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!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Some relieving news

I just returned from seeing my psychiatrist. She had the results of my recent blood tests, which were all normal, as I expected they would be, except for my Ferritin level. Serum ferritin level is a measure of the iron stores in your blood. Ferritin is the body's major iron storage protein. My ferritin level was LOW. According to one of many online sources, Dr. David Martin, PhD, Department of Cardiopulmonary Science at Georgia State University, and Physiology Chair in charge of testing elite distance runners for USA Track and Field, "believes that ferritin reflects the iron stores that can be utilized to make enzymes for oxidative energy production, and therefore has a direct impact on (running) performance." That makes perfect sense to me, and it certainly reflects my performance over the past month.

I'm relieved. I have a fixable explanation for my month-long bout with fatigue, lethargy, and terrible running. My doctor ordered an iron supplement, which I will begin taking today. It looks like it may take awhile to get my iron levels restored, however. Most of my research indicates it can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months to fully recover. But many runners also report symptom improvement in as little as one month. I hope I'm one of those runners. If not, I may have to rethink running Grandma's Marathon in June. Right now my plan is to keep all of my options open and wait and see what happens. In the meantime, I'll attempt to continue training, take time off when needed, and be kinder and gentler to myself when things don't go as I wish they would.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Better? Maybe.

The fatigue and lethargy saga continues. I did talk things over with my doctor, via e-mail, a couple days ago. She did order some blood work, which I had drawn today. I don't yet know the results.

Of course, I hope I'm fine, and nothing major shows up in the results, but I have to admit, it would be kind of relieving to find out I'm anemic. If that were the case, I'd at least have an easily fixable reason behind the fatigue and terrible running. Fixable...that's what I'm really looking for.

I'm actually feeling a tiny bit better. I had a decent run on Sunday. It was a 7-miler. I started slowly, but I was able to speed up to a good pace for the middle miles prior to slowing down again over the final mile. I didn't feel perfect. I wasn't totally back, but it was so much better than Saturday's run, I felt encouraged.

Unfortunately tonight's run brought my enthusiasm down a frustrating notch once again. Today's schedule called for a relaxed 8-miler. I left the house in a hopeful mood. Hope turned to frustration when I developed serious, bilateral side-stitches within 5 blocks of my home! The cramping brought me to a halt 3 times in the first mile. I must have looked pretty funny doubled over on the side of the road, as I tried to stretch and relax the cramping away.

I succeeded in relieving the left side-stitch, but the right side would not unknot itself for the remainder of my run. I slowly struggled through the first three miles and was preparing to bag the entire effort when I felt some relief. Though the cramp never left, I was able to hold a more decent pace for awhile, and I finished my run. I'm happy about that.

I figure this fatigue has to end at some point in time. Maybe it's already starting to improve. After all, I was actually able to run today, even if it wasn't the most comfortable experience, and that's better than I could muster last Tuesday.

I leave the house with positive expectations every time I run. I've been through similar episodes in the past, and ultimately they've all resolved as mysteriously as they first appeared. So I'm hopeful. Either the blood work will indicate a solution, or time will heal all. I just have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Better? Not quite.

When last you heard from me, I was in the midst of taking a scheduled running day off. Fatigue and a series of crappy runs had gotten the best of me. That was Tuesday. The unplanned rest did seem to make a difference during my weight training class Wednesday evening. My legs handled the workout just fine. I was pleased.

Thursday dawned optimistically. I got some chores done around my house before meeting with my social worker at 11:00 AM. After eating a light lunch, I laid down to take a brief nap before my scheduled run, five half-mile repeats, which I expected to complete later that afternoon. I was ready and looking forward to getting back on the road.

Unfortunately, my nap never ended. I simply could not shake the sleep from my head. I tried. I got up, more than once, but it took 3 hours of sleeping to finally stay awake for more than a few minutes. I still thought I could run, despite wasting the whole afternoon on my sofa, but it was not to be. As soon as I ate a little bit, it was back to the sofa for me. I slept again, this time for a couple of hours. I awoke just in time to get ready for bed, and despite sleeping away half the day, I slept all night.

I guess I needed the rest, I thought, and I let it go at that. Friday was a scheduled rest day, so I took it. That meant today's run was my only run in the last 6 days. That's a long break in a marathon training schedule, but I accepted it. Apparently, it was meant to be. That being said, I was anxious to run today.

Unfortunately, I had another tougher-than-it-should-have-been run. What a disappointment! Today's villain was fatigue plus GI distress. It took more than 2.5 hours to run 13 miles, a distance which should have taken less than two hours. Fortunately, it wasn't all bad. Around 9 miles I began to feel a bit stronger. That lasted for a little over two miles. Just before mile 12, the fatigue descended once again, and I trudged home.

All in all, I think the rest did help. I feel encouraged that I had at least a few miles of less fatigue and stronger legs. Of course, I wish it would have lasted longer, but it didn't. While struggling through the miles, I decided to contact my doctor and ask her to order some blood work. I'll e-mail her today.

Something feels out of whack. I've been through periods of fatigue many times, but I'm usually able to resolve it with the interventions I've already put in place (multivitamin, rest, improved diet). I wonder if I'm anemic. I hope so! At least then this would make sense, and I would know what I needed to do to fix it!

Until I get some new or different information or something changes, I'm working on accepting where I'm at, doing what I can to stay close to my training schedule, and trying to get as much rest as I can. Sooner or later, something has got to make a difference. I'm going to count on that.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A day off

I'm doing something unusual today. I wasn't planning it, but this morning I decided it was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. I'm taking a day off. From running, that is. Even though I was scheduled to run 7 up-tempo miles today, I decided to take the day off.

I've been feeling really depleted lately. I had two terrible runs this past weekend. On Saturday, I struggled mightily through 14 miles. I felt horrible. After just 6 miles my legs were totally gassed. I felt as if I was running the last 6 miles of a marathon. On top of that, my breathing was quite labored. My pace was slow, yet I had to stop and rest multiple times, especially in those last few miles. It was all I could do to finish.

Sunday's 7-miler wasn't much better. I was motivated to go, and mentally felt up to it. I purposefully slowed my pace significantly, and I actually felt okay for the first couple miles, but then I knew. It was going to be another struggle to finish, and it was, despite the adjusted pace. The same aches, fatigue, and breathlessness frustrated me. I was relieved I didn't have a run scheduled for Monday.

Instead of a run, I had my kettlebell and suspension training class last night. I felt good walking into class, but after the instructor took us through a brief warm-up my legs were screaming. Yes, everybody else was tired, too, but my legs were too fatigued for the minimal warm-up we had just completed. Fortunately, the rest of the class was filled with learning new moves which were focused on the upper body and core. My legs weren't taxed significantly again.

That brings us to this morning. I was too tired getting out of bed. Even after I got up I wanted, needed to lie back down. I was also dreading my run. I was worried about feeling like crap again. I didn't want that. I didn't need the discouragement. So, in a very rare moment of clarity, I made the decision to take the day off. And I immediately felt relief.

Don't get me wrong. I questioned the wisdom of my inaction many times throughout the day, especially when the sun came out and the air warmed beautifully. But I have to admit, my body is showing signs of overtraining. This surprises me, because I have not done enough to be overtrained. I've trained much, much more seriously and heavily many times in the past.

If it's not overtraining, though, what is it? I feel depleted. It makes me wonder if there is something physically wrong. Just in case, I began taking a multivitamin. I'm eating more iron and protein, vegetables and fruits. I'm taking my naps. I'm being kind to myself. Hopefully this will work itself out.

I have my weight-training class again tomorrow, so that will be three consecutive days of no running. I'm anxious to see how I'll feel when I start up again on Thursday.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Disturbing thoughts

While my mood remains strong and fairly positive, I've been dealing with a few screwy thoughts lately. My thinking has been a bit off. This happens to me every once in awhile, and I don't like it. I don't like it at all. I'm actually surprised I'm about to admit it here, as I generally don't like to talk about it. These thoughts I sometimes have make me feel, well, "crazy."

It started a couple of weeks ago with very graphic, violent thoughts of terrible things happening to my puppy, Jet. The thoughts were so real, it often took me awhile to recognize they were just thoughts. They were very disturbing, and I had to work to get the thoughts out of my brain.

The thoughts about Jet triggered a resurgence of grief about Puck, my 13 year old black lab who died on December, 14th, 2012. I began reliving the last moments of his life over and over again. On my runs, at work, and when I closed my eyes at night, the pictures of his final moments were there again and again. Worse, I experienced fresh grief, which was difficult to deal with, every time those thoughts occupied my brain.

I struggled with the graphic thinking about Jet and the grief-filled thoughts about Puck for a little over a week. They slowly faded from my consciousness. Although truthfully, I haven't entirely let them go yet, as here I am still thinking about them, or maybe more accurately, my experience of them. They still disturb me.

These thoughts disturb me because I don't understand where they come from. I think if there was a reason for them they would be easier for me to deal with. But when thoughts bombard me from out of the blue, I get that "crazy" feeling. The violence and graphic nature of the thoughts also alarm me. What is that all about? Why? Where does that come from? Perhaps if I knew the answers to these questions, I'd be able to address and rid myself of the thoughts more quickly. Who knows.

I'm going to quit writing about the disturbing thoughts now, as revealing them makes me feel a bit vulnerable. Thankfully, as I mentioned, they've faded. Hopefully writing about them will give the thoughts the final boot from my brain. That would be nice. It would be even nicer if they never came back.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Still well

Just a brief note tonight to let you all know I continue to be busy, and things continue to go well. My mood is good. I have to keep myself from wondering when the other shoe will drop, and just enjoy the ride. I'm working hard, 31 hours per week the past two weeks, and surviving. My puppy, Jet, is as hilarious as ever. He makes me laugh, as he plays by himself, racing, rolling, and jumping around with his toys in my house, as he is right now, or in the backyard. Our crappy weather has made running challenging, but I've been getting my miles in nonetheless. And I just returned from my new, twice weekly, strength training class. We had a tough workout tonight, and I loved it. I think I may be sore tomorrow, and that's okay. Life is good right now. Depression seems relatively distant. And I kind of like it that way.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Another nice weekend

I just returned home from Milwaukee. It was a short visit, as usual, to see D. We had a very nice time. Even though he had to work a bit yesterday, we got to spend some quality time together. I went for a 13 mile run, a 1.5 mile walk with Jet, and took a much needed nap while D worked.

He came home in time for us to spend the afternoon together at a nice bookstore. Last night, we went out for an Italian dinner with D's 31 year old son. We finished up the evening with a delicious decaf caramel latte at the local, trendy coffee shop. I have to say, it was the best caramel latte I have ever had! It was fitting, comfortable end, to a busy but comfortable day.

This was Jet's first visit to D's home. He was quite playful and rambunctious, which doesn't bother me in the least in my own home, but I found myself worried when he was racing around D's house. You see, D was not a dog person at all prior to meeting me. In fact, Puck was the first, and only dog ever allowed in his home. His family was stunned when they found out he allowed it! Of course, I told him on day one that we were a package deal. Jet is now the second dog D's allowed to cross the threshold. Fortunately, I think I worried needlessly. D enjoyed playing with him, even if Jet didn't yet have the best manners.

Together, D and I took Jet for a slow run-walk this morning prior to going on our own 6 mile run. It was foggy and raining, but it was nice to run together, nonetheless. After he made me some delicious pancakes, we both lingered, unwilling to separate; me to go home, D to go back to work. But the weather was a bit threatening, and I had no desire to get caught up in an ice storm, so I eventually left.

I'm now safely at home. Jet is racing around tossing and chasing his bone, as I sit here with heavy eyelids. I sure wish D and I didn't live so far apart. Our visits are short, it's always difficult to leave, and I'm usually exhausted when I return home. Regardless, I'm grateful for D and for our growing relationship. It's really nice to have someone special in my life.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Ripple Effect

When did I get so busy? Oh my! I made a decision to go see D in Milwaukee this weekend, which means leaving for the 4 hour drive after work on Friday. Typically, I use the Thursday before I leave, which is usually my day off, to clean my house, do my laundry, pack Jet and I for the trip, and go for my hard run. But for some reason, I agreed to work tomorrow morning, at a building which is an hour west of here, and then I have a late afternoon, early evening continuing education class at a building which is an hour east of here! In between, I need to fit in my hard run. I have no idea when I'll clean, do laundry, or pack!

Of course, I could have done some of those things today, but this also happens to be the first week of my evening exercise class, which left me with little time tonight. In fact, after a long day at work today, I arrived home late, fell asleep on my sofa and almost missed my class! Oh, and I'm taking care of my friend's fish tank this week, which is not a big deal, but it's another jaunt down the road I must squeeze into each day. The decision to go away for the weekend has resulted in a ripple effect of busy-ness. I'm a little overwhelmed and slightly concerned, but so far I guess I'm managing fairly well. Now, if I could just find some clean clothes and a moment to pack them!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Too much Chocolate

I'm unhappy with my weight. Despite 3 solid weeks of training, I'm gaining weight. I'm a good 6 pounds above where I feel my best. Six pounds may not seem like a lot, but it is quite a bit on a runner. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the primary reason I'm heavy is I'm eating way too much chocolate. I love chocolate.

Loving chocolate is not actually the problem. The problem is once I start eating chocolate, I keep eating chocolate. It's eerily familiar to my response to alcohol. One piece of chocolate leads to another and another and another. Like last night, despite my good intentions to have just one piece, I continued eating piece after piece after piece. I don't like it. As I said, it reminds me of my response to alcohol. It makes me feel out of control, and that makes me uncomfortable.

For this reason, I know better than to buy chocolate. I know I can't have it in my house. If it's here, I eat it until it is gone, and then I feel bad about it. Despite this knowledge, I've been buying chocolate, and eating it, a lot lately. Why? I don't know. It's probably some sort of self-destructive tendency I should discuss with my therapist I suppose. But until I do that, I'm discussing it with you.

I'm admitting it to you, because I've made a decision. I'm temporarily going off chocolate. I think I'll feel better physically and mentally without it, without the temptation of it. It's going to be difficult. I am the queen of rationalization. In fact running is one of my primary rationalizations! I'm also frequently around chocolate, especially at work. I'm actually expecting fresh brownies in the office tomorrow morning. I love brownies.

I don't know how long this will last. I'm shooting for at least one month. Tomorrow will be day one. I feel like I need to do something drastic to get myself back on a healthier track, and trust me, not eating chocolate is drastic! I'll let you know how it goes and whether the effort turns out to be worth it or not. Hopefully it will be worth something more than just torture.