Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 20 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Tuesday, 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.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Shock and Horror

Like many of you, I'm sure, I stood in front of my television and watched with absolute shock and horror the events in our nation's capital on Wednesday. I generally stay away from politics on this blog, in social media, and in conversation. I just don't have the energy for the lack of respect, name calling, and rote repetition of fantasy conspiracy theories espoused by so many. But to see a mob of hypocrites storm the capitol, threaten violence upon elected officials with whom they disagree, and worse, violently murder at least one police officer in the process--in the name of patriotism?? Please. I cannot be silent on this one.

What occurred Wednesday terrified me. I'm still frightened. The rhetoric and single-minded selfishness which seems to consume so many these days really scares me. I find myself frightened by regular people shopping in the grocery store, driving in the car next to me, or walking their dog in the park. These are people I normally wouldn't give a second glance, probably wouldn't even notice. But now? I just don't know. I don't feel safe.

It's unbelievable. Here I am, an American in a run-of-the-mill, Midwestern, American city, and I feel mistrustful and scared while performing my normal daily activities. It's unbelievable a sitting U.S. president, who appears to have an untreated personality disorder, encouraged an unhinged mob to march on the capitol. And it's even more unbelievable that thousands of people, who fervently believe the fantasy conspiracy theories and outright lies espoused by said president, would attack the capitol and its occupants, and feel that doing so was somehow justified and patriotic! 

I could go on... but it's not worth it. I'm not saying anything new here. I'm not the only one outraged and horrified by what's been happening. I'm probably not the only one who now feels fearful around strangers because of what's been happening. Isn't that sad? I realize I'm opening myself up to a potential assault of outraged, name-calling comments, which would only bolster my analysis, so please, don't bother. I don't need more proof.

I pray Wednesday's events will give us pause. Wouldn't it be nice if we, as Americans, could once again learn to tolerate differences, disagree with each other civilly, accept that sometimes things don't go the way we wish, and treat those around us, even those with whom we disagree, with respect? Wouldn't that be a relief? Perhaps that's fantastical thinking on my part. I hope not. It's too frightening to think about proceeding in the direction we're currently heading.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

From the archives--Post #1

I have depression.

Seven years.

Life interrupted.

Intelligent, witty, athletic.

Masters degree #1 and #2.

Career of helping others.

'Till death do us part.
House, two cars, dog.




I am not depressed.
I have depression.

I have depression.

What you just read is the first post I published on this blog 13 years ago. It was posted January 8, 2008. At least once every year, often in January, I contemplate if I should discontinue this blog, which is exactly what I was doing this morning. As part of that contemplation, I looked back to see what I wrote all those years ago. This was post number one. 

I like it. I see I was clearly focused on my message of education from day one. That is, I have depression, which is an illness, and could not be more unlike, "I'm so depressed," which is a feeling. I've probably written a couple of hundred posts since this one with the same theme. Hopefully, the word is getting out.

I don't know how long I'll keep writing here. Maybe there will come a day when education is no longer needed. Seems unlikely, so I guess I'll stop when I have nothing more to say. Apparently, that day isn't today. 

Happy New Year, my friends. Lets hope 2021 brings us back to some semblance of normalcy, health, and prosperity.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A different birthday

I'm celebrating a birthday today. It's not my "belly button" birthday. That was 10 days ago. Today I'm celebrating a different kind of birthday. Fifteen years ago today I began my new life, a life I never could have imagined on that day, December 28, 2005. Desperate and hopeless, fifteen years ago today I finally gave up and decided to quit drinking. I've been sober 15 years. Wow. Happy sobriety birthday to me. 

When I made that decision in 2005, I was sure my life was over. I couldn't imagine my life without alcohol. I was certain I would be missing out at every outing, sporting event, or holiday. In reality, I wasn't participating in any of those activities anyway because I was home drinking alone! Pathetic. Yet I was sure my life would get worse if I quit drinking! That's alcoholic thinking at its finest, my friends.

Instead of getting worse, which I just noted would have been impossible, I actually gained a life worth living, a beautiful life, because I got sober. It took awhile. It wasn't easy. And it required way more than simply stopping. It required willingness and work. It required changing, well, everything--the way I perceived, thought about, and interacted with other human beings in the world. Heck, it required acknowledging there were other human beings in the world! 

I'm glad I put in the work. I'm alive today because I got sober. I have no doubt about that. My life would have ended years ago otherwise. I really can't believe I'm here, 15 years later, living a life I never could have imagined, sober. Amazing. Damn, I'm grateful! 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Not as tough as I thought?

Resilience, perseverance, toughness... those are three words I've been proud to have associated with my character. Surviving 20 years of severe and persistent depression, never mind the abuse and loss I lived through as a child and teen, requires a bit of all three of those qualities, I think. I thought.

I'm not feeling very resilient or tough right now. I'm feeling scared. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm feeling paralyzed. I'm doubting my ability to pull off this rapidly approaching move to Duluth. 

I've been doing my best to combat the fearful feelings this morning. I made a list of things to get done. I went for a run; yes, a run. I reached out. But I'm still feeling scared. It's getting difficult to move. Instead of tackling each item on my list, one by one, I'm barely resisting the urge to crawl back into bed. 

I was certain the run would help, and it did. Not only did my hip handle it well, I was thrilled by the sight of two beautiful bald eagles, not 25 feet away in a large tree, sharing a freshly snagged fish. It was just what I needed. I felt bolstered when I got home, but by the time I emerged from the shower the paralysis had returned.

I'm scared. That's all there is to it. I'm scared of losing what I have here in my home and community. I'm worried living in two places is going to be more than my brain can handle. I'm worried the stress of so many big changes and so little of the stability and routine I'm used to will lead to a major depression relapse. And on, and on, and on...

I'm a little surprised by my fear and trepidation. After all, this move is what I've been contemplating and working toward for several years. Yet, here it is, right in front of me, and I can barely move to make it happen. I'm not used to being so fearful.  

I'm leaving community, stability and support (personal and professional) behind to pursue a new reality which will be void of each of those things for perhaps an extended period of time. I guess that's scary, no matter how tough I think I am. Prayers appreciated.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Higher Power

Once in awhile I get smacked upside the head with the crystal clear knowledge that I really have nothing to do with what happens in life. Sometimes when I least expect, when I'm settled and least prepared; sometimes that's exactly when I'm given an opportunity for which I didn't know I was waiting. That opportunity is exactly what I was offered Friday evening. 

It was my birthday. I had just finished writing a blog post about what a wonderful, fulfilling day I had experienced. It must have been 9:30 or 10 o'clock at night when I finally opened my email that day. There, in my junk mail folder, I found an email which was sent at 5:39 PM from a source I vaguely recognized. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find a legitimate job offer inside that email. But that's precisely what I found.

After searching for a new job and home in Duluth, Minnesota, for the better part of 2020, and after giving up that search in mid-October to hunker down for at least another year in Rochester, and after accepting two new jobs in Rochester in early November, and after re-creating comfortable and functional spaces in my current home; after all of that, I was unexpectedly offered a new physical therapy job, for which I did not apply, in Duluth, Minnesota, on Friday evening.

Initially, I bemoaned the poor timing. Initially, I responded with regret. But passing up the opportunity didn't feel right either. I spoke with the Rehab Director who sent me the email. I consulted with 5 different friends and my doctor. By Saturday afternoon I had changed my mind. There were hurdles to be overcome, but I thought I might be on my way to a new job.

The fears and concerns, the logistics, the hurdles, one after another each was resolved with little effort on my part. I just kept putting my concerns out there, and within moments solutions were offered and/or discovered and agreed upon. One thing after another fell into place, much in the same way as this opportunity fell into my lap. On Monday morning I signed on the dotted line. I will be the new part-time physical therapist at a skilled nursing facility in Duluth.

I don't consider myself a "Christian." I believe there is a Higher Power, and I am not it. I believe most things are put into my path for a reason. I have no doubt about that in this case. The speed and ease in which this unexpected opportunity was put together leaves me feeling full of hope and peace. 

Feeling at peace is a good indication I'm doing what I need to do, what my Higher Power meant me to do. I made the decision I was meant to make. I took the action. The rest isn't up to me. Things will work out as they should. Scared and anxious? You bet. I'm human. But I know I'll be okay no matter happens. That knowledge allows me to move forward, to take the risk, to follow my heart... and my Higher Power. I'm grateful.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Happy Birthday

It's my birthday. My brother reminded me that I'm a nice, prime number now; 53. My brother likes numbers. His birthday is March 14th (3.14), so I guess he was destined to be a numbers guy. It's been a long day. But it's been a day filled with love. And tonight I'm grateful and content. 

I just sat down after a lovely extended visit from a coworker friend. She made me meatloaf! Her visit was preceded by 2 long phone calls, from a friend and a brother, and followed by two more lengthy calls, from another friend and another brother. Before all of that, I worked almost 9 hours doing patient care and training. About an hour ago, I actually began to lose my voice! I don't think I've talked this much in years!

I'm so grateful for the connections today. I really needed each and every one of them. As recently as this morning, I was struggling with my mood. I was overwhelmed and tearful. I wasn't feeling festive about my birthday. I was, instead, feeling sad and alone.

I'm so glad I didn't give in to those feelings. I went to work and had a good, productive day. I came home and got to share conversation, laughter and a home cooked meal made especially for me. That was really special. Plus, I talked and laughed so much today, with people who cared enough to call, that I actually lost my voice. This was quite a day. An unexpected, wonderful day. 

I awoke dreading a long, lonely birthday. I'm signing off having had a remarkable day filled with shared love and connection instead. I'm a lucky woman. Happy Birthday, indeed!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Brain full. Body broken.

I'm feeling snake bitten. In the midst of learning a new position, the ins, the outs, and the reams of paperwork, my body seems to be revolting. My brain is full of new knowledge, but my body is breaking down. I'm not sure which is more frustrating.

My brain is full. I'm working a ton of hours, which is great for my finances, but learning all of the new policies, procedures and paperwork has been challenging. Working with the patients is easy. I love my time with my patients. The paperwork? Not loving that so much. 

Eventually, I'll get it. It's paperwork. I've never been very patient with myself when learning something new. Unfortunately, putting pressure on myself to learn faster isn't helpful. I need to cut myself some slack. I have to keep reminding myself it will all become second nature in time.

Now, back to that snake bitten comment. On Friday, while working with a patient, I was bitten by their little, yippy, aggressive dog. It's nothing serious. Pissed me off more than anything, but still... it wasn't pleasant. Had to go to the doctor, got a tetanus shot, and got put on a 10-day course of antibiotics. The tetanus shot is actually the worst part, as my right arm is really stiff and sore even 2+ days later. Frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating... Yesterday, while working in the hospital, I injured my left knee doing nothing more than walking down the stairs. Really? I'm in shape. I have muscles. I wasn't doing anything stupid. Yet I likely tore my medial meniscus walking down stairs? C'mon! Today I can barely walk.

Knee pain and the inability to walk sucks on so many levels! Jet and I have been exploring multiple state parks this fall. I love being in the woods. It's good for my soul. Plus, the soft trail surfaces have allowed me to return to running a bit post hip surgery. In fact, we were planning to explore another park and run some trails today. Now that's not possible. And that sucks!

My body seems to be falling apart with little to no provocation. I just don't get it. And I'm finding it difficult not to feel a little sorry for myself today. I need to be able to move, especially when I'm dealing with stress in other areas of my life. Walking, hiking, and running in nature are so important to maintain my mental health. Stress without those outlets has historically not turned out well. I'm worried. I'm frustrated. I'm leaning toward despair. 

I'm not a fan of despair. Hoping for some relief from what currently feels like piling-on. I'm at my limit. No more piling-on, please.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Hunting for a childhood joy

Jet and I just returned from a run in the woods. It was glorious! It was 50+ degrees here today with bright sunshine, pretty unusual for December 10th in Minnesota. We explored a new state park about 40 minutes south. We'll likely go back in that direction in just a couple of hours, as I discovered many good vantage points from which to hunt the Aurora Borealis tonight.

Yes, I live in southern Minnesota, not typically an area accustomed to visits from the Northern Lights, which is why I may stay up way too late roaming thru back roads, prairies and flattened corn fields in hopes of a show tonight. The lights made an appearance on the horizon last night, and the forecast is even stronger for a show tonight. 

You know how you don't miss something until it's gone? Growing up in Northern Minnesota, I knew the Northern Lights were special, but I had no idea how lucky I was. As a family, we spent many nights pulled over to the side of various rural roads, on our way home from somewhere, staring at the magic in the sky. It was routine, but it never got old. I always loved the experience.

Then I grew up and moved away, first to Boston where the light pollution would never allow a sighting even if they were directly overhead, and then to southern Minnesota, out of reach of all but the rarest Aurora. I began living among people who had never, ever seen the Northern Lights. I couldn't comprehend such a thing! I guess I thought all Minnesotans had experienced the Aurora Borealis multiple times. Not so. After living here for 25 years, with nary a sighting of the Northern Lights, I now understand how that could be true.

Tonight is forecasted to be one of those rare nights when the Northern Lights may make an appearance in southern Minnesota. Predicting the Aurora Borealis is particularly difficult. Nevertheless, I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning! I will be heading out soon, bundled up, camera at the ready, in an attempt to find dancing lights on the northern horizon. It will be worth it even if I only get a glimpse. I'll be overjoyed if I get a show! I can't wait.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Cautiously running again

I believe it was mid-August when I wrote an excited post about how I was beginning to feel like a runner again after 7 months of rehab from hip surgery. And I believe it was late August when my excited return to running was crushed by another set back in my recovery from right hip labral reconstruction. So it is with great trepidation that I report I'm running again. So far I'm cautiously optimistic.

I just came in from a 4 mile, mostly running, run/walk. It's a gorgeous, brisk, bright, blue sky day here. After a week of work filled with long days of continued learning and new patient care, I felt compelled to get outside and expand my lungs. Thankfully, I was able to do just that. Today was the greatest amount of running mileage I've done since August. It felt, well, cautiously good.

I've been experimenting with running for 3 or 4 weeks, short stints here and there during my walks. I've been gradually increasing the running and decreasing the walking segments. I've been sticking to softer surfaces, making sure to perform glute activation exercises prior to going out, and being equally diligent about actively recovering afterward. I've been focusing on my form, listening to my hip, and keeping my pace slow. So far, I've been handling the increased load well.

It's now been 10+ months since I had my right hip labrum reconstructed. I can still feel my hip 85-90% of the time. It's not usually pain but rather a minor ache, or twinge, or just an awareness that I'm still not fully recovered. Perhaps I'll always have that sense, but I hope eventually I will not be constantly aware of my right hip anymore than I'm aware of any other joint in my body. If you've had a longstanding joint issue, you likely understand exactly what I mean.

Despite the constant dull reminder, my hip seems to be tolerating the running so far. I'm grateful for that. Nervous and cautious, but grateful. Today I ran more than 3 miles total, including my longest-to-date stretch of 2.25 miles without a walking break. I'd like to say it was as thrilling as the experience which precipitated my excited August post, but it wasn't. Focusing so intently on form, pace and every little niggle I felt quashed the thrill, but I was happy and relieved nonetheless.

I'll be extremely relieved if no new issues crop up over the next few days. I'm praying for a smooth, pain free recovery. I'd really like to continue running. It's been so long, and the road back has been, and I'm afraid will continue to be, slower than slow. But slow is better than no. I hope I can continue moving forward and eventually experience that runner feeling once again.