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!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Say it Now...

This morning, on the way to my usual AA meeting, I couldn't wait to talk to Stan about the Vikings new quarterback. We both loved the Vikings, and we both hated last season's QB options. It took a couple seconds before I remembered I wouldn't be sharing any thoughts with Stan. I looked to the sky... I could almost see him smiling with optimism for next season.

The Vikings--Stan and I discussed them a lot. He was one of few men who didn't flinch when, on occasion, a woman knew more about sports than he. I never told him how much I appreciated that. I never expected I wouldn't sit with him, share chili and the game, and yell at the TV again. I'll miss that.

We never know, do we, when our exit will come.

Just a few days after Stan died, my yoga instructor said, "Tell the ones you love. Tell them today what they mean to you. Tell them now, because even though you are planning to come to class tomorrow, you may not make it here." That's the reality of life, isn't it? And yet, even with my recent experience, I've had difficulty taking her suggested action. Why is that? How about you? Have you said, "I love you," or "Thank you," today?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Running on a Snowy Day

Breath steams in and out
Snowflakes whisper from above
Foot falls silent down

Black against the white
Melting snow nose to tail
Happy panting dog

Footprints and paw prints
Side by side left in the snow
Mom and dog run home

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

restless but running

Another weird, tough day today. I'm just feeling out of sorts...restless, irritable and discontent (to quote the Big Book). I hate feeling like this. I'm full of this jittery, let's-go energy, yet I'm tired. I want to sleep the day away, but can't. Seems like I'd have energy to accomplish a lot, but I basically end up pacing--unable to focus on anything and with patience for nothing. This is not a great place to be. It's weird. I don't like it.

My therapist, per usual, tells me it will pass. It's temporary. And I know that...but it feels ICKY right now. Icky--good word. I think the word icky must have been created for times like these. I'm not sure I'm even making sense. I can't put into's just icky. Does that mean anything to anyone out there?

Well, despite the icky-ness, I did get some stuff done. I made it to yoga this morning, and I ran my first short speed workout late this afternoon. I'm really frustrated with how heavy I feel, and apparently am if the jeans I tried on today run true-to-size! Ughhh... I'm frustrated with craving crap, which seems to coincide with icky-ness, although eating crap certainly doesn't help! So I guess I'm frustrated and icky...but where was I? Oh, yes, I was focusing on the positive! It's so easy to get off track when feeling restless, irritable and discontent.

I yoga-ed. I ran. I went to therapy. I got out grocery shopping for some good, fresh food, and I made it to a meeting. So the day was not a loss. I still feel icky, but at least busying myself kept the pacing to a minimum. Here's hoping tomorrow's a better day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

feeling pathetic

feeling pathetic today.
or maybe it's sorry for myself.
either way, it's ugly.

did yoga.
the only highlight so far.
i've been pathetic.

eating too much crap,
which makes me feel like crap.

but not sleeping.

but unwilling to do anything different.

so i'm bored, sleepy, and feel like crap.
like i said,

tomorrow is a new day.
i hope.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Alcohol, depression, death

My friend Stan used to call me when he was drunk. We shared the diagnosis of depression, and that's what he called to talk about. Perhaps he was only comfortable talking about his sadness once the alcohol softened his resolve. Perhaps the depressant effect of alcohol deepened his depression to the point where he needed to speak. I don't know. I'll never know. Stan died last night.

Stan's death, indirectly the result of alcoholism, leaves me sad and reminiscent. Like Stan, I often used alcohol as my primary depression medication. It worked. Every time I put it in, I knew the effect it would have. Unlike pills, which required weeks to take effect, ingesting alcohol provided almost instant distraction, alteration, and relief. The irony of using a depressant chemical to medicate my depression wasn't lost on me, but it worked when nothing else would.

Of course, like Stan, I didn't drink just a little bit. I drank like an alcoholic. In medicating my depression, I became an alcoholic. No matter what I planned, one drink was never enough, two were always too few, and oblivion never came too soon. Stan's tearful phone calls, and now his death, remind me I am only one drink away from losing my sobriety, possibly forever. I am only one drink away from literal oblivion. Of this, I can never be reminded too much.

There but for the grace of God go I... While remembering my friend, I will remember this, too. Grateful for the reminder, Stan. Now rest...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Alcoholism about to claim a life

I have a friend who was taken off life support today. In and out of AA for almost 20 years, his final relapse occurred in August. My friend Jeannie was in the last stages of cancer at the time. Jeannie was one of his closest friends. It was too much for Stan to bear.

Alcohol took him from Jeannie. Unable to break free from his disease, he didn't say goodbye nor make it to her funeral. While we celebrated his friend's sober life, Stan was home alone with his bottle. The juxtaposition was great.

It's another sad day today. Another friend dying, this time it's a curable disease, yet a disease for which Stan couldn't find the cure. As a person with the same disease, it is especially difficult to witness. Though witness it, I am not.

Stan has no witnesses now. He is alone in a hospital many states away, the result of fleeing the friends and family who were trying to help. I can only witness from afar, know I will never, ever see him again, and pray for my friend's final peace.

Rest now, Stan. I will miss you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We made the news!

Check this out! My yoga program made the Minneapolis news. Perhaps Good Morning America is next?

Click here for the two minute video.

Next Goal: Grandma's Marathon

Today was the first day of the next 18 weeks; 18 weeks which will culminate in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. For my long-time readers, this will be deja vue all over again. Last year at this time, I began training for the Grandma's half marathon, a.k.a. The Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. While that was a semi-success, The Twin Cities Marathon which followed was a huge DNF disappointment. Perhaps that DNF is what's scaring me about taking on Grandma's in 18 weeks.

Setting goals is always risky, maybe more so when illness is part of daily life. As was my goal last October at Twin Cities, I'd like to qualify for Boston. How will I feel if I don't meet that expectation again? Will my leg hold up, or will injury slow me down again? Do I want to take the risk, or do I want to let my apprehension hold me back? Finally, and most importantly, do I want to put in the amount of work required to not only finish the race but finish in 3:45? Perhaps that's the biggest question.

Today was the first time I've run since the first week of my 40 days of yoga class. I didn't miss it. The yoga was more than enough. In fact, I think the core strength I gained during yoga will serve me well while running. However, I'm not looking forward to the training. That's the first time I've ever said that. On my first three miles today, I couldn't wait for it to be done. It's going to be very difficult to train properly if every 3 miles feels like ten. Starting over is always difficult, and I hope that's the only thing happening here.

It's tough to train if training is unappealing. It's even tougher if training is drudgery. Since I'm starting anew, I'm going to push through for at least three weeks before making any long-term decisions. Today the goal is a 3:45 at Grandma's Marathon in 18 weeks. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, any words of encouragement or experience would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, February 16, 2009

tough thinking and fatigue

tough to get out of bed this morning.
so tired.
tired last week, too.
heavy fatigue.
getting heavier.
thought it would have passed
by now.

then the thinking started.
tough thoughts.
intrusive thoughts.
deadly thoughts.
hate when that happens.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Goodbyes and Celebrations

Yesterday was a big day. It was the last day of my '40 days of yoga' class. We had a two hour, rather than the usual one hour session, from 6:00-8:00 AM. I wanted to write about it yesterday, but I think I needed more time to process before setting it to words. So here I day later, early morning, sipping my coffee before work, and wondering what the hell I am going to do without the structure of my yoga program? Besides the physical benefits to my body, the most influential piece of this journey was simply the structure.

Structure. That's not a word I've mingled with since depression snatched my life. I'm sure many of you can relate. The unpredictability of my illness, and maybe yours, too, does not lend itself to structure. Rather, structure is an expectation-laden, frightful concept which I try to avoid. That statement probably doesn't resonate with normies, but if your illness is like my illness, you know what I mean.
It's hard to plan for anything when one's symptoms may change from day to day, or morning to afternoon, or as has happened to me occasionally, hour to hour! Doing anything for 40 straight days was a minor miracle in my life.

The class was beautiful. The sense of power and accomplishment among us was palpable. Like me, many of us suited up and showed up for all 40 days. We groaned, laughed, contemplated, sweat and cried together. It was a intensely physical experience. It was a mentally stimulating experience. It was a rather deep spiritual experience.

Our fearless leaders sent us on our way in style. We danced to the music of Kool and the Gang--Celebration, of course! We silently looked each and every other group member in the eyes in an uncomfortable, tear-filled, intimate exercise. We sang, we laughed...and laughed some more. Words cannot express...

I am proud of myself for sticking it out. I am proud to be associated with an employer who was willing to step outside the box and offer this experience. I am humbled by and grateful to the women who organized the program. I wish you all could have been there.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our stories

I believe it is Rachel Naomi Remen, the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom, who says, "A story is a container for meaning." We all have our own stories which define us and influence how we view the world. For example, each of us with depression, though we are struggling with the same illness, has a different story.

In my experience, depression seems to break down into three primary stories. For some, depression seems to define them. Everything they do and see is colored by it. All input and output filters through its cloud of despair. It is who they are. For some others, depression appears to be an obstacle. It gets in the way, but they constantly strive to push it into the background. It's a frustrating piece of their experience. And for a few more, depression seems to be an afterthought. It's already in the background. They may even forget about it, until it temporarily flares up. Their friends may not know they have it, and whether friends know or not is not important to them. It is separate from their person and their experience. Same illness, three different stories.

My yoga instructor also talks about our stories. She preaches letting them go. She discourages letting our stories define us. For example, I have a story about my hip. It goes something like this. ...I've had two hip surgeries, and as a result, I have continued weakness and limited motion in my right hip. It's affected my running. I seem to be more easily injured because of it...blah, blah, blah. Prior to beginning my yoga class, I was certain I wouldn't be able to perform certain poses because of my 'bad' hip. I let that story define my limitations before I even tried the poses! I was ready and willing to share when I couldn't do a pose perfectly! My yoga teacher foiled that willingness when she preached letting go and "just trying it."

Perfection isn't required in my yoga class. Trying is. Trying, letting go of my stories and trying, is all our instructor asks. As a result, I can do poses I never imagined I could do, and my hip is stronger and more flexible because of it. By busting out of my story, by trying, I grew.

Imagine my continued growth if I just try in life, too? How often do I let my stories define my limits before I even try? How often do you? How many of you want to go back to school, for example, but your story won't allow it? How about getting a new job, or, as in my case, going back to work? Do you have a story about your illness, your finances, or your circumstances which keeps you constrained? I know I do. What if we just said yes to everything instead? Imagine. Imagine the possibilities!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thirty six days

Thirty six days ago I could do this...

Today I can do this...

and this...

and most incredibly, THIS...

Just one hour per day for 36 days.

We can do anything if we put our minds to it, don't you think? I've grown physically, mentally and spiritually because I made one simple decision and then took action based on that decision. So profound.
What decision could you make to change your life today? What actions have you yet to take? If I can do this, you can do anything, too. Think about it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

sometimes i just don't want to be sick

so the fatigue i've felt over the past week was at least partly of my own creation, i think. i "forgot" my meds on multiple occasions. here's the thing...i was doing so well. i was feeling maybe the best i've felt in several years.

i was feeling normal, not too high nor too low. i had enough energy to make it through my day, but not so much that i couldn't nap when needed or sleep through the night. my thoughts were relatively clear; not intrusive, negative, or jumbled. i was feeling good.

i figured all of the fine self-care i was doing--yoga, sleep, mindful eating, meditation--all of that would protect me. i allowed myself to go there...maybe, just maybe, i could be normal.

i'm not normal. i'm still sick. i still have a chronic illness--a biological, treatable illness--but an illness, nonetheless. taking good care of myself while taking my meds lessened my symptoms and made life easier, but once i practically discontinued my meds, my symptoms returned. i'm disappointed. i'm humbled. and i'm smarter.

i'd become increasingly resistant to taking my meds recently. no particular reason-- i just didn't want to be sick. i guess you could call this my 'am i normal' experiment. i received valuable information from this experiment. less resistance and more acceptance--that's where i'm at today. as the big book of aa notes, "acceptance was the answer."

i have depression. it's an illness. i'm doing well. and i need my medication to continue doing well. humbling. reality. acceptance.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


still tired...
not motivated to write, or meditate, or socialize, or think...
can't stand what i'm watching on tv
but can't stand the thought of turning it off...
then what would i do?
brain is mush.
mood's okay
but my brain is mush.
and i'm just so, so tired.

i know it will pass.
i hope it will pass.
it can't pass

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fatigue Fights Back!

Silly, silly woman!
Who did you think you were anyway? Thought you had gotten rid of me? HA! Never!
You thought all that yoga and mindful eating was going to cure everything, didn't you? You were playing with those thoughts, weren't you?
Heh, heh...Actually, I was just playing with you, as I think you are now aware.
I was just having some fun at your expense. Allowing your mind to entertain the possibility...the remote possibility that all this happy, goody, loving, spiritual crap was going to make it all go away.
You were getting a bit carried away! I had to come back and reign you in!

Ahhh, c'mon! Don't be mad!
This is our relationship. Tit for tat, remember?
I let you have a little energy, enthusiasm, and hope. In exchange, I get at least a few days of you flat on your back--wiped out. That's the deal.
Besides, it was fun for you, wasn't it? I know you enjoyed that energy, that hope. I know you did! Hell, you even "forgot" your meds more than once! (Didn't think I noticed that, did you? I did.)

Boo,'re frustrated and discouraged. Cry me a river!
What about me? How do you think I felt these past 4 weeks? You were running around all happy and shit. How do you think that made me feel? Miserable, that's how! Did you ever think of that? Think about me for once! I sacrificed so you could feel hope!
Well, that's over now. It's my turn again.
This is our relationship--your bliss is my pain. Your pain is my bliss. I don't care that you never agreed to the arrangement! It is our arrangement, nonetheless. Accept it!
You'll never be rid of me! Ha, ha, ha, ha...

Now, shut-up and go back to bed!