Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 13 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!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


These are the flowers my boyfriend, D, sent me last Wednesday wishing me a quick recovery from hip surgery. They're still looking good and still making me smile today. Grateful.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Surgery, so far, has been a success. Of course it's hard to tell exactly, as I'm still in the initial stages of recovery. I had my right hip arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday. The surgeon did a CAM and Pincer resection, for those of you wanting the specifics, which is exactly what was planned. Basically, he resected bone from the hip socket and the head of the femur in order to stop the impingement (pinching) which was causing my pain.

Fortunately, I am able to put as much weight as I tolerate on my right leg. In fact, once I awoke from the procedure, I was able to walk out of the building. It hurt, but it was nice to be able to put weight on my leg immediately. Since Tuesday, things have improved. I've already been able to discontinue my pain meds, and my limping has gotten less and less pronounced. I'm hoping to be able to walk Jet by this weekend and to get on my stationary bike by early next week.

I'm hopeful this procedure, my third, will take care of my pain permanently. It is going to be quite difficult to lay low and not run for three months. Of course, the weather has been absolutely perfect for running since Tuesday. God has a strange sense of humor. In two weeks, after my incisions fully heal, I'll be able to get in the pool. I dislike getting into a cold pool, and swimming bores me, but I'm committed to maintaining as much of my fitness as possible. My mental health depends on it.

In other news, my parents, who have been very helpful over the past couple days, have left to go south for the winter. I won't see them again until May, 2015. My mood always takes a bit of a hit when they leave, and today is no exception. I enjoy my parents. We have been making up for lost time over the past few years, and we've gotten closer and closer during that time. I miss them when they are gone for so long, but I'm happy they have found a lifestyle which suits them and keeps them active.

And that's today's news. I'm off to run some errands and lift some weights (arms only) at the gym. The quest to stay fit starts today.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Last Race of 2014

I had a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth from the Chicago Marathon last Sunday, so yesterday I signed up to run another half I ran the Mankato Half Marathon, which was about 90 minutes from my home, this morning. I wanted to run one more time before my hip surgery, Tuesday, sidelines me for the next three months. And I wanted to run well, up to my potential, which I failed to do in Chicago.

My goals this morning were similar to Chicago, run the entire race and finish feeling strong. I started conservatively, following my friend Therese, who was pacing the 1:50 crowd (8:23/mile). I had to combat negative thinking through those early miles, as usual, as we traversed some rolling hills and ran into a significant headwind. But by mile five, the pace felt too relaxed and I soon found myself passing Therese and heading off on my own. I still wasn't sure what to expect, but before long I found myself at mile ten feeling fairly good. I knew with only 5K left I would definitely finish, and I picked up the pace. The last three miles were tough. I was pushing hard, racing, and it felt good. I do love to race. Within the last two miles, I dropped three women I had been dueling with for several miles. That was fun. I finished audibly huffing, but strong, around 1:47:30 (8:12/mile).

It was fun to race. I was happy to meet both of my goals. It makes going into surgery in two days a bit more palatable, though I'm still dreading not being able to run for three months. Actually, I'm a little worried about the next three months. Running is so much a part of my life. It keeps me balanced and mentally healthy. I am really going to have to work hard to maintain my physical fitness while I'm recovering, otherwise my mental health will be in jeopardy. I hope I can stay motivated to swim and bike for the next three months.

My other concern with surgery is, of course, financial. Besides running, I am not allowed to jump or squat for three months either. Jumping shouldn't be an issue, but as a physical therapist I repeatedly squat all day long at work. At this point I'm not sure how I'm going to work effectively without squatting. And since I don't have any vacation benefits, the missed work is going to hurt. I'm hoping to figure out how to work without squatting, but I'll likely still miss many days. Paying the bills will be a challenge. Things have a way of working out sometimes, and I'm praying this is one of those times. I'll have to trust in my higher power on this one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


The Chicago Marathon has come and gone. It was a great event. I enjoyed it, and I'd definitely do it again. I had a decent performance. It wasn't my best. It wasn't my worst. But I admit, I am a little disappointed. I made a couple of mistakes which cost me time in the end. That's one of the reasons I'd like to do it again, to correct those mistakes. Nevertheless, I had a good race on a perfectly gorgeous day.

My first mistake came early, but it wasn't entirely avoidable. I didn't want to start too fast, probably the most common mistake marathoners make. Unfortunately, within the first two miles, we ran underneath a couple of very wide freeway overpasses. My Garmin GPS watch couldn't get a signal, as we were essentially underground for an extended period of time, so I couldn't see how fast I was going. I did my best to run conservatively, but instead of the 9 minute pace I was shooting for, I learned afterward that I actually ran an 8 minute pace those first two miles! Way too fast!

Despite the fast start, I felt good and ran really well through mile 17.5. I was on a fairly steady 8:30 pace. Unfortunately, my second mistake, which came between miles 10 and 15, caught up to me by mile 18. For a variety of reasons, one of which was to just enjoy the experience, I stopped looking at my watch after mile 10. For 5 miles, I just ran. It was nice, but eventually I had the inkling that I was going too fast, and I began looking at my pace again. I should have kept track all along, as I ran mile 13 at a blistering (for me) 7:40 pace! Way, way too fast.

I was enjoying myself, but my day got a little longer after 17.5 miles. By mile 18, I had to slow to a walk for the first time. My legs left me. My mile pace gradually slowed. I ran and walked the rest of the way to the finish. Between miles 21 and 25, four out of the five miles took over 10 minutes. On pace to run around 3:42-3:45 most of the race, I ended up finishing in 3:55:41. I know I was in shape to run faster, and I have no doubt those fast miles came back to bite me. I was very happy to see and cross the finish line.

D was there waiting for me at the end of the finishing chute. That was nice. He gave me a big hug. Overall, the Chicago Marathon was a good experience. The race, which catered to 50,000 runners this year, was very well organized. Everything went smoothly. I was satisfied with my result, but like I said, I know I could have done better. That's the beauty of the marathon. This was my 26th finish, and I still haven't got it figured out! I guess I'll just have to keep trying.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I'm busy preparing for Chicago. I just had a really great run, so I'm feeling more confident about running well in Chicago on Sunday. I only have a couple of 2 mile runs left, tomorrow and Saturday, before the big event. I've been mentally preparing by picturing myself running confidently and comfortably past various mile markers and across the finish line. Marathon day is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one, so I think it helps to do some visualization beforehand. I'm really looking forward to a good race.

Speaking of mental, I'm still doing well. My mood has been good. I've had enough energy to work and run and take care of my pre-travel business. Of course, most days do include a 45-60 minute nap, but that's always been a part of my routine. I need a lot of sleep. I'm grateful to be doing well.

I'm looking forward to seeing D in just a couple of days. We are going to Chicago together. He ran his marathon this past Sunday, so he'll be my cheerleader in Chicago. We haven't seen each other since mid-August, so I'm just as anxious to see him as I am to run.

I'll try to post an update or two when I'm in Chicago. As is typical, I'm sure there will be a lengthy dissection of my race at some point. You may suffer through it if you so choose. Until then, carry on, my friends.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

One year

I'm in the midst of an anniversary of sorts. It was one year ago this week that I entered the hospital for the first time. At that moment I had no idea I was about to embark on what would end up being the worst depression relapse I'd ever have. I ended up surviving through five hospitalizations between October and mid-December. I went through unsuccessful ECT treatments that left my memory so impaired I could barely remember my friends' names. My mother had to fly up from her winter home in the southern US to take care of me because I was barely able to move, much less take care of myself or Jet. When my mom wasn't here, my friend Wendy opened her home to Jet and I. She and her family provided us safe shelter, companionship, food, and assistance. I was then, and remain today, forever grateful.

Depression sucks. My depression has been unpredictable, debilitating, and life threatening. This past  year was a particularly tough one. I'm grateful today to be battling and surviving. I'm doing well right now, although I still feel like I'm on shaky ground. But I'll take shaky ground over underground any day. Today I'm continuing to move ahead rather than look behind. I'm looking forward to spending time with D and running the Chicago Marathon in a little over a week. I'm taking care of business at home, working, running, keeping my house, and being a mom to Jet. I'm doing life on life's terms, and that's the best I can do, illness or not.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Yo-Yo Etta

What an unstable little world I've been living in lately. My mood has been on an up and down journey as of late. While I'm still feeling better overall, as I noted in my last post, I've suffered through some awful lows this week. As usual, there's been no rhyme or reason to it. One afternoon I crashed after having a relatively good day. I woke up one morning near tears but felt a bit better by the evening. One night I barely slept because I felt so low, but by morning I was okay. It's weird. It's uncomfortable, and I don't like it much.

During the lows, I've had to work really hard to keep my frustration in check. Those of you who walk in my shoes know how difficult it is to not fear the worst when the bottom hits. I've been trying to focus my energy on the good times, putting one foot in front of the other during the low times, and doing what I can no matter my fickle mood. It's been a challenge.

Today has been a good day. I ran my last long run prior to the upcoming Chicago Marathon. I ran 16 miles, which was really important, as I missed two scheduled runs this week when I couldn't garner enough energy to get out the door. Those were low days. I was so pleased with myself after running, I treated myself to a Dairy Queen Blizzard, which I didn't need, but it was oh, so delicious. I spent the rest of my day running errands, napping, and watching football. It was, as I said, a good day.

I'm grateful for my good day. And I'm hoping my fortune continues and the ups outnumber the downs in the days to come. Whatever comes my way, I'm committed to ride it out. I'm tired of fighting the lows, but the alternative, giving in to them, is not a palatable idea either. So I might as well continue to fight. Eventually, I'm going to beat this damn illness. I hope.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I'm on my fourth cup of coffee already today, and it's just after noon. I've been very busy this week, and I guess it's finally caught up with me today. I'm tired. But I'm doing well. My mood has been slowly improving since last weekend.

The time of my last post, 3:00 Sunday morning, seems to have been a turning point. My direction changed. The downward, dark spiral stopped and light began to reenter my life. I've been on a slow, upward trajectory ever since.

The light reentering has been such a relief. A relief, yes, that's been my primary reaction. I'm so grateful I'm no longer in free fall. The improved mood allowed me to take care of my business this week. And I've been busy.

As my mood improved, I noticed a little more energy. That allowed me to work an extra day and earn some extra money, which I'll need when I'm unable to work after my hip surgery next month. I'm going to try to get some extra hours each week until my surgery. I don't have any benefits, so no vacation time, or pay, after my surgery, although I will likely miss at least a couple of weeks of work.

The extra energy also came in handy when it came to training. After missing a week of training because of my mood and bronchitis it was nice to get all of my runs in this week. I even did a little speed work. That really wore me out, but it was great to run fast again.

I still have to run today. I have 12 miles on the schedule. Unfortunately, I woke up woefully tired this morning. I'm now finishing my fourth cup of coffee, and I've already taken a one hour nap. Perhaps by the time I finish my mound of laundry I'll have generated enough steam to get out the door.

I'm sure I'll get my run in somehow, but regardless I'm happy to feel the light again. I hate this illness. I hate the ups and downs which always seem to surprise. But I'm so relieved to be on an upward rather than downward trajectory today. I'll take it, fatigue and all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fortune at the End of the Road

There is a popular song right now with a line I find particularly poignant. In February Seven, The Avett Brothers sing, "There's no fortune at the end of a road that has no end." That line is the reason I am sitting up, now, in the middle of the night composing this post.

I ran 20 miles yesterday. I ran for three hours and three minutes. How was I able to do that when feeling so low? I was able to do it because there was an end to the road.

Running long distances, like 20 miles or a marathon, can be quite uncomfortable, often painful, and always a ton of work. But I can do it because there's a fortune at the end of the road. I can endure the pain and discomfort because I know I will feel better in a matter of hours or minutes.

With my depression, the road, for the past 13+ years, has had no end. I've had multiple relapses, treatments, and hospitalizations. I've always known each relapse was going to be temporary, and that often helped me endure. But this time, my thinking has been different. I have been focused on the relapses rather than the recoveries. I've been negatively focused on the endless road, and there is no fortune at the end of a road without an end.

I think I set myself up for failure when I left the hospital last December. I really felt like I had turned a corner. That relapse was so painful, so difficult, so debilitating, and yet I survived. I know I didn't expect to feel so low again so soon. I figured I must have earned at least a few years worth of relapse-free illness. To be so low again, within months, not years, of getting well has really taken a toll on my thinking.

My doctor and I talked a lot about my thinking and how it may contribute to my depression the other day. Actually, as is the case when I'm feeling very low, she did most of the talking. I sat there feeling scolded for thinking negatively, though I know that was not her intent. I think her point was just what I said. During this relapse, my thinking has gotten pretty negative.

This is a subject about which I am particularly sensitive. In fact, I've done an entire post on negative thinking actually being a symptom, not a cause, of depression. But the stigma out there among many "normies" is simple, change our thinking, think happier thoughts, and our depression will be relieved. It's not that simple, but that doesn't mean it's not entirely true.

When feeling well, I work on thinking positively, on not sweating small things, and on being compassionate and humble. The combination of years of cognitive therapy and twelve step work have led me to a simpler, happier life. This simpler life has been due to a change in my approach to the world, which is to say a change in my thinking. For example, gratitude was a foreign concept to me years ago. Now gratitude and humility are a huge part of my life and my being.

However, over the past couple of weeks gratitude has been thrown out the window. I haven't been holding onto what's good in my life. Instead, I've seen only gloom and doom on the horizon. Even if this relapse is going to be temporary, as it certainly will be, instead of recovery I have been focused on the endless road of relapses ahead.

Reflecting on my recent thoughts highlights that focus. I couldn't believe I was going through another relapse. I couldn't imagine I deserved to feel so low again. Why me? Why again? Why now? Suicide felt like the only option, as I knew (actually a thought) I couldn't go through the depths of despair all over again, and I knew (thought) that this relapse would only be followed by another, and another, and another. No matter the work I have done. What was the point? These negative thoughts certainly have not, as my doctor pointed out, helped me get through this relapse, and may, in fact, be prolonging it instead.

The solution is simple, which is not to say easy. I've got to work on my thinking. I've got to refocus my energy. I've got to focus on the fortune at the end of this road, this temporary road I am currently on. I've got to endure the discomfort and the pain. After all, it may only be hours, even minutes, until this road ends. I can't predict the path ahead. I don't know anything for sure. I can only live, and run, in today.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


This is a very lonely illness. Just one more thing to hate about depression.