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!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

All things considered...

Considering I ran 20 miles in the cold and wind on Thursday, the 10K I raced this morning went pretty darn well. Of course I wanted to run faster, but I managed a 47:55 (7:45/mile) and felt good while doing it. It was nothing like last week's race. This one was tough, especially the steep hills at the end, but I never felt out of my league. I ran hard but within myself. I went as fast as my body and tired legs would allow, but I wasn't in agony like I was one week ago. That was nice. I felt good about how I felt even if I wasn't thrilled with my time.

On an entirely different note, I've got a Halloween Party tonight. It's a sober affair put on by two women for whom Halloween is like Christmas! They love it! I don't have a costume because I've been too lazy to go out and find one. I don't have anyone to go with, which is typical for this single sole. And the World Series is going to be on tonight. These are all good excuses for me not to go to this party. I can stay home in my sweats and be my usual isolative self instead. But should I? Probably not.

I'm confessing my solitary thoughts here because I know I should get out of my house and socialize. If I'm honest with myself, I've been a bit isolative--okay, more than a bit--lately. It's easy when I'm training hard, racing, and working to just stay home at all other times. And that's what I've been doing. My parents have gone south for the winter. My best friends have been busy with their families. It's easy and comfortable to put on my sweats and never take them off. I can't remember the last time I've done anything social.

So I should go to this party, right? Isolation is often a sign of things going down hill for me. I don't think that's what's happening here, but I do worry just a little. So I should go to this party, right? Well, I'm still undecided, but I'll let you know. What about you? What are you doing tonight?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pooped out.

I'm feeling tired. I'm not sure if it's due to the hard race this past weekend, or if it's the result of many busy days in a row. After racing hard on Saturday, I worked 8.5 hours and swam 35 minutes on Sunday, and then I worked a full day again Monday. I'm typing here right now because I couldn't quite get out of bed for my strength training class this morning. (Unfortunately, Puck got me up within 20 minutes anyway, so I would have been better off getting my butt to the gym.) I did get my speed workout in yesterday, but much of the rest of the day was spent lounging or sleeping on the sofa. I'm not panicking, just observing. It makes sense to me that I'm tired. I just don't care much for the feeling.

I'm smack in the middle of marathon training, so tired is a normal state of being at this time. I'm scheduled to run my first 20-miler this week, and I may do that tomorrow. I may do it Thursday because there is a 10K race I'd like to run on Saturday. Maybe that's dumb, or too much, but if the weather is decent, it's a fun race. If the weather is crappy, I'll likely skip it. Anyway, I'm going to be running 20 no matter what.

I found out my official results from Saturday's race. I was a little surprised. Despite my disappointing time, I finished 6th of 102 women in my age division. I was the 41st woman overall, and I think there were around 500 women in the race. Both results made me feel a little better about my effort.

Well, I need to wake up now and get ready for work. A second cup of coffee is calling my name. My body is tired, but my mood remains stable and good. I'm very grateful for that. Have a great day!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good. Good. Good. BOOM!

I raced a half marathon today in Mankato, MN. It was their inaugural marathon, half marathon, and 10K, and boy they did a great job! It was an excellent race course, with excellent organization, plenty of port-o-potties, and great goodies at the finish. Even the weather cooperated. It was overcast and in the 50's (I think). Nice job, Mankato! I'll definitely be back.

I was up before 4 AM in order to get to the starting line on time. I felt good. Even though I didn't taper for this race, my legs felt ready. Not having a clue what to expect from myself, I decided to jump in with the 1:45 (8:01 per mile) pace group. I figured that was a pace I should be able to handle based on my speed work, tempo runs and quick long training runs. But again, I really didn't have a clue.

We got off right on time, and I fell in with my pace group. I even ran slightly in front of the group for awhile, as I felt really good. The course was very nice--mostly on a long, wide, paved trail. Around mile 5 we descended a very long, steep hill. I remarked that the marathoners would hate this hill, as they would hit it at mile 18, and it was a quad buster at mile five! Shortly thereafter, we descended another steep hill. Okay, my legs felt that, but the pace felt fine.

There were about 5-6 of us (5 men and me) still hanging with our pacer when we passed mile seven. Somewhere between mile 7.5 and mile 8.5 we began a long ascent. I'm not sure what happened, but I got dropped, big time! Just a few minutes beforehand, I had been conversing with my fellow runners, but when that hill started my legs just wouldn't go. I believe I blew up.

I regained my stride, briefly, within the 10th mile, but I felt like crap! My legs felt like wooden stilts. I think those downhills really tore me up. By mile 11, I really went BOOM! I walked through some water stops and up some small hills before again regaining my stride in the last mile. I was an unhappy camper from about mile 9 onward. That made for a very long race. I was so very glad to cross that finish line and be done.

I finished in 1:48:30, which was 8:16 per mile. I was disappointed, not with my time as much as with the incredible, painful effort. Here are my splits: 8:01, 7:53, 8:12, 8:01, 7:53, 8:02, 8:04, 8:17, hill 8:32, 8:16, 8:58 (boom!), 8:39, 8:17. When I reviewed my splits, I was actually surprised to see that I pulled off a few sub 8:20's after blowing up. I felt as if I was running so much slower. Like I said, my wooden legs just wouldn't go. Considering how poorly I felt, I guess I should be pretty happy with my time. I'm trying.

I'm trying to be kind to myself. There are a lot of reasons my legs wouldn't go up that hill. I didn't taper. I ran 18 miles just last weekend and did my usual speed work during the week. What did I expect? Well, you know me, I always expect more. But really, this was an exercise in perseverance, and I proved to myself once again that I can persevere. I'm glad I did.

Perseverance deserves a reward, and I'm rewarding myself with a big, juicy steak tonight. I think my muscles need some red meat to rebuild! Then it will be back to speed work on Tuesday and 20 miles either Thursday or Saturday. I may even run a 10K next Saturday, but we'll see how I recover first. I got my tickets, so look out Dallas. I'll battle with you in December.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Causes ad nauseum...

I'm not sure why, but it's happening with more and more regularity. Brain inflammation, virus, pessimistic outlook, born on a day that ends in Y... I have been getting a barrage of comments lately from concerned people wanting me to know the real cause of depression. You haven't seen most of these comments. They almost always include a link to a page dedicated to their cause, and I rarely publish comments with links such as those.

I value the integrity of my blog. I don't want readers to get confused and think I approve of or endorse most of these sites. It seems commenters who leave links are typically more interested in pushing their favorite site than they are in the post on which they've commented. So to keep my blog mine, I reject most link-laden comments.

But let's talk about this issue. Why are people so concerned that I hear about the real cause of depression? For the record, I believe depression is an organic brain disorder or disease caused by chemical imbalances or other mechanisms of which we are not yet aware. I also think high-tech MRI imaging will soon show differences between the brains of those with depression and those without. This is the kind of depression I have. I also realize there are situational factors which can bring about an episode of depression. Certainly, if I had cancer or MS, I think I might also develop depression. If I broke up with a boyfriend or someone died, I might be more prone to depression. And maybe someday we'll understand if situational depression looks the same in the brain as non-situational depression. That will be a big day!

Could I get depression if I had a virus? Sure, if the virus were significant enough to significantly alter my life. But I don't think the virus necessarily causes the depression. I think the depression results from the debility the virus causes. Those are my opinions based on the scientific facts of which I've learned.

Why am I writing about this? I guess because I'm a little offended by all of the suggestions. To me they smack of the ongoing stigma that surrounds mental illness. Why can't we accept depression as a medical condition? Is it because we can't see it in the lab or on an x-ray? Suggesting that I have brain inflammation or a virus is just about as offensive to me as telling me I don't smile enough. Where is the science? And why would anyone think, after ten years of struggle, I wouldn't have looked into every cause imaginable before accepting my condition? Before I accepted my depression for what it was--a brain disorder or disease--I examined every other facet of my life and health. We found the sleep apnea, but other than that all we proved was that I was incredibly healthy! Unfortunately, my brain is a little off.

Fortunately, my brain and my depression respond well to medication, which only reinforces my belief in an organic medical condition such as screwed up neurotransmitters. It also, like many other illnesses (MS, cancer, HBP), responds well to healthy living and exercise. It doesn't help to smile more. It does help to sleep more. In summary, it acts like a lot of other illnesses--illnesses fortunate enough to show up in a lab or on an image. Hmmm...

I don't know where I'm going with this exactly. I guess I just needed a little rant. As usual, I look forward to hearing what you think, but please, leave your links at home.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm in.

Today was the first day of registration for the Boston Marathon, which is April 18, 2011. Registration opened at 8:00AM. I was up at six! Unfortunately, 20,000 other people were awake, too, because the system was apparently overloaded for several hours. It took me about 20 tries, but at 1:30 this afternoon, I finally got signed up. I'm in! No missed Boston this year! Whew! What a relief!

Now I can forget about Boston until sometime this winter when training will begin anew. As for my current training, it's going well. I've got a fairly difficult speed workout tomorrow, 12 x 400 meters, which I'm already thinking about. But I love this three day a week training plan I'm doing. None of my miles are junk. Every run is challenging. Plus, I have four days with which I can swim, bike and/or lift weights. So far it's working great! I think I'm in pretty good shape.

My race this weekend, I guess, will be my conditioning test. I really have no idea what to expect. At the same time, I don't really want to race it all out. I have another race the following weekend, and I don't want to take too much away from my marathon training. But who am I kidding? I'll probably run my little brains out! At least I'm predictable.

You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. --Zig Ziglar

Saturday, October 16, 2010

It must have been the second cup.

Maybe that second cup of coffee made the difference this morning. On a perfectly gorgeous day, I ended up running 18 miles today rather than the 13 I was fretting about (see previous post). I had 18 scheduled for next weekend, but I'm doing a half-marathon next weekend, so I was already fretting about completing the eighteen. All week I thought about switching today's 13 with next week's 18, but I didn't want to put pressure on myself.

My tentative plan for next Saturday was to warm-up with a couple miles and then run 3 more at the end of the race, but I also knew that would suck. That plan, and the thought that it would just be easier to run 18 today, was in the back of my mind for the first 13 miles. When I got to 13, I felt pretty good, so I said, "What the hell!" And I went for it.

Fourteen miles came up pretty quickly, but those last four miles were particularly tough. I had a difficult schedule this week including a 10 mile tempo run just two days ago. I really felt the cumulative effect during those last four miles today. But, hey, I finished! I maintained my pace, too, despite the hurt. It must have been that second cup...

On my second cup...

I don't know why this happens sometimes. I guess it's because I'm human. For some reason, when I think of my fellow runners, I imagine they never have this issue. I imagine they bounce out of bed every morning. Sure in their plans for the day, they whip on their running gear and zip out the door. I, on the other hand, am on my second cup of coffee. My butt is firmly molded to my recliner. My mind is lost in mindless SportsCenter. I'm trying to wake up. I'm trying to motivate out the door. So far, I've not been successful.

I don't know why I can't motivate out the door. I only have 13 miles to run. Last week, I had 17, and everything went according to plan. I wonder if I'm too hard on myself. I wonder that a lot. I can't help it. I'm so sure those around me don't have the same struggles, although realistically I know they do. I just have a hard time believing it. And I know I'll motivate eventually, so there's no need to panic. Perhaps I just want everything to be easy, and that's far from realistic.

Things are going well. I've got to learn to take that in stride. I don't always have to battle. I think having an almost ten year battle with depression has put me constantly on guard. I've got to learn to be more kind to myself. That's been a life-long battle. I've always been more critical of me than you could ever be. My expectations of others are likely as unrealistic as are my expectations of myself. I picture others doing everything perfectly, while my slightest internal struggle (like today) causes me great concern. It's silly. Nobody is perfect, and therefore nobody can live up to my expectations. Boy, if that isn't setting myself up for failure and disappointment, I don't know what is! Revealing...

Things are going well. I will run my 13 miles today. But for now, I'm going to be kind. I'm going to finish my second cup.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.-- James Matthew Barrie

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hanging on for the ride

Life has been cruising along at break-neck speed. I'm sorry I've been absent from this blog for several days. I don't like doing that. I feel a responsibility to all of you to keep up. Keeping up with my speedy life has been a little tough, but I'm certainly not bored!

Work has had a bit of drama, and that's always tiring. Unfortunately, two of our team members have separated themselves by being disrespectful to many of us, including my boss. They have a different boss even though they are part of our team in our office. It's a little bizarre that way. For some reason, they seem to feel they have a right to behave as they see fit because they don't share our boss. And their behavior lately has been less than professional. It's too bad. We have a great office with great people. I can't figure out what they're thinking. I don't think they realize that their behavior reflects poorly on them rather than on the staff they are disrespecting. It's been a little stressful, as my boss tries to deal with them.

Other than that stress, work has been great. I've got a full load of patients now, and I'm very busy. It's testing my energy limits. For example, I didn't get to work out until after 8:00 PM last night, and that was after working 10 hours. Getting on a bike was the last thing I wanted to do, but I didn't want to skip a day after training so hard for so many weeks now. So I went to the gym and rode my little heart out for 45 minutes. Of course, I was glad I did. As usual, I felt better physically and mentally once done.

Today, I ran a 10 mile tempo run in between doctor appointments, meetings, and errands. It was a great run--difficult, but great. I maintained my 8:25 pace throughout. It was a gorgeous day. And my form felt decent, even when I was tired. It was all good. I'm planning to run a half-marathon next Saturday, so it was nice to get a decent, fast run under my belt beforehand.

My training is going so well, and yet I'm still not sure I'll have the funds to travel to Dallas for the marathon in December. I'm going to keep training as if I'll be running it, continue running some local races, and hopefully have the funding when the time comes. The race is December 5th, so I have a little more time to prepare. Even if I don't run the race, however, the training is serving me well so it's worth it.

There. I think you're all caught up. I'm considering increasing my work hours, but I'll leave that discussion for a future post. Have a great day.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A long, busy weekend

It's almost 8:00pm on Sunday night, and I'm finally sitting down! I had a class yesterday--all day--about 100 miles away. Today, I worked. In between I watched my Twins look terrible and get knocked out of the playoffs. Tonight, I ran a 5 mile tempo run on some pretty dead legs before heading to my least favorite place to spend money--the grocery store. I'm finally home now, but I've got little else to say. I'm tired. I'm hungry. I need to get ready for work tomorrow, and my body is screaming for bed. I promise I'll be more verbose once I'm rested. Good night.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

17 miles

I finished my Saturday long run today, as I have a class this weekend. It wasn't pretty, even though the day was beautiful. Actually, I'm being too hard on myself--shocking--as it was actually a decent run. I had to take a couple of breaks along the way, and I developed a side ache around mile 14, but I finished. I averaged a bit over 9 minutes per mile, too, just as I had planned. Those last few miles colored my perception of the entire run, I guess. It was a good run.

Like I said, it's a gorgeous day today. I love fall. It is my favorite season by far! The air is warm and dry. The breeze is cool. The changing leaves are beautiful. And the smell of fall is the best. I love the sound of the leaves tumbling in the wind, too. I spent a large part of my run trampling through leaves in the parks and along shady lanes. The scenery certainly added a bit of serenity to my effort today.

Now I'm resting, watching baseball (boo, hoo... my Twins lost last night) and enjoying the fresh air streaming through my windows. I don't think I'll have the energy to accomplish much else today. I'm hoping for dinner with some friends and a Twins win tonight. Life is back to a little bit of normal now that the stress of the last week is past. I'm very grateful for that!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.--Thomas Edison

Some people dream of success... while others wake up and work hard at it.--Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Temporary Resolution

Well, my local office of American HomePatient came through for me. It's a little complicated, but the end result is that I no longer have an outstanding $600.00 bill from them, and I get to keep my C-PAP machine. I have to thank Carol at my local office for her compassion and hard work.

To say I'm relieved is an understatement. Yet it is a cautious relief, as I have reason not to totally trust this fix. As long as I am doing business with AHP, I think I will be wary. I don't like that. But I think I should stick with my local office after they worked so hard on my behalf.

This whole situation was quite a test of my sanity. I can't stand these out-of-my-control situations. So this was good; albeit painful, anxiety-laden, sanity-busting, practice for me. One of the lessons of living, which I learned in AA, is taking action. After clearing my head here, I used my last post to craft an intelligent, succinct letter to AHP, which I delivered to my local office Monday morning. That gave me a sense of control I didn't have previous to taking the action.

Another life lesson (via AA) is accepting things I cannot change. It took me several days, and taking the action of writing certainly helped, but I was coming to some acceptance. I had gotten to the point where I had done what I could do. I knew things might not come out as I wished, but I also knew there was nothing more on which I should waste my energy. The only sanity-saving thing to do was accept the bill and work out a payment plan. I wouldn't have liked that, but acceptance does not require agreement. Strangely, acceptance, even without agreement, also gave me back some control.

The last life lesson on which I relied was treating others as I would like to be treated myself. So even though I was mad as hell and felt totally justified in my rage, I made sure I kept my tone even and my language clean in each of my dealings with AHP personnel. I had to remember that my local office was doing the best they could with the situation--again, whether I liked what they were doing or not, or whether it was on my time schedule or not! That wasn't always easy, but I did my best. In the end, I felt my behavior was appropriate, and I can hold my head high.

I'm really hoping I don't have to deal with this again. I'm really praying God doesn't have any more "practice" for me in the near future. This was incredibly stressful. I'd like to put it behind me for good.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Knocked off course

A couple days ago, I told you about a healthcare company I was dealing with...well, struggling with. The company, American HomePatient, is the supplier of my sleep apnea C-PAP machine and supplies. I've detailed in this blog how much the C-PAP has improved my level of fatigue--amazingly improved--and my mood. I hate wearing the damn thing--it's not sexy and is sometimes uncomfortable--but the benefits far outweigh the occasional cost to my pride and comfort. It works, despite the fact that I have very mild sleep apnea.

And therein lies the problem, my mild sleep apnea. When I originally received the equipment, in May, 2009, I was told my insurance and co-insurance would totally cover the cost of rental and supplies. The way it works is you rent the unit for 13 months, and if you're still using it at that time, you own it. (My 13th month was June, 2010.) The supplies are needed quarterly and were also fully covered. Since May of 2009, I have not received one bill from AHP, as was expected. You can see where this is going, can't you?

In August, I was told by AHP that they screwed up. My sleep study actually didn't qualify me for a C-PAP. My sleep apnea was too mild. Because of that, they told me, I would now be responsible for my own supplies. (They had to reimburse my insurance company for the cost of the machine rental.) I even signed a form agreeing to pay for my own supplies from that moment forward. Nothing was mentioned about the rental of the unit, as was expected, because as far as I knew, I owned it. After all, it had been 15 months since I originally received it. I bet you can really see where this is heading now!

Yup, you guessed it, a few days ago I received a very large bill. AHP apparently figured out in March, 2010, that my insurance company was not paying, because I got a C-PAP rental bill--in late, late September--for April, May, June, July, and August, 2010, to the tune of $600.00! I was horrified and stunned!

It seems, like I said, that AHP knew in March that I would begin getting billed. Yet, they never informed me! I was not sentenced to C-PAP. I chose it. I made a decision to try it specifically because my insurance would cover it. To me, it's common sense that a company would notify a customer that their insurance coverage had changed. Shouldn't I have been given the choice to keep, and pay for the C-PAP, or return it? Of course I should have been! If they had called, I would have returned the unit. Problem solved. Done.

Instead, I began getting billed in secret. How lucrative is that? Rather than give their patient (me) notice that something had changed, they just started billing! And more incredulously, they didn't send the bill for 6 months! While this is technically legal, they should expect payment for services rendered, it is so wrong on so many levels, I can't stand it!

Why wasn't I given the option of returning the unit at the moment they discovered the issue? Why wasn't I notified? Even when they did call me in August, the rental cost was NOT mentioned. I was told I would need to pay for my supplies only. Fine. That was the decision I was allowed to make. Thank you very much. And since I am now on month 17 of C-PAP use, how do they justify billing me for July and August anyway? I fully expect to be billed for September, too, even though I shouldn't be. Now that I am aware of the issue, I will be returning the unit on Monday--way too late!

But wait, there's more! Of course I made numerous frustrating phone calls regarding this issue to both my local office (compassionate, though so far not helpful) and the national billing center. I was on the phone with someone nationally for maybe 5 minutes. On Friday afternoon, I got an extremely terse, bordering on rude, letter from a national customer "service" rep I'd never interacted with. I point that out because based on the tone of the letter, you'd assume I had just chewed Marcee a new asshole! Among other things, she told me AHP had every right to "roll the billing" to me because my sleep study didn't qualify me for C-PAP, and because I was "not cooperative in getting qualified." HUH?!? Marcee apparently knew something I didn't. To be uncooperative, wouldn't I have had to have been notified?? Since I was never notified of this "rolling" process, how could I have been uncooperative? Unbelievable! No one ever asked me to "help get qualified." The letter was so inappropriate, it was insulting.

Needless to say, I've been awake nights, literally, ruminating about this. I was already financially stressed when this unexpected bill arrived. I have no control over what happens, which is exceedingly frustrating. And then the unbelievable letter... No matter how much I stamp my feet, there's not much I can do about the outcome. I'm hoping the people in the local office will see the injustice in the whole situation and have some compassion. But for all I know, they have no control either. Someone is going to have to agree to lose even more money for this to come out favorably for me. I work in the healthcare business. Losing money is tough and not taken lightly. I realize I will have to get past my sense of injustice and incredulousness in order to get to some acceptance. But this is just so wrong. It's really knocked me off course...

Thanks for letting me vent.