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!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Remember that cold I had last week? Well, it took a vicious turn for the worse on Sunday, and yesterday I was officially diagnosed with pneumonia. I've had pneumonia before, so by Monday, when I could barely walk from one end of my house to the other, I figured I had it again. I've been in bed for most of the past three days. Thank God there are lots of football games on right now! At least I have something to look at when I'm not asleep!

Being this ill is difficult. I can take care of myself for the most part, but taking care of Puck is more difficult. Poor Puck. Until last night, he'd been inside for days. More than once he stood by my bed and stared at me, as if to say, "Why are you in bed again?" Even when up, I didn't have the energy to play with him. So I had to ask for help yesterday--something I don't care to do! My friend Shelli came over and walked him for me. He was so excited! After just 30 minutes outside with her, he was content the rest of the evening. I felt better, too.

Being this ill is also tough on my mental health. Being inside alone is tough. Even though I tend toward the isolative, I typically do get out. Right now I'm staring at several more days of isolation. I'm hoping to get out to an AA meeting by Saturday. And if the antibiotics work, I should have enough energy to go back to work next week.

Unfortunately, I don't know when I'll feel up to exercising again. With every passing moment, I feel my fitness going down the tubes. All of my hard work over the past 6 months will soon disappear. I'll have to start over at zero. That really sucks. I'll have to fight the "fuck-its" to get back out there as soon as I can. Otherwise this period of inactivity will last well beyond my illness. That would only compound my frustration and make starting over even more difficult, so please root for me to get going as soon as possible!

Well, that's all I've got for now. It's time to get back in bed. Typing is surprisingly exhausting! Have a great day, everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

2,103,840. Another milestone.

Two million
One hundred three thousand
Eight hundred forty

It was on this day four years ago, December 28, 2005, that I put down my last alcoholic drink. That's 1461 days, or 35,064 hours, or 2,103,840 minutes ago. I am so grateful.

I don't remember much about that day. It was not special in any other way. I do know that December 28, 2005 was the third day in a row I had attempted to quit. It was the first time in my life I hadn't been able to stop when I wanted to stop. That scared me.

Over the past 2,103,840 minutes, there have been good moments and bad moments, happy moments and sad moments, periods of serenity and moments filled with craziness. Life has been easy and difficult, fair and unfair. Moments filled with love were often surrounded by those filled with loneliness. At times depression has beaten me senseless, at other times I've found release. Over the past four years there have been 2,103,840 minutes of celebration and complication. The miracle is I've survived each moment without finding it necessary to take that first drink.

We have a saying in my home AA group. We can do what I cannot do. I could not stay sober alone. Believe me, I tried. I am so thankful for my friends in AA. Without their belief, love and support, I would be drunk or more likely dead. I'm sure the combination of depression and alcohol would have proved fatal by now. Instead, I've had the opportunity to live through 2,103,840 moments of life. It hasn't always been easy, but it's certainly been far better than it would have been with alcohol in control.

Now, let's see what moment number 2,103,841 has in store!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas thoughts and feelings

Grateful...that's my primary feeling today.

I woke up yesterday feeling a little under the weather--sore throat, sinus pressure--but nothing terrible. After a wonderful 7:00 AM AA meeting, I headed to my gym. The weather outside was truly frightful with rain, slush, and muck, so I ran 5 miles on the treadmill. It was actually a nice run. I maintained a good pace and didn't get too bored. That's atypical for me and the treadmill! After running, I lifted weights for 45 minutes. I figured the weight lifting metabolism boost would serve me well later in the afternoon! I think I had 3 pieces of pie over the course of the day. I'm not sure any amount of weight lifting helps with that!

Shortly after returning from the gym, I headed over to my friends' house. I helped Bill and Cindy prepare for the small gathering. Five or six sober friends arrived later in the afternoon with food galore! We had a beautiful turkey dinner, listened to music, played cards, and laughed a lot! (Here are the MEN attacking the turkey!)Puck got to come, too. Puck, Puppy and Bailey (Bill and Cindy's dogs) laid on the floor all day munching on their Christmas gifts. Bill gave them each a huge butcher shop bone with meat still attached! I've never seen Puck so content for so long.After hours of attacking that bone, he fell fast asleep on their sofa. I'm sure Puck was very grateful, too, as he doesn't typically get bones like that, nor is he allowed to lie on the furniture at home.It was a really, really nice day. By the time I got home, I was totally exhausted and went straight to bed!

I'm so grateful I had friends with whom to share the holiday. Christmas can be very difficult for many people, but I've noticed it is especially difficult for people with mental illness or those in recovery who are detached from families. Like many, I've had holidays where I've simply hung on and gotten through it. Thankfully, I didn't need to just hang on this year. My hope is that all of you had a restful, peaceful, and joyful day. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve and we're having another blizzard!
I love it.

Puck and I walked into the thick of the storm late last night.
It was beautiful.
I loved it.

It's Christmas Eve and I have a job interview today!
I'm excited.
No matter the snow.
Like Santa,
I will make it there!

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A really, really good day!

Oh my gosh! Where do I start? Yesterday was a really, really good day! It's been a little while--maybe even a long while--since I've had a day like yesterday. It was a productive day filled with surprises! What could be better than that?

I started my day with a long list of things to do. I was a bit overwhelmed, as is usual when I have a long list. For a brief moment, I contemplated going back to bed and "doing it all later." Thankfully, I didn't. And I think that decision brought some good karma my way.

After my morning coffee, I returned some phone calls and organized my activities. First, I swam. I was supposed to run, but my legs just aren't cooperating lately. My left calf and shin pain are back, and now I have pretty significant right knee pain. Remember when I twisted that knee playing golf a few months ago? Well, I'm pretty sure I have a torn meniscus, and I think it is now objecting to running. It also objects to full knee flexion, i.e. I can't kneel, and full knee extension, i.e. I can't straighten my knee. I'm planning an MD appointment, but that wasn't on my list yesterday. So I swam 2 miles (1 mile in flippers) in 65 minutes. Boring and very tiring. I think I'm losing some of my fitness. But I did it!

After eating some wonderful pasta at my gym, I set out to conquer the rest of my schedule. A long line at the post office was the first stop. Then I was off to Mills Fleet Farm to replace my back door's broken door knob. (I locked myself out of the house Sunday and had to literally break in.) After filling my gas tank at the Mills gas station, I was off to Dick's Sporting Goods. I picked up a present for a friend, one who may read this blog, so I can't tell you what it was. Let's just say she's an avid golfer. The Target next door then swallowed me up for about an hour. Even with a list it is so hard to get out of that store once I'm inside! Too many goodies to peruse! I bought three more presents for the friends with whom I will be spending Christmas before returning home.

Now for the good part! When I got home there were four messages on my voice mail! Four! Nobody ever calls me, so that was quite exciting in and of itself. (What can I say? I lead a sheltered life.) The first message was from my credit union. Apparently I had won a contest--a contest which I didn't even know I had entered! Not only had I won, I won the grand prize! Check out my brand new, 8GB iPod Touch! Whoohoooo! Okay, so that was very exciting, but wait...there's more! I got three phone calls from a potential new employer! I enjoy my job, but driving 45-50 minutes on a very dangerous road has taken it's toll. I'd been hoping for something closer to home for the past year. Our occupational therapist was recently hired away from us by a new company in my city. I decided to give them my name, so I filled out an online application at 10:00 PM Monday night. They made their first call to me at 8:10 AM yesterday morning! Two more calls followed, including one offering an interview! Whoohoooo! I'll let you know more details as they emerge, but I am very excited! Well, I'm actually very, very, very excited...but I'm trying to contain myself.

I ended my day with a great AA meeting. A friend, and newcomer, I brought to this meeting last week showed up again last night. She had already transformed from a tearful, shaky shell to a smiling, fresh-faced woman. It's always great to see people come back after their introduction to the program. I'm keeping her in my prayers. If she gets it, like I got it, her life will certainly change! It's not always sunshine and roses, but sometimes it is! If I wasn't sober, I'd never have had the day I had yesterday, and for that I'm very grateful. Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was shocked this morning to hear of the death of a local musician whom I liked very much--musically and personally. He was a past member of my church. He was also familiar with several of the topics covered in this blog. (I am purposefully being vague, as I don't know how open he was about his personal life.) According to news reports, he was found dead in his home over the weekend. One may speculate, but at this point it is unclear how he died. He was only 51 years old. Talented, gentle, kind--yet, from what I knew, a bit of a tortured soul. Hopefully, his soul is now resting peacefully.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


It is characteristic of alcoholics to feel alone in a crowd. It is also a symptom of my depression--feeling alone, separate, or on the outside looking in. The cruel irony is that I've been a member of defined groups most of my life. I've always been an athlete, and athletes spend a lot of time together! In high school and college, my teammates and I practiced together for hours every day, played games together evenings and weekends, and then gathered to socialize and party with whatever time we had left. Despite the constant contact, I recall never feeling I belonged to any of those groups with whom I'd spent all that time.

In my professional and personal life since college, not much has changed. Though I've continued to participate in many groups, I've always felt like an isolated cog within a connected crowd. Whether I've been with runners, church members, or coworkers, I've been on the outside looking in. I've never felt like an integrated part of the whole.

Perhaps some of this has been my doing. It is certainly safer to keep my distance. It's harder to get hurt if I never let people get too close. Yet feeling separate, being alone in a crowd, is very painful. When my depression flares, it is one of the most hurtful things I must endure. I'm sure some of you can relate. Even when I'd desperately wanted to feel like a part of a group, for most of my life, I hadn't felt like I belonged.

I hadn't felt like I belonged, that is, until this weekend. Sitting back from the table I shared with five sober friends, I suddenly discovered a very foreign feeling two nights ago. I was a part of the whole. I wasn't on the outside looking in. I was actually in. This feeling repeated itself yesterday while celebrating my birthday, again, with three running friends. It was unusual, and relieving, and warm, and nice. I belonged for perhaps the first time in my life.

Belonging felt nice. I didn't know why I'd suddenly felt it. I didn't know how I'd made it in. Certainly sobriety and less depression had something to do with it. Perhaps letting others get a little closer to me helped as well. Whatever the reasons, I hope I continue to feel a part of, rather than apart from, those around me for a long, long time. Instead of a fleeting stranger, I hope belonging becomes my familiar friend.

Friday, December 18, 2009


It's my birthday. Guess how old I am? Old enough, that's for sure!

I'm actually kind of excited about this birthday. Usually, being a single person, I don't do much of anything for my birthday. But this year, I'm having two birthday events! Tonight I'm having dinner with several sober friends--I didn't even know I had several friends--and then we're going to a concert. Tomorrow I'm having lunch with my friend Renee and some other running pals. I'm anxious to get through work today so we can start celebrating.

I'm so fortunate to have all of these wonderful people in my life. With depression, it's often difficult to connect with others, or even to remember anyone cares. Today I'm feeling very grateful for the connections I've made, and for the people who care about me. I'm lucky, indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Running and Caroling

I stepped out of my comfort zone and went caroling tonight with members of my track club. It's an annual event I've never attended before. First of all I can't sing! Secondly, it's one of those group activities, and I knew I wouldn't know many of the runners attending. I think about fifteen runners showed up. We began at the local running store and then ran around town wearing our Santa hats and reindeer antlers. We entertained the residents at two nursing homes and then stopped to sing to the kids at The Ronald McDonald House. We completed our journey by returning to the running store for cookies. It was fun. It was fun, but it was also dark and freezing cold! I wouldn't be surprised if it was several degrees below zero. It was definitely the coldest weather I've run in this year. The darkness and the dicey winter footing was quite challenging, too. After downing a few cookies, I returned home to take Puck on a 2 mile jaunt. Before we went out I put Vaseline on his paws. I was worried he might get frostbite from the cold, icy ground. He seems to have survived just fine.

I'm pretty proud of myself for getting out of the house tonight. There were many reasons for me not to go. I was exhausted after work. It was freezing cold and dark outside. It was a new activity I'd never done before, which meant I had to conquer my fear in order to go. I'm not sure what got me out the door. Sometimes I surprise myself. Next year I just may do it again!

Monday, December 14, 2009

How do we know we're better?

When is depression over?
Does it have an end?
Or are there only periods of reprieve?
How do we know when we're better?

Is depression like the flu?
Or maybe pneumonia?
Is there a finite beginning, middle and end?
We're cured when we feel better.

Or is depression like MS?
Or maybe leukemia?
Are there bouts of illness and periods of relief?
We feel better, but we're never cured.

When is depression over?
Has anyone else considered this?
Or is this another rumination of one ill brain?
How do we know when we're better?
Are we ever cured?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A milestone


This is my 500th post on Depression Marathon. Wow. I began writing a little less than two years ago. I never envisioned this thing getting this far. I feel like I should say something really profound or symbolic, but I don't have anything like that in mind. Maybe simpler words are good enough. Wow.

I'm pleased, proud, and grateful. I started this blog to educate and support others about mental illness. Instead, I've received so much support from my readers, it's no wonder I'm feeling better than ever. Thank you. I'd like to continue as long as you'll continue to read. I will continue as long as I have something meaningful to say. Thank you for the opportunity to be a tiny part of your days.

By the way, I do have some profoundly good news. Puck's biopsy revealed a benign gingival (gums) tumor. It will likely come back, and if it does so aggressively, it will have to be more completely removed. Right now, I'm just watching the spot. If it comes back, I pray it will be a slow, non-aggressive tumor. I really don't want Puck to go through another surgery. He's been through enough. I'm very, very thankful he doesn't have cancer. Thanks for your prayerful thoughts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

So you think you want to live in Minnesota? aching back!

Puck enjoying the snow.

Snow and cold--it's how we keep the riff-raff from moving to our lovely state!


I got up early thinking I would shovel my driveway, make it to a class at the gym, and then drive to work--45 minutes away. This is what I encountered instead.
I had to push my way out the door. This is the doorway into my driveway. It sits at least 6 inches above my driveway.

This is looking out my door toward my garage. Those drifts are about 4.5 to 5 feet high. Needless to say, I didn't make it out of my driveway, as I don't own a snow blower, and I couldn't fathom shoveling this yet, especially since it is still snowing...

...still snowing hard. Fun, fun, fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A+ for the Weatherman!

It's been snowing and snowing and snowing all day long. I love it, although I may feel differently in a couple hours. I'm about to go outside and shovel the 6 inches in my driveway, and I have a long driveway! The way it's snowing now, there will be at least another 6 inches by morning.

The snow, or maybe the extra sleep I got last night, energized me today. I went for a 5.3 mile run with Puck this morning! Great news: No left leg or calf pain. Bad news: My right knee hurts! Can't win. After my AA meeting tonight, I swam for 30 minutes. Two workouts in one day. Not typical for me, but it worked today.

I love running in the snow. I love the noise running shoes make on snow. It's kind of a quiet squeaking noise. And I love watching Puck leave happy footprints in the white stuff. He was practically smiling throughout our run today. Unencumbered joy...that's my boy!

Speaking of my boy, I spoke to the vet tech today about his biopsy. Apparently the lab wants to slice the sample into smaller pieces for examination, so we won't know the results until later this week. Keep those prayers coming, please. I don't want him to be sick. I want him smiling and unencumbered for as long as possible!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wiped out!

I am dragging. It took forever for me to wake up for work this morning. Then I had a long, heavy day. Now it's only 7:30 PM, and I can barely keep my eyes open, and I just woke up from a nap! I fell asleep right after I got home from work. I'm not sure why I'm so tired. It's just one of those days, I guess. I was hoping to go for a short swim tonight, but there's no way that's going to happen. Perhaps I'll just go to bed. Tomorrow, I'm planning a short RUN! Hopefully I'll wake up by then!

No word from the vet yet regarding Puck's biopsy. Keep him in your prayers!

We're supposed to have a blizzard tomorrow! But then again, are the weathermen ever correct?

I'll leave you with this. I found it in my AA book. I'm not sure where I got it from, but I like it. Hope you do to.
When we are in ourselves, thinking only about ourselves, it's like a chunk of chocolate sitting in the bottom of a glass of milk. But if we get out of ourselves and spend time giving to others, that chocolate gets stirred up, and we end up with a beautiful glass of chocolate milk.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

football, football, football

This is a great time of year to be a football fan. If I wanted, I could watch a game just about every day of the week. Saturdays are full of college games, and then I get to watch my awesome Vikings on Sundays. Today, I went to my morning AA meeting, which was quite good as usual. After the meeting I went swimming for 65 minutes before I came home to relax in front of some great football games!

Sixty five minutes of swimming is boring, but I covered 2 miles again (1 mile with flippers). I think wearing the flippers is strengthening my ankles and shins. That's exactly what I need to keep this tendinitis from coming back once I resume running. My left leg is pain free now, but I haven't tried to run yet. I think I will get back on the road by mid-week.

I still haven't heard anything about Puck's biopsy. The vet thought we'd have results by now. It's hard to wait. I pray there is nothing wrong with him. He's certainly not acting ill, but I know that doesn't always mean anything. He's so bored with me not running. He'll be thrilled when I start running again!

Well, I don't have much more to say. I'm grateful to be feeling well. Now, back to the game...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

everything but running

We got our first dusting of snow overnight. I love running in the snow, although I'm not thrilled about the cold. I went indoors last night, rode the stationary bike and lifted weights at the gym. I swam on Sunday and plan to swim again today. I do hate getting into that pool when it's cold outside. Those first moments are always chilly. My leg feels a lot better though, so I'm going to continue resting it for a few more days.

I had to take Puck to the vet on Tuesday. He's had a small, round, hard bump inside his mouth for the past couple months. It was almost between two of his front bottom teeth. I figured he got something stuck between his teeth, had some inflammation, and it would eventually pass. It didn't. Unfortunately, the vet said it could be a tumor. He sedated Puck, excised the bump and sent it off to the University of Minnesota lab for analysis. Of course, I'm worried. The vet said he'd call me with the results "in a few days." Say a little prayer for my boy if you are so inclined. Thanks.

I had my chat with my assistant at work yesterday. As expected, she was more interested in rationalizing her faulty techniques than she was in listening to feedback. There was unnecessary tension throughout the office afterward. I've been replaying what I said and how I could have said it better ever since the chat. I could have, should have, been more directive than I was. We'll see if anything changes. I hope so. I don't want to have to do this again.

I'm off to do some online Christmas shopping before jumping in the pool.
May the sun warmly shine within your heart throughout the day. Have a great day everyone!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Last day of the month thoughts

Wow. It's the end of November already. Kind of a big month for me. Had that little marathon deal a few weeks ago. That turned out okay, I guess. Ha! Briefly had a plan to run another one next month, but now trying to cope with not running while I heal from injury. I think the rest and cross-training are helping my leg.

Yesterday I lifted weights and spent 66 minutes on the elliptical. God bless those of you who do those machines on a regular basis! I don't know how you do it! I thought swimming was boring! Even with a TV right in front of my face, I can't stand doing the same thing in the same place over and over again. But I did it. Like I said, I'm trying to cope with not running. I'll be back in the pool tomorrow.

Puck's trying to cope with me not running, too. He's not any happier with our 30 minute walks than I am. Plus he's got all sorts of excess energy. I can't sit still for one minute without him bringing me one of his toys. He's used to 20-40 miles a week, too. Half hour walks are a pretty significant drop in activity. Hopefully, he won't have to wait much longer to run with mom again.

On another totally unrelated note, I'm stressed about having to confront one of my assistants at work. She's been making some questionable treatment decisions lately. Unfortunately, she's also very defensive. So rather than allowing for a learning experience, which is what I'd prefer, she will likely defend her decisions to the bitter end and fail to hear any constructive feedback. I'm afraid it's going to be a totally useless and unpleasant interaction. It's too bad.

Here's hoping December brings healing, happiness, and joy for one and all.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Already anxious to run

I hope you all had a very pleasant, comfortable, and gratitude filled Thanksgiving. I worked part of the day, watched football and went for a walk with Puck. In the early evening, I had dinner with some sober friends. I said a prayer for those who spent the holiday alone. I was grateful to be sober and to be surrounded by people for whom I care and who care about me.

Puck and I just got in from another walk tonight. It was beautiful out. Many homes were lit up for Christmas. It was so nice and so serene, I had a very difficult time continuing to walk. I really wanted to run! Then I stepped off a curb and pain shot through my left lower leg. That was a good reminder of what I was trying to accomplish by resting--no more pain! But I really, really wanted to run!

Nothing but walking for me yesterday and today, as the pool was closed. I'll be back splashing around tomorrow. Get this! I actually swam 2 miles on Wednesday! Yup, 2 miles! I couldn't believe it! I set out to swim for an hour, but at an hour I was already over 1.5 miles (I swam the first half mile with flippers) so I decided to keep going. Surprisingly enough I finished fairly easily. Not sure what got into me, but that was quite a little achievement for me! Remember, when I started 1.5 years ago, I couldn't even swim one lap without stopping and gasping for breath. Swimming is slightly less annoying now that I can do it, but I'd still rather be running down the road!

Here's hoping my leg heals quickly...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

More swimming for me

Well after my whining yesterday (see last post) I did get out the door and run. Rather than a speed workout of 10 miles, I set my sights on an easy 2 miles. I made it 4.5 miles. Then I went back to bed for an hour before my AA meeting, which I followed with 25 minutes of weight lifting. Thankfully, it wasn't a totally useless day.

This morning brings new revelations as a result of yesterday's short run. My left calf is not healed. I don't know why I expected it would be. With the exception of the week after the marathon, I never really let it rest. It hurt for the first couple of miles yesterday, but I was encouraged when the pain subsided. Unfortunately, this morning it is worse. I have pain in my calf and shin. Tendinitis. I need to take some time away from the running, I guess. That means I'll be back in the pool today.

It also means I will have to change my upcoming goals. I had hoped to run another marathon in each of the next two months. I think a December marathon is definitely out of the question now. I will plan to run in Clearwater, Florida in January instead. I will lose some running fitness between now and then, which is exactly what I didn't want to happen, but I suppose I should listen to my yelping leg. I'm looking forward to the day when I can cruise along pain free again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

one of those days

I'm having one of those totally useless days. Although I'm sure my therapist could re-frame it into some sort of positive, to me this day has so far been totally useless. I have a short list of things to do, including running a speed workout, but I've yet to get out of my pajamas.

I'm tired, I guess, although I can't imagine why. When my alarm went off this morning, I was in a deep sleep. I barely remember shutting it off. Puck got me out of bed an hour later, and I had my usual breakfast and coffee. I don't think I actually woke up though. Within another hour I was back in bed sound asleep. Weird. I remember awakening a few times after that, but never longer than to just roll over and continue my slumber. I didn't get out of bed until 12:30! I can't remember the last time I slept an entire morning away! College maybe? Yikes!

Once up, I figured I'd certainly feel ready and useful. That hasn't happened either. Still in my pj's. Still tired. Still useless. I'm hoping to come around soon, as I'd really like to get something done. I'd really like to run, or swim, or bike, or even go for a walk! Of course, that will require getting my leaden butt out of this chair. Whew! Lead is really, really heavy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Back on the road

I returned to running today, and boy am I paying for my time off! I ran 12.1 miles. I planned to run 15, but my calves wouldn't allow it. Puck seemed no worse for the layoff. It's so fun for me to watch him run. He appears to be smiling the whole time! Anyway, as I was saying, my calves tied up into knots and wouldn't let go. I'm still paying the price right now--12 hours later! Ouch.

I wish I could have gotten out the door earlier this week. Despite my physical discomfort, I already feel better mentally. My mood seems lighter, and I have more energy. There was certainly a sense of community out on the road this morning. It seemed everyone in town was out running. I like feeling part of the running community. When I'm sitting at home, that's another thing I lose--community. It was great being out there with the masses again.

I wanted to run long today because I'm contemplating another marathon in December. I think I really need that goal in front of me right now. Besides, I ran a marathon in October for fun, and I still ran well in Richmond 4 weeks later. Why not do it again? I'll see how my legs feel tomorrow. I may need to reconsider my plan if my calves don't cooperate. I'll let you know...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Battling the post marathon blues

One of the most popular posts on this blog is about post marathon depression. I wrote it after I ran Grandma's this year. At that time, I sensed the beginning of a post marathon drop in my mood. I think I'm smack in the middle of that drop right now. Scary.

Like I said, post marathon depression is a hot topic here, so I guess I'm not alone in this. That helps. I am feeling absolutely spent. Boston's early field closure doesn't help, but it's more than that. I'm definitely feeling out of sorts, direction-less, and drained. I guess it makes sense. I worked very hard for 4 months with one, singular goal to keep me moving. Now...nothing.

I haven't run a step since the race. I haven't swam. I haven't biked. Nothing. I've been battling a migraine for the past two days, which hasn't helped. I guess I need a goal to get going again. I'm formulating one. It involves another marathon, but that's all I'm going to say for now. I'm planning to run Saturday, maybe even go long. Sometimes I have to jump all the way in to get going again. But I think a new goal is the answer. Now, if I could just get off the couch!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NO Boston for me...

The 2010 Boston Marathon is closed. The 2010 Boston Marathon has reached its field limit of 25,000 runners, and there is no way to sign up for the race anymore. There is no waiting list. There is no entry...period. So there will be no Boston Marathon in 2010 for me.

Talk about a major disappointment... I'm so glad I didn't know this before my race. That would have made it very difficult to keep going when I felt bad. My qualifying time is good for 18 months, so I will sign up for the 2011 Boston Marathon, but a lot can happen in 1.5 years. After working so hard for this one singular goal, I'm still dumbfounded that I won't be able to participate in the culminating event. Dumbfounded and sad...

Oh, and did I mention it officially closed on November 13th--one day before the Richmond Marathon?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Stats

Time: 3:46:57

Pace: 8:37 per mile

Place: 30th out of 323 women in age group

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The recap


I'm really proud of myself. At mile 11, my legs were done. I had hustled back on pace from a pit stop at mile 8, and we had just finished 3 miles of rolling hills. I was in the midst of composing my blog post in my brain. The title was to be, "Missed again." I was grieving...thinking of everything that had gone wrong--too much walking the day before the race, the injured calf, forgetting to buy yogurt (my usual food) for breakfast, travel stresses... I had a lot of sadness and negative thinking going on.

Despite my faulty thoughts and failing legs, I decided I wouldn't walk until at least mile 13.1--the halfway point. I don't know why. It was just a little goal. I had already played other brain tricks earlier in the race. For instance, at mile six I remember thinking, "Only 10 more miles until there's 10 more miles left to go." Perhaps that thought of mile sixteen is what kept me going once I reached halfway. At mile 13.1 I thought, "Give yourself a chance. Just get to 16." And that became my theme.

"Give yourself a chance," I kept repeating. And by that I meant keep running on pace until mile __ before thinking about slowing, walking or quitting. It worked. I made it to mile 16, on pace, and felt a hell of a lot better than I had at mile 11 or mile 13. "Give yourself a chance, etta. Just make it to mile 18," and I did. And then the goals were miles 20, 22, and 23. By mile 22, I was pretty sure I was going to make it. Miles 23-26 were perhaps the toughest miles I had ever run, but I didn't slow. I was determined.

"If it was easy, anyone could do it." That was my thinking over the final 3.2 miles. Any time I thought it was too hard, I reminded myself it was supposed to be hard. That's what would make it special. And special it was. I exuberantly yelled, "I qualified," as I ran toward the finish line. As far as I was concerned, the spectators were all cheering for me. HA! It was my ten seconds of fame.

I was very emotional and held back tears after I crossed the finish line. Those first 11 miles were filled with physical discomfort and emotional negativity. I think I am more proud of battling back from that than I am of qualifying for Boston.

In many ways, the race was a microcosm of my last 4-5 months. Remember July? Gripped by depression, I could barely get out of bed. From my bed to a qualifying marathon... I don't know what else to say. I'm happy. I'm grateful. Life is good today.

Saturday, November 14, 2009



more later...
first a nap!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Waiting out the storm

After a very long day of travel yesterday, I finally arrived into a very wet, windy, and cold Richmond, Virginia, last night. The recent hurricane deposited days of rain right over the top of the East Coast. As I awaited the Holiday Inn shuttle, I began an inventory of my suitcase. Not nearly enough cold weather gear in there! After all, the last time I checked the weather, it said it was going to be up to 69 degrees on Saturday! Damn!

The Holiday Inn shuttle, which I had arranged literally hours earlier, did not show up. That should have been my first clue. I arrived at a hotel which looked nice on the surface, but the place was dirty and broken beneath. Besides the lack of promised amenities--like a refrigerator and microwave--there was a dirty rag hanging over my shower rod, my heater was busted, the card key worked only 50% of the time, and the place was woefully understaffed. I spent the night, but today I'm transferring to a Comfort Inn down the street. I will certainly think twice before staying at another Holiday Inn.

So it's been a rough start to my trip. They say the rain is going to stop today. God, I hope so! It looks like it may be just warm enough for my attire, but I will be looking for some clothing deals at today's expo. I'm hoping to get checked into my new digs early, get quickly through the expo, go for a short run, and then spend the rest of the day relaxing. I need to get back into the mental groove of marathon prep and put these recent stresses behind me. Hopefully, things will get smoother from here on out. The gun goes off at 8:00 AM eastern time tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Testing the leg

I know. I know. I said I wasn't going to run on my injured leg before the marathon this Saturday. But it was such a gorgeous, warm, sunny day again today, I couldn't stand the thought of swimming inside! So I tested my leg.

I had another reason to get out and test my leg. I was feeling really heavy. I needed some time on my feet to build confidence for the weekend. I ran 5.1 miles, including 4x400 at 5K pace. I had discomfort with every step, but it was a tightness in my calf rather than the sharp pain I had last week. The swimming, biking and rest did make a difference, I think.

As I hoped, running fast felt good. I worked out some cobwebs. I'm feeling lighter and more confident now. I'm also feeling a bit more nervous. Hard to believe the marathon is only a few days away. It's frustrating to be injured after excellent training for all but the last two of these past 18 weeks. But it is what it is. That's what makes the marathon special. If it was easy, everyone would run one! Hopefully, I'll find the comfort and speed I need on marathon day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cleaning and clearing

I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling a bit out of sorts my house usually shows it. Thoughts strewn about my brain are matched by clothes strewn about my house. A dingy, gray mood is paralleled by a dingy, gray kitchen and bath. Interestingly enough, I find the reverse is also true. That is, when my house is messy, cluttered, and dingy, my mind and mood soon follow.

Now I am not a neat freak. I appreciate clean, but my house is my base of activity. There are running clothes drying on various door knobs, work shoes resting wherever I removed them, and bills lying open next to my computer. This is the norm. The problem arises when the vacuum stays in the closet, the broom rests by the refrigerator, and the cleanser hides in the vanity. This, unfortunately, is the current state. And what do you know, my mind and mood are headed in the same messy direction!

So today is cleaning day. Even though I hate cleaning, I need to clean my house to clear my mind. There are so many things I would rather do. Unfortunately, ignoring the clutter is eventually dangerous for my mental well being. Wish me luck today as I confront my mess. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Not to run...

Easily the nicest, warmest, sunniest day we've had since maybe August passed today without me stepping out on the road. Instead, I went inside to swim. Ugh! I swam and swam and swam. I had a 10-12 mile run scheduled, so I figured a 60 minute swim might be approximately equivalent. I swam for 60 minutes, the first time I've ever done that, and I covered 3000 yards, the greatest distance I've ever swam. I'm grateful I was able to swim that far and that long, but I still wish I had been outside! There is no substitute for running! Only 7 days until my marathon...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saddened by death.

I learned last night of two deaths which directly resulted from alcoholism. One young man and one middle-aged woman, both of whom previously worked a program of recovery, passed away this week. Relapse leading to makes me so frightened and so sad.

I've been struggling with drinking thoughts since my sponsor's relapse. They scare me. These two people who died were no different than I. They were accomplished, intelligent human beings who chose to act on their drinking thoughts. Why them and not me?

I wonder sometimes. Why am I getting it--recovery--when so many others are not? And what if I stop getting it? I have to assume that I, too, would die. If the drinking didn't kill me, the alcohol's depressant effect would surely spin me into suicide. Why haven't I picked up a drink while others, with far more sobriety than I, have picked up? I don't know. There but for the grace of god go I.

Alcoholism is a crazy, scary, deadly disease. I am so grateful to be sober today.


It's 4 AM, and I'm awake. Actually, I've been awake since 2:45 AM. It was (is) one of those nights. After awakening multiple times, and finally staying awake after 2:45, I decided to get up and go for my run. Yup, I went running at 3 AM. Crazy, huh?

Actually, it was worse than crazy. It turned out to be dumb. My right calf and shin hurt every step of the way. I'm a PT. I know if a painful area does not improve within the first few minutes of running, it means I should stop running. I didn't. I only made it 3.5 miles, but it was a long, painful, dumb 3.5 miles.

I'm really pissed that I'm injured after all this training! Of course, running through it like I did this morning was not helpful. I likely made things worse. If I had stopped running, like I planned a few days ago, and started swimming instead of running, like I planned a few days ago, I might already be on the mend. I just have to hope it's not too late.

I also have to battle like hell NOT to go back out on the road prior to my race. I have to trust I'm ready and in shape. I have to have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. At this point in time, I should be able to maintain my fitness with swimming. If I can stay off the road, my leg just may heal enough that every step of my marathon will not be painful. God, I hope so!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pissing off the devil

Be the kind of woman who when your feet hit the ground each morning, the devil says,

Thanks to my social worker who thought of me when she saw this!

Thank you

Today my therapist and I were marveling over the brevity of my recent dive into depression's darkness. That discussion got me thinking. I have you readers to thank for that brevity. You guys wrote some very supportive comments after I posted about my worsening mood last week. Thank you so much. Feeling alone is a big part of my depression, but your comments reminded me I'm among many. Thanks again for your support. I hope I have half the effect on you as you have on me.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A good 10K

With a temp of 35 degrees and wind gusting up to 30 mph, running my planned 10K this morning was suddenly not very appealing. Of course my leg hurt, and I'm still having my morose mood moments, too. Taken all together, it would have been much easier to stay in bed.

However, I needed to run if I wanted any chance of placing in my track club's grand prix series. Today's race was the last chance to earn points. At the start of the day, there were three of us within three points of each other at the top of our age group. I knew both of those women would run, so being the competitive spirit that I am, I got out of bed and ran, too.

Competition is funny. I love it and hate it. It's not like I felt overly stressed, yet I had thoughts of quitting even before the gun went off. Perhaps my fear of failing is stronger than my joy of competing or winning. That's likely. And that's why I felt it was important for me to stay, to run, to conquer that stupid fear!

I really have nothing to be afraid of. There's no contentious rivalry between any of us. I love and enjoy the other women with whom I compete. You might even call us friends. In fact, after the race we hung out, laughed and socialized for a couple hours! It was really nice.

The race, on the other hand, was less than nice. It was cold and hard. The wind really took it's toll. As one of my fellow racer's noted, the wind was another competitor today. We really had to fight against it. The course was also hilly, with the largest and longest hills coming right at the end and into the wind. Not nice. Despite those challenges, I raced well.

I wanted to go out fast, and I did. I ran a 7:05 first mile and hung around a 7:20 pace through mile four. Miles 5 and 6, like I said, were either uphill, directly into the wind, or both. My split times pointedly reflect that fact. Mile five took me 7:54, and I ran an 8:02 sixth mile while exerting the same effort it took to run 7:20 earlier! I finished in 46:57, fifth overall and second in my age group. I felt really good about my effort and about conquering my fear. In the end, as usual, I'm glad I went.

Only two weeks until marathon day...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Faith Without Works is Dead

It was originally coined by Bill W. in the book Alcoholics Anonymous. Faith without works is dead. A strange sentence conveying a simple concept; take action.

No matter how strongly I believe in AA's primary concept, that my higher power can do for me what I cannot do for myself, if I don't take action I will go nowhere. Similarly, no matter how much I believe that my current state of depression will pass, if I do nothing I am dead.

Faith without works is dead. I have faith that this current dive into morasity will eventually pass. After nearly 9 years of battling, I've at least learned that. It will pass. All of the previous black holes have spit me out. All of the previous morose seas have lifted me ashore. I may not know how long it will take, but it will pass. I will survive. I have faith in that.

I will survive, but only if I take part in my recovery. Faith without works means I cannot sit on my ass and wait. I have to keep moving forward, no matter how hard moving may currently feel. I can pray. Praying is helpful. But prayer alone may mean longer misery than I care to swallow. Action feels better. By taking action, I feel some control over what otherwise feels uncontrollable--my depression. I am a participant, rather than a spectator, in my own recovery.

So today I took some action. Despite the moroseness, heaviness and despair, I put one foot in front of the other and moved. I went to my appointments. I made my phone calls. I did laps in the pool, and I took in a meeting. I didn't feel like doing any of those things. I wanted to stay in bed. I wanted to wait. After all, I know this will eventually pass. But faith without works is dead. I'd rather participate than wait, no matter how difficult that sometimes seems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Look out for that cliff...

Damn, I didn't see this coming.

I've fallen off a cliff into the sea of morosity.
It is a very dark, scary place to be.
And I cannot find my life jacket.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


With a title like that, I'm amazed you're reading this sentence. But blah is how I've been feeling. I don't want to do much of anything, which explains why I haven't written in a few days. I think the gray weather is really getting to me. We did have some sun yesterday, but otherwise nothing but gray. Gray is exhausting.

I did run this weekend--21 miles yesterday and 6 more today. I should be proud of that, especially since I am nursing another injury which kept me off the road 4 days this week. I have some tendinitis in my right shin area. It hurts, but not enough that I wasn't able to push through it yesterday and today. Of course I may not be able to walk tomorrow. Kidding...I'll be fine.

So I don't have much to say today. Blah does not lend itself to verbosity, and I don't want to turn everyone off with my whining anyway. I'm not a big fan of whining. This too shall pass...right?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The serotonin dilemma

This is a post I wrote last year, but it's so appropriate right now I thought I'd re-run it.

Conversation With My Brain.

Today I learned more than I wanted or needed to know about the female menstrual cycle. "What does that have to do with you," you ask? I'm getting to that. It seems you and at least one female Hormone share a particular affinity for a crucial neurotransmitter.

You know the Hormone family, don't you? Sure you do! They're okay one-on-one or even in small groups, but once a month they invite all of those loud relatives from god-knows-where and party like there's no tomorrow! Yes, see, I knew you'd heard them before! In fact, didn't they just leave a few days ago? My God! Seems like they were on an extended stay this month, didn't it? They really wear me out with all that revelry!

So much activity stresses me out, you know. I get headaches, and backaches, and downright irritable. Hard to be a good neighbor with all that going on. Anyway, what was I saying, Brain? Oh yes, you and that female Hormone...

Well, I know how much you value your serotonin, Brain. But it's actually my serotonin, remember? You're just supposed to be caring for it. Yes, yes, I know you care for it! know how they say if you love something you should set it free? Yup, you're supposed to let it go! That's what the saying means. Setting it free is part of caring for it.

If you care, you'll set my serotonin free, Brain. No, I am not implying you are selfish! Yes, I realize you are working on letting go, and I appreciate that. I know you've even let go of a smidgen extra serotonin recently, and that's just great! But we've got to get to a point of regular letting go, routine letting go. Remember, sharing is caring!

I know. I know. You're worried. If you let it go, serotonin may be up-and-taken from you. But don't you realize how sad I feel when you hang on so tight? In fact, when you hoard my serotonin, sometimes I feel just like I did last week when the Hormones were in town--irritable, sad, heavy, and slow. I feel just like I did...

WAIT A MINUTE! That's it!
Of course! That makes perfect sense!!


Oh, sorry, Brain. I was having one of those light-bulb moments. (Hey, aren't you supposed to be in on those?)

As I was saying, Brain, you and this Hormone-chick seem to share a particular affinity for my serotonin! So it makes perfect sense, when she's here rockin' out with the rest of her clan, I feel like crap! And it makes perfect sense, when you selfishly "care for" my serotonin, I also feel like crap! AND here's the kicker, if Progesterone Hormone (that's her name, I guess) happens to be visiting at the same time as you happen to be hoarding my serotonin, I feel like DOUBLE-TRIPLE-CRAP!! So what do you think of that, le Brain? Well?

What am I going to do about it? No, you're right, I really can't expect the Progesterone bunch won't come. I could ask, but I'm sure they'll show up anyway. It's gotten to the point where I can almost feel them coming. Once a month, just like clockwork, Miss Progesterone and her entire rowdy clan roll in! And I heard they arrive even more pronounced in their middle years, although maybe with less regularity. Hmmm... Doesn't seem right. They shouldn't be allowed to interfere with my life so much! They must get old and tired sometime, don't you think? Perhaps then they'll stay home.

But what about you, Brain? You've got to shape up! Let my serotonin go! I'm not going to put up with your BS anymore. Yes, I did call you selfish. I'm sorry about that, but if the shoe fits... It's time for you to grow up, to see the bigger picture. It's not all about you!

What about me, Brain? Don't you see? When you hang onto my serotonin, I feel sad and tired. But when you let go, I feel better. And if I feel better, I can stimulate you with a lot more interesting stuff! See? It's a win-win situation! So, whadaya say? Will you let my serotonin go? Please, Brain, let my serotonin go.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Over trained?

One of the symptoms of over training is a drop in previously attainable times. Today, I could barely meet my 800 meter interval time goals, and I only cranked out 6 versus the 8 repeats which were scheduled. I'm tired. Another symptom of over training is needing more sleep, or feeling less refreshed after a normal amount of sleep. Yup, I've got both of those signs, too. But then again, I often have those sleep symptoms--I have depression! However, this does seem different. My legs, my lungs, my brain...I'm tired everywhere.

Perhaps I'm a bit over trained. This is not good. I have my last long run this weekend--22 miles. It's normal to be tired at this stage of training. I'm in the midst of the highest mileage week. But my slower times, I think, are sending me a message. I'm over trained.

I am considering cutting out tomorrow's scheduled run. That's hard for me to even consider, but I'm trying to be smart. Trying to be smart--that's why I cut my run short today, too. I hate having to be smart. I'd rather just run. I'll let you know if tomorrow leaves me brilliant or fatigued.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The sun and the sponsor

The sun is shining, and we've had two beautiful days in a row. Puck and I ran 15 miles yesterday and 8 today. My legs and body are constantly tired, but that's pretty normal for this stage of the training game. Only four more weeks to marathon day!

I found a new sponsor. For those of you following along, you remember my sponsor relapsed a few weeks ago. It's been a tough few weeks filled with all kinds of conflicting emotions surrounding this issue. I finally did chat with my old sponsor on the phone. I let her know I was angry. She understood that. I told her I found a new sponsor. She thought that was a good idea, too. Things are okay, I guess.

Well, I thought they were okay until I met with my new sponsor yesterday. She had me do an 'anger inventory' about the situation. I found out I'm still a work in progress on this issue. As she put it, "being angry is normal, but as alcoholics we cannot afford to hold onto anger and resentment. If we do, we die." It's true. If I hang onto the resentment, I'd likely end up miserable. If I'm miserable, I'll likely drink. If I drink, I will eventually die. So I'm still working on my anger inventory.

One of the things I've learned in AA is that expectations are just premeditated resentments. I had expectations that my sponsor would never drink, and that she'd be my sponsor forever. When she drank, both of those expectations were shattered, and I quickly resented what she had done to my life. (Can you say selfish? What about what she'd done to her own life??) Ultimately, this has been and continues to be a lesson for me. As usual, accepting life on life's terms, rather than trying to control the world around me, frees me from my resentment and is helping me move on.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phantom radio returns

I don't think I've ever written about this before. It's not something I even like to admit. But it's back, and that discourages me. I wonder if any of you have experienced something similar. Maybe your commiseration will encourage me.

Occasionally, I have a phantom radio in my head. That is, I hear a radio playing in another room, but in actuality there is no radio playing anywhere. Sometimes the radio plays music, but most of the time, it's just noise. I awoke in the middle of the night a couple nights ago. I couldn't get back to sleep, and soon I realized the radio was "on." It hasn't been on since then, but I'm concerned.

I'm concerned because this "psychotic feature" typically only presents itself when I am deep in the black hole of depression. That's not the case right now. My mood has been fairly good, even normal, since August.

My mood has been good, so why is this symptom cropping up right now? Perhaps, as my psychiatrist suggested, the flood of memories I absorbed during my recent trip had something to do with it. Could be. I hope that's all it was. I'd rather the radio stayed off.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One mile at a time

Another very gray, cold, rainy day around here. Running is tough in this kind of junk. Actually, I'm finding accomplishing anything to be a chore. What I wouldn't do to see a ray of sunshine right now! But alas, only gray and rain outside my door.

I had to run a 10 mile speed workout today, part of which included 4 by 1 mile at 7:40 per mile. My energy has been particularly low--gray, just like the weather. In fact, I got dressed to go running this morning and then went back to bed, in my running clothes, for another two hours! I finally forced myself out of bed and out the door.

Soaked and cold, I dropped Puck at home after my two mile warm-up. He's too old for speed workouts now. It was everything I could do just to go back out the door. Not only was the weather crummy, it was one of those days where my running reflected my mood. Rather than smooth and flowing, I felt like I was fighting myself with every step. I was barely a half mile into my first repeat when I contemplated giving up.

I didn't give up. My mind went to work instead. I thought, "I can do anything for one mile," and I pushed on. Sucking wind, and still battling to find my form, I gratefully finished mile one. I thought about quitting then, but I figured I could probably struggle through one more. I made a deal with myself to only run two repeats instead of four.

The second repeat wasn't much prettier than the first. My legs felt like they belonged to someone else, icy rain pelted my face, and my lungs refused to let any more air in. It was ugly. Yet, halfway through the mile, my brain was wheeling and dealing again. I walked through part of the recovery interval and decided one more fast mile couldn't be much worse. So I ran my third repeat directly toward home.

This brain of mine, it doesn't give up too easily. Despite finishing my third mile within spitting distance of my house, I decided to walk/run my recovery interval in the exact opposite direction. And since I was then far away from home, why not run interval number four? Tricky brain!

Interval number four commenced. At that point something intriguing occurred. I began to flow. Whereas running 7:40 on miles 1-3 felt like solo boxing, running 7:24 for interval 4 felt like ballet. Finally, after almost an hour of running my body gave in. I don't know why it happened or how it happened, but happen it did. And I was extremely grateful. Interval number four saved my run.

I was thinking a lot while I was out there battling today. Taking one mile at a time, biting off small chunks of what otherwise would have been an overwhelming whole, parallels my life with depression. It is how I survive. On bad days, gray days, I cannot think beyond today. I cannot think about any part of tomorrow. I must only think about my next moments. I must only focus on one project, chore, or errand at a time. If I don't, I become overwhelmed and nonfunctional really quick. Taking one moment at a time allows me to live with a modicum of grace even when days, or moods, are gray.

I wonder...did I learn that from running? Or is it the other way around?

Monday, October 12, 2009

a long, slow day

long day today. i left work after only a couple hours, as i was feeling head-achy and nauseous again. not sure what's going on. this is exactly how i felt last thursday, but i was fine all weekend. lots of sleep again today. i may have a low temp. don't know. the headache and nauseousness haven't changed all day, but i'm certainly not down and out sick. thank god! it's weird.

as far as my training schedule, i'm glad it's a rest day. i don't think i'd be able to run today. i just feel blah--not really sick enough to stay home, yet not well enough to do anything. you know i hate days like this. it didn't take too long for my mood to go the way of my body--blah, gray, slow, and low.

i don't like this state of being, but i'm trying to be patient. previous experience tells me it will pass. i'm trying to keep that in mind. i'm trying to be resilient. i know it will pass. it's gotta pass. hopefully, just getting my thoughts out, sharing where i am currently at, will begin that process. after all, i've got things to do!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A weekend of memories and feelings

I had to go to a funeral on Friday. The funeral was back in the town in which I spent many tortured years, and therefore I had multiple tortured memories and feelings about returning there.

I moved to this town, at age 13, from my beloved small town after my parents were divorced, and my dad remarried my "wicked" step-mother. And she was wicked in many ways--abusive verbally and physically. She and my abusive father made a lovely pair.

The only positive of moving to this new place, with this new family, was I gained a sister. My step-sister and I became very close. Due to the small size of our home, we had to share a bed. We spent many nights sharing our thoughts and feelings into the wee hours of the mornings. Unfortunately, we spent many other nights listening to our parents complaining about one of us kids or beating the spit out of each other. We developed an us-against-the-world bond, and then she was killed in a freak bike vs. car accident.

My first bout of depression began not long after my step-sister was killed. I spent multiple years battling the now familiar scourge. Unrecognized by my parents as an illness or even a real problem, I leaned on a teacher, she was also my neighbor, for support. Mrs. Hoffman kept me alive for years. She listened. She cared. She recognized and acknowledged my pain. Although I ultimately nearly ended my life, I certainly wouldn't be here today if she had never intervened.

After the funeral on Friday, I stopped in to see Mrs. Hoffman for the first time in years. I needed to tell her she made a difference. I needed to express my gratitude. And while seeing her brought back a lot of memories, I'm so glad I went. It was as if we had never lost touch. We talked for over two hours, and I could have stayed all day. Her home, still next door to my previous home, felt like the safe haven it had been so many years before.

Seeing Mrs. Hoffman, being welcomed back into her home, and thanking her for her life-changing influence on my life; these were all gifts which made being back in this tortured town a treasure rather than a curse.

One marathon down... to go!

Yes, I did it. I ran the whole 26.2 at The Whistlestop Marathon yesterday. It was a good run. I followed my plan and walked for one minute at every mile marker. However, I strayed from my plan when I realized how easy it was to run fast between the walk breaks, which I also did. If I had realized that fact a bit earlier, I may have come close to qualifying for Boston. As it was, I ran 14 of the 26 miles under 9 minutes per mile, and I finished right at 4 hours. Not counting the 3:22 I waited for the porta-potty at mile 10, my running time was closer to 3:57. I'm pretty happy.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Feeling a little ill

Uh, oh...I'm not feeling so well. A little achy, a little nauseous, a little flu-ish. Of course I am! I registered to run the Whistlestop Marathon yesterday. You know, the one I was thinking about doing this weekend! Well, now I'm registered, and now I don't feel so hot. Fortunately, I didn't have to work today. I got in a 6.5 mile run--really slow--and since then I've slept, slept and slept some more. I'm on my way back to bed again right now. Hopefully, more sleep will do the trick.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rain, rain go away!

Boy, we've been slammed with rain lately. I spent another run soaking up the sky today. Running is a lot more difficult with this weather. The cold, wet and gray is not good for my mood either. I think it's been one week of dreariness, and I've definitely noticed a corresponding dreariness in my outlook.

Despite the weather, running is going well. My training is right on track, and my knee feels better. That's a huge relief! It's hard to believe I'm coming up on one month to go before the big day. Well, actually there may be a little day this weekend before the big day one month later.

Let me explain. I may run a marathon "training run" this weekend. I know, I know, maybe it's not the smartest idea, but running another 20 miler alone is daunting. A Saturday small-town marathon, on the other hand, is quite inviting. Besides, 102 local runners will be traveling the 3.5 hours to run it, too. I have until Thursday to sign up, and right now I'm leaning toward doing it. Hopefully, it won't be raining!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Twenty miles in the RAIN

It was dark and cold when I began my run just before 7:00 AM. Oh, and it was raining. It wasn't a hard rain, more of a misting, thick rain. Puck and I did a 6 mile loop through the woods. There is almost nothing I enjoy more than watching Puck race freely through the trees. His obvious joy makes me very happy. I figured the rain would subside by the time the sun came up. But as I dropped Puck at home, it only rained harder.

I added some dry mittens over my thin gloves. A warm, dry headband soon followed. It didn't matter. By 10 miles I was soaked. The rain played with me throughout my run. Sometimes it rained hard, other times it threatened to quit. But quit it never did. By mile fourteen, as I turned even further from home, I could only chuckle. Running 20 miles alone was difficult enough. Adding the cold, soaking rain certainly heightened the challenge.

But I am a runner, and I did it. I reached 20 miles one block from home. I finished with cold hands, sloshing shoes, and soaked clothes. I was wet to the bone. I bought ice for my typical post-run ice bath, but I just couldn't do it today. My warm shower and fuzzy sweats were just too inviting. I joined Puck for our after run nap. Nice. I'm proud of myself. It was a good day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

In tune with the mood

I met with my psychiatrist today. Not much new to report, although I have noticed a little dip in my mood over the past few days. Actually, I noticed the dip on Monday, in the stairwell, at work, around 1:25 PM. Literally. It literally hit me like that. Uh-oh, I thought, I'm feeling a little low. My discovery was followed by a brief moment of worry, and then I went back to work.

I think it is relatively rare to be so in tune with one's mood that microscopic changes become apparent. Perhaps this is a side effect of having depression. Perhaps the years of struggle have trained my brain to be the microscope, to take note of every little change up or down. Even as I noted my tiny dip Monday, I thought it was strange.

I'm not sure if this microscope effect is good or bad. It's not like I go around worrying about my mood. I don't spend my waking moments taking note of every perturbation. Sometimes, like on Monday, it just hits me--Boom, your mood has changed. Weird. Good? Bad? I don't know. It just is, I guess.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

today's thoughts

It's hard to believe it is the end of September already. I've been so focused on training, I've hardly noticed the start of fall. That is until today when the temperature dropped into the 40's with a brisk wind! I ran a brisk workout of 6 x 800 meters with 400 meter recovery. It went well. Actually, I felt fairly comfortable, which is always nice during a speed workout. Puck ran my warm-up and cool-down with me, and we both enjoyed a long nap after we got home.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. It is Twin Cities Marathon weekend and many friends are running. I hope they have better weather this year than we did last year. Since I'm scheduled to run 20 miles, I'd love to run it along the marathon course, but I don't think I can figure out the logistics of getting back to my car once I finish. It's so much easier to do the long runs with company. Oh well, it will be fun and motivating to watch all of the local runners cross the finish line.

I'm feeling a little off today. Think I may be coming down with something. My stomach isn't quite right, and I'm a little achey--hence the extra long nap. My knee was sore during the slow sections of my run today, but oddly felt fine during the speed work. I think it is slowly getting better, but I don't think I'll be playing much more golf this year. My mood has seemed a bit lower, too, but that may be the result of worrying about my knee. I hope so. Nevertheless, I'll be paying close attention to how I'm feeling over the next few days. Here's to everything getting back on the right path.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Knee pain

My knee hurts. I worked today, and I walk all day at work. Walking actually hurts worse than running, so I was pretty sore when I got home. I just looked at my training schedule for this week, and as I suspected, 20 miles is on tap this Saturday. I've decided to take an extra day of rest tomorrow, although I was able to run my 3 mile recovery run today without much difficulty. Like I said, walking causes more discomfort than running.

This sucks, and I'm really worried. It's just ITB tendinitis, but tendinitis can sometimes be a bugger to conquer! I'm icing, icing, icing, and I'll continue treating myself with ultrasound at work tomorrow (one benefit of being a PT). But I am worried.

Things were going so well. I resent this distraction! I've worked so hard already. I really don't want this to get in my way. I have a feeling I'll be repeating multiple serenity prayers over the next several days. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change... Honestly, I'd rather pray for things to change!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The long run and the injury

I ran 18 miles today. Saturday mornings are my traditional long run time, and 18 is the longest I've done in this training cycle so far. I'm assuming the 20 milers will start within the next two weeks. Remember, I don't know what's on my schedule next week, as I'm only revealing one week at a time. That strategy is still working for me. It keeps my anticipative anxiety down and allows me to focus on one workout at a time. So, I ran 18 miles today. Next week, I don't know yet!

Despite revealing only one week at a time, I still had anxiety about today's distance. You see, after my 15 miler last Saturday, I felt so good I decided to hit a bucket of golf balls. Well, driving a golf ball requires a fair amount of twisting on my right knee. Long story short, my not-so-brilliant decision to hit a bucket on an already tired knee resulted in the aggravation of an old meniscus injury. Unfortunately, I've been struggling with a bit of tendinitis in that knee as well. I spent most of yesterday fretting about today's 18 miles. I wasn't sure how my knee would respond.

For most of my run today, I was really fretting. My knee hurt. It hurt with every step from 0-11 miles. I considered stopping, but I was more concerned about missing my miles than I was about my knee. A bit of denial was also quite handy. After 12 miles or so, my knee remarkably started to feel better. I don't know why. I'm not going to try to figure it out either. I really don't care! All I know or care about is I was able to finish my run much more comfortably than I began it.

It's several hours later now, and while my knee is sore, it is still less painful than it was when I began the day. I'm sure the ice bath after my run helped. I'll continue icing it throughout the day, too. Who knows? I may wake up tomorrow and not be able to walk, but for now, I'm encouraged.

I'm also really encouraged by my run. Eighteen miles is a long way physically and mentally. Despite my anxiety and pain, it actually went well. I averaged around 9 minutes per mile without trying. I didn't look at my watch. I fell into that pace comfortably. To qualify for Boston, I need to average 8:35 per mile, so I'm pretty happy with today's comfortable effort. It means I'm right where I need to be right now. That's really encouraging.

Now I'm sitting with my feet up, petting my dog, and watching football. Right where I need to be...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The sponsor dilemma

There is not much new on the sponsor front. After discussing my dilemma with one person, I leaned toward keeping my current sponsor. After talking with another friend, I was certain I would change sponsors. I still don't know what I will do. Relationships have historically been tough for me.

Relationships have been tough and often painful. Being hurt by someone close to me is nothing new. In fact it replicates numerous relationships from my past. My history is filled with one-sided relationships and abandonment. Therefore, rather than feel empathy for my sponsor's troubles, embarrassingly my immediate reaction was all about me--an unconscious 'here we go again, another person letting me down.' It's a victim mentality I've worked hard to pulverize over the past several years.

In the past, that victim mentality led to classic black and white thinking. Either there was a relationship or there wasn't, and once you hurt me I often dealt with my disappointment by nixing the relationship. But my sponsor didn't relapse in order to get rid of me. DAH! Her relapse had nothing to do with our relationship. Relapse is actually, usually, more selfish than that. Even though I may be disappointed by her actions, her intent was not to purposefully hurt or disappoint those around her. Rather, our hurt and disappointment are her painful consequences.

My sponsor has consequences. I have a decision to make. I may yet decide to find another sponsor, but at least it won't be a knee jerk reaction triggered by old patterns of behavior. I can tolerate the gray area these days. Perhaps we won't be sponsor-sponsee, but that doesn't mean we won't remain close friends. She made a mistake. She acted like an alcoholic. There but for the grace of God go I. I know that, and I must never forget it. I am looking forward to my continued relationship with my sponsor--whatever form that relationship may take. Ahhhh, growth.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I just found out my AA sponsor relapsed about 3 weeks ago. Apparently I am the last to know. I haven't been to my usual AA meetings for about 3 weeks, mostly because of my running schedule, but she could have called, don't you think? I don't like being the last to know. I don't like that she didn't call when she was having trouble. Sometimes sponsees can help sponsors, too. It's been that way for us in the past. I'm not sure why it wasn't this time. So I'm hurt.

But my being hurt is a small issue. The bigger issue is she relapsed. I think she had 16-17 years of sobriety. Not someone you'd expect to relapse, but that's the nature of alcoholism, I guess. Now what do I do? Suddenly, I don't feel all that safe. My sponsor is my safety net. But can I call a woman who just convinced herself it was okay to drink when I feel like drinking? Can I ask a woman about moral decisions when she's been deceiving everyone around her for quite some time? What do I do? Can I keep this woman as my sponsor? I don't know.

I don't know what to do. I told her I'd have to think about it--whether or not I want her to continue sponsoring me. I really don't want to start over with another sponsor, but do I still trust this sponsor? Do I believe she is currently seeing life clearly enough to give advice? And will I feel that advice is valid now that I know of her deception and ultimate relapse? I don't know.

I guess that's what I have to decide. Can I trust, and will I feel safe going to her for help? Or will I worry about her state of mind and question her wisdom? This is tough. Why did she have to go and relapse? And why am I so surprised? I mean, this is alcoholism at it's finest. She's just behaved exactly like an alcoholic. Perhaps I need to just forgive and move forward. But with whom do I move forward--her or someone new?

Monday, September 21, 2009

dream with me

Live music blares
the size of buildings
the football stadium rocks

Cheers deafen
as another group
finishes the walk

Memorial placards
honor loved ones
Their journey over
years too soon

Survivors are noted
by silver t-shirts
and even some caps

Rather than scorn
and fear
those survivors are welcomed
slapped on the back

Long gone
the days
when mental illness
meant suffering

Corporate sponsors
local businesses
moms, dads, grandmas, and kids
proudly participate

of people
of dollars

The walk
is a smashing success
mental illness
will surely be cured

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An inspirational story, but...

Like so many inspirational stories before this one, the piece I just read includes a description of the author weaning herself from all anti-depressant medication. I loved the story. It was very inspirational. I generally love stories about people conquering any mental illness. The author of this piece described how running keeps her mood elevated and prevents the return of depression's darkness. I get it.

As the author notes, and as I've written about previously, exercise has been shown to improve mood in those with depression. But why does every inspirational story seem to include an either-or medication dilemma? Why don't we highlight stories which include the use of medication as part of a successful treatment plan?

The author of this story never suggested that people shouldn't use meds. She noted her negative side effects. She pointed out that anti-depressants often lose effectiveness over time, and for her they just didn't do the trick. Unfortunately, I fear people reading her story will conclude that meds aren't effective and/or aren't necessary. It's nicer to believe that depression can be cured by thinking happy thoughts and exercising. But meds are effective, and for many of us they are absolutely necessary.

Like the author, I use running to cope with my depression. However, running is not my sole therapy. I believe I take fewer meds because I run, but without meds my depression takes over. My depression requires medication, sobriety, and talk therapy to stay in check. Running is just one piece of a successful treatment plan. I'd like to read an inspirational story which includes medication, if only to dispel the myth that anti-depressants aren't needed if one lives right.

And that's the problem, the myth that anti-depressants aren't necessary if you just ________. Fill in the blank with any of the following: pray, laugh, smile, think happy thoughts, exercise... But anti-depressants, just like anti-cancer drugs, do work for many of us. Taking meds does not indicate a moral failure or lack of effort on the part of the sufferer. Unfortunately, every time I read a great story about someone conquering depression, and part of the story describes "weaning" off medication, I fear the myths about combating this illness are reinforced.

What do you think?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Feeling like a runner again.

It's been almost 8 complete weeks since I began training seriously again. With one exception, I've run 5 days per week every week, just as my schedule dictated. I've also run the miles called for at each workout. In previous training cycles, neither of the above were true. When I created and followed my own schedule, I often tinkered with the mileage and many times missed days. Following The Runner's World schedule, and revealing only one week of the schedule at a time, seems to be working for me. I've been able to focus on the present, keep motivated, and stay on track.

I'm starting to feel like a runner again. Training runs have gotten easier. I'm feeling lighter. I'm racing often. And finally, my race times are coming down! I ran a tough, tough cross-country race last night. This year my finishing time was two minutes faster than last year's time. In a 5K race, that's a notable improvement! So things are improving, and I'm starting to feel like a runner again.

It sure is nice when hard work pays off. I'll keep plugging away one mile at a time.

Artwork by: Vicki Varvaressos

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Back to work

I'm eating my oatmeal. It's dark outside. I hate that. Seems it was just a couple weeks ago, and the sun was shining brightly at this time. I'm off to work in just a few minutes, and I'm dreading it. I hate that, too. Dread is not my favorite emotion. It's not that work is bad. In fact, it's been rather enjoyable lately. I'm dreading it because I've been off for four days, and I've grown rather used to my time.

We've had the most beautiful weather I can remember this summer. I've been reveling in the sunshine for four days. (Hmmm...abundant sunshine. Perhaps that's why I've been feeling better.) I've run and run some more. I've spent outside time with my mom and step-dad. Puck and I have visited the local lake. And golf has become my new, lengthy outdoor excursion. Can you see why I'm not looking forward to spending my day in a basement office?

Oh, how great it is that this is all I have to worry about today! No dark mood. No sadness. No drama. I guess I can manage a little dread when my dread is only the result of my good fortune. In fact, I'm even fortunate to have a job to dread, and I know that. It's all relative, isn't it? Our worries... It's a good day when my biggest worry is about going to a job I enjoy which finances my life. I hope your worries are similarly based.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Not much to say...

I took today off, so I had a long weekend. I was very productive this weekend; did my laundry, went grocery shopping, ran 17 miles Saturday, ran 5 miles yesterday and today, and played a lot of golf. Yes, golf. I'll have more about that in another post. Yes, it was a beautiful, productive weekend, but the one thing I didn't do, and didn't feel like doing this weekend was write. Sorry. I'm still here. I guess I just haven't had much to say. I'm sure that won't last too long! More soon...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Better. Yet intrusive thoughts?

I had a day interrupted by intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are disturbing, aggressive, repetitive thoughts which barge into one's mind. That's my definition, anyway. My intrusive thoughts aren't necessarily based in reality, and sometimes they don't even make sense.

Today, my disturbing thoughts were about Puck. Over and over I had visions of someone arbitrarily entering my yard and shooting him, or of someone driving over him while he struggled to get out of the way. Why Puck? Why today? My best guess? I'm still traumatized by last week's attack.

I do find it odd that I had scary, intrusive thoughts today. I've been feeling better. I don't think I've ever had intrusive thoughts while my symptoms have essentially been in remission. This was a new day.

And that's why I'm noting it here. I was surprised by the disturbing thoughts. I didn't realize I would or could have these damn thoughts while feeling well. Apparently, I was wrong. I guess I'll have to refine my definition of intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are disturbing, aggressive, repetitive thoughts which barge into one's mind, and they can occur at any time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Better--A strange place to be.

Feeling less fatigue. Having a lighter mood. Handling stress more efficiently. Feeling less distracted. Questioning life's meaning less. It's strange...this better place. How did I get here?

July, despite the sun, was so long and so dark. It had no clear beginning. It felt like it would never end. It was no different than so many months before.

August dawned and brought new light. Though the days grew shorter and darker, my mood rose above. Nothing new or different that I recall doing, except...

Those darn schedules. They were new and different. A running plan, a plan not to gorge on chocolate, keeping track of what I ate and if I exercised or not. Assignments from my psychologist in hopes of getting me back on track.

Could that be it? Could schedules, combined with med changes and a supplement addition be the difference? I hope so. It's better to have a reason for the mood change than to have it change for no reason at all.

That's usually how it's happened in the reason. Up and down with no particular cause and therefore no way to make it end. This is different. Did I finally effect change by my actions alone? Or is it, as they say on Law and Order, circumstantial evidence at best?

I guess I'll never know. And that's okay. I'm okay with continuing what I'm doing. Circumstantial evidence works for me. I'd kinda like to get used to this new, strange place. Better--it is a strange place to be, but I like it. I like it a lot.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Feeling a little guilty

I'm feeling a little guilty today. I was asked by my local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter to assist with an upcoming 10-week course. I am a trained instructor for NAMI's Professional Provider class. It is a course for professional health care providers taught by people with mental illness and their families. It's a very cool class, and it routinely gets rave reviews from its participants.

When I was asked to be one of the four teachers, I immediately wanted to do it. The chance to teach mental health professionals, some of whom have likely treated me in the past, has always been one of my goals. I wanted to say, "Yes, I'll do it," but my gut was telling me no, don't.

I typically listen to my gut. I sat on the decision as long as I could. When last week I was asked for my final decision, I listened to my gut's hesitation, and I said no. It was the ten week commitment, I think. Three hours, one night per week, for ten weeks, is quite a commitment. Bottom line, I was worried it would be too much.

Now I feel guilty that I let my worry (i.e. fear) get in the way of supporting my local NAMI chapter. I care about NAMI. I care about this class. I've been feeling well lately. Why couldn't I commit? Why couldn't I push a bit out of my comfort zone on this one? My gut told me no, don't do it, but now I feel guilty. I feel I've let people, including myself, down. Ick!

What's done is done, but now I'm questioning if I did the right thing. And feeling a little guilty...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

I did the DU!

Thanks to your comments and my friend Renee's insistence that I would "love it," I did the run, bike, run duathlon this morning. And I did like it...I'm not ready to say love just yet.

It was another gorgeous day for a race. We've sure been lucky with beautiful racing weather this summer. A crowd of just over 100 showed up, and what an intimidating crowd they were! Holy cow! Those triathlete-types are scary with their rippling muscles, tight spandex, and $4000 bikes! I immediately felt way out of my league. In my loose fitting running shorts (I just couldn't run in the big-butt bike shorts!) and a loose bike jersey, I'm sure I posed no threat whatsoever in the eyes of the tri crowd.

The initial run went well. I felt good and relatively quick. I ran the 3.3 mile jaunt, which included a fairly decent hill, in 24:58, 7:34 per mile. Transition one took me 68 seconds. The newness of racing a bike was fun. I could tell my new bike was up to snuff when I easily passed several people who appeared much more muscled than I. I just tried to maintain my cadence throughout.

Unfortunately, the never ending hills, including one long, gigantic hill at the halfway point, were not so fun. I could tell my pace was slowing over the last several miles. Still, I averaged 18.2 mph for the 21.6 mile ride. Not bad, and like I said, I felt like I stayed in front of a lot of decent-looking bikers--men and women.

Getting off my bike to begin the second run was quite comical. I almost fell down as I jumped off my bike. I never realized my legs could feel so inept! It took a good mile, after my 59 second transition, to lengthen my stride to just beyond baby steps! I ran the second 3.3 miles in 26:41, 8:05 per mile. That was slower than I would have liked, and it sure felt faster than that, but I again passed several people--unfortunately only men--along the way. I was quite thrilled to cross the finish line!

Overall, I was happy. I finished in 2:04:57, 7th out of 31 women and 2nd in my age group. But more importantly, I was pleasantly surprised by my ability to handle the course as efficiently as I did. I think I'm in better shape than I thought. That's always nice to discover. It was a good day, and yes, I'll probably do it again. Thank you all for your support!

The Medication vs. The Supplement

So you all know about my long-term battle with fatigue and my more recent concern with weight gain. Both depression symptoms significantly and negatively impact my running. I am tremendously satisfied to report to you that I feel better. I am less fatigued, and I've lost some weight. Running is becoming fun again. I began taking a new supplement a couple weeks ago, and I think I have the supplement to thank for these changes.

I already buy, use and love this company's juice. (Actually, I became a distributor in order to get the juice cheaper.) Their juice totally solved my IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). They came out with this supplement several months ago, but being a skeptic--despite my success with their juice--I waited, and waited, and waited. A million positive testimonials later, I finally took the plunge and decided to try it. Well, I'm no longer a skeptic.

I'm no longer a skeptic because the supplement seems to work. I took the company's 'vigor' test, and after two weeks on this supplement my 'vigor' score rose from a 7 to an 18. I can't believe the difference in how I feel. I really can't. After discussion with my psychiatrist (let me repeat that: after discussion with my psychiatrist) I discontinued the anti-fatigue med I've felt so ambivalent about taking. Yes, the anti-fatigue med is now gone. Even without that med, I feel more alert and energetic throughout my day. I've lost a couple pounds, and most importantly, my running has improved. My training runs have been quicker and easier. It's all rather surprising to a skeptic.

I'm still waiting to see if the results will last. I mean, I've been battling this fatigue for 3-4 years. I've been battling weight gain for at least 2 years. It will be a very pleasant surprise, and rather ironic, if the answer turns out to be a simple supplement. I certainly hope to continue feeling the way I feel today. It's such a relief! I'll keep you updated on my progress.