Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 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 19, 2008

Energy

Energy...what a precious thing. I just responded to a comment by noting I had "given up on showering daily and brushing my teeth twice-a-day a long time ago." That's not a rule, of course. I always shower after working out, and sometimes my teeth do get the two-a-day treatment. My point is, this disease steals so much that I need to constantly decide when, where, and how much of my limited energy supply I am willing to spend. Brushing my teeth and showering dive down the priority list if doing those "simple" tasks means depleting my precious energy supply.
How much do I have in reserve? I would like to run, feed the dog, pay a few bills, and maybe go to a meeting. If I brush my teeth, will I have enough left to accomplish any of those things? If the answer is no, I swish the mouthwash and move on.

I had my best running year in 2002. In 2002, at the age of 34, I ran like the wind! I set personal bests in every distance from one mile to the marathon. I comfortably qualified for Boston. I won 3 gold medals and one bronze at a major international track meet. All of these accomplishments were significant because while I was hitting those all-time athletic highs, my depression was hitting an all-time desperate low! Incredible... But it was all about the energy, I realized years later. I was determined to keep running, and I was willing to part with all of my energy to do it.
I was a runner. I had already lost so much of my identity, I was compelled to hang on to that one piece--runner. So despite pounding fatigue, smothering darkness, loss of appetite and weight, self-medicating with alcohol, at least one suicide attempt, and multiple hospitalizations, I ran. There were hundreds of days when I did nothing else. I couldn't. If I wanted to keep running, I needed all of my energy to do it. I needed to do it to save one sliver of me, the runner.
So, that's what I did. I got out of bed to run, went running, and then returned to bed. Running hurt, too, which was another bonus! Pain was supremely preferable to the vacant emptiness I otherwise experienced. Ironically, my fatigue, weight-loss, singular focus, and pain tolerance combined to produce speed I had never achieved before or since.
And it was all because I didn't brush my teeth.

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