Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More on the sleep study

The initial sleep study I had a couple weeks ago apparently showed some apnea, as I am scheduled for a follow-up study. The second study is to titrate the C-PAP machine. In other words, I will go to bed with a C-PAP on, and then the tech will gradually increase the air pressure throughout the night. The goal is to find the pressure point at which my airway will remain open. It sounds like a loooong night to me.

As I said before, I'm torn about this whole business. With all the fatigue and sleepiness I've had these past two weeks, there is a part of me that is thrilled with the possibility I have apnea. Maybe this is the key which will unlock my energy again. Maybe this fatigue has been about more than depression all along!

Of course, there is a larger part of me that doesn't wish to add another diagnosis to the litany I already have. The necessity of sleeping with a machine for the rest of my days is also not appealing! That's not appealing at all. And...what if I have apnea, go on the C-PAP, yet still battle with this fatigue? Ugh...now I'm thinking too much!

I gotta stop thinking and just wait. I need to wait and see what the test shows and then wait and see if the fatigue abates. However, if there is anyone out there who has experience with fatigue, and apnea, and C-PAP, I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

writing difficulty

If you are a regular visitor here, perhaps you've noticed I've had less to say recently. I've been struggling with writing, and I feel bad about that.

I'm still soooo tired--can't seem to sleep enough. It's very frustrating, and it's negatively impacting the rest of my life. One of the areas this sleepiness seems to have most affected is writing. I either haven't wanted to write, or when I've wanted to, I haven't had anything to say. I apologize for that.

I do feel an obligation to keep up with these pages for those of you who visit. Whether it's knowledge, fun or curiosity that keeps you coming back, I want to keep up. I am still here. I'm here battling the sometimes subtle symptoms of this illness, yet my mood is still okay. I guess that's one thing for which to be grateful. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Burying my friend

We finally had the opportunity to bury my friend, Stan, yesterday. He died several states away a few months ago, the victim of alcoholism. It was a nice service performed in the very church in which he was baptized. After the service, his ashes were buried in the family plot right across the street. I finally got to say goodbye.

The church was filled to the rafters with fellow alcoholics, which made communion interesting! (Don't worry, Stan would have loved that observation.) Stan had an impact on everyone he met. He had a kind heart, a great sense of humor, and a generous soul. If only he could have stayed sober. Burying him yesterday made his death real and reignited my sadness. He's really gone. I miss him. I miss him a lot.

Rest in peace, Stan.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Go see The Soloist!

Perhaps the most compelling portrayal of schizophrenia since A Brilliant Mind. The Soloist will not disappoint. An incredible, real story. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

dealing with a drunk

I was going to write about how I came back from my long, low day and ran 10 x 800 meters. They weren't the fastest repeats I had ever run, nor did they feel the easiest, but the point was I did them. It was going to be a really good post about all the correlations to life, moment to moment living, etc...

I thought I might write about friends and their importance in our lives, especially when we are struggling. I planned to tell you about my weekly get-together to watch Lost and share a meal with two close friends. It would have been a nice, upbeat post.

Instead, I find myself writing about a drunk. It's not going to be nice, upbeat, nor inspiring. But here goes...

I spent the better part of the last couple days dealing with a very drunk young woman. She was 6+ months sober when she made the decision to start drinking last week. Four days in detox and multiple phone calls between us led me to believe it was an isolated incident. But when she failed to phone for 3 days post discharge, I knew the isolated incident was actually an unfulfilled fantasy. With trepidation and frustration, I went to check on her. More than four hours in the ER was finally followed by another trip to detox, which is where she remains today.

This is one problem with alcoholism. We drunks have an amazing capacity to throw nails under our own tires. We don't just screw things up, we blow them up. We don't just decide to drink, we decide to die. If this young woman doesn't "get it" soon, she will quickly die, and I need to get in the way of that.

I need to stop the death. It's not a position I want to be in. It's not a role I relish. In truth, her recent self-destruction really pisses me off--and I understand it! After 6+ months of construction, she's blown-up her foundation, burned her structure down, and smoked her landlord, boss, family and friends. There is nothing and nobody left--except me. I pray I can help her put out the flames.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

a long day

so, so tired today. not sure what's going on...nothing probably, although i do have a bit of a sore throat. in bed by 7pm last night. in bed a lot of the day today. supposed to run a speed workout today, but besides therapy this morning, i haven't been able to get out of the house. i think my mood is okay. i think. my body just won't go. it just won't go at all. i'm still hoping to get out for maybe a short run this evening. if i don't run, i think puck may go nuts! of course, if this continues i'll be right there with him!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Go Kara Go!

In a few hours, a woman I watched win local races as a girl will line up with a very real chance to win the Boston Marathon. It's been many years since an American woman won this historic race, and I'm quite certain a native Minnesotan has never won it--although Dick Beardsley came awful close. So I'm rooting for Kara Goucher today. She's worked her butt off, stayed healthy, and deserves every success she achieves.

Go, Kara, go! Win Boston!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

a long 18, biking, and my mood

Eighteen miles today. It was a long 18 miles. My legs were tired from a good, quick week of running. I knew it was going to be a long day when I felt tired within the first five miles. Puck pooped out around ten, so I dropped him at home, took a bit of a break and then continued. I purposely put myself far from my home for miles 13-16 because I knew those would be really tough. They were, and I had no choice but to run them. I finished with my usual ice bath--yes, ice bath, as in a tub full of cold water and ice. I really needed it today. Now I've got my eyes on some chocolate!

In other news: I bought a triathlon bike. Holy cow, what an expensive sport! I bought the bike on ebay, so that saved me at least $1000. However, the pedals cost $100--ebay again--and the shoes look like another 100 bucks! Plus, I had to have it assembled at the local bike shop. You guessed it, $100! I will have to have it fit to me, another $100, and I haven't even begun to shop for those expensive tight shorts yet! Yikes! I hope it was all worth it. I practically have to try a triathlon now! I'm looking forward to getting out on the road.

My mood has continued to stay strong. It's nice to see my doc and not have much to say. That's been quite a switch for me. I'm not waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm just staying in each moment and enjoying the relative calm. Like I said, it's been nice. I hope each of you are having similar calm today!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

hurts so good

Hate may be too strong. Intensely dislike is a more accurate description. I dislike running up steep hills. However, in running as in life, there is frequently value in doing things I don't like to do. Therefore, despite my intense dislike for such things, yesterday I found myself churning up some very steep hills.

I planned to run my usual speed workout around a local track, but when I arrived the track was unavailable. On my way to the track, I passed the sign for a county park just 3 miles up the road. I noticed the sign because it brought back memories of the vaunted 10-miler annually run through this park's woods. The race is so brutal, in fact, it's named The Gut Buster! After my last run there 2-3 years ago, I vowed I would never run that race again. But there I was, 3 miles away and in need of a tough workout.

I tried to psych myself up as I drove to the park. I planned to run the same 5 mile loop used in the race. It boasts several long, steep hills. Before I knew it, I was churning up the first one. "This is good for me. This is good for me. This is good for me," I panted. My legs burned before I was halfway up. "Don't stop. Don't stop. Don't stop," I thought. I barely got over the top when the next hill hit, and then the next, and the next, and the...

By the time I reached some relative flatland I wanted to quit, but I had 4 miles to go. I pressed on. It hurt. I didn't like it. It would have been easy to stop. My brain started its games. What would happen if I quit? Nothing. Who would know? Nobody. How would I feel? Momentarily relieved. Terrible later. I pressed on.

As usual, I found myself relating running to life. If I want to do better in running, I have to work. I have to move myself, motivate myself, and press on despite discomfort or occasional pain. If I want to do better in life, I have to work. I have to move myself, motivate myself, and press on despite discomfort or occasional pain. In the end, I have only me to please, only me to impress, only me to satisfy. In the end, it is only me on whom I must rely. The quality of my running, like the quality of my life, depends on me.

Taking responsibility for my running...not so much different than taking responsibility for my life.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sleep Study Update

The sleep doc thinks I likely have sleep apnea, as I apparently have a narrower-than-normal airway. Who knew? As a result, I am scheduled for the full-blown overnight sleep evaluation this Wednesday night. Should be loads of fun. Hopefully, I'll be able to sleep.

The prospect of having sleep apnea isn't appealing, yet it could be a very good thing. As I said to the doctor, if I have to wear a C-PAP machine every night I might as well resign myself to a life of single-dom right now! On the other hand, if this 2-3 year bout of fatigue is the result of apnea--a totally fixable problem--the possibilities of the future are very exciting! I can't even imagine what life may feel like without my leaden cloak.

Once again, I find I need to stay in the moment rather than predict or plan for the future. I get no benefit out of worrying. I get no benefit out of hoping. Either way, I set myself up for discouragement and disappointment. I guess I'll just pray for sleep, accurate data, and the willingness to accept whatever comes my way.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Race of the Season

It wasn't my best time ever, but then again, I haven't run my best times since 7 years and 10 pounds ago. Nonetheless, it was the first test of the season. Having only run three times per week for the past three weeks, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Fortunately, it was a beautiful day for a 20K--warm (for spring in Minnesota) and sunny, with only a slight breeze. I struggled with negative thinking, per my usual, throughout the first half. I fought off worries that I was running too fast for the distance as well as self-criticism that my pace was too slow. Comparing myself to my previous self is never productive, but I seem to do it anyway. I guess my body and brain were sufficiently tired by 6 miles, as I was finally able to simply focus on running.

This was a unique, equalizer race. The women started 12 minutes ahead of the guys. That way the first person to finish is truly the overall winner. It was nice to have the road to ourselves for a while. I didn't get passed by the first men until after the four mile mark. I'm not sure when they caught the lead woman, but I think she was into the latter stages of the course before that happened. I enjoyed the format.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I finished in the top twenty women and second in my age group. That was a surprise! I averaged 8:16 per mile. I was in pain over the last few miles, and I could feel my form go to hell. More than once I just wanted to quit. I kept myself going with a mantra about speedwork--i.e. I reminded myself I was tough because of the speedwork I'd done.

Overall, it was a good day. I'm proud of the fact that I wasn't passed by any woman after about the 3 mile mark. Passing and not being passed are always goals. I'm also happy with my time. It gives me a reference point upon which to plan the rest of my training. I'll definitely have to get faster if I want to qualify for Boston, but this was a good start.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Warning: This story should outrage you!

With depraved indifference to the very patients they were supposed to care for, Los Angeles' College Hospital has dumped more than 150 mentally ill patients on skid row streets over the past two years. After discharging them, the hospital loaded these people into vans and drove them more than 40 miles into L.A.'s dangerous downtown area.

The case came to light after they dumped Steven Davis, a man suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, in front of the Union Rescue Mission. The mission, which has 'anti-dumping cams' out front, complained to the hospital. The hospital van returned, picked up Mr. Davis and deposited him a few miles away instead.

Can you imagine this happening to people with any other type of illness???

In a settlement announced yesterday, College Hospital agreed to pay $1.6 million in fines and charitable contributions to psychiatric and social service agencies. They also agreed to no longer dump patients onto skid row. Unbelievable.

I would have preferred to see them fire the person or persons in charge of this scheme. How about sitting them down in a room full of previously dumped patients? Force them listen, quietly, for as long as it takes. That might make a dent in their insensitive, criminal skulls. One would hope...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Proof?

Maybe I am living one day at a time. Maybe I'm actually accomplishing that goal. I talk the talk. My intent is to walk the walk. But how do I really know? Is there proof?

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was feeling better. My friend indicated she was pleased. Then she noted that this most recent downturn didn't seem to last as long as some previous episodes. "What was it, maybe 2-3 weeks," she asked?

Two to three weeks?! I was astonished. I thought it had been 2-3 days! "Was it that long? It wasn't that long, was it," I asked incredulously? It was. I checked my blog. It was about 2-3 weeks. So what does it mean that I thought it was only 2-3 days? Hmmmm...

The fact that it was 2-3 weeks and not 2-3 days may mean a lot of things. It might mean I'm not very observant. Maybe it indicates my forgetter works really well, but my memory sucks. Perhaps it's a sign of how low I got this time around. All are interesting, viable theories.

If I look at it more positively, though, it could mean I'm actually experiencing life one day at a time--forgetting the past and not worrying about the future. I think I'll look at it like that. After all, when I feel like crap, one moment at a time is quite enough!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Child's Play

The scooter crashed to the ground once he abandoned it. Just moments before he was racing down the path, his push foot flying forward and back. He couldn't have been more than eight. I slowed my car to see what had so urgently caught his eye. I assumed he was running toward something quite intriguing. I was surprised when he stopped at a simple sign beside the path. No Motorized Vehicles Allowed on Path--that was his aim. I watched with amusement as he jumped, and jumped, and jumped, each time tapping the top of the sign, just because he could. Apparently pleased with his success, he returned to his scooter and resumed racing down the path.

I smiled as he retreated from view. What a simple lesson, I thought. Stop, notice the small stuff, and create success. Whether it's tapping the top of a sign or getting out of bed today, anything can be defined as success. Does life have to be more complicated than that?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Equanimity

Equanimity, it was a word with which I was unfamiliar. Baron Baptiste, in his book 40 Days to a Personal Revolution, defined equanimity as the art of meeting life as it meets you--calmly, without drama or fuss. I loved that! Calmly and without drama or fuss...

One of the things I've learned throughout the last 8 years of illness, and especially during the past 3-plus years of sobriety, is apparently equanimity. It took me awhile, but through CBT, DBT, and The Big Book, I eventually learned to meet life where life met me. Attempting to change or control life, or those in it, is akin to banging my head against the wall. I'm not always perfect at this lesson, but life is definitely less painful if I'm not banging my head against a wall.

Baptiste goes on to quote the infamous serenity prayer, which is used daily (hopefully) by those of us in recovery. He states, "When we become centered enough, we have the ability to accept the things we cannot change, and are able to instantly and humbly admit that our willpower and ego are ultimately powerless over most of the realities in our lives." I don't know about the "instantly" part of this statement. It took me a few bloody noggin episodes before I got it. But I digress...

One of the things I cannot change is my diagnosis. I have depression. It's a reality that became a lot easier to accept once I stopped trying to exert control over it. Once I stopped playing with, changing or discontinuing my medications; once I stopped self-medicating with alcohol; once I stopped ignoring my symptoms, or worse, actively fighting against them; once I stopped trying to figure out why I felt so bad; once I stopped trying to be in control and instead accepted my mood, my fatigue, and my thinking; my life with depression got easier. It's not fun. I don't enjoy it, but I don't have a bloody forehead either.

As Baptiste points out, fighting only leads to more struggle. "You don't get to the light by fighting or wrestling for control." With my sometimes irrational illness, it is in surrendering that I find peace. It is waiting, as in waiting out the bad times, that allows me to cope. "We change by finding equanimity and learning to relax right in the middle of conflict-filled moments," Baptiste says. "Equanimity releases us from unrealistic expectations about what life should be and allows us to stay centered amid the inevitable highs and lows."

How many of us with mental illness have railed against our inevitable highs and lows? How many of us have thought, or even said, "This is not what my life should be like! This is not what I planned!" If you are like me, you didn't plan to lose your job to illness. You didn't plan to lose your spouse to illness. You didn't plan to lose your financial security or friends to illness. If you are like me, you've spent a lot of time struggling against symptoms you ultimately couldn't control. This is not equanimity. This is drama and fuss.

Baptiste's discussion of equanimity reinforces acceptance as the answer. I'm not talking about lying down and playing victim, but rather accepting my life, and illness, right where they are--calmly, without drama or fuss. I pray for acceptance of the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It's not necessarily simple, but in my experience, it makes my life simpler.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The good news...

The good news is my mouth, with it's new vacancy, hurts so much that I can't possibly focus on depression! OUCH! I wasn't planning on having a tooth pulled when I saw my dentist yesterday. It was supposed to be time for a crown. Unfortunately, I fractured the tooth during lunch on Wednesday. It was a wild, freaky, concrete piece of granola which lept out of my yogurt and doomed the tooth. As soon as I clamped down, I heard and felt an unnerving CRACK! Damn granola! Beware of unusually crunchy, stealth granola, readers!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

It must be the running

I'm physically falling apart!
Okay, not really, it just feels that way at the moment.
I think it must be the running.
Tuesday: I ran a great speed workout of 7 x 800 meters. Then I went to the doctor and ended up having my left shoulder injected. Ouch!
Thursday: I ran a very nice 7 miler with Puck. Then I went to the dentist and ended up having my tooth pulled! Ouch!
Common denominator: Running prior to my appointments!
Perhaps I should think twice the next time I plan to run before a doctor visit.



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