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, November 30, 2015

What a day

As we say here in Minnesota, "Uff da!" If I could change the outcome, I'd like to have this day over. I had a perfectly nice, productive day planned. Unfortunately, about the only thing that went as planned was my morning cup of coffee. It all blew up after that.

Shortly after finishing my coffee I arrived at the tire shop for my routine tire rotation. In and out in 45 minutes. That was the plan. That was before the nice tire guy informed me that one of my tires was so worn, and worn so unevenly, it was unsafe to put it back on my vehicle. They had to replace it with the spare. The other three tires were fine, they were only 2 years old, but since I have an all wheel drive vehicle, I needed four new tires.

Not only did I need four new tires, the nice tire guy also told me my vehicle was out of alignment, which is why one tire was worn so unevenly. My head began to spin. Dollars flying out the window flashed before my eyes. Damn. I'm just getting back on my feet! I took a deep breath to stave off the panic.

My plans for the day were shot. Appointments were cancelled. The shop I was at didn't have four new tires in stock. They were swamped with customers, as was every other tire shop in town. Apparently the snow overnight, and the predicted snow and ice this afternoon, was a signal to everyone in Rochester to get their tires checked. I know this to be true because I spent most of the rest of the day driving from one shop to the next looking for the best tires, at the best price, which could be installed ASAP.

I procured 8 estimates from five different shops for 8 different tires. The prices varied, none of them reasonable, but nobody could get me in today. In addition, half the shops didn't perform alignments, and the other half were scheduled out several days. Plus, I don't know anything about tires, so I had to do some research. Long story short, the least expensive tires received the worst consumer reviews. If I wanted to be safe driving in the snow, I needed to spend more money than I wanted to spend.

Uff da. It's been a long day. Controlling my urge to panic and pull the covers over my head, I finally made a decision late this afternoon. It was based on cost, tire reviews, who could get me in sooner rather than later, and who could also do an alignment the same day. I've made appointments for tomorrow, but the tires are not in stock and may not arrive tomorrow, so really nothing is certain yet. I dislike uncertainty.

I'm exhausted from my efforts today. My brain hurts. I'm still not sure how I'm going to pay for all of this. But I'm proud of myself for continuing to take the next right action, and the next, and the next, despite my fear and panic, in order to get this solved. Uff da. I need a nap.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

15 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I wasn't feeling quite right. Having had depression as a teenager, I recognized the feeling. It had been many years, but I knew that feeling. I took action. I got a psychiatry recommendation from a friend and called to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor was booked out until March, 2001. I was hospitalized before I made it to her office.

Depression, like any other illness, is no respecter of gender, socioeconomic class, or stage in life. When my depression began 15 years ago, I was happily married, owned a home, had two cars in the garage, worked full-time in a job I loved, and had money in the bank. Depression got me anyway.

Over the next several years, my treatment-resistant depression took everything from me. I lost it all, the house, the spouse, the job, and the money in the bank. It was tough. To make matters worse, I began drinking to stifle the pain. It didn't take long before I added alcoholic to my list of diagnoses. Hopelessness was my constant companion.

Fortunately, I don't live in that darkness today. In those early years, I truly suffered from my illness. Today, I live with it. I don't think there was a definitive turning point. Perhaps things started to change when I began to speak publicly. Helping others helped me. I can't say I'm grateful to have depression, but I am grateful for the lessons I've learned because of depression.

Losing people and things taught me I was stronger and more resilient than I thought. I learned I could survive with less. I learned how to ask for help and accept that which was offered. And most importantly I learned I had something to offer others. Educating and supporting others gave my life some direction. I had a purpose.

I think it was that sense of direction and purpose which led me out of the constant darkness and back into the world. I got sober. I began working again after years of disability. I started this blog. I spoke up. I attended to idle relationships. I became more willing to work with my doctor. I developed a sense of perspective and gratitude. Depression no longer controlled my life.

Living with depression is much better than suffering from it, but that doesn't mean I relish it. This has been a long, tough, educational journey. I hate the relapses into the abyss. The lasting fatigue frustrates me. I'd like to work more, have a little money put away, and perhaps be in a relationship. I'm sure my life would look much, much different today had it not been interrupted by depression. But I would have missed out on a lot of important lessons, too.

I'm satisfied with who I am today, happy even, and I believe that's in large part due to the lessons I've learned over the past 15 years. Sure depression has been challenging. Perhaps I'd be better off had I not experienced it. But then again, perhaps I wouldn't. On second thought, I know I wouldn't.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Two Minutes

I'm happy to report that I'm now up to 2 minutes of running at a time. I returned to running November 2nd by walking 5 minutes and jogging 1 minute, five times. Since then I've run 3 times per week. I've slowly increased the running time, and pace, while decreasing the walking time. Tonight I walked 3 minutes and ran 2 minutes, eight times, for a total of 16 minutes of running. The highest number of total minutes I've run so far is only 22 minutes. It's not a lot, but it's better than not running at all!

So far my right Achilles is holding up okay. It's not perfect. I can still feel some tenderness, which is a little discouraging, but I'm not having any pain, which is encouraging. I'm hopeful I'll be able to continue progressing without re-injuring it. In fact, I'm so hopeful I've already signed up for Grandmas Marathon in June, 2016. It's a long way off, so I have plenty of time to be patient and advance slowly. Patience, however, is not my best quality. I'll do my best.

In other news, work continues to go well. My brain gets a little mushy toward the end of a long day, and I'm tired when I get home, but so far I'm tolerating the schedule fairly well. Could I tolerate more? That is the current question, as my employer wants to make this a permanent gig.

I am currently an on-call employee. I control my schedule. I usually work less than 25 hours per week. I've worked on-call or part-time ever since I returned to work after getting sick 15 years ago. The primary benefit is being able to decide where, when and for how many hours I work. But I don't have any benefits. I don't get any paid time off. And when the patient census is low, and the nursing facility is slow, there is no guarantee of working at all. I don't have a set schedule or guaranteed income.

Now my employer is offering me a full-time, at least 30-hours per week, position. I'd have a set schedule and familiar patients. I'd have health insurance and paid time off and all the other benefits of full-time employment. But can I handle that? The thought of it frightens me. I'm not sure I'd be able to do it. They want me to decide within the next 2 weeks so I could start in December.

It's a lot to think about. I'd be giving up a lot of freedom, which comes in handy when I'm not doing well, but I might be gaining a lot of security and stability. I really don't know what to do. There are pros and cons to each situation. I'll have to sort it out, but right now, I'm totally unsure and undecided. It's a great opportunity. I just don't know if I should take it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Perspective

With the events of Paris fresh in my brain, I went for my walk/run this morning. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning for Jet and I, sunny and 50 degrees, and I found myself contemplating my good fortune. As we walked and ran a 6 mile loop within my small city, I had the opportunity to run on paved, tree-lined bike paths, alongside a gently flowing river, and up and down quiet streets in peaceful neighborhoods. It was surreal in comparison to what I had just viewed, for the third straight morning, on my television screen at home. And that's all I'm going to say about that. I've got nothing else. I just felt grateful.

Another opportunity for gratitude and perspective shortly followed the end of my walk/run. My friend, Joan, and I went to visit my former sponsor/friend in a local nursing home. KM is on hospice, which means this once vibrant, intelligent, strong woman, now only in her early 50's, is very near the end of her life. She has a brain tumor. Joan and I sat with her at her bedside and then Joan fed her lunch while I held KM's hand.

I don't know if she understood who we were or even that we were there. It didn't matter. KM held my hand throughout most of my first 6-7 years of sobriety. She was my teacher and role model. I pass her teachings on to others in recovery. I guess that's the only way I can repay her. It was difficult and sad to see her today. I may not see her alive again. That's reality. Cruel reality. My life, my health, my struggles... it doesn't compare. I am very fortunate.

I'm feeling fortunate, too, to be back to regular employment. I survived my last four days, which included three, 7-9 hour work days. As I reported in my last post, I was a little anxious going into this schedule. I hadn't worked that much, or that long, for months. It went well. Worries about forgetting paperwork requirements, inefficiency, and rustiness with patients were largely unfounded. I did get fatigued, but I was able to push through and even kept up with some exercise. I'm still a little anxious about maintaining the regular schedule going forward, but I'm feeling more hopeful.

Hope is a nice feeling. It's been awhile. Hope and gratitude are with me today. Whether it's half a world away or right here in my back yard, there is much to remind me of just how fortunate I really am. I just have to look and notice. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A little anxious

Tomorrow is the day I begin some semblance of normalcy again. I am returning to a regular work schedule, and I'm jumping right in. I am scheduled to work 8 hour shifts three of the next four days. That's more than I've worked in a week since I got sick in late July. I'm a little nervous about it, which is why I'm writing about it here. I hope getting the worry off my chest will help me navigate the next four days with skill and composure.

While I'm looking forward to getting back to work, earning some much needed money, and interacting with my patients and coworkers again, I also have fears. I fear the full days with little rest will be tough on me physically and mentally. I worry about not being able to handle whatever is thrown my way. I worry about fatigue and mental stress. I fear the ever-looming potential set back.

I am battling the fears. I'm trying not to give them too much time or space in my brain. I'm focusing instead on what I can control. I've already packed my lunch and laid out my clothes for tomorrow. Sounds silly, but the less I have to organize in the morning the better my day goes. Being organized deletes early morning stress, and that translates to more energy I can dedicate to work. I'm going to need that energy.

Having enough energy is a huge concern. I can't control whether or not I will get fatigued, but I'm expecting it. I think that's realistic. I won't be surprised, and I'm already accepting that I may not be able to do as much, like exercise, over the next several days. I'll do what I can, but I'm focusing on work now. Perhaps after a few weeks of a regular employment schedule I can refocus on fitting in my extracurricular activities.

Staying healthy is all about balance for me. I have a feeling the next several days will be slightly out of balance. I may feel more stress. I may be fatigued. I may not spend as much time exercising, taking care of the house and yard, or spending time with Jet, but it will be temporary. I have to remember that. If I continue to focus on the things I can control and quell worry about the things I can't. I think I will be okay. That's my hope anyway. I'll let you know how I do.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Inching forward

I really dislike the word jog. I am not a jogger. I am a runner. Regardless, I'm thrilled to report that I've jogged 3 times this week, including today.

It's been 6.5 months since I partially tore my Achilles, 6.5 months since I last ran. Too long. So on Monday I consulted my local physical therapist, me, and decided it was time to get going. I walked 5 minutes and ran 1 minute five times. It went well. I had no pain when I ran, um...jogged. I did have a tiny bit of soreness the next day, which was discouraging, but it resolved fairly quickly.

On Wednesday and again today I repeated the process. I ran, um...jogged, a total of 6 minutes Wednesday and 9 minutes today. So far, so good, I think. I'm anxious to see how my Achilles responds tomorrow. I'm cautiously optimistic that if I take my time and come back very, very slowly things will be okay. But I'd be lying if I said I was counting on it. We'll see.

Physically, I'm getting better. My mouth continues to heal. I can actually chew without pain on the right side now. That's a step forward. I've also been going to the gym 6 days a week for strengthening and cycling classes for the last month. I'm getting some of my strength and endurance back. Not running combined with 2+ months of depression really set me back. It's nice to feel stronger again.

It's also nice to be back among the working again. I worked several short shifts this week, and I'm scheduled for at least 16 hours per week through the end of the month. If things continue to go well I'll build up from there. Again, I'm taking it slow. I don't want to take on too much and risk a setback. Inching forward, one step at a time, that's where I'm at.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A new month

It's the first day of a new month. Thank God! October was not kind to me, but I'm done focusing on that now. It's November. It's time to let go of the challenges of the past month and move forward.

Moving forward. That's what I've been doing lately, one foot at a time, one moment at a time. I'm not necessarily enjoying it, or happy, but I'm not paralyzed, or low, or descending into the abyss either. Sometimes, living in the moment is all I can do. Whether I like or approve of the moment I'm in doesn't matter one bit. I just need to live there and keep moving forward, inch by inch, step by step, moment by moment, and day by day.

Because I've kept motivating forward, I made it to the gym 5 of the last 6 days. I feel better every time I leave the gym, even if I have to force myself to get there initially, so I'm grateful for the motivation and energy to continue working on my physical self.

I'm also working on getting back to regular work. I saw patients for 2-4 hours per day for 3 days last week. It was nice to be back among my co-workers and patients. It was nice to feel productive again. Working allowed me to get outside myself and to stop worrying about my physical health for awhile. Every minute spent helping someone else was one less minute spent focusing on my recent challenges. I needed that.

I'm happy to report my mood has remained stable despite the recent health challenges. As I stated earlier, I'm not necessarily feeling light and joyful, yet, but putting one foot in front of the other has at least kept me from sliding backward. My movements are purposeful and planned. Taking the next right action is what it's all about right now. It's not necessarily easy, but it's not as difficult as I know it will be if I don't keep focusing forward. Onward and upward, my friends.



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