Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A little progress

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possible Plagiarism

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

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

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm okay

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Good news and...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

No miracle yet

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hospital again

I saw my therapist yesterday. When she offered to drive me directly to the hospital, herself, I knew she meant business. But that's what I needed. Depression had muddled my thinking so completely, there was no way I could have, or would have, made such a decision on my own. And my thoughts were as dark as they'd ever been, so she was right to be concerned. I guess I was concerned on some intellectual level, but mostly I didn't care. I couldn't muster the energy to care what was happening to me anymore, and my thinking was leading me down a very dark road with a very abrupt end. As much as I hate it, I guess I need to be here right now.

Unfortunately, TMS is an outpatient procedure, so I'm unable to continue my TMS treatments while hospitalized. But all is not lost. There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel. Mayo Clinic is in the midst of a research study involving Ketamine. The inpatient doctor recommended it, and I qualified to participate. I signed the consent forms today. I will be getting Ketamine infusions, up to seven of them if the results warrant, beginning next week.

I do have a little hope the Ketamine will work. From what I've read, previous small studies have been promising. And if it works, it's supposed to take effect quickly. That would be a great result! I hope I am one of the people who responds well to it. Any relief will be greatly appreciated at this point.

Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to be here awhile. I already desperately miss Jet and being able to go outside. Of course, I'd much rather be home, but home probably isn't the safest option right now. I'm not looking forward to being an inpatient for the long, holiday weekend ahead. Bad timing. I have to wait until Tuesday to begin the Ketamine treatment. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hope...or not

Sometimes I have difficulty writing here. I want so badly to be a voice of hope for all of us who struggle with this damn illness, severe and persistent depression. But sometimes my hope is limited. And sometimes it's nonexistent. Well, we're approaching nonexistence, my friends. Life, right now, is hard.

My mood has continued to decline since I left the hospital 8 days ago. It's getting quite painful, devastatingly painful. The financial stress of my back injury/surgery/recovery is mounting, which has certainly not helped my mood. But my mood... My mood is so low. I'm really struggling.

I'm tearful and slow and hurting. Thoughts of suicide (which I rarely write about here) are ever present. No, I don't think it's a good solution, but the thoughts are relentless, nonetheless. The thoughts don't help my mood either. I'm not finding much to help my mood right now.

Despite the pain, I'm doing what I can. I'm still walking, riding, and doing my exercises. I've kept up with my household chores for the most part. I even worked for just over an hour yesterday. That's not going to pay my mortgage, but it was better than nothing, and it got me out of my house. I'm going to my TMS appointments. Trying to hold onto the slimmest of hope that TMS will work its magic again. But when? When?!! Soon, I hope. I hope...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home

I'm back in my house, with Jet, and feeling... well, okay.

I left the hospital Monday morning, and the rest of Monday went well. Jet and I walked through the solar eclipse, which was pretty cool. The moon covered 85% of the sun here. I didn't have any special glasses, but the light coming through the trees along our route made the sidewalks and streets fill with hundreds of various sized crescent moons. It was an unexpected surprise. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, laundering the hospital off myself and my clothing, and buying groceries. (What was I eating prior to hospitalization?? My cupboards were bare.) It felt really good to feel human again.

Unfortunately, those good feelings didn't last. The darkness and heaviness began settling back in early yesterday. It was weird. It seemed I could feel it creeping through my body one part at a time. Slowly I got heavier and slower and lower. I was baffled and discouraged. But I fought.

I fought the creeping depression by writing thank you notes to several people I needed to acknowledge. I walked with Jet. I tried to focus on my posture, the sun, and the air rather than on my frustration with the continued weakness in my left hip, knee and ankle, which made completing the 3-mile walk tiresome. Afterward, I went back to Mayo Clinic to restart Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments.

My first TMS treatment went well. The process wiped me out, so I took a long nap afterward, but I at least felt hopeful that I was actively doing something to combat this debilitating illness. The rest of the day was more encouraging. I actually cooked something for dinner, watched my favorite baseball team (Go Twins!) beat Chicago, and spent some snuggle time with Jet. He's been sticking close to my side since we were reunited yesterday, which is just fine with me. Normalcy. I kind of like it.

I have a few chores on my to-do list today prior to my second TMS treatment this afternoon. I'm hoping to find the energy to get on my ElliptiGo this morning. I miss running so much. I so desire the chance to expand my lungs, challenge myself, and feel that good, totally explainable, physical pain on a regular basis again. I can only get those things on my ElliptiGo right now, so I need to get out there and ride.

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, I'm hopeful getting back to my normal activities and TMS will bring me back to a purposeful life. That's the plan, anyway. Carry on, my friends.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Improvement

It was so relieving to write the title to this post I may erase it and write it over and over again. I am still in the hospital, but I feel better. The first couple of days here were tough. I spent the first day and a half in tears, barely speaking, and probably moving even less. Prior to my admission I was struggling so hard just to stay semi-functional and safe. Once securely here I think I relaxed, and all the pain came pouring out. Apparently I needed those tears, because things got better from there.

It was probably early yesterday when I first began noticing an uptick in my mood. Now I feel a bit lighter. I'm not so slow, less quiet, and have a little energy again. Today I even laughed. I know this because one of my nurses was so surprised she pointed it out immediately! It's a relief to feel less pain.

The plan is to go home on Monday, which will allow me to begin outpatient Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments Tuesday. After my last experience with TMS, I'm feeling very hopeful TMS will give me my life back. It's a commitment, Monday through Friday for 4-6 weeks, but it's definitely worth it.

I'll be very happy to get out of here and back home. This is a safe place, a healing place, and I certainly needed to come in, but it's not home. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also anxious about going home, but with my improved mood and TMS plan, I think I'll be fine. I miss my freedom and routine, getting outside to exercise, and most importantly, I miss Jet. He's happy as a clam with his dog-sitter, which is great, but I can't wait to be reunited with him.

I want to thank all of you, my readers, over these last 3-4 weeks. You hung in there with me while watching what can only be described as a devastating, slow motion train wreck. Your comments, especially to some of those painful posts, really helped. This is such an isolating illness. I always feel better when someone tells me they can relate to something I've written. I'm lucky to have such a wide net of support, locally, nationally, and perhaps even internationally. Thank you, my friends.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Patient Again

I'm back in the hospital. The plan is to stay here and stabilize, get some of my intrusive thoughts settled, and then go home before I start Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments early next week. I hate being locked up in here again, especially so soon after my last significant depression episode. Intellectually I know I'd be doing well if not for my back injury, surgery, and recovery limitations. But that doesn't seem to help me feel less disappointed to require hospitalization again. Fortunately I have very smart friends to remind me I'm sick. This is an illness, and sometimes I need more intensive help. As she drove me to the front door, my friend Heidi reminded me, if I had a cancer relapse I'd go to the hospital without question or fight. She's right. I need to quit fighting the cure and fight the illness instead. I guess this is my time to do just that.



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