Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
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!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A shared experience

I finally got around to reading my October Runner's World magazine today. One particular article had been recommended, and so I went there first. The article was about Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold medalist and 1976 Olympic silver medalist, in the marathon. He is widely known as the initiator of the 1970's running boom, and he remains revered within the running community to this day. I was anxious to read the article.

My anticipation stemmed from the article's focus. Titled Frank's Story, it detailed the abuse he endured as a child. In it, Frank Shorter discussed how his dad, a small town, heroic, doctor, mercilessly abused him and his siblings. He detailed his memories of walking on eggshells around his dad, listening to him climb the stairs before he chose which sibling to beat with a belt, and of his father's competition with his own children--belittling their accomplishments rather than celebrating them. Those details were all too familiar to me.

I was so moved by Frank's Story, and his brutal honesty, that I looked him up. I found him, too. After a few deep breaths, I dialed his number. I recognized his voice on his voicemail, so I left him a message. I told him how much I respected his honesty and openness, and I let him know I shared many of his memories. I left my phone number, and three hours later he called back. We talked for quite awhile--me and an Olympic gold medalist--and I hung up amazed. Our shared experience brought us together in a way nothing else ever could. Amazing.

And just now, I am realizing that's exactly what I'm doing with you through this blog. Sharing experiences... Most of you don't have a clue who I am, and yet we are here, together, because of our shared experiences, whether that's running, or depression, or a little of both. I'm so grateful for my interaction with Mr. Shorter today, and I'm thankful you are here, too, sharing my experiences with me. Thank you.


Kinza said...

That's incredibly nice of you to call him, and even nicer of him to call you back!
But, you somehow hinted here that you are "too familiar" with the abuse, which made me, of course, wonder...
Since sometimes you almost apologize for feeling well, I wanted to reassure you that should not bother readers who follow you due to their interest in depression. But I also wanted to suggest that it would be interesting to reveal your view of the roots of your depression from a healthier distance, precisely when you are feeling better. For example, were you a more quite and quickly sad even as a child? Being where you are, with all your experience and insights now, do you think your disease is genetic or experience-caused? For example, in my case it is both, although there are no dramatic experiences behind me, I just never felt really loved. My personality and looks are almost scarily equal to my mother's, however she managed to be special in her family and then married well. Oh, well, I am happy for her :-))

etta said...

Yes, Kinza, I shared the same abusive experience that Mr. Shorter did.
As far as the roots of my is my firm belief that it is a medical, biological illness no different than cancer. And like cancer, anyone can get it, regardless of experiences, socioeconomic status, race, gender, etc...
Having said that, I do have mental illness, especially mood disorders, in my family tree. This genetic predisposition likely influenced my teenage depression. That is, I may have been more likely to get it under such stressful circumstances. But I don't see it as cause and effect. I think it is a contributing factor. Otherwise, every kid who was beaten would suffer major depression, and that just is not the case.
As for my adult depression, it came out of the blue when life was sailing along beautifully. Like cancer, I did nothing to deserve it and suffered no trauma prior to its arrival. It was just an unfortunate illness which set upon me. Thankfully, I've survived and even thrived since its emergence.
Thanks for your comment. I hope I answered at least part of your question.

Kinza said...

You did, and so quickly, thanks.
OF COURSE you did nothing to deserve depression!!!
It is interesting comparing depression to cancer. But even with cancer, I believe there must be some genetic predisposition and external (physical and psychological) triggers. Well, you might be right, maybe there is no use in analyzing the reasons, and it is better to just focus on healing and fighting... However, I feel stronger, or at least able to protect myself better, if I understand myself better.
We are all so different. Your illness seems stronger than mine, but you are fighting it much better than I do. So your approach could as well be better. I do admire you!
Take care.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all you have shared with your readers- I suspect they are loyal and many! I found your blog in a time of despair, fighting the return of a depression that just won't stay away, and was very drawn to your journey through tough times and better ones too. Reading your entries showed me what depression makes it hard to believe- that things sometimes get worse, but also can get better- and that there is a point to keeping up the fight. Thanks again for your wisdom and the hope your writing brings.

Anonymous said...

aaawww Etta I had tears in my eyes reading your post. How exciting to speak to an Olympic athlete ~ PERIOD! But for him to make the gracious effort to call you and share?? ~ That is what we around here like to call a "sacred moment." I love this story. I love the bravery it took to contact him and the bravery it takes to share with "us". And while I hate what u each edured ~ I respect the hell outta u both for the way you survived and thrive!! Don't you just love the cool way God will suddenly do something super cool just to show u how much he loves u!! Who knows!!! Maybe u guys could collaborate on an organization that trians runners w depession....u could call it Running into the light LOL again sharing your joy..... Maggie Beth

Anonymous said...

Hello just stumbled across your blog, and want to say how beautiful your words are. Keep up with the running, I myself have an injury at the moment and I'm due to run the Loch Ness Marathon on Sunday i've raised over £1000 for charity and am getting sick with worry I may not be able to complete the run. Kelly