Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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, June 24, 2018

Part time worker and runner

A few weeks ago I posted about possibly switching from part time hours to full time hours, with added benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and a 401K. I haven't worked full time in at least 15 years, but after some contemplation, I decided to give it a try.

It was then that the area supervisor informed me my salary would be decreased since I was "going to get benefits." Okay. I get that. It would have been nice to have been informed of that when she asked me to consider full time employment, but I get it.

Strangely, the area supervisor didn't have a number for me. In fact, it took 3 weeks for my employer to get back to me with a salary offer. Fortunately, they made my decision simple. No way. The offer was so far below my current salary, I didn't have to think twice about it. I need to pay my bills. And as much as I would appreciate paid time off, paid time off doesn't pay my bills.

So I will continue to work part time, pay for my own health insurance, and hope not to require large chunks of time off secondary to sickness or injury. It's a risk I'm willing to take, as financial instability is a big trigger for me, and I'm enjoying paying my bills right now.

In other news, I just received my fourth of five Hyaluronic Acid injections into my right knee. I think they are helping, although not nearly to the level I would like. I'm continuing to run on the Alter-G treadmill, now at 68% of my body weight, without difficulty. However, running on the road, or trying to do any quad strengthening still hurts. It's tricky. I need to strengthen my quads in order to avoid further injury, but I can't strengthen my quads because my knee hurts when I try. Frustrating.

Despite my frustration, I do have some hope. After all, the injections have helped. Perhaps the fifth and final injection next week will put me over the top. I miss running so much. I can't wait to get back to it. I'm hanging onto the hope I eventually will have the opportunity to train again.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Vacation photos

I just returned from a long weekend in Duluth. It was Grandmas Marathon weekend, and though it was difficult, as I wanted to be running rather than standing on the sideline, I did enjoy watching the race on Saturday. I also spent a lot of time with my mom and step-dad, my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, and my friends, Mary and Jim. I hiked a lot, ate a lot, and generally had a really nice, relaxing four days. As usual it was tough to leave today, but it is always nice to be home, too. Enjoy the photo diary below.

This is Elisha Barno from Kenya. He raced by me so fast I was only able to capture his back! He won by well over two minutes in a time of 2:10:06, the third fastest time in race history, and his fourth Grandmas victory in a row.

This is Kellyn Taylor, a Wisconsin native, totally dialed in as she ran past me at the 23.5 mile mark. She won by over 6 minutes, shattered the course record by over two minutes, and won her first marathon in a personal best time of 2:24:28. She looked awesome!

 On Sunday Jet and I went on a 4.2 mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail with my good friend, Mary. Here we are next to a rushing Keene Creek. Jet wasn't too thrilled with the hug. He just wanted to get going.

 This is a photo of the Aerial Lift Bridge, at the opening of the Duluth Harbor, from a ridge along our trail high above the city. The Duluth Harbor is the innermost sea port in the world. Ocean vessels travel 2342 miles (or 3700 kilometers), across the fresh water Great Lakes, from the Atlantic Ocean to pick up and deliver cargo in Duluth.

 Jet and I rambling down another section of the trail through the trees. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful and interesting trail.

This morning, Jet and I hiked around Enger Tower, which sits on another ridge high above Duluth. The land on which this tower, adjacent park, golf course, and hiking trails are located was donated to the City of Duluth by a cool dude named Bert Enger upon his death in 1931. The tower was originally built in 1939. It offers panoramic views of the city, which were particularly gorgeous on a clear blue day today.

 A view of a ship leaving the harbor from Enger Tower. The Aerial Lift Bridge is an iconic symbol of Duluth, Minnesota. The bridge span elevates 180 feet to let ships enter and leave the harbor. It is one of only two lift bridges in the world. The other one is in France. I grew up here, and I never tire of watching the ships come and go. If you'd like to see it for yourself, go to the Duluth Harbor Cam website and check it out. 

 My beautiful boy, Jet, hanging out on a bench at the top of Enger Tower. He's impossible when I try to photograph him, as he refuses to look at the camera! This is 1 of about 20 photos I took of him while he sat on this bench, and this was as close as he got to looking directly at me!

 After our hike at Enger Tower, Jet and I drove over the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point and took a long walk on the beach. Here's Jet running back to me after romping in the surf. I don't usually let him off leash, so he was really enjoying his freedom.
The end.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Suicide and Facebook

Last week, something very strange happened. While out walking with Jet, I found a turtle in the middle of a long, wooden bridge, 40 feet above the creek. It was hot and the turtle seemed a bit lethargic. After all three of us stared at each other for awhile, I decided to relocate the turtle to the creek's edge. He quickly dove in and was off. I posted my experience, with a couple of humorous quips, to Facebook.

Yesterday, I shared a post on Facebook, something I very rarely do. It was a post by a woman named Claudia Herrera, and it was about Kate Spade's suicide. Ms. Herrera lamented the fact that, despite owning multiple Kate Spade designed accessories, she had no idea Ms. Spade suffered from depression. She goes on to highlight all of the celebrities whose health struggles she had heard about, Swayze, Letterman, and Nixon among them. My favorite quote, "...somehow society has made it more acceptable to talk about breasts and testicles than about the mind..." Her point, very well made, is that depression is an illness, and it deserves the same compassionate treatment as other illnesses. Perhaps then, those of us who suffer will not feel the need to hide our condition until the bitter, tragic end.

My Facebook post about a turtle received multiple comments and 45 Likes. My shared post about suicide received 0 comments and 2 Likes. We've got a long way to go, Ms. Herrera, a long, long way. Rest in peace Kate Spade. Rest in peace Anthony Bourdain. I'm sorry both of you silently suffered.

***If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

No drama

I'm not a fan of drama.

No drama means I'm playing well with others--friends, family, and coworkers.
No drama means I'm taking care of my patients and performing the expected duties of my job.
No drama means I'm feeling well and staving off depression symptoms.
No drama means I'm exercising, eating what I should, and taking my medications.
No drama means I'm taking care of my home and paying my bills.
No drama means I'm generally taking care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually.
No drama means I'm staying in the moment and living one day at a time.
No drama means I'm not rehashing the past or dreading the future.
No drama means I'm controlling what I can and letting go of the rest.
No drama means I'm maintaining an attitude of gratitude, noticing the small stuff, and acknowledging others.
No drama is a very good thing.

I'm happy to report my life is drama free at the moment, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Full time?

I have a decision to make. It's been suggested I consider taking a full-time position at my place of employment. While I'm glad my employer and coworkers appreciate me enough to want me around more frequently, I'm also worried about working more hours every week. It's a big decision, but I'm considering it.

There certainly would be benefits to increasing my hours. My company doesn't provide benefits for any employee working under 30 hours per week. No insurance, no paid time off, no 401K, etc... So while working part-time allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule, it also costs me a lot of money for health insurance, almost $700 per month, or for any days I take off. So there are some compelling reasons to consider increasing my hours.

However, I also have concerns about increasing my hours. I've had a difficult time working more than 30 hours per week for years. Ever since my depression began, I've had to carefully control my energy expenditure at work. Too many days in a row, or too many long days, and I'm shot. Putting it simply, my brain gets tired. When my brain gets tired, my overall functioning, not just my work functioning, suffers. And when my functioning suffers, I am at much higher risk of a depression relapse. I certainly don't want to do anything which may lead to a depression relapse.

On the other hand, I have been working between 25-30 hours per week for a several months now. Would I risk a relapse by working just a few more? I guess that's the big question. Of course, I won't know the answer unless I experiment. I don't want to let fear of relapse determine my decision, but I don't want to sink into depression again, either. So this is a big decision.

I'm ever so slightly leaning toward giving it a try. I would have to increase from 3.5 days per week to 4 days per week, and each day would likely be a bit longer than I currently work. But I would still have one full day off per week. I absolutely need that. My brain just can't handle 5 consecutive days. I'm worried. I'm apprehensive. But it seems like something I should try.

Perhaps I'll ask for a trial, and if it doesn't work, I'll make sure I'd be allowed to return to part-time. If my employer is willing to do that, I almost have to give it a shot. Right?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Quite a year

I passed a milestone of sorts the other day. On May 21, 2017, I woke up coughing just after midnight and my L4 disc exploded. It's been quite a year. Surgery, depression relapse and hospitalization, ongoing left leg weakness, a brief return to running, and then arthroscopic knee surgery from which I have yet to recover, followed. Yup. It's been quite a year.

I feel like I've had one battle after another over the past year. Sometimes I look back and think I handled things well. Sometimes I look back with discouragement. Certainly I'd like to be in a different spot right now. Ideally I'd like to be preparing to run the Med-City Marathon right here in Rochester on Sunday. Instead, I'll be on the Alter-G treadmill. I guess that's better than nothing.

I had my third Hyaluronic Acid injection in my right knee today. I think it's improving a bit. I have a little less pain when descending stairs, so that's hopeful. I'm trying to remain optimistic and patient, but it's difficult. I'm not sure I'm being totally successful.

I'll keep doing what I can do physically. Hopefully I'll soon be writing about my return to the road, rather than rehashing a not-so-hot past year. That will be a great day.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Worried

I'm worried. Maybe that's a good thing? Things are going so well I have time and energy to worry? Perhaps. I'm not usually much of a worrier, so I'm a bit uncomfortable and trying my best to knock it off, but I'm worried nonetheless.

Like I said, things are going well at home, at work, and everywhere in between. My mood is good. My energy is good. I'm working, planning, taking care of my business. My house is even clean! But my knee... oh, my damn knee.

It's not just about running anymore. Yes, I hoped I would be well on my way to another marathon by now, well on my way, but there's more to it than that. I have a bucket list trip planned for October. I will be hiking to the base camp of Mount Everest. During a 20 day hike in the Himalayas, I will be ascending over three mountain passes between 17,600 and 18,200 feet. It will be quite challenging, but I never doubted I could do it. Until now.

My biggest concern up until now has been the possibility of altitude sickness, which would end my trip in a heartbeat. But with my knee continuing to pain me, even on a simple set of stairs, I am now more worried about the actual hiking than anything else.

I have been preparing for this trip for years. I have been saving money, researching trekking companies, learning about the culture of Nepal, and pouring over trekking blogs for information. I'm ready to go. Except for my knee. And because of my knee, except for my legs.

My legs are weaker today than they've been in my entire adult life. Where I used to have muscles, I only have flab. It's impossible to keep the quads strong with a painful knee. I'm getting frustrated and anxious, worried... I'm trying to hold out hope that I have enough time to prepare, but I can't begin to prepare until my knee doesn't hurt. And my knee still hurts.

This is not good. I need some encouragement, or better yet an encouraging sign that I'll one day have a knee I can count on. Until that day comes, I'm having a difficult time not worrying.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Injection

Despite my fervent prayers and abundant wishes, my right knee is still not right. It has gotten more sore again. Last week, attempting to run was again painful. I was crushed. I am now putting all of my hopes and prayers into the series of 3-5 Hyaluronic Acid injections, which I began Thursday. The injection was a little uncomfortable, but that's it. I survived just fine. My next injection is this Thursday.

Initially I felt a bit better, but within a day or two I again felt pain with any climbing or descending. I'm not panicking yet, though, as the injections may take up to 6 weeks to have full effect. Instead, I took my run indoors today. I began running, again, on the Alter-G, anti-gravity treadmill. Thank God I have access to such a high tech piece of equipment.

I am happy to report I was able to run without pain today. Granted, I was only running at 40% of my body weight, but it felt so good to stretch my legs once again. No limping, or cringing, or careful tiptoeing involved. I haven't felt that good running since January! In fact, I felt so free I didn't want to stop. But I did. Sometimes, I do the sensible thing despite myself.

Other than dream about running, I haven't been doing much. I'm feeling well. And besides work, I don't have a lot on my plate these days. Usually my free time would be consumed by training at this time of year. I already have missed, or am about to miss, several marathons I have penciled into my calendar. Sometimes it's tough to look at Facebook, as posts are filled with pictures of my satisfied friends and their latest marathon conquests. I'm happy for them but can't help but wish I was included. Hopefully soon. I'll keep dreaming.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

In an instant

I just returned home from work. My route home includes 20 miles on a very busy commuter highway, and that's the problem. It's a highway, not a freeway, with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour, though most of us, including me, travel a bit over 70. And since it's a highway there are numerous county roads which intersect with it. It's dangerous, as the vehicles entering from the side roads do not do so at 70 miles per hour. Unfortunately, I witnessed the aftermath of the danger first hand tonight.

I knew from the number of emergency vehicles something terrible must have happened. As I approached the accident scene I saw two incredibly mangled cars in the median. It appeared one vehicle had t-boned the other at a very high rate of speed. The t-boned vehicle was without a roof. It appeared it had been removed by the emergency responders. Thankfully, I arrived after the occupants had been removed, but my heart sank.

Before I made it home I learned at least one person was killed and another was flown via helicopter to Mayo Clinic. I've had a difficult time getting the image of those two cars out of my head. I can almost see the accident in my head. But what's most on my mind is the families of these two people. This accident scene reminded me life can change in an instant. An instant...

When we were teenagers, my step sister left the house and never returned. I can still hear her chirp goodbye as she bounced down the back steps. Within 20 minutes, she was hit and killed by a truck.  I'm sure the victim in this accident did not leave their house thinking they would never return. I'm certain their loved ones didn't have such a thought either. But for at least one family, life forever changed today. I feel sad about that.

Though you may think it cliche, I'm going to say it anyway. Seeing this accident scene reminded me I need to tell those around me I care, and I need to do it in the moment. I have a lot to be grateful for, and there are a lot of people who make my life worth living. (Feel free to remind me of this the next time I sink into the depths of despair.) Nobody's time here is guaranteed. I need to remember that.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Running again!

Although my right knee is not perfect, with my doctor's blessing I have returned to running. Today was day two. On Tuesday I walked and ran 3.5 miles, which included running three tenths of a mile five times. My right knee was a bit sore, but it did not interfere with running. For that I am extremely grateful. I was so worried I would not be able to run, but so far so good. I walked and ran again today. I felt pretty good, and it was a beautiful day. I'm starting from ground zero, but at least I've started.

Next week I begin a series of three weekly knee injections of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid, according to my doctor, forms the matrix for cartilage. It lubricates the joint and makes cartilage more resilient. I'm missing a lot of cartilage between my patella and femur, essentially I have arthritis, so hopefully these injections will help. I'm encouraged to be tolerating running well so far. I'm hoping these injections take me the rest of the way.

I continue to feel well. My weekend in Duluth was wonderful. I hiked more than a total of 12 miles on Saturday and Sunday, most of it with my friend, which was really nice. We spent more time together chatting over coffee and good food. I also got to spend plenty of time on the shores of my old friend, Lake Superior, and I returned home feeling energized. I'm already planning my next trip.

That's all I have to report today. Grateful to be feeling well and running again. Praying both continue.



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