Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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, May 30, 2020

Mourning in Minnesota

It's been a difficult week here in my home state. A police officer murdered a man in broad daylight while 3 other officers stood by, intermittently protecting the murderer and/or doing nothing to intervene. I wish I hadn't watched the horrifying video, but if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I don't think I would have believed it. Not here. Not a police officer. Not in broad daylight while being videotaped. Not with multiple civilians begging the officer to stop. But he didn't stop. And like millions of other viewers, I watched a man die in front of my eyes. Absolutely horrifying! I almost puked.

I have friends who are police officers, some currently working others retired. They didn't enter the field to perpetrate violence on others. I can't imagine any one of them putting themselves in this situation. But I also know, through personal experience, the blue line too often protects officers behaving badly, even if it means attacking and blackballing a fellow officer who has the audacity to call out bias within the ranks. That is not a culture conducive to officers policing themselves. But this? Murder? I can't wrap my mind around this.

Three officers stood by and did nothing as a man stopped breathing beneath a fellow officer's knee. It's disgusting, horrifying, and unacceptable. I feel enraged. I'd join the protests, but the protests have now devolved into something almost as disgusting as the original incident. The streets are burning. Rather than allowing us to confront the original horror, I'm watching as a beautiful city is overrun by understandable rage and not-so-understandable hoodlums (white, brown, and black) who seem to be taking advantage of the situation by stealing everything in sight and setting fire to the rest. This is not okay either. It's scary and disgusting, too.

I am a white woman. I cannot understand the experience of my brown and black neighbors. I do not know what it is like to fear being killed during a routine traffic stop or police interaction. That is not my experience, though this murder makes me question. Why not me? I've had interactions with police in my home more than once--mental health calls, safety checks. If this could happen to George Floyd, why couldn't something untoward also happen to me? It's unsettling to say the least.

My state has turned into a war zone. It's sad. It's frightening. It's unbelievable. I'm not sure how we heal. I pray the destruction stops. I pray the culture of policing changes. I pray I will feel safe to travel within my community and state again in the near future.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Getting away

After months of being cooped up in my house avoiding the Coronovirus, recovering from hip surgery, and surviving a horrendous depression relapse, I left Thursday to go north. I've been in Duluth visiting friends and family since then. I planned to go back home today, but I just can't leave. I love it here. It's always hard to leave, so this morning I decided I wouldn't.

I decided to stay one more day so I can continue visiting my friends, see my brother and his family one more time, and go for at least one more hike. I just returned from hiking. I thought I might tolerate hiking on a variable surface better than I've tolerated walking on level ground. I was right. My hip was much less sore during and after my 2 mile hike along Tischer Creek. It was beautiful. I love the sound of rushing water. I felt so grateful to be able to experience it. I feel like I'm getting closer to getting back to normal, physically, mentally and spiritually.

I brought my ElliptiGo up here so I could experience some of the long trails I've previously been unable to fully explore on my feet. The Willard Munger State Trail runs for 70 miles from Duluth to Hinckley, Minnesota. It's a paved bike trail through the woods. I would love to ride the entire length at least once, but I settled for a 41 mile round trip on Friday. It was a quiet, gorgeous, and at times grueling workout! Loved it.

I spent most of yesterday with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews. We had a nice barbeque and enjoyed each other's company on a warm sunny day. We may go for a hike together along Lake Superior later today. I've been here three and a half days and have yet to stick my toes in the lake. That's unusual for me. I'll get down there before I leave though.

Here's a sample of what I've done thus far. Hope you all had a nice weekend as well.

After 30 miles on the Munger Trail the continued beauty finally coaxed me off the ElliptiGo to take some photos
The forest floor was carpeted with this white flower at several places along the trail
More Willard Munger State Trail with typical rock cliffs found on the North Shore of Lake Superior
Tischer Creek running through the eastern half of the City of Duluth
Tischer Creek
Tischer Creek
Looking down from one bridge to another over Tischer Creek

Pictures don't do it justice. Tischer Creek, Duluth

Monday, May 18, 2020

Little annoyances

Something is going on with me. I'm annoyed. I'm irritated. Little things, seemingly one after another, keep getting under my skin. I'm irritable and irritated. It's uncomfortable, and I don't like it.

  • The company that hasn't sent my product 8 weeks (and 12 mostly ignored e-mails) after I ordered it. 
  • The mysterious neighbor who again put their trash can so close to my driveway I can barely squeak by without scratching my vehicle.
  • The work e-mail I can't ever seem to access from home without a lengthy call to the help desk.
  • The state office from which I require assistance whose phone line is still busy after 68 redials.  
  • The freshly painted doors, which became freshly unpainted around the knobs and hinges after I removed the painter's tape from them. 
  • The hot flashes... Oh, the hot flashes!
  • The scam calls warning me about my lapsed vehicle warranty (which I never had) or offering to improve my prescription drug coverage (which I do have), but only if I provide them with all of my vital stats first.
  • The Amazon Prime video stream which fails, and fails, and fails again in the middle of my WWII movie.

I could go on, and that's the point; I could go on. I'm hoping writing down all of these stupid things will decrease, or better yet stop, my irritability. Looking at them one at a time, these are all things I usually deal with as annoyances. They don't usually leave me cussing and kicking garbage cans. Yes, I'm embarrassed to say, I did that. That's not the person I typically choose to be.

Irritation is a choice. I'm not sure why I'm choosing it now. It certainly isn't doing me any good. As I look back over my list I see only one item over which I have absolutely no control. Yup, the damn hot flashes. For every other item on the list I can choose to take an action to mitigate the annoyance. I can then decide to let go of the results. After all, I can't control what happens on the other side of the street. I may or may not get what I want, but once I've taken the action it does me no good whatsoever to stew over the unfairness and injustice of it all. (That last part is best read while yelling and raising a fist in the air.)

Life isn't fair. Sometimes people are assholes. Sometimes companies are fraudulent. Sometimes helpers are busy helping others. Sometimes equipment doesn't work. I can't change any of that. I need to get back to taking appropriate actions, accepting outcomes, and letting go of the emotional garbage I've attached to these small, insignificant-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things annoyances.

Phew... Thanks. I needed that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The return

I returned to work today. When I had my hip surgery in January I expected I'd be out of work for 6-8 weeks at most. Instead, it was today, almost 4 months post op that I actually returned. It was so strange. I felt like I was starting a new job rather than returning to one I've held for 6 years. It was strange, but I was glad to be back.

A lot has changed since I last worked prior to my surgery. For starters the front door is locked! To get past the front door I had to disinfect my shoes, sanitize my hands, get my temperature taken, answer questions, put on a face mask and finally don a Darth Vader-like eye shield. That got me in the door.

The facility now has multiple rules in place secondary to COVID-19 so the inside of the building felt a bit foreign, too. There were very few residents out and about. Residents who were out of their rooms wore masks. Cleaning supplies were everywhere. Anything I used with a patient had to be immediately cleaned. It was a whole new world. Nevertheless, I'm proud to say my facility has not had one case of COVID-19, so the aggressive precautions have made a difference.

As for me, I did okay. I worked 3 hours and saw 3 patients. I spent time figuring out the new documentation system which was instituted while I was gone. My hip got sore, which was discouraging, but after icing it at home it felt better. Despite my fears overnight, I didn't forget how to be a physical therapist. Seriously, I couldn't sleep last night! I was anxious. You would have thought I was starting a new job.

All in all it was a good day. It was such a pleasure to work with patients again. It was a joy to see some of the long term residents. I missed them. It was great to be side by side with my PT assistant again, too. We work well together, and I really appreciate her. It was also nice to see the rest of the staff. They were very kind in welcoming me back. I'm thankful I work with so many professional, compassionate people. Together we do good work. I'm glad to be back with the team.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Regaining life

I'm trying to return to some semblance of normalcy. Between post op hip recovery, depression relapse and recovery, and COVID-19 my life has not resembled the life I knew prior to mid-January. I haven't worked or exercised or even functioned near normal. But today I'm seeing, potentially, some light at the end of the tunnel.

First of all, I decided to attempt a return to work next week. I haven't worked since January 22nd. That's a really long time ago, and that length of time was not at all what I had planned. I thought I'd be out 8 weeks, at the most, but I'm now approaching 16 weeks! My supervisor and I discussed having me return for a couple of very short days, likely Tuesday and Thursday. I'm relieved but anxious.

There's plenty to be anxious about. I'll have to adjust to wearing the COVID-19 personal protective equipment and to the restrictions on patient movement within the facility. I have to learn a new documentation system, just to make things a bit more challenging. And of course I will have to adjust to and determine the limits of my repaired right hip. Despite the anxiety I'm really looking forward to getting to see my patients and coworkers again. I'm looking forward to being a productive member of a team again. It's been way too long.

Speaking of my hip. I saw my surgeon today to address the ongoing pain in my anterior right hip. We went over the results of my most recent MRI which showed mild bursitis in the area of my pain but was otherwise fairly benign. That was good news in that the surgical repair appeared to be intact and healing, but it didn't explain the origin of my ongoing pain.

After examining me, the surgeon suggested a cortisone injection into the hip joint. If the pain resolved after the injection, great, but if the pain continued, that would at least indicate the source of my pain was not coming from the joint or the labral repair. In other words, if the pain continued after the injection it would actually be good news.

So far the pain hasn't resolved, but it might be too soon to tell. In a few weeks, if I'm continuing to have the same pain, we'll inject the bursa. It's acting like bursitis pain, so I'm hopeful that's all it is. Bursitis can be difficult to resolve, but it would be better than potentially having to perform another arthroscopic procedure.

Lastly, my mood continues to improve or at least hold fairly steady. I did notice a bit of a dip by the end of last week and over the weekend, which concerned me. I had my fifth ketamine infusion on Monday. I've been doing well since. I have a couple more infusions in this "acute series," and then I will begin a "maintenance series," which basically means there will be increased time between infusions until we find I need them at lesser defined intervals or don't need them at all.

Thinking back to how desperately low I was just a few weeks ago, I feel incredibly lucky, amazed and grateful to be feeling so much lighter today. I think returning to work may challenge my mental health as much as my physical health. I'm feeling hopeful but guarded about my prognosis; not quite ready to believe the recent relapse is totally resolved and not quite confident the increased stress of returning to work won't challenge my shaky stability. I won't know until I try. And it's time. I'm ready to try.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Facebook thinks Depression Marathon is Abusive??

Try to share one of my posts on Facebook and this is what you get.
Imagine my surprise when I attempted to Facebook message a friend one of my recent posts. Instead of messaging it to her and going along my merry way, I got the above pop-up window from Facebook. In case you can't read the fine print it states: Your message couldn't be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive. WTF??

The particular post I attempted to send was filled with hope and gratitude. Yup, sounds abusive to me. I attempted to send other posts just to see what would happen. I got the same message every time. Apparently my blog has been black-balled by Facebook...because it's abusive! This is so ridiculous! I have never, ever posted anything abusive on this blog. I've posted about difficult subjects like, um...depression, hopelessness and suicide, but abusive?? Never! Not once!

Being a pissed off blog author, I went to Facebook to try to figure out how to remedy this situation. First I read through their incredibly long list of "community standards" to see if my subject content might be to blame. Nope. Nothing there. There are no rules against writing about depression, hopelessness, suicide, running, gratitude, medication, hospitals, family, Mt. Everest, stigma, labral tears, fatigue, goals, disability, ketamine, my dog Jet, discrimination, or employment. Nothing. It's all okay.

There are very specific rules against hate speech, threatening speech, fake news, pictures of dismembered animals, bullying, and pictures of dead people, but nothing remotely related to depression, hopelessness, suicide, running, gratitude... Nothing related to anything I've ever authored on this blog. So how did I get black-balled by Facebook? And if someone complained, don't I have a right to know? Apparently not.

Here's the fun part. After hours of research over the course of two days, I found dozens of links to "report abuse," but not one bit of information on how to remove an erroneous ban on content. Not one! I read through hundreds of frequently asked questions, clicked on dozens of links, and searched endlessly for terms I thought might bring me to a helpful page. Nothing.

Finally, I resorted to clicking on the "Something went wrong" link and sent an email detailing my issue with an included screen shot. That was several days ago. Again, nothing. There is no sign Facebook even received the message I sent, much less read it, researched it, or took any action to resolve it. I'm beyond frustrated and just a bit (okay more than a bit) annoyed.

I'm wondering how long this ban on my content has been in force. I rarely share anything I've written on Facebook. If I want someone to read something, I usually just refer them to my blog. But I wonder if any of you have tried to share any of my posts on Facebook? If so, were you able to share? Please let me know. Or, if you're so inclined, let Facebook know this blog is not abusive and request they remove the ban on sharing its content. I'd provide you with a link as to where to complain, but like I said, I couldn't find one!

I'm pretty fired up about this. I'm angry. I'm also offended, and I feel totally powerless to change the situation. I write this blog to help others. If a reader finds a post they think might help a friend, and they're not allowed to share it? That's a nightmare! That's literally a life that could be saved, education that could help a family cope, or soothing reassurance that an isolated sufferer is not alone. It's a nightmare to think the purpose of my blog has been silenced because of a ridiculously inaccurate ban on content.

How, Facebook, did you determine to ban me? If there was one person who complained about something I wrote is that enough evidence to ban the sharing of all my content? Especially since I have never, ever posted anything abusive about or toward anyone! And again, why wasn't I at least notified and given a chance to respond? If the ban is due to some Facebook algorithm, is it because I write about depression and suicide? And if so, why or how is that abusive? Making a pretty big, uneducated leap there, Facebook! I'll say it again, WTF Facebook? (Wait, is that abusive?)

Any help any of you may provide to remedy this situation would be greatly appreciated. I don't know what else I can do.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Memories

I'm getting rid of stuff. I've been unloading stuff, on and off, for about 6 months now. It began when I felt so low in late October, early November. In fact, donating a SAD light to my psychiatrist when I was incredibly low was the impetus which led to her hospitalizing me. (For those of you who don't know, one sign of imminent suicide is when a person begins giving stuff, especially stuff they value, away.) She was correct to hospitalize me, but that's beside the point.

I kept giving stuff away after my hospitalization. I donated 3 big boxes of household items to the Salvation Army in December. I also gave away a bunch of clothes to a local homeless charity. I filled the garbage can with a ton of other crap, too. It felt great!

I'm back at it. Over the last few days I've been de-cluttering and organizing my upper floor, which is essentially just storage space. This house, which I moved into 16 years ago, is about half the size of my previous home, which I shared with my ex, so I've got a lot of stuff up there. I cleared out much of what I had about 6-7 years ago, had a huge garage sale, and sold almost all of it. Nevertheless, there's still more stuff! I don't like stuff.

The problem with the remaining stuff is it's laden with emotion. I've got long-unopened boxes up there; memorabilia from my high school and college sports days, photos from long ago relationships, photos from a complicated childhood, and writing--lots of writing. I had to pause and take a deep breath just to open a few of those boxes.

Each box flooded me with different memories. Organizing the photos compelled remembering the moment captured in each of them. Or, and this happened a lot, too, wondering what or who the heck was in that picture? I relived memories of thrilling wins and painful losses from both high school and college, mulled over old relationships, and rehashed much from my complicated, not-always-happy childhood. The pictures and memorabilia brought up a lot of old emotions.

The writing, tucked neatly into two folders, conjured up more emotion than I was able to handle. After scanning a couple of poems and sketches (I forgot I used to sketch) I had to put it away. I had barely scratched the surface, but I knew if I continued I would have become overwhelmed.

I began writing at age 15, which is when my first depressive episode began. That depression, which lasted through the end of high school, is documented in those folders upstairs. I kept writing through college and beyond, but usually only when times were tough. I have several legal pads filled with writing, a hand-written blog, I guess. I couldn't have handled reading it yesterday. Just finding it set me back a bit. It's now neatly tucked inside it's new and improved plastic bin. I plan to get it out again one day. I would like to read it, but now is not the time.

I've got a bit more to do upstairs, a few more memories to unpack. I think the most heavy remembering is done. I'll be very satisfied when I'm finished, when everything is neatly organized and in its place, and when I will no longer have to relive the saga that has been my life. I prefer to look forward rather than back.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Miracle?

Maybe it was the cold wind on my face. Maybe it was my heart beat decelerating, palpable in my chest, after just ducking out of a strapping headwind. Or perhaps it was the stillness of the monochromatic woods, sunshine beaming through leaf-less trees, as I whirred along on my bike. I'm not sure why it occurred right there, suddenly, at that precise moment Monday afternoon, in those woods 2 miles from my home, but it did. Like a shock from beyond I realized, "I feel better."

Probably it occurred because I felt joy. At that moment I was enjoying my bike ride. Rather than just doing, I was feeling. I may have even said it out loud, "I feel better."

Miracle is a strong word. What works for one may not work for another, and previous success doesn't guarantee future success. However, that moment Monday afternoon, a few hours after my third ketamine treatment, continues to feel miraculous. Ketamine, for me, has been a miracle.

As it did in 2017, ketamine once again yanked me back from the edge of the cliff just as I was beginning my forward lean. It's unfortunate I had to endure hours of frigid darkness and cold contemplation, staring into the abyss, prior to the ketamine lasso. But as it was in 2017, that's the reality today. It's beyond unfortunate.

I feel better. The reality of the limited availability and expense of ketamine will perhaps be debated in a future post but not today. Today I'm just going to be. I'm focusing on feeling. Joy is nice. Gratitude is nice. But even anger, sadness or fear would be okay. I'm so relieved to be feeling. I'm grateful to be feeling. I'm feeling again. That is a miracle.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Ketamine and Hip Update

It's been a long week. As are many of you, I am spending days upon days alone in my house. That very real isolation, combined with my inability to partake in my typical active coping skills, no walking, biking, hiking, or running, has made this episode of depression incredibly difficult. That being said, I am feeling a little bit of hope and relief right now.

I'm relieved because I began my ketamine treatment protocol at Mayo with two infusions this week. Each infusion takes 40 minutes, but it's about a 2 hour process in total. I had my first infusion on Tuesday and the second one yesterday. I felt a little more spacey, the most common side effect, during each infusion than I felt during my previous treatments in 2017 and 2019, but I think my mood is already improved today. I'm hopeful that continues. My third treatment will be Monday.

Today I had my weekly post-op follow-up visit with my physical therapist. My low mood and fatigue have impacted my right hip recovery, as I've been less motivated/willing/able to complete my required daily exercises. Over the last several days I've also had an uptick in my hip pain and a decrease in my range of motion. Worries about my hip have not helped my mood.

My physical therapist has been a savior. Out of necessity I have been honest about my depression and current battle with my mood. She's been compassionate, understanding, and willing to reassure me time and time again. Today she patiently and repeatedly reassured me that I'm doing okay, progressing well, and will return to competitive running. And that was after she skillfully worked on me for 45 minutes to improve my hip mobility and decrease my pain. The glacial pace of this recovery has been so challenging. I'm grateful I have a wonderful physical therapist to support me and keep me moving forward.

I hope to keep moving forward over the weekend. I want to get outside, maybe ride my ElliptiGo, which will hopefully boost my mood and strengthen my hip at the same time. I'm trying to keep looking ahead, which is more than I was able to do even a few days ago. One day at a time. One step at a time. I need to keep moving if I have any hope of getting my life back. And I'd really like to get my life back.

Monday, April 13, 2020

I heard it

I heard a sentence. One year ago. I was lying in my hospital bed. The depression which had deposited me there showed no sign of release. A hostage, I was, to my very own brain. And then the sentence. Out of the blue, clear as day, I heard the words. Those words, that sentence frightened me then, so I wrote about the experience. It's a lot less frightening now. It just is.


Tough day.
Tough day.
Again.



.