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!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting ready and Gratitude

I'm busy running pre-vacation errands and doing pre-vacation chores. I've gone shopping, mowed the lawn, done laundry and got my hair cut. I saw my therapist, delegated my patients to the other PT at work, and gave Puck a good brushing. He's so handsome! Tomorrow I'll work, pack, play my softball game, take a nap, and then we're off! I'm really excited to go. It will be nice to relax, take in the beauty, eat good food, and enjoy my time with my friends. This pre-vacation business will make way for some good, old fashioned relaxation.

Like I said, I had therapy today. We talked a lot about the triathlon, as this was my first meeting with my therapist since I finished it. She, like most of you, agreed that I need to work on being grateful for the effort, for finishing, and to focus less on my disappointment in the water. I'm working on it. As I, ironically, pointed out, focusing on the disappointment isn't getting me anywhere. (You see, I know this cognitively. It's just getting the rest of me to go along!)

My therapist and I also talked about how well I've been doing. It's been a good 9 or 10 months since my last significant dip into the darkness, and that episode was relatively short-lived. That's hard to believe. It's been at least two, maybe three, years since I was last hospitalized. In the first 4-5 years of this illness, I was in and out of the hospital often. Lastly, I'm going on five years of sobriety. At that, my therapist said something about time flying. Things have been good.

My therapist has been through most of this journey with me. It's rather strange to sit in her office now, sometimes with very little to say. I feel so grateful...words really cannot express my gratitude. How do I thank someone who's been so instrumental in my life? How is my thanks any different than the thanks she gets at the grocery store? You know what I mean? I'd like her to feel my gratitude. I can't just say, "Thanks." I'm going to have to think more about this. I'd like her to know how grateful I am. I don't know where I'd be today without her.

Hmmm...how did I get from vacation to that thought track?? I'm just going with what's flying through my brain tonight. Gratitude. I guess I'm feeling grateful. I have a therapist who's kept me, at various times, alive, functional, resilient, and/or composed. I have friends I love--friends who care about me, too. And I'm about to embark on a ten day vacation with those friends to a beautiful, restful place. Peace.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

under the weather

When I last left you I was feeling heavy and lazy and bored. Now I'm feeling sick. I've had a sore throat and a headache for the last couple of days. Feeling achy and sick certainly doesn't combine well with heavy and bored. For instance, I promised myself I'd get out and bike...no, okay swim...no, okay run today. None of the aforementioned occurred. Oh well, at least Puck and I got out for a 30 minute walk.

I'm trying to be kinder to myself and not fret too much about my temporary lack of motivation. I'm trying. But I am just a wee bit concerned. I think I need to make myself another training schedule, even if I don't yet know what it is I'm training for. Maybe I'll get to that this evening...

By the way, I'm going on my annual trip to Colorado this week. I'm going with friends Bill and Cindy to their cabin again. We're leaving Wednesday night, and since we're driving, Puck and Puppy (their dog) get to come along! Yippee! It will be Puck's first foray into the mountains. We will be gone 10 days this year. I'm really, really looking forward to it. Below is a picture of Bill, last year, with his morning coffee in front of the cabin.
Of course, when I'm gone I won't be able to write as often, but I'll try to keep you up to date as best I can. I'll also try to get my butt in gear and get some exercise while I'm there. I guess I better get to writing up that schedule right now.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to do now?

This could be a dangerous time. I'm feeling a little bored. I think I'm lost without something to direct my energy toward. I've done just a little exercise this week, not because I couldn't, but because I've not been motivated. I'm feeling lazy and very heavy. Like I said, this could be a dangerous time.

I've got to make some decisions about what to do next. I'm planning on running a marathon in November again this year, so should I start focusing on running? Or should I keep up with the triathlon training and make a plan to do another? Do I have enough courage to try another triathlon? That's another story for a another time, I think. The point is, I think I need to focus my energy soon. The heavier and lazier I feel...the heavier and lazier I tend to get.

I enjoy the triathlon training a lot. It keeps me fresher. I haven't had any nagging injuries despite 6 months of continuous training. I've not been able to report that when I've focused solely on running. But I don't like the way I've been feeling when running/racing lately. My legs aren't as running strong and my endurance not as great as when I've focused my training on running. So I'm not sure what to do.

I think I'd like to do another triathlon, but I'm certainly not feeling passionate about it. I'm a bit leery. I have several running races coming up on which I could focus. Regardless of what I decide to do--likely triathlon training with a greater focus on running--I need to get back to it soon. This is a dangerous time. Boredom and heaviness are not good places for me to be.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The rest of the story...sort of.

I feel like I should say more about the triathlon, but I'm not sure what to say. The truth is I have mixed feelings about my performance. I know I should be happy to have finished. I know I said finishing was my ultimate goal, and it was. I didn't drop out of the swim because I wanted to at least finish. Right there in the lake, I told myself, "You started this. Finish it." Unfortunately, that was only about 50 yards into the lake--hence the mixed feelings.

The fact is, I am happy I finished, but I'm really disappointed with the swim. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I would be scared. I knew it would take me longer than swimming 1500 yards in the pool. What I didn't expect...what was truly humbling, was being one of the last people out of the water. It took me 41 minutes to get out of the lake. Like I said, it was humbling.

I knew the swim would be scary and hard, but it was worse than that. And that was the problem. I CAN SWIM!! Yet every time I put my face in the water I couldn't stand it. I ended up either floating on my back or doing the backstroke almost the entire 1500 yards. I don't think I did more than 100 yards of freestyle. I was so pissed, but I couldn't seem to do anything about it.

Maybe I bit off more than I could chew. Maybe I shouldn't have started the race. Maybe I shouldn't have done the long course. Maybe, maybe, maybe... Yet I'm glad I started. I'm glad I pushed myself. And I am proud of the fact that I finished. Yet, I'm disappointed, too. Mixed up...I'm not sure what to feel, or what to write, or what to say.

I guess I'm still digesting the whole experience. I'm trying to be humbled, yet grateful. I'm trying to focus on the positives. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. I know, I know...it was my first attempt. One thing is for sure--disappointment drives me to do better. I foresee another triathlon in my future, if for no other reason than that.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Finished.

I did it. I finished my first outdoor triathlon. The swim (1500 meters or 0.93 miles) was as ugly as it could get. I believe I was one of the last 3-5 people out of the water. But I made it around the lake, twice.

The bike (24.8 hilly miles) was great. It felt fast. I passed a lot of people. The run (6.2 miles) was tough, but doable. I passed a lot of people on the run, too.

I was as grateful as grateful can be to finish, especially after the ugly swim. I had lots of people there supporting me, which was very cool. And of course I thought of all you blogosphere fans, too, especially when I contemplated dropping out during the swim. It was nice to feel all of the support. Thank you.

My final time was under 3 hours, and that makes me pleased. I think that's not too bad for a first attempt.

I'll write more about the whole experience later. Right now, it's time for a nap.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's on.

I've made my decision. I'm going to do it. I'm going to follow through with my plan and swim, bike and run this Sunday. I know I will be absolutely terrified at the start of the race, but at least it won't be a surprise! I'm relieved to have made a decision, and I feel good about giving this a try.

The decision was really made for me yesterday. I took up a friend's offer to swim across a local lake with a boat following us. The moment I jumped into the deep water, my heart started racing. Things were not looking good.

On our first trip out and back (approximately 600-700 yards), I had to stop frequently. I was panicky. I could barely breathe, etc, etc... I took a break on the dock for about ten minutes before I tried again. That's when the miracle happened.

Miraculously, I settled down and swam for long stretches without stopping. The first trip out and back took 14 minutes. The second one only took ten. I was still scared when I had to stop, but I handled it. My breathing was more relaxed. My heart rate was slower. I just swam. By the time I got out of the water, I knew I had to give this thing a try.

I swam again today, across another lake, with some other friends. Today was a little tougher. The lake was much rougher, and the boater wasn't nearly as close to me. My fear got the best of me a couple times. I had to climb out for about ten minutes again, but I got back in. I swam for about 25 minutes total. I feel a little less sure of my decision today, but I know I'll feel worse if I sit this out.

I'm getting there. I'm still afraid, but I'm facing the fear. I think I'll be able to get through it, but I'm going to be okay if I don't. (I think.) I know I'll give it everything I've got on Sunday. If fear gets in my way, which I'm sure it will, I'll just have to do my best to give it the boot. Wish me luck! And thanks for all your support.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Decision?

I'm in the best shape I've been in since college. I can run fast, ride fast and swim fast. But I've yet to master swimming in open water. After talking at length with my therapist, it's clear that my problem is less about swimming and more about fear. It's also clear that this fear, and it's debilitating effect, took me by surprise and continues to baffle me. I knew I had a fear of the water, but I had no idea it would effect me like this. Scolding myself for having such a fear has also not been helpful. This all leaves me entirely up in the air.

On the one hand, I figure I should just go for it. Start the triathlon no matter how terrified I might be, because deep inside my brain I know I can swim the distance, and I know I can tread water, and at worst I panic and get pulled out. Well, actually the worst thing would be that I drown, but I'm not supposed to think of that!

On the other hand, this is supposed to be the positive culmination of a lot of work. It's supposed to be a challenge not a punishment. If I panic and get pulled from the water, it probably won't feel fun or be a positive experience. Even if I make it out of the water, will it have been fun if I was terrified? Once again, I don't know.

I'm hoping to swim at least two more times before Sunday, but I'm planning to make my decision by Friday at the latest. I don't want to waffle right up until the race. There would be no way to prepare myself if I did that. I think I'm leaning toward waiting for another triathlon, but even as I type that statement the disappointment is enormous. I guess secretly I'm hoping something miraculous happens this week. Realistically--probably not, huh?

And yes, this is dragging me down, so in the end, I think I'll be relieved no matter what I choose.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A little better again

Yesterday my energy returned. I had a nice day at work, and then I covered 26.5 miles on my bike and feet--72 minutes on the bike followed by a 30 minute run. It was a beautiful evening after a very wet day. I think the day off was actually helpful, as my legs felt really strong throughout my workout.

Today's been a nice slow day. I started with my usual AA meeting, cleaned house a bit (finally!), took a nap and then went swimming. It's been another gray, rainy day, so the beach wasn't an option. Instead I took my wetsuit to my usual, shallow pool for 1800 yards of laps. I did challenge myself by not taking any extra breaths at each end of the pool (I don't do flip turns). Instead of my usual touch, breath and turn, today I touched the wall and immediately turned around without taking my head out of the water. (So it was more like a flip turn, as there were no breaks for an extra breath.) And I did it. I swam my 1800 yards in 34 minutes--no breaks!

On the one hand, I'm encouraged by this, as I KNOW I can swim the required triathlon distance without stopping. On the other hand, I'm discouraged, because I know I can't do the exact same thing in a lake! UGH! Why is it so different? Basically, it's my fear. It's gotta be all about my fear.

Tomorrow, I may get to confront that fear again. One of my co-workers is a swimmer. She's doing the sprint triathlon. Tomorrow she's going to swim across a small lake with her sister rowing beside her. She offered to take me along. I'm anxious to see how it goes. Of course, I'll let you know. The triathlon is 8 days away...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wiped out today...

I've had the biking clothing on since 10:00 AM. A seventy minute bike followed by a 30 minute run is on the schedule. There is a group triathlon training session tonight. And I'm supposed to be at a board meeting in 13 minutes. None of it has, nor will it happen.

I've hardly been able to lift my head off the pillow today. I managed to get a haircut, but I almost fell asleep in the chair. When I'm up, I feel like lead. When I lie down, I sleep. It looks like I am going to miss a workout for only the second time in this training session. I want to go. My body says no. I'm sure the stress of the swim is weighing me down, because this fatigue is definitely coming from my brain.

I swam again yesterday in the lake. It didn't go great. I stuck it out for 20 minutes. I couldn't stand it any longer than that. It was probably a tiny bit better than the last lake session, but I'm still so fearful. I still couldn't make it more than about 100 yards before I had to flip over onto my back. I pushed myself as long as I could, but once I got tired, the anxiety set in. Once I got anxious, it was almost impossible to keep going. And around and around the vicious circle went.

I spoke to my doctor and therapist about doing some sports psychology sessions to get past this fear. We're looking into that. Other than that, I'm spending more and more time contemplating calling the whole thing off...for now. I'm not giving up, but I'm thinking more seriously about pulling out of this triathlon and aiming toward one later in the season instead. My doctor agreed that may be the thing to do.

I guess neither of us wants to see me permanently fearful, which is what I think may happen if I have to get pulled out of the water emergently. I'd rather be better prepared, and less fearful, for the next one than attempt to jump in to this one too soon. Standing on the sidelines may be difficult, but it also might be the smartest thing to do.

So that's where I'm at today. Pooped, contemplative, and worried. Not much else to say, so I'll leave you with this (appropriate) quote by Dale Carnegie:

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A little better

The swimming saga continues. I went to the beach again yesterday, but it was closed due to the wet weather we were having. Instead of retreating to my usual pool, which is only 4-5 feet deep, I stopped at another pool in town. This pool is very, very deep, as it is also a diving competition pool. After paying my four bucks, I stepped into my wetsuit and jumped in.

I wasn't feeling too hopeful, as I was a little nervous even jumping into the crystal clear water. Nevertheless, I challenged myself. There were no lane markers on the surface, so I picked a spot right in the middle of the deep end. That way I had no possibility of grabbing a wall. I decided to just swim and to forget about sighting for the moment.

After going end to end for 400 yards, I decided to challenge myself further and stop touching/pushing off the wall at each end of the pool. After all, in the lake there will be no walls to push off every 25 yards. From that moment on, I stopped before the wall and tread water, turned around, and started again. Basically, that is exactly what will happen in the lake when I stop to rest. I'll have to tread water, catch my breath, and then start again. So that's what I practiced, and it was challenging.

I got very tired very quickly, but the most challenging part was fighting my brain the entire time. I was fighting wanting to stop. I was fighting thoughts of, "I can't." I was fighting, fighting, fighting, and that made everything more tiring.

Whereas I can swim two miles non-stop in my regular pool, I had to alternate freestyle, treading water, and breast stroke in the deep pool. But I did it! I stayed in the water for 45 minutes (33 minutes without touching anything) and covered 1.25 miles. Despite my exhaustion, I was pleased I had accomplished my task.

The accomplishment made me feel a tiny bit more hopeful. I was able to cover more than the triathlon distance without hanging on. I was nervous, and scared, and impatient, but I stuck to it.

I didn't do any sighting, but if I have to stop that often in the triathlon, I'll be able to adjust my line. I'm actually hoping I'll be able to follow the swimmers in front of me during the triathlon. I just don't think I'll get comfortable with sighting before next week. It's more important, I think, to get comfortable with simply being in the deep water. I am feeling a tiny bit more hopeful. We'll see what happens when I get back in the lake today.

As usual, I appreciate your comments of support, inspiration, and experience. It helps to know some of you have overcome the same thing I'm fighting to overcome. It's helpful to be reminded to be more gentle with myself. It's helpful to have you rooting for me. Thanks. I'll let you know what happens.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My psyche takes some hits

Things are tough with my psyche. I've been back to the local beach to swim in open water twice since I last wrote. Things were not much better than they were originally. On Thursday night, I swam back and forth in the shallow water with a few forays over my head. I still felt panicky once the water got deep. I still couldn't swim more than about 100 yards without stopping to stand up. If I got tired, and I was over my head, my body physically freaked. I think this is bordering on a phobia, and I don't consider myself a phobic-type person at all! Needless to say, I left feeling very disappointed and frustrated (and near tears) again.

Yesterday began with a very difficult race. It was a 10 mile trail run. I'd never run that particular race before, and I'm pretty sure I won't do it again. Wow, it was tough. I was having one of those off days when running is difficult. Being off combined with hills, hills, and more hills was not a good combination. I wanted to walk off the course at 5 miles, but I had no idea where I was so I couldn't! By six miles I was walking up most of the hills. By seven I was walking up all of them and then some. I've only collapsed to the ground once in my life after finishing a race. Yesterday changed that to twice.

Perhaps I shouldn't have run the race, as the triathlon (if I do it) is only two weeks away. But I thought a good race would help take my mind off my swimming distress. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good race.

Today, I returned to the lake with my brand new wetsuit. It didn't help. I still had trouble swimming. I brought my friends Bill and Cindy along to watch. Cindy was helpful with some technique tips, and just having her there helped me relax a tiny bit. But it seems it's no use. I couldn't make it around approximately 200 yards of buoys. (The swim for my triathlon is close to 1600 yards!) I made multiple attempts, and I made it about 3/4 of the way around once; but that's not going to cut it even in a shorter triathlon. Worse, each effort ended with me swimming, panicky, back to shore. Cindy was patient and helpful, but in the end I was again frustrated and tearful.

This feels like a huge challenge to me. Part of me wants to go back out right now and work to conquer this. But a large part of me is screaming, "It's time to quit!" I don't know. Is this worth all the angst it's causing? My mood has dipped. I'm having trouble focusing at work. My house is a mess. Swimming trouble has got me overwhelmed, and it's wreaking havoc in other areas of my life. I don't like that, but I don't like NOT being able to do something either--especially when I know I should be able to do it! So I'm not sure it's worth it, but I don't think I'm ready to give up yet. I've got two weeks before the triathlon. I'm not exactly hopeful, but I'm willing to keep trying.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

PANIC

I panicked! Tuesday night, I swam in open water for the first time with about 15 other newbies. Despite being a strong swimmer in the pool, I couldn't keep up with others whose strokes looked no better than mine. In fact, on our last drill, an actual swim in deep water around some buoys, I panicked and had to stop. Needless to say, I've been bitterly disappointed and a bit distraught since then.

I was working on "sighting." That's where you lift your head out of the water to see where you're going. It's quite difficult. It goes against everything I've been taught about proper swim technique, and it's very inefficient. About one quarter of the way through, I lifted my head and took in a big gulp of water. Unfortunately, the water didn't go to my stomach, it went directly down my windpipe, and I couldn't breathe. I tread water and gasped, loudly, for air. Finally after multiple loud, squealing gasps, I caught my breath. But it was too late, panic had set in. I tried to swim again, but I couldn't. I had to flip over onto my back and slowly cut across the course to shore. I was done.

The instructors all said nice things. The other swimmers who initially came to rescue me--that's how desperate my gasping was--said nice things. I think they were worried I was embarrassed. But I wasn't really embarrassed. I was disappointed and scared! How was I going to do this long triathlon for which I had trained so hard? In those few seconds of distress, my fear of deep water was reinforced ten fold! Now I can't get the scene out of my head.

I've spoken to my therapist about it. Like you, she's been following my progress toward this goal, and she's a swimmer. She's helped me re-frame the situation a little bit, but I'm still so, so disappointed and anxious. I'm afraid I've bitten off more than I can chew. I'm having dreams about drowning. It's terrible.

I have a 30 minute swim scheduled today, and I'm going back to the scene of the drama to try again. For now, I think I'll stay in water which is not over my head. But the triathlon course goes out into the middle of this very deep lake--twice! I'm going to have to get over this, or I won't be able to cross triathlon off my bucket list. Any suggestions...I'm all ears!

Thank you, and you, and you

A quick note to say thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I was feeling conflicted about continuing to write because I've been doing so much better than when I started this blog a few years ago. Many of you said, much to my surprise, that's exactly why you read--because I'm doing better, and doing better offers you hope! I had never thought of that! My therapist would be proud of you for re-framing my negative thought into a positive one. Really, she would! So thank you all for your feedback. I am humbled and amazed by your support. It is certainly no coincidence, I think, that I've gotten progressively better since I began this blog. This blog proves when we help one another, we are helped ourselves. Since I need all the help I can get, I'll keep writing.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What to do?

I've been feeling a little conflicted about my blog lately. I began this blog in the throes of depression, feeling like I needed to help others who were struggling like me. I wasn't working, as I had been disabled by my illness for several years. I knew nothing about blogging. I learned as I went along. I was early in recovery, and knew very little about living a sober life. I had time to write, the creativity of someone in pain, and lots to say.

In those early days, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had little support. Those around me thought it strange writing a blog about feeling bad and running. Whoever heard of such a thing? What did I hope to accomplish? Nevertheless, I poured out descriptive posts and even a few poems. My goal was to educate, support, and share. But no one knew I was there, and I was happy when I got ten readers in a month. It didn't matter. The writing made me feel better.

Now, it turns out, I've got readers, and followers, and recognition among my peers. Based on comments I've received, it seems the writing makes you feel better, too. But I'm feeling conflicted. As I gathered readers, and comments, and recognition, something in me began to shift. I had fewer and fewer days in the black hole of which I once so passionately wrote. I got better.

Over the course of this blog, you've seen me go from disabled to work. There was a time not that long ago when I didn't think I'd ever work in my chosen field again. You've read along as I've taken this illness from my bed to competitive racing in the streets. The illness which didn't allow me out of my bed now allows me energy to train for a triathlon. I think largely because of my connection with all of you, I've been healing.

Unfortunately, healing leaves me conflicted. I have less time and creativity now. Posts which used to flow like water rushing down the mountain side now thunk like cold peanut butter on soft bread. I find less to be proud of in my words. Creativity has given way to utility. Whereas I used to write nearly every day, I now find time, hopefully, only 2-3 times per week. This blog which used to be about mental illness, with a little running on the side, now seems to be more about running (and swimming, and biking) with a little mental illness on the side. I began this blog to educate others about depression. Am I still accomplishing that goal?

Am I still accomplishing what I set out to do? Am I still a voice for those with mental illness? Do they find solace or comfort or support in my posts? I don't know. But if they don't, if I'm no longer a voice for those with whom I hope to connect, is it time to say I'm done? I don't know.

It's weird. I feel a little guilty for feeling better. I feel a little bad about not feeling so bad. Can a person in "remission" still connect with those who aren't? I hope that my feeling better offers some hope, but I don't know if it does. Does it?



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