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, March 27, 2016

Survival

Sitting here drinking my coffee this morning, I'm tired but satisfied. I survived my very busy week. And while I didn't do so perfectly, I made it. My house is a bit of a mess, the laundry needs to be done, Jet needs some attention and exercise, my bills need to be paid, and I need some groceries, but hey, I survived.

Looking back, I worked 5 of the last 6 days, got in a couple of cycling classes, and made it to one 12-step meeting. I tackled an urgent medical situation and a sick friend. I traveled 182 miles round trip to see an expert regarding the ongoing saga with my teeth, specifically my missing canine. And I checked in with my psychiatrist.

My mood is okay. I've been so focused on going forward and doing what I needed to do next, I don't think I had much time to even consider my mood. Maybe that's fine. As I sit here now, checking in with myself, I think I'm okay. Like I said, I'm tired. I'd really like to crawl back into bed, but I've got a lot to do today before returning to work tomorrow.

It was an abnormal week for me. I had more time and energy constraints. I missed about half my normal amount of exercise, including all but one of the therapeutic (for both of us) walks with Jet. I had to cancel my hour with a private patient I assist. I normally attend three, not just one, 12-step meetings. And like I said my bills, chores, and errands were all put on hold.

Today getting groceries is a priority. As my stock dwindled this week, and as my fatigue rose, I found myself eating more and more junk. Sugar is my primary foe. I crave it like mad and put up only cursory defense when my energy is low. Unfortunately, I indulged those cravings these last couple of days, and as is typical, I ended up feeling like crud, physically and mentally, afterward. It's time to get some better nutritional options back into my house.

I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a slightly less busy, less stressful week ahead. I will be working four days, but only two in a row, as I have Wednesday off. I'm already committed to attending at least two meetings, as I am actually leading one. Finally, I plan to find more time for Jet and exercise and less time for ice cream! I'll let you know how it goes. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A stressful day

If you've been following along, you already know I've been busier than I'm accustomed to at work. In fact, this week I'm working 5 full days, including Saturday. And the days have been full! Today was a particularly stressful day, and I just need to vent a bit, or I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep a wink tonight.

I started out in one building where I had a full morning of patients. A couple hours into my day, an unscheduled outpatient walked in asking me to look at a pain in her right side. I told her I could look at it, literally, but I couldn't do any treatment without a doctor's order. She was quite unhappy with me. I convinced the patient to sit down and rest, as she didn't look good, and I was worried.

Unfortunately, within 30 minutes the patient deteriorated to the point of requiring urgent medical attention. Despite repeatedly vomiting and dangerously staggering around the office, the patient was adamant that I not call an ambulance. With help from other staff, we convinced her an ambulance was necessary, and we made the call. I have no idea what happened, but I sure hope the patient is okay. It was a very unexpected, tense situation.

The stress continued the rest of the day secondary to the sheer volume of patients we are currently treating at two different sites. I spent more hours than I cared to at work the past two days. I had to rush to get to my cycling class last evening, but despite rushing home tonight, I could not make it to my regular 12-step meeting. I was exhausted, and I needed to take care of Jet.

I really could have benefited from that meeting, though. My adrenaline was still running high when a friend from my recovery program called a couple of hours ago. She's new, and she asked me to help her out. Unfortunately, I'm worried about her. After listening to her explain why she couldn't do this, didn't like that, and didn't think the other was fair, I finally had to speak up.

I was blunt. I told her I was worried about her. I told her I didn't think the path she was taking was the healthiest path. I told her what worked for me in early sobriety, and while I couldn't tell her what to do, I didn't think she was putting forth the effort required to stay sober. Like I said, I was blunt. But I felt I had to be. I'm worried about her.

It turns out being blunt is also stressful. Through her tears, she thanked me, but I still felt guilty when I got off the phone. After all, I made her cry! I immediately called two other women in recovery. I was concerned I had been mean, but they both assured me I did the right thing. One of the women even told me I was fighting for my new friend's life, and that requires directly telling the truth. Tell the truth I did.

I'm still a little revved up. I'm also exhausted. I'm glad I handled what was in front of me today, and I even think I handled things to the best of my ability. Nevertheless, I hope tomorrow is a shorter, quieter, smoother, less stressful day. I hope.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tired

I'm doing okay. My mood is okay. Despite Social Security piling onto my already full plate of concerns, I'm hanging in there. But I'm tired. And I'm getting a bit down on myself for being tired.

You see, I've been working 4 days a week for, well, about one week, and I'm already tired. I spent much of yesterday, my day off, sound asleep. I slept late. I went back to bed after taking care of Jet, and then I went back to bed again after being up for only a few hours. I had no trouble falling asleep last night either. I'm just tired.

To make matters worse, I'm feeling frustrated about feeling tired. I find myself comparing myself to "normal" people. Most people, I told my social worker this morning, work 5 days a week. I'm tired working only four, I exclaimed with disgust! That frustrates me. I expect more from myself.

Perhaps, though, the frustration is about more than my expectations. I think feeling so tired, apparently due to my increased workload, reminds me that I'm not "normal." It reminds me that I still have this chronic illness. And even though my mood is okay, and whether I like it or not, my depression still impacts my functioning and my life.

When I have long periods of mood stability, as I have for the past several months, I tend to forget depression affects more than just my mood. Fatigue has been a constant companion throughout my illness. It's certainly worse when my mood is low, but it doesn't ever really go away. I want to forget it, to wish fatigue away, but I'm being reminded once again, it's still here.

So I'm not "normal." I'm tired from working 4 days a week. Whatever the reason, that's hard for me to accept. But I'm certainly not going to let it stop me. I'll keep pushing forward, try not to be frustrated by what is, and rest as needed. Sounds good, but even as I wrote that last sentence, I shook my head in frustration. I guess I need to work on my acceptance.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Social Security Harassment

If it wasn't happening to me, I don't think I'd believe this. It's a long story which began in 2011. At that time I was so seriously ill I was granted Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, as I was unable to work. I was grateful for the assistance even though the monthly benefit was only one third of my pre-illness income. I barely paid my bills and ate only through the generosity of the local food shelf. That was a tough time. My depression was horrible.

If I'm remembering correctly, I received SSDI benefits for approximately 6 months while I slowly returned to health and gainful employment. I wrote about what happened next in this post from March, 2012.  Basically, my monthly benefit continued to arrive despite the fact I had notified Social Security of my return to work.

Shortly after they finally stopped sending me checks, Social Security sent me a letter demanding repayment of over $12,000. The amount, which was wildly inaccurate, totally freaked me out! I had to battle with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for months to get the amount reduced to what I actually owed, $5,317.20. I began repaying them in monthly installments in April, 2012.

Unbelievably, after another severe depression relapse, this whole situation repeated itself. I was disabled again and received SSDI benefits from late 2013 through early 2014. Again, despite notifying the SSA of my return to work, monthly checks continued to arrive for a couple of months.

This time the SSA demanded repayment of $11,101.60, and they wanted the money within 30 days! I love that part. Another battle ensued. My social worker and I wasted multiple hours compiling documentation, making copies, filling out forms, and making phone calls. Months later the amount owed was again significantly, and correctly, reduced. As I had saved the overpayments, this time I was able to immediately repay the $2,267.30 I actually owed.

This past fall, I received disability benefits for 3 months while out of work due to my depression. I returned to gainful employment in December, 2015, and had my benefits stopped immediately. My social worker went directly to the local Social Security office to notify them this time, and they finally got it right.

Unfortunately, the fact they finally got it right and stopped my monthly payment on time did not stop the SSA from trying to get more money from me. First I received a letter demanding repayment of almost $1,900. After proving I didn't owe that money, I received a letter stating I owed them $104.90. After proving that they actually owed me $104.90 (I'm not holding my breath) it seemed the matter was dropped. I heard nothing more for 2 months.

The silence ended in mid-February. In a letter dated 02/17/16, I was reminded I owed the SSA $104.90. More phone calls... On February 25th, I received a letter which stated, "As we told you in our prior letter," a phantom prior letter I never received, "you do not have to pay us back the money. Based on this, your current overpayment balance is $0.00." I cautiously breathed a sigh of relief.

Yesterday my social worker and I were joking about my cautious relief. I made some comment to the effect of, "with Social Security you just never know." That was yesterday afternoon. Today I pulled a letter from the Social Security Administration out of my mailbox. They are demanding repayment of $2,506,26. You can't make this shit up.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Lazy day

I'm wiped out. I don't know why exactly. I worked my normal schedule this week. I exercised my normal amount. I partook in my normal daily activities. But the last few days have not been totally normal. After tending to my commitments each day I've been unable to get my butt out of my chair. It's frustrating.

I'm tired. Lethargic. Dispirited. Wiped out. Today has been an especially slow day filled with sloth. After motivating to my 45-minute cycling class this morning, I spent the rest of the day lying on the sofa, alternately sleeping, or not, and barely moving. It's now late afternoon. I feel like I wasted the day.

It's not that I have something pressing to do. So perhaps I shouldn't worry so much about leaving my imprint on the sofa. Nevertheless, I'm glad to finally be up doing something productive. I've showered, dressed and prepared myself for a short outing this evening. Hopefully my need for sloth has been satisfied.

I do have an Achilles update to report. I saw my orthopedic doctor on Thursday. I am almost 5 weeks post-op now, and my doc thought everything looked good. He gave me permission to begin doing more exercise.

I am now allowed to leave my house without my walking boot on short, controlled excursions. I still need to wear the boot at work or any other time I will be on my feet for an extended period. I've also been given the okay to add elliptical training and short walks to my strengthening routine. Jet and I actually walked 7 blocks a couple of days ago. It wasn't much, but it was a start.

I'm pleased with the progression of activities. It was especially nice to walk with Jet again. I will continue being cautious, though, as a return to running is the ultimate goal. I don't want or need any setbacks.

My mood is holding. It's not fabulous, but it's not poor either. I'm focusing on handling what's in front of me, living life on life's terms and taking the next right action. I think that's all I can do, right?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stomping around

Warning. I'm in a crappy mood. I've been stomping around all day. My day began well. I got up early and attended a 45 minute cycling class. That was tough, but I like tough. I felt good afterward.

After my class I took my vehicle to an appointment with the mechanic. Recently, I've felt my seat shaking when braking at high speeds. I was pretty certain the rear brakes, which I just had replaced within the last two months, were screwed up again. That was good, I thought, as they'd certainly have to repair them at no cost so soon after they'd replaced them.

My hopeful feeling didn't last. Within 30 minutes the service manager called and reported his mechanic actually felt the shaking in the steering wheel. Uh oh... I knew a shaking steering wheel meant the front brakes were likely bad. The service manager confirmed this. Both of my front calipers, an expensive component of the braking system, were stuck and needed to be replaced.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Since December 1, 2015, this is the fourth major fix I've needed on my vehicle. My vehicle is not that old (2006), nor does it have a ton of miles (130,000) on it. Furthermore, calipers, according to several references I Googled, often last the lifetime of a vehicle. If a caliper does get stuck, it usually happens on only one wheel. It's exceedingly rare, the service manager told me, for two calipers to stick at the same time. Right.

Just before the New Year, both of my rear calipers got stuck, at the same time, and had to be replaced. And now, according to the service manager, the same thing has happened to both of my front calipers! Ridiculous. Oh, and did I mention my microwave died earlier this week?

I'm feeling a little sorry for myself. I'm frustrated and irritated. I feel like I have a target on my back. Including the $600 repair bill today, I've now spent $2,611.90 on my vehicle since December 1st. So I'm stomping around. I'm not appreciating these repeated financial challenges.

In December I was just getting back to regular work, after the Fall depression relapse, when the first two expensive repairs came along. And as a result of not being able to work after my Achilles surgery 4 weeks ago, my checking account today was already quite thin. I'll be working more hours in the months to come, but many of those dollars were already earmarked for a couple of summer home projects. It feels like I'll never catch up.

I'm tired of the fight today. Stomping around does me no good. I know that. But it's all I can muster right now. I'll work on my acceptance of "the things I cannot change" tomorrow. This too shall pass. I know that, too. I just wish it hadn't had to be in the first place.



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