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!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A quick note

Just a brief note to say hello on another beautiful Minnesota day! Gorgeous--sunny, 70 degrees, cool breeze, blooming trees, singing get the idea. Makes me happy to be a Minnesotan--this is why we suffer through the winter here.

I had a great workout today. I drove south of the city to a small town and a bike trail along the river. I took a 22 mile bike ride along the trail, uphill most of the way back, and then ran for 22 minutes. It was tough, but I felt strong, and I felt really good about completing it. I'll take it a bit easier the next few days, as I think I'm going to run a 15K race this weekend.

After my workout, I did one of my favorite things to do. I had a homemade burger and fries at the town's little diner. There is nothing better than a diner burger and fries after a tough workout. And I love these local places where the regulars don't even require a menu. It was quaint, and the food hit the spot. Next time I'll have to invite my foodie, triathlete, friend Renee along for the ride, run and bite.

I'm on my way out the door to a presentation about WWII by a local man who experienced it. Tonight we're covering the European theater and next Wednesday the Pacific. I'm a bit of a WWII buff, so I'm really looking forward to this. That being said, I must take off now. Afterward, my mom has promised me apple crisp!

I leave you with this thought: Fear is never a reason for quitting; it is only an excuse.--Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, April 26, 2010


Not much to report. Life is moving along. I watched 15 orientation videos at my new job today. Fortunately, I can access them from home, too, so some of them were viewed from the comfort of my recliner. The sad thing is I'm not even close to being done with the videos yet!

Speaking of computer access, I did spend a couple hours buying and installing a new router for my wireless home network. It was hard to part with the $96.00, especially since the router I was using was only 1.5 years old! I didn't purchase the same brand this time around. Ninety six dollars...the cost of convenience, I guess.

I had two good workouts today. I started my day with a killer cable strengthening class at the gym. I'm going to have sore shoulders and legs tomorrow, I think. This afternoon, I went for a 50 minute run with Puck. My legs were tired, but I'm happy with my training pace these days. I've gotten faster since I began triathlon training. I'm looking forward to my rest day tomorrow.

I'm a little worried about Puck. He was really lagging behind for the last two miles of our 6 mile run on Saturday. He seemed overly tired and/or sore. Later, I figured out he'd worn off the skin between his second and third toes on both of his back feet. I think his gait has been altered since he had both ACL's reconstructed. It's either that, or he's got arthritis in his feet causing him to alter his gait. I don't know, but he's got red raw skin between his toes. I rested him yesterday, and I've been treating the skin with some doggie foot stuff. I also upped his anti-arthritis drug. He's healing, but I'm still concerned.

One of my concerns is leaving him home while I run. It's almost impossible for me to leave without him, and today was no exception. He was raring to go as soon as I donned my running gear. I tried to assist him by smearing some Vaseline between his toes before we left, and I dropped him at home after only 3 miles. Nevertheless, he still lagged behind for the last mile or so. Since he seems to begin lagging only after we turn toward home, it's hard to tell if it's behavioral, or if he really is in pain. I sense a call to the vet in my immediate future.

Well, it's getting late, and I've got a full day of patients (yippee!) and orientation (boo!) tomorrow. If any of you have thoughts about Puck I'd be happy to hear them. Happy to hear any other thoughts, too! Good evening, one and all.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It's raining hard outside, and that kind of matches my mood. Gray. Wet. I'm feeling a little lazy after a long week. I have a pile of laundry to do. Vacuuming and dusting are long overdue. I'm tired and a bit cranky, too.

This dreary mood is likely the result of my long week of training at work. The patient care was great, even easy, but the computer documentation was long, tedious, and overwhelming. Yesterday, I sat for 8 hours while listening to my trainer tell me how to fill out various required documents. Yes, 8 hours! My eyes were glazed over, and my brain was mush by the end of the day. It was a lengthy end to the long week.

And let's not forget my long week included the cat episode on Wednesday. I've had a difficult time letting go of that poor cat. I can't get him out of my head, and I keep replaying the whole scene. It's hard not knowing what happened to him. I feel bad for walking out of the vet, distraught. I wonder if I should return with $42 in hand, apologize, and inquire as to his condition. Yet I'm still angry at them for their attacking stance regarding payment. As I said, I was clearly distraught and just trying to do the right thing. I was in no shape to make rational decisions. It's all still so confusing and sad. I hope the cat is okay, or if not, at least I hope he didn't suffer too much.

The long week stress has haunted me at night, too. I keep having drinking dreams. When I awoke one morning earlier this week I was sure I had relapsed. It's not all that unusual for a recovered alcoholic to have drinking dreams, but I hate when they are so vivid that I confuse them for reality. I had another one last night--very annoying! My sponsor says I should ask God to remove them. Hmmm...I hadn't thought of that. It's definitely worth a shot. I'll give it a try tonight.

Speaking of drinking, I'm off to my AA meeting. Always helpful to hang out with like-minded souls when I'm feeling a bit off. I'm sure things will be looking up once I leave there. I hope so, anyway, because I've got two workouts to accomplish yet today. Hopefully, the weather, like my mood, will change soon.

Happiness grows in direct proportion to your acceptance and in inverse proportion to your expectations. --Michael J. Fox

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's the lesson here?

I'm in tears. I had a good day up until about one hour ago. It's a gorgeous day here. I slept late. I mowed my lawn. I did my strength circuit followed by a 40 minute swim at the gym. I went to McDonald's for my iced caramel latte, and then I was off to Best Buy to purchase a new computer router. Things were going good.

As I was heading north toward Best Buy, I spotted a dead (or so I thought) animal in the right hand shoulder of the 6 lane divided freeway on which I was driving. Just as I approached the animal, going 65 miles per hour, it lifted it's head and weakly crawled toward the road. It was a bloodied cat, and it was alive and clearly in pain. I covered my mouth in horror, as I cursed the owner for letting a cat freely wander so close to a major thoroughfare. Tears came to my eyes as I exited the freeway. Could I leave that cat there to suffer and die? I pulled into the Best Buy parking lot, took a deep breath, and headed back toward the freeway.

It took about ten minutes to get to the cat. He was still shallowly breathing, but as I scooped him up in one of Puck's dog towels, he did lift his head. I placed him on the floor of my car and talked to him the whole way to the emergency vet hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital doesn't open until 5 PM, and it was only 3:30. A kind woman directed me to the nearest vet office, and we were off. I couldn't find the office, so I phoned for directions. I told the receptionist I was coming in with an injured cat, which I had just rescued, and she said, "Okay, but you'll have to stay if you bring him in." Weird.

By the time I arrived at the large vet clinic, at least one half hour had passed, and who knows how long the cat laid there before I came along. The receptionist quickly put all of my contact information into the computer while two vet assistants rushed off with the cat. At this point it was becoming clear that they were expecting me to pay for any services rendered. The receptionist confirmed this when she told me, "Anyone who brings an animal in is responsible for payment." I said, "Look, I just wanted to bring the cat to someone who might be able to save him or at least put him out of his misery. I'm not prepared to pay a large bill. I love animals," I said, "but I'm not rich." She said she understood, ushered me into a treatment room, and excused herself to go talk to the vet.

At this point, I was crying. The trauma of rescuing the cat caught up with me. I could hardly speak when the receptionist came back and told me they would wave 80 dollars of the $122 cremation fee. Would I be willing to pay the remaining $42? I said, "I guess." I couldn't comprehend what was happening. Were they going to try to save the cat? Would they only try to save it if someone was willing to pay for saving it? What would they do if I refused to pay--throw it back into the street? It was really surreal, and I became angry through my tears.

I couldn't believe what was happening. Aren't vets supposed to care about animals? Do all of their decisions revolve around money? I realized they were running a business, but how often did a rescued, wounded animal come through their doors? The trauma of rescuing this cat was quite enough. I didn't need their money-hungry brow-beating on top of it!

In the end, I walked out while saying something about trying to be a good citizen, and that they could send me to collections if that's what they needed to do. I have no idea what they're planning to do with the cat. I expect I will get a bill for whatever it is they decide. I don't know yet whether or not I will choose to pay it. I think I probably sealed the poor guy's fate by walking out the door. I'll never know whether or not he could have been saved. I left with a really bad taste in my mouth.

Crying and angry, I drove home and wondered if there was a lesson in this situation. Unfortunately, the only lessons I thought of were negative ones. Don't get involved. Don't try to help. Ignore suffering. Money is more important than life. Did they think this was really my cat, and I was just trying to get free care? Are we that suspicious and mistrusting these days? And what about the hundreds of other cars who drove by this suffering animal without a thought? Maybe, in the end, they were smarter than I. I don't know. I don't know.

Right now, I wish I hadn't stopped. Actually, that's not true. I wish I hadn't seen the cat move. Once I saw that, I couldn't have lived with myself if I had ignored it. But what price (and I mean emotional price) will I pay for my actions? I've stopped crying...but I'm still angry and confused. What's the lesson here?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A bittersweet day

It's Boston Marathon day today. Many folks I know ran, including my friend, Renee, who had an awesome race. It's been bittersweet reading all of her blog posts. Not only do I miss living in Boston, where I lived for more than five years, I should have been running today along with all those folks I know. I qualified the day after registration closed! I'm trying to remember to be grateful for qualifying at all. Trust me, I will sign up the first day registration re-opens and use my qualification to run it next year!

Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the marathon, as nobody broadcast it live. Damn ESPN! They played repeat after repeat of SportsCenter when they could have been broadcasting one of the greatest marathons in the world! Oh well, I had a very busy day while awaiting the results of my friends.

I started the day with a medium-hard bike ride followed by a hard run. I ran seven, 40 second steep hills in the middle of my 35 minute run. Phew! Hills after a bike ride--my quads were screaming at me! It was a good workout.

After fixing my computer--don't you hate computer malfunctions--I put my new battery in my motorcycle. Didn't know I had a motorcycle? I do. It's a beautiful 1985 Honda Shadow 500. I'll post a picture of it soon. It's back in the garage now. I didn't take it out at all last summer, too busy training for marathons, so I wasn't sure if it would start. But after getting some gas in the carbs, it started right up.

I rode my motorcycle on all of my errands; the dentist, the office, a visit to my new sponsee, and then went for a ride in the country. It was a gorgeous day, and there is nothing quite like speeding along in the open air. I can't wait to ride it again tomorrow!

Tonight I'm destined to watch more training videos for work. I'll probably fall asleep doing that. I can't believe how many there are to watch! Tomorrow I get my first chance at patient care with my new employer. I'm not worried about the patient care piece, but the computer documentation is overwhelming. It will be nice to have another PT there to guide me through it. I'm really hoping I can learn it all quickly. Well, I better get going on those videos. Have a lovely evening!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Life's little irritations

US Bank Home Mortgage sent me a letter yesterday, and I'm still irritated. Here's the back story. Last month, I decided I would begin paying my mortgage twice per month. Paying it twice per month, I found out, saves a considerable amount of money over the long term. I also decided to pay more than half the total amount due with each payment--more savings for me. I made my first payment to US Home Mortgage on April 10th. The due date is May 1st. The second payment is scheduled to go out April 25th, a full 5 days before the due date.

On April 12th, US Bank Home Mortgage sent me this lovely thank you (Ha!) note:

Dear Mortgagor:

In reviewing your suspense account (my what??), we have received funds in the amount of $xxx.xx. Your total monthly payment is $yyy.yy. Please submit the difference of $zzz.zz in order to credit only your May 01, 2010 payment. This amount does not include any outstanding fees or balances.

Please be reminded (I love that) that if your payment is received more than fifteen days after the due date of your mortgage loan, then your account will be assessed a late charge. Also please be aware, if your account becomes delinquent, then your account may be reported to the credit repositories.

Isn't that nice? It goes on to tell me where I can send the remaining funds due and thanks me for my cooperation.

Here's the response I think I'll send.

Dear US Bank Home Mortgage Payment Processing Department:

In reviewing your letter of April 12, 2010, I have a need to comment. You received $xxx.xx, more than half of my May payment, on April 10, 2010. Please be reminded that April 10th is more than one month in advance of when my payment would be considered late. Therefore, I have more than one month to send you the rest of my payment, which I plan to do prior to May 01, 2010.

Please be reminded, again, that you've been servicing my mortgage loan for over 6 years, and I have never, ever sent you one late payment. In fact, I've gone without groceries more than once in order to fulfill my obligation to you. Also, please be aware, that I will continue to send you two monthly payments from this time forward, both of which will arrive long before my account is in any jeopardy of becoming delinquent.

If your processing center is not set up to allow for bi-monthly payments without generating threatening letters each time less than the full amount due is received, I will have no choice but to refer my business elsewhere. Thank you for your cooperation. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please call me. You have the number.

Sincerely, etta

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression

I'm watching an amazing program on PBS right now called The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression. The film is by Susan Polis Schutz, a fellow sufferer of depression. It follows 12 people and families who have dealt with depression. There's a woman here talking about losing her physical therapy job. There's a family discussing the death of their daughter. There's a woman talking about the dilemma of dating. These people are speaking my language! How incredibly refreshing to see me, my life, portrayed so accurately on television. Check your local PBS affiliate, as many stations are apparently replaying this film multiple times.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A big tumble

It started yesterday. During work, after work? I don't know exactly when it started, but by last night I was on the phone to my psychologist. I went to bed feeling low and with a headache. I woke up feeling miserable and with a migraine. I went back to bed and slept for hours.

The rest of the day has been only slightly better. I struggled through my workout, ran only one of my multiple errands, and took Puck swimming so I wouldn't have to expend any energy walking him. I just got out of bed again. It was another hour and a half nap this time. I'm tired. My head still hurts. And I just can't motivate to do much of anything. It's been an awful long day.

Is this a post triathlon let down? Is this the stress of starting a new job? I'm not sure what it is, but I don't like it. Feeling so low and lethargic makes going to a new job much more difficult. It makes training almost impossible. I don't have time for this. I can't afford to be lazy and stupid right now.

I'm feeling pressure to pull myself out of this quickly. Get over it. Move past it. Now. Now. Now. But I know feeling low and lethargic will only be magnified if I sit here and stress about feeling low and lethargic. I know that, and yet I'm stressed! I need to be sharp at work. I need energy and motivation to train. I'm not feeling patient. I'm not reminding myself that this, too, will pass. I want it to pass now.

Around and around I go. I'm stressed. I'm feeling low and lethargic. I'm stressed about feeling low and lethargic. The more I stress about how I'm feeling, the worse the feelings get. Around and around I go.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Um...I won!

Twenty four seconds--that was all that separated me and my classmate Rachel in yesterday's triathlon. I just found out I won. I finished fourth overall, and first among the women. Hey, that earns me a free 30 minute massage! Nice.

I couldn't tell you where I finished yesterday, because there were three waves of participants. I was the first woman in my wave, but I knew there were a couple of other fast, young chicks in the other two waves. It's too bad. It would have been really fun to race head to head against Rachel. I bet we both would have pushed each other to faster times. Still, I'm pretty excited to have won. Cool.

I feel good today. Actually, I feel like exercising! I spent my entire first day of work sitting on my butt watching inservice videos. There must be over 100 videos for me to watch within the first 90 days of employment, and some of them are an hour long! And I have to watch them, because I have to test out of every one of them! Ugh! I'm not used to sitting on my butt at work!

Tomorrow, I will be following another P.T. on four home visits. That will be my first taste of home care. I'm looking forward to it. I'd rather work with patients than inservice videos any day of the week!

Now, I've gotta take my boy for a walk. Enjoy the rest of your day.

***The essence of all growth is a willingness to change for the better and then an unremitting willingness to shoulder whatever responsibility this entails. ---from As Bill Sees It.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


That's me on the right. I'm looking quite relaxed considering how anxious I was.

Most of my class just before the start of the first wave.


Surprisingly, I was the first one out of the pool. (14:54 for 1/2 mile.)

Trying to get wet feet into dry shoes!

Looking over my shoulder as I ride up my computerized hill.

The first wave participants on our bikes.
Me and Mike running around the track.
All done. With my friend Renee, who graciously spent her morning taking pictures of me!


I did it. It's done. I didn't drown. I survived the hilly bike ride. And the run went well. I finished my first triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 13.1 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run) in 1:29:58. And you know what? It was fun! I guess I'm going to do another, and training (as well as my new job) starts tomorrow. Phew...I just looked. Tomorrow's schedule is REST.

I'll have pictures and a more thorough recap a bit later. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Resting with anxiety

It's hard to have a restful day when I'm so anxious about tomorrow's triathlon. I spent the morning volunteering at the first big race of the season here. It was a 20K which I usually run, but for obvious reasons didn't run this year. It was hard to sit and watch.

It was also surprisingly anxiety provoking to watch the start of the race. All of a sudden I pictured myself in the pool at tomorrow's start, and I just about began hyperventilating! How silly! I just had to laugh at myself and go back to my volunteer position at the food table.

After the race I came home and napped for a very short time--not long enough. Then I took Puck swimming again. He just loves chasing that ball, even though he was shivering once we finished. My friend Taylor is outside finishing my deck right now. I'll post a picture when it's finished. It's just lovely!

I'm having dinner with my friends Bill and Cindy. I try to eat the same thing before all my big races, and believe it or not, that thing is the Baker's Square chicken quesadilla. What can I say? It worked once, then it worked again, and now it's the routine!

I've already started putting my stuff together for tomorrow. Of course, I'm worried I'll forget something important. I probably won't. My friend Renee is going to be my one fan and take pictures for me. She's a runner extraordinaire and a fellow blogger. Check her out at Renee's Ramblings. If I don't look too horrible, I may even post some of her shots.

Hey, I just thought of one positive aspect of being so anxious! I've not had any time to freak out about starting a new job on Monday! Yet. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Three days left

Only three days left until the big event. My triathlon starts at 7 AM Sunday morning. I start right at 7:00 in the first of three waves. As usual during a taper week, I'm freaking out because I feel heavy. The fact that it is my last week of work, I'm about to start a new job, I'm squeezing in extra obligations, and my triathlon suit's zipper keeps breaking may have something to do with the freaking out as well! I don't know. What do you think?

Finishing at my current job has been bitter-sweet. Upper management has barely lifted a finger to replace me, and my co-workers expect to be swamped. That makes me feel a little guilty. I'll miss working with my co-workers, especially my assistant. She's pretty damn good. We work cooperatively and have fun together. I'll miss that. I won't miss the lazy, unfriendly nursing home staff, however. Good riddance! And I certainly won't miss the drive. Like I said, leaving has been a bitter-sweet process.

I haven't had too much time to be anxious about my new job yet. I'm spending too much energy worrying about the triathlon. I've been running around trying to fit in extra obligations, which are required of me before I can start the new job. For example, today I have to spend four hours getting my CPR re-certification. I'm hoping we don't take the whole four hours. That's half my day! I've got other things to do!

I've got to work out, go to the dentist, hit the track club board meeting, and exercise Puck. I'm hoping to get my workout done early this morning before CPR. I'm scheduled to swim for 60 minutes. Seems like a lot of swimming so close to the triathlon, but I probably need to burn a few extra calories so I'll do it. After swimming for that long, I may actually be able to focus on CPR. As soon as I finish CPR, I'll be off to the dentist. I have another fractured tooth (too much popcorn!) which we will try to save with a filling. I'm losing my dental insurance with this new job, so I'm trying to get my dental work done now! I pray I won't need another root canal! Perhaps I should seriously consider giving up popcorn. This evening I have the track club board meeting, but I may not make it this month. We'll see how the rest of the day goes. Puck will need my attention, too.

As we say in Minnesota, "Uff Dah!" I've got a busy day ahead! I'll have to say a little prayer, take it one moment at a time, and just work my way through it. Life is moving forward. I'll try to set my fears and worry aside and hang on for the ride! "Wheeeeee..." Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Daily Reflection

The following is from the April 6th entry in the book Daily Reflections. Though it is written for alcoholics, it describes my journey with depression as well. I'll say more about that at the end.

"We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn't control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn't make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn't seem to be of real help to other people..." (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 52)

"These words remind me that I have more problems than alcohol, that alcohol is only a symptom of a more pervasive disease. When I stopped drinking, I began a lifetime process of recovery from unruly emotions, painful relationships, and unmanageable situations. This process is too much for most of us without help from a Higher Power and our friends in the fellowship. When I began working the steps of the AA program, many of these tangled threads unraveled but, little by little, the most broken places of my life straightened out. One day at a time, almost imperceptibly, I healed. Like a thermostat being turned down, my fears diminished. I began to experience moments of contentment. My emotions became less volatile. I am now once again a part of the human family."

Journeying through depression fits right into these two paragraphs for me. Of course, part of my journey was to quit drinking. But I wasn't always an alcoholic. My depression began long before I drank at all. My depression was characterized (in the past) by painful relationships, unmanageable situations, and unruly emotions. For a long time, I thought it was those people, places and things that were the problem. I didn't recognize the underlying depression. Through medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, and most recently working the AA steps, I've been able to straighten out my broken places. Feeling a part of the human family has got to be one of the best feelings a person can have. I know I'm feeling well when I feel human, and today I'm feeling human. I hope you feel human, too.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I took these pictures while organizing my meds the other day. Why? I guess it was a reminder. Without my medications (including my allergy meds), I wouldn't be doing as well as I am today.

I do a lot of things to keep myself healthy--physically and mentally. I go to bed early. I get up around the same time every day. I exercise a lot. I eat well...for the most part. I work on my sobriety and attend my AA meetings. I spend time with friends. I try to keep balance in my life. It's a 24-hour-per-day job.

Unlike some others on the web, I'll never reject the need for my medication. A few may call this sad, stupid, or "brain-washed" (one of my favorites). I call it reality.I am alive and well today because of all the work I've done, including the work I've done with my psychiatrist, and my willingness to take my meds as prescribed. It's been a team effort, and it's worked well for me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A little dip

It was a strange day in my little corner of the world. Things started great. After Puck awoke at 5:15--he is a creature of habit--I went back to bed and got an extra hour of sleep. I saw my psychiatrist and told her how well I was doing. I swam 1800 yards without much difficulty. I discussed remodeling my basement with a contractor. And then...crash.

I've had a hard time lifting my head off the pillow, more figuratively than literally, the rest of the day. All of a sudden I lost all of my oomph. Shortly thereafter, I noticed my thinking was a little off, and then the sadness set in. Weird. It was another precipitous dive into gray.

I'm feeling okay now, just okay, but I'm a little leery. I don't know where that little dip came from. I don't know if it's done. If it's done for now, is it coming back? Like I said, it was weird. It's still weird. I'm not sure what else I can even say about it. But now that I'm feeling "okay," I think I'll try to cross some of the other items off of my to-do list.

And I'll leave you with this thought by Aristotle. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.