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!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nine Years

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas. I know the holidays can be stressful. Fortunately, my holidays have so far gone well. I just got home from spending Christmas with my boyfriend, D. We had a very nice time. I drove the four hour drive after working the morning of Christmas Eve, and then we left immediately to spend the evening with his entire, huge family. D has eight siblings and a seemingly unending supply of nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews. It was confusing, controlled chaos, but I had fun.

Christmas morning was spent with D's son. We opened presents and ate their traditional brunch. The rest of the day D and I spent together. We relaxed, went for a walk with Jet, watched a movie, and cooked a nice dinner together. It was quiet, and I think we were both quite content with that. The rest of the weekend was equally simple and relaxing. It's always hard to leave, but I'm glad to be back in my home environment, nonetheless.

Today is a big day. Nine years ago today I finally got it. I took my last drink, and I've stayed sober one-day-at-a-time ever since. Nine years...it's really quite amazing. Nine years ago I was a hopeless case. I was selfish, self-centered, and discontent. I had tried multiple times to stop drinking for good. Stopping wasn't the problem. I was actually pretty good at that. Staying stopped was the problem. It wasn't until I finally committed myself to the simple tools laid, multiple times, at my feet, and decided to focus on staying sober for 24 hours at a time that I got it.

I've grown a lot over the last 9 years. Being sober has opened my eyes and heart to whole new life, a life I never thought imaginable. I never knew how to be an equal in a relationship until I got sober. I never knew how to handle anger and resentments until I got sober. I never knew the meaning of gratitude and humility until I found sobriety. Sobriety brought me a relationship with my mother I was previously too immature to handle or appreciate. Being sober didn't cure my depression, but it certainly made a huge difference in my mental health stability. It's amazing how much better mental health medications work when I'm not washing them down with beer! Sobriety, in a nutshell, gave me a life worth living.

Nine years. I've had hurts and heartaches, joys and celebrations, good times and bad times, depression relapses and remissions, and I've remained sober through it all. It can be done. I'm doing it. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so grateful to be sober today.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shoulds and Shouldn'ts

I'm busy getting ready for Christmas. That process has been made easier, as I've slowly been on the mend from my low energy and mood. I'm so relieved. I'm always worried the depression symptoms, once present, are going to drag on forever. Of course, they never do. Bad days are always followed by better days eventually. Even last year at this time, when I was fresh out of my fifth hospitalization in three months, the bad days did eventually dissipate.

I think I helped myself mend a bit quicker from this low episode. I was reminded of a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skill called Radical Acceptance. Last Thursday, lying on my sofa, unable to move, feeling desperate and hopeless, I reached for the phone. I explained to my therapist how I shouldn't be feeling this low. Not me. Not now. I should be feeling better. I should have more energy. I should be exercising rather than lying on the sofa. With so many good things going on in my life, I shouldn't be feeling hopeless and sad. Blah, blah, blah... You get the idea.

Instead of dealing with my reality, I was fighting it tooth and nail. I was should-ing myself to death. Rather than accepting my symptoms as part of my depression, I was treating them like character defects. For example, rather than resting when I felt tired, I laid down and admonished myself for laying there. I was incredulous that I had so little energy rather than remembering and accepting that I almost never have energy when I'm low. I was treating myself with less than kindness. Instead I was forcing stereotypes on myself. How could I have symptoms when there were good, even exciting things going on in my life? Umm...because depression is an illness, and just like other illnesses, it can rear it's ugly head at any time? Geez...I think I just made a video addressing this stuff!

I got off the phone and turned my mind. I worked on radically accepting where I was at, staying in just that moment, and doing what I could and/or needed to do at just that time. (At that moment is was taking a nap!) It took a couple of days, and lots of reminders, but I began to feel better. Whenever a should or shouldn't statement came to mind, I stopped it and went back to accepting the moment. It was what it was. That's all. With this illness, we already face plenty of judgments, I certainly didn't need to pile on more of them, yet that's exactly what I was doing.

Should and shouldn't statements did nothing to relieve my depression symptoms. Accepting where I was at and working on just that moment gave me some power and control in what otherwise felt like a powerless situation. I'm working hard to rid should and shouldn't from my vocabulary.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Birthday

Yes, today is my birthday. It's rather anticlimactic, as my mood and energy have sunk to new lows. Nevertheless, I did have a few highlights to my day. My mother called, as is her custom, and sang Happy Birthday over the phone. I got a morning delivery of some lovely flowers from my boyfriend, D. They are beautiful and fragrant.


Tonight I spent time with my friend, Wendy, and she treated me to dinner. It was all good.

I saw my doctor this afternoon. Not much to report there. My mood is low. Fatigue is knocking me flat. I haven't made it to the gym for several days. It's difficult to get out of the house. I don't like to be around others. None of these are positive signs. But I'm forcing myself out the door. I'm at least walking when I can muster the energy. I'm doing what I can to ride out the low. My doctor is not changing anything yet. I'm hanging on for now. Like birthdays, I know this too shall pass.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reflections

It's way past my bedtime, but sleep is not coming tonight. Today was the anniversary of Puck's death. Puck was my 12-year-old lab who died two years ago.  He went from healthy to gravely ill in moments. I had about 12 hours to say goodbye. It was, as I expected it would be, one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. And while I love Jet with all my heart, there will never be another Puck. I still miss him.

Puck was my soul mate. He had been through it all with me. Only one year old when I became ill, we traveled the depression journey and later the alcoholism journey together. I've been thinking about him a lot over the past several days, which led me to thinking about my journey with this illness as well. These thoughts, combined with the release of the videos, have me in quite the reflective mood. 

Speaking of the videos, it seems many of you have had a chance to view them. HealthiNation.com has been having some technical problems with them, but they're working on that. They seem to work best when viewed on a computer versus a tablet or phone. I want to thank all of you who have left your comments here. While this was a huge opportunity for me, it was also a pretty big risk. How many of you noticed I used my actual name? I also didn't have any say as far as what went into the videos or not. I had to have faith my message would be presented in a favorable way. And it was.

I was quite happy with the videos. Of course, there is always more that could have been said, but I try not to worry about that. I am satisfied by your reaction (comments) that we did put some education and hope out there for all to see. If one life is brighter, or less lonely; if one person sees themselves as having an illness rather than a character defect; or if another who otherwise wouldn't have now seeks help, the opportunity and the risk was more than worth it. I thank HealthiNation.com from the bottom of my heart.

And now I think it's time for bed. Carry on, friends.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Videos

Here I am: http://www.healthination.com/mental-health/true-champions-depression-laree/

Feel free to join the fight and share them widely. Let's stomp out the stigma of this illness. And please let me know what you think. Without you, my readers, this opportunity and these videos would never have been possible. I am so blessed and grateful.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

status quo

I'm continuing to put one foot in front of the other here, but my mood remains low. I'm busy looking for hours to work. Right now I'm scheduled to work the next four days in a row, which is good, but I'm a little nervous about working four days in a row. As most of you know, I usually work every other day. I expect I'll be worn out in four days, but I'm just going to take it one day at a time, one moment at a time, and attempt to keep the worry thoughts at bay. I'm utilizing my support system to get through the low mood. One of the things I'm dealing with is feeling overwhelmed. Simple things which otherwise wouldn't register suddenly become overwhelming when my mood is low. It's frustrating. But I'm reaching out. I'm doing what my support people recommend. Instead of pulling the covers over my head, I'm sticking to my schedule and also getting my exercise in. I'll make it through. I can do anything I set my mind to if I stay in the moment and keep moving forward. That's what I'm trying to do.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Little low

Things have been a little tough around here. That's why you haven't heard from me this week. I haven't had the gumption to write anything. I'm not sure I yet do, but I wanted to check in. My mood has been a bit low. It's not significantly low, but it is trending that way. That worries me, of course, but I'm trying to stay in the moment and do what I can. Worrying doesn't do me any good. I know that.

Employment is still my primary concern. Unfortunately I have no control over whether there are hours available for me to work. It's stressful, but rather than worry, I'm trying to stay focused on taking care of the things I can control. I've let most of the regional program directors know I'm available to work. I've picked up a couple of hours here and there over the past few days. I'm taking whatever shifts come along. I'm doing what I can. I'm hoping and praying the opportunities to work continue. My mood always improves when I can pay my bills.

I think my mood might also be affected by the approaching anniversary of Puck's death. He died two years ago. For those of you unfamiliar, Puck was my black lab partner for over 12 years. He was only a year old when my depression began, so we'd been through a lifetime together. He was my soul mate. I've been thinking about him a lot lately. I miss him. I actually don't mind thinking about him. I'm far enough removed from his death now that thoughts of him make me smile a tearful smile. It's comforting to remember him and our special bond. But I do miss him.

That's all I have for now. The weather is warming, so I think it's time to take Jet for a walk. I don't feel like going, but I need to move. Besides, spending time with Jet always makes me smile.



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