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!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

More changes

I got a new job. What?? Didn't you just begin a job? Yes. I moved up here to Duluth to take a job I was offered out of the blue. I was humbled and honored to be remembered almost 3 years after my original interview. At that time I turned down their offer, as I wasn't ready to move. 

I took the surprise offer as a sign I was supposed to get moving, so I accepted, and here I am 4 months later. Unfortunately, the majority of the client population at my current facility is really tough. I don't want to say more than that. I will tell you I spent a bit of time yesterday getting verbally assaulted after asking a patient if he was ready for therapy. Enough said.

Apparently my services were brought to the attention of another local facility. After a phone call, a tour, and an interview, I was offered the job. The new facility is much smaller, locally owned, and has a patient population more in line with my interests and skills. It is, in fact, very similar to the small, locally owned facility in which I was working in Rochester, so I'm thrilled.

I'm hoping this is my last job change for a very, very long time (or ever). If I could retire from my career as a physical therapist without another job change I'd be quite pleased. I begin my new job September 1st. I'm not looking forward to another orientation process, but I am looking forward to continuing my career in an environment more well suited (hopefully) to my wishes and needs.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Training again

I have no business running a marathon this fall. I especially have no business running a marathon 76 days from now. But if a marathon runner is offered a bib to a sold-out marathon, one of this runner's favorite marathons, for just $15(!), it would be impossible to turn away. I didn't turn away. So, I'm signed up for the Twin Cities Marathon on October 3rd.

Yup, it's silly. There is no way I'll be prepared to properly run a marathon 76 days from now, but the chance to get back on the starting line was too good to let pass. I don't care if I have to walk half of it, I'm going to be running, well, participating in a marathon again!

I'm thrilled... and terrified. I've battled so many big injuries since my last marathon in December, 2016, I'm terrified I'm not going to make it to the starting line (again). Remember, I was prepared to make my marathon return at the Twin Cities Marathon in 2019, but I got a respiratory illness 7 days before the race and couldn't run. Now it's 2 surgeries and 2 years later. What if that happens again? 

I'm not sure how I'll handle the disappointment if I can't make it to the starting line again. Of course, I can't worry about that or I'll get nowhere. I can't waste energy on things that might happen. I need to focus on what I can control and take it one day at a time. I need to focus on my excitement not my fears!

And I am excited! I'm going to be cautious with my training. I'm going to listen to my body in an effort to avoid injury. I'm also going to get some coaching. What??

I figured it was about time to let somebody else take the reigns, so I took advantage of an opportunity to get a free online coach. I've never had a coach before, so this will be a totally new experience, but it will also take some of the stress out of my training. Rather than figure things out for myself, I'm going to let somebody else tell me what to do. It's only been one day, but so far, so good!

With luck, I'll be standing on a starting line, somewhat prepared, to run my 29th marathon 76 days from now. I can't wait!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Because I am

Turns out I am different. The worries about feeling different, it turns out, were well founded. 

After my class reunion Saturday night I drove home along the North Shore of Lake Superior. It was pitch black, quiet, and still--a perfect environment in which to reflect. 

I had fun. It was nice to see classmates from the distant past, even though my attempts to place faces with names and memories was quite challenging and routinely confusing. Nevertheless, I felt welcome, laughed, and enjoyed myself.

During that drive home, however, I reflected on my last post, my fears going into the evening, and the reality of what occurred. And then it hit me. I did end up feeling different, a lot, but there was good reason for that feeling. I was different. Turns out, I actually was.

I was different in several ways from most of my old classmates. Of the 30 or so people with whom I interacted, I was the only soul who didn't have children. I believe I was the only one who hadn't married as well, but I could be wrong about that. I was one of two who weren't drinking, and most were, as I had expected, drinking a lot. I also didn't grow up in the area, so I didn't have the long-standing history of seemingly everyone else there. Any memories prior to grade 8 were lost on me. In these and other ways, I did find myself different from most who were present. 

Feeling apart-from rather than a-part-of did occur, just as I had feared, but certainly not in the way I had feared. It had a lot less to do with drinking and a lot more to do with reality. I was different. It was what it was. Reality. I think that fact made it a bit easier to deal with that potentially icky feeling. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Feeling Different

Nine out of ten alcoholics agree. When we were young, from as early as we can remember, we felt different. Everybody around us was apparently given a manual, an instruction book, or direct insight as to  how to be a human being. Somehow we missed out. (I like to say I missed that day of school.) We were clueless as to those valuable instructions. It seemed everyone else knew something we didn't. We always felt different.

I certainly was one of those kids, and then one of those teenagers, and finally, sadly, one of those adults. Until I got sober and began working my recovery program I never felt like I fit in. It looked like I did. I was an expert at looking the part, but I never felt like I looked. I was different. And I couldn't figure out how not to be different. 

Then I got sober. Finally, I got the magic instructions. It took maximum therapeutic intervention and an entire psychic change, but the feelings of being less-than, apart-from, and terminal uniqueness finally dissipated. It was, and continues to be, one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's my 35th high school class reunion this weekend. It's actually happening right now, as a matter of fact. And what does that have to do with feeling different? Well, let me explain.

The reunion coincides with "Heritage Days," the one weekend each year in which everybody whose ever graduated from the local high school returns for multiple activities. There are various class get-togethers, a city-wide parade, street dance and party. There is a lot of drinking. A lot.

I'm feeling anxious about attending our class events, but not because I'm worried about drinking. Not at all. I'm in a good place. I feel solid in my sobriety, and I have no interest in ruining everything I've worked to gain over the last 15+ years. I'm anxious about whether to participate because I don't want to feel different again.

My fear is I will feel different because I won't be drinking. Of course, it's probable I won't be the only one who won't be drinking, but I'm worried I'll feel unique once again. And feeling unique is not a feeling I wish to revisit. 

Why is it re-associating with high school, even 35 years later, still has the power to bring up long-resolved (or so I thought) high school feelings? I feel a bit silly to be having this worry. After all, I'm interested in going. With the exception of 2 interactions, I've not seen anyone from my class for 35+ years. So I'll likely go.

If I can overcome my worry, I'm planning to go to the class get-together, which happens to be taking place at a brewery(!) run by one of my classmates, tomorrow evening. I think I need to quit worrying about how I might feel, pull on my big-girl boots, and take part. 

The worst that can happen? I'll feel uncomfortable and come home. The probable outcome? I'll have fun and re-connect with friends from my past. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Hiding in the Basement

I love the 4th of July. I love fireworks and the bone-rattling booms which go along with them. My dog, however, is not a fan. Actually, he's terrified. In our previous home he had a kennel in the basement next to the dehumidifier, a night light and a radio. That seemed to work. He spent most of late June through mid-July down there, especially after dark.

In our new home we haven't found a safe spot yet. The basement is inaccessible if I'm not here. We've tried my closet, the bathroom, and a corner of the kitchen, but the booms are still quite audible in each of those places. That's why we're currently holed up together in the unfinished basement. 

It's just hitting 10:00 PM. The locals have been setting off fireworks for about 45 minutes. I'm expecting the official city fireworks to begin any moment, and I think we'll easily be within earshot. We made a mad dash down here about 30 minutes ago when it became clear my dog was going to have a heart attack if I didn't do something quickly.

I set up the kennel, got the noise machine going, and am listening to music as loudly as my laptop will allow. I'm sitting on a lawn chair. Jet didn't find the kennel comforting, so he's lying on a dog bed next to me. There seems to be a lull in the booms at the moment, and he's finally stopped panting, drooling, and staring at me with wild, pleading eyes. 

His terror saddens me. I wish he wasn't so frightened. I wish I was out enjoying the booms, colors and beauty of fireworks over Lake Superior, but once I saw how scared Jet was, staying at home with him was a simple decision. And it's making for a memorable first Fourth of July in my new home. Happy Independence Day, everyone. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Sweet Caroline

A cool thing happened today. I phoned a former coworker. No reason, I was just thinking about her as I was driving between appointments. We hadn't seen or spoken to each other in many months, but she popped into my head so I called. 

She picked up on the second ring, but instead of answering with the typical greeting she bellowed, "Oh my God! You're not going to believe this!" Before I could even say hi she said, "I was just reading your blog!" (For reference, that's not a daily or perhaps even monthly occurrence for her.)

I laughed. It was ironic she was thinking about me at the exact moment I was thinking about her. She further explained that she began reading my blog because she had just heard the song, "Sweet Caroline," by Neil Diamond and wanted to see what I'd been up to. I developed an affinity for that song when living in Boston and attending Red Sox games, and I used to sing along loudly whenever it played on the radio in our department. She remembered my silliness.

And that's what was so cool about this experience today. She thought of me. She thought of me because she remembered me being silly to a particular song. That's cool. Maybe I'm alone in this, but I sometimes wonder if I'm at all memorable.

Let me explain. Being a single, rather solitary woman, I sometimes wonder if I leave any mark on this world. In my relationships do I leave anything behind, or do I just take? I worry. I don't have kids. I have a very small group of friends. What difference do I make? Would anyone notice if I was gone--not in a morbid sort of way, but in a what-am-I-contributing sort of way. Does that make sense?

Apparently, I contributed something to at least one relationship. Not sure of the worldly value of singing loudly and off-key, but it still felt nice to know at least one person thought of me with a smile today.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Serenity and Expectations don't mix

My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. That's not a new thought. It's an axiom, frequently quoted in the recovery community, from page 431 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. I've heard it hundreds of times in my 15+ years of sobriety. Thankfully, the concept was forefront in my mind last night. I needed it.

Last evening I expected to connect with two different groups of friends. They were tentative plans. I expected to hear from a particular friend in each group early in the evening to solidify the when and where. Dinner and hanging out in the boisterous aftermath of Grandmas Marathon were to be on the docket. I was looking forward to it.

Without going into the details suffice it to say my expectations were not met. Instead, fully dressed for an evening out on the town, I spent the afternoon and evening in my house watching the Olympic Track Trials. 

Don't get me wrong, I loved watching the trials, but I would have been much more comfy in my typical in-house attire of sweats and a t-shirt. And that shower was totally unnecessary! Oh well...

This morning I can say, "Oh, well." But in the moment I was disappointed and hurt. I expected my friends to follow through on their promises. They didn't, and in that moment I had two options. I could fume, stomp my feet, feel sorry for myself, call them names, yell, send nasty text messages, cry, eat a pint of ice cream, blame myself...the possibilities were endless. Or I could accept the situation for what it was--imperfect people behaving imperfectly.

I'm not going to lie. I did spend some time feeling sorry for myself. I also cycled through feeling resentful, sad, confused and angry. The potential was there for me to work myself into a self-flagellating frenzy for sure. 

In fact, I was beginning to dig myself into the deep hole of self-pity, from which nothing productive can emerge, when I remembered, "My serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of...other people...the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. ...I have to discard my 'rights' as well as my expectations by asking myself, 'How important is it really?' How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level--at least for the time being." 

"Acceptance is the key...I must keep my magic magnifying mind on my acceptance and off my expectations, for my serenity is directly proportional to my level of acceptance." (from Alcoholics Anonymous, page 431)

I'm not perfect. Being "left out" still stings this morning, but it won't ruin my day. This morning I know it's not all about me. It may not have been about me at all! My friends were here with groups of people, managing lots of schedules and personalities, busy with their own situations. Stuff happens. I can't change what happened. I can't control the actions of others. 

The one and only thing I can control is my response to others' actions. And that's what I'm choosing to do today. I can be disappointed and accepting at the same time. It's okay for me to have real feelings about real situations, but it's not okay to dwell, and project, and drown. Acceptance is the key. I prefer serenity so I'm choosing acceptance, and in so doing I'm choosing to start my day well. Have a good day, my friends!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Waiting for that beautiful moment

I so badly want to be a runner again, and I'm trying, but my body is not cooperating as well as I would like. I'm sore. Everywhere. All the time. 

Soreness sucks, but I've been dealing with it. I'm ever hopeful that it will eventually get better. Hopeful that it's not the new reality, a side effect of being 53 years old. My hip, on the other hand, has been more difficult to handle. Ever since I stepped awkwardly off a skateboard, which I obviously shouldn't have been on, one month ago, my hip has not been good.

I just returned from a fairly uncomfortable dry needling session with my amazing physical therapist. She's done everything in her power to get me back to where I was, which was feeling healed, prior to the skateboard incident, but every time I run I end up aching miserably. The reconstructed labrum has been out of whack to say the least.

Every time I see my PT she helps me. My range of motion improves, and my pain lessens, but it doesn't last. Overall I'm better than I was one month ago, but I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I want to be able to drive without my hip aching. I want to be able to sleep without twinges of pain each time I change positions. I want to be able to move about without fear of further damaging my hip. And I want to run.

I want to run. The 45th running of Grandmas Marathon is just a few days away. One of the biggest advantages of moving back to Duluth was going to be my easy access to one of my favorite, and most enjoyable to run, marathons. But instead, for the 5th consecutive year, I will be a non-participant. For some reason that fact seems particularly disheartening this year.

I want to be a runner again. I am running a bit, but I want to be a runner. Specifically, I want to be a marathon runner again. My last marathon was December 17th, 2016. For someone who was used to running 2-4 marathons a year it's been a long, long break. I'm ready for it to be over. 

To that end, my PT and I decided to inquire about getting my right hip injected again. I had it injected last year, and it was a resounding success. My surgeon agreed with the plan. I'm hopeful this injection will be just as successful and allow me to become a runner again. That will be a beautiful moment!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Hard being a (dog) mom

My boy is hurting. He's nearly blind now, a fact which has been made clear on every hike or run through the woods. Even on well-maintained trails he stumbles, steps off the side of narrow bridges and/or bumps into things. Several weeks ago he ran right into a small tree branch and I thought, "He's going to injure an eye out here." Well, apparently he did.

Apparently Jet scratched his left eye, and instead of healing nicely in 3-5 days as should have happened he developed an ulcer. His eye has been weepy and crusty for several weeks, but with moving and finding a new vet, today was the first chance I had to get him seen. That's when I learned about something called an "indolent ulcer." A simple infection would have been much better news.

The scratch on his cornea didn't heal, developed into this ulcer instead, and as a result the vet had to scrape his eyeball of dead, useless tissue today. He had to make the ulcer even bigger in order to (hopefully) get it to heal. Now my dog is in pain. He can barely open his eye and keeps rubbing it incessantly. He's clearly uncomfortable.

I hate to see my boy so uncomfortable. I hate that he's almost blind. I hate when he looks at me with that questioning gaze, as if to say, "What's happening here? Why can't you make this better?" And then I make it worse by applying the antibiotic ointment the vet prescribed! Mean Mom.

Perhaps this is a silly post. It has nothing to do with depression or running, although Jet and I did have a nice run this morning prior to his vet appointment. Nonetheless, I'm feeling sad and helpless. The being I love more than anything in the world is hurting, and I can't make it better. That sucks. 

Sometimes it's hard being a mom.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

No news is good news

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for you, my readers, I have little to write about today. I'm doing well. My mood has been holding steady. I've been very slowly organizing my house, though truthfully, I've done little since I last wrote. I've been trying to spend more energy working on my physical health, and that's left less time to organize stuff. Getting back to being a healthy athletic woman is more important right now.

I had a scare with a re-injury to my surgically reconstructed right labrum/hip during my move, so I had to return to physical therapy and am now working more diligently on my hip exercises. I was very concerned I had re-torn my labrum, but thankfully my PT has been able to improve the pain and function significantly. She's amazing. I'm doing my best to stick to my rehab routine in order to keep the pain and instability at bay. 

I've also been continuing to work on my return to running. It's slow, slow, slow, but I'm still going. I'm still doing the run/walk thing, which makes me feel so old and out of shape, but at least I'm running. That's what I'm trying to keep in focus. I'm pleased I've been seeing small improvements in the amount of time and distance run. It's slow, but I'm still going. Someday, I pray, I will be a runner again.

Jet and I continue to explore on my non-running days. We hike on my off days, and we've not yet had to repeat a trail. I've also been riding my ElliptiGo again. It's so fun to ride! And it's the best running-related piece of workout equipment on the planet! I love riding it. I get a much better, more challenging workout on my ElliptiGo than I do from running right now. So grateful I have it as an option, as I believe it's allowed me to be more patient with my running return.

That's about it, my friends. Boring? Maybe. But remember, boring can be good. I'll take it. I'm grateful to be moving forward and feeling well.