Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Shortening the Road

My long road back from an extruded L4 disc, 6 months ago, and back surgery, 5 months ago, got just a bit shorter today. I can hardly believe it myself, but I ran today! On an absolutely gorgeous, crisp, sunny morning, I ran. Fully weight bearing on my own two feet, for just over 25 minutes, I ran 2.5 miles. It was slow and steady and unbelievable. My left leg has gotten stronger. My hard work has paid off. I'm not back, but I'm on the road. A finish line finally appears to be within sight.

After returning from my run, I texted and e-mailed everyone I knew. Then I sat at my kitchen table, and I cried. I can't begin to express how relieved and grateful I felt. Maybe it was fitting this occurred on Thanksgiving Day, as I've rarely experienced such gratitude. My cautious optimism has developed into a true sense of hope. I now feel my return to running is less a matter of if and more a matter of when. The missing chunk of my identity will eventually be replaced. I feel so fortunate. I'm very happy!

The taste of freedom, of running through crisp morning air with Jet at my side, leaves me more motivated than ever to continue working hard and pushing my limits. I'm satisfied the work I've already done appears to have paid off. I was questioning whether that was true as recently as last week. The road has been long, difficult, and frustrating, but perhaps payment of the dividends has begun. I'm so, so grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chance encounter

Something cool happened today. I was out shopping when I ran into a nurse from my local inpatient mental health unit. Even though I had just come from the gym and was wearing sweats and a baseball hat, she could hardly believe her eyes. Over and over again she said things like, "You look so good! Wow, you look really good!" I laughed. That was really nice to hear.

It was great to see someone, in my normal everyday life, who has never seen me outside an inpatient mental health unit. I told her I just look like my normal self, but she, of course, has never seen me in my "normal" state. She's only seen me in the depths of despair. And even though I'm always a little better when I leave an inpatient stint, I'm never back to normal. So it was really satisfying to see her today. It reinforced how well I'm feeling and doing.

Other than that, I don't have anything new to report. I'm continuing to feel well and continuing to move forward. My life has been free of drama and distress. That's always a good thing. I really am just putting one foot in front of the other, working, exercising, and taking care of my daily routine. Life is good. Living with, rather than suffering from depression is a very nice place to be.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Living the life

Not much to report from here. I'm living life on life's terms at the moment. Fortunately, life's terms aren't too dramatic or difficult to deal with right now. I've continued to work 4-5 days per week, rather than my usual 3, in an effort to recoup some of the funds lost to my 4 month hiatus from work. It's tiring, and I've fallen behind on some household chores, but so far I've been able to keep up with my exercise, which is most important for my mental health.

Speaking of exercise, I tried to run again a few days ago. It was maybe a little better than the last time I tried, but my left leg still won't fully support me or cooperate. It's still weaker and less stable than my right leg. I'm a little more hopeful it will recover fully, but the progress is so, so slow, and the improvement so, so minuscule, it's hard to hang onto that hope. The road back is going to be very long. I'm trying to be patient.

Despite my patience being tested, my mood remains good. I'm so grateful. I worked with someone today who was very negative. Every other thought, even thoughts which began positively, somehow ended up blatantly negative. It was tiring. And sad. I'm so thankful I have a different perspective. It's easy to find the negative. But why focus on it? Life is so short. Energy is so precious. I can't imagine wasting it like that. So I don't. I know negative. I've lived negative. I'm grateful I don't find it necessary to stay there. Life on life's terms takes energy enough. Seek the positive, my friends.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feeling nostalgic

Sipping my coffee, sitting in my sweats, wiping sleep from my eyes, I'm awaiting the televised start of today's New York City Marathon. I'll watch the entire broadcast, amazed at the grace, skill, and prowess of the elite runners, but more so intrigued by the effort, will, and stories of those, like me, in the middle of the pack. I'm feeling nostalgic... and a little sad.

One year ago, I was there. In the dark morning hours I boarded the bus from New York's Central Library to Staten Island with 50-60 other excited souls. I milled around the Athletes Village, with 50,000 other runners, alternately waiting in line for a portable toilet, fetching myself something to eat and drink, chatting with other anxious runners, and resting on the ground. And finally, I was there, in my starting corral with 20,000 hopping, stretching, whooping runners, waiting for the starting line to come into view. And when it did, tears streamed down my face. I had made it.

It was one year ago when I streamed across that iconic starting line in Staten Island. Three hours, 51 minutes later, I joyously raced across the even more iconic finish line in Central Park, tired, spent, and oh, so proud. I couldn't contain my wide smile and tears.

Last year on this day, I made that triumphant return to marathoning. It was my first marathon in over 2 years, a lifetime in my annals of running. The Achilles tear that took a year and a half to heal was behind me, and I was so, so happy. I saw nothing but more triumphant running, which I no longer took for granted, in front of me. It was a good day.

As I sit here today, despite the scary possibility I won't, I am feeling a bit more hopeful that I will one day repeat this experience. And if possible, it may be even more emotionally charged. I will go back to New York. Somehow, some way, some day, I will again stream across that starting line, whooping with joy, and race across that finish line with my fists in the air. It will be the culmination of a long, long road. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

17 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I was feeling a little off. Before I knew it I was suffering with low energy, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty motivating. Things that mattered didn't matter as much anymore. I was sad, and empty, and low.

There was no reason for my feelings. My life, after all, was quite good. I was in a long-term relationship. We were doing well, each with a full time, financially secure job. We had just purchased a new home and had two cars and two motorcycles in the garage. We enjoyed traveling, running, and socializing with friends. And I was happily training my new puppy. Life was good. Why didn't I feel good?

Well, as we all now know, November, 2000, was the beginning of this odyssey with depression. I recognized it quickly, as I had had depression as a teenager, but I remember feeling incredulous and confused. I had been fine for so many years! First I tried to rationalize it away. Life was so good there was no reason to feel bad. When that didn't work I tried to wish it away. Please God, no, no, no! And when that didn't work, I sought help.

It sounds so cliche, but these last 17 years truly have been a journey. I spent many of the early years angry and resentful. After all, this illness cost me my spouse, my job, my financial security, my house, and my friends. Despite treatment, my life as I knew it no longer existed. I further lost myself by drinking to excess and quickly became an alcoholic. That didn't help.

Almost 12 years ago, I got sober. That did help. Slowly I changed. I created a new life. I still had horrible depression, but maybe I began to accept it more and fight it less. My attitude shifted.  I worked my recovery program and found a spiritual life I hadn't known or trusted before. I finally became a more active participant in my own healthcare.

I'm so fortunate to have been referred, early on, to the psychiatrist I still see today. I don't think I'd have survived without her. Over the years I've also been connected with many other skilled, compassionate, treatment professionals, including a wonderful social worker, who assisted me with everything for at least 10 years, and the nurses of my local mental health inpatient unit, who are simply amazing. I've participated in multiple mental health treatment programs, volunteered as a speaker for my local NAMI organization, and done my best to be open and honest about living with depression.

It hasn't been easy. I don't think living with any chronic condition is. Mine is not a journey I'd wish on anyone else, and I wouldn't volunteer to do it all over again. However, I truly believe I am a better person today due to my experience with depression and alcoholism.

I feel humble and grateful today. Those are two fulfilling emotions I never comprehended before. I am a kinder, gentler, more compassionate person. I feel good about that. For whatever reason, I move through this world today with an ease I never had prior to life with depression.

Perhaps my expectations are less. Life, and the people in it, owe me nothing. I understand that today. I am responsible. To myself and those around me, I am responsible to be the best me I can be. I work hard for what I have, physically, spiritually, and materially. And I'm totally okay with that.

I pray everyday to be relieved of depression. Life certainly would be simpler without it. But would it be better? I don't know. I think it might be, but I'm not sure I would be. Hang in there, my friends.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

That time of year

I'm just back from what very likely may be my last ElliptiGo ride of this year. I hope not, but it's that time of year here. The cold weather swooped in, and we had our first taste of snow on Friday. It's been cold and windy and gray since then, including today, but I just had to get outside for some good, old fashioned, lung searing exercise anyway. So I did.

It was 30 degrees, gray and windy when I set out. Dressed in multiple layers, including a hat, mittens and neck gaiter, I did okay, except for my toes. Should have thought more about my toes. One layer of wool socks and airy running shoes just didn't do the trick. After an hour and forty minutes, 21.1 miles, I couldn't feel my toes. They were red and icy. Oops. I recovered just fine, but if I do get to ride again, I'll remember my toes.

That's about the biggest drama I've had recently, my icy toes, and I hope it stays that way. I'm still feeling well. I must look and sound well, too, as I keep getting unsolicited, excited comments from friends and acquaintances. "You look great!" "You sound great!" "You must be feeling well!" As I've mentioned here in the past, I think I need a video of myself when I'm in the midst of a depression relapse. Clearly, there is a huge difference in how I present myself. It would be interesting to see.

I have a fairly busy week ahead. I'll be working 5 of the next 7 days. I'll need to work hard to get my exercise in, get to at least one meeting, and maybe even socialize a bit. Busy is okay. I just need to be hyper-vigilant about keeping my life in balance, which is ultra important if I want to keep those unsolicited comments coming my way. Carry on, my friends.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Life is good

I'm happy to report things are going well here. As a result, I don't have much to report. Work has been a bit stressful, as we have some challenging patients right now, but I've been managing. I'm still paying for the extra hours, and extra stress, with increased fatigue, but I feel like I'm managing that fairly well, too.

I'm working hard to fit in my exercise. I now have a routine of a few exercises, focused on increasing my core and leg strength, which I do daily. They only take about 5-10 minutes to do, but it's still difficult to motivate myself to begin them after a long day at work. So far, I've been able to motivate, and I know that's going to help me in the long run.

I'm still running on the Alter-G treadmill. I'm up to running for 40 minutes, but I'm a little frustrated I've not been able to decrease the level of assistance I get from the treadmill. I'm running at 55% of my body weight. If I try to increase that percentage, which decreases the buoyancy provided by the treadmill, my left leg doesn't tolerate it. That's frustrating.

The left leg weakness is still there, but I think maybe, just maybe, my leg is getting stronger. It's hard to tell, but I think I'm seeing a few signs that my strength is improving. It's going to be long, long road back. But as long as I keep moving in the direction of getting all the way back, I'm hopeful.

Hope is a good thing. I like hope. When I'm suffering with low mood, my hope disappears. That's a horrible place to be. I'm so happy to report I'm not there now. I still feel well. Life is good.

Friday, October 20, 2017

As expected

Phew! Just as expected, I'm really tired. I just woke up from a well deserved nap following a long week at work. As I delineated in my last post, working a full-time schedule, five consecutive days, is tough for me. Unfortunately, things were made tougher this week because we were very busy. We had many more patients than usual, and some of them were quite difficult. I'm exhausted.

Despite the extra hours and days, I tried to keep up with my other routines this week, but regular exercise, good sleep, and decent nutrition were a struggle. I guess I did okay, not stellar, but okay. I would have liked a bit more sleep, and my household chores suffered, but I did get in some exercise.

I attempted to run again on Tuesday. It was frustrating and disappointing. I again tried to run for three minutes and take one minute walk breaks. My left leg just wouldn't cooperate. My gait was sloppy and slow. I didn't have enough muscular strength to fully stabilize my hip, knee or ankle when weight bearing on my left leg. My left foot eventually went numb. I wished so sincerely for a different outcome, but it wasn't to be. I arrived home forlorn.

I'm trying to fight it, but my desperation with not being able to run is growing. With each passing non-running week, I feel it more and more. Right now I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is still so far to go, and I can't tell anymore if I'm making even a bit of progress. My poor run on Tuesday stole a lot of hope. The possibility of never being able to run again is more and more real. I don't like that.

I think it will be quite awhile before I attempt to run outside again. I'll stick to the Alter-G treadmill for now. I'm looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine, a full weekend off, and more free time next week. I'll still look to work extra hours and earn some extra money, but I think I'll avoid working five consecutive days for awhile. And now, I think I'll curl up with a warm blanket and watch TV until slumber settles in. Carry on, my friends.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Necessarily busy

"Be careful," my friend said, "that's a lot of work." I had just relayed to her how incredibly busy I'd been this week. I worked 5 of the last 7 days, and I'm working tomorrow, too. I usually work 3 days per week. My friend, Wendy, knows I don't tolerate working more than part time for very long. In the past, lots of hours have led to depression relapses. It sucks, but working part time is one of the compromises I've had to make as a result of this illness.

I appreciated my friend's quick concern. She cares. That's nice. But I hate that I have to be so vigilant when I work what, for most people, is just a normal work week. After having this Sunday off, I'll be working Monday through Friday next week, too. And I need to do that. I need to work. As of October 1st, I was only one month away from exhausting every spare penny I had just to pay my bills. I won't feel comfortable or safe unless I replenish that money as soon as possible.

Fortunately, we're very busy, so I've got plenty of opportunity to work. I'm doing what I need to do to take care of myself, at least financially. Yes, I'm tired. No, I'm not getting as much exercise as I'd like. Yes, I'm spending more time solo. No, I'm not eating as well as I'd like. Those are all very important pieces to maintaining my mental health. I know. But feeling financially secure is just as important. I know that, too.

So I'll keep being vigilant about how I'm tolerating my increased work load. I'm not going to put myself in jeopardy of creating a depression relapse. I am paying attention. Actually, right now I'm celebrating, just a bit, that I'm able to do what I'm currently doing. I'll keep working on fitting in the other important pieces, and I'll back off the work hours when needed. I'm willing to do what's needed to find that balance.

Balance. It's vital to my mental health stability. I'm hoping I can figure out a way to work as much as I can, while I have the opportunity to do so, while still finding time for the socialization, exercise, healthy food, and sleep I need. I suppose that's the goal of everyone, chronic illness or not.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ketamine Success

I am officially finished with my Ketamine clinical trial. I had my seventh and final infusion on Thursday. I'm extremely pleased to report the Ketamine worked. I feel almost back to normal. I'm working, exercising, smiling, laughing, and have some energy again. I'm so relieved to be past another severe depression episode.

This makes me two for two in alternative depression treatments. This Spring successful treatment with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation led to resolution of one of the worst, if not the worst, depression relapses I've ever experienced. Now I've had success with Ketamine, too. I'm really lucky to have had access to both of these cutting edge treatments. And isn't it too bad they aren't readily available to more people suffering with severe depression. Hopefully, my participation in this Ketamine trial will lead to more widespread use.

There may be some movement for me on the running front as well. Over the last week, I ran a couple of times on the Alter-G (gravity eliminating) treadmill at 50% of my body weight. Eliminating 50% of my body weight allowed me to run for 10-15 minutes at a time with fairly decent form despite continued leg weakness and foot drop. That was kind of exciting.

Not one to settle, or practice patience, I took it one step further tonight. I ran a few minutes at a time outside. It wasn't terribly pretty, but I just had to try once again. My stride is significantly altered secondary to the foot drop, and it wasn't easy. I do think I'm getting a little stronger. That's hopeful. Unfortunately there is still an awful long way to go if I'm ever to run again as I used to run. I'm trying to stay hopeful, nonetheless.

That's all I've got today. Carry on, my friends.



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