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, March 30, 2010

Packing it all in!

Boy, I've been busy today! Here's a short recap.

I started the day at my new job filling out paperwork. After an hour there, I ran four errands all over town. I went grocery shopping, which you know I hate doing because it takes too long and costs too much money. But I did it. After grabbing some lunch, I ran off to play nine holes of golf. I did okay. It was warm, but the wind was blowing over 20 miles per hour so that made my beginner golf game even more interesting. Two hours of walking around whacking that ball was a luxurious break from triathlon training though.

By the time I returned home, I only had one hour before my 5:30 AA meeting. Puck needed attention, as we didn't get out to exercise yesterday. I knew I had a lot left to do tonight, including spending time with you, so I quickly loaded Puck into the car and drove across town to the doggy swimming hole. I knew it would be a bit chilly, as the ice just melted a few weeks ago, but I figured Puck could handle it. He did, although he was shaking like a leaf when I dried him off. Nevertheless, he appeared ecstatic. He loves playing ball! (Unfortunately, since he's had both anterior cruciate ligaments replaced, I only allow him to play ball in the water now.) We didn't stay long. I dropped him at home, fed him, and ran off to AA.

It was another good meeting tonight, and I really needed a good meeting. I've been noticing liquor stores lately. That's not a good thing. It means I'm thinking a little screwy. It means I need to go to a meeting even on an otherwise busy day! It's always helpful to sit down with other alcoholics and be reminded what life was like when alcohol was at its center. Life is a lot better now.

After the meeting, I spent an hour chopping up all the fruit and veggies I bought today. I made a big salad for dinner, made tomorrow's lunch, set up my oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, and organized my gear for the morning workout.

We're doing a long brick at 5:30 tomorrow morning. After riding (in a spinning class) for 70 minutes, we'll run around the track for twenty. Then I'll dash home, shower, eat and dash off to work. Phew... I better get to bed! Good night, all.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

No shortcut

Great benefits come from the small shifts that move us into new directions.--Baron Baptiste

It looks like a gray day is arising here in southern Minnesota. The squirrels are playing in my yard. Fortunately, Puck is sound asleep, otherwise he'd be a little nuts (no pun intended). He's not a fan of squirrels in his yard.

The squirrels are running around looking confused. I found some nuts hidden near the concrete back steps yesterday. The steps are gone now. I crushed them with my handy sledge hammer in preparation for my back patio being built. If you ever want to feel really powerful, take a sledge hammer to some crush-able concrete! I highly recommend it.

I'm up watching SportsCenter, drinking my coffee, preparing for my day. Since beginning the triathlon training program, I haven't been able to sleep much later than 5:00 AM, nor stay awake much later than 8:00 PM. Pretty boring, but it works for me right now.

My triathlon workouts are going well. Yesterday I swam intervals for 2400 yards. That's 96 lengths of the pool. Doesn't that sound impressive? Actually, I was pleasantly surprised, because this same workout was a lot more difficult a few weeks ago. It's always nice when workouts get easier. After crushing my back steps and taking my daily nap, I returned to the gym to complete the strength training portion of my workout. Even the strength training felt easier yesterday.

Today I'll be out (looks like the sun is breaking through the clouds) on my bike for an hour. After hopping off the bike, I'll run for 20 minutes. I tweaked my achilles tendon during the last ten feet of Tuesday's run, so I'm anxious to see how it feels today. I pray it will be okay. Ahhh, who am I kidding? Unless I'm on crutches, nothing will stop me from doing the triathlon at this point. It's only two weeks from today!

Two weeks. I can't wait to see how this all turns out. It's been a long road. But then again, isn't that what makes it all worthwhile? The journey is the destination, right? Baron Baptiste, in his book 40 Days to a Personal Revolution, says, "The inner revolution of growth is about passing through fires. ...there is no shortcut to achieving skill." Amen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm usually in bed by now

My busy day is finally winding down. I had lots of things on my to-do list, and I think I got them all done! Here's the rundown.

After ordering some new physical therapy textbooks while drinking my coffee this morning, I ran off to the gym to swim. Two thousand yards today--that's 80 lengths of the pool. I count lengths rather than laps. When I try to count laps, I get lost, and I'm just anal enough that I need to know exactly how far I swam!

After a bite to eat, I was off to my allergist for my yearly check-up. Fun. I took a short mid-day nap, made some phone calls, walked Puck (and went to the DQ!!!), and finally tackled some tough yard work.

I had to dig up a large cherry tree, which I planted two years ago, and move it about four feet. I've decided to build a low, wooden patio, and the tree was in the way--barely! It's now in its new location. I hope it lives. I had to cut a few roots to get it out of the ground. So far, it looks okay.

My back was pretty sore after all that digging and hauling. The last thing I wanted to do was workout, but I had 60 minutes on the bike awaiting me. So I watched some basketball and rode to nowhere. Afterward, I ate a late supper before sitting down for my time with you. Phew.

It was a good day. I'm tired, but it's a good tired. It's nice to finish the day with a completed list. Goodnight, friends.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm craving ice cream!

Did I ever tell you I live one half block from the Dairy Queen? For those of you unaware, DQ is a yummy ice cream shop. Looking left from my front porch, I can see the lines of people waiting for their delectable treats. On a nice, sunny, warm spring day like today, the lines can be 20 people deep. Only one half block separates me from the treat I so ardently crave today! But I'm trying to cut back on my treats. Even with all the working out I've been doing, I still feel heavy on my feet. But those treats are calling...

Today was a rest day. I slept late. I did my taxes. I saw my therapist. I napped. I went to the dentist. I ran 45 minutes. That's it.

It's funny. I'm so used to doing multiple workouts each day, I feel like I'm missing something today. This is the first week of tapering. We dropped down from 9 hours of workouts last week to 7.5 hours this week. Next week will only be 6 hours. I'll probably really feel lazy then!

I am going to miss the structure of this program once the triathlon is done. Having been an athlete most of my life, I think I thrive under the tutelage of others. Tell me what to do, and I will do it. I like being coached. I'm more motivated, and I follow through when I have to be accountable to somebody else. I don't think it's an accident that my mental health has improved since triathlon training began. Structure is good for me.

I'm going to try to stick with the structure after we officially finish this class. I hope I'm able to follow through on my own because I'm tentatively planning to participate in an outdoor tri in June (if this indoor triathlon goes okay). There will be ten weeks between the two events. I'm planning on re-doing weeks three through twelve of the current program, although the outdoor triathlon is longer and will require the addition of more miles and time. But I'm trying not to think too much about that yet. I've got to get through this initial endeavor first.

Hmmm... I'm still craving ice cream...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Life goes on

It's funny. When things are going well, I don't feel I have much to write about. It's the same way with my art. I don't create anything worthwhile when I'm doing fine. I think my creative brain works much better when I feel like crap. Is that weird?

So I'm not sure what to say today. I figure you've got to be bored with all the triathlon training. Puck hasn't changed. Not much to say about him. The new job is still a few weeks away, so there's nothing to report on that front. My life is rolling along--not too fast, not too slow. It feels just about right, and I'm feeling quite the same. Que the sappy, Little House on the Prairie music now...

That being said, here's the latest scoop:

I'm sitting here drinking my coffee contemplating my day. I'm feeling yesterday's 2 hour workout in which I swam 2400 yards, hopped, ran, and panted through the strength circuit, pushed and pulled through resistance training, and finally grunted out the abdominal circuit. Boy was I tired afterward! I could barely keep my eyes open once I returned home. After napping, I did accomplish some ancient items on my to-do-list. Laundry, vacuuming, and even washing my floors are now crossed off. It's nice to be sitting in a relatively clean house this morning. It even seems as if my coffee tastes better.

Today I've got a 70 minute bike ride followed by a 35 minute run. It's called a brick workout. I'm hoping it warms up enough to take my tri bike out and ride on some real roads. The sun is coming up and the sky is clear, so things are looking good right now.

Other than that, I'll have a fairly routine Sunday. I'm expecting a friend to come over to bid on a new patio for the backyard. I'd like to build a very low to the ground wooden deck out there. I hope I can afford whatever price he provides. I'm still waiting on rebuilding my basement. I've been waiting for more than two years! Every time I think I have someone lined up, they don't show up. It's been frustrating trying to get someone in here to do the work for a reasonable price. At this point, I'd offer the work to anyone who could get it done! After all, my exercise room will be down there! Hopefully, things will come together now that spring is on the way.

Speaking of spring, the sun is now shining warmly on my face. I'd better finish my coffee and get going. Have a great day!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I got it.

A new job. On the stress meter, it's supposedly equal to a death in the family. So far, I'm not feeling too stressed, but I don't start until April 12th. Yes, that's right. I got the job. As of mid-April, I will be a physical therapist for a local home health agency. This will eliminate my 50-60 minute drive at the beginning and end of each day. Even though I will likely be driving more miles overall (between clients), I will have more flexibility throughout my day, and hopefully I will only be away from home for 8 hours, versus 10 hours, per day. I think this is a good opportunity, and I'm hoping it will be a nice change.

It's sunny and warm outside this morning, and I'm watching Puck out in the back yard. This is the first time he's been in the back yard, on my brand new grass, in a couple of years. After the flood a few years ago, I had to dig up the concrete patio and yard, re-grade it away from the house, and then plant new grass. So Puck's been relegated to the small front yard since then. I think he's pretty happy to be out back again. He's the epitome of happiness right now. He's rolling around on his back and soaking up the sun. Pretty cute. He always makes me smile. Don't you wish your life was as simple as my dog's life? I do.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A matter of perspective

It's funny. Looking at my triathlon training schedule for the week, I'm not overwhelmed this morning. In fact, I'm thinking, "Oh, this isn't so bad." That's when I started chuckling. My classmates and I are scheduled for nine hours of training this week. Two weeks ago, we had our first nine hour training week, and I was overwhelmed. Last week I trained for ten hours, and I was overwhelmed. Now I'm scheduled for nine hours again, and I'm relieved. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

Interestingly, I've found the same with depression. Depression's pain is also subject to my perspective. At the top of a downhill slide, I tolerate less pain less well than I do once I'm climbing back up. If I'm used to feeling well, a little discomfort can feel overwhelming and scary. Yet that same level of discomfort may feel joyous and relieving if it occurs after a long period of hopelessness and pain. Once again, I find my athletic experiences uniquely correlate with my mental illness. That's interesting.

I wonder if that correlation helps me deal with training, helps me deal with depression, or both? I think it's probably both. Sometimes when I'm running through a tough spot, as I was during the Richmond Marathon in November, I think surviving depression helps me persevere. Knowing I've survived through hopelessness and pain in life has helped me put one foot in front of the other when running. At the same time, although I probably call on it less often, I think persevering through tough runs has reminded me to persevere through hopeless moments of depression. It seems silly, but it's true. I think we have to use whatever we can to get us through. I use training to get me through life, and I use life to get me through training.

I wonder. What do you use to get you through your tough days?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

She liked me!

"I'm very interested." That's what the interviewer said to the interviewee, me, yesterday. She's also in desperate need of two physical therapists, so she said she'd get back to me on Monday. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but I'm expecting an offer. I'm in the process of researching the company website, again, so I can better understand their benefits package. It seems like a very solid company, and I really liked the woman who interviewed me. She was direct, honest, and realistic. That worked for me. I'm looking forward to hearing from her on Monday. As always, I'll let you know!

Everything else is going well. Triathlon training has been intense but doable. I'm definitely in the best shape I've been in for years...maybe ever! If I was cockier, I'd post a picture of all my new muscles, but alas that's a bit too forward for me. My coworkers and friends have noticed and commented on my changing body. I haven't lost any weight, but it seems to be distributed differently; differently enough for people to notice anyway.

My youngest brother just called. It's rare that we speak to each other--my family is not very close--so it's always nice when he calls. Ironically, he asked if I wanted to do a triathlon with him and my other younger brother. He had no idea I was training for my own triathlon! The brother on the phone was a champion high school swimmer while my other brother was an outstanding runner. I guess that puts me on the bike, which is not my strongest event, but I'm the only one with the equipment. I was pleasantly surprised by the offer and immediately said yes. Like I said, it's so rare for us to do anything together, I think this would be a terrific bonding opportunity.

My life has been full of little surprises lately, hasn't it? That's okay. I like surprises.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A rainy day

It's a gray, wet, wet day today. Actually, this is day two of gray and wet. The snow in my front yard has dwindled from several feet to just inches. Unfortunately, that brings all of Puck's winter work to the surface. Ugh! I've got a lot of cleaning up to do out there.

Gray is not great for the mood, but I'm still doing well. I saw my doc today. It was nice to be able to laugh with her rather than cry. I hope this continues for awhile, but I'll keep taking it one day at a time.

Tomorrow is the big day for my interview. I spoke with my former co-worker, who now works for the potential new company, today. She was helpful. She explained some of the job expectations and suggested questions to ask during my interview. It's always helpful to have some inside insight. Wish me luck tomorrow.

As for the triathlon training, this week continues to be somewhat overwhelming, but I'm keeping up. Yesterday was tough. At 5:30 AM we began with a 60 minute spinning class. As soon as we jumped off our bikes, we ran hard for 30 minutes. It was challenging. After working 8 hours, I returned to the gym for the strength and ab circuits. Like I said, it was challenging.

Today's workout was a 2200 yard swim interval. Later, I'll bike for 40 minutes. My legs are really tired and a little sore. The pool was probably good for them despite the lengthy interval workout. The next three days I'll be running a lot, biking, and doing one more strength circuit to finish out the week. Even though it's difficult, I am enjoying the challenge of this program, and I'm pretty proud of myself for keeping up.

Well, laundry calls. I'll let you know how the interview goes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Mental health system fails times two.

It became clear last week that the mental health system in America remains desperately broken. Three families are mourning and trying to heal this week in the aftermath of violence, injuries, and death; apparently the results of untreated mental illness.

The family of Patrick Bedell, the man who opened fire on two guards at the Pentagon last week released this statement: "We are devastated as a family by the news from yesterday. To the outside world, this tragedy is the first and only thing they will know of Patrick. To us, he was a beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew and cousin. We may never know why he made this terrible decision. One thing is clear though - his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character." --from The Gilroy Dispatch. The guards were injured in the shooting while Bedell was shot and killed.

Halfway across the country, another mentally ill man was found guilty in the murder of an Iowa football coach. Mark Becker believed his former coach, Ed Thomas, was Satan and thought he was protecting the community by killing him. He had been released from a three day stay at a local psychiatric facility the day before the murder.

From The DesMoines Register: The defendant's mother, Joan Becker, who had testified about her son's disturbing struggles with mental illness, thanked the jurors for serving on a difficult trial - even though she disagreed with their verdict."Our son Mark would never have taken the life of another person in his sane mind," she said. "Ed Thomas was a victim of a victim. Although Mark and we as his parents attempted to go through all the proper channels to get Mark the mental health treatment he desperately needed, the system failed miserably."

One has to wonder, if mental illnesses were treated with as much respect, knowledge, and priority as other life threatening illnesses, would these families be mourning today?

Monday, March 8, 2010

I promised

I promised I'd write something worth reading tonight, but I'm afraid I might still be too pooped to think straight. In fact, I'm supposed to be swimming a lengthy swim workout right now, but I think I'm going to save it for tomorrow--my rest day. I did my strength circuit before work this morning, but I just couldn't get in the pool then either. Tomorrow.

Other than being tired, life is still good. My mood has been holding steady. It's so nice to visit my doc and psychologist and be able to tell them I'm doing well. I wonder if they ever expected I'd be able to do that for more than a week or two at a time. I don't think I ever did.

I also have good news on the job front. First of all, I am enjoying my current job a hell of a lot more since one of my troublesome assistants left. Things are really relaxed and fun around our office now. And then, out of the blue, I got a job interview. The interview, this Friday, is with the same home health company I interviewed with around Christmas (and the same company I almost interviewed with again about three weeks ago). Now there is a new program director, and she called to ask if I was still interested in working for them. Weird, but I'll take it. The funny thing is, if I get this new job, I'll actually feel a little guilty about leaving my current job now. It's strange how life works sometimes, but I'm learning not to question it. I'll give you a follow-up report after my interview Friday.

Now I'm afraid it's off to bed for me. Hopefully tomorrow will bring renewed energy. Have a good evening everyone!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

too whipped to write

I am wiped out! Two hours of hard work outs yesterday combined with a twelve hour work and workout day today have left me tapped out. My get-up-and-go has gotten up and went! For that reason, I have little energy left to type these lines. I apologize, and I promise to give you something worthwhile to read tomorrow.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Working and working out

I'm feeling tired today. I am right in the middle of my triathlon training program, and I'm scheduled for 9 hours of workouts this week, 9.5 next week, and 9 more the following week. From that point, the workouts decrease as I get closer to triathlon day. So I'm feeling tired.

As my time working out has increased, fitting the workouts in around work has become more difficult. Yesterday I biked before work, at 5:30 AM, and did the strength circuit at 8 PM. I got a quick nap in after work. Tomorrow will be similar. I have an hour of swimming intervals before work and then the strength circuit again afterward. The current schedule calls for at least 1.5 to 2 hours of training each day. No wonder I'm feeling tired.

Fortunately, all this training does seem to be making a difference. I'm re-discovering muscles I haven't seen since college volleyball! My jeans fit better, and I believe I can see some abdominal muscles again! I've also noticed I'm tolerating the workouts better. That is, I can go faster and longer while using less energy than I did a few weeks ago. This all makes feeling tired right now a little more tolerable. The training seems to be working.

So far my work has not suffered from my workout fatigue, but I'm getting a little nervous that it will soon. Getting up at 4:30ish, working out, driving 50 minutes to work, working 8 hours, driving 50 minutes home, and then working out again is getting a little overwhelming. Yet, I'm doing it so far. That continues to surprise me. Hopefully, I can maintain until we start tapering. Boy am I looking forward to that!

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Following up on the plagiarism

If you're a regular here, you may have already noticed a few additions to my site. With the kind assistance of Blog Angel's very informative three part series on plagiarism, I was able to add several protections to my site. These protections don't guarantee that another idiot won't scrape my material again, but hopefully I've taken steps to make it a little more difficult.

I spent three hours this morning researching and then applying these steps. First, I finally got myself a Creative Commons License which delineates exactly what others can and can't do with my work. Then I added my blog to My Free My free copyright is a free service where you can register your blog. Once registered, My Free Copyright uses my feed to create a digital fingerprint of my content and e-mails it back to me. By doing this, I have a third party dating and time stamping my original content. (I'm not a techie, so I suggest you check out the site for a much better explanation!) Lastly, I began using a service called Tynt Insight. Tynt Insight automatically adds a link back to my original content with every paste. As I understand it, if somebody copies and pastes material from this blog into their own sham blog, my material will be linked back to my blog, which identifies me as the author. Sounds too cool to work, doesn't it? I'm amazed what people can do with computer code! So that's it. That's what I've done so far. Hopefully, these steps will protect me from having to deal with unethical jerks again!

Monday, March 1, 2010

One of my Favorites

Looking through some past posts, I rediscovered this one. It's one of my favorites, so here it is again.

The Closet--a love story.

He mentioned his life partner died a year ago. That caught her attention. It was her first clue. She assisted him as he limped into the hallway with his new walker. Purposefully she asked, "How long were you and your partner together?" It was only a slight variation from the routine question she usually asked. After all, most of her patients were elderly Midwesterners, and relationship longevity seemed to be their most common denominator.

She loved interacting with these long-term couples. The enduring love between them was endearingly transparent. Coming from a splintered family, a couple of foster homes, and her own dissolved relationship, this endearing love and commitment both touched and amazed her. She cherished their stories of first dates, old cars, tough times, successful kids, conquered challenges, fulfilled dreams, and world travels. Fifty, fifty-five, and sixty were common answers to her question.

"Fifty-three years," he said. "Pancreatic cancer, we only had six weeks..." his voice trailed off.
The therapist refocused his attention on the task at hand, which was learning to walk with his new hip. He was tall, fit and appeared younger than his 77 years.
He continued, "I didn't think I would make it. I still miss..." And then he said it, the pronoun the therapist hoped he'd feel free to share. It was the reason she followed his lead and used the term partner rather than wife. "...him," he said.
"I still miss him terribly, but I have to move on, right? That's why I'm here. I wanted to get this done and move on."
"I'm so sorry," responded the therapist. "Of course you miss him. Fifty three years...That's wonderful!"
"Yes, it was," he replied.

The therapist felt sad, not only for his loss but for the cautiousness he assumed when he revealed his love and loss. Fifty three years and he still took care before mentioning the person with whom he shared his entire adult life. Even one year after his partner's death, he felt her out before he let the therapist in. He had no idea she could feel his losses--the loss of his partner and his freedom--as if they were her own. As his therapist she couldn't reveal her background or history. He may have assumed, but the truth was likely more complicated than he figured. She couldn't share her deep understanding of his cautiousness or fear. She was like him. She was, but now she wasn't. It was confusing even to her. At least, she thought, her patient realized she was a safe person with whom he could share. She was glad for that.

When she treated him again, the patient shared more about his life. He was an artist, a lawyer, and a concert pianist. His partner practiced healthcare with some of the best. They met in the Army 55 years ago.
"The Army," she exclaimed! "That must have been tough!"
They knowingly chuckled together, and with a sly smile he simply said, "Yes."

As they continued walking he proudly filled in the details of their life together. The therapist was thrilled to listen and learn. Finally, self-consciously, he said, "I have a picture of him...if you'd like to see it."
"Oh, yes, I'd love to see him," she enthusiastically replied.

Back in his room she set the heavy briefcase beside him on the bed. She watched as he removed an object encased in bubble-wrap. She couldn't help but feel sad. It was a framed 5x7 of him and his partner. Two older, smartly dressed, smiling gentlemen stood arm in arm in front of one of the patient's paintings.
He apologized for the effects of aging and then said, "That was on his 72nd birthday. I wish I had known. That was the last picture we ever had taken. He didn't make it to seventy three."
Looking up from the picture she said, "I think you both look great. It's a really nice picture. I'm glad you've got it."
She handed the frame back, and he removed a tattered picture from his wallet. Smiling broadly he said, "This is what he looked like when we met."
The therapist eyed the black and white photo. It was a picture of a handsome, young, army man."I can see what you saw in him," she remarked. "He's quite handsome!"
He smiled the smile of a sophomore in love. "I've carried that picture for 55 years."
"Wow," was all she mustered in response.

He returned the tattered black and white to his wallet. Then, gently, he re-folded the bubble-wrap around the 5x7 frame. Closing the wallet, he stacked it atop the re-wrapped frame and placed them both inside the heavy briefcase. He closed the case, latched the latch, and locked the lock. His love, pride, and grief emanated as he handed the case back to the therapist.
"Thank you," she humbly murmured.
"Thank you," he replied, "for taking an interest and letting me share that with you."

For a moment they clasped hands. She felt honored and sad as she placed the briefcase, which encased the love and loss of his still-cautious life, back inside the closet.