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!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pneumonia

Remember that cold I had last week? Well, it took a vicious turn for the worse on Sunday, and yesterday I was officially diagnosed with pneumonia. I've had pneumonia before, so by Monday, when I could barely walk from one end of my house to the other, I figured I had it again. I've been in bed for most of the past three days. Thank God there are lots of football games on right now! At least I have something to look at when I'm not asleep!

Being this ill is difficult. I can take care of myself for the most part, but taking care of Puck is more difficult. Poor Puck. Until last night, he'd been inside for days. More than once he stood by my bed and stared at me, as if to say, "Why are you in bed again?" Even when up, I didn't have the energy to play with him. So I had to ask for help yesterday--something I don't care to do! My friend Shelli came over and walked him for me. He was so excited! After just 30 minutes outside with her, he was content the rest of the evening. I felt better, too.

Being this ill is also tough on my mental health. Being inside alone is tough. Even though I tend toward the isolative, I typically do get out. Right now I'm staring at several more days of isolation. I'm hoping to get out to an AA meeting by Saturday. And if the antibiotics work, I should have enough energy to go back to work next week.

Unfortunately, I don't know when I'll feel up to exercising again. With every passing moment, I feel my fitness going down the tubes. All of my hard work over the past 6 months will soon disappear. I'll have to start over at zero. That really sucks. I'll have to fight the "fuck-its" to get back out there as soon as I can. Otherwise this period of inactivity will last well beyond my illness. That would only compound my frustration and make starting over even more difficult, so please root for me to get going as soon as possible!

Well, that's all I've got for now. It's time to get back in bed. Typing is surprisingly exhausting! Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

2,103,840. Another milestone.

Two million
One hundred three thousand
Eight hundred forty
Minutes.

It was on this day four years ago, December 28, 2005, that I put down my last alcoholic drink. That's 1461 days, or 35,064 hours, or 2,103,840 minutes ago. I am so grateful.

I don't remember much about that day. It was not special in any other way. I do know that December 28, 2005 was the third day in a row I had attempted to quit. It was the first time in my life I hadn't been able to stop when I wanted to stop. That scared me.

Over the past 2,103,840 minutes, there have been good moments and bad moments, happy moments and sad moments, periods of serenity and moments filled with craziness. Life has been easy and difficult, fair and unfair. Moments filled with love were often surrounded by those filled with loneliness. At times depression has beaten me senseless, at other times I've found release. Over the past four years there have been 2,103,840 minutes of celebration and complication. The miracle is I've survived each moment without finding it necessary to take that first drink.

We have a saying in my home AA group. We can do what I cannot do. I could not stay sober alone. Believe me, I tried. I am so thankful for my friends in AA. Without their belief, love and support, I would be drunk or more likely dead. I'm sure the combination of depression and alcohol would have proved fatal by now. Instead, I've had the opportunity to live through 2,103,840 moments of life. It hasn't always been easy, but it's certainly been far better than it would have been with alcohol in control.

Now, let's see what moment number 2,103,841 has in store!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas thoughts and feelings

Grateful...that's my primary feeling today.

I woke up yesterday feeling a little under the weather--sore throat, sinus pressure--but nothing terrible. After a wonderful 7:00 AM AA meeting, I headed to my gym. The weather outside was truly frightful with rain, slush, and muck, so I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. It was actually a nice run. I maintained a good pace and didn't get too bored. That's atypical for me and the treadmill! After running, I lifted weights for 45 minutes. I figured the weight lifting metabolism boost would serve me well later in the afternoon! I think I had 3 pieces of pie over the course of the day. I'm not sure any amount of weight lifting helps with that!

Shortly after returning from the gym, I headed over to my friends' house. I helped Bill and Cindy prepare for the small gathering. Five or six sober friends arrived later in the afternoon with food galore! We had a beautiful turkey dinner, listened to music, played cards, and laughed a lot! (Here are the MEN attacking the turkey!)Puck got to come, too. Puck, Puppy and Bailey (Bill and Cindy's dogs) laid on the floor all day munching on their Christmas gifts. Bill gave them each a huge butcher shop bone with meat still attached! I've never seen Puck so content for so long.After hours of attacking that bone, he fell fast asleep on their sofa. I'm sure Puck was very grateful, too, as he doesn't typically get bones like that, nor is he allowed to lie on the furniture at home.It was a really, really nice day. By the time I got home, I was totally exhausted and went straight to bed!

I'm so grateful I had friends with whom to share the holiday. Christmas can be very difficult for many people, but I've noticed it is especially difficult for people with mental illness or those in recovery who are detached from families. Like many, I've had holidays where I've simply hung on and gotten through it. Thankfully, I didn't need to just hang on this year. My hope is that all of you had a restful, peaceful, and joyful day. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and we're having another blizzard!
I love it.

Puck and I walked into the thick of the storm late last night.
It was beautiful.
Quiet.
Deserted.
White.
I loved it.

It's Christmas Eve and I have a job interview today!
I'm excited.
No matter the snow.
Like Santa,
I will make it there!

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A really, really good day!

Oh my gosh! Where do I start? Yesterday was a really, really good day! It's been a little while--maybe even a long while--since I've had a day like yesterday. It was a productive day filled with surprises! What could be better than that?

I started my day with a long list of things to do. I was a bit overwhelmed, as is usual when I have a long list. For a brief moment, I contemplated going back to bed and "doing it all later." Thankfully, I didn't. And I think that decision brought some good karma my way.

After my morning coffee, I returned some phone calls and organized my activities. First, I swam. I was supposed to run, but my legs just aren't cooperating lately. My left calf and shin pain are back, and now I have pretty significant right knee pain. Remember when I twisted that knee playing golf a few months ago? Well, I'm pretty sure I have a torn meniscus, and I think it is now objecting to running. It also objects to full knee flexion, i.e. I can't kneel, and full knee extension, i.e. I can't straighten my knee. I'm planning an MD appointment, but that wasn't on my list yesterday. So I swam 2 miles (1 mile in flippers) in 65 minutes. Boring and very tiring. I think I'm losing some of my fitness. But I did it!

After eating some wonderful pasta at my gym, I set out to conquer the rest of my schedule. A long line at the post office was the first stop. Then I was off to Mills Fleet Farm to replace my back door's broken door knob. (I locked myself out of the house Sunday and had to literally break in.) After filling my gas tank at the Mills gas station, I was off to Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked up a present for a friend, one who may read this blog, so I can't tell you what it was. Let's just say she's an avid golfer. The Target next door then swallowed me up for about an hour. Even with a list it is so hard to get out of that store once I'm inside! Too many goodies to peruse! I bought three more presents for the friends with whom I will be spending Christmas before returning home.

Now for the good part! When I got home there were four messages on my voice mail! Four! Nobody ever calls me, so that was quite exciting in and of itself. (What can I say? I lead a sheltered life.) The first message was from my credit union. Apparently I had won a contest--a contest which I didn't even know I had entered! Not only had I won, I won the grand prize! Check out my brand new, 8GB iPod Touch! Whoohoooo! Okay, so that was very exciting, but wait...there's more! I got three phone calls from a potential new employer! I enjoy my job, but driving 45-50 minutes on a very dangerous road has taken it's toll. I'd been hoping for something closer to home for the past year. Our occupational therapist was recently hired away from us by a new company in my city. I decided to give them my name, so I filled out an online application at 10:00 PM Monday night. They made their first call to me at 8:10 AM yesterday morning! Two more calls followed, including one offering an interview! Whoohoooo! I'll let you know more details as they emerge, but I am very excited! Well, I'm actually very, very, very excited...but I'm trying to contain myself.

I ended my day with a great AA meeting. A friend, and newcomer, I brought to this meeting last week showed up again last night. She had already transformed from a tearful, shaky shell to a smiling, fresh-faced woman. It's always great to see people come back after their introduction to the program. I'm keeping her in my prayers. If she gets it, like I got it, her life will certainly change! It's not always sunshine and roses, but sometimes it is! If I wasn't sober, I'd never have had the day I had yesterday, and for that I'm very grateful. Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

R.I.P.

I was shocked this morning to hear of the death of a local musician whom I liked very much--musically and personally. He was a past member of my church. He was also familiar with several of the topics covered in this blog. (I am purposefully being vague, as I don't know how open he was about his personal life.) According to news reports, he was found dead in his home over the weekend. One may speculate, but at this point it is unclear how he died. He was only 51 years old. Talented, gentle, kind--yet, from what I knew, a bit of a tortured soul. Hopefully, his soul is now resting peacefully.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Belonging

It is characteristic of alcoholics to feel alone in a crowd. It is also a symptom of my depression--feeling alone, separate, or on the outside looking in. The cruel irony is that I've been a member of defined groups most of my life. I've always been an athlete, and athletes spend a lot of time together! In high school and college, my teammates and I practiced together for hours every day, played games together evenings and weekends, and then gathered to socialize and party with whatever time we had left. Despite the constant contact, I recall never feeling I belonged to any of those groups with whom I'd spent all that time.

In my professional and personal life since college, not much has changed. Though I've continued to participate in many groups, I've always felt like an isolated cog within a connected crowd. Whether I've been with runners, church members, or coworkers, I've been on the outside looking in. I've never felt like an integrated part of the whole.

Perhaps some of this has been my doing. It is certainly safer to keep my distance. It's harder to get hurt if I never let people get too close. Yet feeling separate, being alone in a crowd, is very painful. When my depression flares, it is one of the most hurtful things I must endure. I'm sure some of you can relate. Even when I'd desperately wanted to feel like a part of a group, for most of my life, I hadn't felt like I belonged.

I hadn't felt like I belonged, that is, until this weekend. Sitting back from the table I shared with five sober friends, I suddenly discovered a very foreign feeling two nights ago. I was a part of the whole. I wasn't on the outside looking in. I was actually in. This feeling repeated itself yesterday while celebrating my birthday, again, with three running friends. It was unusual, and relieving, and warm, and nice. I belonged for perhaps the first time in my life.

Belonging felt nice. I didn't know why I'd suddenly felt it. I didn't know how I'd made it in. Certainly sobriety and less depression had something to do with it. Perhaps letting others get a little closer to me helped as well. Whatever the reasons, I hope I continue to feel a part of, rather than apart from, those around me for a long, long time. Instead of a fleeting stranger, I hope belonging becomes my familiar friend.

Friday, December 18, 2009

42

It's my birthday. Guess how old I am? Old enough, that's for sure!

I'm actually kind of excited about this birthday. Usually, being a single person, I don't do much of anything for my birthday. But this year, I'm having two birthday events! Tonight I'm having dinner with several sober friends--I didn't even know I had several friends--and then we're going to a concert. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with my friend Renee and some other running pals. I'm anxious to get through work today so we can start celebrating.

I'm so fortunate to have all of these wonderful people in my life. With depression, it's often difficult to connect with others, or even to remember anyone cares. Today I'm feeling very grateful for the connections I've made, and for the people who care about me. I'm lucky, indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Running and Caroling

I stepped out of my comfort zone and went caroling tonight with members of my track club. It's an annual event I've never attended before. First of all I can't sing! Secondly, it's one of those group activities, and I knew I wouldn't know many of the runners attending. I think about fifteen runners showed up. We began at the local running store and then ran around town wearing our Santa hats and reindeer antlers. We entertained the residents at two nursing homes and then stopped to sing to the kids at The Ronald McDonald House. We completed our journey by returning to the running store for cookies. It was fun. It was fun, but it was also dark and freezing cold! I wouldn't be surprised if it was several degrees below zero. It was definitely the coldest weather I've run in this year. The darkness and the dicey winter footing was quite challenging, too. After downing a few cookies, I returned home to take Puck on a 2 mile jaunt. Before we went out I put Vaseline on his paws. I was worried he might get frostbite from the cold, icy ground. He seems to have survived just fine.

I'm pretty proud of myself for getting out of the house tonight. There were many reasons for me not to go. I was exhausted after work. It was freezing cold and dark outside. It was a new activity I'd never done before, which meant I had to conquer my fear in order to go. I'm not sure what got me out the door. Sometimes I surprise myself. Next year I just may do it again!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How do we know we're better?

When is depression over?
Does it have an end?
Or are there only periods of reprieve?
How do we know when we're better?

Is depression like the flu?
Or maybe pneumonia?
Is there a finite beginning, middle and end?
We're cured when we feel better.

Or is depression like MS?
Or maybe leukemia?
Are there bouts of illness and periods of relief?
We feel better, but we're never cured.

When is depression over?
Has anyone else considered this?
Or is this another rumination of one ill brain?
How do we know when we're better?
Are we ever cured?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A milestone

500


This is my 500th post on Depression Marathon. Wow. I began writing a little less than two years ago. I never envisioned this thing getting this far. I feel like I should say something really profound or symbolic, but I don't have anything like that in mind. Maybe simpler words are good enough. Wow.

I'm pleased, proud, and grateful. I started this blog to educate and support others about mental illness. Instead, I've received so much support from my readers, it's no wonder I'm feeling better than ever. Thank you. I'd like to continue as long as you'll continue to read. I will continue as long as I have something meaningful to say. Thank you for the opportunity to be a tiny part of your days.

By the way, I do have some profoundly good news. Puck's biopsy revealed a benign gingival (gums) tumor. It will likely come back, and if it does so aggressively, it will have to be more completely removed. Right now, I'm just watching the spot. If it comes back, I pray it will be a slow, non-aggressive tumor. I really don't want Puck to go through another surgery. He's been through enough. I'm very, very thankful he doesn't have cancer. Thanks for your prayerful thoughts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So you think you want to live in Minnesota?

Oooooh...my aching back!

Puck enjoying the snow.
Brrrrr....

Snow and cold--it's how we keep the riff-raff from moving to our lovely state!

Blizzard!

I got up early thinking I would shovel my driveway, make it to a class at the gym, and then drive to work--45 minutes away. This is what I encountered instead.
I had to push my way out the door. This is the doorway into my driveway. It sits at least 6 inches above my driveway.


This is looking out my door toward my garage. Those drifts are about 4.5 to 5 feet high. Needless to say, I didn't make it out of my driveway, as I don't own a snow blower, and I couldn't fathom shoveling this yet, especially since it is still snowing...

...still snowing hard. Fun, fun, fun!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A+ for the Weatherman!

It's been snowing and snowing and snowing all day long. I love it, although I may feel differently in a couple hours. I'm about to go outside and shovel the 6 inches in my driveway, and I have a long driveway! The way it's snowing now, there will be at least another 6 inches by morning.

The snow, or maybe the extra sleep I got last night, energized me today. I went for a 5.3 mile run with Puck this morning! Great news: No left leg or calf pain. Bad news: My right knee hurts! Can't win. After my AA meeting tonight, I swam for 30 minutes. Two workouts in one day. Not typical for me, but it worked today.

I love running in the snow. I love the noise running shoes make on snow. It's kind of a quiet squeaking noise. And I love watching Puck leave happy footprints in the white stuff. He was practically smiling throughout our run today. Unencumbered joy...that's my boy!

Speaking of my boy, I spoke to the vet tech today about his biopsy. Apparently the lab wants to slice the sample into smaller pieces for examination, so we won't know the results until later this week. Keep those prayers coming, please. I don't want him to be sick. I want him smiling and unencumbered for as long as possible!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wiped out!

I am dragging. It took forever for me to wake up for work this morning. Then I had a long, heavy day. Now it's only 7:30 PM, and I can barely keep my eyes open, and I just woke up from a nap! I fell asleep right after I got home from work. I'm not sure why I'm so tired. It's just one of those days, I guess. I was hoping to go for a short swim tonight, but there's no way that's going to happen. Perhaps I'll just go to bed. Tomorrow, I'm planning a short RUN! Hopefully I'll wake up by then!

No word from the vet yet regarding Puck's biopsy. Keep him in your prayers!

We're supposed to have a blizzard tomorrow! But then again, are the weathermen ever correct?

I'll leave you with this. I found it in my AA book. I'm not sure where I got it from, but I like it. Hope you do to.
When we are in ourselves, thinking only about ourselves, it's like a chunk of chocolate sitting in the bottom of a glass of milk. But if we get out of ourselves and spend time giving to others, that chocolate gets stirred up, and we end up with a beautiful glass of chocolate milk.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

football, football, football

This is a great time of year to be a football fan. If I wanted, I could watch a game just about every day of the week. Saturdays are full of college games, and then I get to watch my awesome Vikings on Sundays. Today, I went to my morning AA meeting, which was quite good as usual. After the meeting I went swimming for 65 minutes before I came home to relax in front of some great football games!

Sixty five minutes of swimming is boring, but I covered 2 miles again (1 mile with flippers). I think wearing the flippers is strengthening my ankles and shins. That's exactly what I need to keep this tendinitis from coming back once I resume running. My left leg is pain free now, but I haven't tried to run yet. I think I will get back on the road by mid-week.

I still haven't heard anything about Puck's biopsy. The vet thought we'd have results by now. It's hard to wait. I pray there is nothing wrong with him. He's certainly not acting ill, but I know that doesn't always mean anything. He's so bored with me not running. He'll be thrilled when I start running again!

Well, I don't have much more to say. I'm grateful to be feeling well. Now, back to the game...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

everything but running

We got our first dusting of snow overnight. I love running in the snow, although I'm not thrilled about the cold. I went indoors last night, rode the stationary bike and lifted weights at the gym. I swam on Sunday and plan to swim again today. I do hate getting into that pool when it's cold outside. Those first moments are always chilly. My leg feels a lot better though, so I'm going to continue resting it for a few more days.

I had to take Puck to the vet on Tuesday. He's had a small, round, hard bump inside his mouth for the past couple months. It was almost between two of his front bottom teeth. I figured he got something stuck between his teeth, had some inflammation, and it would eventually pass. It didn't. Unfortunately, the vet said it could be a tumor. He sedated Puck, excised the bump and sent it off to the University of Minnesota lab for analysis. Of course, I'm worried. The vet said he'd call me with the results "in a few days." Say a little prayer for my boy if you are so inclined. Thanks.

I had my chat with my assistant at work yesterday. As expected, she was more interested in rationalizing her faulty techniques than she was in listening to feedback. There was unnecessary tension throughout the office afterward. I've been replaying what I said and how I could have said it better ever since the chat. I could have, should have, been more directive than I was. We'll see if anything changes. I hope so. I don't want to have to do this again.

I'm off to do some online Christmas shopping before jumping in the pool.
May the sun warmly shine within your heart throughout the day. Have a great day everyone!



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