I have no great understanding of why I got this gift. Why me and not my fellow sufferer? I cannot explain it. I am not special or unique. I certainly did not approach sobriety with a stellar attitude. I saw no similarities between myself and my fellow sufferers, only differences. Of course I had no desire to be like any of them! Alcoholic was not a diagnosis I yearned to acquire.
Yet despite my attitude and arrogance, I got the gift anyway. I stuck around. I became willing. I kept coming back. And ten years later I'm still here, still listening, still soaking it all in. Today I live in the solution rather than the problem.
With the deck seemingly stacked against me, I got sober anyway. And I'm sober today. I'm a participant in my life, doing the best I can, and not looking back. Thank God! Ten years. More grateful, I could not be.
Friday, December 25, 2015
I'm just back from a crisp, seven mile, Christmas morning walk with my boy, Jet. We usually spend time running, or as was the case this year, walking on Christmas day. I like the quiet, practically solitary time together in the city. In our 1 hour, 44 minute walk, we only passed two other people and very few cars. We had the city to ourselves. It was very peaceful.
It's just me and Jet this Christmas, as it has been for many Christmases previously. I'm okay with that. My parents are in Florida for the winter, and my brothers all share the day with their own children and extended families. I will go to dinner at a friend's house later this afternoon, but until then I am enjoying the freedom to do what I want, without expectations, and the quiet.
After work yesterday, I spent some time with a few friends. The topic of discussion eventually turned to mental illness, and specifically depression, as several of my friends are fellow sufferers. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for those of us with mental illness for many reasons. Dysfunctional or distant families, difficult family memories, friends occupied with their own families, or time away from work and out of one's normal routine leave many feeling isolated and alone during the holidays. I get that.
I feel very grateful to be feeling well, and at peace, during this Christmas season. I like the path I am currently on, and I'm feeling hopeful for the future. I wish all of you peace and serenity today. Remember to take care of yourself first, especially if you find this season difficult or challenging. Take time for yourself, manage expectations, and find gratitude wherever possible. Create your own traditions. And most importantly have a safe, healthy, happy day. Merry Christmas, my friends!
Friday, December 18, 2015
So today is my birthday. I was born in 1967. You do the math. I'm not thrilled with getting older, especially this old! Having had depression for 15, sometimes tumultuous, years, I don't feel like I've lived as many years as the number suggests. I feel like I've missed a lot. Career, relationship, financial status... none of it is necessarily where I'd like it to be. But it is what it is, right? All I can do is focus on making the most of the day in front of me. I certainly don't want to miss anymore.
I didn't do anything special today. I worked. Some of my co-workers remembered it was a big day, some didn't. That's okay. But can I just say I hate Facebook? I drove home feeling a little sorry for myself. The combination of coming home to an empty house and Facebook kind of had me down. Facebook! Of all things!
Here's the thing, only one Facebook friend wished me a happy birthday all day. Now I'm not a big Facebook user, but I seem to get notified everyday of some friend's birthday. Most of the time I respond to the notification with a little birthday wish on that friend's timeline. So when only one friend posted a little blurb wishing me a happy birthday today, I was, well, I'm embarrassed to say, a little sad.
Thankfully, before I got too deep into my pity pot, I got on Facebook and tried to figure out what was going on. I mean, I couldn't be that unpopular, could I? After much research and a few tutorials, as I said I'm not a regular Facebook-er, I figured out my birthday was not visible on my profile. Apparently, that meant nobody was actually notified of the big event. I changed the setting, my birthday is now visible, and I've already received a few happy birthday wishes from friends. Whew! I don't think my ego could have handled a Facebook shutout!
Now that that's settled, I'm going to spend the evening playing and snuggling with my dog. Unconditional love, there is nothing better. Earlier, I took myself out for dinner, and I'm sure my mom will call soon. I can always count on that. And there's my phone now. It's my brother. All is good in etta's world. And tomorrow will be another day, the first of another year. Life moves on. I'll keep moving on with it. Carry on, my friends!