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!

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.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fear of the run, ride, run

So I got myself a tri bike this spring with the thought of one day trying a triathlon--maybe. I'm not a great swimmer, and I'm a little afraid of the water, so the swimming portion of the tri scares me. With that in mind, you'd think I would jump at the chance to try a duathlon, right? Well, apparently not.

You see, there is a duathlon (run, ride, run) right here in my back yard this Saturday. It is a 3.3 mile run, followed by a 21.6 mile ride, followed by another 3.3 mile run. The distances aren't overwhelming. I know how to run. I know how to ride my bike. What is the problem?

The problem is I'm afraid. I don't know why! It's silly. Why am I afraid to try this? Yes, I've never done this before. Yes, it would be uncomfortable being a newbie. Yes, like most people, I do not find bike shorts particularly attractive. So I'm afraid because I'd have to run 6.6 miles in big-butt bike shorts? I guess so...

I'm writing this here in hopes of inspiration. I hope to be so embarrassed by my fear that it will force me to confront it. After all, I really don't have a good reason to be afraid. Doing a duathlon would be new. It would be different. I wouldn't be a comfy veteran of the sport. I guess those are all reasons for my fear, but I don't think they are particularly good reasons. I should do the duathlon despite my fears, big-butt bike shorts and all...right?