Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 14 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!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Beginnings

I just came in from a run/walk. Yes. I ran yesterday and today. It was my first time out since my hip surgery October 21st. Specifically, I ran for 3 minutes and walked for 1 minute for a total of  2.3 miles yesterday and 3.2 miles today. Both days were crisp and gray, and the cold air felt good on my face and in my lungs. My gray mood had kept me inside for the previous 13 days. It was a relief to get out the door, and even more of a relief to put one foot in front of the other down the street.

My depression symptoms are still hanging around. Some moments feel better than others. I think I'm beginning to feel a little better. But my thinking is still dark and even, at times, a little paranoid. It's depression. My brain only lets such thoughts seep out when the darkness has set in. Like I said, some moments are lighter lately. I'm still making it to work. Adding exercise to work means I actually got two things accomplished yesterday! It's a beginning.

In other news, and possibly related to my depression symptoms, I was just diagnosed with mild sleep apnea. Basically, I stop breathing multiple times each night. My sleep is disrupted every time I stop breathing, which may explain some of my fatigue. Fortunately, it's treatable.

Fatigue has always been a part of my depression. The worse my symptoms get, the more tired I get. My psychiatrist is very hopeful that beginning C-PAP therapy (wearing a breathing mask at night), which I began a couple of days ago, will put an end to my fatigue. That would be incredible. I can't imagine my life without fatigue.

I appreciate all of your supportive comments lately. You guys really hold me up when I'm feeling down. I write this blog in hopes of helping others, but at times like this, it turns out I'm the one being helped. I'm so grateful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

barely here

I'm still here. It's been a week since I checked in. That's longer than I prefer to be away, but life has been incredibly tough lately. Depression has me. It's holding on so tight I can't slip free. I'm confined. I'm constricted. I'm struggling. I'm exhausted. I could care less about anything and everything. I'm sad, and overwhelmed, and barely functioning. Functioning? I'm barely moving.

One thing. That's all I've been able to do. I have continued to get to work. That's it. My house. My body. My exercise routine. My chores. My errands. All of it, other than work, has been totally neglected. It's getting ugly around here. The uglier it gets, the more overwhelmed I get, and the more suffocating my depression gets. I can't breathe. Fuck depression! Fuck it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dear Friends and Family

Those of you who've been around awhile know I was fortunate enough to be featured in four videos created by the website Healthination a few months ago. It was the opportunity of a lifetime for me, and I remain humbled and grateful for their attention. I was very happy with the videos. However,  after filming me for one and a half days, a lot of taped material necessarily did not make it into the final versions. And of all that edited material, there's only one thing I wish had been saved. This is it.

When discussing the losing friends topic, the fourth video, I pointed out that a lot of times friends and family fall out of our lives because they feel helpless. They simply don't know what to do. We all know what to do if someone we love has, for example, cancer. Cards, flowers, help around the house, food...these are all automatic responses. But what to do with the loved one suffering from a depression relapse; it seems we don't automatically know. Here are my thoughts.

Dear Friends and Family,

When I'm not feeling well, when depression has me in its grip, I may not be very fun to be around. I will not act like myself. I may ignore your phone calls, isolate myself, and even push you away. It's not because I don't love you, rather it is because I don't love, or even like, myself.

When depression takes over, I may be more helpless, hopeless, and pessimistic. I may not be able to concentrate, and it might take me forever to make a decision, if I make one at all. My intrusive thoughts may make paying attention to anything you say nearly impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning, and necessary errands may be neglected. I may not be able to work, and paying the bills, if I can muster the energy to attempt it, will become challenging and stressful. I may look okay on the outside, but I feel absolutely nothing on the inside. This is more painful than words can express. When I am sick with depression, my world becomes an overwhelming, dark, chaotic place, and I may just want to hide.

Depression is confusing. When my symptoms are at their worst, I may sleep too much or not enough. I may be tired all the time or unable to settle. I may eat everything in sight or nothing at all. I may be able to follow through with scheduled appointments or unable to get out of my house. And I never know from one day to the next what my capabilities will be. It makes it very challenging to plan anything. So I'm not trying to be difficult, I just don't know in advance if I will have the energy to do whatever it is you've asked.

Please understand. Depression tells me I am useless, hopeless, and not fit to remain on this planet. It reminds me I will never amount to anything, no matter how hard I try, so why bother trying. Depression tells me I'm ugly, and fat, and not as good as you or anyone else. It makes me self conscious. It distracts me so much, I may not be able to follow your conversation, and I certainly won't remember it tomorrow! Depression makes me feel stupid. Can you understand now why I'm not myself? Why I'm not easy to be around? I have to work extra hard to hold up my end of our relationship. Despite what may appear, I really don't want to lose you.

What can you do to help? I'm so glad you asked. Pretend I have cancer or any other debilitating illness. Just remember I have an illness, too. And like cancer, I may have periods of wellness followed by relapse followed by wellness again. It will pass, but I may feel unfamiliar with that fact. It's okay to gently remind me, but try not to pound it into my head. Don't dismiss what I'm going through. It may be invisible to you, but it is ever so real, and debilitating to me.

There are simple things you can do. If I'm isolating, offer to sit with me. Don't expect me to be a great conversationalist, but just sitting with me will reduce my isolation. Send me a card or flowers, even, especially if I'm in the hospital. Remind me you're there, offer assistance, validate how I'm feeling, but don't force yourself on me. I just may not have the energy to go out for coffee, and that's okay. Let that be okay.

If I'm struggling, offer me something to eat. Fix dinner or bring over a casserole. Offer to mow my lawn, shovel the snow, or help with laundry. Do anything you would do for a loved one having difficulty caring for themselves due to any illness. It's simple really. I don't want you to be a hero. I may need help, but I don't need you to fix it. Continue to love me when I can't love myself, and know I will come out of this. Things will improve, and I'll be able to care for myself again. I will be ever so grateful for your kindness and help. And soon I will be myself again.

Thank you, friends and family. Thank you.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

More light

The days are getting noticeably longer up here in the northern United States. Yesterday I could still see across the backyard at 5:00 PM. That wasn't true not so very long ago. Like the days, my mood is inching toward the light, too. It's not been a speedy process, but I think there is hope for brighter days ahead. The wonderful, supportive comments I've recently received here have helped me a great deal. So thank you all for making a difference. Perhaps soon I can again be writing about the pleasant boredom of feeling well.

My motivation to act, unlike my mood, is taking a longer road to the light. I'm still exhausted by everyday events and tasks. Actually, I've been so fatigued, I haven't been attending to most everyday tasks. I'm not sure those without depression can ever comprehend the physical toll it can take on a body. My depression can make it downright impossible to move. While I'm not at that low point anymore, I'm still having trouble taking action.

I've gone from not moving to the point of focusing my limited energy on one task per day, which means on the days I work, that's all I do. I work. I come home. I don't move. I've missed some meetings and other events I planned to attend because they've fallen on days I've recently worked. But I've got to work. I've got to keep the financial stress to a minimum, as that, too, can trigger exacerbation of my illness.

Today my task is laundry. It seems so simple, laundry, but it has taken almost all my energy to get two loads laundered thus far. Physically, I'm so wiped out. After taking one load to the basement and starting it in the machine, I came back upstairs and fell fast asleep on the sofa! This is when I have to remind myself the fatigue is part of my illness. I'm not being lazy. It is what it is, and I'm working within the limits of my depression.

Hopefully those limits are slowly expanding again. I'm anxious to get out of the darkness and into the light. I'm ready to be more active, have more energy, and be a productive participant in my life again. Thank you all for your kind comments recently. You all hold me up more than you'll ever know. Carry on, my friends.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

write something

I figure I should write something, even though, truthfully, I don't want to. Just as I don't want to get dressed, go to work, wash my dishes, shower, go grocery shopping, socialize, fix something to eat, exercise, and on and on and on. I've been sleeping on the couch lately because I haven't had the energy to get from the living room to my bedroom. And I don't live in a mansion.

I'm trying my best to keep my appointments. God forbid I should be seen as a "bad patient." However, work has been another story. I attempted it on Monday but only lasted two hours. I called in sick Wednesday because I could not move. After negotiating for some shorter days, I did make it to work yesterday and today. And now I'm exhausted.

Every day I check for signs of progress. Every day wonderful friends ask if I'm feeling better. Every morning I awaken hoping I can say yes. Depression so far has not obliged. I'm feeling isolated, and stagnant, and delayed, and slow, and dull, and muted, and gray. Everything is gray. God I hate gray.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

a description

There is an ache in the center of my chest. It is depression. It's terrible and familiar. Hard to believe an empty hole can yet be filled with so much pain. An ache... loud and obnoxious, demanding and debilitating, yet somehow silent and secret from all around. It is this diabolical ache, this empty pain which makes pounding the fists in frustration perfectly reasonable. An empty invisible hole can't hurt! But it does. It makes no sense. Pounding the fists creates actual pain. And actual pain is so much easier to deal with than a nebulous, invisible, soul sucking ache. I hate the ache.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Steam Rolled

It is times like this when I wish everyone on the planet had at least one personal experience with clinical depression. If all those around us had at one time felt the complete and utter hopelessness, the crushing heaviness, the inability to move without huffing and puffing in search of more energy, the loneliness, the physical fatigue of pneumonia or the flu, without the other symptoms of pneumonia or flu, the loss of motivation to cook, wash, or dress... If this experience were a part of every life at least once, there would be no more stigma.

If depression were universally experienced, there would be no more invalidating comments. People wouldn't suggest that smiling more would cure you. There would be no more misunderstandings. Working only part time would not be questioned. Napping wouldn't be akin to laziness. Support in the way of food, chores, or simply companionship would be common place. If depression were seen as an illness; a diabolical, unpredictable, debilitating illness, no different than many types of cancer, for example, things would be different for all of us.

Home alone, as I've been for days, I'm exhausted, hopeless and overwhelmed. My sweatshirt and pants have seen better days, but who cares. A few days ago, it began. Since then I've been steam rolled by a particularly vicious episode of depression. It always amazes me how quickly this illness  attacks. And that's exactly what it feels like, an attack. How else can I describe something that came on so fast and ferociously? Life is bleeding from my soul. It sucks, and I hate it.

As usual, I'm doing what I can, but the options, like my world, feel like they're shrinking. I've been reaching out a bit, but I have a hard time with that. Who wants to hear from someone feeling like crap? There's nothing my friends can do, so I hesitate to bother them. I did make it out yesterday and had coffee with a friend. It was nice, but the effort left me flat on my back the rest of the day. Nonetheless, I know it was a good thing to do. I've walked Jet a bit, and when I can, I ride my stationary bike for 10 minutes at a time. It's not much, but it's better than nothing. I can't say it's helped, but at least I feel like I'm putting up a sliver of a fight.

My thinking is horrid at times like this. I don't want to die, but after days and nights filled with darkness and angst, I'd prefer not to wake up. Those are scary words, but they only begin to describe the dark thoughts banging around in my head. I have much to be grateful for, but this illness erases the good with glee. Only black, hopeless, shaming death do I see.

I'm in a bad place right now. I don't want to be here. I'm hanging on, but the fatigue is great and the resolve is weak. This is depression. It's ugly, messy, scary and misunderstood. Today my ugly, scary depression has me in it's grip. I'm struggling to free myself and eventually I will slip from it's slimy grasp. I will. I have to believe that. Prayers for all of us suffering with mental illness today.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Another year begins

Happy New Year! I wish all of you good mental health, stability, and joy during this upcoming year. Those of us with mental illness know the path will not always be smooth. There will be rough patches, but they will pass. They always do. Join me in putting one foot in front of the other in 2015. Moving forward, one moment at a time, is the only way through the bad times, and the best way to fully experience the good ones. As long as you continue reading, I will be here, writing and fighting with you. We can do together what I cannot do alone. Thank you for joining me on my journey. I am humbled and honored to be a small part of yours. Here's to 2015! May it be great!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nine Years

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. I know the holidays can be stressful. Fortunately, my holidays have so far gone well. I just got home from spending Christmas with my boyfriend, D. We had a very nice time. I drove the four hour drive after working the morning of Christmas Eve, and then we left immediately to spend the evening with his entire, huge family. D has eight siblings and a seemingly unending supply of nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews. It was confusing, controlled chaos, but I had fun.

Christmas morning was spent with D's son. We opened presents and ate their traditional brunch. The rest of the day D and I spent together. We relaxed, went for a walk with Jet, watched a movie, and cooked a nice dinner together. It was quiet, and I think we were both quite content with that. The rest of the weekend was equally simple and relaxing. It's always hard to leave, but I'm glad to be back in my home environment, nonetheless.

Today is a big day. Nine years ago today I finally got it. I took my last drink, and I've stayed sober one-day-at-a-time ever since. Nine years...it's really quite amazing. Nine years ago I was a hopeless case. I was selfish, self-centered, and discontent. I had tried multiple times to stop drinking for good. Stopping wasn't the problem. I was actually pretty good at that. Staying stopped was the problem. It wasn't until I finally committed myself to the simple tools laid, multiple times, at my feet, and decided to focus on staying sober for 24 hours at a time that I got it.

I've grown a lot over the last 9 years. Being sober has opened my eyes and heart to whole new life, a life I never thought imaginable. I never knew how to be an equal in a relationship until I got sober. I never knew how to handle anger and resentments until I got sober. I never knew the meaning of gratitude and humility until I found sobriety. Sobriety brought me a relationship with my mother I was previously too immature to handle or appreciate. Being sober didn't cure my depression, but it certainly made a huge difference in my mental health stability. It's amazing how much better mental health medications work when I'm not washing them down with beer! Sobriety, in a nutshell, gave me a life worth living.

Nine years. I've had hurts and heartaches, joys and celebrations, good times and bad times, depression relapses and remissions, and I've remained sober through it all. It can be done. I'm doing it. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so grateful to be sober today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shoulds and Shouldn'ts

I'm busy getting ready for Christmas. That process has been made easier, as I've slowly been on the mend from my low energy and mood. I'm so relieved. I'm always worried the depression symptoms, once present, are going to drag on forever. Of course, they never do. Bad days are always followed by better days eventually. Even last year at this time, when I was fresh out of my fifth hospitalization in three months, the bad days did eventually dissipate.

I think I helped myself mend a bit quicker from this low episode. I was reminded of a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skill called Radical Acceptance. Last Thursday, lying on my sofa, unable to move, feeling desperate and hopeless, I reached for the phone. I explained to my therapist how I shouldn't be feeling this low. Not me. Not now. I should be feeling better. I should have more energy. I should be exercising rather than lying on the sofa. With so many good things going on in my life, I shouldn't be feeling hopeless and sad. Blah, blah, blah... You get the idea.

Instead of dealing with my reality, I was fighting it tooth and nail. I was should-ing myself to death. Rather than accepting my symptoms as part of my depression, I was treating them like character defects. For example, rather than resting when I felt tired, I laid down and admonished myself for laying there. I was incredulous that I had so little energy rather than remembering and accepting that I almost never have energy when I'm low. I was treating myself with less than kindness. Instead I was forcing stereotypes on myself. How could I have symptoms when there were good, even exciting things going on in my life? Umm...because depression is an illness, and just like other illnesses, it can rear it's ugly head at any time? Geez...I think I just made a video addressing this stuff!

I got off the phone and turned my mind. I worked on radically accepting where I was at, staying in just that moment, and doing what I could and/or needed to do at just that time. (At that moment is was taking a nap!) It took a couple of days, and lots of reminders, but I began to feel better. Whenever a should or shouldn't statement came to mind, I stopped it and went back to accepting the moment. It was what it was. That's all. With this illness, we already face plenty of judgments, I certainly didn't need to pile on more of them, yet that's exactly what I was doing.

Should and shouldn't statements did nothing to relieve my depression symptoms. Accepting where I was at and working on just that moment gave me some power and control in what otherwise felt like a powerless situation. I'm working hard to rid should and shouldn't from my vocabulary.



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