Depression Marathon Blog

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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!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

15 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I wasn't feeling quite right. Having had depression as a teenager, I recognized the feeling. It had been many years, but I knew that feeling. I took action. I got a psychiatry recommendation from a friend and called to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor was booked out until March, 2001. I was hospitalized before I made it to her office.

Depression, like any other illness, is no respecter of gender, socioeconomic class, or stage in life. When my depression began 15 years ago, I was happily married, owned a home, had two cars in the garage, worked full-time in a job I loved, and had money in the bank. Depression got me anyway.

Over the next several years, my treatment-resistant depression took everything from me. I lost it all, the house, the spouse, the job, and the money in the bank. It was tough. To make matters worse, I began drinking to stifle the pain. It didn't take long before I added alcoholic to my list of diagnoses. Hopelessness was my constant companion.

Fortunately, I don't live in that darkness today. In those early years, I truly suffered from my illness. Today, I live with it. I don't think there was a definitive turning point. Perhaps things started to change when I began to speak publicly. Helping others helped me. I can't say I'm grateful to have depression, but I am grateful for the lessons I've learned because of depression.

Losing people and things taught me I was stronger and more resilient than I thought. I learned I could survive with less. I learned how to ask for help and accept that which was offered. And most importantly I learned I had something to offer others. Educating and supporting others gave my life some direction. I had a purpose.

I think it was that sense of direction and purpose which led me out of the constant darkness and back into the world. I got sober. I began working again after years of disability. I started this blog. I spoke up. I attended to idle relationships. I became more willing to work with my doctor. I developed a sense of perspective and gratitude. Depression no longer controlled my life,

Living with depression is much better than suffering from it, but that doesn't mean I relish it. This has been a long, tough, educational journey. I hate the relapses into the abyss. The lasting fatigue frustrates me. I'd like to work more, have a little money put away, and perhaps be in a relationship. I'm sure my life would look much, much different today had it not been interrupted by depression. But I would have missed out on a lot of important lessons, too.

I'm satisfied with who I am today, happy even, and I believe that's in large part due to the lessons I've learned over the past 15 years. Sure depression has been challenging. Perhaps I'd be better off had I not experienced it. But then again, perhaps I wouldn't. On second thought, I know I wouldn't.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Two Minutes

I'm happy to report that I'm now up to 2 minutes of running at a time. I returned to running November 2nd by walking 5 minutes and jogging 1 minute, five times. Since then I've run 3 times per week. I've slowly increased the running time, and pace, while decreasing the walking time. Tonight I walked 3 minutes and ran 2 minutes, eight times, for a total of 16 minutes of running. The highest number of total minutes I've run so far is only 22 minutes. It's not a lot, but it's better than not running at all!

So far my right Achilles is holding up okay. It's not perfect. I can still feel some tenderness, which is a little discouraging, but I'm not having any pain, which is encouraging. I'm hopeful I'll be able to continue progressing without re-injuring it. In fact, I'm so hopeful I've already signed up for Grandmas Marathon in June, 2016. It's a long way off, so I have plenty of time to be patient and advance slowly. Patience, however, is not my best quality. I'll do my best.

In other news, work continues to go well. My brain gets a little mushy toward the end of a long day, and I'm tired when I get home, but so far I'm tolerating the schedule fairly well. Could I tolerate more? That is the current question, as my employer wants to make this a permanent gig.

I am currently an on-call employee. I control my schedule. I usually work less than 25 hours per week. I've worked on-call or part-time ever since I returned to work after getting sick 15 years ago. The primary benefit is being able to decide where, when and for how many hours I work. But I don't have any benefits. I don't get any paid time off. And when the patient census is low, and the nursing facility is slow, there is no guarantee of working at all. I don't have a set schedule or guaranteed income.

Now my employer is offering me a full-time, at least 30-hours per week, position. I'd have a set schedule and familiar patients. I'd have health insurance and paid time off and all the other benefits of full-time employment. But can I handle that? The thought of it frightens me. I'm not sure I'd be able to do it. They want me to decide within the next 2 weeks so I could start in December.

It's a lot to think about. I'd be giving up a lot of freedom, which comes in handy when I'm not doing well, but I might be gaining a lot of security and stability. I really don't know what to do. There are pros and cons to each situation. I'll have to sort it out, but right now, I'm totally unsure and undecided. It's a great opportunity. I just don't know if I should take it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


With the events of Paris fresh in my brain, I went for my walk/run this morning. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning for Jet and I, sunny and 50 degrees, and I found myself contemplating my good fortune. As we walked and ran a 6 mile loop within my small city, I had the opportunity to run on paved, tree-lined bike paths, alongside a gently flowing river, and up and down quiet streets in peaceful neighborhoods. It was surreal in comparison to what I had just viewed, for the third straight morning, on my television screen at home. And that's all I'm going to say about that. I've got nothing else. I just felt grateful.

Another opportunity for gratitude and perspective shortly followed the end of my walk/run. My friend, Joan, and I went to visit my former sponsor/friend in a local nursing home. KM is on hospice, which means this once vibrant, intelligent, strong woman, now only in her early 50's, is very near the end of her life. She has a brain tumor. Joan and I sat with her at her bedside and then Joan fed her lunch while I held KM's hand.

I don't know if she understood who we were or even that we were there. It didn't matter. KM held my hand throughout most of my first 6-7 years of sobriety. She was my teacher and role model. I pass her teachings on to others in recovery. I guess that's the only way I can repay her. It was difficult and sad to see her today. I may not see her alive again. That's reality. Cruel reality. My life, my health, my struggles... it doesn't compare. I am very fortunate.

I'm feeling fortunate, too, to be back to regular employment. I survived my last four days, which included three, 7-9 hour work days. As I reported in my last post, I was a little anxious going into this schedule. I hadn't worked that much, or that long, for months. It went well. Worries about forgetting paperwork requirements, inefficiency, and rustiness with patients were largely unfounded. I did get fatigued, but I was able to push through and even kept up with some exercise. I'm still a little anxious about maintaining the regular schedule going forward, but I'm feeling more hopeful.

Hope is a nice feeling. It's been awhile. Hope and gratitude are with me today. Whether it's half a world away or right here in my back yard, there is much to remind me of just how fortunate I really am. I just have to look and notice. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A little anxious

Tomorrow is the day I begin some semblance of normalcy again. I am returning to a regular work schedule, and I'm jumping right in. I am scheduled to work 8 hour shifts three of the next four days. That's more than I've worked in a week since I got sick in late July. I'm a little nervous about it, which is why I'm writing about it here. I hope getting the worry off my chest will help me navigate the next four days with skill and composure.

While I'm looking forward to getting back to work, earning some much needed money, and interacting with my patients and coworkers again, I also have fears. I fear the full days with little rest will be tough on me physically and mentally. I worry about not being able to handle whatever is thrown my way. I worry about fatigue and mental stress. I fear the ever-looming potential set back.

I am battling the fears. I'm trying not to give them too much time or space in my brain. I'm focusing instead on what I can control. I've already packed my lunch and laid out my clothes for tomorrow. Sounds silly, but the less I have to organize in the morning the better my day goes. Being organized deletes early morning stress, and that translates to more energy I can dedicate to work. I'm going to need that energy.

Having enough energy is a huge concern. I can't control whether or not I will get fatigued, but I'm expecting it. I think that's realistic. I won't be surprised, and I'm already accepting that I may not be able to do as much, like exercise, over the next several days. I'll do what I can, but I'm focusing on work now. Perhaps after a few weeks of a regular employment schedule I can refocus on fitting in my extracurricular activities.

Staying healthy is all about balance for me. I have a feeling the next several days will be slightly out of balance. I may feel more stress. I may be fatigued. I may not spend as much time exercising, taking care of the house and yard, or spending time with Jet, but it will be temporary. I have to remember that. If I continue to focus on the things I can control and quell worry about the things I can't. I think I will be okay. That's my hope anyway. I'll let you know how I do.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Inching forward

I really dislike the word jog. I am not a jogger. I am a runner. Regardless, I'm thrilled to report that I've jogged 3 times this week, including today.

It's been 6.5 months since I partially tore my Achilles, 6.5 months since I last ran. Too long. So on Monday I consulted my local physical therapist, me, and decided it was time to get going. I walked 5 minutes and ran 1 minute five times. It went well. I had no pain when I ran, um...jogged. I did have a tiny bit of soreness the next day, which was discouraging, but it resolved fairly quickly.

On Wednesday and again today I repeated the process. I ran, um...jogged, a total of 6 minutes Wednesday and 9 minutes today. So far, so good, I think. I'm anxious to see how my Achilles responds tomorrow. I'm cautiously optimistic that if I take my time and come back very, very slowly things will be okay. But I'd be lying if I said I was counting on it. We'll see.

Physically, I'm getting better. My mouth continues to heal. I can actually chew without pain on the right side now. That's a step forward. I've also been going to the gym 6 days a week for strengthening and cycling classes for the last month. I'm getting some of my strength and endurance back. Not running combined with 2+ months of depression really set me back. It's nice to feel stronger again.

It's also nice to be back among the working again. I worked several short shifts this week, and I'm scheduled for at least 16 hours per week through the end of the month. If things continue to go well I'll build up from there. Again, I'm taking it slow. I don't want to take on too much and risk a setback. Inching forward, one step at a time, that's where I'm at.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A new month

It's the first day of a new month. Thank God! October was not kind to me, but I'm done focusing on that now. It's November. It's time to let go of the challenges of the past month and move forward.

Moving forward. That's what I've been doing lately, one foot at a time, one moment at a time. I'm not necessarily enjoying it, or happy, but I'm not paralyzed, or low, or descending into the abyss either. Sometimes, living in the moment is all I can do. Whether I like or approve of the moment I'm in doesn't matter one bit. I just need to live there and keep moving forward, inch by inch, step by step, moment by moment, and day by day.

Because I've kept motivating forward, I made it to the gym 5 of the last 6 days. I feel better every time I leave the gym, even if I have to force myself to get there initially, so I'm grateful for the motivation and energy to continue working on my physical self.

I'm also working on getting back to regular work. I saw patients for 2-4 hours per day for 3 days last week. It was nice to be back among my co-workers and patients. It was nice to feel productive again. Working allowed me to get outside myself and to stop worrying about my physical health for awhile. Every minute spent helping someone else was one less minute spent focusing on my recent challenges. I needed that.

I'm happy to report my mood has remained stable despite the recent health challenges. As I stated earlier, I'm not necessarily feeling light and joyful, yet, but putting one foot in front of the other has at least kept me from sliding backward. My movements are purposeful and planned. Taking the next right action is what it's all about right now. It's not necessarily easy, but it's not as difficult as I know it will be if I don't keep focusing forward. Onward and upward, my friends.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Uncle! Uncle!

I had emergency oral surgery yesterday. You might think this is related to my last post, in which I described my oral surgery last week, but that would be too easy. No, this oral surgery was for an entirely unrelated problem, on the other side of my mouth, that cropped up late last week. I apparently fractured tooth #14, a molar on the left side of my mouth, when I bit down on something. That fracture led to a massive infection. By Thursday night, I couldn't even touch that tooth with my tongue. The pain was that severe. I had to live with that pain all weekend, as there was no way to get the tooth pulled until yesterday. And I'm not done yet. Now I'm swollen, and miserable, and in pain as a result of the surgery. I have unhealed holes where teeth are supposed to be on both sides of my mouth now. The pain pills barely help. I'm frazzled, and tired, and overwhelmed. I'm doing my best to stay strong and hang in there, but it's hard not to worry about what's coming next.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Laying low

It's been a painful couple of days here. I had oral surgery on Tuesday morning to uncover, again, an embedded canine tooth that we've been trying to pull down into position for almost one year. The permanent tooth never came in, and the 46-year old baby tooth finally had to be pulled last year. After cutting away the gum tissue over the permanent tooth on Tuesday, the oral surgeon found that the permanent tooth was re-encased in bone. The surgeon cleared away the bone, quite a violent little process, in order to loosen the tooth again in hopes that we'll be able to pull it into place.

The tooth is connected to my braces with a bracket and chain. The braces are supposed to be the anchor which pulls the tooth down. These are the braces that have already been in place as long as planned, and we're nowhere near the end of this process. In fact, the likely scenario at this point in time is that the embedded canine will not move, the surgeon was not optimistic, which means it will need to be pulled (another surgery), and an $3000+ implant will need to be placed in the open space (more surgery). If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't.

Needless to say, I've been in a bit of pain since the surgery. I've needed to do a lot of resting. Resting, combined with my disappointment with the way this process has played out has not been good for my mood. I'm trying so hard to keep my head above water mentally, but my body seems to be in revolt. It's been a tough year, and it doesn't seem to have an end of sight. Hip surgery, oral surgery, Achilles tendon, pneumonia, asthma...I'm not sure I can handle much more.

I'm hanging in there, I guess, but I'm really frustrated. And so much is yet unknown. Will the Achilles ever heal so I may run again? Will I continue to have trouble with my asthma and require more and more medication? When, at what cost, and after how many more surgeries, will I have a full set of teeth back in my mouth? I realize I'm creeping up on 50 years here, and perhaps I'm feeling sorry for myself, but c'mon. I'd really like something to break my way soon.

Don't get me wrong, I know things could be worse. I'm just getting tired of the physical battle. I'm grateful my mood has not crumbled, but I worry the continued physical stress will eventually take me down. I don't want that to happen. I'm trying to stay as positive as I can. I'm trying to quell the anxiety of the unknown by continuing to move forward. It's tough. It's a battle. I know I've got to keep fighting, but phew, this battle, I fear, is wearing me out.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A little work

Not much has changed around here since my last post. My lungs are still not quite right, but I am breathing a bit better than earlier this week. I took my last doses of Prednisone and the antibiotic today, but I'm hoping they're not done working, as I still have a way to go before I'd say I'm breathing normally.

Despite struggling for breath occasionally, I'm proud to report I continued to go to the gym this week. I took either a cycling or strengthening class each of the last four days. I took a break and went for a quick walk today. The cardio efforts were definitely tougher this week, but it felt good to get some air deep into my lungs nonetheless. I'm working on losing the 10+ pounds I gained during my depression relapse, so I'm glad I had the energy and motivation to continue exercising this week.

I'm also happy to report I had the energy and motivation to do something pretty special today. I went to work for two hours. Boy, I was anxious! But I did it. I evaluated a patient, did all the necessary paperwork, and interacted with my co-workers for the first time in two months. It went well, I think.

Two months is a long time to be away from work. Going back was, and is, a huge goal. I fumbled a bit with some new paperwork requirements, but otherwise I think I covered everything I was supposed to cover today. Even though I was anxious, and exhausted afterward, it was nice to be back among the working. I'm glad I got those first hours out of the way. I plan to continue working a few hours a few days a week until I get fully back into the swing of things.

I'm grateful my mood and energy levels have continued to stabilize. I can't say there's been huge improvement in my mood over the past week, but at least I haven't gone backwards. At this point I feel like I'm slowly inching away from the abyss. I'm cautiously optimistic I'll continue feeling better and better, but the darkness is still too near to celebrate yet.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Now what?

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this, but I have very well-controlled, fairly mild asthma. Over the past ten days, my asthma has gotten worse, and worse, and worse. Over the weekend, my heavy duty special asthma meds, the ones designed for just this situation, were only working for a few hours at a time. Basically, I couldn't breathe! I was constantly short of breath, and go figure, quite anxious. I was fortunate to get an early morning appointment with my doctor today.

My doctor checked me out, and I apparently may have a slight case of pneumonia on top of aggravated asthma. He prescribed me a steroid, Prednisone, as well as an antibiotic. I'm not a fan of taking either, but I am a fan of breathing without struggle, so I'm taking them. And they are already making a difference.

My breathing has improved, but the Prednisone makes me very jittery. It's been awhile since I took it, and I'm feeling better. However, for several hours after taking it I felt like I was crawling out of my skin, and there was nothing I could do about it. It wasn't pleasant. The dose of Prednisone decreases everyday, so I'm hoping for fewer side effects and better breathing each day.

This new medical battle makes me wonder if I'm falling apart at the seams. I'm barely emerging from the desperate lows of my depression relapse, my Achilles tendon is torn, I also just strained my hamstring, and now my lungs aren't functioning well. Oh, and I have to have repeat oral surgery next week. My friend, Wendy, jokingly calls me a "hot mess!" I can't disagree.

I'm working on my radical acceptance of the whole mess--the mess of me! As best I can, I've got to keep moving forward. I could easily mope and feel sorry for myself, but I'd rather not. Acceptance, as difficult as it is, will serve me better. I have to believe things will improve. I mean how much more can go awry? There's not much left. I'm "banged up" from my head to my heel. I'm going to try to stick to my schedule as much as possible despite the medical mess. I can't afford to let my mood be affected. I'm praying for acceptance and health. But really, God, enough already?