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!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The dilemma. The contradiction.

You may have noticed I was a bit vague in my last post. I noted that I ran my "long run" despite feeling lower and heavier than I had felt in years. I purposefully didn't mention my run was 15 miles. (Fifteen miles?!? How can you run 15 miles when you say you feel tired, sad, and hopeless? That doesn't make any sense! There's no way a person could do that while feeling as bad as you say you were feeling! So you're either lying, attention-seeking, or both! Or...if you can run 15 miles while feeling so bad, then I can expect my son, daughter, or best friend to do more when they're feeling bad!) And therein lies the dilemma.

My dilemma is sometimes I can do things despite feeling really bad, but that doesn't mean I don't feel bad. However, I understand how difficult that may be for a normie to comprehend. Heck, it's even hard for me to comprehend at times! It just doesn't make sense. Fortunately, I've forced myself out the door often enough to know sometimes my body can do things despite evidence to the contrary. That's why I forced myself out the door on Saturday. I had to trust I'd be able to run despite feeling bad.

I did run. It wasn't pretty at first, but I ran 15 miles and met my goal. I hesitated defining my long run, however, out of fear--fear my symptoms might have been taken less seriously. I hesitated writing about running 15 miles out of fear your symptoms might be taken less seriously. This is the strange, contradictory nature of my depression. Sometimes my mood is okay, but I can't get out of bed. Sometimes my mood is black and hopeless, yet I can run 15 miles?? Yes. And it doesn't mean I didn't feel bad.

Honesty shouldn't be a dilemma. I guess I'm still too concerned with what others think. I realize there are multitudes of providers, families, and friends who would find nonsense in what I reported feeling versus what I accomplished on Saturday. It's a dilemma, but the goal of this blog is to educate others and to support people with mental illness. I don't accomplish either of those goals by leaving out parts of my reality. After all maybe it's your reality, too. To educate and support, I must be honest.

Maybe some of you share my experience? Maybe you can sometimes do things contrary to your mood state. Maybe it baffles you, too. Maybe there are parents, siblings, friends, and perhaps healthcare providers who witness these contradictory acts. Maybe it causes them to question your reality, your story, your experience. I don't want to perpetuate that. My experience supports the contradiction. Sometimes we can do things despite feeling like crap. It doesn't mean we don't feel like crap. Right?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

still here

Raise your hand if you've cried during a run! (Yup, my hand is up--today.) Things are still really tough, yet I was able to force myself out for my long run today--only the third time I've run all week. I knew I'd feel even worse if I didn't accomplish that one thing, and that run is the only thing I accomplished today. Things are really tough. But I'm still here putting one foot in front of the other. One foot, and then the other foot, and then the first foot...right, left, right, left...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Great expectations

She says my expectations are too high. I expect too much from myself. I don't think so. She says feeling frustrated and distressed when depression holds me down is normal. But my psychologist doesn't think most people get as distressed as I. Maybe so. I know feeling distressed about feeling depressed is not helpful. I can't help it. I do expect...I've already compromised enough to this fucking illness. I don't think expectations are bad, but today I think it may be her expectations which are too high.

Depression has me pinned. She wanted me outside by noon. It's after one o'clock, and the world outside my window feels a million miles away. I need to rest. I need to run. I need to sleep. I need to eat. I need to convalesce. I need to clean. One appointment already gone, cancellation of another will be next. Each failure adds to the distress. Depression has me pinned.

to be cont...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

going down?

my elevator is plummeting.
i'm headed down.
don't come in.
one never knows where it will stop.

trying hard.
ran yesterday.
biked today.
but otherwise tired and sleep.
tired and sleep.
going down.

fatigue like a leaden cloak.
too heavy.
doors close.
darkness surrounds.
power cut.
elevator down.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

thoughts under the SAD light

I'm sitting in front of my SAD light this morning. It's awfully tough to see my computer screen, but the bigger issue is needing to sit here at all. I'm so frustrated. This fatigue is really wearing on me. It's so wearing my mood is sinking, hence the need to sit in front of this damn light.

I'm frustrated because I went to bed at 7:30 last night. I'm frustrated because I couldn't stay awake beyond 7:30 last night. In fact, I wanted to go to bed at 6:30, but feeling that was too ridiculous, I forced myself to stay awake. I slowly pedaled my bike. I did 10 weak sit-ups and minimal lower leg strengthening. I performed all of this in front of my television. By 7:30 PM I gave up and went to bed.

At least, I thought, going to bed early would allow me to get up early and start my day. I set out my running clothes. I set my alarm. I planned my run and fell asleep. Yet, here I am, typing--2 hours after my alarm initially blared. Whoever created the snooze button should be shot! It didn't matter how loud or long that alarm went off, I couldn't wake up. I knew the clothes were waiting for me. I knew Puck was ready--always. I knew I'd feel sooooo much better if I got out the door. None of it mattered. Despite going to bed at 7:30 PM, I couldn't pull myself out of bed until 7:30 AM. Pathetic.

I have a full day today, and now it's busier because I still need to run. Hell, I still need to wake up! Hopefully, this damn SAD light will brighten (pun intended) my mood and my day. If not, I'm not sure what else to do.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quotable Quotes

Three quotes which struck me this weekend:

Garrison Keillor on March in Minnesota: "March. The month God created so that people who don't drink would know what a hangover feels like."

Summarized from page 230 of The Big Book of AA: I discovered in pointing out the wrong attitudes and actions of others that I was really pointing out my own wrong attitudes and actions. If I expected others to change, I would have to work on changing myself, too.

Stephanie, yoga instructor extraordinaire: "Sometimes life is good. Sometimes, ahhhh... not so much."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good moments

Today is a gorgeous spring day. I'm spending the day one moment at a time. I didn't try to get up early to run. Rather, I allowed myself to sleep in. I didn't rush through my morning. Rather, I allowed the coffee to be slowly taken in. I attended one of my favorite, funny, friendly AA meetings. Then, taking advantage of the caffeine, warmth and sun, I went for my long run.

Fourteen miles today, that was my quest. I did that, too, one step at a time. Although I'd be a liar if I said it was easy. I really pooped out around 12.5 miles, but I finished, nonetheless. Ninety moments of napping followed the run. I love napping. I especially love napping after a long, successful run.

Now, I'm spending moments with my friend Bill. While bonking at 12.5 miles I envisioned grilled burgers with all the fixins. Fortunately, Bill is always happy to utilize his grill. I supplied the burger and buns, Bill--the former chef--supplied the grill and skill. Needless to say, I'm full. I'm having moments of fullness!

I made a decision to live in the moment today, to stay present, in hopes of quieting this latest bout of fatigue and noise. So far, so good. My brain's been quieter and my energy has flowed. It was a good decision. I've been present and enjoyed the moments of this day.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

it was one of those runs...

It was a cold, sunny day today. I got up early but couldn't get out the door for over 3 hours. After watching SportsCenter 3 times in a row, I finally had the moment I was waiting for--that magical window of energetic readiness. I ran to the bedroom and donned the requisite gear. Again, it was the tights that brought Puck to his feet. We slogged through the first mile of a loosely planned 5-6 miler in the colder-than-anticipated air. It felt like a long day was in store.

Actually, the mileage lengthened, while the run shortened. The magical energy must have returned, for I realized I was running comfortably at a quicker than normal pace. Eight miles later, Puck was lagging behind while I was finishing up with my fastest mile of the day. It was one of those runs.

It must have been the beautiful steak I was served last night. It could have resulted from the speedwork I've done the past three weeks. Whatever the reason, it was one of those easy days when everything clicked. It was one of those runs. Nice.

Now, if only my mood would get easy, too. Oh well, we can't have everything can we?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lower noise. Lower mood.

The noise is a bit less today. While the thoughts aren't totally gone, I do have less runaway thinking. Unfortunately, my mood seems to have lowered in concert with the noise.

My mood is lower despite yoga this morning and a speed workout this afternoon. That's a bad sign. Exercise is often protective for me. That is, a good workout helps my mood. Not today. This is another reminder I have an illness.

Depression. Depression is an illness not unlike other chronic illnesses. It has its own ups and downs. Sometimes I can influence the symptoms. Sometimes I can't. Apparently today I couldn't.

I'm frustrated the exercise didn't protect me today, but I'm grateful I was able to accomplish my goals. Hopefully sleep will cure what ails me, and tomorrow will be a new day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My noisy head

My head is full of noise today. Not sure what's going on. Could be stress, I suppose. I had my first day of splitting time between two facilities today, and I saw more patients than there was realistically time to see! New environment, unfamiliar patients, and too busy--it all added up to stress on top of stress today. That could be what's causing the noise, I guess.

The noise actually started yesterday, or maybe it was the day before that. I can't remember. My brain's been too noisy to allow for new memory. My thoughts are racing. I'm having flashbacks to years ago distress, flashbacks of a long ago suicide attempt. There's so much noise I had to turn off my radio on the way home from work. The competing external noise was just too much.

My head is full of noise. Maybe this doesn't make sense to some of you. Maybe it's one of those things a person has to experience to fully understand. So some of you may think I'm nuts, and some of you may understand. I understand this, noise is uncomfortable, disconcerting, distracting, frustrating, and irritating. It's also quite tiring, and I don't need anything else dragging me down.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Dog and the Reluctant Runner

The alarm clock blared. The NPR station, which at 4:45 AM broadcasts BBC news from across the globe, shattered the darkness. The reluctant runner rolled over and covered her head. The dog sighed.

Thirty minutes later, she stirred. The BBC was loudly covering a concert in Australia. The dog lifted his head. With great effort her feet hit the floor. The dog didn't yet believe. He remained coiled comfortably on his bed.

Under his watchful eye, she dressed. It was the tights that brought him to his feet. She wondered how he could instantaneously go from slumber to anticipation. Actually, she was envious. If only she could greet the cold darkness and impending exertion with such form.

Bouncing around the kitchen, he couldn't wait for the gloves and the hat. The runner was moving entirely too slow. She checked the weather on the computer. It was 28 degrees. Oh, that's warm; it shouldn't be too bad, she thought. His eyes screamed, "Huuurrrrry uuuuuupp!!"

A quick bite of banana was almost too much for him to bear. The runner dodged his hips and hops. His tail he could not stop. He didn't want to let her out of his site. Occasionally, she tries to leave without him. The runner smiled at his jovial persistence. Finally, the collar encircled his neck.

If possible, he would have cheered, but she bristled as they stepped into the darkness. It was colder and darker than she thought. He didn't notice. To the end of the driveway was as far as they got. "I'm sorry, Buddy," she said, "I just can't."

He looked confused, as she removed the leash. Enthusiasm drained from his eyes. She felt guilty. His hopping and his tail, they both stopped. "I'm sorry. We'll go later," she said. "I promise." The dog sighed. She wondered if she was telling a lie. Perhaps he wondered, too. Resigned, the dog curled tightly on his bed.

The End.

Addendum: The reluctant runner kept her promise. The dog smiled for 13 miles.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A sleep study

A sleep study--that's what my doc and I decided today. We were discussing my increasing fatigue. Of course, I want it to be caused by anything other than depression! (Something fixable, please!!!)
I inquired about sleep apnea after noting a couple recent experiences. While napping I've been nearly awakened by my own gasping for breath. The gasping was accompanied by significant anxiety--the kind of anxiety you feel when you can't breathe. The gasping-anxiety cycle repeated until I finally woke up, frustrated and unrested. Fortunately, there is a sleep expert in my psychiatrist's office, so I will be having a sleep study soon. Is it wrong to wish for a diagnosis???

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

despite the fatigue...

Despite the fatigue mentioned in yesterday's post, I'm still on my feet. After writing yesterday, I did get out for my run. I even ran a speed workout, 5 x 800 meters. It went much better than expected. I was wiped out afterward, but I'm glad I did it. I always feel good after I run fast, despite the pain of running that fast.

The weather has been quite challenging lately. Cold, cold, cold and wind forced me indoors yesterday and today. I'm glad I have that option. I'm just not into battling Mother Nature anymore. Battling fatigue, apparently, is more than enough.

Despite the fatigue, I had a decent day at work. Today was the first of a very busy stretch for me. I handled it. I know I can do anything for one day. I'm trying not to worry about the days ahead. We are nearly full with patients, and beginning Monday, I will be splitting time with another facility in order to cover their therapist's vacation. It's exhausting to think about.

I'm trying not to think about it, because splitting time is tough. Our facilities are about 20 miles apart. I'm not familiar with their physical layout nor their patients. Unfamiliarity requires extra energy and sharpness. That's tough. As was the case today, I feel I'll need to be "on" all day, every day, next week. Perhaps this doesn't make sense to many of you, but being continually "on" is exhausting.

I deal with my fatigue by taking breaks. I might take a few extra minutes in the bathroom or climb the stairs more slowly between patients. I might prescribe a set of exercises and then steal a minute to write a note. Unfortunately, staying "on" does not allow for many breaks.

Staying "on" can be exhausting. An overload of patients requires treating them in groups, therefore no spare minute for a note. Unfamiliar patients require extra history, interaction, and observation. It may feel as if I have no time to slow down. Yet, I'll need to slow down. I'll need to find space for breaks. And I need to quit worrying about what may happen. Worry is also exhausting, and it's exhausting today.

Despite the fatigue, I'm doing all right. I'm doing what I can. I'm trying to take pride in what I've accomplished, rather than lamenting what I haven't. I need to stay in today, not worry about tomorrow, and not project difficulty into next week. I know all that. Perhaps telling you will help keep me on track. Thanks. Thanks for holding me to the track.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Worried about fatigue

I'm getting a bit concerned about my fatigue. Over the past few months, fatigue has gradually taken over my life. In fact, it's been so gradual, I just noticed it the other day. I'm only doing the bare minimum requirement everyday. I'm going to work, but I can't accomplish anything once I get home at night. If, after work, I don't take a nap, followed by dinner and bed, then I sit in my chair vegetable-like, followed by dinner and bed. It's not much of an existence.

I figure I'll get the unfinished tasks done on my days off. However, on my days off, I end up "catching-up" on my sleep, doing the exercise I didn't do the night before, and then sleeping off the exhaustion following exercise. Like I said, it's not much of an existence. I'm concerned about my fatigue.

Existing on the bare minimum requirement is frustrating. I like my work, but I don't want it to consume my entire day. I'd like to give time to myself and my dog, too. This was one of my concerns when I returned to work 3 months ago. I was worried I would be too mentally and physically tired after work, that I wouldn't have energy for any other activity or self-care. That is, it seems, exactly what's happened.

I like staying in shape, but I don't want exercise taking up my entire day either, especially if the running, yoga, or biking only lasts 1-2 hours. Eight to ten hours of rest or vegetation is a high price to pay for 1-2 hours of activity. I feel good about being active, but the volume of rest leaves me more sluggish, frustrated and overwhelmed. I end up with negative consequences for positive actions. Tough.

These negative consequences cause me consternation. As I've discussed previously, I have to decide where it's most beneficial to expend the ever-decreasing allotment of my energy. I can't do what it seems most people can. I can't work and exercise on the same day. I can't cook and wash the dishes. I can't wash clothes and fold them. One or the other... One or the other... It's frustrating.

I'm concerned about my fatigue. I can't finish what I start. I'm falling behind. I'm getting overwhelmed. This is not an existence I'm happy to lead. I wish I could get past this fatigue.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A dog's life

I want my dog's life.
Lots of naps.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of joy.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of curiousity.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of anticipation.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of play.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of trust.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of touch.

I want my dog's life.
Lots of love.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Running makes a girl tough

Slogging through a lonely, cold 13-miler this morning I reflected upon why I was continuing to do something which, at that moment, felt so difficult. It was earlier than I needed to be up. I was tired. I was winded. I was alone and cold. My legs felt heavy. There were patches of dangerously slippery ice underfoot, and I still had over an hour to go. It was not a pleasant place to be with such thoughts and feelings.

It would have been so easy to say, "Screw it!" It would have been much easier to stop than to continue slogging on. I could have given in to the crummy feelings and negative thoughts. Instead, I had another thought, "Running makes me tough!"

Immediately, and to my amusement, a mini Gatorade commercial began playing in my head. (Cue the inspirational music: Here comes a slow-motion etta, resplendant in the morning mist. The sun peeks over the horizon, and her steamy breath flows as she gracefully, but not without grit, ascends a hill...) You know the commercial... So,I didn't quit. My mind whirred, and I slogged on.

Maybe I needed that tongue-in-cheek thinking to jolt me out of my negativity. My whirring brain settled on that thought, "Running makes a girl tough." It was true. Running had made me tougher. I was obviously tougher physically, but thinking about the mental toughness kept my brain's attention. Running requires mental toughness.

Similarly, surviving depression is all about mental toughness. Perhaps without these long, lonely, cold runs I wouldn't have been able to negotiate the long, lonely, cold nights of depression. Perhaps dipping into the hole of despair during difficult workouts or races helped when I needed a boost out of depression's black hole. Running when I felt slow, heavy and tired may have encouraged me to hoist out of bed on those dark days when I felt the same. It made perfect sense. Running, in some ways, is practice for surviving depression. Thank God I'm a runner.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

He grows, I grow

Sitting in a coffee shop, I'm trying to convince him to wear a suit and tie when meeting prospective employers. The conversation reminds me of my own naivete at age eighteen. He says, "I think I'll ask the other kids what they did when they went looking for jobs." After reminding him that his friends are his age while I am hiring-manager age, I let it go with a smile. Oh to be eighteen again...

He's eighteen going on sixteen, which is an improvement. When I met him, he was sixteen going on twelve. A high school senior, and the product of a really sad alcoholic family, I've been mentoring him for just over two years. Since I have no kids, this relationship has given me opportunities I never thought I'd get. Teaching a teen to drive, for example, was an opportunity I won't soon forget.

He reminds me of myself at eighteen because, like him, I had no clue how to function in the world. I find myself trying to teach him everything I wish I had known, things I learned through embarrassment and shame. Saying 'please' and 'thank you' was an early lesson. Taking responsibility for one's actions was frequently revisited. Shaking hands, holding a door open so it doesn't slam in someone's face, and offering a guest something to drink have all been addressed. He's learned, and I've watched him grow.

He's grown, and therefore I've grown. He's learned, and therefore I've learned. I am so grateful to be a part of his life, as he enriches mine. I'm sure he'd be surprised to learn I'm getting just as much, if not more, out of this relationship as he is.

Two years ago I had no idea this relationship would develop. I wasn't searching for a teen to mentor. I wasn't feeling empty or alone without a teen in my life. Things happened, and we came together. Perhaps a higher power knew what was best for both of us. I certainly didn't have anything to do with it, but I'm so glad I took the ball and ran. After all, prom's coming up...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


I'm home sick today.
Kermit always makes me feel better.
Hope he brightens your day, too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cutting off 'overwhelmed'

Last night I opened a bill which was dated January 6, 2009. Don't panic. It was paid on time, I think. I point it out because this bill was only one in a pile, and I mean a pile, of mail I hadn't opened over the last two months. That's not typical for me. I'm usually a bit more on top of things. I knew my mail had taken a back seat recently, but I didn't realize I'd been piling it up since late December!

Piling my unopened mail was but one of many things I put off during January and February. On top of working a regularly scheduled job for the first time in 5-6 years, I was cranking out 40-days of yoga. Once that class ended, I began focusing on training for Grandma's Marathon. And this highlights another dilemma of my illness. I can't focus energy on anything extra without pulling energy and focus away from other, even simple, things. It's frustrating.

Piling up my mail, my dirty clothes, or my dishes is frustrating because I feel I'm skipping simple tasks, which I should be able to handle. Those 'shoulds' always get me in trouble. The piles represent my efforts to avoid getting overwhelmed, by judiciously doling out my energy, yet the piles in and of themselves are overwhelming! Worse, they are constant reminders of my continued limitations. (Don't you hate reminders of your limitations?)

But I'm pressing on. I'm attempting to cut off feeling overwhelmed by going through my piles. I'm finding I can only do a bit at a time, and I'm trying to be okay with that. Taking credit for what I accomplish, no matter how simple it may seem, is important, too. Negatively bashing myself certainly wouldn't help. Going through my piles may take energy away from running tomorrow, but energy may also be stolen if I don't go through them. So I'm pressing on...

I'll let you know how it turns out.