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!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Expectations

Two months of pain, desperation, fatigue, isolation, low motivation, debility, low energy, and low mood; it's been two months since this depression relapse began. It's been two months since I've worked. Two months since my life was hijacked. I'd like to have my life back. I'd like to be released from this little spit of hell. Any day now...

I try not to worry about how long this relapse will last. It doesn't do me any good, and it's a waste of precious energy to think about it. But lately I have been worried about something else. As this relapse continues, I'm fretting about what kind of example I'm setting.

I write this blog to educate people about depression, but I also aspire to offer hope to fellow sufferers. That's why I voluntarily speak to the public, why I've been open to interviews for television and radio, and why I participated in the Healthination videos. I want everyone to understand major depression, and I hope to set an example of someone living well with this horrible illness. It can be done.

Unfortunately, I don't feel I've been doing life very well over the past couple months. I mean I'm doing the best I can, but the longer this relapse lasts the less well I feel I'm doing. I feel I've offered less hope and more hopelessness lately. More anger and frustration than resilience, I think. I guess I could argue that hopelessness, anger, and frustration are all part of the journey, but I worry I'm doing more harm than good by writing so vividly about it.

Perhaps my expectations are unrealistic, but I have expectations, nonetheless. I want to be an example for those of you suffering. I want to be an example of healthy living, resilience, and perseverance through the difficult times. But lately my resilience has been put to the test. This has been a rough ride.

Generally I like rides, but this one has tested my limits. I'm praying for relief soon. In the meantime I'll continue to do the best I can. I'll keep forcing myself to get out, to move, to exercise. It feels impossible, but I know I have to hang on. If not for me, than I at least must hang on for you. Carry on, my friends.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stomping Around

The news is not good. It's not what I wanted to hear. Predictable, maybe, but nonetheless a blow to my emotional health once stated aloud. My right Achilles tendon tear is not completely healed. I knew that. The news that has me stomping around my house this morning is there really isn't much we can do about it. There are no good healing or treatment options beyond gentle stretching, even more gentle strengthening, and time. It's just a confounding, time consuming, difficult to treat injury. I can't believe it.

The New York City Marathon is out. I knew that. But I wasn't expecting the Houston Marathon in January, 2016, to be out of the question, too! It turns out, I may not even be running by January, 2016! I'm frustrated and disappointed beyond belief. Actually, disappointed is not a big enough word. Crushed might be more accurate. Yes, I am crushed.

And I'm worried. How am I going to get through this? My recent track record is not hopeful. I've spent at least 3 of the 5 months since this injury occurred in the emotional toilet. I'm worried. I'm just home from my doctor, and I'm only motivated to go directly to bed and pull the covers over my head. And scream. And scream...

I'm being dramatic. I apologize. Not usually my style. I just can't imagine another 3, 6, 10 months without running. It's part of who I am, and no, I don't want to change that. Hmmm...dramatic and stubborn. Not a great combination. I'm sorry. I do know this is not the end of the world. I think I need some time to garner a little better perspective. But for now, you'll have to excuse me. I've got more stomping to do.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Summer without a Race

There was a half marathon race in Rochester yesterday. I didn't attend. It was just another in a long list of races on which I have been unable to report this year. In fact, the last time I raced was late October, 2014. Since I began this running thing over 20 years ago, I don't think I've ever gone this long without running a race. It's weird. I realized today the entire summer racing season has come and gone. I missed it all.

And I do/did miss it. I volunteered a couple of times, but it wasn't the same as racing. I missed the buzz of race day, the nerves, and the other runners. I missed the opportunity to push my body to its limit. I missed the potential each race brought--for a new experience, a faster time, or different competition. It was a very strange summer without running or racing in my life.

I'm thinking about this today not only because of yesterday's event, but also because I went for a walk for the first time today. Jet and I have not been on a walk since I tore my Achilles in late April. It's been 5 months since I've even taken a walk! No wonder I don't feel good!

Jet and I walked slowly for about 1.5 miles along our familiar route through the local neighborhoods. I think there was still some snow on the ground the last time we took that walk! I was almost moved to tears just to be outside walking with Jet. And my Achilles did not hurt!

I'll soon have an official Achilles update. I see my orthopedic doctor later this week. I know it's not completely healed, but I am encouraged I was able to gently walk without pain. Hopefully, the doctor will have good news for me. I really miss running.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A bit of a Rant

I don't have depression as a result of a character defect. It is not because I am weak, ineffectual, or not participating appropriately in life. I don't have depression because I don't know how to manage my free time. I don't have depression because I am working too little or too much. I don't have depression because I don't know every cognitive behavioral therapy technique in the book. I don't have depression because I am not using "my skills" effectively enough to combat it. I don't have depression because I'm not attending enough meetings. It is not because I'm too smart or not smart enough. I don't have depression because I'm not attending the right therapeutic group. I can be doing all of these things "correctly" and still have depression. It is not the result of a character defect.

I have depression. Specifically, I have Major Depression, Recurrent, Severe without Psychotic Features. The ICD-9 billing code is 296.33. It is an illness of my brain. It comes and goes, varies in severity, but basically remains a chronic condition I do my best to deal with on a regular basis. Right now my depression is particularly virulent and treatment resistant. That doesn't mean I'm at fault.

Sometimes treatment simply doesn't work. This is true for many chronic conditions. Cancer patients sometimes fill their bodies with pure poison, yet the cancer persists. People with diabetes sometimes eat exactly the right food and still require insulin to maintain healthy stability. Despite rest and medications, those with MS still have days where they find it difficult to move. And my treatment resistant depression can wage battle with 20+ ECT treatments, 2 hospitalizations, and multiple medication changes yet leave me sad, depleted, and debilitated. That doesn't mean I've done something wrong, or not well enough, or that I need to attend more groups.

I'm tired. I'm tired of this illness and it's debilitating impact on my life. Of course I want to be well again! But I'm not. Not yet. And therein lies the problem. I'm especially tired of the judgments and stigma which surround me when I don't feel better as quickly as those around me think I should. I'm tired of attending groups others think I should attend simply because they have no other solution.

I'm frustrated with remedial group instruction to do this and do that, as if that's not something I've already considered or tried! For example, obviously if 20+ ECT treatments didn't work then keeping a written schedule in a day planner is certainly the solution! I don't blame the group leaders. Perhaps they're frustrated, too. They're doing the best they can with what they know, but a day planner? Really? Would you suggest the same as a cure to a cancer patient?

Would you tell a fatigued MS patient to just get up and get going? Acting opposite to your emotion is always the way to go! Maybe. I do my best forcing myself to move, but to be told to do so by a smiley-faced group leader with no clue as to what depression feels like is more than a bit invalidating. I'm tired of being invalidated. I'm tired of the dismissive messages that I'm not doing enough, not trying hard enough, not acting in a way which will cure my depression.

Don't get me wrong. I'm willing to put in the effort. I'm daily doing what I can do. But I have depression. It is an illness. I hate it. It totally fucks up my life, and I'd do anything to get rid of it. But please understand my resistance to another happy, remedial group. I'm tired of happy, remedial groups which suggest I'm just not doing enough. I'm doing enough, and I'm still sick. I'm willing to do my part. I'm willing to continue working to mitigate this damn illness. More than anything I want my life back. Forgive me if I don't agree my way back must necessarily go through your time management group.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Not feeling well

It's difficult to imagine feeling much worse. My body aches with emotional pain. Depression--thick and heavy--has a stranglehold on my soul. It takes all my energy to move within my home from one room to the next. Laundry, my task for today, will be an all day affair. It hurts to breathe.

It hurts to breathe. If I wasn't experiencing it myself, I wouldn't believe it possible. It's difficult to imagine feeling much worse. It's also hard to imagine feeling more debilitated by this illness. I am useless, hopeless, and discouraged.

I am at a loss as to what to do next. It's hard to think when expending so much energy just staying alive. I am literally living one moment to the next here. This is not how I want to live, but this is what I've got right now. I'm tired, but I'm still standing. I'll keep doing my best while praying for relief.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Home again

I'm back in my humble abode after another 12-day hospital stay. I wish I could report my mood has spectacularly improved, but I'm unable to say that. My mom is here with me helping out for a few days in order to ease the transition from inpatient to real world, but I'm still feeling overwhelmed and a bit unprepared to face the world. In fact, the first thing I did when I got home was cry. I still feel low, and feeling low after 12 days in the hospital scares and discourages me. I'm trying desperately to stay mindful of each moment, move within that moment, and try not to forecast future catastrophes. I can't waste energy focusing on where I've been, and I can't control what's coming up next, so this present moment is all I've got. I'm going to keep working to stay within it and see if that helps stabilize this pesky mood of mine.

As far as treatment goes, I had my last ECT treatment today. Again, I would have hoped for a shinier outcome, but what I've got is what I've got. My mood is somewhat improved but not back to where I would like it to be. On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being fabulous, I'm somewhere around a four. I can function at a 4/10, but it takes extra effort and energy. I'm aiming for a return to work next week, at least part-time, and I think that may help me feel more useful and productive. It would have been nice if the ECT treatments had carried me a little further along the road to recovery, but their effectiveness seems to have worn down over time. Anything I can do to help myself, like return to work, or anything I can accomplish at this point in time will be beneficial, I think. I'm focusing forward and hoping for the light to return to my days.

This is a nasty illness. I so empathize with all of you out there struggling to make it through, whether that means getting out of bed, taking a shower, going off to work, or meeting family obligations. Whatever you're doing, keep doing it. Take the steps forward. One step at a time, keep moving forward. I'm convinced that's the only way to defeat this diabolical demon we call depression--by stomping right through the middle of it. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Unrelenting sadness

My depression is a multifaceted illness. Emotions run the gamut from hopelessness to irritation to numbness. The overriding emotion over the past 4-5 days, however, has been unrelenting, discouraging and debilitating sadness. I am just sad. I've been sad all weekend. I can't shake the sadness.

I continue to receive treatment in my local inpatient psychiatric unit. I had another ECT treatment this morning. Yet here I sit, sad as ever. The sadness permeates through me and from me. It feels like it fills my soul. Sadness makes my movements slow, my speech limited, and my processing of information stunted. It's a little unreal. The world is moving about me, but I'm existing in a weird state of suspended animation within it.

I'm praying for a lift in my mood. I'm praying for some light to pierce the darkness. I'm praying the interventions we're employing make a difference soon. I'm tired. I'm tired of feeling slow and sad. I'm tired of living in this artificial environment. I'm tired of battling this illness with little to show for the fight. Success would be a nice change of pace. Eventually, the sadness must abate. I'd like the sadness to abate.



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