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!

Friday, January 30, 2009

A different kind of birthday


Twenty-four years ago

it was the end.
and I was so, so relieved.

I can still feel that


Twenty-four years ago

I didn't end.
and yet, I was so relieved.

I can still feel that


...if you consider suicide an option
I get it.
please, call someone.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A letter to Emergency Room

Dear Emergency Room:

I am writing to inform you that people with mental illness are tired and angry. We are tired of entering your doors with urgent needs only to be passed off as faking, attention seeking, or nuisances. We are tired of your changed attitude toward us once our chart arrives. In that instant, we experience a shift from "real" patient to "borderline, schizo, or depressed" malingerer, with all the negative attitudes which accompany such a label.

We are tired, ER--may I call you, ER? We are tired of the disdainful whispers outside our cubicles. We are tired of the suspicious nature of your questioning. We are tired of the knowing glances and rolling eyes. Do you think we cannot feel this callousness? We'd have to be real idiots not to notice. But that's the intention, isn't it? You think treating us this way will deter us from coming again.

You're right. It has. It does. Are you okay with that? How many overdoses, drunken accidents, or suicides would have been avoided if you'd treated us with compassion rather than disdain? Of course, we'll never know the answer to that. But we can tell you, ER, our suffering is typically increased, not decreased, once we exit your doors.

ER, you may think this is not true, that we are treated differently, but I can tell you from multiple experiences, it is true. From the moment our 'past medical history' is viewed, we are treated very differently. Just the other day, a woman approached me, "You know," she said. "I haven't always had a mental illness, but because of my physical disability, I've been to the ER a lot. I noticed," she continued, "after I was diagnosed with depression, I got treated totally differently in the ER--even though I was there for my other, physical disability! Can you believe that," she asked? I could only nod, ER. I've experienced the same thing.

I think the problem is likely worse than that to which this woman attests. I'm willing to bet those of us with mental illness are not only treated more rudely--yes, in some cases, we've been treated downright rudely. I'm willing to bet we also have fewer face-to-face provider minutes, receive fewer diagnostic tests, have positive diagnostic tests read as negative more frequently, and get discharged without so much as an aspirin far more often than those without an MI diagnosis. Has anyone ever looked at that, ER? I'd certainly love to. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd be happy to be proven so. Unfortunately, ER, experience tells me I am all too correct.

I'm sorry if this feels confrontational, ER. I hope defensiveness doesn't entirely close your ears. Someone needed to stand up. Since I haven't been to see you in awhile, I felt I should be the one. You see, ER, that's another problem. We know we've been dismissed. You know we've been dismissed, but if we spoke up while we were visiting, it only reinforced your beliefs. If we questioned, complained, or simply asked for what we needed in your presence, it only fueled your disdain and suspicion--further proof that we were not "real," rather we were nuisance patients. The word seemed to go out, "See, I told you so," and our experiences only worsened.

It's frustrating, ER, to be treated with stigma and stereotype by an institution which is supposed to know better. What can we do about this, ER? We need to change this situation. It doesn't do any good to bring experiences to light if no discussion ensues. Perhaps some staff education would help. Perhaps some real-life stories from those of us without an ax to grind--those of us who only want the situation reversed for the better of all. We can listen to you. You can listen to us. Wherever, whenever you wish to meet, ER, I'll be there. I'll bring others for an open, respectful dialogue. I pray for all who've yet to grace your doors, ER, we can effect change. Please consider our offer.

Thank you-


It was just three days of my life. Day two was definitely the most difficult. The fruit cleanse had one day remaining, and I didn't feel so hot. I had a cup of coffee on day one to stave off a headache, but day two I went without. I was a bit head-achy and lethargic most of the day. I took two naps to deal with both, but by evening I was still... Read more.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The whole fruit and nothing but the fruit!

As part of my 40 days of yoga revolution, I am in the midst of a 3-day fruit fast. It's actually not a fast, more like a cleanse. Three days of nothing but fruit, which began today and ends Wednesday. It's going pretty well so far. In order to avoid a headache at work today, I did have one cup of coffee. I don't have to work tomorrow, so I'll attempt to go sans coffee. Other than one coffee, I've had nothing but fresh fruit. It's been very interesting. Read more...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What do you wish people knew about your illness?

What is the one thing you wish you could convey to "normies" about your mental illness? Do you want to tell them what to say? Or how about what NOT to say? Is there a symptom you'd like to explain? Do you wish people understood exactly how you felt or what you needed? Well, here's your chance.

I've been doing more public speaking lately. As a result, there are many new readers visiting this blog looking for more information about mental illness. Based on their publicly verbalized questions, these readers are eager for information. They want to know what to do for someone with depression. They want to know "why men have a harder time" admitting to mental illness and seeking help. They want to know helpful things to say, or how to convince their loved one to get help. So here's your chance. Please help them out. What do you wish others knew about your illness?

Whether you have depression, bipolar, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia, what do you wish people understood? Help my new readers. Help yourself. Join me. Let's educate each other. After all, I certainly don't have all the answers!! Thanks!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What if there were a mental illness gene?

My brain has been playing with this question all day today, so I'll pose it to you.

What if there were a mental illness gene? Anyone with the mental illness gene would be certain to develop mental illness. What if your child, born or unborn, had it? What would you think? What would you do?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What if we said YES to everything?

She asked us, “What if you said YES to everything? What if, instead of taking yourself out by saying, ‘I can’t,’ you kept yourself connected by saying, ‘I can, or at least I’ll try?’” We were in the midst of a very difficult balancing pose at the time. Our forever hopeful, helpful, and happy yoga instructor was coolly pacing about the room of sixty sweaty, breathy bodies. She was encouraging, cajoling, and inquiring as she passed. “What if you said yes to everything?” And I thought, “Hmmmm…what if?”

What if I said yes to everything? What would happen? Or as our yogi-extraordinaire inquired, “What is the worst that could happen?” What, indeed…

If I said yes to everything, I would try more and fret less. I’d have more trials and less tribulations. I’d work more and worry less. I’d accept more risk, exert more effort, experience more failure, and enjoy more success.

If I said yes to everything, I’d explore opportunity more and fear calamity less. I’d champion challenges. I’d take advantage rather than feel disadvantaged. I’d protect my ego less and open my heart more.

If I said yes to everything, I’d love more and with more vigor than ever before. I’d be less reserved, avoidant and constrained. Life would be beautiful and bountiful not ugly and empty. Rather than reliving the past or predicting the future, I’d find this moment more than enough in which to live.

If I said yes to everything, I’d demonstrate faith rather than fear. I’d trust beyond myself and allow higher power a space within. Instead of no, never and can’t, I’d open to yes, always and can.

If I said yes to everything,
I’d know happiness,
develop serenity,
and find peace.

If I said yes to everything…

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A fitting goodbye to the, e'hem, president...

Gotta love David Letterman! Enjoy this tribute to some of The Shrub's finer historical moments!

Life in the fast, yet meditative, lane?

I got to sleep in this morning! Whew… After weeks of 4:25 AM, getting up 4 hours later feels luxurious!

It’s been a few days since I’ve written here. I apologize for that. I’ve been busy, uh…meditating! Well, not really, for I still suck at meditation. I made it 10 minutes yesterday, but that was the first time I actually attempted meditating this week! Do any of you meditate? If so, I’d love to hear how you got started or what works for you.

I’m supposed to be doing this twice a day, ten minutes each time. It’s a requirement of this 40 days of yoga course I’m taking, and I’d really like to learn to do it. I just need to get over my reluctance to start, I guess. Discomfort–mental discomfort–is never my favorite state to explore. I realize I need to quit avoiding the initial discomfort if I hope to bring meditation into my life. And I do hope to bring it in. I am now convinced it will only improve my state of being. Like I said, if any of you have suggestions, I am all ears! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dogs and Cobras and Dead bugs. Oh my!

Up, down, in, out...breathe, breathe!
Dogs and cobras and swans.
Dead bugs, pigeons and camels.
Thunderbolts and warriors
Sun salutes and prayer twists.

Prayer twist--that one comes with the instruction, "Ring out your guts. Twist from the base of your spine all the way up. Squeeze every internal organ you've got." Geez, I thought yoga was supposed to be kind and gentle! I was mistaken.

It's day nine of my 40 Days of Yoga Personal Revolution class. Not only am I learning all kinds of interesting lingo, I’m sore as hell! Well, okay, maybe only sore as heck. It’s likely half of my soreness is from shoveling drifts of snow after yesterday’s blizzard. But I digress…

So far, I’m pretty amazed. Sore, but amazed. I thought getting up at 4:25 every morning would just about kill me. I’ve actually tolerated it quite well, especially when one considers it was -15 degress this morning! Undertaking this endeavor in January in Minnesota certainly makes it more challenging, but doing the yoga seems to energize my entire day. I do catch a nap if I can, but even when I can’t, I survive.

I thought maintaining a food journal would be a waste of time. It hasn’t been! I’ve already cut down my portion sizes by actually measuring servings of food (like cereal!), and I’m making better food choices, too.

I thought forgoing food after dinner would leave me starving. It hasn’t. While I got hungry and chose to snack 3 times last week, I again made tiny choices in comparison to what I would have eaten the week before. I’m talking saltines and chocolate milk vs. ice cream and chocolate chip cookies! Big difference, don’t you think?

And I thought meditating on my own time, twice per day, would really, really suck. Okay, so far, it has! Progress not perfection. Progress not perfection. Progress not perfection…I’m still working on that one!

One very pleasant surprise: The book we are using and the yogis running the course seem nicely aligned with The Twelve Steps. It’s quite a unique experience to be in a room full of normies, with a few exceptions, and have the yogi recite the serenity prayer during the ending meditation. She also sprinkles in quotes from the program, like “Progress not perfection,” and “We can do what I cannot.” I love it.

The book is centered around “The Twelve Laws of Transformation.” Hmmmm…I’m sensing a theme here! I guess, as they say, this is right where I need to be, and right when I need to be here. I’ll keep you posted!

Monday, January 12, 2009

PTSD not worthy of purple heart??

In a decision which can only be described as baffling, the Pentagon has decided that a purple heart shall be awarded only to those who suffer "physical" injuries during a war. This is a slap in the face to our country's military personnel who bravely risked their lives, shockingly witnessed violence, maiming and death, and then tragically lost their jobs, homes and families as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Perhaps loss of function would be a better determinant of who should and should not qualify for one of our military's highest honors. Is a traumatized soldier who can't sleep, can't work, can't sustain his marriage, and eventually commits suicide as a direct result of his war experiences less deserving of this medal than a soldier who takes a bullet fragment in the ass? How can anyone, even a government agency, ponder such a comparison and still find justice in this decision?

Stigma and discrimination rear their ever-present, ugly heads once again. To the U.S. servicemen and women belittled by this ridiculous "policy," let me be the first to say, "I'm sorry."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

the subtlety of depression

While billing a patient this week, I noticed she had a previous diagnosis of depression. "Wow," I thought, "she didn't look like someone with depression." Almost immediately, I began chastising myself! I was shocked to have had the thought! How could I, a person with depression--a person who speaks, writes, and educates about the invisibility, stereotypes and stigma of mental illness--how could I automatically assume that a young, healthy, attractive person didn't look like she could or should have depression? I was surprised at and disappointed with myself.

I guess it proves, once again, how pervasive the stigma is, how ingrained our attitudes are, and how hidden this illness can be. This incident was a powerful, not so subtle, reminder for me. How are your thoughts today?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The reasons to keep writing today

Reflecting again on one year of writing...

It is your search terms--those words and questions you put into Google--leading you to my blog which keep me going. Sometimes they are comical phrases, like "My friends suck," which peak my curiousity. Other times they are questions of fact, "Why isn't my resting heart rate decreasing," which lead you here. If you are like me, it's due to unpleasant medication side effects. Is that it for you, too? Typically, however, your search terms make me wince. The words you choose reveal the depth of your pain and the desperation to remedy it. I get it. Obviousely, I get it, or you wouldn't have landed here.

Your revealing searches motivate me when I'm feeling bad or questioning whether to continue. "Intrusive thoughts" and "losing friends" remain two of the most common phrases guiding you here. When I wrote those posts, I had no idea. Without knowing it, you support me just by searching for answers to those two dilemmas. I am not unique. Thank God...unique is very isolating.

Revealing the depth of your pain, in the past two weeks you've searched for "gay abuse suicide," "I can't function depression," "intrusive thoughts suicide," "depressed lost the few friends I had," "disturbing intrusive thoughts," "disinterest in life," "black and white thinking borderline personality disorder," and "I don't want to do anything depression." These phrases are just a sampling of the ways you remind me I am not alone. I hope after visiting here, reading here, you come to realize you are not alone either. Take care, and thanks for a great year!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One year is upon me.

I began this blog one year ago, January 8, 2008. At the time, I didn't know a thing about blogging. I didn't have a clue how to create, organize, or "program" a blog. I knew nothing about attaching files, creating links, downloading videos, posting pictures, defining keywords, or understanding statistics. Readers, followers, feeds and subscribers were all foreign concepts. I am somewhat amazed to be here, now, 365 days later.

While I knew little about blogging, I did have a fairly clear idea of my motives one year ago. I've been reflecting on those motives the past couple days. I created this blog out of my passion to educate others about depression and mental illness. I hoped to connect with others who ran, trained, and raced despite suffering chronic mental illness. I wanted to enlighten "the world" about the inadequate healthcare coverage, nonexistent job security, and tremendous financial struggles faced by those with mental illness. I planned to highlight stigma and discrimination.

Over time, I discovered my desire to focus on recovery from, rather than wallowing in, these difficulties. Slowly, I attempted to incorporate an attitude of gratitude and tried to focus more on coping, solutions, and support. Depression sucks, but it doesn't mean our lives must suck all the time. The only reason I am still alive today is because I've learned to cope with this shitty illness! I hope this blog has helped at least a couple of you, too.

I'm proud to be writing here one year later. I'm pleased a few of you have found me, commented, subscribed, and hopefully found something useful in my words. I always enjoy hearing from you, and your comments have supported me more than you will ever know.

I am not an expert on depression, mental illness or recovery, but I am an expert on MY mental illness and recovery--most of the time! If you discovered something in my experience which resonated with you, helped or enlightened you; I couldn't ask for more than that. I thank you all for sticking with me throughout 2008. I'll be here tomorrow, and I hope you will be, too.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

40 days, and no ark in site!

It’s day two of my personal revolution. We’re talking yoga, journaling, food diary, meditation, water, and more yoga! For some reason, I decided it would be a grand idea to sign up for this intensive course, which is being offered through The Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center–the health club associated with my employer. Just for chuckles, following is the opportunity which I just couldn’t pass up!

**Yoga from 5:10-6:10 AM every Monday through Friday and 7:00 AM on Saturdays.
**Studying the book, “40 Days to a Personal Revolution.”
**Completing the very personal journaling assignments in the book and as instructed.
**Meditating for at least 10 minutes twice per day.
**Writing down every single thing I put into my mouth throughout each day.
**Drinking at least 64 ounces of water per day.
**No eating at all after dinner each night.
**Performing 40 leg lifts every single night.
**Performing at least 30 minutes of yoga on my own every Sunday.

I’ve made it to yoga–and just so we’re clear this is not gentle yoga–the last two mornings. Getting up at 4:20 AM is quite a major adjustment to my routine! Getting up, performing yoga, and then working a full day is an even bigger adjustment! Committing to anything this significant? Unheard of since the onset of my illness. But I committed, so I am going to try my best.

I think I will appreciate the focus on my eating, which I tend to do mindlessly and without regard to portion size. Writing down what I’m putting into my body should help me make better, and smaller, choices. My physical and mental well-being should improve as my eating improves.

I know I will appreciate the yoga. Strengthening, flexibility, balance and stability are the tenets of yoga and the foundation of better running. I look forward to my running improving with my body over the next 40 days.

Meditation is the tough one. I hate it. Ten minutes is a long, long time in this anxious, thoughtful brain! Ten minutes twice per day? Ugh! I made it 5 minutes once yesterday. If I come through this able to meditate, we’ll have to consider it a miracle! There could be no better endorsement for this program than that!

I’ll keep you all updated as I go along. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Handling negative emotions

Anger, fear, disappointment, resentment, frustration...negative emotions such as these seem to be doubly difficult for me to handle as a result of this illness. I'm not talking about jumping off a bridge or anything, but I've noticed recently that any negative emotion can trigger a steep, precipitous slide into the abyss. Darkness and despair seem to be ever present just beneath my surface. It makes feeling angry, fearful, frustrated or disappointed quite dangerous for me.

I wonder if anybody else has this experience? Am I unique in this? Have you noticed? I'd love to know.

Friday, January 2, 2009

tired again

Whew...I've been so tired the past few days. Maybe it was staying up late on New Year's Eve. Maybe it was staying up late combined with being let down by someone I didn't know could be so rude. Disappointment must be exhausting, because I'm exhausted! Maybe working a regular schedule is catching up with me. I've been really wiped out after my 10-hour days. Maybe it's just frickin' depression cycling through me again. It's a familiar feeling, after all. Seems I go through this heaviness every other month or so.
I hate feeling like this. I'm sleepy tired. I made it out to a morning meeting, then I had to nap. I slugged through a late morning run, then I had to nap. I met with the teen I mentor early this afternoon, then I had to nap. I had to. I couldn't stay awake.
I've tried to stay awake, but even when awake I've felt heavy, disinterested and sluggish. Ironically, about the only thing I've had the energy to do is lie down! Now, despite feeling sleepy, I'm unable to sleep. I've slept so much today, yet I remain sleepy. I hate that!
I don't know why this occurs. It just does, but I wish it just wouldn't. I hate feeling like this. I can't function well when I feel like this. Depression? Disappointment? Work? I don't know. I don't really care. I just wish I knew how to fix it.