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!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The conversation

As planned, I had the big depression conversation with D this past weekend. In fact, I got it out of the way within a few hours of arriving. We were sitting together on the couch when I came out with it. And you know what? It didn't seem to be a big deal. He seemed to take it in stride.

The talk itself was relatively short. Mostly I talked, and he listened. I was expecting a lot of questions, but he only asked one which I remember. He wanted to know if I took medication. That's all. I wish he had asked a few more questions, actually. Answering questions would have allowed me to expand on the information I gave him. Instead he got just the basic outline of my story, nothing more.

I told him I've had depression since November, 2000. I told him I took medication. I told him I had been hospitalized for it. I told him fatigue was a lingering symptom and the primary reason I no longer worked full time. I explained that I'd been relatively stable for quite awhile, and I even told him about this blog.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to tell him many details. I didn't tell him about the number of hospitalizations. I didn't tell him about the suicide attempts. I didn't explain other treatments I've had, like ECT. I didn't tell him about disability. And I didn't explain what depression had taken from my life. I felt like I left a lot out.

Perhaps what I told him was enough information for him for now. Perhaps that's why he didn't quiz me. He sat quietly, asked his one question, and that was about it. I had to be okay with that. He's a contemplative guy, and perhaps that's what he needed to do--contemplate.

Depression came up in normal conversation a few more times throughout the weekend, but that was it. I wanted to say more, but I decided to let it go. I figure it's out there now. Perhaps he will have more questions for me in the future. If not, I guess more of the story will slowly come out.

The good news is he didn't treat me any differently the rest of the weekend. Everything continued forward without a glitch. In fact, everything went great! Our relationship seems to be growing stronger with every moment spent together. It's nice. I'm happy. And I'm so relieved the depression conversation is now behind me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An unexpected result

The good news is my left calf did not hurt one bit during Saturday's marathon. It was absolutely fine. The rest, painful massages, Epsom salt ice baths, stretching, and prayers must have worked, for I didn't even feel a twinge of discomfort. Unfortunately, there is bad news as well. Despite the lack of expected calf pain, I did not finish the marathon. For only the third time in my life, I dropped out of a race.

DNF (Did Not Finish) are three letters I don't like to see following my name in any race result, but Saturday just wasn't my day. I have no other explanation than that. I felt great on Friday. I ate well, hydrated, and rested appropriately. The weather was nearly perfect Saturday morning. I felt ready and had only the typical nervous anticipation prior to the start. But I think that's where the normalcy ended. Shortly after the gun went off, I had an inkling something wasn't quite right.

Perhaps I started a bit too fast. Although my pace was nearly the same as I ran at Grandma's Marathon just two months ago, I couldn't catch my breath. I chalked it up to nervousness and tried to distract myself with some gratitude prayers. At each mile, throughout the mile, I thanked God for a different person in my life. The distraction worked until mile 5 when our flat course suddenly became gigantically hilly. It was a course change I hadn't expected. My quick pace bit me in the ass.

For the next three miles we summitted 4 hills, each one longer and steeper than the last. I hung in there up and over the first three hills, but by hill number four I was in distress. First of all, my GI system was off, which forced an emergent bathroom stop. Then the lengthy fourth hill slowed me to a walk half way from the top. The steep descent on the other side must have torn me up, too, because by the time our path flattened around mile 8, my legs were trashed. The hills were done, and so, I feared, was I.

It was more than just my legs giving way. My shortness of breath, which the hills exacerbated, never ceased. And my energy all but disappeared. I felt cooked, and I was only at mile 8! Dismayed, I tried to soldier on. I walked at mile markers. I joined up with other runners in hopes they would pull me along. I walked through water stops. I waited for the bad spot to pass. But Saturday, for whatever reason, the bad spot only worsened. Despite my pride in perseverance, stubbornness, and personal pep talks, my body just wouldn't go.

I ran and walked from miles 8 through 12 while still maintaining a reasonable pace. But after mile 13, in which I walked more than I ran, I finally gave up. I wasn't having fun. I knew if I continued it would be a really long day. So one hour and fifty five minutes into the race, at exactly mile 13.1, I dropped out. I was disappointed nearly to tears, but it was the right decision and knowing that kept my chin up. I caught a ride to the finish where D was waiting, first with surprise and then with a hug. My day was done.

This was a small blip of disappointment in an otherwise excellent weekend. Believe it or not, while I know I could have finished, I'm proud of myself for making what was probably the wiser decision. My focus now is on recovering, resting, and preparing better for October. After all, the Twin Cities Marathon is only 5 weeks away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wait and see

Sipping my morning cup of coffee, watching SportsCenter, it looks like a beautiful day outside. I'd usually be working out right now, but today is a rest day in advance of my marathon this weekend. So I have a little more time to relax this morning before work. It's nice, I guess, but I'd rather be doing something a bit more active. It feels too early to wait.

Waiting. That's what I'm doing. I'm waiting for Saturday to arrive, and I'm waiting to see if my calf will cooperate with running 26.2 miles. I had another massage yesterday. It wasn't uncomfortable, so I think I am healing. I attempted a 2 mile run/walk with Puck last night. There was no pain, but my left calf wasn't quite right yet. I was encouraged that at least there was no pain. I think Saturday will be okay, but there is nothing left to do now except wait.

I don't know about you, but I am not terribly skilled at waiting. Whether I'm waiting for an injury to heal or for an episode of depression to lift, patience is difficult. But I'm more skilled at it than I used to be. You wouldn't think I'd be able to relate a calf injury to depression, but watch this. I think I'm better at waiting out these little running injuries because of my experience with depression. Seriously.

Depression has taught me patience. I'm no expert, but like I said, I'm way more patient than I used to be. Depression forces that on us, doesn't it? It arrives for no reason. It often sticks around despite treatment and/or lifestyle changes. And frequently it lifts just as mysteriously as it arrived. We have no choice but to wait it out.

Some of us have waited, and waited, and waited. At least with my running injuries, I can take steps which almost certainly guarantee healing. Patience is a skill more easily practiced when I know I am doing what needs to be done. While depression is my chronic companion, I've learned the dark episodes are temporary. They do lift eventually. In the same manner, I know this injury will heal. It may not be on my time, but if I can survive the debilitating effects of depression, I can easily survive a little muscle injury. I just need to practice patience, do what I can, and wait. And that's what I'm trying to do.

I leave tomorrow for my race. I may not have another chance to write before the marathon. I'll let you know how everything turns out. I guess it's now your turn to wait. Hopefully, the waiting will be rewarding for all of us.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No running, but healing

I had a really good weekend of workouts and relaxation. My calf is still sore. I had a painful deep massage Thursday evening, but I felt better Friday, so I guess the pain was worth it. It feels like my calf is slowly improving.

Yesterday I didn't even attempt to run. I swam 1.5 miles instead. I was really proud of myself. I planned to swim one mile, rest, and then swim another half mile. I felt okay at the one mile mark, so I thought I'd just do a few more laps before resting. Well, before I knew it, I had my sights set on finishing the whole distance, and I did! It was tough, as I haven't swum that far in an awful long time, but I finished it. It was a good substitute for the 10 mile run I had scheduled.

Today I spent the entire morning with friends Bill and Cindy. They just returned from a coastal vacation, so I hadn't seen them in over a week. We hung out in the beautiful morning sunshine, drank coffee, chatted, laughed, and then went out for lunch. It was lovely. I so appreciate them, and I am so happy they are in my life.

After lunch I took a very restful nap. Then I headed out for today's workout. I rode 25 miles on a local bike trail. I rode hard. It's a relatively flat trail. I averaged almost 20 miles per hour, and I was happy with that. It was gorgeous, perfect weather for a ride. I'm pleasantly tired right now, but I still need to take my boy for a walk. That will be a nice end to a very nice day.

My mood continues to be good. The mental health stability certainly is nice. Physically, I think I will be okay for my marathon this weekend, as it feels like my calf is healing. And of course I'm looking forward to seeing D again. We will spend the weekend at his home, as the race is not far from where he lives. I'm looking forward to another good weekend ahead. Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Damn injury!

I'm only nine days away from my next marathon, and my calf hurts! I'm limping. I thought it was better, so I went for my tempo run this morning. Unfortunately, 3 miles from home my calf began to cramp. I stopped. I stretched. I ran again. It stayed tight, but it didn't get any worse as I made my way home. Well, it's worse now. It hurts.

I'm working on making it better. I've scheduled a massage for later today. I've iced it several times throughout the day, and I may try some ultrasound tomorrow. It still hurts.

I'm getting worried. I have nine days to get this thing right. Of course I want to run the marathon. And unless it gets worse, I probably will. But I'd rather it didn't hurt. If it hurts, running the race will be much less fun. I hope it gets better, and I hope it gets better soon. I'm worried it won't.

I hate being injured!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Another good weekend

I spent another weekend away with my new friend, D, at his lake home. We had a great time again. We did pretty much the same stuff as last time. We ate good food, ran together, biked together, saw family--his and mine, went out on the boat, had coffee and conversation, and generally relaxed. It continues to be nice when we are together, and I am really enjoying getting to know him. I think we are both getting comfortable with each other. It was such a nice weekend, I smiled the whole way home.

We both arrived Friday evening. We got up early Saturday to run. D is training for two half marathons, one each of the next two weekends, and my marathon is less than two weeks away. I was hoping to do 12-13 miles, but my left calf cramped around mile 4. I ended up sending D on his way while I walked and slowly jogged back to the car. I made it 8 miles, but my calf is still sore today. I was unable to run my speed workout today and had to swim instead. I think it's just cramped, and I expect it will be better soon. That's my hope anyway.

We spent Saturday night with D's family and some friends. They made a delicious meal and built a big fire in their fire pit near the lake. The weather was perfect and the company was delightful. We sat around the fire and laughed at various comical life stories. It was really fun.

We took my parents out on the boat on Sunday and then had them over for dinner. I got to go waterskiing, which was fun, although I did have a pretty spectacular wipe out! My parents really like D, and he seems very comfortable with them. We had a wonderful grilled salmon dinner. D is actually quite a good cook. I was impressed. I don't enjoy cooking, and I'm not good at it. I'm a hell of a dish washer, though! Anyway, we all ate too much and went to bed happy. It was a nice evening.

Nice, fun, relaxing...Those were the general themes throughout the weekend. I wish D and I weren't so far away from each other, but so far we seem to be making it work. I'm happy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Another weekend away

I'm off for another weekend at the lake with D. I'm looking forward to seeing him. I'm looking forward to our long run together tomorrow morning and grilling a great dinner together tomorrow night. I'll see my parents, too, while I'm there. I'm hoping to take them out on the water with us, and maybe we'll even get in some waterskiing. Puck will be there, too, of course. Did I tell you Puck was the first dog ever allowed in D.'s lake home? I told D. from the first day that we (Puck and I) were a matched set. Apparently he heard me, and now Puck's charmed his socks off anyway! It's all good. I can't wait to get going.

I'm only two weeks out from my next marathon now. D and I will run 12-15 miles tomorrow morning and then the serious tapering begins. I had a great week of running and working out this week. I'm feeling really good, and I think I'm ready. I have no plans or goals for this race. I'm going to wait and see. If the weather cooperates, and I'm feeling good in the first few miles, then I may go for a good time. If it's hot and humid, a distinct possibility, or I'm not feeling great those first miles, then I will focus less on time and more on enjoying the experience. Either way, it should be fun. D is running the half marathon, so we'll be there together and spend the rest of that weekend together, too.

I'm off now. I hope you all have a great weekend. Take time out for yourself. Find some fun. Focus less on illness and more on moments. And enjoy each moment to its fullest. That's what I'm going to try to do. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Speaking up

I stood in front of a church sanctuary full of people Sunday morning and opened my folder. In it I had a journal entry I had written 8 years ago followed by 4 pages summarizing my journey with depression. I took a deep breath, and I began. Nine minutes later I returned silently to my seat, and the service continued.

I participated in a service dedicated to educating our congregation about mental illness. Everything in the service was tied to mental illness in one way or another, even the music. Until Sunday I had no idea the composer Robert Schuman struggled with bipolar disorder his entire life and actually died in an insane asylum. Besides me, there were four others who shared their journeys. It was a powerful, somber service.

I'm so glad I shared. I procrastinated preparing for it until the day before. But once I got going, the words flowed. The journal piece I started my presentation with is quite descriptive of the despair which is depression. It seems to make people sit up and take notice. From there, my story is powerful enough, I guess, because the feedback I got after the service was amazing. It was a great experience.

All of the stories were powerful. All were unique but shared common themes of loneliness, despair, stigma, and pain. We all received support and positive feedback afterwards. I was stunned and humbled by the amount of passionate feedback I received. This was one of the most positive speaking experiences I've ever had. I hope some of you find similar opportunities to have your voices heard. I recommend it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A gratitude day

I was up early this morning. Today was my last scheduled 20-miler before my marathon, which is only 3 weeks away. I was outside running by 5:00 AM. It was dark and very humid. Puck and I did our typical warm-up loop together before I dropped him at home and went out to complete my own 8 mile loop. By 4 miles, the sun was coming up. The sky was filled with light, fluffy, pink clouds. It was beautiful. I thanked God.

That thank you started my gratitude list. As I ran, I thought of all my good fortune. I thanked God for the foot path and the healthy body with which I was performing. I was so lucky to be out there at that beautiful time of day, feeling well, and doing something I loved. I thanked God for my new relationship and the excitement it has brought to my life. And I thanked God for those who have helped me get this far.

I have been given so much by so many people. One by one I thanked God for each of them. First up was my doctor, with whom I have been working for almost ten years. I don't know what I'd do without her. She has seen me through thick and thin. Next came my therapist. She's also been with me for awhile. She's given me her best when I've been at my worst, and she's another big reason I was out enjoying dawn this morning. I thanked God for my social worker. She's made herself available no matter what my dilemma. As the sun continued to slide, I included friends like Bill and Cindy. I could write an entire post about how much they mean in my life. I love them both. On and on I went, thanking God for all of them. I've been blessed.

Before I knew it, the miles had passed, and I was back at home. I jumped in my car and headed out for my 11 mile race. Yes, I did an 11 mile race as part of my 20-miler.  I tried to remain grateful as I raced along the lovely trail on which the race was run. It was an out and back course, and if it had been about one mile shorter it would have been perfect. I ran around 8 minutes per mile until the last two miles, which is when I crashed. Nevertheless, I finished in the top 5 women (there weren't many women there) and first in my age group. It hurt a lot, and I'm not sure I'll do that again, but I'm pleased with the results. I think my training has prepared me well for this upcoming marathon. Again, I'm grateful for that.

Thinking about what's going well, thanking God for those around me, and having an attitude of gratitude keep me stable today. We all have something for which we can be grateful even when the black hole of depression sucks us in. It's important for me to remember that. Gratitude gives us a break from grief, distracts us from misery, or adds a special dimension to a scenic run. I am grateful today.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A great weekend!

I'm recovering from my weekend away. It was so nice to be on a lake in a nice spot with someone I care about. I just wish it wasn't 5.5 hours away. That long drive was exhausting! But it was worth it. Puck and I spent the weekend with my new friend, D., and we had a great time together. The sun shone brightly. The air was warm. We ran. We boated. We grilled out. We talked. It was really nice.

We had several nice, long talks over the course of 4 days, but we didn't discuss The Big D. Depression was not on the topic list. I felt good about that decision. We were still getting to know each other, and the time was not right. I feel more strongly now that there will be a right time, and I feel more confident that it will be okay when I do tell him. I'm less anxious than I was, but I'm sure it will still be nerve-wracking when we have the discussion.

One of the other nice things D. and I did together was a 12 mile long run Saturday morning. There is a very nice bike trail near his home. In fact, that bike trail is where we first met. We ran through the woods together, and although he thought I'd run faster than him, we matched paces really well. I don't usually run with other people, but it provided us with more time to get to know each other. It was a relaxed, fun run.

I'm getting back into my normal routine now. Work has been very busy and shows no sign of slowing down. My training continues to go well. I ran a 6, 3/4 mile repeats today. It was a hard workout, as I think I'm still fatigued from the weekend activities, but I got it done. And I have my last 20-miler prior to the marathon scheduled for this Saturday. Only 3.5 weeks until my next 26.2 mile race!

Things are going well. I'm still smiling from the weekend. It feels good to have something so wonderful to smile about. I wish D. and I lived closer to one another, but that's not the way it is. We'll just have to work a little harder if this thing is going to work out. And right now I certainly hope it does.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm back

Just a quick note to say hello. I am back home after a long weekend with my new friend, D. We had a great weekend together--a great weekend! But right now I'm too tired to write much more. I'll be back here tomorrow with the full scoop. Until then...