Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 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, December 8, 2018

Boston Overnight

I'm sitting here processing my whirlwind overnight trip to Boston. I was invited to participate in a blogger advisory board meeting by the pharmaceutical company, Alkermes.  I left at 6:00 AM Thursday morning and walked back through my door at 12:20 AM this morning. I spent just 27 hours in Boston. I felt like a real business person!

I really enjoyed being back in Boston. I had barely arrived at my hotel before I changed into my running gear and was on my way to run around the Charles River. It was my favorite place to run when I lived in Boston many years ago. I planned to continue my gradual mileage build up, running a bit, walking a bit, for about 3 miles. But I was so happy and energized by running again on the old, familiar paths, I ran almost 5 miles with very few walking breaks. And even then I had to force myself to return to the hotel! The good news is I didn't suffer any obvious deleterious effects. Despite pushing it a bit, I seem to have recovered well.

Here's a quick tour of my run. So many memories...
Just past mile 25 of the Boston Marathon. I remember running under here in 2014, the year after the bombings.


The Hatch Band Shell on The Charles River Esplanade. More than once I watched The Boston Pops perform live on the 4th of July as fireworks lit up the sky over the Charles River. I also saw Ray Charles perform here once, totally by accident, as I was out for a run when I ran into thousands of people enjoying his free concert in the park. I stopped and enjoyed it, too.

The famous Citgo sign, from the other side of the river in Cambridge, where I used to live.
The famous Citgo sign right in front of my hotel, which happens to be mile 25 of The Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, a runner can see this sign for miles before arriving here, but it feels so great to finally run underneath it!

Boston University building where I spent many hours working on my first graduate degree.
And of course, Fenway Park. This was taken behind the "green monster," the right field fence. Spent a few hours here, too.
I had a wonderful, memory-filled run Thursday afternoon, followed by an energizing walk after dinner late Thursday night. The city was alive and buzzing with activity. I miss that sometimes. It was nice to be back in that environment for a bit.

As for the meeting I was honored to attend, it was a wonderful learning experience. I was joined by 5 other bloggers from around the country. I enjoyed meeting other writers who, like me, share a passion for supporting people with and educating people about depression and mental illness. I only wish I could have spent more time getting to know each of them. But the whirlwind trip didn't allow that this time. Nevertheless, I'm so grateful for the opportunity I was given to share time with this group. 

And now... back to my laundry.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Letting go

I'm wondering if it's just me. When something disconcerting, difficult, or downright traumatic happens to me, I seem to have difficulty getting it out of my brain. It's troubling because I end up rehashing and re-living the experience, whether it's just hurtful words or scary situations, I have difficulty letting it go. I'll give you a couple of recent examples.

While I was in the midst of my trip in the Himalayas a good friend lashed out at me via text message. She blasted me with almost delusional falsehoods and damning words, at one point calling me pathetic. I was stunned, angry, sad, and hurt. Now I knew, intellectually, her words were a symptom of something going on with her and not really about me, but that didn't erase the shock or pain.

After exchanging just a couple of replies in my defense, it became clear I was not going to change her perspective, so I blocked her and tried to move on. But I couldn't. I couldn't get her words or the unfairness of her attack out of my mind. Even though I didn't want to think about it, even though I wasn't trying to think about it, even while moving forward and enjoying my adventure, I couldn't let it go. Her words rattled in my brain and the hurt she effected weighed heavy in my heart. For days...

Another example occurred a couple of days ago. While we were out enjoying a beautiful, snowy walk, Jet was attacked by a much larger, aggressive dog. Jet was healing at my left side on a 4 foot leash. We were on a public path in a local park. The other dog was unleashed, playing with his owner in the front yard of their home. As soon as the dog saw Jet, it took off. It ran at least 50 yards, full throttle, and was on top of Jet within seconds.

I yelled and frantically began pulling at the aggressive dog. Joined by the dog's owner, we struggled for what felt like an eternity to get her dog off of Jet. At one point I pulled him off by his collar, but he wriggled out of the collar and was instantly back on top of Jet. He had Jet's neck in his mouth and was pushing him to the ground. I thought he was going to kill my dog. Finally, his owner got her dog around the chest and pulled him off while I pulled Jet up the path. It was incredibly scary and awful!

What occurred next only made it more awful. I screamed at the owner something about the local leash law, at which point she said, "Your dog was being just as aggressive." More cussing and screaming in defense of Jet occurred. At some point she ridiculously asserted that her dog was just coming over to "say hi." There was no apology, no hint of taking any responsibility for not controlling her dog, which is against the law in this city. Instead, she seemed to blame Jet for being attacked.

If she had at least taken some responsibility, perhaps I wouldn't have called the police. But she didn't, so I called the police as soon as we got home. (Jet was, thankfully, physically unharmed as far as I could tell.) The officer took my report and stated he would issue a citation to the owner. I don't know if that will do anything to change her behavior in the future, but I felt like I needed to do something.

Unfortunately, the visit with the officer did not end my anger, fear, and anguish. I am still re-living the attack and all of those feelings. I envy my dog, as I'm sure he's long forgotten what happened. I, on the other hand, can't seem to get it out of my head. It's been almost two days, but it's still foremost in my brain, and that's very disconcerting. I can't seem to let it go.

I know about acceptance and letting go. I've put time and effort into acceptance and letting go as part of my recovery from alcoholism. I know the importance of each skill for maintaining my mental health and stability. Unfortunately, it seems I've lost whatever skills I'd previously gained. Traumatic events seem to haunt me, whether they are hurtful words or frightening events.

I'd like to be able to let things go more easily. I don't expect I won't be hurt or scared by these emotionally charged events, but I wish the feelings didn't hang around so long. I'd like to discontinue re-living the circumstances which create the feelings. I expend precious energy and fuel stress and  consternation when I continually rehash and replay. I'd love to hear how you deal with emotionally charged situations. Are you able to let go? Or do you also struggle? I'm looking for answers and relief.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Copy and Paste

It's happening again. Somebody is copying my blog posts. Again. The mad-copier has been working on several posts from December, 2008, and is now moving into January, 2009, as well as other random posts from other random dates and years. I'm sorry to have to be writing this again for those of you who've followed along for awhile, but for the person doing the copying, listen.

Perhaps you thought I'd have no way of knowing you were copying what I wrote, but I do. Perhaps you thought limiting your copying to 5 posts per day wouldn't tip me off, but it did. I not only know how many posts you've copied, I also know which posts you've copied and precisely how many words you've copied. I know more than you think.

I'd like to optimistically think you are copying my posts for some innocent reason, a reason which does not involve passing off my words as your own, but past history proves this has never been the case. So please, for your sake and mine, if you are publishing or plan to publish my posts in any way, shape or form, quit now. Unfortunately, out of necessity, I'm quite skilled at finding people who plagiarize. And I have never failed to identify a plagiarist in the past.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Time flies

I can't believe it's been a week since I last wrote. Where did the time go? I guess being busy at work, a mid-week holiday, and working on two consecutive Saturdays has kept me from thinking about writing. Sorry about that. But here I am, blatantly avoiding vacuuming my house, as writing here is way more important. At least I'm doing my laundry while I write.

I spent Thanksgiving at my brother's house with his wife, two of their three adult children, significant others, and my grand-nephew and grand-niece. Oh, and two cats and a dog, in addition to Jet, who, of course, accompanied me. It was a different Thanksgiving location for Jet and I. For the past 3 or 4 years, we've gone to my friend Wendy's house. But this year I kind of invited myself over to my brother's house.

My brother picked me up from the airport when I returned from Nepal earlier this month. In the emotionally-charged aftermath of my return, I felt like I needed to spend more time with my family. And this brother was extremely supportive while I was away. He followed my daily progress, and nary a Facebook post passed without one (or more) of his hilarious observations or comments. His online presence was not only funny but comforting. So I invited myself over for Thanksgiving.

We had a good day. My brother and his wife don't even own a television, however, so it was one of the only times I didn't watch at least a little football on Thanksgiving. But it was nice to spend time with his family, talk, laugh, eat and eat some more, and relax. My grand-nephew and niece are 3 and 1, respectively, so it was also loud and chaotic at times, but fun, nonetheless.

I mentioned being busy. I've worked 10 of the last 12 days, which is more than I'm used to working, but I survived. I'll move back into a more normal schedule beginning tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. I can handle an uptick in days working for awhile, but I've learned I can't sustain it. My mood usually takes a hit if I work too much. Right now it's just my housework that's taken the hit!

I'm back to running a little bit. I completed my own Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning. I wanted to run with my brother in his community race, but I decided that would have resulted in a very long day for Jet and I, too long, so I took Jet on our own 5K instead. Our unofficial, official time was 31:09. That's a far cry from my PR of 19:11, but it's a start.

Well, I've put off vacuuming long enough, and vacuuming is just the beginning of my long-overdue-housework list. I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, or whatever it is you celebrated this weekend. I'm grateful for your time and attention. Thank you for your readership and for your support of me and my little blog. Carry on, my friends.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Settling in

Life goes on. I've returned to work. I've returned to exercising--walking, running, lifting weights, and cycling classes. I'm taking care of some professional obligations in order to keep my physical therapy license in good standing. And I'm doing a few chores. Basically, I'm settling back in to my routine.

I'm busy, which is good, but I'm guarding against getting overwhelmed. I guess that's the best way to describe it. I'm guarded. In the back of my mind, I've had an inkling of worry that maybe my mood would crash after such a monumental experience like the one I had in Nepal. So far, I've intermittently felt a bit off at times, low at other times, and perfectly okay at others. Nothing alarming has occurred, so I should probably just quit worrying and instead let each day arrive as it will.

I'm doing a pretty good job keeping up with things. My house is messy, but I'm feeling fine with that. I had to be so organized during my trek, unpacking and packing on a daily basis, I'm actually kind of enjoying having a bit of stuff strewn about haphazardly. It's comforting somehow.

I am feeling fatigued. Part of that, I think, is being back on a regular schedule, but I've also not yet returned to deep sleep since I've been home. In fact, my fancy new Garmin watch tells me I'm averaging less than an hour of deep sleep most nights. That doesn't seem like enough. I'm hoping it slowly improves. Again, so far, I'm managing despite less sleep than I would like.

It's been fun reviewing my trip with various friends and coworkers. I really enjoy looking at all the pictures and trying to remember exactly where I was and what I did on each day. I have a map of my route, my itinerary, my Facebook posts, and my photos out on my kitchen table at this moment. I'm working to label all the photos and assemble a timeline of my trip before I forget. I've already had requests for group presentations from a few people. That would certainly be fun. So if I can figure out how to put together some sort of multimedia presentation, I plan to take them up on their offers.

I'm sure you're tired of hearing about my trip by now, but it remains foremost in my mind. I don't want to forget it. I want to keep it fresh, to relive it, to feel the fear, challenge, awe, and adventure all over again. Eventually I'm sure I'll have more to think and talk about, but you'll have to forgive me if I'm a bit slow in letting it all slip behind me. Maybe you have some memories of great moments in your life, too? Feel free, take a minute, let those memories wash over you, experience them all over again. Join me. I hate to have so much fun alone.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Connections

Something strange has happened. Being away, it seems, increased my sense of connection, especially to the people in my life. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude in the wee hours of yesterday morning (my sleep is still not back to normal) I wrote a letter about it. I posted the letter to the private Facebook group I created prior to my trip, which allowed 25 coworkers, friends and family members to follow my progress.

Posting the letter to the group was a little scary, as I laid my emotions out there in a very personal way. I'm used to writing about these things here, somewhat anonymously, and posting my feelings to the black hole of the Internet. Even if my friends or family read what I write here, I rarely know about it. There's some safety in that. But yesterday, I felt the need to let those people closest to me know exactly what I was feeling. So far, I'm glad I did.

And now I'd like to let you in on it, too. If it inspires you to take a risk, to be open to adventure, to go after a dream, or simply to open yourself up to those in your life, to be honest and vulnerable, then publishing my thoughts and feelings here will be worth it, too. Here you go:

I know sometimes we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone. It’s human nature, right? I try to live each day with gratitude in my heart; to recognize the little things, the people, and the opportunities I have which make my life what it is, a pretty good life. No matter the challenges, the hardships, or the illness, I have a pretty good life.

As I sit here this morning, 5 days after returning home from a 27-day bucket list trip to Nepal and The Himalayas, I am feeling overwhelming gratitude. I am so lucky, and primarily I am lucky because of you. All of you…

My brothers. Despite our trials and tribulations, despite disparity and distance between us, I have siblings that care today. I have three brothers with wonderful families of their own. I have nieces and nephews I don’t often get to see, but cherish nonetheless. As a lot, we are healthy, prospering, successful contributors to society.

Though sometimes I feel distant from your nuclear family lives, being away made me feel more connected to you, my brothers, and your families. From your hilarious comments and “likes” to the thoughts and observations of my sisters-in-law in response to my Facebook posts, I knew you were each paying attention and interested, despite the business of your own family lives. That was comforting and reassuring.

Mom, you have often been a source of comfort and reassurance. It was no different while I was away. I could tell you were anxious and slightly fearful of the challenge I was undertaking, but you were wholeheartedly supportive, nonetheless. Among other things, you were crucial in assisting with changing my airline ticket when it became evident to me I needed to return early or risk my mental health. I haven’t always been the easiest daughter to raise, or even observe from a distance, of that I am sure, but you’ve always had my back. Thanks, Mom. I’m lucky. And grateful.

Speaking of gratitude, I will never, ever be able to express the depth of my gratitude to my psychiatrist, Dr. L. You were not only interested in and willing to follow my progress while I was away, you were a lifeline. When the altitude began wreaking havoc on my brain, heightening my anxiety to levels I’ve rarely, if ever, experienced, you were there. You were willing to participate in a dialogue with me, guide me, make suggestions, and reassure me. All the while I was halfway around the world! As usual, you went above and beyond what would be expected of any doctor. You were a touchstone, a presence, a voice to fall back on when I was tired, unsure, struggling, or frightened. I am certain this trip would not have been as successful if I hadn’t been allowed the selfless connection and support you granted me, Dr. L. Thank you.

As far as granting support, it is a rare opportunity to be able to take off for a month and still be allowed back to work with open arms. It was so reassuring to be connected to each of you, my coworkers, while I was away. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experience with you. My connection to you, my colleagues, with whom I have always had the utmost respect, was only strengthened by my time across the globe. To feel your sense of excitement and joy in each of my accomplishments and milestones was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I felt valued, appreciated, and respected. Where you could have been resentful and envious, left to pick up my slack while I traipsed around the world, you instead celebrated with me and relished in my adventure. I’ve never been so happy to return to work. I am truly grateful to work with so many amazing, supportive, selfless people. We are a good team.

Another team I appreciate now more than ever are the friends with whom I shared this adventure. Being a bit of a loner, I guess I wasn’t expecting the excitement and encouragement I received from each of you. I don’t do a lot of socializing. My world tends to be on the small side. But while I was out trekking alone, I felt nothing but support and camaraderie from the friends I allowed to follow me. I admit, I was surprised. And rather than saying anything special about me, it is instead a reflection of the kind, generous people I have in my life. Even if I see many of you only rarely, and even though I tend to think of myself as a unit of one, this trip made me realize I actually do have many caring, supportive friends. I only need to let you in to feel the love you so willingly shared with me this past month. Thank you, each of you. Thank you.

I am a lucky woman. I took an adventure to an area I had dreamed about for years. I expected to be challenged and thrilled, and I was. I’m proud of myself for taking the opportunity to make a dream reality. I expected I would learn a bit about the world, a different culture, and myself on this trip. And I did. What I didn’t expect, however, turned out to be the true gift. Love, support, connection… on so many levels. I’m still reeling a bit processing all of it.

I guess I just wanted to say thank you, to all of you, many of whom, like me, I’m sure never expected this outpouring of heartfelt gratitude. Perhaps you never imagined your singular place in my life could make such a huge impact. Perhaps that’s the lesson for all of us. We make a difference. Even when we think we are just doing what’s expected in our particular roles, we are making a difference in somebody’s life.

I want to thank each of you, today, for making a difference in mine. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Home again

I arrived home from Nepal around 9:00 PM, US Central Time, on Sunday, November 4, 2018. I had traveled well over 30 hours by the time I walked in my door. I was tired and relieved.

Jet was here waiting for me. My assistant, Michelle, who took care of Jet while I was gone, dropped him at home a few hours before I arrived. Perhaps it was a function of traveler's fatigue, or perhaps it was simply that I really missed Jet, but I basically bawled my eyes out on and off for several hours after arriving home. It was strange. I was overwhelmed, sad, relieved, happy, and who knows what else! I was out of sorts, to say the least.

There was so much to do after getting home. It would have been easy to collapse on the sofa and leave the bags in the middle of the floor. Fortunately, I resisted the urge to do just that. Instead, I've kept busy resettling. I've unpacked, done all of my laundry, gone grocery shopping, completed paperwork for my health insurance, and updated this blog with photos from my trip. So if you're looking for some pictures, I went back and added several to each post I wrote while away. Check them out and let me know what you think.

I plan to return to work tomorrow. I still have my high altitude cough, developed about 10 days ago, so I will also check in with my doctor tomorrow, too. I'd like to get rid of that. On Thursday, I'm looking forward to checking in with my psychiatrist. She was very helpful while I was away, allowing me to stay in contact as needed (like when my anxiety rose off the charts). She followed my progress on Facebook, as well. I am very lucky to have such a skilled, caring doctor. I'll always be grateful for her assistance.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Everest Base Camp, but I'm looking forward to getting back into my regular routine. Right now I have no desire to begin exercising again, but I'm going to force myself to get back out there soon. I did lose 10 pounds while away, so I'd like to put some muscle back on my frame. And I'd like to become a runner again. I'm going to take it slow, see if I can avoid injury, maybe run a Turkey Trot in a few weeks, and eventually, I hope, race the marathon again. Now that I've put Everest Base Camp behind me, that will be my focus. Just run...

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Back in Kathmandu

Sunset in Lukla
Sunset in Lukla
Sunset in Lukla
It took another stressful 2 days of waiting and negotiating at the Lukla airport to finally get on a flight yesterday, which brought me back to Kathmandu, after finishing my trek.  That makes 4.5 wasted, incredibly anxiety-filled days on the front and back ends of my trek spent at airports with seemingly no ability to transport the vast numbers of trekkers awaiting flights. It tarnished an otherwise incredible experience.

The past two days were full of anxious tears and major frustration, as I was bumping up against my international flight home, which begins later tonight. I was so relieved to actually get on a flight yesterday, that that too brought me to tears. I'm really tired of crying now.

After arriving at the hotel yesterday, I took my first real, hot shower in almost a month. What a gratifying thrill! I also got my first look at myself. Weird. I literally had not seen my face or most of my body for a month.

There are no mirrors in the Himalayas, and even if there were, it wouldn't matter, as I was covered from head to toe 99% of time! I discovered I badly need a haircut, and I've lost at least 10 pounds! I've been working hard on the desserts since getting back to the city.

Last night was also the first night I slept on a mattress in a warm bed since early October. It was wonderful! Toilets, toilet paper I don't have to supply myself, hot and cold running water... these are a few of the things I will never take for granted again.

And clean air! While the air was pristine in the mountains, it is thick with exhaust, dust, and who knows what else here in Kathmandu! I have been using my asthma inhaler every four hours like clockwork, and it's still difficult to breathe. I'm really looking forward to getting out of the city and on my way home.

I go to the airport in 6 hours for a middle of the night flight to begin my journey home. I'm actually really surprised at how incredibly home sick I am. I can't wait to get back to Jet and my normal, boring little routine.

This was a difficult trip, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The trekking itself was, of course, challenging. It required that I dig to a deep, rarely visited level more often than not. The lack of infrastructure made every detail, like securing a guesthouse room each night or a timely flight when needed, impossible to count on or even predict. And the physical conditions; 24-hour cold, high altitude, lack of running water, no toilets, did I mention the cold(?) wore on me. Regardless, I accomplished my goal.

I'm so thrilled to have set foot on the soil of Everest Basecamp. That's been a dream for more years than I can count. And I'm proud of myself for overcoming all of the challenges and obstacles this trek laid in my path. I stepped over, around, and through each one of them, accomplishing some things I never imagined myself  accomplishing.

Everest Base Camp, October 22, 2018
This was a more difficult experience than that which I had expected, but I've come out the other side a better human being, hopefully, because of it. That sounds cliche, but in this case, I believe it's true.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Headed downhill

Last night I slept below 15,000 feet for the first time in at least a week, and I felt like I was in an oxygen tent! On the way up I got anxious and could barely breathe above 14,000 feet! What a difference a week makes.

Unfortunately, I also had one of my toughest days yesterday. I woke up with a sore throat and cough. My chest was congested. And the first order of business yesterday was to climb up 17,600 foot Renjo La Pass. It was a climb that just wouldn't end! It took 3 hours and 47 minutes of climbing to reach the top, and I felt so poorly I was actually getting scared. As promised the 360 degree view of the Everest range was spectacular, but I didn't even get a picture. I needed to get lower quickly, so that's what I did.

Picture from top of Renjo La Pass, taken by my guide, of the entire Everest range.
The difficulty was just getting started, however, as we still had 3-4 hours of trekking before we would reach the next village. In total, we went 10.4 miles in close to 8 hours. I felt so poorly, I even let my guide carry my pack when he offered. It was a tough day.

I'm fortunate my doctor prescribed a just-in-case antibiotic for just such an occasion. She had mentioned that more treks are interrupted or discontinued due to respiratory illness rather than anything else. I'm glad she knew that. I began taking the antibiotic last night, and I already feel better.

We only hiked about 3 hours today, and it will be mostly downhill from here. I had my first shower in at least 2 weeks this afternoon, quite a treat even though my host's definition of hot differs quite a bit from mine! And at this point I'm contemplating whether I will wash or simply throw away every garment I've repeatedly worn on this excursion! Trekking is amazing, but it is not at all luxurious!

That's all for now folks. Hopefully the next time you hear from me I won't be sitting inside a mountain guesthouse wearing two down jackets, two layers of thermal pants, and a hat, all the while freezing my one exposed finger, which I needed to type this post!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Basecamp

I made it to Everest Base Camp. In the past 3 days I've also climbed up and over an 18,000 foot mountain pass and summited Mount Kalapthar, around 18,400 feet. I never imagined I'd be able to do any of these things, and each was extremely difficult, to say the least, but I did them.

View on the way up to Kong Ma La Pass

Top of Kong Ma La Pass, 18,016 feet.

The "trail" down from the top of Kong Ma La Pass. You can see it, right, a trail? Me, either. This was fairly typical hiking when going up and over passes, challenging to say the least.
What I came to do! Everest Base Camp, October 22, 2018
Defeat the Stigma of Mental Illness, Everest Base Camp, October 22, 2018
Summit of Mount Kalapatthar, which faces Mount Everest, October 23, 2018

Exhausted at summit of Mount Kalapatthar

Summit of Mount Kalapatthar, with Mount Everest and Nuptse Mountains in background
Basecamp was a dream come true. I cried tears of joy when I arrived. I have two more high passes to conquer and a visit to a beautiful high altitude lake before heading back, but the highest altitudes and climbs have already been accomplished.

Rough day with anxiety and fatigue today, but hope to feel better tomorrow. The anxiety meds have made a huge difference, and I tried to go without this morning. Might have been a mistake. I won't make it again. Onward and upward.



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