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!

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A poem. An experience.

At the commencement of Lent, the church I've been attending (via Zoom) began sending out daily devotionals. The following poem hit my inbox as I sat sipping my coffee on a Friday morning 9 days ago. 

The Guest 

Washed into the doorway

by the wake of traffic,

he wears humanity

like a third-hand shirt

--blackened with enough

of Manhattan's dirt to sprout

a tree, or poison one.

His empty hand has led him

where he has come to.

Our differences claim us.

He holds out his hand,

in need of all that’s mine.

And so we’re joined, as deep

as son and father. His life

is offered me to choose.

Shall I begin servitude

to him? Let this cup pass.

Who am I? But charity must

suppose, knowing no better,

that this man is a man fallen

among thieves, or come

to this strait by no fault

--that our difference

is not a judgment,

though I can afford to eat

and am made his judge.

I am, I nearly believe,

the Samaritan who fell

into the ambush of his heart

on the way to another place.

My stranger waits, his hand

held out like something to read,

as though its emptiness

is an accomplishment.

I give him a smoke and the price

of a meal, no more

--not sufficient kindness

or believable sham.

I paid him to remain strange

to my threshold and table,

to permit me to forget him--

knowing I won't. He's the guest

of my knowing, though not asked.

                           ~Wendell Berry

This poem went straight to my heart. Profound and beautiful, I continued to contemplate it as I ran errands later that day. That's when she came into view, standing at a stop sign between a strip-mall and Target.

Just off of Highway 52, it's a busy intersection, though there's rarely cross traffic and therefore rarely more than a rolling pause required before proceeding through. It was cold. She was wearing a puffy ski jacket with matching pants, a hat, hood, mittens and boots. Her sign read, "Homeless. Please help."

She didn't look homeless, I thought. In fact, she looked a lot like me, though I don't own such quality ski pants. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Questions about how she got there co-mingled with Berry's poem in my head. Despite the long line of vehicles preceding me, I had less than 30 seconds to decide what I wanted to do.

I don't usually give money to individuals standing on corners. I prefer to donate to organizations, like the local food shelf, instead. I decided I wanted to help, but pressure from the long line of vehicles behind me, none of whom expected me to thwart their path to Target, precluded me from assisting. With an ache in my heart I paused at the stop sign and continued through.

Continuing forward I felt sick. I questioned not only how it was she ended up homeless, but who was I to drive right past? The image of that woman did not leave me for days. I shared the poem and my experience widely. I considered writing about it here. That woman, the poem, the questions about her situation, they stayed with me for days. And then I moved on. I forgot.

I forgot until I couldn't. Yesterday, at the same intersection, I came upon her again. Same woman, same clothing, same sign... There's no reason that couldn't be me, I thought. With the heavy traffic, I again drove past, but this time I circled around and parked in a lot right behind her. As I searched for cash, I called her over.

It's odd. I just realized I never asked her her name, but I did inquire about her situation. She told me she had moved with her father from another state. Her father needed medical care at Mayo Clinic, so they moved to Rochester to get it. She told me about working, owning a home, and identity theft. She said, "You think it can never happen to you..." her voice trailing to a whisper.

She mentioned living in hotels, but when I asked where she was staying she pointed to a pick-up truck. "Where's your father now," I asked? "Is he getting the care he needs?" Again, she pointed to the truck. 

I handed her some cash and told her how sorry I was. Related that I, too, had been through some difficult circumstances, how I had needed to utilize the local food shelf to eat, and how lucky I felt to have not lost my home. She nodded knowingly. "Good luck," I said, as she thanked me and walked away.

There but for the grace of God... That's what I thought. I felt sad and inadequate. I wanted to do more but didn't know where to begin. I started my car. I watched as she handed the cash through the window of that pick-up truck, as her father sat up from his reclined seat to receive it. I drove away. Sad, inadequate, humbled and grateful, "There but for the grace of God go I.

Next time I see her, perhaps I'll begin by asking her her name.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

One of 11

I looked at it via video feed from my realtor's cell phone. Without even walking through it in person I bid on the house. I lost. The real estate market is absolutely bonkers! After only two days on the market, I was one of 11 bidders for a small home near Duluth, MN. Eleven! In two days!

The house was small, and it wasn't in my preferred area, but it had what I needed and included a large, heated 2-car garage and a sauna. It wouldn't have been a forever-home, but it would have allowed me to move to Duluth and look for either land on which to build or a forever home with a view of Lake Superior within the next few years. So it was worth it to place an offer.

I bid $6,100 over the asking price because I knew the market was red hot and expected competition. I wasn't expecting I'd be competing with 10 other people, however! That was surprising. I'll be curious to hear the dollar amount of the winning offer.

If the property had been more of a perfect match, I would have bid at least $10K over the asking price, but I figured I'd feel okay whether I got it or not, and I do. I'm not overly disappointed. I know something else will come along, but bidding against 10 other buyers on a less-than-spectacular house makes me worried for the time when a spectacular house I really desire comes along. 

In other news, I finally finished painting my beast of an upper floor today. That was a much larger project than I expected. In the end, those damn popcorn walls and ceilings sucked up 4 gallons of paint! And I do believe my right arm may fall off anytime now. I still have to put everything back in place up there, but it sure looks a lot better, so I'm happy.

With my new job beginning soon, it feels good to finish projects around here. I'm feeling a bit more settled than I did when I wrote my last post. I've got many changes heading my way, and I am feeling anxious about the unknowns in the future. Stress and change have precipitated depression relapses in the past, so I think it's natural to be concerned. Nevertheless, forward is the only way to go. As with the house, I have to trust it will all work out. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Balance, or not

Just curious... Am I the only one who yells, "F#%# YOU," into her phone after hearing the first few words from the car warranty scammer robo-voice? And am I the only one who misses good old-fashioned corded phones at such a moment, as I have nothing to slam down in exclamation and disgust? Just curious.

The question above may indicate I'm a bit off balance, or out of balance, or both. I've been working diligently on my balance, the one-legged kind, since my knee surgery. While I'm happy to report improved balance in that arena, I'm not as thrilled with my balance, the life-kind, otherwise. 

I'm decidedly off kilter in the life-balance arena. I think I've been veering off the rails for 3-4 weeks, but it suddenly became apparent yesterday, or last week, but I ignored it then, until I couldn't ignore it anymore, and that's why I said yesterday even though it was last week, or maybe even the week before, but denial is a wonderful thing, right? Not.

A not-so-brief synopsis: After finding a room to rent in Duluth in early January, my plan to begin my new job got put on hold, as I needed knee surgery. No worries, I had a place to live, and I had made the decision to keep my home in Rochester, rent the room in Duluth as long as needed and eventually look to buy a Duluth property. In the meantime, I discontinued my Rochester job 3-weeks later than planned, had knee surgery, and began rehabbing in the hope of beginning work in Duluth by mid-February. 

But with boredom and no job, Zillow beckoned, and soon I found myself driving back and forth to Duluth, a 7+ hour round trip on a good day, to look at properties--properties that were selling in 24-48 hours for $20,000 over asking price. Meanwhile I was endeavoring to secure the necessary documentation for a mortgage pre-approval, without a current job, and suddenly negotiating the potential of selling my house in Rochester, and feeling oh-so-urgent about all of it. 

And then there were the pain pills. I'm an alcoholic, but pills have never been my thing nor an issue for me. My knee was healing well, very little pain, but those damn pain pills were beckoning. WTF? That should have been my first clue. I was veering off and needed to get back on the rails. 

I can't say I 100% needed each pill I took, but I went to my meetings and called my sponsor, and emptied the remainder of the pills into my coffee grounds, and decided to stop driving back and forth to Duluth looking at properties, and get back to the original plan of renting a room and patience. Patience. 

But Zillow...

Just because I made a decision to quit looking didn't mean Zillow stopped posting enticing properties. So in the midst of fighting with work comp to get a necessary rehab tool approved, and negotiating with my new employer a later start date, as my knee rehab apparently wasn't going as well as I thought, and being stuck in my home with a bum knee and sub-zero temperatures, and choosing new health insurance and investment plans before an approaching deadline for a job I hadn't yet started, and worrying about finances, as I'd be out of work much longer than anticipated; in the midst of those couple of things, I decided to update my kitchen sink, counter, and backsplash and paint my entire second floor. Oh, and I'm going to Duluth tomorrow to look at 3 more properties. 

I'm going to Duluth if I can move at all, that is. After two days and 20+ hours, my second floor is approximately a third of the way completed. To say the project has involved more than expected is, well, an understatement of epic proportion. The 1970's popcorn walls and ceilings are sucking up paint like dehydrated camels. I also didn't take into account the fact I am unable to squat or kneel due to my post-op knee. Therefore, I have rudely awakened muscles and joints which haven't been used to this extent since 1986! I could barely get out of bed this morning.

Sitting in a vehicle for 7+ hours tomorrow, while anxiously mulling over details of each property, should be just the thing I need, don't you think? Upon arrival, my realtor may need to pry me from my seat. But one of these houses may be just perfect, and maybe I'll be able to out-bid the 20 other potential buyers, and spend more than the house is worth in the process, and...


And self-inflicted stupidity, I think. Yet I'm stubbornly not going to change my plans. More evidence I am human, I guess. I'll start working on my life balance on Sunday. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Police and a Child in Crisis

"Officials said that police were responding to a family disturbance and that the girl was suicidal and upset. They said officers detained the minor to assist her, and they were trying to get her to move fully inside a police vehicle."

The story out of Rochester, New York, is horrifying on so many levels. The media reports detailing the incident focused almost entirely on the fact that the 9-year-old girl was black. I watched the video and found horror in a different area. Black, white, green or brown, the girl was emotionally distraught and having a mental health crisis. 

Saying the officers were trying to "assist" the girl was the most egregious lie in this entire tale. What I saw and heard was a 9-year-old child in crisis. She was terrified and confused. She was begging for her dad. If I were more patient, I would have counted how many times she stated, "I want my dad," throughout the 6 minute video. I'm going to guess the number was in the hundreds. 

Hundreds of times she said, "I want my dad." She never swore at or called the officers names. She resisted getting into a squad car, but only after she had been handcuffed (She's 9!) and forcefully face-planted in the snow. She didn't want to get into the squad car because she wanted her dad. 

This was a 9-year-old girl in emotional meltdown, so upset she was hyperventilating. I've occasionally seen the same behavior in Walmart. This child was no threat to the officers. She didn't need to be handcuffed, manhandled, or pepper-sprayed. She needed calm supervision, compassion, and perhaps a time out! She needed to see her dad.

That's all she wanted. She was a child in crisis who wanted her dad. There were SIX squad cars at the scene, so likely 8-10 officers? At least? Why didn't one of those officers fetch her father? So simple. Get dad. Allow the child to calm down so she could be appropriately assessed. Then, if needed, the officers could have actually "assisted" her.

Yes, this scene may have played out differently if the child was white. Research supports that. But my concern here is the police response to a mental health crisis. We don't need research to prove police officers are notoriously challenged when responding to mental health emergencies, especially if the person in crisis is at all emotionally distraught, verbally abusive, or behaving erratically.

I support law enforcement officers. I have friends who are officers. They have incredibly difficult jobs. But unfortunately we have too many examples of police who are not trained and/or capable of dealing with mentally ill people. They are trained to deal with criminals. 

A suicidal child having a temper tantrum is not a criminal. A 9-year-old girl begging for her dad is not a threat, especially after she's been handcuffed and tackled by 3 or 4 grown-up police officers. Shooting pepper-spray into the eyes of a 9-year-old child, at point blank range, while the child was handcuffed and seated in the back of a police cruiser, simply because she would not put her feet inside the vehicle is horrifyingly abusive. 

And it was totally unnecessary.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Drew Robinson

If you haven't heard of Drew Robinson, stay tuned. Mr. Robinson is a 27-year-old major league baseball player who decided to take his life on April 16, 2020. He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Twenty hours later he dialed 911. "I'm meant to be alive," he says. 

Thankfully, Drew Robinson didn't die. More importantly, he also didn't shy away from telling his story. He turned his near-death experience into an opportunity. He's educated others about depression and suicide and the importance of reaching out for help--no matter who you are, and even if you are a male, professional athlete. 

I'm relieved to hear more and more prominent people, athletes in particular, coming out about their struggles with mental illness. It's unfortunate Mr. Robinson had to sink to such a depth prior to finding the courage and strength he needed to ask for help. Speaking about his experience will save others from repeating his trauma. It will save lives. 

Drew Robinson's message will make a difference. His story is amazing, and heart-wrenching, and miraculous. I recommend giving it a read. He is definitely meant to be alive. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Frighteningly lazy

My energy, and perhaps my mood, has taken a dive since my left knee surgery 11 days ago. Today was particularly bad. Other than attending my last PT appointment for my right hip labral reconstruction rehab, I've done a lot of nothing. I had no energy nor motivation to move. In fact, I spent most of the afternoon lying on my sofa alternately sleeping or staring at the ceiling. Even when I was awake, I had no gumption to change position. It was pathetic.

I hated myself every moment I laid there, which of course didn't help. I wanted to move. I needed to move. I had things to do. I had knee rehab exercises to perform, packing and organizing to accomplish, and household chores to get done. I did none of it.

Finally, this evening, with monumental effort, I dragged my ass from the sofa to the chair in order to watch TV drama re-runs. Whoopee! And now I'm typing this here. I don't know why.

Why am I detailing such a fascinating day for you? Maybe because days like this frighten me. Maybe because I want you to know I go through times like this, too, in case you might also have days like this which frighten you. And maybe, if you do, you'll leave me a comment; let me know I'm not alone. Tell me to quit being so hard on myself. Tell me days like this come and go, and tomorrow will likely be better--or at least different. Maybe that's why I'm telling you. 

So? What do you say?

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Estate(?) planning

Question: Have you made legal arrangements for passing on your possessions after you die? It's called estate planning, though if you're single and far from wealthy, like me, estate sounds a bit hopeful. I don't remember how I came to it, but one day last month I realized I hadn't made any plans for my estate. I don't have a lot, but I certainly don't want what I do have to be divvied up by some court appointed schmuck I've never met. 

After some person-to-person research among friends and family and a few Google searches, I got a referral to a local lawyer who specializes in helping people like me. We had a phone conference a couple of days ago. He was great, very personable and quite informative. I've got some decisions to make based on our conversation.

My primary decision is whether to develop a trust or write up a simple will. There are pros and cons to each, of course, and I won't bore you with the details, but I have to do some thinking. What I thought was going to be a simple process--pay a little money, sign some papers--has actually evolved into deep thought and introspection.

It's strange being a single person without any heirs. I think that's what made this process more challenging. I don't have one or two people who I can conveniently name to inherit whatever I have at the time of my death. I have to decide where everything is going to go. Everything. And when I break it down that way, I have a lot more "things" than I thought. And each thing comes with its own set of considerations.

Each consideration plays into with whom to leave what. The last thing I want is to leave a friend my house, for example, and have them be burdened with a huge tax bill! It turns out an inheritance of a retirement account is different than an inheritance of a vehicle and different again from an inheritance of cash. Taxes may turn a gift to a brother or a friend into a costly burden instead! 

So I've got some decisions to make. Who gets what? Do I really feel strongly enough about xyz charity to leave them my 401K? If I leave something to one friend will that imply poor feelings toward another friend? And with all the tax BS, who among my friends and family will be able to afford to receive one of my "gifts" anyway? 

It's weird. I expected that. I wasn't, however, expecting it to be quite so challenging and thought-provoking.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Changes ahead

It was exactly one year ago today that I had my right hip labrum reconstructed. Ironic that I'm sitting here now two days post op left knee meniscus surgery. Geez, I hope I'm done with surgical procedures for awhile. Being done forever sounds even better! Regardless, I'm doing well today.

Unlike the right hip labral reconstruction, from which I'm still not fully recovered, I think I'll be fully recovered from my left knee surgery within a few weeks. The surgeon didn't repair the meniscus, which means it wasn't a nice clean tear, he just cleaned things up. While that's not ideal for the long term health of my knee, it's better from a quick recovery stand point. 

I've had little discomfort since surgery, and I'm already walking around with very little limp and no crutches. I even used the snowblower to clear my driveway this morning. I see a physical therapist tomorrow morning to get started on the surgeon's rehab protocol. I hope to be back running by the end of February.

The quick recovery also means I will be able to resume working within a couple of weeks. I'll be officially finished with my duties in Rochester at the end of this week. I may be moving up to Duluth as soon as next weekend to begin my new job up there. While I'm anxious about the move; about leaving my home, friends, doctors, and community, I'm also ready to get to work. It's time to stop fretting and take some action, even though the action is scary.

I'm praying for serenity, courage, and resilience as I get ready to make this move. I have to remember to focus on what's next, to take the next right action. If I don't, if I see only the big picture, I'm afraid I'll get overwhelmed. I don't function well when I'm overwhelmed. Hopefully, taking one step at a time will protect me. Keeping my focus narrow, on each step rather than the whole move, is easier said than done. I'm writing it here as a reminder, sort of a pep talk, because I'm scared. 

Change is scary, but I think (hope) finally putting things in motion will help me feel less fearful. Forward I go.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Just weird.

I'm busy, busy, busy and going nowhere. It's weird. I'm getting ready to move to Duluth, yet I have no idea when I might be moving, so there's nothing concrete to do--yet. It's more of a constant mental preparation, I guess. I'm also working, yet I'm heading out the door, so my duties are limited. My company hasn't filled my position yet, so we're unable to respond to all the referrals we're receiving, as I won't be around--as far as I know--to supervise and complete the cases. I feel like I'm moving 100 miles per hour yet I'm standing still. It's hard to explain. It's, like I said, weird.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, my mood has been a bit strange, too. I'm kind of bouncing around. One moment I'm excited about the upcoming job and location change, and the next I'm terrified. I'm anxious to get going and then I'm dragging my feet. One minute I'm busy flying through my list of things to do and the next minute I can barely get off the sofa. I'm mourning the upcoming loss of friends, yet I'm spending my evenings alone binge watching Rizzoli and Isles on Lifetime! (Okay, that was hard to admit.)

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I don't have anything else to say. And I certainly don't have any wisdom to impart. Writing this post is as difficult and disorganized as I currently feel. Weird. Strange. Difficult to explain.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Another surgery

It seems I can't get away from the operating table. As I reported in mid-December, I tore my medial meniscus while simply walking down the stairs at work. Now I'm scheduled for left knee surgery on January 22nd. It's arthroscopic surgery, so it might be as simple as walking out of the procedure and returning to work in a couple of days. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), if the surgeon gets in there and decides the tear is repairable, my recovery will take at least one month, including 2 weeks in a knee immobilizer. I'm not sure what to wish for!

Repairing the tear may mean increased longevity of my knee cartilage, but I really don't want to put off my job in Duluth another month. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. Since I need knee surgery, the start date of my new job in Duluth has been pushed back until at least February 1st. Of course, that's only if the surgeon removes rather than repairs the meniscus tear. If he repairs it, my start date will likely be pushed back another month. Like I said, I don't know whether to hope for repair or removal of the tear. 

Despite this new setback, I do have good news. My right hip seems to be responding well to exercise and activity finally. Up until a few weeks ago I could count on my hip aching in the days after I exercised almost 100% of the time. I'm happy to report I'm getting stronger, and I'm no longer experiencing aching in my hip after exercising. It's tremendously relieving to finally feel like I'm benefitting from my labral reconstruction procedure, especially since I am now almost 12 months post op! I knew it was going to be a long recovery, but I wasn't expecting it to take a full year.

Hopefully it won't take another year to return to running as I wish. Since my hip stopped aching, I have been able to cautiously progress my running. That progress will stop abruptly after my knee surgery, but hopefully it won't take more than 4-6 weeks to get back on the road. I'm feeling more optimistic that one day I'll be able to call myself a marathon runner again. That will be an amazing day! 

Of course I'll have to stay out of the operating room to get there.