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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Slightly broken

I hate writing about this, but my social worker suggested it might help. She thought it might normalize what I've been experiencing. She suggests it's likely many of you experience it, too. I don't know. I hate to admit it. So I hope she's right.

My brain is broken. That's what it feels like. I've been having trouble with my thinking. Violent thoughts, disturbing thoughts, and discouraging thoughts have been intruding on me lately. I'm still doing well. My mood is good. I'm running well. Work is okay. So there seems no reason for the thinking except that it is one of my symptoms which occasionally pops up. And I hate it.

Thinking like this disturbs me. The thoughts are disturbing. I have violent, horrible thoughts about Puck getting hurt and not being able to do anything about it. I have irrational thoughts about a substance spilled on a bridge being some sort of flesh eating acid. I have discouraging thoughts about being inept, not good enough, stupid, lazy, etc... The thought content disturbs me.

Also disturbing, and maybe even more so, is simply having the intrusive thoughts. They make me feel different, abnormal, and crazy. They spur ranting and raving about wanting to be normal. They scare me, anger me, and worry me. I hate them. I just want them to go away.

There, I said it. I guess it would help if any of you can relate. My social worker tried to calm me down today during at least one of my rants. She tells me these thoughts are not as abnormal as I fear. Aren't they? I don't know. I hope she's right.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sights and Sounds of 20 miles

It was beautiful outside. The air was cool, almost cold, against my skin as I set out in the morning twilight. I kept my head up and ears open as my muscles groaned awake. It was the first moments of my upcoming three hour journey. I settled in.

The beauty of the sky immediately drew my attention. Lavender, pink, and magenta feathered across the horizon foreshadowing the arrival of day's brilliant light. The air smelled of awakening. I inhaled deeply.

The squirrels, it appeared, had long been awake. Gathering, chasing, climbing and cavorting they barely noticed my passing. The crows, on the other hand, boisterously squawked and chased me from above. While the geese couldn't have cared less. Overcrowding the path, hissing as I approached, they forced me to dodge them rather than the other way around. I had to laugh.

Through the woods, morning dew dripped rhythmically from the trees. Startled by my presence, a beautiful deer interrupted his breakfast and leapt away. Soon my breathing matched my footsteps, and these were for a long time the only sounds in my ears.

Out of the woods, around the town lake, things changed. There was more dodging of hissing geese, which was contrasted by panicked quack, quack, quacking and quick flap, flap, flapping of running duck feet. A small herd of running ducks really creates quite a ruckus!

The lake was busy with morning exercisers by the time I arrived. In my two laps around, I practically exhausted myself just saying hello. A constant whirring sound puzzled me for a moment until I passed an inflatable finish line. The local women's road race was setting up for their run.

The busy lake gave way to a quiet neighborhood toward the end of my journey. I was surrounded by manicured lawns, flowers and shrubs. In between barking dogs and buzzing lawn mowers, I could actually hear the clinking of breakfast dishes and coffee cups, as windows were opened to allow the rare cool air inside.

Finally, my path took me around the golf course, within a few feet of several tees. The whoosh of clubs slicing through the air broke up those final miles. Shortly, I was back in my neighborhood. It was the way I left it. Quiet and serene, not yet, it appeared, awake. There were no dogs to greet me, no mowers buzzing, and nobody to whom I could say hello. Even the squirrels, it seemed, were on their morning break.

I slowed to a stop under the now bright sky. Tired and content, I walked up my drive. I sighed an audible sigh. It was the only sound. I smiled and went into my house.

Friday, July 27, 2012

End of the week report

I'm sitting here with a billion other people watching the opening ceremonies to the Summer Olympics in London. So far it's quite a good show. I love that they highlighted their National Healthcare System in this worldwide event. With the healthcare debate, usually unintelligent, accusatory, and partisan, in this country right now, I thought this highlight was quite admirable. And that's all I have to say about that.

I had a good week of working and running. I've been working extra hours, usually about four per day, on my typical days off. I work on-call for several other nursing homes in the area, so I have lots of opportunities to work more than my usual Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. I'm really tired of living paycheck to paycheck, so I've been working afternoons on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a couple of weeks. I run in the mornings, try to run one or two errands, and then go to work. It's tiring, but so far I'm handling it okay.

Speaking of running, I had two difficult but successful runs this week. I ran my speed workout on the treadmill Tuesday. It was just too damn hot and humid to run outside. I ran 2 x 1200 meters followed by 4 x 800 meters. I really didn't think I was going to be able to hold the paces I was supposed to run, but I did. I felt really great when I was done. On Thursday, I ran a fast 5 mile tempo run. That was very difficult, and I felt very tired when I was done. Today I'm recovering for my second 20-miler tomorrow morning. I'm already up way past my bedtime! I'm planning to be on the road by 5:30 AM at the latest.

That being said, I should probably tape the rest of this ceremony and get to bed. Things are clicking along. I'm busy, but I'm holding it together thus far. I'm grateful for the ability, energy, and motivation to run, work, and live my life free of the black fog of depression today.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Doing well

I made my mom cry. She doesn't read my blog (my choice), but I sent her my last post in an e-mail. She said it made her so happy, she cried. Apparently, my step-dad cried too. I wasn't expecting that. My mom said it was the best birthday present I could have given her. I'm glad she liked it. It was a bit of a risk for me to send it, but now I'm glad I did.

In other news, my running is going well again. After struggling through my two weekday runs last week, I had a really good 18-miler on Saturday. I had to leave early in the morning again in order to avoid the heat and humidity. I had a couple slow miles as I wiped the sleep from my eyes and worked out the kinks in my muscles, but then I settled into a nice rhythm. I ran a steady 8:55 pace the rest of the way, and I felt good doing it. It's nice to finish a long run knowing I could have run another couple of miles if I had wanted.

Work is also going well. I'm settling in, but I still lack the confidence I'd like to possess. Nonetheless, I think I'm doing an okay job. I like my co-workers a lot, and they facility is nice. That certainly has helped me feel more comfortable. So far, it's a good fit.

Lastly, I'm doing well with my thinking and mood. A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my screwed up, intrusive thoughts. Well, shortly after writing about them, they disappeared. I had one recurrence last week while walking Puck, but otherwise my brain has been quiet. That makes me happy. Likewise, I'm thrilled my mood continues to be stable. I feel good, and I'm enjoying feeling good. I sure could get used to this.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom

It's my mom's 65th birthday today. How strange! I never imagined my mom being 65. I used to think 65 was soooo old. But she doesn't seem soooo old. Even though she doesn't exercise enough, or eat exactly the best food, she's still quite active and younger than her years. I am so grateful for that.

Before I got depression and before I got sober, I took my mother for granted. We had a strained relationship, and the majority, if not all, of the strain came from my end. She could do little right. I wasn't always friendly or kind. I expected a lot but was rarely happy with what I got. To her credit, she persevered despite my attitude and disrespect.

Then I got sick. My life fell apart. I lost everything. She was there. For years, she was there. I didn't necessarily let her in, but she remained by my side.

Then I tried to secretly drink myself to death. I found my way to AA. I got sober. I apologized. I opened up a crack. The waters grew warmer, in part because she never left.

In the past few years, we've grown closer because I've relaxed. I've allowed her in. I've accepted her presence, her assistance, and her company with gratitude and appreciation. I love her, though I still struggle telling her so. I don't know what that's all about, but I do. I'm so grateful she's in my life.

I'm especially grateful that my mom stuck with me, and continues to stand by me, despite my inadequacies and faults. I'm lucky. She gives without expectation. She takes care of me when I'm unable to care for myself. She cheers me on. Thank you, Mom. I love you. Happy Birthday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up

It's Monday. It's a much needed rest day for me. No exercise, just work. I can't even walk Puck tonight. It's just too hot and sticky outside! Oh well, like I said, I needed a rest day.

I'm coming off a good weekend. As planned, I got up early and ran 20 miles Saturday morning. I'm still a little stunned it went as well as it did. Of course, I was tired and my legs were dead in the last couple miles, but overall I felt good, held a nice pace, and recovered very well. I was able to spend the rest of my day relaxing, socializing, and walking with Puck.

I worked at the hospital yesterday. It's my very part-time weekend gig. I ended up with some really nice, motivated patients. The day wasn't too long, and I got in a 25 minute recovery swim after I was done. At the end of the day I had another lovely walk with my boy. It was a nice end to a nice weekend. Things are moving right along, and I'm doing all right.

By the way, thank you for all of your comments on my last post. I really appreciate that you can appreciate my boring posts. I do hope that by doing well, I can inspire others to survive, and perhaps even thrive, despite having depression. Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Just good.

I feel a little bit bad, as I don't think I have much to report. Sometimes, like right now, I worry about continuing this blog when I'm doing well, as I don't think my life is all that interesting. Who am I to write a blog, anyway? I'm not any more or less special than any of you currently reading this. That's for sure!

So I don't have a lot to say. I'm doing well. I'm feeling well. My mood has been good. Even my job went well this week. It's nice. My workouts have also been good. I ran fast and hard on both Tuesday (5 x 1000 meters) and Thursday (6 mile tempo run). I suffered through them, but I felt great when I completed them. I'm now gearing up for my 20-miler tomorrow. Things are just, well, good.

Good is a little boring, but I'll take boring and short blog posts over misery any day of the week! It's hard to believe I was absolutely debilitated and miserable just a few months ago. I'm so grateful to be feeling well. I'm unbelievably grateful for the energy which allows me to run as I wish. And I'm grateful for readers like you. Whether I have little or lots to say, keeping up with this blog, through the good times and the bad, keeps me moving forward and allows me to survive this illness rather than suffer from it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Running and Biking Away

The heat of last week finally broke over the weekend. It was perfect timing, as I had 17 miles scheduled for Saturday morning. And I did it! I got up very early and was on the road before 5:30 AM. The air was warm, but the humidity had broken and clouds covered the sun. It was actually a rather pleasant 2 and 1/2 hours out there.

During my run, I had a low point around mile 8, which was exactly where I crashed at Grandma's Marathon last month. My legs were tired, my brain was negative, and all I wanted to do was give up. But I didn't. I forced myself to continue running. I worked on reversing my negative thoughts, and the low moment passed. I then felt stronger and stronger until the last miles of my run. It was very good for my confidence and morale. It turned out to be a great run.

I was a little worried about how I would recover after that effort, especially since it was my first long run since Grandma's and since recovering from pneumonia. Fortunately, I had nothing physically taxing to do afterward. I was lucky to spend much of the rest of the day with friends, Bill and Cindy, socializing and relaxing on their patio. I'm so grateful to have such unconditional, fabulous friends. We never tire of spending time with each other. Later in the evening, I took Puck for a 2 mile walk, and my legs felt good. I was pleased.

I was even more pleased on Sunday when I was able to complete another fairly tough workout. I rode my bike 31.5 miles throughout the countryside. I rode hard, but not all out. I was pleasantly surprised with the strength in my legs. I was expecting more fatigue than I encountered. Instead, I was able to enjoy the weather, the farm fields, and my freedom to ride. It was another confidence-boosting workout for me.

It's nice to feel alive again. First the pneumonia had me dragging. Then the heat kept me shut inside. Now I feel like I've regained some strength and perspective. I feel better about my training and more hopeful about achieving the goals I've set. But I'm not getting carried away yet. I have a difficult speed workout scheduled tomorrow. Hopefully, the result will be three strong, positive workouts in a row. I'll be over the moon if that turns out to be the case!

Friday, July 6, 2012

100 degrees

It's hot! We've had back to back 100 degree days, in Minnesota(!), and the weatherman is predicting a third day in a row tomorrow. That's bad news for me. I'm scheduled to run 17 miles tomorrow. I've gotten up before sunrise the past 3 days to bike and run. Regardless, I still had to cut my run a bit short yesterday morning, as I eventually wilted in the sauna-like conditions. The air is dangerously thick and hot. It's really quite unbelievable to this northern girl.

So, tomorrow looks like another early morning. I don't know that I'll actually run 17 miles. I'm toying with the idea of biking and running, as biking seems more tolerable in the heat. I'm definitely leaving my options open. We'll see what the morning brings.

I saw my doctor yesterday. Unfortunately, I had to report that my thinking has been a bit off this week. Sometimes, when I'm not doing well, I have really horrible thoughts. Often they involve Puck being maimed and/or dying in some horrendous way. Sometimes, the thoughts are more about me. They are almost always violent and scary. And they've been cropping up here and there lately. Of course, my doctor wanted to increase one of my meds, but that particular med gives me a hand tremor, so I politely refused. She accepted that. I want to wait and see if the thoughts will subside on their own, as they occasionally do. I agreed to increase the med if they don't. I'm going to give it another week.

Hopefully, this is just a minor uptick in one of my symptoms. It's annoying, but I don't want to make too much (or too little) of it. Hopefully, it is not a sign of an impending dip in my mood. I'm going to have faith that it isn't. I'll keep on keeping on. Hopefully, sticking to my healthy routine will be enough to stop the thoughts in their tracks. Maybe I'll sweat them out! I've got the perfect weather in which to accomplish that!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Beginning again

It's hard to believe it's July already. Summer has gone by so fast. My thoughts go out to all of you across the nation sweltering in this incredible heat. I am especially grateful today that I am able to stay cool inside my home, unlike many of you still without power after destructive weekend storms. I got up very early to run my speed workout this morning, but it made little difference, as it was already sticky hot outside. It was then that I said my prayer of thanks. I am lucky to have working electricity and a cool home. I can't imagine trying to live through this heat without at least a fan blowing the sticky air around. I'm saying prayers that power is restored soon to everyone currently without.

Like I said, it's hard to believe it's already July. I feel like I've missed the last two weeks with this lingering illness. But the pneumonia is clearing. I'm back on the road. There are only 14 weeks until my next marathon, so I'm trying to get back into training mode. I ran, for the first time in 10 days, on Saturday. It was hot! But I think the heat actually helped my lungs. I made it almost 5 miles. I probably could have gone further, but I didn't want to push it. Fortunately, I recovered quite nicely.

In fact, I recovered so well, I went for a 20 mile bike ride on Sunday. Again the heat was almost unbearable, and I baked in the sun. At least I created my own breeze while slicing through the sticky air on my bicycle. My legs were tired by the end, but my lungs felt more clear. It was a good ride.

I took a rest day yesterday and focused on work instead. That went well. I'm getting a little quicker with my documentation and utilizing more rusty skills which used to be second nature. This morning, before the sunrise, I got back on the track for a tough, new speed workout. It was a step-down workout of 1200, 1000, 800, 600, and 400 meters, with each successive repeat run at a faster pace than the one before. With only 200 meters of rest between each repeat, it was a challenging track session. As usual, I was quite pleased with hitting my paces and completing the workout, especially considering the recent pneumonia.

When I got home from the track, I took Puck for a quick walk. Yesterday's temperatures and humidity were so high, it was too dangerous to walk him. He enjoyed being out so early in the day, and I'm quite pleased to have gotten both my run and his walk already out of the way. I doubt I'll spend much time outside my lovely, cool home for the rest of the day. I'm looking forward to a productive, restful day inside. Happy day, everyone!