Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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, August 31, 2008

busy, busy, busy

Training for a marathon takes a ton of time. A ton of time... Between running, working, meetings, and my feeble attempt at a social life, this blog has taken a back seat for a few days. The good news is I feel better than I did in the middle of last week. The bad news--I feel terrible about not taking time to update this blog. I apologize.

Today, I ran 16 miles. That brought my weekly total into the low 40's. It was tough to fit the run in, as we had a regional AA get-together this weekend. It began Friday night and ended this afternoon. The get-together was amazing. Speakers from all over the world told their stories. Wow. Amazing. But back to training. Like I said, training for a marathon takes a ton of time.

Thinking about it after the fact, I realized that running 16 miles took up at least 7 hours today. SEVEN! No, I am not that slow. The running portion, which was by far the toughest, only took between 2.5 and 3 hours. However, running long isn't that simple. By the time I prepared, ran, cooled down, showered, stretched, ate, and then napped, at least seven hours had passed! That's an entire day! I had never thought about that before. Phew... no wonder training for a marathon takes so much time!

More soon...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

invisible illness

I've had local people, people who know me, tell me, "I never realized depression could be like that," after they read this blog. The reality is, I have no idea who is and who isn't reading my blog. That's okay. That is both the blessing and the curse of writing a blog. The beauty of this comment is these people know me. They are friends, acquaintances or colleagues with whom I frequently share meals, runs, meetings, or work. They see me. They interact with me. They know me. But until they read my blog, they don't know my illness--not my illness, but the illness of depression. It's usually invisible.

Depression is invisible, as the above comment highlights. Surviving with depression requires us to adapt--to act our part expertly. The stigma, shame and myths surrounding mental illness create an environment of illusion. If we can't assimilate, we die. We are all great actors on the stage of life. We have to be, or we will be ostracized. The solitude, separation and loneliness are too high a price to pay to "keep it real." This is not to say I am someone other than the person I project. I am the person you run with, have meals with, and see at meetings. Social, cheerful, humorous, confident--that is me. But it is not all of me. The depression I keep unseen.

You do not see the ugly vacancy within my soul. The colluded, preoccupied, corrupt brain is invisible to you. The financial anxieties, self-care difficulties, and overwhelming fatigue I keep hidden. I have to, or life would be unlivable, lonely and bankrupt. It's not sad. I do not need sympathy. It just is. It's reality.

That's why I'm here writing reality. To make visible the invisible, that's my motivation. To give form to the amorphous, describe the indescribable, and give voice to the voiceless, that's why I write about depression. After reading my blog, perhaps one person will decide to get help. Maybe another will cook a meal for a friend. Maybe someone will donate money for research. Perhaps one will drive a friend to an appointment. Perhaps... I don't know who reads this blog, what impact is has, or if it motivates anyone to take action. Certainly, I hope my experience will enlighten, support and help others. That's always been a goal.

I'm grateful when people tell me my writing has enlightened them, changed their point of view, or made a difference in their life. I humbly appreciate that. However, I never anticipated the difference this blog would make in my own life. Unexpectedly, writing reality has helped me. Writing this blog helps me feel whole. Whole. For a person with depression, there is no better feeling than that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm in trouble.
I'm tired.
I'm lethargic.
I could care less
about running
or goals.
I couldn't go yesterday.
Today doesn't seem different.
And I don't care...that's the trouble.

I don't care.
Not a good place for me to be.
I don't care is unsafe.
I don't care is it's not.
Frustration would require caring,
and I don't care.

I don't care is unsafe.
I don't care is heavy and stuck.
I don't care is sleep and sleep some more.
I don't care is restricting.
I can't move...that's the trouble.

I can't move is trouble.
I can't move is sickening
I can't move is frustrating.
Frustration is trouble.

I'm in trouble.
Trouble is trouble.

Trouble drinks.
Trouble cuts.
Trouble thinks.
Trouble hurts.
Trouble sinks.


Sunday, August 24, 2008


I got blindsided by someone today. Totally blindsided...and it hurt. Still hurts. I like spontaneity and surprises, but not like this. I was expecting one thing to go one way, and bam! Totally shocked.

I'm racking my brain to see what I missed. How could I be so totally clueless that this unwanted shocker was on the way? Of course, my first thought was, "God, etta! What an idiot you are!" But now I don't think so. I still FEEL like an idiot, but I don't think I misread anything. I just got blindsided. It was cruel. It hurts. It sucks. And I'm having a hard time dealing with it.

Why are people mean?
Mean people suck.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Racing--Me vs. Brain

Surprise, surprise!
A couple days ago, I decided to run a half-marathon, which I did today. It's an annual, popular race in my community, but I hate it. It's almost always steamy hot, and the course is an out and back to nowhere. The turn-around is on a gravel road, which really hurts my feet after a couple miles, and it is almost always windy, too! I hate it.

So I ran it! The timing was right. I just completed my fifth week of marathon training, so a long mid-length race made sense. Besides, it's always easier to run faster in a race than when running alone around a track! I was also curious to see where my fitness was at, especially after my disappointing performance at Grandma's Half Marathon in June. So I ran the half marathon today.

I ran, and I ran it well! I was unsure what to expect. I knew I wasn't in shape to run as fast as I wanted, 1:45 or less, but I was hoping to go under 1:50. For reference, my best half-marathon time is 1:36. It really sucks getting old and chubby! But I digress... I ran well today. My slowest mile, at 8:33, was mile 1, which is always a good thing! Most significantly, I felt comfortable until around mile nine. Even after getting uncomfortable, I was able to maintain my pace. I did slow at the end, however, which I don't like to do. If the race had ended at mile 12 I would have been thrilled! I happily crossed the finish line at either 1:47:09 (race clock) or 1:48:09 (my watch).

Regardless of the official time, I exceeded my expectations today. It's always nice to look down at my watch and see my pace is faster than I feel I'm running. I ran several miles under 8:10, but I felt like I was running around 8:30. I love that! Furthermore, it was an absolutely gorgeous day! As usual, there was a head wind after the turnaround, but it was a cool, dry wind. Unbelievable. It was a good day. It was a challenging day.

One of my biggest challenges today was combating my brain's negative talk. Racing, for me, is often combative. It's me versus my brain in a no-holds-barred, knock 'em down, drag 'em out, gloves-off brawl. As soon as my brain learned I was feeling comfortable at a quicker than average pace, it's onslaught began. It went something like this:

Brain: (mile 2) What the hell are you doing? You can't sustain this pace!
etta: Shut-up!
Brain: (taunting) You can't. You can't. You're going too fast!
etta: Shut-up!
Brain: You shut-up!
etta: SHUT-UP!
Brain: (mile 3) Still too fast. You're going too fast! You're not going to feel good much longer!
etta: I'm not listening!
Brain: You better slow down. I'm telling you...slow down now or it's going to get ugly!
etta: Shut-up! I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain: No you don't! You're just saying that!
etta: (yelling) I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain: (miles 4,5,6) YOU ARE NOT IN SHAPE FOR THIS PACE! NO WAY! Not for 13 MILES!
etta: (fingers in ears) La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la... I can't hear you!
Brain: Yes, you can. I know you can. You're starting to get worried. You know I'm right. Ugly, ugly, ugly...going to get ugly! You better slow down!
etta: (repeatedly) I love this race. I love this pace. I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain: Shut-up, shut-up, shut-up!
etta: (miles 4,5,6,7,8,9, 10) I love this race. I love this pace. I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain:(mockingly) I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain: (miles 9, 10, 11) Oh, you're hurting now, aren't you? Serves you right! I told you...too fast.
etta: And yet, I'm still on the same pace!
Brain: (mockingly) And yet, I'm still on the same pace! Oooooooohhh....
etta: I love this race. I love this pace.
Brain: Wait 'till next time! I'll get and your stupid mantra!
etta: (mile 13) I think I'm going to have a heart attack...
etta: (mile 13.1) Thank God! I'm done!

This exchange is common when I race. Racing requires that I battle my overly negative brain. That brain...he's a tough one. But unlike with depression, where my brain has the upper hand, when I'm running a race I usually beat him. The physical and mental challenge of racing is exhausting. But beating my brain? That's a beautiful thing. It makes the exhausting battle totally worthwhile. Today was totally worthwhile.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

to date, to tell...

Parts of the following post were taken from a post I wrote on 2/2/08, which was also about dating.

Being a recovering alcoholic and person with depression, I don't find the bar-scene too inviting. So, I met a man online, and we had a date tonight. Here's the problem, the question, the conundrum...When do I drop the "D-bomb" on the guy? He thinks I'm swell; smart, funny, charming, sexy, blah, blah, blah... But just how sweet, charming and sexy will I be when I add depression to my list of attributes? How about chronic, debilitating, treatment-resistant, don't-have-enough-energy-to-brush-my-teeth depression? Charming? Sexy? Sweet? I don't think so!

This is such an anxiety-producing dilemma for me. Tonight, I let this guy get to know me up to a point. He doesn't realize I come with "a catch." I don't feel like I was honest nor totally dishonest with this very nice man. In fact, this whole process is painfully bittersweet. So far, this guy has gotten to know the person I used to be. I can still be that person, but only occasionally and for short periods of time. In reality, I no longer am that person. It's just an old, familiar role. And as I found out tonight, it's a whole lot easier to play the role via e-mail than in person.

In person, it takes a lot of energy to play the role of ME--the me I used to be. Me minus depression. If I act the part for for too long it absolutely wipes me out. At some point, I have to tell this guy. I like him. He likes me. Will he also like me--the me with depression? It's ridiculous, really! Obviously, if he can't handle it he's not a person I want to be associated with. But if not him, who? Major depression is not a selling point! Depression is just one more thing that is wrong with me.

I'm tired of having something wrong with me. I'm tired of having to explain what's wrong with me. Sometimes I wish I could go back to being me--the me without conditions, precautions or excuses. But then again, maybe he wouldn't like the old me. Looking back, I don't like the old me. In most ways the new me...even the new me with depression is a lot better person.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Walk to Remember

I know something about losing memory. I've experienced it. When my depression was at its worst, I had ECT treatments as a last resort. Unfortunately, as a result, I lost my memory. I wish I could explain to everyone how it felt. I was so disoriented I didn't remember running a marathon; that's 26.2 miles folks! I still don't remember it. I couldn't remember topics that I cared about, so I couldn't hold up my end of any conversation. I couldn't discuss the movies I had seen, books I had read, or my own running statistics. I was a complete idiot. However, that wasn't the worst of it. Worse than being a non-conversant airhead was the inability to recognize people I knew! That's right. I had multiple conversations with others who clearly knew me, but I didn't have a clue who I was talking with. Take a moment and imagine that. It's hard to comprehend until one is in the middle of it.

I know I couldn't comprehend it years earlier, as I watched my intelligent, independent, and resourceful grandmother slide into a confused abyss. She couldn't recognize me for several years prior to her death. She couldn't even identify her own children, and I couldn't comprehend that. Until I landed in the same abyss. I understood it then. I understand it now. My grandmother had an Alzheimer's-type illness. While my ECT-brain improved over time, my grandmother's brain continued to betray her. That is the horror of Alzheimer's Disease--watching loved one's slide, and slide, and slide into a frustrating, confusing, illogical world. It is a cruel, incapacitating disease. Sound familiar?

Like depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder--Alzheimer's disease needs research dollars. The Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk is the nation's largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research. There will be walks in more than 600 communities this fall. Look for one near you and consider taking a walk to remember.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Do you know I'm a travel agent?

I realized today I've been depriving all of you the opportunity to travel inexpensively and donate to a good cause at the same time! I have an online travel business with a search engine capable of searching over 200 other travel sites! In just one search, you can get all of the prices offered by almost every other travel site available. We search all of the big ones, Travelocity, Orbitz, Cheap Tickets, etc..., as well as hundreds you've never heard of. So save your time and search once, rather than bouncing around looking for the lowest price, and be assured you are going to get every price offered across the web at that moment in time.

But that's not all!! (Insert dorky pitch-man here!)

Besides supporting my business, saving time, and saving money, I donate a percentage of my earnings to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. You get to support mental health research, education, and awareness while you travel. How cool is that?
Please check out my site here. In the future, just look for the link in the sidebar.

Thanks for your support!

A Quote About Moms.

This may be the quote of the year! I found it over at The Second Road on a very familiar post about mothers and daughters.

"...mothers know how to push our buttons because they're the ones who installed them."

I loved it so much, I thought I'd share.
Gotta smile once in awhile!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

losing friends

Another blogger in our mental health community is having a really hard time right now. I pray her depression lessens soon. She is an asset to our community, and when she's feeling well, there isn't another blogger who reads more blogs or leaves more supportive comments than she does. She's a friend to many.

I'm not sure she realizes how much she's loved by all of her cyber-friends. I realize cyber-friends cannot take the place of real, physically-present friends, but sometimes real people let us down. My blogging friend wrote a recent post about her disappointment with "no-return friends." No-return friends--the people with whom we were previously close, but who, for no apparent reason, no longer return our phone calls. Unfortunately, those of us with mental illness are all too familiar with this unique term.

Those of us with mental illness likely have too many examples of friends who have fallen out of our lives. I know I do. This phenomena seems to be unique to mental illness. It is one of the many reasons I have found depression so isolating. No hallmark cards, no pancake breakfasts, no hotdish, and friends who disappear. Ouch. It hurts. It's painful. It sucks.

Unfortunately, it's reality. When I speak to the public about my illness, I acknowledge this loss as one of the most difficult in an illness full of painful losses. There are probably multiple reasons for this reality, but one suggested reason stirred controversy over on my friend's blog. Perhaps, it was suggested, we aren't much fun to be around. That is, when my symptoms are raging, perhaps I'm not the brightest, happiest, most positive person to hang out with! I can't argue with that. It's another cruel reality of my illness.

Because the suggestion reflected one of my realities, I didn't find the comment controversial. Rather, having an explanation for the otherwise inexplicable loss of close friends relieves a bit of my pain. It's like acknowledging depression as an illness versus a character defect. The illness lets me off the hook. When my depression takes over, I may appear lazy, anti-social, irritable, and sad, but that's not me. It's the illness. I am an active, relatively social, pleasant person.

However, depression urges me to isolate. If I do get out, my illness makes socializing nearly impossible, especially if I can't separate myself from my symptoms. And when I am drowning in symptoms, I can't separate. Depression becomes me. I become depression. And I imagine, I'm not a whole lot of laughs to hang out with.

The following is an excerpt from the comment I left on my friend's blog post.

...most people cannot handle anything other than “shiny happy people.” It is a reflection on THEIR character, NOT YOURS. It sucks.

What worked for me when I lost friends...I shifted my focus to talking with people who could handle it–the professionals in my life. When that wasn’t enough, I connected with more professionals, the local NAMI organization, and did more writing.

I’m not suggesting you do any of the above–rather, just letting you know how I dealt with the pain of “friends” falling out of my life. Those “friends” originally caused me much pain with their ignorance and absence. Over time, the pain lessened–though it still stings if I allow myself to dwell on it too much.

This illness SUCKS. It steals everything we know and are comfortable with. It steals our soul. For me, once I accepted that fact and tried to focus on what I could do, and what I could control–vs. what I couldn’t do or control (i.e. other people)–my life got a little easier. Again, just letting you know what has worked for me–when I am able to do it!

There are a select few people with whom I confide what is “really” going on in my life. If I am around others outside that select few, I try to look at it as a time of distraction–a time to just be in that moment and a distraction from my internal strife. But I can only do that when I am in a slightly better space than the deep hole you seem to be in right now. When I’m feeling like super-duper, mega crap–I can’t handle much of anyone or anything. Everything I interpret, I interpret in the worst possible light. It’s a shitty place to be, and I hate it.

I am praying for you. ... Please, please take care of yourself. Be kind to you and to those around you, and hang on tight! ...

I hope this is helpful to others out their struggling with the cruel realities of depression and mental illness. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences, too.

To stay alive, I try to remember I have an illness. I have an illness which often sucks the life out of me, changes my character, and distorts my personality; but I don't have to let it define me. Keep fighting, folks. Don't let your illness define you.

Click here to read the post which inspired this post.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Unpredictability of marathon strikes Kastor down!

The marathon is alluring, frightening, and dramatic. Training for and finishing a marathon is exhausting and exhilarating. The distance is unique. The possibility of finishing--a mystery right up to the end. Perhaps that's what makes it so alluring. It is entirely unpredictable. The distance creates the unpredictability.

No matter how fit you are, no matter how well you've trained, and no matter how fast you can run, the marathon's 26.2 miles will keep you guessing. Whether it happens at two miles or 22 miles, months, even years, of sweat and sacrifice may go down in flames at any point along the marathon's lengthy path. That is apparently what happened to the USA's top hope, Deena Kastor, in the Women's Olympic Marathon today.

Deena Kastor dropped out of the marathon around the 5K mark after apparently suffering a foot injury. She stopped, dropped to a knee, and after rubbing her foot attempted to walk it off, but to no avail. I cannot imagine how disappointed and frustrated she must be. It seems she's been looking toward this race since placing 3rd in Athens four years ago. After watching her performance at the Olympic Trials in April, she looked unbeatable. I can't imagine losing a dream this large in the blink of an eye. Damn.

So, so sorry, Deena. Get well soon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A moment of clarity

It's a rare moment when something somebody says sticks in my brain. My brain's been a bit slippery since depression took residence almost eight years ago. This morning, however, three profound words stuck like glue to my typically Teflon skull.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pilates--a.k.a. Comic Relief!

If you need a good, hearty, belly laugh, I invite you to observe my next Pilates class. I'm new to the, 'eh, sport? Last night I took a two hour class, which was one hour longer than my total Pilates experience to date. It was mentally and physically exhausting. And it was very, very funny!

Pilates, for those of you unfamiliar, is like yoga, gymnastics, and Nintendo's Brain Age all rolled into one. Are you laughing yet? Pilates exercises focus on strengthening the core muscles. But just strengthening the abs and back would be way too simple. Pilates focuses on the deep core muscles. Those would be the ones you've never felt or consciously used in your entire life! Hence the Brain Age reference...

To strengthen the deep core muscles, I needed to learn where they were, what they did, and how it felt when they were active. Our fabulous, patient, cheerful instructor put us into all sorts of contorted positions while forbidding us to use the muscles which would normally hold us there. Confused? Let me give you an interactive example.

If you are not already, please sit down. Now lift one knee toward the ceiling. Are you doing it? Great. Do you feel that tightened muscle on the front of your hip--yes, the one which allows you to raise your leg. DON'T use it! That's right, turn that muscle off. What? You say you can't hold your leg up if that muscle isn't turned on? Terrific! Now you understand Pilates!

Once we attained our "understanding," we got down to business. Hint: this is the comedic portion of the program. Picture me rolling into a ball, butt in the air, while imagining my "tail" extending straight to the ceiling. Watch me rolling from my back to my butt, and then from my butt to my back, while hanging onto my ankles, which are at the far end of my straightened legs. Picture me on my side, as I attempt to make one butt cheek aim toward the ceiling and the other cheek toward the floor, while I swing my twisted leg forward and back. Are you laughing now? I hope so.

I sure was!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

An Excellent Run

It's amazing how quickly a good run can change my mood, outlook, attitude, self-confidence; you get the idea.

I was having a rough, sleepy, sluggish day. It started with an emergency dental appointment. Note to readers: popcorn and a weak tooth do not mix! I had one of my molars repaired about 6 weeks ago. It had a fracture line. I got a temporary filling. Last night I bit a tough piece of popcorn. My tooth split in two with the aforementioned popcorn kernel wedged between the pieces. It wasn't pretty. But it was no big deal, either. I just have half a tooth in my mouth right now. I'm scheduled to get it fixed next week.

After my appointment, Puck had his rehab appointment. We got the times mixed-up, though, and we arrived one hour late! Puck still got to run on the underwater treadmill, so it actually worked out okay. Did I mention it was pouring rain outside?

After that, I had to run one simple errand, in the pouring rain, to a store which wasn't there. It had relocated. So much for my simple errand. It took another 30 minutes to run down the store's new location.

By that time, the thought of running a fast tempo run was unappealing to say the least! I was tired, hungry, and irritable. I laid down. I slept. I figured the chance to run was lost by the time I woke up, as the rest of my day was scheduled. But then my social worker canceled our appointment, and I had a little over an hour before my Tuesday night meeting.

With a tiny burst of energy, I threw my running stuff on and walked out the door before I could think twice. I had a fast tempo scheduled, and those have all been tough lately. I was dreading it. To make the pacing a bit easier, I decided to run the 3 miles of tempo on the track with pace alerts (on my watch) every 1/4 mile. I was shooting for 8:45-9:00 minutes per mile.

Here's what I ran: 8:24, 8:22, 8:18! And I felt good doing it!

It's amazing how quickly a good run can change my mood, outlook, attitude, and self-confidence.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Did I mention I'm training for a marathon?

I haven't mentioned it. I haven't written about it, because I wasn't sure it was realistic. Actually, I'm still not sure. Perhaps it's a bit more realistic today. My hip has tolerated three weeks of training, 30-36 miles per week. The injection into the iliopsoas tendon (hip flexor) seems to have worked. I tolerated a 15-mile run two days ago, and I've tolerated the energy expenditure so far. I've been able to run.

I think my training secret was also due to fear--fear of failure, specifically. If I don't reveal the goal, it's as if I never set one. No goal, no possibility of failure! How's that for some really screwed-up reasoning? Truthfully, setting goals is daunting for just about anyone. Setting goals when you have an intermittently debilitating, chronic illness takes audacity. I've written about the dicey-ness of goal setting before.

Goals are tricky things when you have depression. The evil depression constantly bombards my brain with condemnation. "You are worthless! You are stupid! You are slow! You will never be the person you used to be! This is it. This is how you are going to be the rest of your life! What a hopeless waste, you are!" (insert evil laughter here)
The audacity it takes to strive for a goal you may FAIL to achieve is enormous! Yep, goals are tricky with depression. With my illness constantly corrupting my thoughts, setting goals is often terrifying. If I fail to meet or exceed those goals, all of the nastiness screaming in my head is instantaneously reinforced. And once those thoughts are "proven" to be "real," they stop being thoughts and become me. My depression loves it when that happens. It gets what it was craving, and it is satiated by my desperation. Depression wins. (from goals, 01/17/08)

Well, here I go! I'm about to be audacious! I plan to run and finish the Twin Cities Marathon on October 5, 2008. My secondary goal is to run it under 3:50, which, I believe, would qualify me for The Boston Marathon, April, 2009. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

just hanging with the equestrians and boxers

Dressage [druh-sahzh; Fr. dre-sazh] 1. a series of intricate steps, gaits, etc., taught to an exhibition horse. 2. the art or method of training a horse in obedience and in precision of movement.

Boxing [bok-sing] 1. the act, technique, or profession of fighting with the fists, with or without boxing gloves. (Source:

The Olympics are good news for insomniacs. For the next 15 days, you'd be hard pressed to spend one middle of the night waking moment without the availability of televised sports. Unfortunately, as I learned at 3:15 a.m., the "sports" available include two men pummeling each other in a small, square, ring(?) and woolen-clad riders atop prancing horses in a large, rectangular, ring(?). Okay, aren't rings circular? Isn't that the definition of ring? Sorry, lack of sleep leaves me a bit distractable. Where was I?

Oh, yah... horses, wool jackets, 90 degrees, top hats...dressage. At 3:15 in the morning, dressage took center stage. Now, I love horses, despite being deathly allergic to them--literally, turn blue, stop breathing, allergic. But I digress again... I had to look up the exact definition of this "sport," because for the life of me, I could not figure out what the hell I was looking at! At least with boxing, I know the goal--last guy standing wins! But dressage?? Not so easy to determine the goal.

In my sleep-deprived, pre-dawn stupor, this is what I saw. There was a beautiful horse, a sweaty rider--totally inappropriate attire for 90 degrees, and a bunch of stiff judges sitting in a booth. Horse and rider stoically walked, trotted, and pranced forward, sideways, diagonally and in circles. It appeared very serious and stressful, but God only knows why! Not much to "ooooh" and "aaaah" about unless you knew what was going on. With the exception of one horse who tried to flee the ring, rider in tow, (that was momentarily exciting) all the competitors looked pretty much the same to me. Perhaps the lower scoring horses neglected to point their hooves?

I kept waiting for the announcers to enlighten me, but they weren't much help either. Actually, they were so unenlightening, I should have been droned right back to sleep! I mean, c'mon! Even in beach volleyball, an infinitely more familiar sport, the commentators repeatedly explained the rules, scoring and strategy of the game.

I guess if the insomnia continues, I'll have to stick to two guys pummeling each other in a small, square ring. It ain't nearly as pretty, but at least it makes sense.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Knocked Flat!

As you know from recent posts, my depression has sucked the life out of me lately. Specifically, my thoughts have been disorganized, obsessive, destructive, and confused. I've "lost time" apparently--meaning I've forgotten or just not registered some of the more difficult moments over the past couple days. I've semi-functioned, but something had to be done about my brain! My psychiatrist and I decided today to try a prn of a med that had previously been helpful when my thinking had become so troublesome. I took a tiny dose mid-morning, and it definitely made an impact--I couldn't get out of bed the rest of the day!! It knocked me out cold for over six hours! I slept, and slept, and slept. I attempted to get up twice, but it was futile, so I slept some more. I do feel better. My brain feels a bit more like my own. I guess that was one way to get it to quiet down--Knock it out!! So much for any plans I had for today...but, like I said, I do feel better. Let's hope tomorrow continues more of the same, but maybe with less sleep.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

even when we feel like crap...

life still goes on.
even when we feel like crap
the world continues around us.

i learned long ago
the world didn't stop for me.
good knowledge to have
don't you think?

so even though i feel like crap
and the day before that,
expectations must still be met.
that is the definition of expectation
after all.

expectations must be met
or i fear i will fall

where is away?
i do not know.

can there
be any worse

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

feeling bad

stepped into the black hole. i don't know why. i don't know when. this was not on the schedule. i was not prepared. heavy. hurts to stand. hurts to sit. breathing takes all the energy i've got. nothing poetic or dramatic to say. can't breathe. can't think. brain is not my own. thoughts of nonsense. focus--i have none. never will be able to explain the whole-body experience of crippling depression. never. i can feel the hole in the middle of my chest...there is nothing more painful



Monday, August 4, 2008

long time gone

been a long time
many synapses successfully bridged
until today

until now

sharp is less
the same

can only hold
stem the tide

i am not the me
i am not the me
who am



bridges collapsed
synapses down

where's the wizard
i need

too too late

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fear at Church

He was ascending the long set of outdoor steps. I was descending, and we passed. A new face, unfamiliar, I hadn't seen him before. Perhaps because he was unfamiliar, or perhaps because of the serious intent with which he climbed, he caught my eye. And what about that black bag slung over his shoulder? I glanced back and viewed an elongated, rounded form straining the nylon fabric from within. Perhaps his serious intent, unfamiliar face, and the unknown contents of his bag cumulatively aroused my suspicion and fear. Perhaps. I'm not sure.

Of one thing I am sure, however. I wouldn't have noticed his face, his expression, or his bag one week ago today. I wouldn't have given him a second thought. I wouldn't have lingered at the bottom of the steps, pretending to view the garden, as I anxiously awaited shots. I wouldn't have, not at my church; my warm, welcoming, liberal church where the disturbed gunman would have been welcome to discuss his views.

But when Jim Adkisson entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church he chose violence over discourse. Rather than sit down and watch the children's program, Annie Jr., which was being performed on stage, Mr. Adkisson chose to pull a shotgun from his guitar case and open fire. Eight people were struck, two later died, by the time he stopped to reload. Congregants tackled and subdued Mr. Adkisson before his hateful rampage could resume.

According to our Minister Emeritus (that means she retired a couple years ago), there were over 200 people attending the service last Sunday. Extended families from both of Knoxville's UU congregations came out to watch their children, grandchildren and siblings perform. The other church, Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation, was founded by Reverend D.B.S., our Minister Emeritus. She ministered to the Westside Congregation through their first six years. The violence and hate had hit very close to home.

During our special remembrance service today, Reverend DBS recounted the events of last Sunday's shootings. Her voice frequently cracked with sadness, frustration and anger. The senselessness of this act speaks for itself. She spoke of heros and bravery, unity and charity, confusion and grief. She eulogized the two congregants who died. Sixty-year-old Greg McKendry was a foster parent who, in addition to his family, leaves behind an admiring foster son. Mr. McKendry likely saved countless lives when he stepped in the gunman's path, putting himself between Mr. Adkisson and the rest of the congregation. Sixty-one-year-old Linda Kraeger was a scholar and an author who had just moved with her husband and another couple from Texas. She was the sole caregiver to her friends' grandchild. Senseless, yet Reverend DBS concluded her comments by focusing on hope.

The service today was moving and filled with tears. I was surprised by the intensity of my emotions. Now, as I write this, my emotions make more sense. Our service connected me to people 1,000 miles away. Rather than feeling this was something which happened there, I learned that Mr. Adkisson could have just as easily attacked here. He didn't attack them. He attacked us. By attacking my faith and the principals in which I believe, he attacked me. I never dreamed our inclusionary, peaceful principals could spurn such hate.

I also never dreamed I'd feel fearful at church. Another sanctuary stolen by violence and hate. I am so sorry for the people of Knoxville. I cannot imagine experiencing such trauma in such an unlikely place. I pray those involved will find the strength to cope. I pray Mr. Adkisson receives the help he needs. Perhaps it's okay to be more aware of my surroundings and the people I pass, but paranoid suspicion of new faces in my church will never feel okay. I have to consciously work to retrieve the serenity Mr. Adkisson stole. I cannot, I will not let my sanctuary be stolen by hate.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

All Aboard the Viagra Bus! You too, Ladies!

For those of you who've been under a rock lately, listen-up! Viagra, in a small study of 98 participants, was shown to decrease the sexual dysfunction of women on anti-depressants. The study was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) within the last two weeks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the study subjects were women with major depression who reported sexual dysfunction after they began taking antidepressant drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac. The women were randomly assigned to receive either Viagra or a placebo for eight weeks, although I don't know if the researchers were also blinded to the drug assignment. (A double-blind study's results are generally considered more valid than a single-blind study.)

The participants rated their sexual dysfunction, on a scale of 1-7 with 7 being the worst, prior to the study commencing. The average rating of the Viagra group was nearly identical to the placebo group's average. However, after the eight week trial, the Viagra group's rating went from 4.8 to 2.8, which was significantly larger than the placebo group's change from 4.7 to 3.6. The Viagra group also reported more side effects than the placebo group.

As the WSJ noted, Viagra has not been approved for use in women, and Pfizer gave up pursuing FDA approval after previous drug studies failed to show a significant benefit.

I planned to write a comical commentary about this topic when the news first broke. However, after following the news for a bit, it became clear that I needed a different approach. The study, and the reporting of the study, has created a sea of controversy. Comments across the web ridicule the study's small sample size and its funding by Pfizer (although Pfizer apparently had no input into the study). More derisiveness has been leveled at JAMA for publishing a poor study and accusing them of publicity-seeking. And of course, the "depression isn't a medical illness which should even be medicated in the first place" crowd is up in arms about throwing another medication on top of "ineffective antidepressants." Whew...was there this much controversy when Viagra for MEN arrived on the scene??
But I digress...

My concern involves none of the above. A small study can be remedied by repeating the research with a larger, double-blind study. Many discoveries began as tiny case studies which subsequently encouraged larger, more comprehensive research. Obviously, the Pfizer funding conflict can be easily remedied in a repeat study--get the funding elsewhere! As far as JAMA's decision to publish, follow-up studies, whatever they show and wherever they appear, will quell the JAMA concerns as well. Lastly, the depression-is-not-an-illness and the anti-medication crowds will likely voice similar concerns no matter how many repeat studies are performed. That is their right. So, I look at this study as an interesting starting point with room to grow. None of the above criticisms are overly concerning to me. They are all fixable with follow-up.

My concern is much simpler and also fixable, but likely the damage has already been done. People have a short attention spans. (If you've read this far, congrats!) If my behavior is any indication, and I think it is, many of us get our news from headlines alone. Who's got time to read beyond that? Following are four of the hundreds of recent, similar headlines I came across:

Fight Mom's Depression With Viagra
Viagra for Women's Depression
Viagra may CURE Women Suffering from Depression
Viagra may Revive Women on Depression Drugs

Can you see why I'm concerned? Has anyone else already overheard someone say, "I heard women can use Viagra now to treat depression?" This study was about improving sexual dysfunction in premenopausal women who are on anti-depressants, and who reported decreased libido after beginning their medication. Maybe it's not a big deal, but it's another way people are being misinformed and mis-educated about my illness. And that only makes life more difficult.