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!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Looking Ahead

As we all know, no matter how we feel, life moves on. One of the events I am moving toward is The Boston Marathon. It is now only 11 weeks away, and I am as far out of running shape as I've been in the past 3-5 years. I managed a couple of 3-milers on the hospital treadmill while inpatient, and I've not done much more than that since coming home. On top of being plain out of shape, my right leg is still quite weak as a result of my knee surgery last October. Running, right now, is really difficult and no fun.

I've actually been contemplating skipping Boston, as 11 weeks is not really enough time to go from zero to the marathon, but I'd rather not skip it. It's important for me to go. It's important for me to get back in shape. It's important because going and getting back in shape are both ways for me to fight back--to battle against this ever-present depression--and to reclaim at least one positive aspect of my life.

I'm talking tough, but it's all talk. I really don't feel confident that I'll be able to battle back in time for Boston, but I've got to try. Today's effort consisted of a 4-mile long run. A 4-mile long run is a bit silly, but that's where I'm at. I was near tears by mile three. I'm not accustomed to running being so difficult, and I had to work hard to battle discouragement. Four miles was better than nothing.

My mood continues to be problematic. I am low, low, low. It's frustrating and scary. My mother is leaving tomorrow. It's been nice to have her here, and I'm a little worried about being alone again. I'm going to continue working an abbreviated schedule this week. The decision regarding disability, I figure, will eventually become clear. Life moves on. I've got to continue to move with it. I appreciate all of your comments, suggestions, and support as I battle through this difficult time. Thank you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

One moment to the next

I would love to begin this post by reporting that things are much improved around here. Unfortunately, I can't. I'm still feeling very, very low. I don't know why. I've stopped trying to figure it out. It is what it is. And I'm trying to move from one moment to the next as gracefully as possible.

My mother is here. She's been making me soups and freezing them. She also helped me sort through my bills and get my tax information gathered together. It's been good having her here. It's nice to have another person in my home. It makes life a little less lonely right now.

I returned to work on Monday. I've been working 4-5 hours every other day. I feel overwhelmed and incompetent at work. I think I'm doing an okay job, but I don't feel okay. I know I've done better at other times. My boss has been incredibly accommodating, and she's not pressuring me at all. But I put pressure on myself--pressure to work faster, pressure to work more efficiently, and pressure to work more hours. I feel bad leaving so much of the work for my boss. She's pulling more than her weight, and I feel guilty about that.

I'm actually in the process of deciding whether to keep my job or not. One option I have is to take disability. For the life of me, I can't make a decision about what to do. There are pros and cons to working, and there are pros and cons to taking disability (I would still work intermittently while on disability). My mom thinks I'm rushing back into regular work too soon. But mom is the only one willing to provide an opinion. Members of my treatment team are willing to discuss it, but none of them are willing to provide an opinion, so the decision is up to me. I value work, which is why I've gone back, but there are also valid reasons not to work. At this point, I'm hoping the decision will become clear as I move from one moment to the next.

I'm moving from moment to moment as gracefully as I can, but, damn, I wish I felt better! Unfortunately, I don't. It is what it is. All I can do, all I've been doing, is move forward one day at a time. I'm doing the best I can. I appreciate the support I've received here. It really is helpful knowing some of you understand. Thank you for all of your feedback and encouragement. I'll keep going if you will.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Still Overwhelmed

I've been home for a few days now. I'm not doing very well. I called my mother over the weekend, and she flew into town yesterday. I was lucky. She had a free ticket to use, so she's here for the next week to help me out. We have one month worth of bills to go through, tax information to gather, and general housework to accomplish. It's really hard for me to ask for help, but I'm glad she's here. I was basically a basket case for the last few days. I think things will be easier with her here to help.

I returned to work yesterday afternoon for four hours. Again, I felt like a fish out of water. I feel like I'm barely holding it together. I'm afraid I'm going to crack if someone looks at me cross-eyed. People welcomed me back, but I could barely stand it. I felt all questioning eyes upon me. I was very uncomfortable. I go back tomorrow for another four hours, and I'm not looking forward to it.

This illness has really torn me down this time. I feel totally beaten up. My self confidence is shot. I feel incompetent at work and at home. I have a sponsee calling to continue going through The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and I feel incompetent to guide her on her sobriety journey, too. I feel worthless and useless. Depression has cut my legs out from under me this time, and I'm not sure how to get back on my feet. It's been a long time since I've felt this beaten. Just beaten...

Somehow I've got to drag myself back up into the realm of the living. I'm not there yet. I've got to get back on my feet, exercise, go to work, socialize, attend to my commitments, and live life on life's terms again. It's easier said than done. I'm praying for a reprieve.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Overwhelmed at Home

I got out of the hospital yesterday. My sponsor picked me up from the hospital, and then we picked up Puck from her house, and then we all came home. Oh my God! I am totally overwhelmed being home. Totally overwhelmed! I haven't been in my house since just after Christmas. My home feels sterile and unlived in. There are over 30 days of bills piled on my kitchen table. Nothing feels like my own. Everything feels foreign and confusing. I am a bit confused. After all, ECT effectively erases memory, and mine seems to be gone. It's difficult to describe, but I feel like a fish out of water in my own home. It's very unsettling. I've spent too much time crying my eyes out since I've been home, and right now I just want to curl up and cry some more. I don't know how I'm going to come through this. I'm so overwhelmed, and I feel so inept. I don't even know where to start. This illness has torn me down to the quick. I'm raw and exposed. Raw and exposed...

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Last ECT

I had my last ECT treatment today. It was uneventful, just the way I like it. I will be in the hospital overnight, and I will return home tomorrow morning. I can't wait to see my dog! I miss him so much! Apparently, he's been quite the charmer for his caretakers. I can't wait to return home with him and settle into our normal routine again.

Overall, I'm feeling 100% better than when I came into the hospital. I can't believe the difference a few weeks inpatient and a few dozen ECTs made. I'm like a new person. I hope to stay shiny and new for a long time to come.

I'm being discharged just in time to begin training for the Boston Marathon. I don't think I'll be breaking any speed records at Boston this year, but I'm going to run it nonetheless. I'm anxious to test out my newly healed right knee. Here's hoping it holds up to the rigors of marathon training.

That's all I have for today. I'm feeling healed. Depression, I think, has been beat back once again. I hope it's a long, long time before I need to see the inside of a hospital once again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Doing better

Just a quick note to let you know things are looking up. As I said in my last post, we changed some of the ECT parameters on Friday, and so far that seems to be making a difference. I've had two treatments with the new parameters, and I'm definitely feeling brighter. At this point, I may be able to head home as early as Thursday. I have another treatment tomorrow. If things go really well, I'll just stop the ECTs at 11, rather than 12, and go home Thursday, rather than Saturday. I've been here a very long time, and I am definitely ready to go. After all, I need to begin training for Boston very soon, and that's almost impossible for me to do in here! We'll see how tomorrow goes. If I don't think doing one more ECT will provide any more benefit, I may be home the next time you hear from me!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Three more treatments

It's the end of another long, inpatient weekend. Thankfully, we at least had football to watch both Saturday and today. Other than that distraction, and a visit from Puck yesterday, it's been another long, boring weekend here. Puck is now staying at the home of my sponsor, as friends Bill and Cindy went on their own two week vacation. He seems to be no worse for my absence, but I worry about him and miss him terribly.

Tomorrow I will have ECT treatment number 10. It looks like we are going to do the full course of 12 treatments, which means I'm here until next weekend. We changed up some of the parameters for ECT treatment number 9 on Friday, and I am finally beginning to feel better. Yesterday, despite being long and boring, my mood was probably the best it's been since I arrived here 3 weeks ago. I'm more hopeful now that the final 3 treatments will knock the depression back for good.

I'm worried about finances. I''ve been off work since December 21st. That's almost 6 weeks without a paycheck. I'm not sure how that will work itself out, but I have to believe that it will. And when I return to work, it will be at about half the time I was working before this treatment episode. Thankfully, my boss is willing to work with me and has been flexible with my return. I'm grateful for that. I don't want to jump back in too soon, but I've got to pay my bills.

I'm praying for a positive week ahead. I'm not looking forward to being inside for another 5-6 days, but if the next three ECT treatments have the impact of the last one, things will be good. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Gorilla

A one ton gorilla
sits atop my chest.
It is depression.
I am pinned.
There is no chance
of getting up.

A one ton gorilla
sits atop my chest.
I can't breathe.
My thoughts race
looking for a way out.
But the gorilla
will not let go.

I squirm with might.
I wiggle and flail.
Past successes matter not.
This time
the gorilla is not phased.
I know not what else to do.
My tool box is empty.

From my precarious perch
I scheme with friends.
I consult with professionals.
I summon the best,
and they surround me with care.
But the gorilla,
he is not moved.

A one ton gorilla
sits atop my chest.
Oblivious, he is,
at my attempts
to remove him.
Hopelessly suffocating,
I fear for my life.
I no longer know how to escape.
This gorilla, it seems,
will never be moved.

Tough days

It's been a couple of really tough days here. My mood is again in the toilet, and I'm still in the hospital. The current plan is to dismiss Friday after ECT #9. I feel like I've been here forever, yet I'm still so low.

I'm worried and scared right now. I've had 8 ECT treatments with little to show for it. My mood doesn't seem to be responding, and that drags me further down the darkened path. I've been very tearful and sad. I spoke with my regular psychiatrist last night. Both she and my social worker recall that I didn't respond well last spring, either, until I had the 9th and 10th treatments. I hope they are correct. It's the only hope I have to hang onto right now. Hope is hard to come by.

I've not had the energy to get on the bike or treadmill for a few days. I'm trying to be okay with that. Focus on healing one thing at a time, I say. But I do feel better if I move my body, so I may try some gentle spinning tonight. I hope.

The days are long and dark right now. I'm saying my Serenity Prayer and asking God to take away the pain while shining a little light into my soul. As I see it, if ECT won't work, divine intervention is the only option remaining. I'm hanging in there, but I'm tired. I need a way out soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why harm thy self?

"What is it about banging your hand against the wall that relieves you," she asked?
"I don't know," I said. "I don't really understand it myself."

What I do understand is the shame and humiliation I feel admitting such a practice. It doesn't happen often. It's actually quite rare. But when my depression symptoms drag me into the darkest depths, this shameful compulsion sometimes greets me there. Despite the fact that many who know me read this blog, and despite my deep shame and humiliation, I am finally writing about it here. It's only taken 4 years. But perhaps some of you struggle too. Maybe letting the cat out of the bag will lessen the power of the thoughts for both of us and lead us down the healthier path. Perhaps...

I can't sleep. I was supposed to leave the hospital after my ECT treatment today, but again the treatment team felt I was rushing out the door too soon. They didn't like the fact that I was returning home alone late in the afternoon. I reluctantly agreed to stay for just one more day. And I struggled today, as I had yesterday, with harmful thoughts. The compulsion was there and hard to resist. It's embarrassing, and shameful, and  difficult to admit. Easier, it is, just to bang away and stop the feelings--whatever the feelings--dead in their tracks. There is relief in the pain. I can't stand admitting that.

"What is it about banging you hand against the wall that relieves you," she asked?
"I don't know," I said. But I guess I do understand it. The very real physical pain stops the very surreal mental anguish. It's easy. It's immediate. It's unhealthy. But it works.

Writing it here, admitting my shame to you, is my way, I guess, of reinforcing the healthy coping alternatives I have in my tool chest. Maybe I'm not alone. Maybe you're not alone. But from now on, I am committed to reaching for the alternative tools when I am distressed--tools which won't leave me ashamed and humiliated.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Going home?

I thought I was going home this morning. I had it all planned. I was going to finish my ECT course as an outpatient over the next two weeks, and I was going to return to part-time, part-time work on Wednesday, January 11th. Unfortunately, after a brief reprieve, I've been very low over the past two days. My mood absolutely tanked again, which meant returning home this morning was not the wisest thing to do. So here I am. It's been 8 days now, and I'm still here in the hospital.

It looks like I may go home tomorrow or Monday. It's most likely that I will have another ECT treatment Monday morning and then return home. I'm hoping for a mood rebound over the next couple days.

I'm facing some difficult choices once I leave, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the dip in mood. Most of the choices center around work and finances. Those are both triggers for me, so again, I shouldn't be surprised by the mood decline. Basically, I'm faced with the to-work or not-to-work decision. It's too complicated to explain at this time, but suffice it to say it is a very difficult decision to make. When things get clearer, I'll try to summarize it here. Right now, it's too overwhelming to write out.

I'm trying to remain hopeful. I'm trying to stay in the moment and have faith that everything will work out as it should. I'm trying to stand tall despite the battering this illness is currently inflicting upon me. I appreciate your thoughts, prayers and comments of support.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hospital Update

This is my first post of 2012, and it's about being in the hospital. Bummer. Actually, things are improving for me here. I had my 5th ECT treatment today. I am beginning to notice a brightening of my mood. I'm laughing a little easier, and my sarcasm is back. That's always a good sign.

Unfortunately, the days are long here. We have plenty of groups, but it is just hard for me to be in one place 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. I have not had many visitors, which has lengthened the time, it seems. We had a group about depression last night, and we were all noting how different our hospital experience would be if we were here for a heart attack or cancer rather than depression. None of the group members has any flowers or balloons in their rooms, for example, and I'm not the only one with few visitors. I'm not complaining. It's just reality. The stigma around this illness is thick.

I did have a nice long phone chat tonight with a friend, but I've not heard from D in a couple days. That makes me worried, of course. I'm worried he's finally thrown in the towel. Maybe this has all gotten too much for him. But I'm trying not to go there. Worrying about it doesn't do any good. I know that. However, I will be relieved when he calls!

It looks like I may be going home on Saturday. I'll have my 6th ECT as an inpatient on Friday and leave Saturday morning. I'll continue with outpatient ECT treatments next week. I'm a little anxious about going home. I don't want to crash and burn again. I'm worried about being home alone, isolating, and feeling overwhelmed with simple things again. I'm in the process of writing up a discharge plan, which includes strategies for dealing with anxiety at home.

I'm also quite anxious about returning to work. I need to do that as soon as possible in order to pay my mortgage, but I don't know if I'm ready yet. Technically, I'm not supposed to go back to work while receiving ECT. I'm actually not supposed to go back until I've been finished with ECT for at least two weeks! I just can't afford that. I don't want to set myself up to fail, so I'm going to need to have a heart to heart conversation with my boss very soon.

And that's the way it is here. Overall, I think things are improving. However, the truth will come out when I'm discharged and put to the test. I'm feeling more hopeful about that. The ECT is working. Hopefully, I'll be back to myself soon.