Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 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, November 12, 2019

The 3 hour swim.

It took me 3 hours to swim 21 minutes and 32 seconds a couple of days ago.

Sunday was a slow day. I knew I needed to move. My brain was slow. My body ached. My soul was empty. I could find little reason to continue on. I felt like if I sat still long enough my heart just might stop beating, and that wasn't necessarily discomforting. I decided a relaxed swim was about my only option to keep moving.

I live exactly 1.5 miles from my gym. Might as well been 1.5 days, as I knew it was going to take a herculean effort to get there. To ease the transition I put my swimsuit on at home. Having to only remove my sweats would make getting from locker room to pool more likely. I figure it still took at least 1/2 hour to get out of my house. 

After the short drive it took another 30 minutes, which included a phone call to a friend for assistance, to get me out of my vehicle. Thirty minutes sitting in a parking lot because I couldn't open my car door. This is depression, my friends.
Inside the locker room the sweats came off easily, but I'm not sure how long I sat on that bench staring at the floor in my swimsuit. With the alacrity of a tortoise with nowhere to go I eventually showered and made it into the pool. Twenty one minutes and 32 seconds later, only 16 minutes of which were actually spent swimming 2 to 4 lengths at a time, I climbed out and made my way back to the showers.

Showering and getting dressed took almost more effort than swimming, but eventually I found myself first sitting and then standing alone in the lobby. At least 2.5 hours had already passed since I donned my swimsuit at home. I'm not sure why I didn't just leave. I had no reason to stay there watching people walk by. I guess opening the door and heading to my vehicle was more than I could muster.

As I stood there blankly contemplating my next move a familiar face appeared outside. It was a young nurse I had worked closely with during my last hospitalization. She entered the door directly to my right, and we reacquainted ourselves with each other.
I don't remember exactly what I said, but I noted the irony of bumping into her, as I had been, and was at that moment, mightily struggling. We talked for awhile. I felt guilty keeping her from her workout, and it was obvious she wasn't really comfortable leaving me alone. Eventually I assured her I would be okay, and we parted ways.
It wasn't until that moment, however, that I decided I'd have to be okay, that I would make it through the rest of the day. I'd have to because I told her I would, and I don't typically lie. I would never want to betray that trust or cause someone anguish or guilt.
Often, I believe, things do happen for a reason. It took me 3 hours to swim 21 minutes and 32 seconds Sunday afternoon. Monday morning my doctor sent me to the hospital. Guess which nurse took me in.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Irritable in all the wrong places

"Through my writing I hope I left this world with a better understanding of depression and maybe brought solace to a few people along the way."

I wrote that sentence. It was before I fell asleep one night and apparently hoped I wouldn't wake up. I did wake up, of course. I woke up and discovered I should have wished for solace for myself and my coworkers rather than for a few random people.

Maybe it's another depression symptom--poor problem solving. Maybe it's my personality--fierce independence. But in attempting to single-handedly solve my symptoms, I made a mess of things this week.

You see, one of my values is to be dependable, whether as an employee or as a friend. It's important to me. To that end, I've been forging ahead this week, making it to work everyday no matter how difficult it's been. It's been tough, but I didn't want to increase my colleagues' workload by not showing up.

Well, I may have shown up, thinking it the admirable thing to do, but I was irritable, cranky and impatient. Despite treating my patients with care, my depression symptoms came out sideways. Rather than concealing my pain with an Oscar-winning performance, my misery landed squarely in the laps of my coworkers. A phone call with my supervisor today confirmed it. I've been an asshole (my word, not hers). I guess I thought I was a better actor than I was.

Perhaps I'm too angry and frustrated to act my way out of this one. I wanted so bad to NOT feel so bad, I thought maintaining some sort of normal routine would help. I didn't want to saddle my colleagues with more work. But continuing to work only left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and isolated. I ended up alone in a crowd, which increased rather than decreased my depression symptoms. I should have known better than to trust a solution generated in the same brain which brought me this misery to begin with.

I spent a fair amount of time apologizing today. I needed to, and it helped. I hope I can return to work as my normal self soon. Acting as if I was okay didn't solve anything and made myself and those around me feel like dirt. I'm so sorry about that.

I guess I need some solace for myself. Depression makes me feel vulnerable, frustrated and alone. But telling coworkers I'm not feeling well also leaves me feeling vulnerable and isolated. I don't want to be different. I don't want to be the sickly coworker. I want to be one of the team, not the focus of the team.

Acting like Rambo didn't help me heal. It didn't allow others around me to offer compassion or assistance either. Sometimes being fiercely independent does me more harm than good. This was definitely one of those times. My eyes were opened today. Perhaps if I work on accepting where I'm at, rather than railing against it, I'll find some of that solace I seek. I doubt it, but what I'm currently doing isn't working so I might as well give it a shot.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

the ugliness of reality

This is one of those posts I hate to write. It's one of those reality check posts, where everything isn't going to turn out all sunshine and roses. This is a post about the stranglehold of depression. It's about feeling vulnerable and transparent when out in public. It's about convincing, repetitive thoughts of disappointment and failure. Letting so many people down, that's the well rehearsed message, and it's on auto-play. It's about me turning my phone off almost all weekend because it was painful to talk to anyone, and what was I going to say anyway?

"How are you doing?"
"I feel like shit."
"What do you mean?"
"I hurt. I can't breathe. My body aches. My chest is filled with the heaviest of lead. My thoughts revolve around what a useless existence I am currently living, and how it's equally useless to keep on living it. The only thing I want to do is sleep. Yet I can't sleep enough, partly because I'm exhausted, but mostly because sleep is my only reprieve. I go to sleep hoping I don't wake up. But so far, I have."
"I'm sorry you feel that way."
"Me, too."

What else is there to say or do? I can't hold up my end of any relationship right now. It's not fair to whine and complain. I'm doing my best to continue moving. But that hurts, too.

Such a silent, invisible illness, depression is. If only people really knew how difficult it is to get out of bed. How nearly impossible it feels to take a shower or get dressed. How I have to calculate my movements in order to allow for rest after each and every one. And not just physical rest. My brain is overflowing with negativity, self-doubt, and failure. To focus I must crawl through a swamp of strangling slime and screaming banshees. An intermittent coherent breath is my only hope. I may appear a little off, maybe impatient or slightly cranky. But beneath the surface there is so much more ugliness than that.

Depression is cruel and hideous. It is warring just below the surface, my surface. I only have so much fight. Depression steals that, too. I can only fight so long before depression strangles me. Bit by bit, it buries me. And then I'm gone. Currently I must be losing the fight, because "gone" sounds like relief.

Really, again?

Plagiarism, again? As if feeling like crap wasn't frustrating enough, now I have another idiot plagiarizing my blog posts. Perhaps this particular idiot hasn't been around long enough to know I always, 100% of the time, hunt down plagiarists. Look out, etta's angry. I just don't get it. It takes a special kind of lazy thief (jerk) to take another person's words and pass them off as one's own. In addition, it doesn't even make sense. My words are about my life, as a PT, and a runner, here in Minnesota. It's almost comical to find them in Indonesia or France or Alaska. Well, it would be comical if it wasn't so infuriating. Give me a break, plagiarist. Stop now. Please, read my words. Enjoy them. Relate to them. Tell others. Even copy a few here and there to make a point. But to rip off entire, or nearly entire, posts is low and pathetic. Just quit it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Dear Doc

Dear Doc,

You must get so weary, maybe even frustrated, with my I-don't-want-to-live-like-this moments; moments like now. It must be difficult for you. You've heard all of my complaints, processed every fear. You've heard it all again and again and again over the last 18+ years. You've seen me at my lowest and at my best and everywhere in between. But it must be difficult when I'm low, because you know this will pass.

You know I'll get through this. We'll get through it. You know it. You've seen it multiple times. But in the midst of despair, I can't embrace that. You remind me, and I know it, but it's apparently impossible to believe when I feel low like this.

Feeling low brings out the desperation in me. You're so patient, but inside you must be screaming. We've been here before. We've worked through this a hundred times, yet I'm unable to find comfort in that. I try, but I can't. Every time feels lower than the last. Every time feels impossible to survive. Every time feels like I'll never be who I want to be again. Yet my track record is 100 percent. I've come out the other side 100% of the time. Why is it so impossible for me to believe this time will be no different, that I'll survive.

I'm sorry, Doc. I can't believe it. Despite my track record, to you I bring only despair. Despite your expert guidance, medical interventions and reassurance, healing feels impossible when I feel so low. Yet it is as a direct result of your expert guidance, medical interventions and reassurance that I heal every time. I know that. You must get so tired of my pessimism and worry. But I don't want to live like this, Doc. I don't.

I don't want to go through the motions. I can, but that makes me weary. I don't want to simply survive. I want to thrive. I want to feel light. I want to feel energetic. I want to feel strong. I want to feel sharp. Depression steals the light. It weighs me down. Depression saps my energy. It makes me feel weak. I can't think. Depression absconds with my clarity. Colors are muted, and my world is hazy and gray. But you know all of that, Doc. From me, you've heard it so many times before.

Unfortunately, you're hearing it again. I know it's your job, but the repetition has to be disheartening. You never let on. You never let my hopelessness, angst and doubt weigh you down. I appreciate that. And you never give up on me. I count on that. Thanks, Doc. I hope you can bear with me one more time.

Your grateful patient,

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Fulfilling the Dream

I say if you're going to dream, dream big! I do. But I think it's just as important to act on my dreams. Otherwise they're just, well, dreams. Sometimes a dream, or a goal, is the only thing which keeps me moving forward, especially when I'm not feeling well. On this date, just one year ago, I fulfilled my dream (number one on my bucket list) of standing in the shadow of Mount Everest in Everest Base Camp. I cried tears of joy and amazement.

Entering Everest Base Camp was a magical moment. I was proud of myself for taking on my dream; for doing the research, saving the money, enduring the travel, and confronting the challenge of 20 days in the Himalayas, most of the time above 14,000 feet. I was proud, and grateful, and awestruck.

The following day, I hiked up to 18,425 feet, to the summit of Mount Kalapatar, which offered unobstructed, unbelievable views of the entire Everest Range. The photos do not nearly convey the overwhelming beauty of Mother Nature, but the memories are crystal clear. Over the last several days I've been reliving the moments, each one more magical than the last, and enjoying memories of my month in Nepal.

Take on your dreams, my friends! You won't regret it. 

Incredible waterfall, day 2 of my trek.
The highest of the many suspension bridges I crossed. Felt like it was at least 1/4 mile above the river below. I loved it!
First view of Mount Everest, left, approximately 26 miles up the trail.
Everest Base Camp, 17,650 feet. Happy hiker. Really happy.
That's my wrist, on top of Mt. Kalapatar.
View of Mount Everest, 29,029 feet, on left, and Lohtse Mountain, 27,605 feet, on right, from the top of Mt. Kalapatar.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Struggling on

I'm not a fan of the word struggle when it comes to depression. I hear many people say they "struggle with" depression when identifying themselves as a person with depression. If you've been reading for awhile, you know I say I "have" depression. I have an illness. I live with it. Much of the time, most actually, it is not a "struggle." Most of the time I live a fairly ordinary life despite having depression.

When my depression symptoms rear their ugliness the struggle I have is with life! Depression makes life a struggle! And unfortunately life is exactly what I've been struggling with over the last couple of weeks. Life... let's see, where to begin.

For starters, I've barely removed my buttocks from the sofa since I got that nasty respiratory illness two weeks ago. I still haven't fully recovered from it. Energy has been at a minimum. Exercise has been impossible. Showering, cooking, cleaning, running errands... all nearly impossible and exhausting. Even if I could've gotten out of my house, I wouldn't have been presentable much of the time. I made it to work, but until today it had been an absolute suffer-fest. I did some decent acting while working, but that didn't feel good either. Life has been challenging.

Today was a better day. I don't know what's changed, but I feel a bit lighter. It was still tough getting going and getting to work this morning, but as the day went along I felt less of the stifling heaviness which has been weighing me down. I was able to think a little more clearly, regained some of my patience, and actually laughed a bit. I'm hoping as my physical health improves, if that ever happens(!), the depression symptoms will recede. I'm hopeful, not confident, but hopeful.

Feeling hope is actually a new development. If you read my last post, that's probably quite obvious! Hope is better than the depression lies which have been crowding my head. Life hasn't been easy. The struggle has been (and still is) tough, but I hope I'm moving in the right direction.

Friday, October 11, 2019

depression lies

depression lies. unapologetically lies.
worthless. hopeless. loser.
incompetent. unsuccessful. fake.
depression lies.
inconsequential. expendable.
no matter evidence otherwise. doesn't matter. doesn't make a dent.
depression is beyond persuasive.
helpless. incapable. burdensome.
unlovable. insignificant.
only hear the lies.
only believe the lies.
forget they are, in fact, lies.
unlovable. isolated. alone.
nobody cares.
nobody feels like you.
depression lies.
stupid. dope.
what's wrong with you?
something's very wrong with you.
depression lies. convincingly.
defective. useless. plain.
gutless. weak.
toughen up!
smile. cope. get over it.
it's life.
handle it.
everybody else does. why can't you?
depression lies.
this is it. it will never end. there is no relief.
why bother?
this is your life.
forget it. it's just not worth it.

depression is loud.
depression is cruel.

truth is indiscernible.

depression lies.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Not tough enough

I wish I could say I handled yesterday with grace. After all, as I said, there will be other marathons, so missing the Twin Cities Marathon, in the grand scheme of things, was not the end of the world. But it sucked. Truthfully, I was crushed. I'm sure feeling physically unwell, to the point where I no longer even have a voice, did not help my cause. But I wish I was tougher.

I'm still feeling crushed today. I still don't feel well physically. I've lost motivation to do just about anything. Beyond lying on my sofa in hopes a few hours of sleep will block out the world for more than a few hours, I've been pretty much sedentary. My attention span has shrunk and nothing interests me anyway, which makes for some awfully long days. And on top of that I can't even talk, which makes for extreme isolation. Things are not good.

I feel I'm letting this setback overwhelm me too much, but I'm having a very difficult time doing anything different. Yesterday I did ride my ElliptiGo for over an hour, but that was the extent of my day. I slept long and hard after that. Today I went to work, which was painful on so many levels. Physically, I got exhausted quickly. My throat hurt from trying to talk. And nobody could hear me, anyway, which made every interaction challenging and demoralizing. I like to have fun at work. Today was not fun.

I wish I could sleep for a few days and wake up in a different physical and mental state. That's purely wishful thinking, of course. I know I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if every step is uncomfortable and exhausting. I wish I was tougher. If I was tougher, maybe this wouldn't be so difficult. But it is difficult. So I wish I was tougher.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mood taking a hit

I'm sorry to say that my illness has progressed into what feels like pneumonia. I'm totally wiped out. With the exception of yesterday, I've not been able to work. I'm seeing my doctor tomorrow. It seems every time I get one of these upper respiratory illnesses I end up on a steroid medication. With underlying asthma, my lungs just don't seem able to battle these respiratory hits. My chest is so tight I have one of the best smoker's coughs I've ever heard! Dry, screechy and wheezy, it's no fun.

Besides the respiratory hit, my mood has taken a hit, too. It's almost a certainty I will not be able to run the Twin Cities Marathon this Sunday, which is incredibly disappointing. But I have to admit I've been feeling a bit off for a few weeks; long before this illness and subsequent disappointment occurred.

Other than to my doctor, I haven't mentioned feeling a bit off. I've been trying to forge ahead and wait for it to pass. That happens a lot. I feel off for a while, but it doesn't advance beyond that. So I haven't been focusing on it. And had I not had this major disappointment, and this illness, I think I would have been okay. But now my mood has taken almost as big of a hit as my lungs.

I'm concerned, but I'm still hopeful. I think when I feel better physically, my mood will improve as well. That's why I didn't wait to get into my doctor. I want to stop this illness as soon as possible. If I don't, I fear my declining mood will rapidly take me down. My fight to get well has taken on a new urgency, and it has nothing to do with running a marathon.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Wake up call

The illness situation at work intensified yesterday. Our medical staff closed and quarantined the entire facility. Nobody, no outpatients, no visitors, nobody was allowed inside. We have several patients with pneumonia and at least half the staff appeared ill yesterday. The staff who were able, including all of the therapy staff, were doing our best while wearing facemasks and toting gallons of hand sanitizer around the building. I left work yesterday afternoon feeling well and relieved.

Unfortunately, I'm not at work as scheduled this morning, and that's because I began getting ill last night. I upped my use of my zinc-based, cold-preventative product, which has always staved off illness for me in the past, but overnight I knew I was in trouble. By this morning I was aching, coughing, and feeling generally terrible. I hate calling in sick to work on a Saturday, because staffing is always an issue, but I knew I wouldn't be helping myself or my patients by going to work.

As I slumped over my toast and coffee this morning, feeling horrible, I began composing this blog post in my head. It was all about my bad luck. Eight days out from my first marathon in nearly 3 years, eight days away from the culmination of 4+ months of dedicated training, eight days from what I hoped would be a glorious return to the distance I love, I'm sick. Poor me. Poor me. Poor me.

I went back to bed after my toast, but the composition continued as soon as I woke up, still feeling horrible. Poor me. More poor me as I drove to Walmart. Poor me right up until I parked next to a very dirty, broken-down looking Audi in the Walmart parking lot. So sad. Poor me.

The Audi was filthy inside and out. There was a huge oil slick slowly expanding under the engine. Shaking my head as I walked past, it was then that I noticed there were two people inside the vehicle. It quickly became apparent they were living in their car. An Audi...

I thought about those two young people as I filled my cart with oranges, chicken noodle soup, orange juice, more zinc, a couple of cold/flu medicines and some tea. Somewhere in the middle of Walmart I realized how lucky I actually am. I am sick, yes, but I woke up in a warm bed. I drove to the store in a fully functional automobile. Everything I bought to combat my illness I paid for with ease. Yet I was feeling sorry for myself because I might not be able to run a marathon.

In my recovery program we call this a "high class problem." The composition of this post began to change. Cart full and paid for, I walked across the parking lot to my vehicle. The Audi was still there, but the occupants were gone. I couldn't imagine having to live as they were living. I began to feel thankful for my good fortune rather than sorry for my minor inconvenience of an illness.

I think God wanted to make sure I got the message, though, because as I slid into my seat I noticed another car, facing me, in the opposite row. It, too, was filthy. There were 3 people and a lot of stuff, including at least one pillow, inside. As I pondered their situation, the woman in the backseat pulled a toothbrush and toothpaste out of her bag. Got it, God. Thanks.

I don't necessarily believe in coincidences, and the fact that I saw yet another, similar vehicle as I exited the parking lot really hammered home the point; I'm lucky. I don't think seeing 3 examples of  real people with real problems in a tiny portion of the Walmart parking lot on this Saturday morning was a coincidence. I think I needed the wake up call.

Driving home from Walmart I began focusing on the solution rather than the problem. Suddenly, I remembered there were several other nearby marathons scheduled over the next 4 weeks. Funny, that thought hadn't crossed my mind before my Walmart wake up call! I have options, high class options, which I may choose in order to deal with the ramifications of this very temporary illness.

I'm not happy I'm sick, but possibly altering my marathon plans, or even missing the race altogether, is a high class problem to have. I'm grateful it's the only "problem" I have to worry about today. I will treat myself with care, do what I can to encourage healing, and then see what next Sunday brings. My attitude shift has been dramatic. I feel lighter and more content. Living in gratitude beats living in self pity any day of the week. I'm glad I got the message.