Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 20 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!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Inevitable?

Shocking. My mood is slipping. I'm worried but trying not to panic. 

Perhaps it was inevitable. I've got a lot going on, of course. I'm living 3.5 days in a room in Duluth and 3.5 days at my home in Rochester. I'm driving three and a half hours between the two cities every Tuesday afternoon and Friday evening. It's a nomadic existence, and unfortunately I'm not finding it conducive to my mental health.

At home I've got a long list of things to do, including packing, which I've yet to start. In Duluth, I'm working 3 long days in a row, which I'm not used to, and which I'm finding more difficult than anticipated. I don't have energy for anything else, so my physical health is slipping, too.

Feeling physically unwell is worrisome as well. I'm barely exercising, which makes me feel fat and slow. And when, in Rochester, I do find the energy to exercise, I don't have enough energy to reap any benefits. Then I feel worse, because slow, flat, difficult exercise sessions demoralize me.

It's a scary combination for me; excess stress combined with poor or no exercise. It's a combination which leaves me feeling dull, lethargic and low. I'm on day two of feeling lethargic and low, of getting nothing done, of sleeping more than necessary--that scares me.

I'm scared, but I'm also fortunate. I have a small house with a small amount of stuff, so I'm trying to allow myself time to just be. I don't necessarily have to start worrying yet. I don't move until the middle of May. If I don't get an ounce of packing done this weekend, I'll probably be okay. 

But you know how it is. I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop--mood-wise. Now that it's apparently dropped, how long will it weigh me down? That's the frightening question to which those of us with depression have no answer. We never know. I'm hoping I can work myself out of it quickly. Tomorrow. Tomorrow would be nice.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Lost and Found

Panic set in as soon as I put my hand in my pocket. Where there should have been two, there was only one. I was changing pants after Easter service. The first step in the process, for the last 15+ years, has always been to put my hand in my right pocket, retrieve my medallion and white chip and place them on the dresser. The medallion has changed yearly; same size, shape and weight but with a different year stamped on the front. The white chip has been the same since day one. So when I reached in my pocket and the white chip wasn't there, panic was exactly what I felt.

I've carried that white chip every day for 15 years. Since I received it on my first day of sobriety it's been in my pocket. It even spent 30 days in Nepal and trekked to Everest Base Camp with me a couple of years ago. I carry it because it reminds me where I've been. It centers me when life feels unmanageable, and it reassures me when I think I can't go on.

So when I reached in my pocket yesterday after church, I couldn't believe my white chip was gone. I rushed about the house, ran out to my car, and frantically searched. When I didn't find it, my heart sank. It must have dropped from my pocket during "parking lot worship," and I knew the chances of finding it now that the service was done and the lot cleared were slim to none. Nevertheless, I jumped in my car and raced back to the church.

Staff members were just finishing cleaning up the lot. I went to where I had been sitting. It wasn't there. It was extremely windy, so I searched the entire lot and surrounding area. When I didn't find it, I headed to the office and found the staff as they were heading out the door. Nobody had turned it in, but the church secretary quickly joined my search. She even helped me go through the trash!

Despite searching through two full garbage cans of trash from that morning's service, we didn't find my white chip. I couldn't believe the secretary was right by my side sifting through the trash, and I almost felt guilty when we didn't find it. She also helped me look through the church directory to figure out who may have been seated near me, hopeful that one of their kids may have picked it up. No luck.

I returned home empty handed. I figured I'd just have to get used to only having one medallion in my pocket from now on, but I was heartbroken. It was just a white plastic poker chip. It's once bright blue letters stating, "Keep Coming Back," had almost entirely worn off. It wouldn't have looked like much even if someone had picked it up. But it was so much more than it looked, at least to me.

So I went back. Two hours later I returned to the church parking lot, but this time I searched the front lot, too. I hadn't searched there previously because I assumed I had lost the chip while seated during the service in the rear lot. I had briefly spent time walking around the front lot as well, checking out some post-church activities. While there my dog, Jet, much to my horror because I didn't have a bag, pooped in the grass. Perhaps, in attempting to pick up Jet's deposit with a popcorn bag, I squatted and dropped my chip? 

It was worth a shot to take another look. I easily identified where Jet pooped, as there was still popcorn in the grass. My chip, however, was not there. I didn't want to give up, even though I was pretty sure it was a lost cause, so I decided to walk around a few more minutes. 

And that's all it took, another minute. There, sitting precariously on top of the grass about 50 feet from the popcorn spot, was my white chip. I couldn't believe my eyes! It must have blown around a bit, the wind was that strong, but thankfully it didn't blow away. My chip and I were reunited.

An entire post about finding a plastic chip? Yup. It was that big of a deal. I'm so glad I didn't give up and very grateful I found it.

Monday, March 29, 2021

It's Over...for now

After two and a half days, 60 showings, and 15 submitted offers, I sold my home. I am very fortunate. It was tough to choose a buyer from several excellent offers, but in the end I sold it very neatly to another single woman, healthcare provider, who has a dog. Perfect.

I feel really good selling it to her. It will be her first home, just as it was mine. She was one of four buyers who wrote me a note and included it with her offer. I know she's grateful and will love "my" house and take care of it, just as I did.

I sold my house for exactly 100K more than I paid for it 17 years ago. That's nearly double what I paid in 2004, which is not a bad return on my investment, right? It's not a totally done deal yet, though, as we have to wait for the appraisal to come through. My realtor, my buyer and I are all hopeful it will appraise for what the buyer offered, but there's no way to know for sure. Wait and see, that's all I can do now.

No matter what my house appraises for, though, I'll be okay. I feel more at peace today than I have felt in weeks. After the appraisal I'll do what needs to be done, if anything, and we'll get this deal finalized. My house will become hers.

There is a SOLD sign in my front yard. It's weird. I've lived here a very long time. I've lived a lot of life in this house. I got sober in this house. I began writing this blog in this house. I learned to live successfully with depression in this house. I loved and cared for two dogs in this house. I ran 26 of my 28 marathons while living in this house. I developed into a comfortable-in-her-own-skin adult in this house. I grew up.

I grew up in this house.

I definitely grew up in this house. It's going to be difficult to leave.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Better to Sell

Twenty eight. That's how many scheduled house showings I had one day prior to my house going on the market. My house has now been on the market less than 48 hours, and I believe there are a total of 56 showings. More are being scheduled, and 8 offers have already been submitted. My house will be open for 8 more hours of showings tomorrow, and that's it. Then I get to decide who gets my home. It's much, much better to be a seller than a buyer right now!

I knew my house would be attractive to many. I've updated it, taken good care of it, and I've kept it neat and uncluttered. It's simple, and bright, and clean. It's just the right size for 1-3 people, and it's a perfect starter home. I knew it would bring buyers, but I wasn't expecting this! 

What's happening with my house is beyond expectations. I'm far away in Duluth, thankfully, because potential buyers have been walking through my house in 15 to 30 minute increments since showings began yesterday. I had 3 offers in the first 8 hours. Now I have 8? Crazy. Good for me crazy, but still... crazy.

Today I got an offer which included a letter from the potential buyer. The buyer wanted me to know how much she loved my home, how perfect it would be for her, and how grateful she would be if I chose her to be the next owner. What?? Totally not expecting that. I appreciated it, though, as I would feel better selling to someone who will cherish it as much as I have. I kind of hope she has the highest bid.

I'll return home tomorrow evening. Probably go through the offers with my realtor on Sunday. I'll be relieved when it's over. I've hated the idea of hundreds of strangers walking around in my space, but I knew it was necessary. It will be nice to get back to just living in my house for a few days. 

Just live in it. That's what I'm going to allow myself to do for a couple of days after the negotiating is done. Packing will begin soon enough. I feel like I need to just sit and be in my space a bit longer. I'm sad to be leaving my house. I guess I need to say goodbye before I start packing up this chapter of my life.

And that's exactly what it was; a long chapter. Like a good book, I don't want it to end. Yet, at the same time, I'm curious to turn the page.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

It's officially official

After several stressful days, and after beginning a search for apartments rather than a house, and after negotiating with a real estate agent who wasn't negotiating in good faith, I stood my ground, was ready to walk away, and finally bought a new house. It's official. I am a new home owner in Duluth, Minnesota.

I eventually got the word the sellers agreed to my final terms late yesterday afternoon. It was a ridiculously frustrating experience. I withstood empty threats by the sellers' real estate agent. (I think he thought he could goad me into a panic-based decision.) I doubt the sellers even knew what he was saying. I was so disgusted with the whole process I was ready and willing to walk away and give up looking to buy for awhile.

I went so far as to begin looking for apartments yesterday. I had even preliminarily secured a one bedroom rental through a real estate connection. When the word came that the sellers had signed the contract, I wasn't sure how to feel. I'm happy, of course, but I had come to the point of looking forward to the simplicity of renting as well. I dislike throwing money away on rent, though, so owning my home is certainly a better financial option.

The signed contract set into motion getting my current home listed rapidly. I spent last night and this morning cleaning and de-cluttering like a madwoman. The photographer took pictures just before noon. The house will be revealed to the marketplace tomorrow.

After dealing with the listing particulars, I began the loan process with my lender. This afternoon I signed more documents than I care to count, and gathered more documentation from my files than I thought I'd be able to find. I'm officially tired.

My brain is tired. My body is weary. My emotions are frayed. My house will be open for showings on Thursday. I'm hoping to have it sold by this weekend. I'm not sure where my emotions will go then.

I love my space. I am really comfortable here. I've been in this house for almost 17 years. It's mine. I've made it mine. I hate the idea of people wandering through it, especially since I will be several hundred miles away. Thankfully, if the market continues as is, I won't have to endure weeks of people popping in and out. Hopefully, by Saturday evening it will all be over.

Then there will be nothing left to do but pack... ugh. This entire process can't be over soon enough. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

I'm back

Wow, I apologize for being away for so long. I don't like to have large gaps between my posts, but it's Saturday evening, and this is the first time in the last 8 days I've had time to sit down and type. I haven't even had time to open my laptop on several days. Life continues to be crazy busy!

I'm in negotiations with another home owner/seller. They've accepted my offer (only 23K over asking price), but the inspection again revealed several issues. Fortunately, they are willing to fix many of the concerns, but are unwilling, as of yet, to fix the two biggest, most expensive issues. I'm not willing to pay a premium price for a sub-premium property, so we're still negotiating.

If it turns out, however, we can't come to an agreement, I'll be okay. The house is nice, has lots of updates, and seems to be in a good neighborhood, but it is lacking in one key area. I will not have the cherished view of Lake Superior I so desperately desire. If I'm going to live in Duluth, Minnesota, I'd really love a view of my favorite big lake. 

The simple act of gazing out over Lake Superior brings me immense peace and serenity, the likes of which I find in no other place. Of course, Lake Superior is almost always prominently visible whenever one travels in Duluth, but seeing it out my kitchen window (for example), while sipping my morning coffee, would be infinitely more enjoyable than catching glimpses while driving. I can already do that. 

I did a lot of driving by Lake Superior, as well as hundreds of miles of countryside, over the last several days. I worked my third and fourth days in Duluth Thursday and Friday and then returned home last night so I could work at Mayo Clinic today. It's nice to be working again, but I'll be happy when things settle down.

Despite my hectic, stressful schedule, I'm feeling well. Through all of the chaos, stress and uncertainty my mood has held. I'm a bit surprised but very grateful. 

I had a ketamine infusion on Tuesday. The prescribing psychiatrist and I considered making my success with intermittent, maintenance infusions a case study for the psychiatry journals. We're really flying blind with maintenance infusions, as there hasn't been any research, that we know of, which has addressed what we're doing. It's been one year since my last debilitating, life-threatening relapse. Obviously, something's been working.

I hope it continues working. I hope I continue to feel well. I'm going to need all the mental stamina I can muster to get through this demanding, unwieldy time. Thanks for riding along with me, my friends.

Friday, March 12, 2021

UN-housed

If it wasn't happening to me, I wouldn't believe it. From over-the-moon high to river bottom low went I. The house I purchased just over one week ago has been un-purchased; the result of an inspection which found multiple significant issues, not the least of which was a structurally unsound garage which will have to be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. There were also issues with the roof, potential mold in the attic, and a host of smaller items including electrical and plumbing concerns.

I arrived in Duluth Tuesday morning for my 2:00 inspection. As I walked through the house with the inspector my mood went from excited to demoralized. I knew I was likely losing the opportunity to own a great house in a great location with all the bells and whistles I had hoped to find. Even if the owners fix the roof and the mold, I cannot afford to build a garage. And in Duluth, Minnesota, I need a garage. So sad.

That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, the sadness converted to hope and excitement. A new house came on the market, not far from the un-purchased house, and it had a few more bells and whistles than the un-purchased house, including a large garage! Plus, it was less expensive. My realtor, friend and I rushed to go see it. 

The house had been on the market less than 20 hours when we walked in. Nevertheless, the stack of realtor cards, left from previous potential buyers, numbered in the high teens! For two days, that house was shown every half hour. Not surprisingly, there were multiple offers. I put together an amazing offer which maxed out at $32,100 OVER the asking price. Late last night I found out I didn't get it. I was shocked. Demoralization set in once again.

Brushing aside the demoralization, I'll be making the rounds of 2-4 new-to-the-market homes tomorrow morning. I say 2-4 houses because one of the houses I had hoped to see, it hit the market yesterday, sold this afternoon. The real estate market is nuts. Sorry, there is no more appropriate term. It's just nuts.

Did I mention I began a new job in the midst of this chaos. I worked my first day in my new skilled nursing facility yesterday. I saw 4 patients today. I'm learning a totally different documentation system, so today was challenging to say the least. I asked more questions than I can count, felt lost more often than I can enumerate, and got lost a few times, too! Starting a new job is so tough. I hate feeling clueless, but I know I have to work through it in order to feel competent again. 

That's it for now, friends. I'm exhausted. Jet and I are getting used to our temporary housing situation. The woman with whom we are staying is lovely, but it's stressful being in a stranger's home, with very few of our belongings, while trying to establish new routines and function (while trying to buy a house, while learning a new job, while living far away from my usual support system...). 

We're heading home for a few days tomorrow. I can't wait to sit in my chair and do nothing more than veg out with some no-brain television. I'm looking forward to soaking in as much familiarity as I possible can. I'll be back here soon enough. Good night, my friends.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

A HOUSE

I bought a new house. I bought a new house. I bought a new house! 

Pending an inspection, I am the new owner of a house in the middle of Duluth, with a limited view of my favorite, big lake (Lake Superior), a fenced in yard with doggy door, 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths, and a bonus hot-tub built into the deck. 

I only had to spend $18,000 over the asking price to get it, but it checked every box on my list of wants, so I went for it. (I may need to get a roommate, but if so, that shouldn't be a problem, as the house is located very near my alma mater and another larger university.) When I asked my tax-accountant/ financial-planner sister-in-law how much I should offer, as I was concerned about future affordability, she quipped, "Offer just below what would make you puke!" Okay, fair enough. That's what I did.

This all happened over a 16 hour period, from video tour to offer to ownership, between Monday evening and mid-day Tuesday. I've hardly had a moment to sit down since, and I still haven't seen the house in person. That won't happen until next week.

Instead of traveling to Duluth to see my new house, I've been frantically completing projects and cleaning my current home to get it ready to sell. In fact, I had a young couple walk through yesterday already. Did I mention the housing market is off the rails??

Speaking of off the rails... I've got more big changes ahead. After the house inspection on Tuesday, I'll be staying in Duluth to begin my new job on Thursday! With all of this change and stress (even good stress is stress), I'm pretty impressed I've been holding it together thus far. My energy and mood have been good. But I'm still worried about what's ahead.

Jet and I will be moving into our new, temporary home in Duluth on Tuesday. We're renting a room in an apartment. The woman offering us the space is wonderful, though we don't know each other beyond one in-person meeting and several phone calls. Jet has never met her, and he doesn't handle environmental changes very well, so I'm worried about him... and, well, me.

I'll be beginning my new job on Thursday; in a new facility, with new coworkers, with unfamiliar policies and documentation procedures, in a new city... no stress there! Should be a breeze, right? Ha! I'm glad I have my next ketamine infusion scheduled for the following week. I think the timing will be perfect.

I'm feeling excited and anxious, terrified and thrilled, boisterous and reticent, enthusiastic and reluctant. I'm grateful for the new opportunities even as I mourn the soon-to-be past. My head is spinning, but my heart is full. I'm a lucky woman.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A poem. An experience.

At the commencement of Lent, the church I've been attending (via Zoom) began sending out daily devotionals. The following poem hit my inbox as I sat sipping my coffee on a Friday morning 9 days ago. 

The Guest 

Washed into the doorway

by the wake of traffic,

he wears humanity

like a third-hand shirt

--blackened with enough

of Manhattan's dirt to sprout

a tree, or poison one.

His empty hand has led him

where he has come to.

Our differences claim us.

He holds out his hand,

in need of all that’s mine.


And so we’re joined, as deep

as son and father. His life

is offered me to choose.


Shall I begin servitude

to him? Let this cup pass.

Who am I? But charity must

suppose, knowing no better,

that this man is a man fallen

among thieves, or come

to this strait by no fault

--that our difference

is not a judgment,

though I can afford to eat

and am made his judge.


I am, I nearly believe,

the Samaritan who fell

into the ambush of his heart

on the way to another place.

My stranger waits, his hand

held out like something to read,

as though its emptiness

is an accomplishment.

I give him a smoke and the price

of a meal, no more


--not sufficient kindness

or believable sham.

I paid him to remain strange

to my threshold and table,

to permit me to forget him--

knowing I won't. He's the guest

of my knowing, though not asked.

                           ~Wendell Berry


This poem went straight to my heart. Profound and beautiful, I continued to contemplate it as I ran errands later that day. That's when she came into view, standing at a stop sign between a strip-mall and Target.

Just off of Highway 52, it's a busy intersection, though there's rarely cross traffic and therefore rarely more than a rolling pause required before proceeding through. It was cold. She was wearing a puffy ski jacket with matching pants, a hat, hood, mittens and boots. Her sign read, "Homeless. Please help."

She didn't look homeless, I thought. In fact, she looked a lot like me, though I don't own such quality ski pants. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Questions about how she got there co-mingled with Berry's poem in my head. Despite the long line of vehicles preceding me, I had less than 30 seconds to decide what I wanted to do.

I don't usually give money to individuals standing on corners. I prefer to donate to organizations, like the local food shelf, instead. I decided I wanted to help, but pressure from the long line of vehicles behind me, none of whom expected me to thwart their path to Target, precluded me from assisting. With an ache in my heart I paused at the stop sign and continued through.

Continuing forward I felt sick. I questioned not only how it was she ended up homeless, but who was I to drive right past? The image of that woman did not leave me for days. I shared the poem and my experience widely. I considered writing about it here. That woman, the poem, the questions about her situation, they stayed with me for days. And then I moved on. I forgot.

I forgot until I couldn't. Yesterday, at the same intersection, I came upon her again. Same woman, same clothing, same sign... There's no reason that couldn't be me, I thought. With the heavy traffic, I again drove past, but this time I circled around and parked in a lot right behind her. As I searched for cash, I called her over.

It's odd. I just realized I never asked her her name, but I did inquire about her situation. She told me she had moved with her father from another state. Her father needed medical care at Mayo Clinic, so they moved to Rochester to get it. She told me about working, owning a home, and identity theft. She said, "You think it can never happen to you..." her voice trailing to a whisper.

She mentioned living in hotels, but when I asked where she was staying she pointed to a pick-up truck. "Where's your father now," I asked? "Is he getting the care he needs?" Again, she pointed to the truck. 

I handed her some cash and told her how sorry I was. Related that I, too, had been through some difficult circumstances, how I had needed to utilize the local food shelf to eat, and how lucky I felt to have not lost my home. She nodded knowingly. "Good luck," I said, as she thanked me and walked away.

There but for the grace of God... That's what I thought. I felt sad and inadequate. I wanted to do more but didn't know where to begin. I started my car. I watched as she handed the cash through the window of that pick-up truck, as her father sat up from his reclined seat to receive it. I drove away. Sad, inadequate, humbled and grateful, "There but for the grace of God go I.

Next time I see her, perhaps I'll begin by asking her her name.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

One of 11

I looked at it via video feed from my realtor's cell phone. Without even walking through it in person I bid on the house. I lost. The real estate market is absolutely bonkers! After only two days on the market, I was one of 11 bidders for a small home near Duluth, MN. Eleven! In two days!

The house was small, and it wasn't in my preferred area, but it had what I needed and included a large, heated 2-car garage and a sauna. It wouldn't have been a forever-home, but it would have allowed me to move to Duluth and look for either land on which to build or a forever home with a view of Lake Superior within the next few years. So it was worth it to place an offer.

I bid $6,100 over the asking price because I knew the market was red hot and expected competition. I wasn't expecting I'd be competing with 10 other people, however! That was surprising. I'll be curious to hear the dollar amount of the winning offer.

If the property had been more of a perfect match, I would have bid at least $10K over the asking price, but I figured I'd feel okay whether I got it or not, and I do. I'm not overly disappointed. I know something else will come along, but bidding against 10 other buyers on a less-than-spectacular house makes me worried for the time when a spectacular house I really desire comes along. 

In other news, I finally finished painting my beast of an upper floor today. That was a much larger project than I expected. In the end, those damn popcorn walls and ceilings sucked up 4 gallons of paint! And I do believe my right arm may fall off anytime now. I still have to put everything back in place up there, but it sure looks a lot better, so I'm happy.

With my new job beginning soon, it feels good to finish projects around here. I'm feeling a bit more settled than I did when I wrote my last post. I've got many changes heading my way, and I am feeling anxious about the unknowns in the future. Stress and change have precipitated depression relapses in the past, so I think it's natural to be concerned. Nevertheless, forward is the only way to go. As with the house, I have to trust it will all work out. 



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