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!

Friday, April 29, 2011

An extra day

I planned to go home today. I was looking forward to lying on the floor snuggling with my dog, breathing in the fresh air, and possibly even running a few steps down the street. But it didn't work out that way. I didn't go home. I'm still in the hospital.

My mood took a big dive yesterday. I wasn't overly concerned at the time. You and I both know healing from this illness is not a linear process. I wish it was. I wish it was more predictable. But it isn't, and my mood dive lasted into today. Even after my fourth ECT treatment today, I didn't feel a boost. When it came time to leave, I was anxious. I was worried. I was scared. I didn't feel ready to go considering the state I was in.

I didn't want to leave the hospital and then figure out I still couldn't function beyond its doors. Coming back here soon after leaving would really feel like a failure, even though I know it shouldn't, and I didn't want that to happen. So after long discussions with my social worker, the hospital social worker, the hospital psychiatrist, and my own psychiatrist, a mutual decision was made. I am staying at least one more night and will see how I feel in the morning.

This is not exactly what I had planned for today. It's not what I wanted. I planned to leave. I wanted to leave, but my gut was screaming, "No!" I'm still sad and low. There's a possibility I'm now feeling I failed by not leaving. And yes, I realize I'm painting myself into a corner; failure if I leave and come back, failure if I don't leave at all. That's a pretty tough position I'm putting myself into, isn't it? Perhaps I need to stop thinking, avoid placing value on each action and feeling, and just accept how I feel. It is what it is. I'm okay right here, right now. I'm safe, and I'm grateful for that. It's not right. It's not wrong. It just is.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

ECT Number Three

I'm recovering today from my third ECT treatment. So far, things have gone well, and I do believe I am feeling better overall. I think being in marathon shape has allowed me to recover quickly from the anesthesia. In fact, today I was up and eating within the hour. In the past, when I had ECT six years ago, it often took me most of the day to get moving again. I'm grateful it seems to be easier on my body this time.

I'm also grateful to be feeling a little lighter. Yesterday my social worker noticed my sarcasm was back. For her, that's always a sign I'm feeling better. In reality, maybe it's a sign I need to be nicer to my social worker. But she's right. I am feeling a little better. I've smiled more, and I've even laughed a bit over the past couple days. It's easier to be out of my room, but the thought of being around a lot of people outside of the hospital still overwhelms.

I'm thinking about being out of the hospital because I found out I will be discharged on Friday after my fourth ECT treatment. I will have two more treatments as an outpatient next week, and then we will assess if I need more. I hope not. Yet, I don't want to stop too soon either. I will discharge to my friends' home, as I cannot drive for the duration of my treatments plus two weeks. Bill and Cindy have graciously offered to take me in...again.

I hate to impose my schedule on my friends, but I guess this is what friends do for one another. At least that's what everyone here keeps telling me. Still, I hate to impose. I'm going to have to do a lot of swallowing of my pride over the next several weeks and be willing to ask for help. It's either that, or I'll be sitting quietly at home an awful lot! Perhaps the humility will do me some good.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about leaving the hospital. As I stated earlier, I'm still overwhelmed by the thought of being back out in the world. I'm medically off work until late May, so at least I won't have to face that stress right away. And perhaps not having to face work stress will make the rest of life's stressors a little bit easier. I hope so. One day at a time, etta. One day at a time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Long days

Weekends on an inpatient psych unit are quite long. It's been a long couple of days here. I haven't had a lot of company, there aren't nearly as many groups, and you can only watch so much TV. I've ridden the bike for an hour both days, and I tried to run on the treadmill last night. Unfortunately, that didn't work out too well. I've still not recovered from the Boston Marathon. My quads just wouldn't cooperate and allow me to run. I ended up run/walking 2 miles before I gave up. Other than that, I've done a lot of sleeping.

Besides boredom, I think some of the sleepiness is the result of ECT. I had my first ECT treatment on Friday. It went okay. I felt tired and wobbly afterwards, but I actually recovered fairly quickly. I was relieved when I didn't get a migraine headache afterwards. I'd often had migraines after ECT in the past. Basically, I just slept a lot and allowed myself to recover. My next treatment is tomorrow.

That's about all I have to report. My mood is a little better. I think being here allows me to relax and heal. It is a safe place without a lot to worry about (or a lot to do). Apparently, that's exactly what I needed right now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Inpatient Re-do

When I saw my psychiatrist for my regularly scheduled appointment yesterday, she (with my collaboration, of course) decided it was time to go back to the hospital. I was absolutely not functioning well at home. I reluctantly agreed to go, knowing it was the safest, wisest decision. And here I am. Inpatient, round two.

I knew when I left prior to the marathon that this may be a possibility. I knew we were all in a "hurry up and get better" mode so I could cross Boston off my bucket list. And I'm so glad I was able to go, to run, to have that experience. It was the right decision at the time.

Now this is the right decision. I need to pursue further interventions to break this cycle of depression. I've not felt well for over 8 weeks now. I've been very lucky. I haven't had an episode like this since the spring of 2005. That's six years of relative stability. I've had tough spots, rough spots, and short spins into the hole, but nothing like this. And I can't continue to be non-functional. It's time to do something more.

Something more will likely be ECT. For those of you unfamiliar, I'm just going to tell you to look it up. Look on the Mayo Clinic website for information. I don't have the energy to explain it nor defend it right now. I know many of you are probably horrified by the thought; images of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in your head. It is, fortunately, nothing like that anymore. And the last time I had ECT, in the spring of 2005, it obviously worked. There are risks to my memory, which is why I will spend the rest of today journaling about the Boston experience and writing down every password I have. But at this point, the risk is worth the reward--my health.

So that's where I'm at. Inpatient. I'm staring ECT in the face, and ready to do whatever it takes to get to the other side of this depression episode. As usual, I appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and I'm grateful for your support.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I don't get it either

I don't get it. Yesterday I could barely move again. It wasn't the soreness from the marathon. It was depression rearing its ugly, nasty, punitive head again. I was in tears from the time I woke up until just minutes before I approached my first patient 2 hours later. I was totally overwhelmed. I didn't think I could do anything, and yet there I was with a whole day of patients waiting for me. Later in the day, I was curled up on my sofa paralyzed. I couldn't move, and I couldn't believe it. It didn't make any sense.

I couldn't understand how I could have run 26.2 miles just two days before. I couldn't understand how I could have done that, and yet there I was in tears, paralyzed on my sofa. Was I just being lazy? Was I a total loser, unable to face real life? That's certainly how I felt. I also felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt demoralized. I felt afraid. I couldn't understand how the darkness had so quickly cloaked me in lead again. I don't understand.

Today is not starting any better. I'm low. I'm low again. I'm overwhelmed. I'm afraid of returning to work and being unable to handle it. I'm afraid of losing my job if I can't work. I feel like I need to take some time off, to get well, but I can't afford to do that either. Literally. With no benefits, who will pay my bills if I'm not at work? Nobody. I'm on my own.

I want the overwhelming, scary, debilitating darkness to go away. I want it to go away now. I don't know how much more I can endure. I'm afraid of the darkness now. I'm afraid I can't handle it anymore. I don't know how much fight I have left.

And none of this makes any sense... I hate this illness. Hate it.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I finished. I blew up around mile 18, but I finished. Tears at the start. Tears at the finish. One week ago today, I was in the hospital and could barely move. Today I finished The Boston Marathon. I wish the run had been easier, but I am proud I persevered. I made it through the half at 3:40 pace. My official finishing time was 3:51:50. There will be more to come after I digest the entire experience.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

In Boston

I am here, and so far feeling okay. Actually, today was a good day. The sun came out from behind the clouds and my mood seemed to follow the sun. It's helped that I've been extremely busy since arriving late last night. My friend Kate and I went to the expo at Hynes Convention Center, which was easily the largest, most crowded pre-race event I've ever attended. After milling about with tens of thousands of others for a couple of hours we made our way to the finish line, snapped some pictures, shopped a bit in Filene's Basement, and then headed to Harvard Square for lunch and coffee. (You probably don't know this, but I used to live here with my ex, and I haven't been back in at least ten years. The memories were a bit overwhelming at first, but now I'm just enjoying being back.) After lunch, we came back to our room. I've now taken my nap, organized me gear, and plan to head out for dinner shortly. After that, it will be time for lounging and bed. The weather tomorrow is supposed to be just about perfect, except for the wind, so it should be a good day. Thank you all for your continued support. It's been really nice to have a reprieve from the desperation today. Really nice...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Not so swimmingly

I've been home for 24 hours, and I wish I could say everything was cruising along without a hitch, but I can't. The truth is I've been struggling. Within a few hours of getting home last night, I was struggling. Anxious, down, hopeless... I couldn't believe it. The feelings were intense, and the screwed-up thinking soon chimed in. I had to call on several people for support. I was so disappointed and deflated by how I was feeling. I knew I wasn't one hundred percent better when I left the hospital, but I wasn't expecting to feel so bad so soon. Like I said, I was incredibly disappointed.

The disillusionment continued today. I had a long list of things to do in order to get ready for Boston. One by one, I crossed them off, but I struggled with my mood throughout. Using some of the techniques I learned in the hospital, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. During a phone call with my psychologist, she commended me for moving forward despite how I was feeling. Yes, I moved. But why, I wondered, did the path have to be so cluttered with crap?!

I'd like to say everything is great. I'd like to report I've handled my struggles perfectly. I can't, and I won't. I'm frustrated with the intensity of my emotions. I'm discouraged by my thoughts. I'm worried about continuing to handle the crap this illness dumps on me.

But I'm moving forward one step at a time. As difficult as this is. As frustrating and useless as it feels. I've got to go on. I'm afraid, again, of being worn down by the demon depression, but I'm trying not to think about that. After all, I'm having enough trouble just dealing with today. But I will. I will.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

going home

I'm leaving the hospital today. Hmmm...I bet you're wondering how I feel about that. Well, it's time. I could have stayed an extra day, but I think I'm ready to get home and get ready for Boston. I'm worried, of course, about what my mood and my thinking will become once I'm alone in my living room. But Bill and Cindy, friends extraordinaire, are at the ready with fresh sheets and fluffy pillows if things don't go well. I am so grateful for that.

I"m grateful to be feeling a little better, too. My mood has improved over the past two days. It's still not great, but it's improved. I'll take that. I feel a bit more confident going to Boston with a better mood. I've got a lot to do over the next day and a half to get ready. I think the preparation for Boston and the marathon will keep my brain in check over the weekend. I'm a little bit worried, however, about what will happen once I'm back.

What will happen once I'm back? Will the glow of Boston keep me elevated for awhile? Will post-marathon let down cause me to crash? Will the change in medication kick in and get me back on the right path? I don't know. Nobody knows. And I can't worry about that. Especially at this point, I need to take things one day, perhaps even one moment, at a time. What will be will be. Worrying will not change it. I'm trying to remember that.

So wish me luck as I bound out the hospital doors, board my plane, and run Boston's famous 26.2 mile course. I may not have access to a computer out there, so don't be alarmed if I miss a few days with all of you. Once again, thank you all for your wisdom and support over these past few weeks. How lucky am I to be connected to all of you? Very lucky. Very lucky, indeed.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How I really feel...

I'm scared.
I'm scared this is not going to end.
I'm scared I'm going to burn people out and lose them.
I'm scared I'm going to be alone with an illness which will slowly wear me down and eventually out.
I'm sad and scared. I'm no longer confident I can get through this.

Awake with emotion

It's 6:00 AM, and I'm awake. It was a rough night of sleep. The evening leading into the night probably set me up. I had a tough evening, too. I was sad. I was frustrated. I was feeling pressure to get well quick. But mostly, I was just tired of being sick. I'm awake now, and those feelings are all still here. They are a jumble of a mess of emotions. They made me tired, yet kept me awake.

The sadness is more like grief. I'm grieving the loss of almost 5 years of stability. Being this sick again rudely reminds me of all the things this illness has stolen from me. It's not the best thing for me to think about, I know, but it's where I'm at. Freedom, energy, vitality, relationships, employment; these are just a few of the golden nuggets snapped up by this illness. Will I ever get them back?

I'm frustrated to be feeling so low when I know I've been taking care of myself. I've been doing the right things, maybe not perfectly, but c'mon! I'll ask again, what else can I or should I do to keep the darkness at bay? I know, I's an illness. Like cancer, no matter how healthy one behaves, the tumor may still grow. My tumor (metaphor for depression, just in case anyone is confused) is currently on the prowl, and apparently there are no predators to keep it in check.

I'm feeling pressure to get well quick for a couple of reasons. First, I'm supposed to be on a plane to Boston in 4 days. I cannot, will not, miss the Boston Marathon. However, I don't want to leave the hospital having made no gains in my mood either. Secondly, I can't afford to be here. With no benefits to draw on, each day I am out of work is another day of zero pay. I don't have a reserve to fall back on. I rely on every hour I work to pay my bills. Right now I'm looking at a 14 hour, versus my typical 56 hour, paycheck. I don't know from where the money will materialize to pay my bills. It's a stressor I can hardly tolerate.

And speaking of finances... Yesterday, I found out about a promising new treatment option which my treatment team thinks would work beautifully for me. I was excited. I was willing. Let's go, I said. Unfortunately, this treatment is so new, insurance companies don't cover it. I could pay out of pocket, they said, but the cost ranges from five to ten thousand dollars. I was crestfallen. I was tearful. Obviously, it was no longer an option. (When will insurance companies stop dictating what doctors can and cannot do? And if this were a new treatment for cancer, would it already be approved? Perhaps.)

I'm frustrated with the politics of "the system." I'm sad to be here, hospitalized after so many years, and still feeling so dark and so low. I'm feeling pressured to get well quick, which probably isn't helpful. And I'm stressed about the finances of it all. I wish I could just focus on healing, because that's what I really want to do. Focus on healing...that's what I need to do.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hanging in there.

It's the weekend in the hospital. Unfortunately, that means long days of nothing. We still have a few groups today, but the schedule is cut down significantly. And unlike yesterday, when I spent most of the day sleeping, today the sleep will not come. Maybe that's a good thing? I do feel less fatigued, I think.

This morning, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and got on the treadmill after breakfast. My marathon training schedule called for a ten miler today. It's the last long run before Boston. I really wanted to do it, but I really doubted I'd be able to get it done. The treadmill is a bit old and hard. It sits at the end of a hallway facing a window which looks out directly into some trees. And worst of all, my i-pod didn't work! Oh well, I got on the treadmill anyway.

I figured if I could run 5 miles, I'd be thrilled. So that's where I originally set my sights. The first four miles were tough. I occupied my mind by counting my steps up to 100, and then starting over, about a million times! By the time I hit 5 miles, I found a little groove, so I kept going. That groove ended just before 8 miles, but I figured I had run that far, so I didn't want to quit. The last two miles seemed to take forever, but I made it. I ran 10 miles on an old treadmill with no view and no music. I was amazed and pretty damn happy with myself.

I think completing that run helped lighten my mood today. I'm bored now, but I do feel a little better. It's a relief being in a safe place, too. Don't get me wrong, I want to go home. I want to run outside, go back to work, and watch TV with my dog. But maybe that feeling of relief means I'm exactly where I need to be.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your comments. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Your comments buoy me. I'm amazed to feel so much love from people I've never met. You guys, my readers, are the best. Thank you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


After another rough night last night, my social worker and therapist suggested that I go into the hospital today. I checked in with my friend, Cindy, too, and she agreed. It appeared it was unanimous. Everyone I trusted suggested the same resolution--hospitalization. I guess it was somewhat of a relief to have the decision taken out of my hands, and so I agreed. After a 3 hour wait in the emergency department, my admission was finally cleared. I've been on the inpatient psych unit since shortly before dinner time.

But before I made my way here, I had to call two different bosses to break the news. I feel so guilty about missing work. We are so busy, there is no way for the other therapist to cover my patients, which means loss of income for my company; not to mention loss of necessary treatments for my patients. And never mind the horrid stigma that still exists regarding residing here. I hated having to tell my current boss what was going on. She was kind and fair and said all the right things. But you just never know. You know what I mean? Nevertheless, I needed to make those calls. I needed to make my way here. Probably, this is at least one week overdue. So here I am, inpatient psych. Damn.

It's been more than 4 years since I've been here. And I was fairly proud of that fact, that stability. I've had plenty of dips along the way, but nothing came close to landing me back here. Until today. I'm trying to let it be okay. I'm trying to allow myself the room to just be, to be helped and supported and learn. Maybe it's working. I've already shed some tears, and as you know from previous posts, that's not been possible throughout this episode. Maybe it's a sign. Maybe I'm safe enough here to just let go. Maybe, but who knows? Besides, my tears tonight were more likely the result of missing Puck, missing Bill and Cindy, and just wanting to go home. But I'm not going home. I'm staying here. I want to get well, and I want to get well quick. And once I do, it will hopefully be at least another four years before I'll ever need to come back.

Right now, I could use your prayers. Pray for healing. Pray for energy to fight the demons of this terrible illness. And pray, please, for my willingness to continue on regardless of my current willfulness to stop. I am safe, and perhaps safety is what I need to get over the hump. Thank you for joining me on this long journey. I'll keep you up to date as best I can.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Doing the right things...

You're doing the right things. That's what they all keep telling me; my friends, my therapist, and my social worker. You're doing everything you can do. You're doing it. You're moving forward. You're putting one foot in front of the other. You are doing the right things. That's what they're saying. That's apparently what I'm doing, but it's not working. If I'm doing everything right, why don't I feel any better?

That's the million dollar question, isn't it? If I'm doing everything right; if I'm doing what I can to keep moving forward, despite how desperate I feel, why isn't it helping? Why can't I fix this dive into the abyss? This free fall... It's like packing the parachute perfectly, deploying it expertly, and still splatting to the ground! Where's the reward? And if there's no reward, why continue? How much longer can I, or will I, keep moving forward if moving takes me nowhere? It's another million dollar question.

I'm tired today. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of putting one foot in front of the other yet going no place. I'm tired of doing the right things without positive results. It's demoralizing. It's hard. It makes me feel desperate. It's depression, and today I'm tired of struggling with it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

This post has no title

I'm not sure where to start or when to end. This post has no title because that's how I feel, title-less. There is nothing significant happening nor not happening. Life, right now, is just a series of events. And I guess I'm taking them as they come, one at a time, but feeling little connection to nor passion for any of it. It's another side of depression, which highlights it is not yet gone.

  • I'm back home, sleeping in my own bed, but I'm still spending many hours per day at my friends' home. I'm not totally okay in my own skin yet.
  • My mood is periodically fine, sometimes good, and often crummy. My thinking is occasionally fine, sometimes good, and often crappy. There seems no rhyme nor reason to it, although it does seem better when I'm busy.
  • I'm running--15 miles yesterday--and preparing for Boston, which is now only 15 days away. Am I excited? I should be. I'm neutral. I'm not looking forward to it, nor am I worried about or dreading it. It just is. It just will be, at this point in time, another day, another run, another marathon. And of course, I understand somewhere in my head that none of that is accurate. It should mean more than all of that. But right now, it doesn't.
  • I finished my taxes, which is a big accomplishment, as they were hanging over my head. I guess I might have felt a little relief when I hit the send button, but that's about it.
  • I'm doing laundry, another chore that's been waiting for me. Praying, I am, for the energy to finish what I've started. The dishes are done, but the vacuuming will have to wait. Soon, I'll need a nap.
  • Today's bike workout is waiting as well. I need to get it done, as I missed one workout already this week. Working those 10-12 hour days last week was not conducive to exercising. Today's mood is not conducive to getting on the bike, either. I'll have to force myself to do it. Maybe after my nap...
  • Speaking of work, I've got a very busy schedule again this week. I guess my prayers for energy will be repeated multiple times in the upcoming days.
That's it. Title-less. Emotion-less. A series of loosely connected events. Life. It just is. This, too, is depression.