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. Why DONATE? Read: Asking for Help, post from 12/04/2013. Enjoy your visit!

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

alone

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

darkness

I am a woman of few words today. Just checking in... darkness has descended. My thoughts are bleak and feelings dark. I have slipped into the black hole that is depression. The world swirls around me. I cannot connect. I cannot step in. I cannot stop the free fall. Kicking and screaming have long since left me. I have not the energy for that. Instead, I fall without fight. It's dark. Very, very dark.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sickness and Sickness

This has been a particularly long, tough week. Mentally and physically, things aren't going well. My lungs still aren't cleared up enough to allow me to run. I've been compensating with a bit of weight lifting and some long walks with Jet, but that's about it. That's been tough on my mood.

My mood has been as complicated as my lungs. I've been so, so low, that my MD increased one of my medications. Unfortunately, it appears that increase has caused akathisia, which is this unrelenting restlessness where you feel like you are crawling out of your skin all the time. It's very uncomfortable.

So what to do? Well, we decreased the offending med slightly, which ironically had begun to improve my mood, in order to get rid of the nasty akathisia, but that puts me at risk of another decline in my mood. The fun never ends.

The combination of poor physical health combined with poor mental health, and now anxiety, has really taken a toll on my ability to work. I've managed very few hours over the past week. I made it in to work today, but my anxiety/akathisia was so intense, I could barely breathe, much less think, and I left after only 45 minutes. I spent the rest of the day paralyzed on the sofa, restless, feeling like I needed to move, yet unable to do so. It's been a long day.

I'm supposed to work tomorrow, and I'm very concerned about that. Mornings have been exceptionally tough to get going. Once I get to work, I'm usually okay. Today was the exception. But getting my heavy, low mood out the door has been a challenge. Hopefully tomorrow will begin a little brighter.

I'm also feeling more and more pressure to get back to training. I've missed a 20-miler and one whole week of training, right in the middle of my marathon training program. This is not a recipe for success. I'm hoping to get back out on the road this weekend, probably Sunday, and hoping I can manage more than just a few miles, too. The Chicago Marathon is only a five weeks away.

The bottom line, however, is I am exhausted and frustrated with the current state of things, mentally and physically. I feel like a yo-yo. One day things are improving, the next I have a brand new debilitating symptom. One day I feel some energy and hope, the next day I can't force my body to move. Today, I wanted to curl up and disappear. I'm tired. Stability, I hope, has to return soon.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trip to the ER

Yesterday I was scheduled to run 20 miles. As mentioned in my previous post, in addition to my recent poor mood I haven't been feeling physically well since Tuesday. What started as a sore throat and body aches had moved into my chest by Friday. Still, without the body aches and sore throat, I felt better overall, and decided to give my run a shot.

Unfortunately, the day did not begin well. My mood Friday night into Saturday morning was awful. I was heavy and sad. I had decided to run with my friend and the local running group, so I had to drive to the meeting point. As I sat in my car waiting for the run to start, I could hardly move. I was heavy and sad. I felt hopeless. Depression had me gripped tightly in its fist.

Somehow I got my feet to move and began the run, but within the first mile I began having trouble. This time it was my chest more than my mood dragging me down. I had used my asthma inhalers prior to running, but I was still wheezing and working way too hard for the pace I was running. I needed to slow my pace, which I did, and I watched as the majority of the group (20-25 people) ran ahead and out of sight. Metaphorically, that sight was a perfect match for my mood. Heavy, sad, and alone.

I almost turned around at mile three, but a water stop rejuvenated me a bit. I knew, however, I was not going to finish the entire distance. I could have taken an 8 mile route, but I pushed past that turn and forced myself to complete 11, which was a mistake. I ended up walking much of the last mile. I was supremely frustrated with my body's limitations. And I was wasted, mentally and physically. I pushed too hard for my current condition.

By the time I arrived home, took a shower, and attempted to lie down, I couldn't stop coughing. And my coughs were deep and painful. I was wheezing and gurgling. My lungs were heavy and full of gunk. My temperature was high. I tried to rest, but after just a few minutes it became obvious I needed some medical attention. I drove to the emergency room a few miles away.

I think the doctor was pretty impressed with how horrid my lungs sounded. He quickly got me going on a nebulizer treatment. That helped. It took care of the gurgling, but I was still wheezing. The doctor was a little surprised my chest x-ray looked okay, but he thought I was probably developing something worse and started me on a short course (5 days) of Prednisone and antibiotics.

I got home and took the prescribed Prednisone. Shortly thereafter I was able to breathe better and also able to rest. It seemed to help almost immediately. Today, I'm feeling much better. Besides cleaning my house and walking Jet, I've allowed myself to rest. I've got enough fluids in me to run a couple of marathons! And while I'm still coughing, it's a little less painful and a little more productive.

Some of you are probably wondering what the hell I was thinking when I began my run. Well, here's the thing. My mood has been so poor, I knew running would improve it at least a bit. Also, I thought running might actually help loosen up my chest. I've had previous experiences where that has been the case. Hindsight being 20/20, I shouldn't have pushed past the 8-mile turn. Even 8 miles likely would have been too far. Four to six miles was probably a better goal. Deciding to run 20 miles with a group was probably the worst decision I made, as it spurred me to push on, despite how poorly I felt, for fear of what others might think.

The good news is I'm feeling better. Even mentally, I'm a little less low today. I'll wait until tomorrow to make a decision about my next run. I'm going to try to be patient and take as much time as my body needs. Lesson(s) learned.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Still slow

I'm still frustrated and angry about the current state of affairs. My mood is not good. I'm still having trouble moving my body. I'm still heavy and slow. I'm sleeping more hours than I'm awake, no matter how hard I try to stay awake. I'm exhausted. And I'm feeling worthless, isolated and alone.

My thoughts are about the only things that are moving quickly right now, and they're providing no relief. I'm being bombarded by negative thinking. I'm being heckled by my worthless brain. I'm being trashed by thoughts about my character, my illness, what I should be doing, etc... It's no fun.

On top of all that joy, I developed some sort of virus today. Sore throat, headache, body aches; the whole ball of wax. I had to stay home from work. Even though it has been difficult getting through the days at work, it has at least been a healthy distraction. Today was a really long day of feeling like crap mentally and physically.

I'm hoping this virus is short-lived, as I'm supposed to spend the weekend with D at the lake. I'll figure out tomorrow whether that's going to happen or not. I'm also scheduled to run a 20-miler this Saturday. I was able to run a bit yesterday, but today was impossible for all of the above, obvious reasons. I hope things improve for Saturday. It sure would be nice to feel like a runner again. Come to think of it, it sure would be nice to feel human again.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

At mile six...

I ran a local half marathon this morning. It was at mile six that I began composing the title to this post, and the title most appropriate at the time was/is Fuck Depression! Fuck this despicable illness. Fuck the despair and negativity. Fuck the lonliness and isolation. Fuck the emptiness. And most pertinent this morning, fuck the heavy, paralyzing, immobility. I hate this illness.

I knew running this morning was a dubious idea. After all, with the exception of work, I had been stuck in my house all week. Depression had me tightly in its grasp. I had hardly moved, much less run any miles. But I was hopeful nonetheless. I thought, if I could get myself to the starting line my fitness may prevail. After all, I've been running/training for months. I was hoping the missed week wouldn't bite me in the ass.

But I did get bit in the ass this morning. Depression ripped me to shreds. I could do nothing to change what took place. With the exception of the first mile, when I felt okay, every successive mile was painful and slow, and slower, and slowest. The first time I contemplated dropping out was at mile three. My legs were dead. I couldn't catch my breath. My energy was already low. I knew it wasn't going to get better.

I knew the next ten miles would only get tougher, and they did. I don't know why I didn't drop out. Pure stubborness, I guess. But I didn't have fun. I didn't enjoy myself. Instead I was angry and frustrated, disappointed and uncomfortable. I ran as much as I could, but I walked a fair amount, too. I didn't want to walk, but there was no other choice. My body and my brain rebelled the entire race today.

Fuck depression! Today I ran the second slowest half marathon I've ever run. Ever. I'm not happy, but I'm glad I tried. I think staying home and giving in to the lethargy would have ultimately felt worse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Slammed

As we say in Minnesota, "Uff Da!" Life got difficult yesterday. It happened in mere moments. Depression slammed me to the ground. It slammed me so violently, there must be a deep etta-shaped divot in the earth. I don't know what happened. It was awful.

On Monday, I felt a little low, but it was no big deal. It happens. But Tuesday...I could barely get out of bed yesterday. I didn't do anything all day. I tried several times to get moving, but I failed each time. From my bed to the sofa and from the sofa to the bed, that's as far as I got. I slept and slept and slept. But no matter how much I slept, it wasn't enough. My mood was low, and the less I moved the lower it got.

It was a vicious cycle. I became more distressed as the day went along. I was distressed about how distressed I was. But being distressed didn't change the reality. My body was heavy. It was difficult to move. I was so, so low. And I could do nothing to stop the free fall. Depression got the best of me yesterday.

I'm still not great today, but I was able to get up and go for a very short run. I missed my scheduled 9 miles yesterday, so I was hoping for 6-9 before work this morning. I was pretty proud of myself for getting out of bed, getting dressed, and making it outside. But it became very clear very quickly that I was not going to get very far. I struggled through two miles and immediately went back to bed.

I got out again to go to work, and that went okay, but it wasn't easy. I've been home for several hours now, and I just got out of bed again. I think things are improving. I never could have worked yesterday.

I was hoping to run a little tonight, but now I'm focusing more on a walk. I have a half marathon this weekend. Feeling so heavy and low, and missing all these scheduled miles isn't making me feel very optimistic about the race.

I'm trying not to panic about my missed miles or my mood. I'm trying to be patient. I know this will pass, and I'm hoping for sooner rather than later. I can't continue like this. I have things to do, miles to run, work to perform. Being cooped up in my house feeling like crap isn't working for me.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Some thoughts on Robin

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. I am so sorry you had to experience the soul-sucking despair this illness forces upon us. Like most of us, you kicked and screamed your way through life despite depression. You defied the darkness. You battled the demons. You ignored the lonely suffering. You survived. Until you couldn't anymore. I am so sorry you're gone.

I realize it's been several days since the brilliant Robin Williams took his own life. To say I, like many, was shocked, is an understatement. I didn't know. I didn't know of the long standing depression. I didn't know of the alcoholism. I don't watch enough talk television, I guess. I didn't know. But when I heard, I totally understood.

In the days since his death, I've found myself scared. Most of you know suicide is something with which I've done battle. The depression relapse I endured last fall and early winter nearly took me to the end. So I get it. But why him and not me? In a moment, I could have made the same decision, but I didn't. That doesn't make me better or worse. It just is. But why is it? I don't know the answer to that. I don't understand, and yet I do.

I get it, Robin Williams, and I feel nothing but empathy toward you today. I'm sad depression took your magnificent soul from us. I'm sorry you died alone. I wish someone, anyone, had been there to help, but it wasn't meant to be. I don't condone or condemn suicide, but I do understand. Rest in peace, Robin Williams. Rest. In. Peace.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Just a little note

Things are going well around here. I've been busy working, running, and taking care of Jet. Work has been busier than usual, and so far I'm handling it okay, although I am a bit brain dead by the time I get home. I definitely need my days off for my brain to recuperate.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I'm taking a weight training class, which just about knocks me flat every time! I love it, though. I'm definitely getting stronger. Unfortunately, I am scheduled to run my longer, speedier workouts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well. Thus far, I've gotten the miles done, but I've not been able to do any of the scheduled speed work. I figure I'll get back to speed training when my weight training class ends in 4 weeks. Until then, I'll just keep working on getting stronger.

Other than missing some speed training, my running is going well. My hip is holding up, and I'm putting in the miles. I ran 17 miles with a friend this past Saturday. It's funny, as my friend and I noted on Saturday, 17-20 miles used to be such a big deal, and we often dreaded it. That's not the case anymore. Sure it's still difficult, but I don't dread the long runs and actually enjoy them most of the time now. I guess that means I'm in decent shape.

Work, running, Jet, sleep...that's pretty much my life right now. I'm not up to much otherwise. By the time I take care of each of those things it's time to start another day. My mood is holding up well. I'm glad. I'm grateful. It's nice to feel good and to be able to handle whatever life throws my way. But it's also nice that life isn't tossing too many curveballs right now. Carry on, friends.



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