Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
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!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Post-op ER

After sitting together for more than 10 hours, my friend Wendy finally felt okay to depart. On her way out the door she wryly smiled and said, "This could only happen to you." I laughed and said, "I know." After 10 hours we could find some humor in my situation. It wasn't so funny earlier. Thirteen hours after I checked in to the ER Friday afternoon, I got home. It was 5:20 AM Saturday morning.

My right hip surgery went "perfectly," according to my surgeon. He did a lot of bony work, constructed a new labrum out of a cadaver tendon, and sewed it neatly into its new home in my hip. I was discharged from the surgery center before noon and arrived home around 1:15 PM Friday.

My brother helped me set up a few things prior to leaving for his home. I sat in my recliner to ice my hip and rest. A few hours later I made the 15 foot walk from recliner to kitchen, got a bit to eat, opened my computer and sat down in the very spot in which I am currently planted. It was 4:15 PM. All was well.

Well...maybe not well. Within a few minutes of sitting down my right leg began to feel odd. My right groin, where much of my surgical pain was located, felt tight and full. I tried to adjust my right leg and shockingly discovered I couldn't lift my right foot off the floor! With panic setting in I tried again and again to move my foot. Nothing. I had lost all ability to dorsiflex (pull my foot up toward the ceiling, as you do when walking on your heels) my right foot. As a PT I knew this could be a medical emergency. I could be having a stroke!

Numbness began setting in to portions of my right leg as I made my way to the bathroom to check my face. I looked for telltale signs of a stroke but fortunately found none. I did a quick scan of the rest of my body. Again, fortunately, my symptoms seemed to be confined to my right leg.

Foot drop is typically caused by neurological impairment--stroke and nerve impingement most commonly. But I didn't appear to be having a stroke. I also had no pain so a lumbar disc protrusion was most unlikely. I know what a disc exploding feels like. In fact, I still have a bit of foot drop on my left side as a result of my disc extrusion in 2017. This was not that. Nothing hurt.

I called the surgical service, left a message, and then called a friend to take me to the emergency room. The surgeon's PA phoned as I was en route to the ER. His comment, which I will never forget, was, "In over 6000 hip procedures, we've never had anything like this happen. Keep going to the ER."

I could write a whole book on my frustration with Mayo Clinic's emergency room, but I don't think I have the energy to relive it even 4 days later, so here are the low-lights.

*When I arrived the entire waiting room was full and there were 3-4 people at the check-in desk complaining about how they had been waiting for 6+ hours.
*Despite my protestations that this could be a serious emergency, that my nerve could die if compressed too long, the staff could only apologize and send me back to the waiting room.
*I waited with my friend Wendy for 7 hours, as my symptoms worsened, before I got called back to a treatment room.
*It took 8 hours to actually see an MD.
*The MD was good and did put in a neurological consult.
*The ER was too full, they said, so they moved me from my treatment room to an "observation area" in the bowels of the ER. I agreed to the move, but later discovered this dark corner of the ER where there was one nurse sitting at a computer, where I wasn't checked on unless I initiated the contact, and where I had no access to a call light is exactly where they place "behavioral health" patients to live, sometimes for days, when there are no psychiatric beds available. Coincidence? I'll never know.
*The neurologist, who remarked he had "never treated anyone back here before," was excellent. He listened to me, performed a complete and thorough neurological exam (where we discovered I could now move my foot a bit), talked to me like a professional, discussed several possible causes of this weird set of symptoms, and ordered an MRI. It was just before 2:00 AM.
*I laid alone in that room in silence for another hour before I dragged myself out of the bed to inquire. The nurse knew nothing about an MRI, and in the next breath informed me they don't perform MRIs overnight in the ER. She said I'd have to stay there overnight in order to have an MRI "ordered" in the morning.
*After I protested, a CT scan with contrast dye was ordered. I got a CT at 3:00 AM. By the time of the CT I had been lying flat on my back for approximately 4 hours and my symptoms were thankfully, though still inexplicably, resolving.
*The neurologist returned at 4:00 AM to tell me the CT didn't show anything but the most likely cause was, as we had discussed earlier, a bleed or blood clot compressing my femoral plexus, the cluster of nerves in my groin which supply the leg. He recommended a neurology follow-up for MRI and EMG studies. I thanked him. He was so good.
*I was discharged around 4:30 AM, exhausted and in pain, 12 hours and 15 minutes after I had arrived.

When I left the ER, thankfully my symptoms had pretty much resolved. I could dorsiflex my right ankle and the numbness from my buttocks to my toes was almost gone. I waited 30 minutes for a cab prior to the 10 minute drive home. I got home at 5:20 AM.

Interestingly, during that 10 minute drive my right leg symptoms began to return. Sitting, it appeared, was not a doable position. The explanation of something compressing the nerves in my groin made even more sense in light of this new evidence.

Things have gradually been improving. This is the first day I've been able to sit here at my computer without my leg getting numb. Mayo has not called yet to set up the neurology follow-up (shocking!), but I'm hopeful I won't need the appointment after all. My groin area still feels full. My leg still feels different if I sit for a long period (like right now), but overall I'm doing well. I know things could have turned out much, much worse. I'm so grateful they didn't.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Pre-op Jitters

Part of me just wants it to be over. It will be so much easier when it's done, I think. I hope. The waiting is nearly done, and although I'm anxious, I'm also relieved.

I have to arrive at the surgery center at 6:45 AM tomorrow morning. My hip surgery is set for 8:15. I hope to be home by mid-afternoon. My brother is arriving tonight in order to drive me, in the predawn darkness, the 90 minutes it will take to get to the center. It's going to be a long day for him. I'm grateful for his willingness to take the day off and escort me.

It seems like I've been preparing for this day everyday for the past month. I had a long list of things to get done prior to spending the next 4 weeks on crutches, non-weightbearing on my right leg. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning and laid there fretting about all the details, some done and some not done, up to this point.

Fortunately I finished a lot of what I wanted to prior to surgery. I worked hard to finish the basement remodel and upstairs painting, which included multiple visits to Home Depot and hours upon hours of hands on work in my house. It wasn't easy, but the end is in sight. I rehung all of my artwork on my freshly painted walls today. Painting a couple of bookcases, that's all I have left, and I'm hopeful I can do that on one leg over the next few weeks.

This blog post is the final item on my long to-do list today. It's 9 PM and this is the first chance I've had to sit here and write. Besides rehanging all of my pictures, I cleaned the entire house (even dusted, yuck!), washed everything in sight (and I mean everything, including rugs, dog beds, sheets, blankets, towels, clothing, and anything else I didn't want to have to deal with for a month), went grocery shopping, spent too much money at Costco, picked up paperwork from my doctor, shoveled and snow-blew the sidewalks and driveway, filled my gas tank, went to a meeting, and did a 4 minute, 30 second plank (more on that in the coming days). 

I guess I do have one thing left to do. I have to shower with an anti-bacterial soap tonight before bed and again tomorrow morning. I'm worried about getting up early, not eating after midnight, the likelihood of a caffeine headache tomorrow morning, and of course the outcome of the surgery. I have to have faith I will be okay. Worrying I won't does no good whatsoever. That being said, I'll take any thoughts or prayers you'd like to offer.

Off to shower. I'll let you know how everything turns out.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Internalized Stigma

Stigma: A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person.

I made an unhappy discovery this morning. I'm holding onto stigma. The very thing I preach against in others reared its ugly head this morning, and I was all alone. I was working at the very same computer I'm using to compose this blog post right now, and suddenly it was there, stigma.

I'm a bit ashamed about this self-discovery. I thought I was way past internalized stigma, but I guess not. Here's what happened. In preparation for my upcoming hip surgery I was asked to fill out an online "pre-op survey" by my surgeon's team. It was all the basic information any surgical team would want to know prior to operating.

The survey consisted of a bunch of yes or no questions. So instead of asking me to list my medical history, it asked if I had this illness or that illness. High blood pressure, breathing difficulties, and cardiac conditions were all covered, of course. Before they put me to sleep I guess they'd like to know if I'm going to wake up. Like I said it was pretty standard stuff.

It felt like pretty standard stuff, that is, until they asked if I had been hospitalized in the past year. Of course if I answered yes, as was twice the case, I was expected to fill out the next little box, a box which asked, "What for?" Damn it! It took me less than two seconds to rationalize that my two stints in the hospital for inpatient mental health treatment were not pertinent to disclose, so I answered no and moved on.

Despite moving on, I felt a pang of shame and guilt almost immediately. I'm not a fan of lying, and I had just lied. The rationalizations quickly followed: how will it help the anesthesiologist to know I was hospitalized for depression? It won't! They don't mean mental health hospitalizations anyway. They're just looking for any recent significant medical issues...You get the idea.

I was doing well with the rationalizations until I was thwarted by the dreaded medication list. UGH! I knew this one would be way more difficult to rationalize my way out of. There was no way around it, I would have to list my laundry list of medications. I hate the medication list!

I reluctantly filled out the med list, but that didn't stop me from attempting to build up an indignant rage all the while. In the end I couldn't even do that. The medication list is necessary. I could lie, but that might put me at significant risk. The anesthesiologist needs to know what medications I'm taking in order to prevent any dangerous interactions with the meds he'll use during my surgery. So I filled it out, but I hated to do it.

And why do I hate it? Because it reveals I have more than a melancholy mood once in awhile. I take a cocktail of mental-health-related medications. Severe depression will be quite obvious to any MD observer. But here's the thing, why did I care??? Why did I feel so uncomfortable with revealing my medications?

My shame and discomfort surprised me. Aren't I the one who has preached about depression being an illness like any other, an illness which can and is successfully treated with hospitalizations and medications? Isn't that the crux of what I've been writing about for the last 11 years? Treat me and my depression as you would treat anyone else with any other chronic illness. I'm sure I've said or written that at least 1000 times since I began this blog.

Unfortunately, I'm also the one who began this blog partly because of the misinformed, inequitable and downright discriminatory treatment I experienced while seeking help for depression. But is that just another excuse? (I'm protecting myself by lying about my hospitalizations, right? I'll be treated differently after they see my list of medications, right?) The bottom line is I was afraid to fill out the pre-op survey honestly, and I feel shame about that. Whether my fears were rational or not, I still feel guilty. I feel like I, of all people, should be above such concerns. But clearly, I'm not.

Stigma.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

One thing leads to another, and another, and another

Last Spring I finally decided to finish my basement remodel project, which I began over 10 years ago. I had one finished room and a half bath in my basement when I bought this house 15 years ago. After the basement flooded in 2007, however, I spent months tearing everything out; the finished room, the bathroom and the unfinished storage space. I'm allergic to mold so tearing everything out was a necessity. I received some flood assistance to remodel, but that money ran out before the project was finished. Last Spring I decided I had the time, energy and funds to tackle the project once again.

Ten years ago the plumbing, electrical, walls and ceilings were finished. I needed flooring, trim, doors, and bathroom fixtures. Fortunately, I met a handyman I trusted through work. Unfortunately, that handyman, whom I hired in the Spring, quit before he ever started. That was in July. It took until September to find another semi-retired, competent professional. I hired him and a flooring guy to finish the work.

They were both busy until November, so the work didn't start until after Thanksgiving. It took through December and into January for them to finish, not because there was a ton to do, but because they were simultaneously busy with other projects. Now it's done. Two days ago my basement was finished. It's so cool!

Well, you know how one thing leads to another? With the new tile on the basement floor the wooden stairs leading to the basement looked awful. So I hired the flooring guy to also tile the stairs, and since the stairs descend from the kitchen, with it's well worn linoleum, I had to ask him to do the kitchen floor, too. That work will begin tomorrow.

Once I decided to tile the kitchen I could no longer ignore my walls, which I painted 15 years ago. So I decided to paint the kitchen. But since I was painting the kitchen a lighter color, I had to paint the trim, too! I mean it was brown. I like white. Besides, my kitchen is tiny. How hard could it be?

It turned out painting the trim was a very time consuming, back-breaking little project! I had to sand it, but even with sanding the paint just wouldn't stick. My trim took 3, and in some places 4 coats of paint! Painting the ceiling, walls and trim, a project I thought would take a few days, turned into a project which stretched into 2 weeks!

At least one full day of that two weeks was spent changing outlets and covers. With the new white trim and lighter colored walls the damn almond-colored switches and outlets looked like hell, so I had to change those, too. My hands ached after removing each outlet and switch and rewiring each in order to change them from almond to white. I had to ice my hands that night, but they look a lot better now.

Unfortunately, despite all of that work not every part of my kitchen looks better, so my kitchen actually isn't done. I discovered way too late the new wall color almost matches the counter top, backsplash, and cabinet color. I need some contrast. I did some research. The least costly and labor intensive solution seems to be changing the backsplash. I picked out the product, but that project will have to wait until well after my hip surgery.

I'm trying to get everything else done before my hip surgery on the 24th. After painting my kitchen the plan was to repaint my living room, hallways, bedroom and all of the trim. When I made that plan in late November, I had no concern about getting it all done before January 24th, but after my kitchen experience I'm ashamed to say I threw in the towel. I decided to hire someone to do the rest.

The painting will begin Tuesday or Wednesday so I spent my weekend removing everything from my walls, emptying shelves, storing knickknacks, moving furniture away from the walls, and cleaning everywhere. Phew! I'm tired. This is the first time I sat down today.

By the time the flooring and painting is finished I think I'll have just enough time to replace the furniture, hang the pictures, unpack and replace my stuff prior to surgery. Now I understand why I let this basement project sit for 10 years! It will be nice, however, to have everything done when I'm sitting in my house for 4 weeks doing little to nothing; nothing that is except enjoying my new floors, walls, outlets and trim.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Cited

My plagiarism checker found an interesting little tidbit the other day. It turns out, in what was not a case of plagiarism, I was cited in a scientific journal article. I always thought I might publish a scientific research project someday, especially when I was master's level student, but I never thought I'd be a source for scholarly material in a study authored by someone else. Kind of cool.

In a 2016 edition of The Journal of Qualitative Health Research, a few snippets from a few of my early blog posts were cited in a research study titled, Depression Narratives in Blogs: A Collaborative Quest for Coherence. I was unable to access the full research article online so I emailed the author. He very kindly sent me a copy of his study. It's interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

Blogs like mine are so personal. It's weird to think of them in a scientific light. In this study the author, Don M. Kotlier, takes a very academic look at depression blogs written specifically by women. I'm honored he found material of use in my blog, especially since he chose only 5 blogs to use in his analysis. Out of all the depression blogs written by women in 2009-2010, mine was one of the five chosen. Nice.

If you'd like to read the study I think you're out of luck, unless you want to pay for it. I found the study interesting, and I'm humbled he used some of my work in his research. My only complaint is I wish he'd have done it a few years later. I've grown up a lot since 2008. My posts have improved a lot since 2008, too. Selfish reasons for sure, but also a reminder of how much I've changed and matured since I began this blog 11 years ago.

Eleven years. I never expected this little idea to continue so long. And I've no idea how much longer it will continue. But hey, getting cited in a scientific journal is, as I've already stated, pretty damn cool.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

New year, New surgery

I believe it was last January. I landed a broad jump in an exercise class and knew immediately I shouldn't have done that. It was a tiny twinge. So slight, most people wouldn't have even noticed, but I quickly put it together. The landing position followed by the tiny twinge certainly meant I had just re-torn my right hip labrum. I hung my head and prayed desperately, "no, no, no, no, no!"

Unfortunately, my prayers went unanswered. An MRI confirmed it. My thrice-repaired right hip labrum was torn...again. I put a call in to the skilled surgeon who had cared for my hip for the last 20 years. I was devastated to learn he had retired. You're probably thinking, "What's the big deal? Go to another surgeon." Well, that's what I did, but it wasn't that simple.

Good surgeons who do labral repairs are few and far between. It's an arthroscopic procedure which is apparently quite technical. I've been told the learning curve for this surgery is quite long, therefore not many US docs take the time to learn it. In fact, when I originally sought out a diagnosis in 1997 Mayo Clinic orthopedic doctors were so clueless they suggested I seek out a psychiatrist! And this was before I had depression!

Fortunately, I'm a physical therapist. My first continuing education class as a new professional was on the hip. I was even more fortunate the class was instructed by a brilliant therapist from Belgium, where they had been diagnosing and repairing labral tears for years. Halfway through the first day the instructor began describing my symptoms to a tee! After four years of unexplained pain I finally knew what was wrong. It took the instructor about two seconds to confirm my diagnosis with a simple special test.

The instructor told me he usually referred US citizens to Belgium for surgery, but I was lucky. There were, at that time, two surgeons in the United States who performed arthroscopic labral repairs; one in Texas and the other in Minnesota. Dr. Palmer in Stillwater, Minnesota, repaired my torn labrum three times, most recently in 2014.

Now five years later, and after some nifty maneuvering by my local orthopedic doctor, I now have a new surgeon in Minneapolis. I'm lucky once again. He just happens to be a hip expert and one of the most sought after hip surgeons in the United States. Since this is my fourth tear (the labrum is a fragile little piece of cartilage, especially once it's been torn) my new surgeon, Dr. Larson, told me it was no longer repairable. What???

Thankfully, he interrupted my rising panic by telling me he'd just replace it. What??? Yup, I'm going to get a new right hip labrum, a cadaver labrum, transplanted on January 24th. It's an arthroscopic procedure, but it will require an extended healing time. That's why I put off the surgery, with Dr. Larson's blessing, as running doesn't cause or worsen a labral tear, until after my planned marathon in October.

As you all know I missed my marathon due to that nasty respiratory illness. And I couldn't run for an extended period of time due to that damn respiratory illness so I began lifting weights. That apparently caused more damage. I've been battling pain since mid-October. So...surgery.

I'm glad I'm getting it done because even my running is being affected now. I'm hopeful this will resolve my hip issue once and for all, but I'm concerned about the recovery time. I will be non-weight bearing for at least 4 weeks, and I will not be allowed to return to running for 3 to 4 months. I'm going in with eyes open knowing there will be risks to my mood (financial stress and no exercise). I'm going to do my best to get through it, but I have a feeling you'll be hearing more from me during that time.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

14 today

I don't remember my last drink. I don't recall one moment where I thought, "This is going to be my last drink." In fact, after being sober for a bit, I wasn't even sure on which date that last drink took place. As near as I could figure it was December 28, 2005, (give or take) so that's the date I went with. Fourteen years ago today I took what would be my last drink.

I'm sober. But more importantly, I'm in recovery. I'm in recovery "from a seemingly hopeless state of the mind and body." That state is alcoholism. I'm an alcoholic. I will always be an alcoholic, but without continued work on my mind and body there is absolutely no guarantee I will always be in recovery.

Recovery is actually different than being sober. Anyone can get sober. I did it a bunch of times. I stopped drinking for days, weeks, months, and even years in the past. I was sober a lot. It's easy to stop. The key to recovery is to stay stopped. That's the piece I never understood despite years of accumulated "sober" time.

It takes willpower to stop drinking. It takes a willingness to change to recover. It also takes acceptance, humility, honesty, and guts. Every time I stopped drinking I had the opportunity to recover, but I never took it. I thought removing the alcohol was enough. Funny thing was, removing the alcohol did nothing to change my personality, and I was miserable.

Eventually it became a conundrum. I was miserable when I drank. I was miserable when I didn't. It wasn't until December 28th, 2005, that I accepted the possibility I might need to change something more than the alcohol. I might need to change me. I didn't leap into this thing with enthusiasm, not by a long shot! But I was so tired of feeling miserable and confused, I finally became willing to look at other possibilities.

At that time I was fortunate to be connected to two people whose lives I admired. I wanted what they had; connection, security, serenity, laughter, and love. They weren't constantly thinking about the alcohol they weren't drinking. In fact, they didn't seem to think about alcohol at all! And they were fun! The more time I spent with them the more willing I became. I became willing to ask for help, to listen, to humble myself, and to learn. Those two people played an instrumental role in my first steps toward recovery.

That was 14 years ago. A lot has changed since then. More people than I can count have contributed to my recovery. The only constant over the last 14 years has been me. And how I look and act today is unrecognizable when compared to how I looked and acted prior to December, 2005. Thank God!

I like who I am today. Recovery taught me to be a better daughter, friend, sister, coworker, therapist and patient. I owe who I am today to the program I was taught and to the actions I took in order to recover. I will be forever grateful to the people who guided me, cared for me, and cheered for me over the past 14 years. I proved countless times I couldn't stay sober on my own. But together, we did what I couldn't do alone. That, my friends, is a priceless gift. God willing, I've no plans to let it go.

Fourteen years... damn. So amazed. So grateful.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A Solo Christmas

It's Christmas Eve. I'm home alone tonight. I'll be home alone again tomorrow. It's okay. But it's not great. I'd almost rather be working tomorrow, Christmas day, as it would allow me to be around people I enjoy during a time when nearly everyone feels upbeat and cheerful. I have tomorrow off though, and I'm not yet sure what I'll do. Whatever it is, I'll be an entity of one doing it.

Being alone on Christmas is not new. I don't have a spouse. I don't have children. My 3 brothers all have their own families with whom they share the day, and my mother is in Florida. I've likely spent the large majority of my Christmases alone over the last 20 years. So this is not new. I'm used to it. I don't let it bother me. That being said, for whatever reason, I'm feeling the solitude a bit more this year.

Perhaps the solitude is more noticeable because I'm not that far removed from my last depression episode. I was hospitalized earlier this month, so I'm still gingerly moving forward. I don't think I totally trust I'm out of the woods yet. Maybe I'm feeling more alone because I'm not training. I have no goal race on the horizon, and truth be told, I haven't done any exercise in at least 8 days! That month long respiratory illness, followed so closely by another month of depression, knocked me flat. I can't seem to get going again.

In years past I've loved going for a long run on Christmas morning. I've loved running miles through a silent city imagining the joy and chaos behind each window and door. But running has felt so heavy and slow lately, even if I do get out there tomorrow the run likely won't be long. Three miles is probably my max these days, and that's disheartening, too. So I'm not looking forward to my Christmas morning run right now. Nevertheless, I should probably do my best. I think skipping it will only intensify feeling alone.

I know Christmas is a difficult holiday for many people, and especially for those of us with mental illness. Perhaps it's because so many people with mental illness battle it alone. I don't know. I've always kind of taken pride in the fact I wasn't bothered by being alone over the holiday. Weird, I know. But this year is apparently different. I guess it doesn't matter the reason.

I'm trying to do what I can to combat the solitude. I went to a lovely Christmas Eve service tonight complete with all the traditional carols including the candlelit Silent Night finale. It was beautiful. I'm glad I went, but I wish I could have shared it with someone. I was among hundreds of people, but I was still alone.

Tomorrow is Christmas day, and I won't be totally alone. I do have Jet, and he doesn't care what day it is! After a cup of coffee and a snuggle, I hope to fetch the dog leash and the running shoes so Jet and I may begin our Christmas day in our traditional way. I can't let the miles, or lack thereof, deter me. I just need to get out the door. If I accomplish that, I think the rest of the day will be a whole lot brighter.

I hope you all have a very happy day tomorrow. Be gentle with yourself if you're struggling for any reason. That's what I'm going to try to do. We'll see how it goes. Merry Christmas!

Addendum: It's Christmas morning, and Jet and I just returned from a lovely run. It was a balmy 34 degrees when we began. We ran through several quiet neighborhoods and along a path into the woods. In a city of 110,000 people we passed more people and dogs than we did vehicles.

I didn't look at my watch and let my body guide the distance and pace. Strangely, on our way home it began raining! It doesn't rain in Minnesota in December, and even stranger, before it stopped raining the sun came out. It warmed our backs the entire way home.

Jet and I ran just under 6 miles in a bit under 60 minutes. I'm so happy I got out the door. As I have every year, I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional Christmas morning run. It filled me with serenity and peace. I'm going to hang onto those feelings as long as I can. And now I believe I will enjoy a well deserved Christmas morning nap. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Another year older

It's my birthday. I'm another year older. Wiser? I'm not so sure about that. It's been a tough year. And it's been a good year. I take the good with the bad, but if I'm honest, I admit I'm hopeful my 52nd year will be a bit kinder than my 51st.

Two bouts with severe depression took a lot of my energy this year. The episode in late Winter lasted several months and required multiple interventions. Medication changes, a 3 week hospital stay, and 5 or 6 Ketamine infusions finally helped get me back on my feet. During this time I lost months of employment, unpaid time which required several months to repair. More importantly, the severity of this episode left me traumatized. I worried I wouldn't be able to survive another.

After recovering things did get better. I reconnected with family and friends, took a couple of brief but fun vacations, and began a successful return to running. Beginning in late Spring, I slowly made my way back into my former running life. I was thrilled to be running injury free for the first time in two and a half years.

My first race back in late May was slow but gratifying. My second race, also a half marathon and just 4 weeks after the first, was considerably faster. That was very exciting. By mid-summer I was finally, officially, training for my 29th marathon, the first one since December 17, 2016.

Marathon training was more difficult than in the past, but in my third half marathon of the season I again significantly improved. I won some pretty medals, and I gained the confidence required to get to the marathon starting line. Unfortunately, just as all my effort was about to be poured out over 26.2 miles, I once again was thrown a curve. I got sick.

Missing the Twin Cities Marathon in early October and battling a tough respiratory illness for the rest of the month certainly contributed to my second battle with depression. More med changes, a brief hospitalization and a gifted vacation seemed to put me on the mend. That was a relief.

I'm thankful this most recent episode was arrested quicker than the episode in February/March, but I think the trauma I experienced after the earlier episode made this one an even bigger beast. I'm grateful to be feeling better, working again, and getting stuff done.

I enjoyed my birthday today with some of my favorite people, including my patients and coworkers. Tonight I had dinner with good friends, and now I'm hanging out at home with Jet. It was a good day. I'm not terribly thrilled to be older, but I'm looking forward with hope, and that's something I couldn't say just two weeks ago.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Meds Cure as Well

If you read my last post, you might think the only things required to arrest a bout of severe depression are some sunshine, a bit of exercise, and time with good friends. In fact, for several days after I wrote that post, something didn't sit right. I thought, "This seems odd. What else is going on here?" I mean, if it was as easy as sunshine, exercise and friends, I wouldn't have depression! Of course there was more to it than that. I just conveniently forgot.

I was so pleased and relieved to be feeling better when I returned from Austin, it seems I had a brain cramp. I forgot my doctor had changed my medications 3-4 weeks ago. Hmmm... How long does it typically take for psych medication to prove itself useful? About 3-4 weeks. Apparently there was more going on than just sunshine, exercise and friends.

Around the time I went to the hospital, my doctor and I decided to increase one of my meds and add another. I already took a handful of medications, so I wasn't thrilled with the idea, but I agreed. I was desperate. Once again, my doctor was right. The changes she recommended, I believe, are definitely making a difference. I'm glad.

Well, I'm glad, and I'm not so glad. That sounds utterly ridiculous, I know. Maybe conflicted is better than not-so-glad. Let me explain. I know I'd be dead if I didn't take psych medication. I'd also be dead if I never went to the psych hospital. But I hate going to the hospital, even though when I go it helps 100% of the time. I don't hate taking medication, but I don't love having to rely on them either, even though they also help most of the time. So I'm conflicted about adding more medication to my regime.

A couple of months ago, I was having a conversation with a stranger about depression. She knew nothing about me when she stated, "Well, I don't believe in people taking meds for depression." In an attempt to educate, I responded by saying taking meds for depression is no different than taking meds for diabetes. She cavalierly retorted, "I know. I have depression. I don't need meds to help me feel better." I was polite but quickly extricated myself from the conversation. If I hadn't, I might have angrily screamed, "Well goody for you! Aren't you lucky!"

I was angered by her blanket statement condemning anti-depressant medication. In reality, maybe I was a bit jealous. If I had mild depression, I might not "believe" in taking meds, either. But I don't have mild depression. I have severe, treatment-resistant, stubborn, overbearing, evil, debilitating depression which repeatedly attempts to take my life! So, while I'm grateful the medication changes (in addition to the sunshine, exercise and friendship) fought off the evil beast, I can't help but feel a bit conflicted about increasing the pills in my already overflowing handful.

Bottom line? Conflicted or not, I'm grateful to be feeling better. I'll continue to do whatever is necessary to move forward on this path. Functioning and feeling well, regardless of how I got here, is much preferable to debilitated and feeling hopeless.



.