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, September 28, 2013

Not a Superhero

Over the past several days, one fact has burst from the shadows and stepped into the clear. It is standing there now, chest puffed, hands on hips, bathed in yellow light. Fact: I am not a superhero. In the midst of my desperate search for rescue from the recent chaos in my head, this fact splendiferously revealed itself. If I was a superhero, the chaos would have been zapped into oblivion by now, and I'd be walking around in awe of and gratitude for my mystical powers. Alas, I am not a superhero.

The chaos seems to be giving way to a crash, and you all know how much I love crashes. I am doing everything I can, and everything I am being asked to do. Well, almost everything. I did refuse to go to the ER for an evaluation. That's a pretty deep line in my sandbox, and I do not plan to cross it.  But I have been reaching out, calling, e-mailing, talking, texting, and writing. And I despise having to make these connections. I don't want to be that person; the friend, co-worker, or even patient everyone is now concerned about. I just want to be me. I prefer to be the helper, not the help-ee. If only a superhero could pull me from my free fall.

I am not a superhero, and apparently there isn't one ready to catch me from my fall. Therefore, I've continued to reach out. But the chaos in my head is overwhelming enough without the added pressure of revealing it to multiple people. Yet I need their support. Yet revealing my fucked-up thoughts and soul-crushing feelings increases my fear of losing their support. Who among them won't be stunned and horrified by what's emerging from this otherwise normal appearing human form; the person they know as their likable and funny friend, happy and skilled co-worker, or successful and healthy patient. Their shock and disgust, that is what I fear.

Depression is rarely a socially acceptable, rally-around-the-patient, kind of illness. In its ugliest form, as in my case right now, this illness even horrifies me! My inclination is to keep it all in, wait for it to pass, smile and carry on, or my favorite, fake it until I make it. But my thoughts are scary, my friends. Even here, in the space of my anonymous blog, I do not feel safe revealing their sadistic content for fear of alienation and retribution.

And the fear of alienation and retribution, that's probably depression talking, too! This illness warps my reality as it envelops me in an ever-tightening, concentric maze of thoughts and feelings. Struggling for rationality only solidifies its grip. If I keep struggling, the way out will become impossible to figure and desperation will ensue. Unfortunately, it is only work, collaboration, and patience, not desperation, which will eventually release me from its trap. I know that. Somewhere in my muddled brain, I know that, and I'm doing my best. But a superhero would be beneficial, too.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Little change

I truly have nothing new to report tonight. I'm exhausted. I've had three long, very busy days of work in a row, with another on the horizon tomorrow. Work has been good, even fun, but spending so many hours with debilitated patients with multiple needs is fatiguing. I've only been home for about an hour and a half tonight, and I'm already preparing for bed. I did get my 6-mile run in before work this morning, but GI distress made it quite challenging and frustrating. Speaking of frustrating, my mood continues to challenge, too. Unfortunately, there's been little change.

I apologize. I feel less than inspiring tonight. I'm trying to be patient. Everything is temporary, so I know change is on the way. I'm tired, but I have yet to give up. I guess that's encouraging. Hopefully I'll have more positive news in a few days. Thanks for listening, my friends.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rocky Road

Life has been a bit rocky lately. My mood has been unpredictable. While I've been functioning well at work, socializing a bit, and running, well, a little less, I've also been tired, sleeping a lot, and had random attacks of utter hopelessness. I've struggled with some really low moments and low motivation over the past couple of weeks. It's been challenging.

I don't think I ever mentioned it here, but about 5 or 6 weeks ago, since I had been doing so well for so long, I asked to have one of my anti-depressants decreased. My doctor agreed. So we decreased the dose by one third. It's not that I was having any side effects, at least not that I know of, but I always want to be on the lowest dose possible. Of course, my grand hope is full remission and eventually no medication, hence this recent experiment.

I'm not so sure the rocky road I've been experiencing is entirely due to the decreased anti-depressant. I've had a lot of emotional stuff going on lately as well. But of course it makes sense to go back up on my dose and attempt to stop this slide before it really gets rolling. After consultation with my social worker and doctor, I resumed taking my previous inti-depressant dose.

Here's the thing. I feel like I failed. I know it's stupid. Taking a certain dose of a certain medication does not mean I failed. If one of my patients with high blood pressure or diabetes made lifestyle changes in an effort to decrease their medication, and it didn't pan out, I would never, ever think they failed. Many chronic, biological illnesses respond to lifestyle changes, yet still require medication to control. I know that.

I also know I, too, have a chronic, biological illness, but I still feel like I failed. And to tell you the truth, failing makes me angry. I'm so tired of being attached to this illness, and I don't know how much more I can do to fight it. I work hard to keep my life stable and drama-free. I eat well. I get plenty of sleep. I exercise. I challenge myself and set goals in order to keep moving forward. I work with people I enjoy at a very fulfilling job. I stay sober and participate in my AA community. I socialize with other healthy people. What else is there? Shouldn't all of these good habits make a difference?

Intellectually I know what I'm doing probably is making a difference. I can't imagine the power and control this illness would wield if I didn't have a healthy lifestyle. I'm certainly going to keep doing what I'm doing, and I know taking my medication is part of the whole equation. I guess I need to stop worrying about how much or how many meds I take. Perhaps I need to remember to be grateful I have meds that work instead. I'll work on that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jet's Progress

My little boy, Jet, will be 1 year old tomorrow. It's hard to believe he's that old already. Of course, he and I have only been together for 9 months, and we're still working things out. Now that he's able to take walks, post arthroscopic elbow surgery, we've been getting in some good training time. We walk about 12 blocks every night, and I'm training him to heel. Tonight, for the first time, he did it on a loose leash! He's catching on.

Unfortunately, I don't think the surgery fixed his elbow. Four weeks post-op he still seems to be having discomfort in that joint. He does fine being quiet around the house, but after we return from our walks, he usually ends up limping. For that reason I haven't stopped the "keeping him quiet" routine. With the exception of one day, when he was too wild out there and came in limping, he hasn't played in his backyard since surgery. He goes out on leash with me every time he needs a potty break, so his only activity is our daily walk.

I'm planning to continue our quiet routine until at least 6 weeks post-op, so we've got a couple weeks to go. He should be really good at heeling by then! With the exception of that bright spot, however, I am concerned. I hate not allowing him to play, but I'm still hoping for the best long term outcome. I really don't want him to be in pain his entire life. I don't want him to be prematurely lame either, but right now I'm scared that's where we're headed.

I'm going to follow up with the surgeon or my local vet tomorrow. I pray the surgeon says he's doing as expected and things will continue to improve. I'm grateful Jet's still as enthusiatic, creative, and funny as always. His right elbow may not be fixed, but his personality is far from broken! He's a joy!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Sobering Run

Between miles 3 and 5, I couldn't stop thinking about Puck. Memories of the thousands of miles we ran together, his excited arrival in my bedroom every time I opened the "running clothes drawer," his gentle demeanor and our trusted 13-year bond; these and other warm recollections accompanied my every step. It took several minutes, but I finally realized the reason. Puck died 9 months ago today. As I write this now, tears fill my eyes. I miss you, buddy. You will always be mama's best boy.

Between miles 7 and 9, I decided to challenge myself and ran up a 2 mile long hill alongside a two lane highway. As I wished, it was a challenge, but it was also loud and grimy. Vehicles of every size streamed by at 60+ miles per hour. More than once I was showered with road grime as a semitrailer truck steamed past a little too close. As I finally crested the hill, at the large intersection with another two lane highway, an erie stillness replaced the chaos.

A long procession of police vehicles, sans sirens but with lights flashing, slowly approached from the right, turned right, and disappeared out of sight in front of me. Cars and pedestrians stacked up on all sides of the intersection as the procession silently continued. I realized I was likely witnessing the funeral procession of a 43-year-old sheriff's captain who was the victim of a shocking fatal heart attack earlier this week. It was an honorable, eerily quiet, somber scene. As the last vehicle cleared the intersection, I thanked God for my blessings and reflected on the cruel fickleness of life.

Between miles 13 and 15, I ran around the local lake where they were just finishing the annual suicide awareness and prevention walk. Survivors of suicide populated the path surrounding the lake with large placards filled with names, pictures, and artifacts of loved ones lost to suicide. I stopped at every placard I passed. It didn't take long before my heart heaved with sorrow.

A 14-year-old daughter and friend, a 23-year-old military veteran who never made it home from Iraq, a 50-year-old mother and grandmother, a 20-year-old handsome son; there were too many sorrows to comprehend. I ran past families with matching t-shirts proclaiming their love and loss and felt guilty doing such a trivial thing in the midst of their pain. Nevertheless, I continued on. Suicide has been on my mind lately. It was ironic to be surrounded by it 3/4 of the way through my run.

Twenty miles later, I am sitting in my living room alone. I'm tired, as usual, from my effort, but I'm also sad and reflective. I had a good run, a sobering run, on a beautiful day. Life is short, unpredictable, and sometimes unfair and/or hard. I'm reminded to speak up, to say thank you, I love you, or anything else I need to say, and to say it today. None of us is promised tomorrow. Be well, friends.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Depleted.

I don't have too much to say tonight, although there is quite a bit going on, mostly in my head. I struggled over the weekend with continued memories and flashbacks from my teen years. Of course each memory seemed to be laden with heavy emotion, and what to do with the many emotions became an unending challenge. Tonight I am mentally and physically worn out.

Over the past three days, most of my recurring thoughts and emotions centered around Pam, my step-sister who was killed 30 years ago. My entire 6-miler after work on Sunday was filled with memories of her. I even felt her presence, running with me step-for-step, as I circled the golf course on my way home. That was pretty cool. But it was also sad. I can't stop wondering what she'd be doing and what our relationship would be if she were alive today. I'm glad for the memories, but I'm tired.

Further challenges to my mental state came from a couple of recent heavy conversations, one with D about our tense moments last weekend, and one with a friend who owed me an apology. Both conversations went well, although neither was perfect, and more could have been said, but the emotional expenditure left me spent.

Running, usually a savior, didn't help. It only further depleted my energy stores. I barely finished 11 of my scheduled 12 miles on Saturday. I finally just gave in and walked home. My body just wouldn't go. Sunday's shorter jaunt was barely any better. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm quite certain my recent mental gymnastics have not been beneficial physically either.

And that's where I'm at right now. I'm physically and mentally depleted. I'm sad. I'm sore. I'm tired. I'm done. I don't have any more to say, because it would be too much. It would take more energy than I have left to give. I just want my brain settled and my body recovered. And I don't want to talk about it any more. Good night, friends.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pam

Recently, I've been experiencing multiple flashbacks from my youth. And I do mean youth, 15, 16, and 17 years old. The memories first showed up in my dreams before gradually interrupting my daily activities as well. For over a week, I've been trying to understand why this has been happening and what it all means.

Yesterday was particularly disconcerting. I was restless, irritable and discontent. I was being bombarded by flashbacks, good and bad, one after another. I felt like I was going to crawl right out of my skin, and I couldn't figure out what was going on. By late afternoon, I was absolutely nuts.

I called a friend. I texted with another. I sent my doctor an e-mail. And that's when it hit me. Thirty years ago today, 9/7/1983, my 14-year-old step-sister left the house to go for a bike ride with a friend. She never returned. Pam was hit by a vehicle, which ran over her head and killed her instantly. My step-mother decided to donate all of her organs, so she technically died on September 8th, 1983. But 30 years ago today, this evening, was the day her life stopped. I was fifteen.

Pam and I had only been sisters for 2 or 3 years, but we had grown close since the marriage of our parents. We had little choice. Our blended family lived in such a small home, Pam and I not only shared a bedroom, we shared the bed. It wasn't easy at first. There was tension. But within a short time, things turned around. Neither of us had a biological sister. I had 3 brothers. She had one. So we bonded.

I have memories of lying in that bed talking, deep, sisterly, girl talks, almost every night before we fell asleep. It was our routine, and in our dysfunctional, unstable home, I know we both valued that time together.

Pam never played sports. She never cared. But after my athletic, competitive family arrived, we discovered she was an incredible middle distance runner. She joined junior high track and routinely ran away from her competition in both the 400 and 800 meters. We spent the summer months prior to her freshman year, which she had just begun when she was killed, training together.

With her entry into high school just under way, Pam's death came at a time of incredible hope and promise. It was tragic. I don't always remember this tragic date, but I hope I never lose the memories of my special moments with Pam. I've been remembering her and thinking about her all day today. She had unlimited potential. I wonder what she'd be doing if she were alive? What would we be doing if she were here? Imagine... Miss you, Pam.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Out of Sync

I'm still settling back into my home after the long weekend away with D. It was a good weekend, but it was also an interesting weekend. Acutally, I'm still digesting and sorting through what we did and how I felt. Lessons, I believe, are in the details if I choose to be open to them.

In direct contrast to the last weekend we spent together, when D and I seemed to be perfectly in sync, enjoyed each other immensely, and shared every moment; this past weekend we seemed to be perfectly out of sync. We spent fewer moments enjoying each other and a bunch of moments on each other's nerves. We shared space but not necessarily time. We moved about in parallel planes rather than intersecting ones. It was much different than my last experience with D.

Different doesn't make it good or bad. It was what it was. I know relationships require work and are not all fun all the time, so I'm not freaking out about this. I'm just noting it, replaying a few moments, and trying to learn what I can.

My primary lesson, I think, is to speak up when I need to speak up. I cannot let fear be my guide. There were a few instances this past weekend, after moments of tension, when I had the opportunity to express my feelings but didn't. That likely only made things worse. I pride myself on communicating well, but I didn't take the opportunities presented to me this weekend.

In general neither of us communicated well. We were equally prickly. I can't control D's actions, but I need to be vigilant in the future and speak up. Keeping my feelings inside will do nothing to expand our relationship. It will only breed resentment. Resentment has no place in any of my relationships, especially this one. I will work harder to communicate better in the future.

This relationship is important to me. I am a little shaken by the mood of this past weekend, but I think we are okay. My feelings for D certainly haven't changed. We'll talk soon. I'll say what I need to say, and hopefully we'll continue moving forward.

It wasn't fun being out of sync with each other, but I'm taking from the experience what I can. Sometimes I wish lessons weren't so necessary or so challenging, but I guess God thought I could handle this one. I'll do my best to live up to the expectation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back, but not yet at it.

Tonight I have the briefest of brief notes for you. I just returned from an extended weekend vacation in northern Wisconsin with my boyfriend, D. It was lovely. It was relaxing. I had a good 20-mile run through the woods on Saturday followed by a great 10-miler on Sunday. We had good food, good friends, and quiet time, too. I even got to start a new book. I am a lucky woman. But now it is late, and it is past my bedtime. It's hard enough to return to work after vacation. I don't want to be overly tired, too. I promise a better update will be forthcoming.



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