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, May 31, 2011

Gratitude today

For whatever reason, on this last day of May, I spent a lot of time reflecting today. And my reflections led to gratitude. It all began with my morning speed workout. I ran 7 x 800 meters. I thanked God for the ability to run as I wished. I thanked him for the lung capacity and the muscles to run fast. I thanked him for the beautiful sun and the trail through the woods. And that's when the reflection began.

I reflected back just 90 days, which was when my recent depression relapse began in earnest. It was only 90 days ago that the slide into suicidal despair started. I reflected on how well I've been feeling lately and thanked God for the night and day difference. I'm grateful today for a quality inpatient psych unit, a doctor who cared, medication, therapy, and yes, even ECT.

It's been less than one month since this recent relapse ended. I'm so appreciative of how good my mood has been over these past few weeks. I don't know why the relapse started. I don't know exactly what caused it to end. It doesn't matter. Taking advantage of the good days, that's what matters now. And that's what I plan to do. I'm grateful for the opportunity.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A New York Qualifier!

I ran the Med-City Half Marathon in Rochester, MN, this morning. This is how it went. I woke up at 4 AM, as usual before a race starting at 7 AM, in order to eat and have my coffee. I set out for my warm-up miles at 4:45 AM. I don't usually run "warm-up miles," but today was my last scheduled long run prior to Grandma's Marathon (in 3 weeks), so I needed to run 18-20 miles today. I ran 6 miles prior to boarding the bus for the start of the race. One hour later, the race began.

I lined up with the 1:40 pace group. Within the first 3 miles, the 7:38 pace proved to be too fast. I let the group go. I knew there was a 1:45 pace group somewhere behind me. That was important because I needed to run under 1:45 in order to qualify for The 2012 New York City Marathon. I decided not to look at my watch, focus on keeping my pace, and hang on for as long as I could while hopefully keeping that 1:45 pace group from passing me for the rest of the race. And that's exactly what happened. I focused on my form, didn't look at my watch, battled my negative thoughts, ran as hard as I could, and I qualified!

To say it was difficult would be an understatement. It was hard! Really hard! I had to battle my negative thinking for at least the first 7 hilly miles. I was chastising myself for running too fast, running too many miles before the race, expecting too much from name the negative thought, I had it! By mile 8, I no longer had the luxury of so many thoughts. I had to focus on one mile at a time. By mile 11, I was down to focusing on one step at a time. My legs were so tired, but I just kept pushing forward and tried not to walk. With the exception of a couple of water stops, which I walked through, I ran the entire way and met my goal.

I qualified for New York. Mercifully, I made it to the finish line with one minute to spare. My official time was 1:43:55. I placed 81st out of 598 runners (male and female), and I was third (shocked!) out of 70 women in my age group. I think I'm even going to get a cool little award for that! I'm pleased. I'm grateful for the ability with which God has gifted me. I'm pleased I was able to run under an 8 minute per mile pace, especially after running 6 warm-up miles. And I'm really glad I've qualified for New York! It was a good day.

ADD: I just looked up the NYC qualifying times, and I actually only qualified with 5 SECONDS to spare. Apparently they've changed the qualifying time from 1:45 to 1:44! Whew! Glad I didn't walk through any other water stops!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Job update

Well, I made a decision. Yesterday, after more research and negotiating, I accepted the position at the nursing home here in town. It was a tough decision, but after talking with the physical therapist I'm going to be replacing, I had enough information to make it. I felt relief after accepting the position, and that tells me I likely made the right decision.

The reality is, even if it turns out to be the "wrong" decision, it's only temporary. Reminding myself of that was helpful yesterday. Life is temporary. That's why I try to live it one day at a time.

The other big accomplishment of yesterday was resigning my current position. I was really nervous about doing that, as I hadn't been in the office for more than one month. I didn't know what to expect. Coming back from medical leave in order to resign could have been viewed negatively. Thankfully, it wasn't.

When I arrived at the office, my boss and co-workers were really happy to see me. My boss, once I told her I needed to resign, was incredibly supportive. We ended up talking for at least 90 minutes. It was all good. She understood why I needed to resign. She was supportive of my decision. She wanted to leave things open so that I could be re-hired in the future. If the stress level of that position decreases, I would happily go back. And it's really great to know she respects me and my skills enough that she would have me. Like I said, it was all good.

I'm relieved to have made my decision. I had to say a lot of prayers and ask God for a lot of guidance in the days prior to yesterday. I think that helped. I should try that more often! While I'm sad to be leaving home health care, I'm looking forward to learning some new skills in my new position.

Life is full of change. By not dwelling in the past nor worrying about the future, I can handle the changes and move forward daily. I did a lot of moving yesterday. Today, I rest.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A unique position

As you may or may not know, I am currently on medical leave from my current position as a home health physical therapist. I love working in home health. I love the flexibility, the motivated patients, the control over my schedule. Unfortunately, I work in a start-up office, which carries with it the stress of fluctuating hours and patient volumes. As you may remember, in the span of two weeks earlier this year, I went from not having enough patients to sustain my employment to having more patients than two therapists could handle. The constant change and variability are not good for my mental health. My doctor, social worker, and friends all think I need to get something more stable in order to keep my mental health stable. I agree.

Over the past couple of months, I've checked out some other opportunities as they've come available. Interestingly, both of the opportunities I've checked into have come calling this week. Both potential positions are in nursing homes. Nursing home work is not my favorite, but it's not the worst place to work either. One nursing home is here in town, the other is in a small town about 20 minutes from here. I would be the only therapist, with one assistant, at each facility. Each position is part time, similar to the schedule I currently work. After some negotiating, one facility agreed to match my current salary, the other nearly matched it. And now I have a dilemma. I have two viable job offers, and I can't figure out which one to take!

I know I am in a unique position. It's nice to be wanted. But I'm stuck as far as which one is the better option! Both potential jobs would simplify my life. I would be joining long-term, stable rehab staff at either facility. One is close to home, the other a little further away. Neither is perfect. Perfect would be too easy! Not that I'm complaining! I'm not! This is just so strange! I have a job I like, which I don't necessarily want or need to leave, but simplifying my life would be advantageous. And I have two potential employers banging on my door! I don't know what to do.

I don't know what I will do. I've been honest with all involved, although my current employer does not yet know I am likely going to quit. That's on tomorrow's agenda. I've told the two potential employers I need at least 24 hours to weigh my options before I make a decision. I'm on my way to dinner with friends. They've promised to help me with the pros and cons list. Hopefully, that's all it will take. I just don't want to make the wrong decision, but which one is "wrong?" Which one is right? I don't know. I don't know.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

15 miles

It's been a long couple of days around here. Lots of reminiscing and grieving going on. Paul's wake was Thursday night and his funeral yesterday. Running has been far from my mind. I haven't had the energy, which is why it was really important for me to get out on the road this morning. After hitting the snooze button for an hour, I finally got out of bed and made it to our track club's group long run. My legs, I don't think, are fully recovered yet from last week's marathon. I ended up running alone most of the way this morning, but it was still helpful to run with the group. Despite my tired legs, I made it 13 miles. A bunch of us went out for breakfast, and then I ran two more miles with Puck once I got home. 15 miles total. I'm pretty happy with that. It wasn't easy.

It's nice being out with the group again. I still have to push myself to go to things like meals after funerals or breakfast with a crowd, but I'm doing those things despite my isolation tendencies. I know, in my brain, isolation isn't good for me, but it is so damn much easier! I'm hoping pushing myself will eventually make being more social easier. But I'm dubious.

I'm getting used to being back in the world again. Being social, going to group events, running...all of these things make me realize, again, how much depression takes me out of my world. I feel like I've been gone for months, and in a way, I guess I have. It's weird. I'm trying not to get overwhelmed with simple daily life. I'm waiting for the moment when I no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land. It's a process, I guess. And I'm grateful to be moving through the process rather then being stuck in the muck. The muck sucks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

of healing and grieving

I've got a lot going on today. For starters, I saw my doctor this morning. She's keeping me out of work through at least next week. I feel relieved about that. I just don't feel ready to face the chaos my office is currently dealing with. We struggled to get referrals for so long but now have the opposite problem--too many patients, not enough clinicians. It means I'll be loaded with patients as soon as I go back, and I don't feel ready for that stress yet. My doctor agreed it wasn't worth sacrificing my health for the benefit of my employer.

She also agreed that I've done my last ECT treatment. I continue to feel better. The only thing I currently struggle with is unending fatigue. I can't get through the day without sleeping. I dislike that overwhelmingly tired feeling, but I'll take it over the debilitating mood any day of the week. At least fatigue can be ameliorated by sleep. As I've documented over the past few months, my low mood does not respond to such simple intervention.

Fortunately, my mood hasn't taken a big hit by the unexpected (and unexplained) death of fellow runner, Paul. Hardly a moment has passed that he and his family have not been on my mind since his death after the marathon last Saturday. His visitation is tonight. The running group he belonged to is organizing a group run after the prayer service. I was going to run my tempo run today, but now I think I'll wait until tonight and join the crowd. It will feel good to run with friends after such a somber event. His funeral will be tomorrow. It is still so unbelievable to have lost someone so young, so healthy, and so vibrant as Paul. He will truly be missed by many, many people.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My last ECT?

I had my tenth ECT treatment today. That's about 10 more than I wanted to have, which indicates how far down I had gone and how much I was willing to do to get out of the black hole. And I think I am out. It's taken abundantly longer than I would have liked. But I think I have finally cleared the rim and am crawling away from the abyss.

This depression episode has been devastating, demoralizing, and debilitating. I do not wish to look back with regret, but it is hard not to do so. I am especially devastated by the loss of my ability to work again. Prior to the last few years, I spent years on disability secondary to this illness. I worked my way off of it, and I was proud of my success in doing so. Now I am back on disability and quite fearful of returning to my job. Devastating...

 Working one's way off of disability is a complicated, risky process. There are no guarantees. If I work too much, I lose my benefits. If I work within the SSDI limits, it amounts to very few hours and does not give me an adequate gage of my fitness to return to regular duty. It's complicated. It's risky. It's causing me considerable stress; stress which is compounded by my company's wish to get me back to regular duty as quickly as possible. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage this process again. I'm worried.

Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself by worrying about work. After all, I just had what I hope is my last ECT treatment today. I'm grateful to be feeling better. As you recall, it took awhile before the treatments seemed to make a difference. It was a long while before I turned the corner and began emerging from the hole. For a time I never thought it was going to let me go, but today depression has loosened its grip. I am feeling more free than I have felt since late February. The struggle has lessened. I'm relieved.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tragedy in the Marathon

I ran another marathon today. The Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon runs through West-Central Minnesota along what used to be a railroad corridor. I used it as a long training run and finished in 3:42:25.

Unfortunately, that is not the news most pressing this evening. I attended this marathon with several other area runners. Our driver was a 35 year-old husband and father in perhaps the best shape of his life. He was shooting for a personal best 3:10-3:15 on this flat, fast course. After crossing the finish line around 3:14, he collapsed. He died a short time later.

There are no words for occasions like this. Why God feels the need for senseless occasions like this is a grand mystery to me. The needless agony of his family haunts me tonight. I don't know what else to say. I cannot shed any light on the darkness of the moment. Rest in peace, Paul. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

ECT Number Nine

I had my ninth ECT treatment this morning. It went fine, but I've been really wiped out since then. I spent a lot of the day sleeping and lounging. For whatever reason, this treatment seems to have really sapped my energy.

I saw my inpatient/ECT psychiatrist (different than my usual psychiatrist) this morning before treatment. We discussed doing an entire course of treatments, which means 10-12 total. I'm taking this Friday off, so I'll likely be done with treatments next week or early the following week. I'm feeling better, and I'm encouraged by that. But I can't wait to be done with ECT because I am not allowed to drive for the entire course of treatment. Asking for and arranging rides everywhere is really tough for me.

Living in two houses--at my friends most of the time and occasionally at my own house--is also quickly getting old. I love my friends. I love their home and appreciate their generosity, but I just want to get back to my life. This illness steals so much, big stuff (like my soul) and little stuff (like my daily routine). I want to go back to where I was in early February before this episode began. I want my life back.

I want my life back, yet I'm terrified of taking it back too soon. I don't want to fail. I want to get my life back and keep it. So I'm worried about returning home while simultaneously craving time alone in my house. Returning to work frightens me, yet I miss my patients and the structure my job provides. I want to run errands and be responsible for myself again, although I feel slightly overwhelmed by the prospect. Eventually, I need to take back what depression stole from me. It's knowing the correct timing which may be tricky.

Hopefully, the time for action will become clear as I move back into my life. The good news is I'm at a point where I can even consider such action. The ECT has helped. I am feeling better. And that, I think, is the best news of all.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 miles

I ran this morning! It's only the fourth time I've run since The Boston Marathon, and I could still feel Boston in my legs on those pesky downhills! I wanted to go 10 miles, as I need to begin training for Grandma's Marathon in June, and I made it 10.2 miles at a nice, quick pace. It was one of those feel-good runs. The weather was perfect, and I felt great. It was sure nice to be back out on the road.

I ran a hilly route. I guess I learned my lesson in Boston. I need to train more on the hills. Grandma's is a bit hilly. Like many marathons, there is a long, heartbreak hill right around mile 21. I've had to walk at least part of that hill the past couple of times I've run Grandma's. This year I'd like to conquer it in stride.

I'd like to have conquered this depression episode in stride as well, but it's still hanging onto me. I will have three more ECT treatments this week to try to shake it loose. I do feel better today. Yesterday was a long one, even though I began my day with my AA meeting, which was really nice. Apparently that meeting wore me out, because I slept for several hours once I returned. Obviously, I've got more energy today. Maybe depression's grip is loosening just a bit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sort of Home

As anticipated, I left the hospital yesterday after 14 days on the inpatient psych unit. My social worker gave me a ride home where I unpacked and repacked. I'd worn the same few things for the past 14 days, and I wanted nothing to do with those clothes anymore. I repacked my suitcase in order to go to my friends house where I will stay for the duration of my outpatient ECT. As usual, my friends Bill and Cindy are stepping up and taking good care of me.

I spent my first night here last night. It's just me and Bill for now, as Cindy is out of town. Unfortunately, the first night didn't go too well. I felt anxious and empty during the evening. And for the second time in the past 5 days, I cried myself to sleep. I was incredibly sad. I don't know why. The sadness just welled up from deep within, and I couldn't stop crying.

Today, the sadness and emptiness remains, and it has me quite distressed. I saw my psychiatrist this morning. She reassured me that sometimes, even after 6 ECT treatments, some patients do not notice an improvement. She told me it doesn't mean I won't improve, that I still could respond to the treatments remaining. At this point, it looks like I will be doing 10-12 treatments rather than the 8 for which I had hoped. I wish I felt as confident as my psychiatrist that things will improve.

The reality is I'm scared. I don't know things are going to improve. Nobody does. That scares me. There is no timetable to this illness. It doesn't have a nice beginning, middle and end. It waxes and wanes, comes and goes, usually on its own schedule and certainly not on mine. As I mentioned previously, the longer this episode goes unchecked the more hopeless, helpless, and discouraged I feel. I'm attacking it from every angle, and still I'm not improving. That's frightening. I'm not sure what else I can do.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Another couple days

I was supposed to leave last Friday, but I wasn't ready. On Saturday I felt ready to go, but the doctor disagreed. So I didn't leave. I planned on leaving Monday after ECT #5, but my treatment team decided it felt too rushed. My mood was still too low. They encouraged me to stay until at least ECT #6. I reluctantly agreed, and here I am. I will leave tomorrow. I will leave tomorrow at 3:00 PM to be exact! And I do think I will be ready to go.

It will be day 14 of this hospitalization by the time I walk out the door. I will have spent three of the last four weeks in an inpatient psychiatric unit. It wasn't my plan. I think back to early February, to my sobriety anniversary party, and to how great I was feeling then; to how great I had been feeling for months! It was only a few short weeks later when this depression episode, this relapse, began. Ironic. And amazing. It just goes to show how rapidly this illness can drag a person down.

I do feel better today. The mood dive that began last Thursday seems to have lifted a bit. I felt lighter after my treatment yesterday, and despite not sleeping well last night, I still feel lighter today. I am freaked out by how much fitness I am losing lying around in here, but even that makes me think I'm getting better. I didn't care enough to be freaked out about it last week. I am going to try to run on the treadmill today, but I can't wait to get back outside!

Tomorrow. I will be back outside tomorrow. And the next time you hear from me, I will be free; free of the confines of this healing place, and hopefully free of more of the darkness of the past 9 weeks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Extra days

You know what they say about the best laid plans... I had planned to go home yesterday. I was packed and ready. Then the doctor came in. She didn't like how sad I had been. She was concerned about my thinking. She didn't see the need to rush out the door. She didn't let me leave. Instead, I am here until at least Monday, when I will have my fifth ECT treatment. I say "at least" because I don't know if I'll be allowed to go tomorrow either. My mood has really been in the tank since Thursday, and that seems to be of great concern. I guess that makes sense.

Despite it making sense, I'm not happy to still be here. My low mood is greatly concerning to me, too, but I still want to go home. Fortunately, the MD gave me a pass yesterday to go for a 45 minute run outside with a friend. Passes are rarely allowed these days, so I felt very fortunate to be outdoors, freely running, breathing fresh air, and sharing time with my friend. I can't wait to get out of here and do it again!

I hope to get out of here tomorrow. I'm not sure what else I can accomplish here that I couldn't accomplish as an outpatient. Yes, as I was sobbing myself to sleep last night, it was nice to have someone sit with me. But I can sob myself to sleep without a sitter as well. If I have to sob myself to sleep, I'd rather do it in a comfortable bed.

Like I said, I am sad. Just plain sad. I wonder when this episode will end. I worry this episode will have no end. I am trying to stay positive; trying to stay present, but it's tough keeping those negative thoughts at bay. I pray for a boost in my mood soon. As more and more time passes, I feel more and more disappointed and discouraged. I want to be better. I want to get back to my life. I want to feel like me again. I don't want to feel so sad. I don't want to feel so sad...