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, December 31, 2011

Back Inside

I had my third ECT treatment yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn't return home afterwards. I was feeling so low I was in tears, and I was re-hospitalized. I think I am now here for at least one week or more. The doctor wants to do my remaining ECT treatments while I'm an inpatient rather than an outpatient. I'm hoping he doesn't want to do all ten while I'm here, because that would put me here for another 2-3 weeks. I simply can't afford that. Next weekend--that's my goal. I don't think I'd be able to stand it much longer than that.

Despite the fact that I'm back inpatient, things are going okay. My body is really tired, so I've not yet had the energy to exercise. Besides attending the required education groups, I've spent much of the last couple days sleeping. At least I have my computer now, so I can keep this blog updated. But I miss Puck, and I miss being outside already. I think it's going to be a long week. But that's okay, too. The reality was I couldn't continue living the way I was, so this is, for now, the place for me to be. Things can only get better from here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2191 Days

Six years ago today, I took my last drink. It's another birthday for me. It's hard to imagine my life today had I not quit drinking. In fact, I doubt I would have a life today. It's much more likely I'd be dead. And even in the dark moments of these recent weeks, I know I am privileged to be leading the life I lead. I have safe housing, a healthy body, the time and ability to do things I love, a wonderful dog, a new relationship, and I'm surrounded by amazing friends and professionals who care about me. None of that would have been possible without sobriety. I'm humbled by and grateful for my sobriety today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

ECT--it's a waiting process

I had my first ECT treatment today. I got home from D's house last night, spent the evening re-settling into my home, and got up early this morning to get going. I arrived at the hospital around 8:00 AM to begin the process.

My least favorite part of the process is waiting. After having our vitals taken, one by one, each patient is sent to a tiny room with about 8 chairs to wait. It is a tiny, box shaped room with chairs along each wall which face each other. There is just barely enough space to walk between them on your way to a seat. There is no music, nothing to distract your attention, and similar to an elevator, I find myself staring at the floor in order to avoid the eyes of the person directly across from me.

As you can imagine, this teeny room is filled with all sorts of ill characters. After all, we wouldn't be there if we weren't ill! I prefer to sit in silence and generally bring something to read, which is a little silly, as I can barely concentrate on reading. This morning the woman next to me, so close I had to avoid touching her, kept looking over at my reading material. That was annoying. She was also the token patient, there's always one, who preferred to talk out loud regardless of whether anyone responded! That drives me crazy. The poor soul across from me was so nervous he kept holding his breath. Every 10-15 seconds, he'd discontinue his apneic period with a long, loud, exhalation. He did this over and over again. Ugh! If the room was a fraction larger, and if depression didn't make me irritable, perhaps these idiosyncrasies wouldn't be noticed or annoying. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We wait in this tiny room for what feels like an eternity. One by one we are called out to see a physician's assistant. There is an expectant rush about the room every time the P.A. opens the door to select the next person on his list. My name is never called soon enough. This morning, I waited in the tiny room for about 35 minutes, but in the past I've been there for over an hour.

After meeting individually with the P.A. for about 5 minutes, we each get transferred onto a surgical gurney in another room. This is the room where our I.V.'s are started, heart monitoring electrodes are placed, and the blood pressure cuff is applied. There are three rolling gurneys in this room. Once we're poked and set up, we wait to enter the ECT suite. Again, I tried to read. I have no idea how long I waited in this room today, but it felt like 15-20 minutes.

Finally, I got rolled into the ECT suite. As soon as the gurney was in place, the ECT team was active. The waiting was over, as the anesthesiologist almost immediately injected the medicine, and I was asleep within 10 seconds. I woke up in the recovery room some time after that. More waiting ensued as I sipped on some juice and awaited the arrival of my ride home. The whole process, which required a lot of patience, took about 2.75 hours.

I spent the rest of the day lying low. As usual, I slept for a couple hours after ECT. I had a bit of a headache, but it never became severe. Because of the holiday yesterday, I actually will have my second of the three weekly treatments tomorrow. I've never had back-to-back ECT before, so I'm not sure what to expect. Except for the waiting, of course...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Inpatient, Outpatient, ECT

You may have been wondering where I've been. I was hospitalized Wednesday night. I didn't want to go. I didn't want to be there, but it was the safest, most sane place for me to be. While inpatient, I had no access to a computer, so no updates for you and no therapeutic writing for me.

I got out of the hospital yesterday just in time to drive to my boyfriend's home for his family Christmas party. It was a huge affair with too much food, lots of people and an equal amount of revelry. It was very fun, albeit a bit overwhelming. But it was a great distraction from the misery of the past few weeks.

The plan is to return home tomorrow and begin outpatient ECT treatments on Tuesday. I will likely end up doing 6-10 treatments, just as I did last spring. Again, this is not where I wanted this relapse to take me, but it is the only option left to deal with the pain I've been in.

Unfortunately, ECT treatments will put me in a world of hurt financially, as I will not be able to work for perhaps up to 4 weeks. I'm going to be a rebel and try to get in a few days here and there, but I don't yet know if that will be possible. I am also not allowed to drive, and therefore I will need to negotiate rides everywhere. There are many other issues, including telling my work and explaining things to D, but I've only got time for the above update right now.

As usual, I will appreciate any prayers and support during this incredibly difficult time.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I understand I'm not

I don't understand
the ups and downs.
The rapid descents
following the sanity
discourage the most.

Nobody can tell me
what's going on.
Focus on getting through,
that's what they say.

But I can't understand
these rapid descents.
Crashing to earth
after feeling so,
dare I say,

I want to understand
what's going on.
Struggling through 
is admirable,
but it doesn't make it stop.
Understanding leads to treatment,
does it not?

Is it depression?
Is it character defect?
What's wrong with me?
Why can't normal last?
What did I do
to deserve such pain?

Everyone thinks
I am so strong.
But even I
can only take so much.

Everyone thinks
I am so strong.
But I'm afraid.
I'm afraid I'm not.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Happy Birthday!

It's my birthday. Wow, I'm getting old! I remember when I used to think 40 was so old! Now I'm a bit into my 40's...yikes! I am blessed. I have everything I need, but it is a little tough for me to get older. I can't help but think about every year that passes, and what could have been, if not for depression altering my life. I'm grateful to still be a living, active participant in life. But I can't help but feel there is so much more I could be doing.

D and I had a conversation along these lines yesterday. He is a real worker-bee. He is very career oriented and quite successful. He's been working, and working hard, for over 35 years. I, on the other hand, can't seem to work 3 days in a row without having a meltdown. Whereas I used to work full-time, I now manage only part-time employment with success. I've tried working more, but I get overwhelmed, tired, and out of balance very quickly. I want to work more. I'd like to be a whole lot more financially comfortable than I am. I plan to work more. I just don't know when that plan will ever go into effect.

D and I both know this is a major difference in our lives. We discussed it yesterday. I worry he misses out on some of life by spending hours at work. I apologized for some recent comments I'd made which indicated just that. I also explained why I no longer work full-time. I'm sure it is hard for him to understand. I did my best to explain it, but for someone with as strong a work ethic as he has, I know it's probably difficult to comprehend. Regardless, it was a good conversation covering something I think we've both been worried, or at least thinking, about.

We've had a nice time together this weekend. It's been so great seeing him two weekends in a row. It will soon be three weekends in a row, as I'm going to spend Christmas with him and his family next weekend! We've relaxed more and talked more this weekend, and I've been happy.

Last night we spent hours at Bill and Cindy's house for dinner. There were six of us, as my sponsor and her husband joined us for the birthday celebration as well. Bill and Cindy made an amazing, huge prime rib meal. Everything was beautiful. I was so grateful to be surrounded by so much love.

And that's what I need to keep in mind this birthday. Not what I can no longer do, have, or be, but rather what I can do, what I do have, and who I can be. I am blessed. I have a life filled with satisfying work, people I love, activities I enjoy, and a lovable, loyal dog. I have everything I need.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Okay. That's how things have been going since the weekend. Okay. My mood has dipped a bit since Sunday's post. Actually it's dipped a lot a few times, but I've survived. I'm working hard on dealing with the dips by remembering they are only temporary. Along those lines, I heard something great at a meeting last night. One woman laughed and said that she somewhere got the idea that she would always feel good. We all laughed and nodded right along with her. She expanded on the thought. She told us if she didn't feel good, she assumed it meant something was terribly wrong. Again, I nodded. What a thought, huh?

It made me think. Perhaps some of my angst would be relieved if I remember life isn't always supposed to feel good. So simple. And, when I don't feel good, perhaps I need to relax before concluding something is terribly wrong. Maybe all these years of depression have made me too sensitive to the little dips. I know I can survive. I've survived in the past. I need to remember that.

So things have been okay. I'm working as scheduled. I cleaned my house. I paid my bills. I walked/ran with Puck yesterday, and I plan to swim tomorrow. My knee is coming along. It gets sore after work and after my walk/runs, but overall, it's slowly healing, I think. Mentally, I'd like to feel better. I'm not back to full strength, but I'm nowhere near as low as I was just one week ago. I'm grateful to be feeling okay.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A good weekend

It is nearing the end of the weekend, and the good news is things have gone well. I am with my boyfriend, D, at his house. We've been together for the past two days. We've been busy, and I think that has helped keep my mood in check.

We were especially busy yesterday. I had trouble sleeping overnight, so I was out of bed very early. D awoke several hours later and we took Puck out for some exercise. Did I mention the doctor is now letting me walk/run a little bit? Well, that's what we did for a couple of miles. It wasn't much, but it was certainly better than nothing. It was cold, but the sun was very bright. It was nice to be outside together in the crisp, sunny air.

After our brief encounter with exercise, we went to see the movie, j. edgar. It was excellent. Surprisingly, I was able to stay focused throughout. I'd been having a lot of trouble concentrating and staying focused since my mood tanked. Again, it was nice to spend the time together with D.

Our big event of the weekend happened last evening. I believe I mentioned in my last post that D invited me to his company holiday party? It was a semi-formal affair in a local museum, which we had all to ourselves. Despite my anxiety, it was a very nice event with about 70 people in attendance. I felt honored to be introduced to D's colleagues, and he thought I looked "pretty" in my semi-formal attire. Perhaps I'll post a picture soon.

After the company party, we actually went out to a bar. D's son was having a party in a local establishment, so we dropped in to say hello. There was live music and lots of revelry. It was fun. And I finally got to meet one of D's best friends. He said D speaks highly of me. I felt good about that.

Today brought a little more exercise, brunch at a trendy little restaurant, relaxation and football. We are both football fans so we spent time watching our teams. His won. Mine didn't. It's been a little slower day, which has been nice, too.

I've been able to take time for myself, as needed, over the weekend. D's been respectful of my need to nap, for example. In fact, I just woke up! I've struggled with a little anxiety here and there, but the overwhelming, unremitting sadness has, for now, given me a reprieve. I hope, as I make my way home and back into my routine, the reprieve will last. I think I'll say a little prayer for that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Focus forward

There's no change thus far in the mood department, but I'm tired of writing about that. I'd rather turn my focus forward. Today I am preparing for a weekend away with D. Actually, I've been preparing for several days, as he and I are attending his semi-formal Christmas party on Saturday. Semi-formal is not something with which I am typically associated. I had to go shopping.

It's hard to shop when feeling heavy and tearful. Fortunately, I found a couple of items fairly quickly and bought them without even trying them on. I couldn't get out of that store fast enough. My friend, Cindy, took over from there. I tried on a couple of combinations of skirts and tops for her, and we settled on a lovely combination of black on black! How appropriate! At least the color of my outfit will match my mood! Cindy set me up with a couple of accessories, like a black velvet coat, and I am apparently all set.

I am actually looking forward to this event. It's been a really long time since I've gotten all dressed up. And if I do say so myself, I believe I will look rather stunning despite how I've been feeling! Maybe I'll post some pictures and let you be the judge. Regardless of my appearance, I am looking forward to an evening of getting outside myself, focusing on others in the moment, and having some fun. As difficult as life has been recently, it's nice to focus forward for a change. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sometimes survival is ugly

Another Monday, and here I am. I am dressed and ready for work again. The weekend was long. I wish I could say it was pretty, but it wasn't. I grappled with the decision of whether or not to go to the hospital more than once. I was so low, suicide crept in and took up residence in my brain. I couldn't see a way out, and I couldn't stand feeling so miserable any longer.

Yet here I am. It's Monday. I survived. I pulled out all the stops and did what I needed to do. I talked to a lot of people over the weekend, friends and professionals alike. I wrote a lot. I ranted against the devil of depression, as I was furious with this illness. I took my meds as prescribed, including the as-needed meds I don't always like to take. I exercised when I could. It wasn't much, but it was better than nothing. I slept a lot. My energy was sapped, and sleep, at least, was a good diversion. I did the best I could, and this morning things appear slightly brighter. I survived.

I don't like writing about feeling so miserable. Maybe I want to be some sort of depression hero, one who always puts up a noble, beautiful fight. But this weekend the truth was uglier than that. At times I was a tearful, crumbled mess rather than a poised, striking statue. Despite the ugliness, I made it through. It's Monday. Here I am. I'm still fighting the not-always-beautiful fight, and I'm hoping the battle will be over soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Glad it's Friday

I last wrote here before work on Monday. Now I'm in the midst of my morning routine, and it's Friday. It's been a really long week. I haven't had the motivation or the words to write since Monday. My mood continues to challenge me to the fullest. I'm not sure how I've survived.

I did my best to travel the path God laid before me. I made it to work. I went to my meetings. I met with and worked with my sponsee. I took Puck for his walks. I even made it to the pool once for a swim. But my mood did not respond.

Despite participating in life (to the best of my ability), my mood continues to be very dark. There have been a lot of tears, a lot of hours lying motionless on the sofa, and a lot of moments of sheer, isolative misery. It's been tough.

I've tried to combat the darkness by communicating with my treatment team. Yesterday I met with my social worker and doctor. My doc increased one of my meds. We all hope that will do the trick. If not, I'm not sure what options lie ahead. In the meantime, I need to work hard to keep myself safe and moving forward, I guess. But honestly, that's getting more and more difficult to do. I'm praying for a reprieve.