Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 22 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, January 2, 2022

A Beginning and an End

Happy New Year, dear readers! I pray 2022 brings an end to the epidemic and a return to respect, kindness and caring for your fellow human. That's it. That's all I ask. Well, truthfully there's so much more for which to ask, but I figured I'd start with the basics. 

I'm beginning this year looking back and looking ahead. 

Looking back...

I began this blog in January, 2008. At that time I was motivated by some galling treatment by an employer, a few friends, and several healthcare providers based solely on my diagnosis of depression. Those injustices fueled my desire to educate people about what mental illness actually looks like and about the stigma which perpetuated the kind of treatment I had received. I also wanted to support others like me, and I hoped I could help at least one person feel less alone.

I had no expectations when I began. Heck, expectations were the least of my concerns. I didn't even know what I was doing when I started. I wasn't a computer geek. Not by a long shot! I learned everything by doing it. It was a slow and frustrating process at times, but I did it. 

I also didn't have any support prior to starting this blog. I shared my idea with many; friends, family, therapist, doctor, and at best I received a quizzical look. The more typical response was along the lines of, "Why would you want to write about depression," or "Who's going to want to read that?" I didn't have an answer to that last question, but I began my blog nonetheless.

It's now 14 years and thousands of posts later. I never anticipated I'd be writing my little blog for so long. Longevity never crossed my mind. I also never imagined the opportunities I'd be gifted as a result of my writing. I feel very fortunate. Finally, I never thought this blog, which I began to support others and educate the masses, would in fact end up saving my life on more than one occasion. Turns out the one person I ended up helping was me.

Looking ahead...

Having said all of the that, it is with incredibly mixed emotions I have decided to discontinue regularly writing Depression Marathon. I'm feeling so conflicted about this decision it's taken me 3 months to write that sentence! 

I originally made the decision to quit writing in October, 2021. Rather than a creative, enjoyable outlet, writing my blog began to feel like an obligation. I often didn't feel like I had anything important or interesting to contribute, which fortunately for me was a direct result of how well I'd been feeling for nearly 18 months. 

I want what I write to have meaning, perhaps make a difference. I don't want to just blab. That's never been my intent. So I made the decision to end Depression Marathon in October. But between figuring out the perfect wording and timing of the announcement and feeling guilt and anxiety about pulling the plug, I began having second thoughts. 

The second thoughts were reinforced in December when my mood tanked a bit. I felt I once again had something meaningful to contribute. Then GoodRx wrote about my journey, and I felt I had a reason to stick around for potential new readers. Obviously, I'm still having second thoughts.

The reality is there are reasons to continue as is and reasons to discontinue this blog all together. I've decided not to go either route. Instead I'm going to experiment with discontinuing regular posts. And just so you know, I'm feeling conflicted about that decision as well. Part of me feels it would be better to just stop. But I can't do that, not yet anyway. 

So I'll still be here. Depression Marathon will still be online, and I'll still value any comments you may have at any time. But I have decided to step away from regularly posting. I'll post if I have something to say, but I have no idea what that may look like. I'll see how that feels for a bit and then go from there.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I'm so very grateful to have had this outlet for 14 years. I'm grateful to all of you, especially those of you who are regular readers (probably the only souls still reading this post!). I'm a lucky woman. Thank you all for enriching my life. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2005 thru 2021

I am amazed. Sixteen years ago today I began my recovery journey. I'm celebrating 16 years of sobriety today. 16 years. Wow. I never envisioned this day.

I'm not sure anyone who knew me in 2005 would have envisioned this day, either. I was a self-centered, poor-me, noncommittal dope back then. I didn't think I needed help getting sober. I didn't think there was anything wrong with my personality. I didn't think I needed to learn anything from other alcoholics. I could go on and on and on. I'm so glad I overcame those self-defeating beliefs. I got sober despite myself!

Today I'm kinder. I'm gentler. I'm even funnier. I'm better able to handle life on life's terms and am no longer interested in attempting to control everything and everybody around me. I've learned to ask for help. I've learned to say I'm sorry, and I've learned to forgive the missteps of others. It's not always easy. And life certainly isn't all sunshine and roses. But today I have the tools to enjoy the sunshine, smell the roses, and deal smartly with the darkness. How great is that?

Recovery is about so much more than putting down the drink. It required an entire spiritual transformation for me, exactly what I needed. I'm so grateful for the gift of recovery. I'm humbled to be celebrating 16 years of continuous sobriety. Life is so much simpler today. Simple is good. I like simple.

I also like who I am today, and I am who I am as a direct result of getting and staying sober.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

A chuckle for you

Consider this my Christmas gift to all of you. I encountered this sign today while on a 6-mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail near Duluth. It made me chuckle. Hope it does the same for you. Enjoy!

Perhaps the funniest sign I've ever encountered in the middle of the woods.
I had to check it out, of course. Fairly accurate.

My boy, Jet, taking the lead. Not another soul in sight. Nature therapy at it's finest.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry, Merry

Merry Christmas, friends. Despite my concerns last week, I actually had a nice couple of days. I hope you did, too. If you didn't, if you're feeling alone, I'm sorry. You're not alone. Hang on. Christmas is almost over.

The holidays can be so difficult for many of us. Dealing with mental illness while juggling the often onerous expectations of Christmas, the challenges of family relations, the planning and traveling and gathering; it can certainly feel like too much for our brains. It's too much for my brain, and that's why I choose to participate but don't decorate or shop or have bunches of people in my house. Keeping it simple works best for me, though sometimes that simplicity also contributes to me feeling left out or alone. It's complicated. It's Christmas.

Today I'm glad I kept it simple. It worked. I worked yesterday and then had a nice evening with my close friends (who are more like family). Today I had brunch at a local hotel-casino with my youngest brother and his family. Simple and delicious. The rest of my day was a routine weekend day. A long nap. A chilly evening run with Jet. Football. Simple. 

I'm looking forward to getting through the rest of the month and moving into more routine days. I'm still concerned about my mood, so I scheduled an extra ketamine infusion for early next week. I'm not willing to gamble with a further decline in my mood. I am pleased to have had a bit of a reprieve over the last few days, but I think the ketamine infusion will still be wise. Anything I can do to avoid sinking into a depression relapse is wise. 

Let's all be wise, my friends. Take good care of yourselves during this busy, stressful time. Whatever that looks like for each of you, take good care. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

54? Ugh.

They say it's just a number. (Who are they, anyway?) It's the day after my birthday, and according to my body it's more than just a number. I can't believe how old I am! Let me rephrase that. I can't believe how old I feel!

My body, which throughout my youth carried me to great athletic pursuits and thrills, and which continues to gift me the joys of running, racing and competing as an adult, seems to have thrown in the proverbial towel. But I'm not ready to give in!

I'm not giving in, yet, but I am frustrated. Over the last several weeks I've been receiving physical therapy treatment on my right hip and my low back. I've got lingering tendinitis in my hip and parts of my left leg and foot are newly numb and tingling. The right hip tendinitis is a residual, recurring effect of my reconstructed labrum. But the more concerning issue is the decreased sensation in my left leg. Likely related to the extruded disc I suffered 4 years ago, but the areas of numbness indicate a different level of my spine is now involved. I'm grateful I'm not in pain, but I am certainly concerned.

I'm grateful as well to have a brilliant physical therapist on my side. She's quite skilled and has been so helpful, which is good because I can't get in to see my neurologist until the end of January! How ridiculous is that? It's crazy how long it takes to see an MD these days. In fact, I'm going to see my general practitioner on Tuesday for a concern I had in October! December 21st was her first opening for a concern I had in October! But I digress...

My mood is not helped by a body I feel is betraying me. And my body is not helped by a low mood. Is the fatigue I'm currently battling a result of my body breaking down or my mood sinking? I don't know. The waters are muddy. 

And the years are flying by. 54? Really? Weird. I know 54 isn't that old. But it's older than I've ever been! Until now. So weird.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Holiday Blues?

I've been feeling a little low. I'm still taking a break from training. I'm running on my own but not training. Maybe that's why I'm a little low, but I don't think so. I'm enjoying just running. Maybe feeling low is more about my birthday coming up, and Christmas coming up, and the hours and hours of darkness where there used to be daylight. That's probably more likely it.

I think I'm also feeling a little lonely. I'm back at work where I'm surrounded by coworkers with families readying themselves for the holidays. There are plans galore being pondered, discussed, and shared. I've got no plans. It's just me. And usually I'm okay with "just me," but I've been spending a lot of "just me" time lately. I'm kind of over it.

I'll probably get invited to my brother's house for Christmas, but maybe not. I don't know. But even if I don't spend the holiday alone, I'll be spending the holiday alone. I'll work Christmas Eve, come home Christmas Eve night. That's it. I'll wake up Christmas morning with Jet, which will be nice, but not unlike any other day. And then I either will or will not spend a few hours at my brother's house. 

Actually, I'd almost rather not spend time at my brother's house, because just as at work, it's sometimes more difficult to be around celebrating, connected family people. Rather than buoying my spirit, sometimes I end up feeling more apart from than a part of when participating in such situations. I can't predict, so I guess I shouldn't yet be worrying about it. Besides, I feel like I'm whining now.

Reality: This is my first birthday and Christmas in my new home in my new city. Too much just-me-time, few familiar places and faces, no history or routine to fall back on... it's a lot. So I'm feeling a bit low. But I'll be okay. And I think I'll feel better when the holidays are done.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Dealing with Disappointment

I should be standing on a starting line in Sacramento, California, right now. Instead I'm sitting in the midst of the first significant winter storm of the year in Duluth, Minnesota. I don't mind snow, but the 9-15 inches expected today seems like piling on, don't you think? I'm battling some hefty disappointment right now.

I wish I was in California. I feel I've fully recovered from my mild bout with COVID, and I probably would have been good to run today, but of course there was no way to know that 7 days ago when I made the decision not to race. 

Then again maybe I'm being overly optimistic. Whether out of disappointment or simply the accumulation of training aches and pains, I decided earlier this week to take at least one week off entirely. No running. I felt like my body needed to heal. And maybe that was more due to my brain needing to heal. Either way, I'm in the midst of a short break from running.

I've already been itching to get back on the road, which I think is a good sign, but I'm not sure my brain or my body is totally into it yet. The thought of training doesn't sound appealing, and that doesn't sound like me at all! I need to figure this out. Is this just disappointment, or is something bigger going on here?

I think I may need to step back from training for a bit and just run. Perhaps I'll spend the next few weeks just running when I wish, at the pace I want, whenever the spirit moves me. Jumping right back into a training schedule doesn't feel like it would be helpful right now. Kindness does.

If I'm kind to myself the disappointment of missing today's marathon will pass. If I listen to my body, my spirit, the message is clear. Just run. Don't train. Just run. So I'm going to be kind. I'm going to listen. I'm just going to run. Or not. I'll take it one day at a time, and we'll see where I go.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

California? Nope.

After completing my last long run today, I came home and cancelled my flight to Sacramento. California International Marathon is next Sunday, but I won't be on the starting line. Even though my COVID symptoms were mild and short-lived, and even though I'll be out of isolation and able to travel, I just don't feel well enough to attempt 26.2 miles in 7 short days. 

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. But I was kind of expecting this outcome from the moment I felt an inkling of soreness in my throat 8 days ago. With my underlying, albeit mild asthma, even minor head colds somehow end up settling in my lungs. Every. Single. Time. 

My lungs are slightly congested, not so much so that I haven't been able to continue training, and the congestion is improving daily, but it's just enough to keep me from feeling my best. After all of the work I've put into preparing for this race, I don't want to go into it feeling less than stellar and have a negative experience. It's not worth it.

I never run 26.2 miles just to say I did it. I run marathons for the whole experience. I want to feel confident on the starting line, push myself through the difficult middle miles, and speed through the finish knowing I've done my best. None of that will be possible if I cross the starting line questioning my fitness and wondering if I should be running at all. So the decision not to run was really the only choice.

I'm going to keep training, but instead of racing I'm going to focus on maintaining my fitness and allow my lungs time to heal. Looking ahead, it appears Texas may be the destination for my next marathon. Houston, January, and Silos in Waco, April, are good candidates, and they are both on my list of marathons I wish to run. One of them will likely be my new goal.

And now it's time for a nap. I've got some healing to get done.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Positive...but not in a good way

With less than two weeks to go until marathon day, I'd been feeling a bit run down. That's normal. Unfortunately, last Thursday I treated a patient who shortly thereafter tested positive for COVID. When I started feeling the beginning of a virus-like illness over the weekend, I was a little concerned. I felt well enough to work Monday, and just to be safe, I asked for and received a COVID test. It was negative.

I stayed home yesterday to treat my scratchy throat, fatigue and slight cough. This morning I felt much better. I went to work and found out 6 more patients had tested positive for COVID in my building. Again, just to be on the safe side, I asked for a rapid COVID test even though I was feeling better. To my shock and horror it came back positive. That was the end of my work day.

I'm home now dealing with the ramifications of my positive test. Fortunately, I'm fully vaccinated, so my symptoms remain mild. But that doesn't mean I may continue about my life at will. Instead of working, training, and celebrating the holiday, I will be isolated. 

Because of my positive test I may not return to work until 10 days from the onset of my symptoms have passed. That sucks. But what really sucks is I will be forced to miss my family's Thanksgiving dinner, which will be tomorrow at my brother's house. I'll be alone for Thanksgiving. 

Spending a holiday alone is not ideal for my mental health. I was already feeling stressed and frustrated. New job, an unexpected and costly garage door repair, less than ideal marathon training, a pervert secretly following and photographing me, and now this. I would like to go sit with friends and hash out my feelings, but that's not going to be possible now. Sitting at home alone? For 10 days? I'm concerned.

I'm grateful my symptoms are mild. I've treated patients who've ended up dead. I've known people who suffered through the illness and felt lucky to survive. At this point I don't have those grave concerns. That's good. But 10 days of isolation worries me. 

I'll do my best to stay active and healthy and at least get outside, but I'm already feeling terribly alone.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Pervert--For the WIN

Why not? I had just made it through a long, frustrating week. All week I had frustrations at home, at work, and especially during training. I had hoped my long run this morning would turn things around. I meticulously planned to avoid the snowy, whipping 30mph wind gusts by arising early, dressing appropriately for the cold and dark, and getting to one of my favorite long run locations by 6:30AM. Perfect.

It was dark, cold and spitting snow on Park Point, a 5-mile stretch of land jutting into Lake Superior from downtown Duluth. There is a single road running from the Aerial Lift Bridge, which connects mainland Duluth to Park Point, to nearly the tip of the Point. 

Houses crowd each side of the road until you reach beaches, park land and a seaplane airport at the end of Park Point. Houses on the east side of the road have beach and Lake Superior in their backyards. Houses to the west look out over the Duluth-Superior Harbor, which separates Minnesota from Wisconsin. Park Point is a great place to run long, flat with a wide shoulder and beautiful views. I set out with a smile.

Despite enjoying my first moments of solitude and a snowy sunrise on the Point, my smile faded as my GI system gave notice. It was not going to be a comfortable day. That's okay, I thought. I've dealt with a cranky GI system my entire running career. I wasn't going to let it defeat me today. I did what I needed to do, got into a rhythm, and before I knew it I was in the midst of my miles and approaching the end of the Point.

I followed the empty road as it took a circular route around the park just a few feet from the water's edge. I was nearing the end of the road when I noticed a small car over my right shoulder traveling very slowly. It was still dusky outside, around 7:30AM. I watched the car, headlights glowing, as it very slowly crept off the side of the road and stopped. I didn't know what it was doing, but I was on alert.

Shortly after that moment, as I continued forward, a white SUV passed me, made a U-turn at the end of the road about a quarter of a mile away, and approached me slowly. There were 2 men in the vehicle, one with his hand out the window motioning for me to stop. I kept my distance as they slowed to a stop. I didn't stop until they loudly asked if I knew the man in the little blue car.

That got my attention. "What? No," I said. "Why?" They informed me the man in the car was taking pictures of me as I ran. One of the men motioned, nonverbally letting me know the creep apparently had a telephoto lens. "Be careful. We wanted to warn you," they said. "Fucking asshole." (That was me.)

My good Samaritans suggested they park in a lot nearby to keep watch, as I had to run back the way I came, which meant running right past the perv with a camera. I agreed, and I thanked them. I turned around and began running back.

As I ran toward him, the perv in the little blue car drove past me--he going toward the end of the Point, me running back the way I came. I took the opportunity to flip him off, feeling emboldened by the good Samaritans watching over me. I kept running, but I knew he would have to turn around and come by me again, so I collected a 6-8 pound rock from the roadside. When I glanced over my shoulder and saw him approaching I waited.

My good Samaritans pulled in behind him as pervert approached. I stood at the side of the road tossing my rock up and down in my right hand. Perv pulled up and in a pathetic, whiny voice he inquired, "Why you mad at me?" I confronted him about taking pictures of me, which startled him. It startled him so much he admitted it.

When he finally spoke, pervert whined, "Well... that's not illegal. You're just a runner." I called him a fucking pervert, told him he didn't have permission to take pictures of me, especially covertly from behind, and threatened to throw my nice big rock directly at his head if he didn't move on. He did, but not before giving me a but-I'm-so-innocent-even-though-I've-been-caught-red-handed look.

I thanked my good Samaritans for their concern, kindness, and protection. They offered to stay with me a while longer, but I felt okay to proceed alone. Although I did carry that rock another quarter of a mile or so. (For the record, and I feel it's important to mention this at this time in our world, whiny pervert was a white male. My good Samaritans were likely Native American, possibly Hispanic.) I got the driver's name and thanked both of them again profusely.

As I continued my run, anger seethed through me. I thought about all of the women who have been raped and murdered while out walking or running, something most men (well, white men) can do without a thought. Here I was, 7:30 in the morning, in a mostly residential area, a safe area, bundled up against the weather, yet ogled and violated by a fucking creep. It was unbelievable.

What if my good Samaritans hadn't been there. How long had pervert been following me? How many pictures of my ass does he now possess? Pervert knew I would have to turn around at the end of that road. Was he planning to do something more than photograph me when I ran by? Thankfully, I'll never know. 

The couple miles after my encounter with pervert went by quickly. I was fired up and ran fast. Unfortunately, my GI distress returned, and I just couldn't fight the accumulated elements anymore. I stopped running with almost an hour remaining to be run. It was a fitting end to a very frustrating week. I'll start anew tomorrow.

Readers, especially you women, my encounter with pervert reminded me to remind all of you; please don't wear headphones at any time of day! Please be aware of your surroundings at all times. Know where you are, what's going on around you, and how you can escape if the need arises. And please make sure somebody knows where you're going. As a single woman, I need to be better about that. Stay safe, everyone! And keep running!