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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Something is wrong with etta

I apologize profusely for my inattention to this blog over the past week. I believe this is the longest gap in posts since I began this blog over 4 years ago. I pride myself on regularly posting here, so I come back to you ever so apologetically.

I haven't been participating in life much this week. My mood took an extremely precipitous dive last weekend. I ran my half marathon on Saturday, and I felt like my fairly-normal-self afterwards. As far as I remember, nothing abnormal happened Saturday or Sunday, but by mid-day Sunday I was reeling in the abyss. The world was dark. My thoughts were darker. I was overwhelmed and paralyzed. Just like that...

My situation has not improved this week. Things are still very dark. My thoughts are frightening, yet I am somehow not frightened. And that is a bit scary...if that makes any sense. It's been a really, really rough week.

It's been so rough, I haven't had the energy to do much of anything, including posting here. Nor have I been a model patient or role model. I've been isolating. I don't want to see or talk to anyone. I've had fits of anger and frustration. I've thrown meds in the toilet, contemplated my worthiness, and been obstructed by a very noisy brain. I haven't always handled things well this week.

I do feel an obligation to be a positive voice here, which made the thought of blogging when I felt so low a precarious proposition. I didn't know what to do. I felt like I couldn't post what I was feeling, thinking, or doing, as there wasn't much positivity in any of it. So I didn't post anything at all.

But tonight I figured I'd at least let you know what's been going on, even if it meant skipping most of the gory details. The gory details aren't necessary. Many of you have been there, done that. Things suck. Life doesn't seem worth living if it means living like this, which is why I'm praying for relief. I'm doing what I can, and I'm waiting. I'm hoping this will pass soon.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Decent Half Marathon

Considering I didn't taper. Considering I ran a tough speed workout on Tuesday. And considering I ran an 11 mile tempo run on Thursday, running a 1:45 half marathon today wasn't too bad. What was bad was how difficult it was, and of course, that was totally my fault.

The race was a little smaller than usual, and there were apparently a lot of fast runners running. I took off with the crowd, and I ran my first several miles, especially my first mile, way too fast! That unfortunately put me in early oxygen debt, and it made the rest of the race quite difficult and a little uncomfortable.

Discomfort be damned, I persevered. My legs felt like lead, and I didn't think I could go much further by the time I hit mile eight, but fortunately (or unfortunately) there were a few women of about my age running near me. Did I mention I am slightly competitive? So I pushed myself onward, and I did finish in front of each of them. The results aren't posted yet, so I have no idea if those women were actually in my age group or not, but it was my minniature victory, nonetheless. At least my competitiveness kept me moving when I wanted to stop.

I'm glad I pushed myself. It was painful, but as usual, it only took a few minutes to forget the pain once I crossed the finish line. After that, it was all socializing, commiserating, and fun. It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This morning I had a great speed workout at a small town track a few miles from here. I stopped at the local convenience store for some bananas and a cup of coffee on my way home. While filling my coffee cup, I heard someone behind me say my name. I turned around to find a former therapist gazing at me, questioning if I was, in fact, etta. What a nice surprise! I was quite happy to see her!

We exchanged a hug and caught up as quickly as we could. Her family was waiting to take her oldest son to college. Weird. Her three kids were small children when Heather and I worked together. Of course that was, we realized, 11 and 12 years ago. She was my first psychologist. We worked together during the first few years of my illness. That was a long time ago.

Though we were only together for a few short minutes, our surprise meeting left me reminiscing all day. I've been reviewing those first couple of years of depression. I've been remembering how quickly this illness came on, how severe and debilitating it became, and how disorienting the whole experience was during those initial years. I was sad, bewildered and confused. If only I knew then what I know now.

I'm not going to go into the gory details of those early years. That's not what all this remembering has been about. Actually, the memories of the pain, the chaos, and the losses have left me with a deep sense of gratitude. When I think of those years I am filled with gratitude for where I am today. I am so grateful to know what I now know and to have the coping skills I now have.

I guess 12 years of one illness has made me a bit of an expert on depression. I definitely was not an expert back then. Back then I suffered from depression. Over time I've learned a few things, and today I live with depression. One day, someday, I hope to be a survivor of it. What a wonderful day that will be.

Friday, August 17, 2012

That was uncalled for...

I knew what she was going to tell me, and she did. I had to pray for "the sick man." I couldn't afford to be that angry. Anger that intense would stick with me. It would tear me apart or drag me down. I had to pray to God to relieve me of my anger at the sick man.

I was walking Puck on our usual 1.7 mile loop a couple nights ago. He is a dog who appreciates routine. We walk the same route every night. He poops and pees in the same spots along the way during every walk. It's actually kind of funny. Even if he doesn't have anything left in his tank, he'll still stop to pee in the required spot. Nothing comes out, but he goes through the motions anyway. Makes me laugh every time!

You may be wondering why I am describing my dogs toileting habits to you. Let me explain. Puck's first stop every night is just two houses down from me. It is the home of an 80ish year old man named Eugene. His lawn is immaculate--no trees, no flowers, no shrubs--just perfect green grass. Puck likes the grassy area between the sidewalk and the street. He makes his deposit, I immediately pick it up. We've been doing this for at least a year.

Two nights ago, around 6 PM, Puck was making his deposit when a prolonged honk from a very loud horn came right at us from across the street. After getting over my initial fright, I looked in the driver-side window to see who the hell was being so obnoxious. It was Eugene. He pulled into his driveway, about ten feet from us, and stopped. Without rolling down his window, he was screaming and pointing at us. I could read his lips. "You pick that f**kin' shit up! You pick that f**kin' shit up!"

Picture this. I was standing over my dog, who hadn't even finished his business yet, with a white plastic grocery bag pulled up to my elbow on my right hand. I had another bag folded up in my other hand. Stunned, I stretched out my arms, faced Eugene and said, "What the f**k?" I figured if he could cuss like a sailor so could I. I was shocked. Could this man not see the plastic bag up to my elbow??

I stood there looking at him, still in his car with the window rolled up, as he began flipping me off and repeatedly saying, "F**k you. F**k you. F**k you." I must have looked like an idiot standing there, stunned, mouth agape with a white plastic bag up to my elbow. But I just couldn't believe what was happening, and I was getting really pissed off. Finally, I yelled, "What is the problem?" This got Eugene out of his car. "Give me that f**kin' bag," he hissed, as he walked toward me. Again, I asked, "What is your problem?" He again told me to pick that shit up, and I said, "What do you think I'm doing?" I bent over to pick up the f**kin' shit.

I was thoroughly confused as to why I was being attacked. I told him he was acting like an asshole, and then I asked him if he realized I was his neighbor? At that, he softened a bit, and said, "Ya, I see you running around here." I don't think he really realized who he was screaming at, not that it should make any difference if I was his neighbor or not! I picked up the poop, as he walked away mumbling about getting his hose. I was seething, but I turned and as pleasantly as possible said, "You have a nice night!" He didn't acknowledge me.

I fumed throughout our entire walk. I came up with a million zingers I should have said. I thought about throwing dog poop at his house on our way home. In the end, I knew I couldn't do or say any of what I was thinking. Instead, I came home and called my sponsor.

I knew what she was going to tell me, and she did. I prayed for the sick man. It worked.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A long day and a long run

Hi there! I had a great run on Saturday, a nice day at work and a swim on Sunday, and I was overwhelmed at work today. So things are about average around here. I'm now relaxing in my chair, in front of a baseball game, trying to figure out what to write before heading off to bed.

I guess since I'm still decompressing, I'll write about my 9.5 hour work day today. My brain shuts off well before the 9 hour mark, so just the extended length of my day made today difficult. But really taxing to my brain was the two and a half hour inservice we had in the middle of the day.

The inservice was meant to be a review of some treatment modalities, but much of the information was new to me. I was totally overwhelmed! There was too much information presented for the time allotted. Then we ran overtime, and I couldn't pay attention because I was too worried about how far behind schedule this inservice was putting me. It was very stressful.

Unfortunately, I don't feel like I can apply what was presented today, which is what's expected. I was overwhelmed by the material. I felt like I needed more time and instruction to utilize the information correctly. And I ended up way behind schedule, which forced me to stay at work for an extra hour and a half. The stress created by the inservice really hindered my ability to learn. I'm hoping to look through the information on my own tomorrow when I'm not feeling so stressed. I'm glad I have tomorrow off.

Fortunately, I did have a good weekend. My 18-miler Saturday morning could not have gone much better. I started before the sunrise. The weather was amazing! And I felt good the whole way. I finished with gas in the tank. I think I easily could have run several more miles. It's not often that I have long runs like that, so I enjoyed every moment. I have a 20-miler scheduled for this Saturday. I hope it goes just as well.

I'm so grateful God has given me the gift of running. My run got my weekend off to a great start, and the endorphins carried me through the rest of Saturday and Sunday. Thanks, God. What gifts has God given you? Think about it. Have a nice week, everyone!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rolling along

There's not much going on in my life these days. I appreciated all of your comments, as usual, about stigma. I'm still fed up, and I now resolve to speak up even more. I encourage you to do the same. The only way to educate others is to discuss our illnesses, and their debilitating effects, with others.

Like I said, I'm rolling along. My training is going well. I had two great workouts already this week. Yesterday's tempo run was a bit more difficult than I would have liked, but I got it done. I'm set to run 18 miles tomorrow morning. Weird...I'm actually looking forward to it. I get a lot of thinking done over those long miles. I guess it's kind of relaxing for my brain. Like I said, weird.

Work is going well. I'm still getting comfortable with seeing outpatients, but I'm a little less freaked out than I used to be. I've actually been shuffled around to some other buildings lately, as our building has been really slow. Working in unfamiliar surroundings brings more challenges and anxiety, but so far I've handled it okay. I hope to continue feeling more and more comfortable and skilled as time goes on.

My mood remains good, and my thinking is clear. I'm maintaining an attitude of gratitude today. Working in healthcare, I'm constantly reminded how quickly one's life can be unexpectedly altered. I'm feeling grateful for my good mental and physical health today. I'm feeling grateful for my buddy, my companion, my boy... that's my dog, Puck. He keeps me smiling and grounded. I don't know where I'd be without him. An attitude of gratitude. Try it. And keep on keeping on, my friends.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fed Up with Stigma

Watching the Olympic Women's Marathon in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I saw a public service announcement (i.e. a commercial) about mental illness! I was stunned and thrilled. I immediately got out my computer and discovered the sponsoring website. The Bring Change 2 Mind movement is sponsoring PSA's, billboards, and their website to educate people about mental illness and specifically, it appears, about stigma. With mouth agape I excitedly paged through the site, and I encourage you to do the same.

While reading through the site, I was given the option of sharing it on Facebook, which I did. This is where it got interesting. I don't know exactly how many Facebook friends I have, but it is several hundred for sure. I do know that many of my friends are involved in causes for which they care, like breast cancer, March of Dimes, or multiple sclerosis, because they frequently post links to these causes on Facebook. If it is a cause I also care about, or sometimes simply to show my support, I might "like" their post or make a comment. I'm usually one of  50-100 people to do so. That's the Facebook way of showing support, isn't it?

Most of my friends know about my battle with mental illness, specifically depression. Some of them even read this blog, so I was interested to see the response to my Facebook link. Throughout the day, I checked into Facebook to see how my link was received. It's been 3 days now. My several hundred friends have come through with 1 comment and 3 likes. What is that about? One comment and three likes from several hundred people? I'll tell you what it's about. It's about stigma!

I am so fed up with stigma! Even in the rather safe arena of Facebook, where all you have to do is click a button to show support, hardly a soul showed up. Is it that scary to to support someone with mental illness? Does liking a link about mental illness mean you might be crazy, too? What, I wonder, were people afraid would happen if they clicked that "like" button? I thought things were improving, but I'm afraid stigma still reigns supreme. I'm tired of it!

I've probably pissed a few people off by writing this, but I don't care. I'm tired of being disappointed by the pervasiveness of stigma. I'm angry I have an illness made more difficult by stigma. It appears there are very few people, even among my relatives, friends and acquaintances, who see mental illness as something for which they should be concerned. Perhaps, despite this being 2012, and despite lots of available education, they don't see my illness as an illness at all. I guess I don't know. Fighting stigma is a constant battle. It should be an unnecessary battle, but I guess I've just been rudely reminded there is much more battling ahead.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Running and Overcoming

Since I last posted here, I have read and appreciated all of your comments. It is so helpful to know I am not as abnormal as I feared. And I'm doing better. My thoughts have settled, and today they were actually pretty good. Thank you again for all of your helpful feedback!

I actually had a lot of practice controlling my thoughts today, as I ran a race. My brain is notoriously noisy during races, especially longer ones. Today's race was eleven miles on a paved trail. Despite the pouring rain prior to the start, there was a pretty good turnout.

I didn't know what kind of performance to expect. I've been working really hard on my speed work and tempo runs, so I hoped for a decent time, but I wasn't sure if I had done enough work yet for any kind of payoff today. It was a good test race for me at this point in my training.

I started fast but controlled. I knew it would be a tough race mentally, as it is an out and back course through the woods. This morning it was just me and my thoughts. Not knowing what kind of shape I was in, I didn't know if I had gone out too fast, too slow, or just right. My brain, of course, took advantage of my questioning and bombarded me with negative thoughts. I ignored them as best I could and settled in.

After 4 miles I was still feeling pretty good. There was another woman in the distance in front of me, and I slowly reeled her in. I had about a ten second lead on her at the turn-around. I also knew I was in 4th place overall among the women. With no chance of catching the top three, I concentrated on putting more distance between me and the woman in fifth.

I was getting tired. I didn't know if I could hold my pace. The negative thinking reared its ugly head again, but I fought back. Between miles 6 and 7 I came up with a mantra to drown out the negativity. "I'm stronger. I'm getting stronger." The more tired I got, the more ferociously I thought. It worked. Mile 8 was my fastest mile of the entire race!

Those last three miles were tough, but I never let up. In the end, I put over three minutes between me and the woman in fifth. I finished in 4th place overall, and I finished first in my age division. It was a good test and an enjoyable race.

I think the timing of this challenging race couldn't have been better. Historically, as it was again today, I've been able to overcome negative thinking when I race. If I can overcome when I race, there's no reason to think I can't overcome at other times. If my broken thinking shows up again in the next few days, I should be able to recall today's mental effort with some confidence. Once again running has given me a tool for living my life. I love that.