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!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Getting Smacked Around by the Past--but still standing.

Ever have one of those days where the past smacks you in the face over and over again? I created one of those days today. I've been missing some important items for a few years, and I set out to find them today. Why have I been missing things? As I've remarked here previously, I had ECT treatments for my treatment-resistant depression. As a result, I lost my memory--totally--and therefore lost a few years of my life. I moved into this house right in the middle of that lost time period.

Today, I was looking for my marathon and track medals (for important reasons I won't get into here). I have 4 beautiful medals (3 gold and a bronze) from a 2002 international track meet in Sydney, Australia. Had no idea where they were, but I figured they were probably with my 7 marathon medals, which were also missing.

I was also searching for my wedding ring. It's true, I am no longer married, but that ring represents a beautiful time in my life. Besides, we designed them and had a jeweler hand craft them for our wedding. It had been so long since I had seen it, I was really afraid I might have accidentally thrown it away. In the end, I found all of the above, but I had to do a lot of digging to get there.

The digging became the problem. In the process of searching through my bedroom, I emptied some drawers containing lots of old writing and recovery stuff. There were folders full of crap from outpatient treatment, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, 12-step work, and multiple hospitalizations. The journal containing one of my suicide notes was under some books. I unearthed pictures of friends who used to be close but are now distant (ouch), family photos from relatives I no longer hear from, and even a picture of an old college flame. Ancient watches, jewelry, cards, and notes...everything meant something. Everything reminded me, usually painfully so, of a different time in my life. It was amazing. Even old, broken watches instantly transported me back to the days each watch dressed my wrist. It was an exhausting trip down memory lane. Divergent, wide-ranging feelings crowded my soul.

As if competing for supremacy, those multiple mixed-up feelings threatened to overwhelm me throughout the day. Sadness, hurt, disappointment, anger, loss, grief, gratitude, and cheer--each took center stage at one point or another. Deciding what to keep and what to throw also caused internal conflict. By the time I found what I was looking for I felt battered and bruised from the inside out. Yet, I also felt relieved.

Cleaning out some of the "trash" from the past, whether it was a sock, a key, a card, a piece of writing, or an entire program's folder, felt healing. Although reading some of my previous troubled writing was difficult, it also healed me. I felt grateful to no longer be in such a painful space. I was grateful for the difference between then and now. It reaffirmed the work I'd done and reinforced that I had improved. Some of the writing even filled in pieces of my lost years, which apparently were quite painful and filled with drink. It was quite clear, I didn't want to live.

In some ways, I'm amazed to be sitting here today feeling so different. Though not gone, my depression is different. Suicide, once a daily contemplation, now enters only occasionally, and it rarely feels like an option. Today, my writing reveals more control, less desperation and hopelessness. I am less a victim of a cruel, cruel world today. I am more willing to take responsibility for my care. Back then, I was certain I was doomed. There was no light ever coming my way. Today, I'm more accepting of the lows. I have more faith they will pass. And while I still don't wish depression on anyone, while depression still stops me in my tracks, I feel less helpless and more willing to do what I can within its temporary limits.

After my difficult trip through the past, it was nice to see I'd improved. Today, because of the work I've done and the help I've received, my life is better and easier. I am more functional. I am more accepting of myself and others. I've learned to take responsibility for my actions. I'm more tolerant, and I am significantly more spiritual. I'm not perfect, but now I'm okay with that. And I have gratitude today. I never had that in the past. Being able to function today was an example of these changes. I continued functioning despite a myriad of painful feelings and memories without hurting myself, lashing out at someone else, self-medicating or sleeping. That is not only an improvement, it's a miracle.

Thank you: D.E., K.L., A.A., Kim, Cindy and Bill, Mom and Bruce, running, and Puck. Thank you. I am so grateful to all of you.

8 comments:

Michelle (The Beartwinsmom) said...

Etta, that is fabulous! I wish I had that ability, but I still get knocked to the ground, and I'm still laying on the ground for a few days afterward. I need to learn to get up and move on. The "keep swimming" can only go so far.

I am SO incredibly proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Funny, I somehow thought of you on Friday, not sure how it happened. I googled you and found your blog. I read every post. It makes me wonder if somehow your "cleaning and my googling" are cosmically connected. I truly think the energy that flows between people never dissipates, only changes.

I can't imagine what you have gone through, but a lot of things make sense for me now, even after all these years.

I hope you continue fighting and searching and writing. I am sad for you and for the trials you have been through. I only hope that it gets easier for you.

All the best to you, keep on- “keeping on”.

TJohnson

etta said...

TJ--

How very, very cool. Yes, I believe there definitely is a cosmic connection between people. I'm glad we still have one after all these years.
However, don't be sad for me. I need no sadness, no pity. Life is what it is, and I have seized a lot of opportunities and grown into a much better person as a result of where I've been. It would only be sad if I hadn't grown. And for a while, I didn't. But, as I outlined in this post and others on this site, fortunately I have.
I am grateful for the places I've been because they have landed me here, now; alive, usually functional, and willing to battle another day.
So nice to hear from you!
etta

John D said...

Etta - Though I've been here several times, I'm only now getting the full scope of what you've been through. I too want to congratulate you on how well you have survived all the dreadful things you allude to in sorting through your pile of memory triggers. It was especially upsetting to hear about your losing the memory of a period of years after ECT. I've heard of many mind whacks resulting from that treatment, often without any lasting positive side. I hope your experience with ECT was effective. You've put so much into this post - I'll keep thinking about it for quite a while. Thank you! All the best - John

etta said...

john d--
Fortunately for me, ECT is one of the reasons I am where I am today. The sessions which resulted in memory loss were not very effective, but we changed some of the parameters to decrease the memory effect, and the last time I had ECT it worked. I have only been hospitalized once since, and that was for a med issue. So, ECT can have some nasty effects, but when I got to the point of no return, and nothing else worked, it was the only option left. It was not a treatment I chose to do without significant consideration and discussion, especially after the loss of memory experiences. But, like I said, without it, I wouldn't be alive today, and I know that for sure.
Nice to hear from you.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I really appreciate them.
etta

Mike said...

Etta,

That was such a wonderful post. We all go through tough times, and you are very brave for sharing your experiences. When you are in the cycle of depression it seems almost impossible that you will ever get past it, but of course you can, and it helps to read about people like you who have been able to break from the cycle.
I have a site with some great user submitted information on depression, peoplesmd.com. It's a great place to find and submit and share information on depression. I think you and your readers can find some great information. Thank you for your writing.

Running Hoosier said...

A very well written post. I applaud your success. I have like you said in your post been self-medicating. The depression medication was no longer working as effectively as it had, so I began to help it along with some Tequila. I knew that I desperately needed to see my doctor and get something else.

I was able to get in and see the doctor on Monday and he gave a new medication. I still take the other (less 20mg) along with this new one.

We will see how it works.
Again thanks you for this blog, it helps to know others are out there, and hear how they are making it.

Angela Foster said...
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