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, April 30, 2016

My Purple Tour

My friend Wendy and I honored musical genius, and fellow Minnesotan good guy, Prince, this week with a one day tour of Prince sights and memorials. I grew up with Prince. His movie, Purple Rain, came out when I was a sophomore in high school. All of my high school and college sporting events, dances, proms and homecomings prominently featured Prince tunes. His 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance is still one of the all time best, in my humble opinion.

Like most Minnesotans, I was proud of Prince. Despite his fame, he stayed home and was an active and loyal supporter of local musicians, radio stations, and record stores. He was a huge basketball fan, and when the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx won the championship this past Fall, Prince threw them an impromptu all night concert and party at his home, Paisley Park. He was a mega-star, but he was also a decent, community-oriented guy.

The fence surrounding Paisley Park

An incredible painting left at Paisley Park

First Avenue, the club where it all began

Prince's star and memorial at First Avenue

Friend Wendy, inside First Avenue, where Purple Rain was filmed

The Purple Rain suit Prince wore in the movie
Wendy and I had a great day together. Rest in peace, Prince. You left us way too soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Kicking

I survived. I finished my sixth, and hopefully final, week of my increased work schedule, and I'm doing okay. Not much will change this week, as I've been surprisingly able to maintain a fairly regular exercise and meeting schedule despite the increased work hours. However, I am looking forward to getting a bit more rest and hoping to feel a bit more rested this week.

My mood has remained stable. I'm not exactly back where I was prior to this recent dip, but I'm happy I'm not where I was just over a week ago either. I'm still pretty amazed at how quickly things turned around. Saturday horrible. Sunday better. And better is still true. Like I said, it's not perfect, but I'm satisfied with better for now.

I had a good week. I exercised, made it to a couple of meetings, had a good visit with my sponsor, and of course, worked. Work went well. I didn't have any of the irritability of the week before. I happen to have some amazing patients right now, too, and that always makes work more fun and rewarding.

I also had the opportunity to speak to a college class this week. I always enjoy doing that. It was a class of future human service professionals, so they were an interested audience, easy to speak to. I love educating people about depression and mental illness, but the truth is, I likely get more out of it than my audience. Working with others always lifts my spirits.

So I'm still kicking, my friends. I'm so grateful. Thank you all for your incredibly generous and kind support over the last couple of weeks. Your words really do make a difference. Sharing your experience, strength and hope buoys me when I feel so low. It reminds me I'm not alone. Kicking the symptoms of depression is a lot easier when done together.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lighter

My psychiatrist (and her nurse) is a dedicated genius, and the best one around. We've been working together since shortly after my journey with depression began 15 years ago. She very quickly suggested an increase in my antidepressant when my mood started to dip and appeared to be staying low. That was about ten days ago.

When my mood didn't lighten up as rapidly as either of us would have liked, she suggested a new, low dose medication to augment my antidepressant. I began taking that pill late last week. Faced with another depression relapse, and after barely surviving the last one this past Fall, I was willing to try whatever she threw at me. I so appreciate that she takes serious note of these dips, and like me, she wants to arrest them as quickly as possible. It feels like a true team effort.

The effort appears to be paying off. Saturday was a terrible, horrid, heavy, lonely day. But something shifted Sunday afternoon. I went to a cycling class late Sunday morning. It was tough to motivate out of my house, but I had a helpful friend offer to meet me there, so I went.

The class was tougher than usual, likely due to my mood, but I did it. I felt like a wrung out dishrag afterward, but I managed to get myself to the store for much needed supplies and groceries, nonetheless. And when I got home, I was able to put everything away. And then I was able to do some laundry. And then I did something else, and something else, and something else. Before I knew it, I was calling my friend to go out for dinner!

That's when things got really interesting. In the middle of dinner with my friend and her husband, as if from across the room, I heard myself laughing out loud. I saw myself gesturing dramatically, freely, and smiling. It was a very weird moment. It was as if I was outside myself, observing, and kind of wondering what the hell was going on. It was pleasantly strange.

In that moment, I felt amazed. There was a huge disconnect between how I had been feeling and that moment. Internally I heard myself think, "Hmm...this is interesting," while still in mid, animated conversation with my friends! And then I reconnected. I simply let what was happening, happen. And I enjoyed myself.

Enjoyment felt like a foreign concept just a few short days ago. But I'm happy to report I've handled the last two busy days, and some difficult patients, with relative calm and professionalism. I've felt lighter. I'm feeling lighter. I'm a little bit hopeful.

And I'm still a little worried. I guess it's difficult for me to let go of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Each lighter moment, however, allows me to hold tighter to the hope and kick more of the worry to the curb. The curb. That sounds like an excellent place for my depression, too. I think I'll keep kicking.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Expectations

I had to leave work early yesterday. It was my fourth day of work in a row. I wasn't able to function at the level I'm accustomed to, was near tears, and I was totally worn out. I admitted my current struggles to my supervisors, and they said they understood, but I felt terrible about leaving. I was, I'm just now realizing, ashamed. I berated myself throughout the entirety of my drive home.

That was not new, as I had also berated myself while driving home the previous afternoon. I was unhappy with how I behaved with one of my supervisors late Wednesday afternoon. Nothing major, in fact she didn't even notice, but I was irritated with an addition to my caseload, and I felt I let that irritation show. It wasn't professional behavior, and I wasn't proud of it.

I pride myself on being a good employee, one that accepts challenges, is kind and respectful to patients and coworkers, and deals professionally with each task. I don't usually get irritated at work. The fact that I reacted with irritation to such a simple request bothered me. To me it was further proof that depression had taken hold. It was further proof that I wasn't in control. I wasn't beating this thing, this illness I hate.

I wonder if people with other chronic, relapsing illnesses struggle as I do with expectations of themselves in the midst of debilitating symptoms. Despite everything I know about this biological brain illness, with its plethora of confounding and debilitating symptoms, I still beat myself up when I can't overcome it. I make it a moral issue, a character judgment, even though I know depression is no more about poor character than is a brain tumor! Why do I do that?

I know this is an illness. I speak publicly about this illness. I've even been featured in videos educating others about depression, the illness. Yet when I'm in the midst of it, I can't believe it's got me. I can't believe I can't will it away or overcome it with sheer determination. And when will and determination don't work, I get down on myself for it. That's not helpful.

I woke up this morning hoping for a better day. I try to start every day with that attitude when I feel so low. Unfortunately, I was barely through breakfast when it became apparent the symptoms had not left. The heavy limbs, muted thinking, and lethargy were pronounced. But I'm working on acceptance today. If I fret about simple things turned difficult, worry about how long this might last, or wallow in the heaviness, I'm not helping myself.

I want to help myself. Truth is, I'd like to plow right through this day, and the next, and the next as if nothing was happening, but that's not realistic with this illness. I have to accept that. I have to change my expectations, and be okay with doing less, still doing, but doing less. Depression wants me to throw in the towel. I want to act like it's not in the room. I guess I need to find a happy, acceptable medium. I haven't done much today, but I've accomplished more than I would have if I'd given up the fight.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gray

It's been a long weekend. My mood has gone from low to no. That is, I'm at that point where I feel very little to nothing at all. Just indeterminate, monotonous gray. Gray hurts. I'm not sure how a color can be painful, but gray hurts. Gray is empty. Gray is cold. Gray is a hole in the middle of my chest. And even if I could, I haven't the energy to fill it. Doesn't matter, gray is cavernous, impossible to fill. Gray is heavy. Gray is slow. Gray is isolating, very, very isolating. It doesn't want to go out. And if it must, gray keeps its head down and eyes cast low. Being seen hurts when gray. And I'm gray. Just gray.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Should I be concerned?

I've been having some tough days. My fatigue level continues to climb and it is now affecting my functioning and my mood. My mood has definitely taken a dive toward the bottom of a very dark pool, and I'm not sure how long I can hold my breath. I'm feeling the all too familiar signs of depression sneaking in.

First those familiar symptoms were presenting themselves one at a time, but over the last two days they seem to have been settling in en masse. My mood is low. My energy is low. My thinking is off. My motivation sucks. I want to sleep all the time, yet my nighttime sleep is disrupted. It's difficult to face the day. It takes everything I have to put on my therapist role at work. I'm overwhelmed with simple tasks. Things aren't getting done. And I don't like being out in public. I'm a little worried.

I hope acknowledging the symptoms here, writing them down, and reminding myself they are just symptoms of this chronic illness will help. Experiencing the symptoms today doesn't necessarily mean a full blown, long, drawn out depression relapse is on the horizon. Staying aware of and on top of the symptoms may allow me to put up the fight I need to keep my head above water. Drowning is not a foregone conclusion, right?

Yes, I am concerned. Scared, even. But I've been here before. I've had struggles that were just that, short-lived, temporary struggles. I need to keep pushing myself forward through the morass. I know I won't feel better if I pack it all in, lie on the sofa, eat pints of ice cream, and set myself up with back to back to back Law and Order reruns, even though that's what I really want to do. I know I can do better than that.

Tomorrow is another day. I hope a better, lighter day. I will do what I can. Thanks for listening, my friends.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fatigue, thoughts, and mood

I apologize for going missing for almost a week. I don't have a lot to say. I continue to be very busy working. It feels like I have little time to squeeze in my other obligations, like exercise, meetings and Jet. I was doing fairly well this week until about Thursday. That's when the fatigue really hit.

Wednesday was my day off. I managed to sneak in a nap between errands, appointments, and chores, but apparently that wasn't enough rest. By Thursday morning I could barely get out of bed. It felt like all the energy had drained out of my body. My brain and my body felt like lead.

I pulled myself through the rest of the work week, made it to a cycling class and a meeting this morning, but since then I've been on the sofa. I'm a little concerned. Despite several hours of sleeping off and on, I've got the beginnings of a migraine. My mood is a little low. And my thinking is a bit off.

My off-thinking concerns me. I've been having some scary thoughts over the past several days. I don't usually have these thoughts. They typically only occur when I'm not doing so hot. They are intrusive thoughts about horrible, usually violent things happening to my dog, Jet, or to people I care about. I hope the presence of these thoughts is not a signal of depression around the corner.

Just in case, I'm being hyper-vigilant. I wanted to do a couple of other things today, but I'm going to be okay with staying home and doing nothing. I may even rest my eyes some more if I feel I need to. I'm going to pay attention to my nutrition, stay away from sugar (hopefully), and tone down the intensity of my exercise for now. I'll keep moving, but not to the point of further sapping my energy.

My hope is I can stop the fatigue in its tracks. Less fatigue and improved energy will hopefully lead to fewer scary thoughts and an improved mood. One foot in front of the other, my friends. I guess I had more to say than I thought.



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