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!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Moods and Migraines

If you've been following along, you know I've not been feeling well. Yesterday I didn't feel well, and I got a migraine. Fun times. My mood has been a little low, a little agitated, and a little impatient with a bit of distracted thrown in. I'm not sure people realize there is more to depression than just feeling low. Before my mood hits rock bottom, I actually go through a range of other emotions.

Before my mood tanks, I often feel like I'm feeling now, distracted and irritable. You can understand why I'm a bit concerned. Anger, frustration, muddled thinking, and severe fatigue are all signs I'm not doing so hot. Lack of motivation, isolation, and resentment often add to the debilitating mix. Depression is so much more than a low mood.

I've definitely been isolating lately. It's hard to go out. When I feel really poor it's actually painful to be seen. It's weird, but if you've been there, you probably know what I mean. I've been doing my best to force myself out the door, with varying degrees of success, lately.

I did make it to a meeting on Saturday, which was a huge accomplishment. I've had to work really hard to get out and exercise. Most days I've done something, though not much. My arthroscopically repaired right knee has been more, rather than less, sore, which is adding to my frustration and lack of motivation. If I were able to run right now, I think I'd be coping and feeling much better.

I am concerned about my right knee. I saw my orthopedic doctor a few days ago. He wants me to be patient, told me he had to do "a lot more in there" than we planned, and then said it could take up to three months to get back to running. So much for a simple procedure and getting back on the road quickly. That was the plan. Apparently my surgeon had to scrape more damaged cartilage than he originally anticipated in order to rid my knee of the bone spur. I'm in for a lot longer recovery, and I'm not happy about that.

Worries about not being able to run again, or run the way I'd like to run, are now crowding my brain. Like I said, I know I'd be coping with my current struggles better if I could hit the road. Maybe I wouldn't be having the struggles at all. Who knows...

One thing I do know, I'm not feeling well. But, hey, at least I don't have a migraine today. I guess that's one positive change.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

4 by 3 Metaphor

Five. That's how many times the cycle instructor had us ride for 4 very hard minutes followed by 3 minutes of recovery last night. That I made it to the class was a monumental effort. But I got there. Then I found out what Mr. Instructor had in store. You'd think I would have hopped off the bike and headed to the door, but I chose to stay. Challenged. I've been feeling so heavy and slow and low lately, what did I have to lose? Even if I just sat there and spun the peddles around, it would have been more than I had done in days.

So I stayed and peddled, and when Mr. Instructor said, "Go," I peddled really hard for 4 minutes. After the first interval I was certain I could maybe do one more, but that would be it. But during that first 3 minute recovery period, I regained my strength, and pondered the potential of finishing up to three. Each successive interval was beyond difficult. Each 3 minute recovery period less and less restorative. I had to recommit myself to start each time my 3 minutes were up. Intervals 4 and 5 stretched my legs and lungs beyond what I thought possible. I took the last interval one minute at a time. Just like I do in a marathon, I thought to myself, I can do anything for 2 more minutes, and then one more minute, and then 30 seconds, and then I finished.

I finished, wrung out and totally whipped, but totally satisfied. I could barely catch my breath, which by that point was quite audible (thank God for loud studio music), but I didn't implode. I knew I'd feel better soon. I'd recover. And recover I did. I accomplished something I doubted I could do.

Overcoming pain, discomfort, and doubt seems like an exceptional metaphor for my depression. Like every 4 minute interval, each one more challenging than the last, I'm reminded my depression symptoms are temporary, too. I don't have a nice little console counting down the minutes of each depression episode like I did on the bike, but in the past my depression symptoms have always passed.

I don't feel good right now. I'm tired, distracted, low and slow. I doubt my ability to make it through. But then again, I made it through those incredibly difficult intervals last night, so maybe, just maybe I'll be able to hang on through this.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


Perhaps this post is related to my last post. I wrote about two professional athletes who revealed their struggles with mental illness. Unlike their cases, however, all of my coworkers and friends know I have depression. I feel it's important to put my illness out there alongside other stigma-free, socially acceptable illnesses. I appreciate coworkers questions and support when depression relapses take me out of work or put me in the hospital. Unfortunately, for my occasional day to day struggles, I'm still invisible. This became painfully obvious to me over the past couple of days.

I didn't want to go to work yesterday or today. Not only did I not want to go, getting there felt nearly impossible. For 3 days, getting anywhere has been impossible. But I showed up and worked. I struggled through minute by minute. I was distracted and inefficient and distant, but I did my job. It sucked. And nobody knew.

Unlike the occasional cold, or flu, or squabble with a spouse, moments where commiseration with coworkers is expected, feeling low, distracted, or cranky due to depression doesn't feel the same. I don't think my coworkers want to know those nitty-gritty details. What's more, I don't think I want them to know how often I feel very, very off. Once a week or once a month, it's too much. And what are they supposed to say? Everyone can relate to feeling crappy due to a cold, but feeling detached due to depression...not so much.

So I guess it is my choice to remain invisible during these short, difficult stints, but that doesn't make it any easier. Besides feeling distracted and detached, which made my interactions with my patients quite challenging and paperwork nearly impossible, I felt heavy and tired and weak yesterday. I wasn't creative. I wasn't lighthearted. I wasn't patient. These are qualities on which I pride myself. The day was a slow slog which lasted forever, and I didn't feel good about my performance.

Perhaps it would have been nice if my coworkers had known I wasn't feeling well, but then again maybe I would have felt too vulnerable. It's hard to say. I guess I chose acting stoic and professional over feeling vulnerable, but that wasn't simple. It was hard. And I felt invisible. And invisible hurts.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Overwhelmingly postive

In recent weeks, two professional basketball players opened up about their struggles with mental illness. One player revealed he suffers from an anxiety disorder, one which led to a panic attack which hospitalized him in the midst of a game. The other player detailed some of the gory details of his depression, details like struggling to get out of bed and/or spending most of the day in bed without energy to face the day.

While I don't have an anxiety disorder, I certainly related to the player with depression. And like many across the sports world, I applaud these players for letting this piece of their overall health come to light. Each player, after all, stated the response he's gotten to his revelation has been overwhelmingly positive. How nice for them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very pleased these two players have come out of the proverbial closet. Shedding any light on mental illness is extremely important, especially when the light is revealed by men of tremendous privilege, adoration, skill and wealth. Maybe these two instances will wake people up to the fact that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, can get sick.

Wouldn't it be nice if those of us without multi-million dollar contracts got the same loving, hero-worshiping treatment when we revealed our own mental struggles? Wouldn't it be great if us working stiffs also had access to on demand services, top notch medication management, and employer accommodations? Twitter feeds filled with congratulations for our bravery, rather than avoidance of our weakness, would also be welcome. Wouldn't that be nice?

One day... Maybe one day when each of us reveals we, too, have a mental illness, our revelation won't require anxious hand wringing, carefully worded downplaying of the seriousness of our condition, loss of financial security, and uncomfortable social isolation. Wouldn't that be nice? I pray the recent professional player revelations will push the door open to such "overwhelmingly positive" acceptance just a bit further. Every little bit helps.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Fear inducing thoughts

I've written about this here in the past, and I don't really want to write about it again, but it's happening so here I go. I've been having negative, scary thoughts again. This happens to me from time to time. I've asked my psychiatrist about it, and she tells me it's just one of the symptoms of my depression. That doesn't really appease me, but I guess it's one more thing I'll have to accept.

Acceptance doesn't mean I have to like them, though, does it? I don't like them at all. Random thoughts of horrible things happening to Jet (my dog), or my friends, or even my doctor? I don't understand it. They are scary, and detailed, and sometimes quite vivid. At times I am able to recognize the thought immediately and distract myself. But sometimes I find myself immersed in one before I realize what's going on. Before I can extract myself and the scary feelings the thought provokes. That's when I get a bit distressed.

What concerns me most is I'm feeling well right now. My mood is generally good. I can understand struggling with negative thoughts when my mood sucks, but that's not the case right now. So I don't get it. It doesn't make sense. Why do these thoughts crop up, and why now? They make me feel off kilter and scared. Does anyone else experience thoughts like this? If so, I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Be patient

I'd need more than ten fingers to count the number of times I've been told to be patient over the past week. Which means I'd need more than ten fingers to count the number of times I've expressed concern that I'm not yet able to run on my recently operated knee, too. I tried again today. No dice. My knee hurt. I'm hoping my right knee is coming along, but if it is, it's doing so at a much slower pace than I would like. I'm concerned.

I was hoping to be running again, at least a little bit, by now. I'm not. I could force it. I could probably do it if I didn't mind some patellofemoral knee pain with every step, but that defeats the purpose of having the surgery in the first place. I'm trying to be smart. I'm trying to be patient. Unfortunately when it comes to running, patience is very tough for me.

With Spring approaching I'm anxious to get outside. It's been 9 months since I was able to run as I wished. The long recovery from back surgery, interrupted now by recovery from knee surgery, is really starting to wear on me. I don't like how I look. I've gained 10 pounds since my back injury. I don't like the way I feel. I'm restless and irritable and lazy and slow. I want to run again!

Despite not being able to run or exercise as I wish, my mood is okay. Work has been very busy. I worked 36 hours last week. That's monumental for me. I'm actually surprised I've been able to handle the increased load as well as I have. Perhaps focusing on my trip to Nepal this Fall, for which I need to save more money, has helped me cope. Knowing the extra money I'm earning will be going toward a bucket list trip probably does help. (Have I mentioned Nepal yet? More on that in another post.)

So that's where I'm at today. I apologize for the long span between posts. All the extra work hours left me dead tired at home each night. I had to fight to stay awake until 8:00! I'm getting old, I guess. If my knee didn't hurt, though, I'd like to think I could have found the energy to run. Moot point. It did, so I didn't. Perhaps this week will bring improvement, and I'll be running again soon. I hope so. I don't like living without running as an option.

I know. I know. Be patient, etta. Be patient.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Slow Sundays

Two Sundays in a row, I've inexplicably suffered. I'm not sure what's going on. Last Sunday I chalked it up to my knee surgery which was just two days prior. But today, I'm feeling it again, and I don't understand why. I feel like I've fallen off a cliff with severe lethargy and fatigue. My mood is low, and it feels difficult to move.

I woke up this way, again, for the second Sunday in a row. The good news is it only lasted about 24 hours last week, so maybe there's hope for the same today. But I get scared when I feel this way. With this illness, I never know how long a (hopefully) momentary crash will actually last.

And I hate feeling this way, especially when it comes out of nowhere. I really hate feeling so heavy. It's hard to explain, but if you've been there you probably understand. It literally feels difficult to move my arms and legs. Each appendage seems to weigh 30 pounds more than it did when I went to bed last night. It's so weird, so random, and so frustrating.

My plans for the day may have to be changed. I was hoping to head outside for a long walk with Jet. I've got laundry to do and a house to clean. But to accomplish any of those plans, I'll have to force myself to move. I'm fighting to stay upright right now. I'd much rather go back to bed.

I mentioned a walk, which unfortunately may now be out of the question. I've actually been cleared to resume running. I'm only 10 days post-op, but my doc gave me the go-ahead a few days ago. He wants me to come back very, very slowly, however, so Grandma's Marathon in June is likely no longer an option. That's disappointing, but it's way more important to come back healthy, so I'll do as I'm told.

Hopefully I'll get that walk in today. At this moment, however, getting out the door seems like a long shot. Acceptance... I'll do what I can and pray this is just another 24 hour dip. Things have been going well, so I have no reason to expect any different, but suddenly falling off the cliff is scary, nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

No words

I was going to write a post tonight about how I'm still recovering from my knee surgery, and about how I had a big scare when my mood rocketed downward Sunday, and probably something about how busy we continue to be at work. But after the shooting today in Florida, nothing I have to say seems very important. Another American high school under attack by another juvenile shooter. At least 17 dead. It makes me sick to my stomach. I can't even imagine the horror. I don't understand. Why? That's all I've got. Just why?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Doing well

I had my arthroscopic knee surgery yesterday. It was a long day of waiting, as I was the last surgery on the schedule, but everything went well. My orthopedic surgeon played the theme song from the movie Chariots of Fire as I walked into the operating room. That made everyone laugh. He's a great doctor with a great personality. I've felt confident every time he's treated me for my various ailments.

After the surgery my doctor revealed there were 2 bone spurs on my femur as well as a large fissure in the cartilage on the end of my femur. He was able to clean everything up so I should have nice smooth surfaces to work with from here on out. I'm so looking forward to running again.

I'm doing well today. I'm not having much pain, just a little discomfort. I haven't really needed my crutches. I'm taking it easy, limping around the house a bit, icing, and performing gentle range of motion and strengthening exercises as prescribed. I only wish I had picked up a few movies. I'm not finding too much of interest on television today.

Actually, most of my interest the past several days has been on Nepal. I've been planning my next adventure, which will take place late this fall. I'm going on a trek to Mount Everest Base Camp. It's a bucket list item for me. I've been getting quotes from various guides and deciding on the best trek for me. I'll be going alone. My two nieces, who were tentatively planning to join me, have decided not to go. That's okay. I've traveled alone many times before. The prospect of going alone does not deter me a bit.

Planning my adventure has kept me motivated and looking forward. I need that. I've been very busy at work, which is tiring, but I know all the dollars I'm earning will be put to good use, not just bills! My mood is holding up well. I'm grateful for that.

I can't wait to get back to running. My knee will heal. The days will get longer. I'll be able to get outside more often and begin training in earnest. That will be a glorious day. I'm still aiming for a June return to the marathon. So I've got a few things on the horizon to keep me going. And keep going I will.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

It's Arthroscopy Time

As I mentioned in a few previous posts, I've been having some discomfort and locking of my right knee, typically the day after a run. It hasn't interrupted my running. The discomfort has not been terrible, but it's been concerning, especially when my knee intermittently locked up. The locking made me believe I had a medial meniscus tear. For that reason I had an MRI earlier this week and saw my orthopedic doctor on Friday. We were both surprised my medial meniscus looked great.

The medial meniscus may have looked great, but the bone spur on my femur didn't look so good. There's not supposed to be a bone spur on the end of the femur. There's especially not supposed to be a bone spur right beneath the patella, a spur which is literally carving a matching groove in the underside of my patella. Apparently, that was the problem.

Since the bone spur is carving up my patella, it's fairly important it be removed. So I'm having arthroscopic right knee surgery this Thursday. It should be a fairly simple procedure, especially since the rest of my knee anatomy looked so good. My doc will take a burr to the spur and file it off. I'm hoping to be back at work by Monday and back to running within a few weeks. And I'm looking forward to a pain free right knee. Onward and upward, my friends!