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, March 31, 2012

Thinking, thinking, thinking

In my last post I was fretting about my fragility and longing to be normal. Well, not too much has changed in the past couple days. I'm still worried about my mood. It's still not up to par with where I was a few weeks ago. For example, I ran 15 miles this morning. It was a really good run, too. My last two miles were faster than the pace of the previous thirteen. That's always nice. I felt great immediately after the run, but that hasn't held. I've been sinking ever since.

My psychiatrist, who I saw yesterday, is concerned. She wants to increase one of my meds again. We decreased it a few weeks ago. It was making me gain weight. I didn't like that. Obviously, I balked at increasing it. She respected that, but if my mood continues to slide, I'm pretty sure I won't have much of a choice the next time I see her. And that's okay, I guess. I trust her, and I doubt I'd be alive without her. I'm grateful for her compassion, assistance, and excellence.

While I was running this morning, I was thinking about my last post and "normalcy." I wonder how many years I'd have to go without a significant dip in my mood to lose the mistrust of the future. I wonder how long it would take for me to gain the air of certainty that my plans would come to fruition. I wonder if I'll ever stop expecting the other shoe to drop. I wonder.

Ideally, I suppose I should stop wondering and begin working on acceptance. After all, I have only so much control over what direction this illness will take. I can't imagine how miserable I might be if I didn't exercise, eat right, stay sober, and attempt to keep my life stress low. The fact that I still suffer, despite taking these steps, should help me accept this is a biological, physiological illness. So why do I still get stuck feeling like it's a character defect?

Boy, I'm all over the map with this post today. I guess that's consistent with my racing brain right now. It's all over the place, too. Another sign I'm not doing the best... I'll close by thanking all of you for visiting my little blog. I appreciate it. I hope something I said makes life today a little easier for at least one of you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fragility and Certainty

How fragile am I? That's the question I've been asking myself over the past few days. I'm frustrated and angry because I've been sliding a little bit. It's not a big drop in my mood, but it scares me nonetheless. And I immediately want to know why. Why am I sliding? What's going on? That's where the fragility question comes in.

As I asked my treatment team in an e-mail yesterday, "Can I not handle any stress in my life? Is the prospect of a new job with the possibility of increased hours that overwhelming? Can Social Security Disability Insurance really wreak this much havoc in my life? Am I that fragile?"

The possibility of a new job and the SSDI nightmare; those are the two things causing me stress right now. Those are the causes on which I think I can blame the slide. But am I that fragile? I am going to encounter stresses like this, or stresses worse than this, for the rest of my life. How the hell will I handle life if these two current events are enough to send me tumbling?

This illness makes me feel so vulnerable. Whereas "normal" people have the luxury of seeing themselves securely carrying out their future plans, I'm never sure those plans will come to fruition. I'd like to look into the future with an air of certainty. An air of certainty that it, and I, will be there, get there, live it... I'm tired of not knowing if, or when, the other shoe is going to drop. I'm tired of being vulnerable to the whims of this illness.

How fragile am I? Have my job interview and SSDI nightmare begun a slide without end? Will I handle the stress without falling off the cliff? Or is this the beginning of another end? I don't think so. I hope not. I don't know. That's just it. I don't know. I can't know. I have to accept the vulnerability this illness forces upon me. And I have to accept the fact that I may never be able to look into the future with an air of certainty.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Social Security Nightmare

Five thousand, three hundred, seventeen dollars and twenty cents. That's how much The Social Security Administration wants from me within the next 30 days. Much to my surprise, the letter demanding repayment arrived a few days ago. Here's what's going on.

When I was hospitalized last spring and couldn't return to work, I temporarily went back on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). After a couple of months, I returned to work in June, 2011. I called The Social Security Administration and told them I was back working, therefore my SSDI payments should stop. They didn't stop. Approximately one month after I called, my social worker called to tell them I was back at work, and when the payments continued, she later called again. It didn't matter. Unfortunately, SSDI continued paying me until October, 2011.

Knowing I was not deserving of these funds, I attempted to save as much of them as I could. But I couldn't save it all. I missed more work, without pay, after my knee surgery. And then I missed another 4.5 weeks of work, without pay, when I was most recently hospitalized for treatment of my depression. I didn't go out and buy anything fun. I didn't spend a penny on self-gratification. The money went where it was supposed to go. It went to living expenses, bills, groceries, etc...

Here's the rest of the story. I originally received a letter requesting repayment in early December (I think). I appealed, as was my right, by detailing the financial hardship I would endure if I payed them $5,317.20 in one lump sum. I was hoping to at least negotiate a payment plan. As of last week, I hadn't heard one word regarding that appeal. Nothing. And then I got this letter demanding immediate repayment.

The current letter begins by saying, "You were notified that we had scheduled a personal conference for you on January 25, 2012, to discuss the denial of your waiver request, but you did not come in for the personal conference or ask us to reschedule it. Therefore, there is no basis for changing the decision to deny you waiver request. You should refund the $5,317.20 overpayment within 30 days." The letter goes on to say I have no further appeal rights because I missed this personal conference. So much for working out a payment plan...

I was stunned by this letter. Not only had I never been notified of a "personal conference," I was never notified they had denied my appeal! I hadn't heard one word from The Social Security Administration until I received the overpayment demand just a few days ago.

I was, and still am, absolutely distressed by this. I'm not in a position right now to pay them $5,317.20 in one lump sum, but that apparently doesn't matter. I'm frustrated and scared. I did my best to follow the rules. I took the steps I was supposed to take, but it was all for naught. Worse, the letter's tone is scolding and demanding. It makes it sound like I stole the money and then ignored multiple attempts to recover it. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was The Social Security Administration's mistake which put me in this position, and now I'm being treated like a criminal.

I'm now in a stressful, defensive position. In the next few days, I will have to call Social Security, hope to talk with a real person, explain the entire situation, and hope someone will actually care. This is a nightmare. I don't do well with financial stress, and this is about as stressful as it gets.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Morning dread

I'm sitting here with my feet up, drinking my coffee, computer on my lap, ESPN's SportsCenter flickering on the TV, dressed in my medical scrubs, dreading going to work. Minus the dread, this is my usual morning routine. I get up early specifically so I have time to relax, gather my thoughts, and prepare myself for the day. The dread, as I suggested, is new. It sucks to dread going to work.

The dread began after the big boss threw me the curveball, by demanding I change my schedule, a week and a half ago. Last week was okay because he was on vacation. But on Monday, he was back, and the tension was palpable. His office is just down the hall from the therapy department. I pass it, back and forth, probably 100 times per day. In addition, we often meet in the hallway. We met more than once on Monday. He did not have a word to say, and his glare was menacing. Really rather immature, I think, but no less disturbing.

So what does one do when the boss is a jerk? I tried my best to ignore his pettiness, but I couldn't help but expect to be called into his office again. Thankfully, I wasn't. But will I be summoned today? I don't know. It doesn't pay to worry about it, really. I can't control whether I will be summoned or not. I can't control his thoughts or his petty behavior. Perhaps today he won't be such a jerk, but I think that's wishful thinking. It sucks to feel such dread.

I've got to get going now. I've said my prayers, and I think I'll say a few more. I'll try to focus on my patients, enjoy them, stay positive, and have fun. I'll do my best to ignore what I shouldn't have to worry about. And I'll make that follow-up phone call regarding the job I interviewed for last week! That's one way to deal with a boss that's being a jerk, I guess.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

18.5 miles closer to Boston

Another beautiful day here in Minnesota. It's unbelievably warm and sunny. I just got in from an 18.5 mile run, and it went really well. I was feeling really tired earlier this week, and my legs were a bit dead over the past couple days, so I wasn't sure what to expect today. But I was pleasantly surprised. My legs felt good. My lungs felt strong. And the company of the local running community was great. There must have been 50 of us out there this morning. And while I ran the second half of my run alone, it was still nice to have so much company for the first 9 miles. I also went out with a few fellow runners for breakfast afterward. I don't usually do that, but I'm trying to spend more time with others and less time alone. And guess what, it was nice!

My mood has been holding steady. I'm feeling pretty good, and I'm feeling less worried about "the other shoe dropping." That's nice. Unfortunately, work continues to be stressful. There is just so much negativity around there. It is hard to avoid it. I do my best to focus on the patients and to stay as positive as possible. But I'm really feeling like I need to get out of there, and to that end, I had a job interview on Thursday. It went very well. Unfortunately, the position I interviewed for is listed as full-time, but I'm hoping they liked me enough that they'll be willing to consider other alternatives. Hopefully I'll know more this week. Wish me luck!

That's all I've got for today. Life is moving along smoothly. One day at a time, I'm living life on life's terms. It's nice to feel good. I'm grateful for every single moment.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


It's a beautiful day, and I just got done running 12, 1/4 mile intervals. I didn't get out the door until after 2:00 PM, as I just couldn't get going this morning. I actually had to go back to bed after breakfast, and I slept for 3 more hours. Interestingly, I worked the last two days, Sunday and Monday. My fatigue makes sense in light of that fact, I guess. Anyway, as I was saying, it was tough to get out the door and run today. I was 1.5 miles into my run, facing 12 by 1/4 mile intervals, and I still didn't feel like being out there. But I began anyway.

I ran the first couple intervals way too fast, which made the next few way more difficult. I was running back and forth between two bridges on a local bike path. They just happen to be exactly 1/4 mile apart. There was a homeless man enjoying his afternoon beverage sitting on a bench observing me. We chatted a bit, which helped me keep going. You see, I told him several times how many intervals I had left, which made me accountable to someone. I wanted to stop after 4 and again after 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10! It took over an hour, but I persevered and finished all 12 intervals! Boy are my legs tired!

I was thinking about perseverance while I ran back and forth. I wondered if perseverance in running translated to life, and specifically to depression. Somewhere around interval 7, I came to the conclusion that it did. I think being able to put one foot in front of the other when I am physically suffering and don't want to be where I'm at, whether during a speed workout or a 20-miler, does translate to surviving life with depression.

I think back to January. (I'm still a bit traumatized by the depth of depression I experienced in January.) I think back to the hospital. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to do ECT. I was in so much pain. I didn't think I could or would survive another day. But I did. I put one foot in front of the other and did the next thing in front of me, in the hospital and at home, to survive a very difficult time. That doesn't make me some kind of hero. I'm just thinking. I wonder if I didn't have the running experiences I've had; I wonder if the results would have been the same. I don't know, but I think my running experience helped.

Friday, March 9, 2012


The owner of the facility in which I work really threw me a curve today. He asked, more like demanded, that I change my schedule. You're probably thinking, "No big deal," but it is to me. I was hired to work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Since working my way off disability several years ago, this is the schedule I have worked. And there is a reason for it. Working two days in a row wipes me out. I know, I know, that sounds silly. How can someone who runs marathons get wiped out just working back to back days? I don't know exactly, but that's the way it's been since I returned to work while living with this illness.

Prior to depression, I worked full-time. In fact, I worked 10 hour days! I'd like to work more these days as well. But every time I try, and every time I work back to back days, I get wiped out. When I'm wiped out, it takes another day to recover, which means my running suffers as well. And I think I've recently demonstrated how important running is to maintaining my mood. So ultimately, working two days in a row, on a regular basis, has not proved to be good for my mental health.

Doing anything that risks my mental health scares me to death, and that's why I told the owner, "No." No I would not trade my Wednesday for a Tuesday or Thursday, as he wished. In fact, when he insisted, I told him, if that was the case, I would have to leave. He backed off a bit, but not before laying a huge guilt trip on me. He demanded to know why I wouldn't switch. I told him, in a very politically correct manner, it was none of his business. It was a very tense conversation.

The reality is my life is arranged around my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. Not only does it keep me from working back to back days, it is my way of life, and it has been for years. Most significantly, my running schedule is arranged around my work schedule. My doctor appointments, therapist appointments and every other regularly scheduled appointment I have is arranged around it. It's familiar, and it works.

I realize all of these things are changeable. I'm wondering now if I'm being too rigid. Why can't I just do as he asked...uh, demanded. Maybe it would be okay. And maybe it wouldn't. I don't know. I guess his guilt trip is working a bit. But I'm also now actively looking for a new place to work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

And she ran!

I'm feeling very lucky. And grateful... Why? I've been able to run twice in the past 3 days. I don't understand why. It makes no sense, but I've been able to run. That little loose body keeps floating around in my knee joint, occasionally getting lodged and causing significant pain, but it's also allowed me some painfree time as well. Sunday afternoon was one of those painfree times.

I woke up with pain Sunday morning, but it soon worked it's way out. I went to church, had breakfast with friends, complained about not being able to run, and came home disgusted that I was facing another swimming workout. In a moment of belligerence, I donned my running gear to take Puck for a walk. Of course, we didn't start out walking. I figured my knee would grab me soon enough, so Puck and I began running our usual 1.7 mile loop. Unbelievably, my knee didn't hurt, and Puck and I ran the entire loop.

After finishing Puck's loop, I dropped him at home and decided to see how far I could go. My plan was to continue running loops so I wouldn't get too far from home. Well, that plan went out the window after another painfree mile. Instead of coming home I continued running further and further away. By the time I turned back toward home, I was in the midst of a 10 mile run! I ran 10 miles! I couldn't believe it.

That was Sunday. I've had knee pain off and on since then. That loose body is still in there. But today I went out to test it again. My legs were still tired from Sunday's effort, and my knee was a little tricky, but I made it 5 miles without pain. I think someone was smiling down on me.

I cannot begin to tell you how cautiously relieved I am. One minute I was distraught and certain I was going to miss The Boston Marathon. In the next moment everything looked quite different. At this point, I'm thinking I may be able to run/walk it, but I am cautiously optimistic. I don't know what tomorrow will hold. I'm planning to run a 17-mile long run this week. We'll see how that goes before I get too excited.

Like I said, I'm feeling lucky and grateful. My mood was taking a precipitous drop prior to my 10-miler on Sunday. I was getting quite worried. Being able to run has helped put a halt to the drop. That's a relief. I don't think I could handle another depression relapse right now. But we'll see what happens. I'm preparing for the worst, but hopefully I'll be able to continue to run.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gratitude List

I am grateful for:

*My mom and Bruce
*Bill and Cindy
*Dr. L.
*My family
*My ability to run and the enjoyment and fulfillment I get from running
*The running community
*My friends
*My home
*My physical health
*My education
*Dr. K.
*Arthroscopic surgery
*My blog and it's community
*to be continued...

Friday, March 2, 2012


It's tempting to say, "Why me?" It's tempting. My knee is keeping me off the road. The speed workout went undone on Tuesday. The seven miler did not get run on Thursday. And the 17-miler, crucial training for an upcoming Boston Marathon, will not even get started tomorrow. I am so discouraged.

It would be easy to inquire, "Why me?" I've certainly been through a lot lately. From November through early February, I was barely myself. Depression enveloped me like a dark, leaden cloak. I could barely function. Hospitalization, ECT, financial stress, and a break-up...I figured that was enough. But God had other plans, I guess. Other plans he had for me.

Much of the time, but not always, I believe things happen for a reason. Sometimes I have faith God only gives us what we can handle. Regardless of what I believe, however, I'm here, in this situation, right now. It is what it is. It's tempting to ponder, "Why me?" But what would that accomplish? I can't waste any energy feeling sorry for myself.

I'm worried. I'm worried about my knee. I'm worried about my mood. I'm worried about my mood because of my knee. My track record when I've been injured and unable to run is not the best. But more concerning than my past record is how I'm feeling in this moment. My mood has definitely dropped a notch since Monday's injury. That concerns me.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frightened; if I didn't admit I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am concerned. I know life is not always easy. And that's certainly true right now. I'm being challenged. I'm being challenged big time! It's simple to wonder why. But that only avoids the challenge and leaves me stagnant. I cannot wallow. Wallowing is useless. I do not have the luxury of self-pity. I have to face the fear. I have to fight.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The preliminary diagnosis

It's a loose body. No, not my body. Within my knee joint, there is probably a loose body floating around in there. Most likely a piece of cartilage broke away from my previously damaged patella-femoral joint during my strength training class on Monday, and that piece of cartilage (the loose body) lodged in the joint between the tibia and femur. That explains the immediate and sudden pain I had. It also explains why it hurt to straighten my knee. Straightening the knee approximates the tibia and femur (the two primary bones of the knee joint), so anything stuck in between them would cause pain as it got compressed. And finally, it explains why my pain has moved from the anterior-medial knee joint to the posterior-lateral joint. That little loose body came loose again and is now lodged in a different spot.

The good news is I have much less pain than I had a couple days ago. The posterior-lateral pain is much less disruptive. I pretty much have full motion of my knee, and it doesn't hurt to walk (for the most part). I haven't tried to run yet. After much pain early yesterday at work, things suddenly got better. Maybe that's the point at which all the prayers made their way home? The problem, of course, is the little bugger (loose body) could come loose again and lodge in a different, more disruptive, painful spot. But for now, I'm relieved. I will consult with my doctor again today to see what he thinks about running. Believe it or not, I will follow his recommendation. For now...