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!

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 right 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 right leg. My right 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.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stigma on my mind

I'm not sure what to say. I was going to update you regarding the jerk who is still copying every word of my blog, but in light of the recent events, I'm not sure that's worthy of complaint. Las Vegas. I'm at a loss for words. There is no way to explain or excuse one person savagely mowing down hundreds of innocent people with an automatic weapon. No way.

Unfortunately, the spotlight has turned to the he-must-have-been-crazy argument. I cringed when I listened to the radio on my way to work yesterday morning, as they discussed the "likelihood" that this individual was mentally ill. So far there is no evidence he was, but mental illness is easily speculated and blamed. It makes me uncomfortable. The reality is the vast majority of people with mental illness are not at all violent. That's a fact, but that fact seems to get lost after tragic, senseless, otherwise inexplicable events.

I understand the need to explain the unexplainable. Perhaps this person did have an undiagnosed mental illness, but the spite and venom with which mental illness is discussed disturbs me. Rather than spurring on a call to action, such as better, more accessible treatment for people with mental illness, these events seem to further the stigmatization instead. That sucks.

Having said all of that, I admit, I don't have any answers to this dilemma. None of us can control what others do. I'm glad I'm open about my own battle with mental illness. I believe my coworkers, running buddies, and friends now have a better picture of what a person with mental illness looks like. And maybe that changes the conversations in their homes and offices just a bit. I don't know. What I do know is in instances such as this, my behavior is the only thing I can control.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Defeating Stigma

With dangerous healthcare bills in the news, which continue to be initiated in Congress and which would be devastating to those of us with mental illness, I've been thinking a lot about stigma lately. Stigmatizing treatment, including getting fired from my healthcare job while receiving inpatient treatment for depression, is one of the main reasons I began this blog. It's the reason I am open and vocal about having a mental illness. I like to think my speaking out and blogging have both educated others and confronted stigma at least a bit.

Some of you may remember this sign, which I created. I wore it at The New York City Marathon and plan to continue wearing it at future marathons.


Well, I found an organization which shares my mission. It works to defeat the stigma associated with mental illness and uses running to do it! How perfect is that? It's called Defeat the Stigma Project. Here's the front and back of my new tank top, which is available on their website, and which I'm happy to report has been showing up on the shoulders of some local runners lately.



If you are a runner, especially a runner with mental illness, consider being out and loud. It's the only way to educate those around us, to improve our treatment, and to keep battling the stigma we face, whether it be from home or the halls of Congress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A little progress

I'm making some progress both mentally and physically, I think. I just came in from a 3 mile walk with Jet. During our walk, I jogged (I hate the J-word, but that's what it was) a bit to see how my left leg was faring. After walking a little over a mile, I jogged slowly and gently for one tenth of a mile. Later I jogged two tenths of a mile twice. It was slow and tentative, but it was kind of like running.

Because of my weak ankle, I was unable to land on my left heel, so I felt like I was tiptoeing rather than fully running. I also had cramping in my hamstrings and calves, likely as a result of them compensating for my weak hip and quads. Nonetheless, I believe I jogged better today than the last time I tried a few weeks ago. It felt a little easier, and my leg felt a tiny bit stronger.

Unfortunately, any gains I've made have been so small it's hard to tell if my leg is actually stronger or not. That's why I wanted to try running a bit tonight. I'm feeling a little encouraged by the results. But I'm being cautiously hopeful.

I have to be cautious, as nerve injuries are different and difficult. Unlike other injuries which have kept me from running in the past, injuries which I knew would heal with the right treatment, time, and exercises; this injury has no such guarantees. With a nerve injury, my progress can stop at any time regardless of how much work I do or how much time passes. That's the scary reality of having an injured nerve. I'm praying I'm still making some gains. But only time will tell.

Mentally I think I'm also making some progress. I had my fifth Ketamine infusion on Thursday. My mood hadn't been great all week, but I felt better after the infusion. That was a relief. And I'm still feeling lighter today. I'm grateful. I have two more infusions left before my participation in the study will be complete. I'm praying for continued improvement. I'd really like to walk away from my last infusion, just under two weeks from now, feeling confident and back to normal. That would be truly wonderful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possible Plagiarism

This morning I discovered somebody has been copying my blog posts en masse. Actually, I discovered it last week, but it really became clear this morning. I have some tools connected to my blog which tell me when my content is being copied. It also tells me which posts are being copied. A few weeks ago, somebody copied all of January, 2008. Then a few days later, somebody copied all of February, 2008. This morning I discovered they are now working on March, 2008. I assume it is the same person because in each case he or she accessed my content through a server in Indonesia. That's what I know so far.

Those of you who've been reading for awhile know I've been through this in the past. That's why I now have the detection tools in place. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact person or site which is doing the copying. But I'm working on it! My concern is the mad-copier, since he or she is likely in Indonesia, may be re-posting my material in another language. There are plagiarism detector tools on the Web, but I'm not sure if any of them have the capability to check for plagiarism in which the language has been changed. And if this person is not re-posting my material on their own blog, what the heck are they doing with it? I'm irritated and concerned.

Why is this person doing this? Obviously, they have some goal in mind, as they are copying every post from the very beginning of my blog. Why are they copying my thoughts, feelings, and words en masse? I don't know yet, but I am working to find out. If any of you have experience with this, or are an internet savant, or know what steps I should take next, please let me know. Maybe together we can find the offender and put a stop to whatever it is he or she is planning to do with my material.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm okay

In case you've been wondering, I'm okay. I'm not great. I'm not back to where I'd like to be yet. I wish I wasn't still struggling with periods of low mood and intrusive thoughts. But I'm back to work, exercising more aggressively, and overall feeling better. I really shouldn't be complaining, but I have to admit I was hoping to feel more than okay at this point in time.

Perhaps my expectations are the problem. I'm just back from my third, half-day of work. I expected my return to work would bring with it feelings of purposefulness, hopefulness, and happiness. Instead, I felt, well, okay. In fact, I struggled with a lower mood before and after work each day. I wanted to love my work again. I wanted to feel helpful, and grateful, and have a purpose again. Unfortunately, I experienced that telltale sign of depression, lack of enjoyment, instead.

It's hard not to put too much emphasis on any dip in my mood as I come out of this depression relapse. I still feel like I'm coming out of it, but I find such periods of feeling low frustrating and scary. I have to battle to keep my low feelings from building on themselves. Otherwise, I feel more sad about feelings of sadness and more hopeless about feelings of hopelessness. And that really sucks! I know because I've not always been successful in my battle.

Fortunately, I think the Ketamine treatment is helping me fight. I had my fourth of seven Ketamine infusions yesterday. I felt almost immediate relief following the infusion. Despite getting a migraine headache side effect, the mood relief lasted through the evening. So even though I'm complaining about feeling okay today, overall I'm much improved as compared to when I began treatment a couple of weeks ago. I'm so, so grateful for that. And I expect continued relief with continued treatment. I'm looking forward to that.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Good news and...

The good news is I'm feeling better, and I'm back home. I got out of the hospital Friday just before noon. And that was as a direct result of the positive reaction I had following my second infusion of Ketamine on Thursday. My mood was much improved after both the second and third, which took place yesterday, Ketamine infusions. I continue to feel better today.

Unfortunately, with good there is, at least on this occasion, bad news as well. I spoke with my back surgeon's nurse just after returning home Friday. Tomorrow marks 12 weeks since my back surgery, 16 weeks since the original injury. I got the clearance to go back to work part time beginning tomorrow. During our discussion, however, I informed the nurse my left leg is still weak. Her reaction was not positive.

I could tell by the immediate pause and change in voice tone the nurse, my surgeon's right hand woman, was concerned I continued to have significant leg weakness. I listened intently as she informed me of the typical progression of recovery. Basically, very few patients, in their experience, continue to see improvement after 12 weeks. Most of the strength gains that will be made are made within the first 12 weeks following surgery. I was devastated.

I tried to maintain my composure after this news, but it was futile. I ended up in tears. It's still hard for me to think about, but there is a very real possibility I won't be able to run again. I know, because I've tried. My leg is too weak. I couldn't run yesterday. I can't run today. And if my leg strength does not improve beyond where I'm at today, there will be no tomorrow. I will not be able to run in the future.

It's hard to imagine not running again. It's so hard I can't even type those words without hopelessness creeping in and tears welling up. I don't know what I would do. I should know one way or the other, whether I will run again or not, by Christmas, which will be six months post op. I was hoping to run a marathon by Christmas.

I'm choosing to believe I will be one of the outliers. After all, I was extremely fit prior to the disc rupturing, and perhaps I'm a bit younger than most of their patients. But then I think about how little my strength has progressed over the last month, and it's difficult to hold onto that belief. But I have to keep believing and hope I'm one of the outliers.

So far this news has not had a crushing effect on my mood, but it hasn't helped either. I'm trying to move forward and stay in the moment. I don't want to allow hopelessness to resettle. I can only do so much. I can only control what I can control. I will continue doing my exercises, walking, and riding my ElliptiGo. I'll focus on getting back to work and keep saying my prayers. Those are the best options I have right now. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

No miracle yet

I began participation in the clinical drug trial today. I had my first Ketamine infusion. It took almost 3 hours by the time all was said and done, and I was exhausted afterward. Fortunately, I had very few side effects during the infusion. I got a little spacey feeling, my blood pressure went up a bit, and my lips went numb. All are normal side effects. It could have been much worse. Nausea and even hallucinations are two of the other of a myriad of possibilities. I am grateful I tolerated it with such ho-hum effects, but unfortunately, I didn't have any big, miraculous shifts in my mood either.

I did feel mildly more relaxed and slightly less hopeless immediately following the infusion, but within 90 minutes the tears, hopelessness, and intrusive suicidal thoughts had reemerged. I'm doing my best not to panic, but I am feeling discouraged. That's the unfortunate price of hope.

The study coordinators still believe I am an ideal candidate for a favorable result, and they warned me I may not get relief until after the second or even the third infusion. The second infusion will be done on Thursday. The third is scheduled for next Monday, hopefully as an outpatient. If my symptoms do remit, I will then have one infusion per week for the following four weeks. I do hope I qualify for those four follow-up infusions.

Hope is still difficult though. And scary. I don't want to be disappointed again. I want relief.

I want relief from this illness. I want my life back. I want to return to me. At this point working, running, and living functionally and independently in my home seem a long way away. I want to get back to living with rather than suffering from depression. Suffering is just too painful. If you pray, please keep 'em coming, my friends.



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