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!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Concern for Jet

Tomorrow, my ten month old puppy, Jet, and I will be meeting with a veterinarian orthopedic surgeon. His office is 1.5 hours away, but he's an expert with many years of experience. My vet recommended the surgical consult after several months of vet visits, phone calls, x-rays, and consultations about Jet.

Jet developed a limp a few months ago. After visiting my vet, I stopped walking him, tried to keep him a little bit quieter in the yard (which was impossible), and waited. We figured it was a condition of his right shoulder called osteochondritis dessicans, which some puppies develop and eventually grow out of. I wasn't happy, but I was hopeful he would be in the majority and get past the condition as he got older.

Last month, instead of getting better, Jet's limp got worse. He was having trouble putting more than 50% of his weight on it. After another consultation with the vet, I started him on an anti-nflammatory pain med, and we made plans for x-rays. Surprisingly, his shoulder x-rays were perfect. More poking and prodding revealed soreness in his right elbow, which required several additional x-rays. Those x-rays suggested a few possibilities, so we sent them on to a radiology expert at the University of Minnesota for her opinion.

The news from the expert was not good. Here's what she said: Based on the available radiographs, I believe that there's a problem of emerging degenerative joint disease in the right and even potentially in the left elbow due to fragmented coronoid process and secondary osteoarthritis; this is likely to be progressive. She said a lot more than that, but that's the big, bad news in a nutshell. The words arthritis and progressive have not stopped banging around in my head since I received this news last week.

I actually shed some tears when I first received the news. The expert believes Jet likely has arthritis in several of his other joints already. The fragmented coronoid process may possibly be surgically cleaned up, thereby decreasing his lameness, but there is no way to stop or cure arthritis. Jet will likely never be the running partner I had hoped him to be. He will likely require medication for his entire life, and he may be prematurely lame if the arthritis continues to advance. The radiologist's report disappointed and saddened me. This is not what I expected for my ten month old puppy.

Tomorrow I will hopefully receive some definitive answers to my many questions. I'm sure I'll leave the consultation with plenty to think about. For example, even if surgery is possible, will the expense be prohibitive? The consultations, x-rays, and medications have already hurt financially. I don't even like to mention the money, but it is part of the reality. It's actually a very worrisome consideration.

Please include Jet in your prayers. I'm asking God for patience, and tomorrow I'm sure I'll be praying for guidance. I'm trying to keep my emotions in check until I know something more definitive. But I do feel sad. I feel sad for Jet. He is the most active, rambunctious, happy, hilarious puppy I have ever known. It hurts me to see him lame and in pain so early in life, and it's devastating to think of his zest for life being quashed because of this damn condition. Jet and I will appreciate your prayers.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


It's been a few days since I've written. Sorry about that. D was here for the past three days, and we were having such a nice time together, it was impossible to step away. Here's the weekend re-cap.

As I explained in my last post, on Wednesday night I had barely enough energy to remain upright. Apparently I slept well Wednesday night because I awoke Thursday morning with enough energy to attempt my 17 mile long run, and I had a very good run! I kept my pace conservative and took frequent re-fueling breaks. That did the trick. I had a nice run on a beautiful day, and I had energy left over to prepare for D's Friday arrival.

D arrived early Friday evening. We had a great weekend. I ran a 4 mile women's race Saturday morning. He cheered me on and got to meet many of my friends and co-workers. As I was proudly introducing him around, I realized how entrenched I am within the local running community. I was surprised at how many people I introduced him to, all of them friends, even though I may only see some of them at running-related events. I left that race feeling like a part of, rather than apart from, the community in which I live. For someone who thinks of herself as a loner, that was surprising to me.

The race was great fun for several reasons. Three of my co-workers, all of whom have had struggles with weight and are barely beginning runners, decided to join me and run the race. The course was two laps around a small lake, so after I finished it was easy to go back and run to the finish with them. I was so proud of all three of them. I think they each performed better than they imagined they could, and we all had a great time afterward. I have some very funny co-workers.

Like my co-workers, I also performed better than I expected. I ran the 4 miles in 27:58, hardly my best time, but better than 7 minutes per mile. It's been so long since I've run a short race, I had no idea what kind of pace I could maintain. To dip in under 7 minutes per mile was quite satisfying for this aging runner. I think I finished 6th overall, and I was 1st in my age group. Those were just bonuses, though. The real fun was having D with me and watching my co-workers succeed. It was a great start to a lovely weekend.

The rest of the weekend was just for D and I. We spent time playing with Jet, sharing nice meals, watching baseball and movies, and running together. We enjoyed the local county fair where we mingled with baby animals and ate really unhealthy deep-fried food on a stick! D, the life-long city boy, even got to milk a life-size, fake cow! That may have been the highlight of the whole weekend!

It's always difficult when D goes home, yet it is nice to get back to my routine. I'm expecting a good, busy week of work and running ahead. I've got a longer race next weekend to look forward to, and in 3 weeks D and I will be together again to race a half marathon.

Things are going well. Life is good. I'm feeling blessed. I don't know what I did to feel so well, but I'm sure glad I do!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Feeling pooped!

I just returned home from my evening kettlebell weight training class, which ended three extra long, extra busy days of work and life. Attempting to fix myself something to eat after class, I suddenly realized I felt faint. I'm not close to passing out or anything, but I am totally wiped out! My muscles, cardiovascular system, and brain are all on empty.

I knew I was tired before the class began. I got home from work with only about 25 minutes to spare prior to class beginning. I could feel the fatigue in my muscles and my brain as I got ready to go. I actually thought about skipping class. If it was a scheduled run, I probably would have skipped it, but we are expected to attend every kettlebell class. I rather would have taken a nap.

Well, not surprisingly, the class was tougher than usual. I was winded from the start, but I took more time than usual transitioning between exercises, mini-breaks, and made it work. Unfortunately, now I can barely keep myself upright. I'm really pooped!

I'm a little concerned, as I sit here feeling like a wet dish rag, because I plan to run 17 miles tomorrow. Typically I would run long on Saturday, but I have a short race on Saturday, which most of my co-workers are doing, so I want to run it, too. Also, D is coming this weekend. I don't want to waste 3 hours of our time together running alone. It will be best if I can get the 17 done tomorrow, but we'll see.

I'm really looking forward to my day away from work tomorrow. I do have plenty of things to accomplish before D's arrival on Friday, but hopefully a good night's sleep will help me recover and energize. I think it will be an early night tonight. I'll let you know how it all works out.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Feeling satisfied

I had a productive yet relaxing weekend. I'm feeling pretty satisfied. Things are going really well right now. And I'm not even waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The oppressive heat and humidity we'd been having for 4 or 5 days finally broke on Saturday. I got up early to go running but soon decided to catch a another hour of sleep when I realized it was actually nearly cool outside. After a great morning meeting, I had a decent 16-mile midday run. It was a good run, a nice run, until about mile 12. Things slid downhill from there. I simply ran out of gas. I needed several water breaks over the final four miles, but eventually I got them done.

Unfortunately, I was a bit wasted, physically, for many hours after my run. Perhaps I got a little dehydrated running in the middle of the day. Even though it wasn't hot, the sun was shining. Being an early morning runner, I guess I'm not used to that. I did recover, however, and ended my evening with an AA speaker meeting which was filled with fellowhip, spirituality, and hope. That was a nice way to end the day.

This morning I got up early to run with a friend. I was tired and a little worried about coming back so soon after my tough run yesterday afternoon, but I wanted to give it a shot. My friend went back to bed, but I didn't know that until I had already gotten dressed, so I went out alone anyway. And I'm so glad I did. It was a glorious morning, and I had a great 8-mile run. I even managed the four middle miles at marathon pace. I was happily fatigued when done. I love that feeling.

I spent the rest of today working on my recovery with my sponsor, listening to a couple of friends who each needed an ear, doing a little laundry and cleaning my house. I hate cleaning, but I always feel so good sitting in a clean house once I'm done. I probably should do it more often.

So it's been a good weekend. I overcame. I helped. I celebrated. I accomplished. I'm grateful for my blessings today. I'm grateful for the people in my life. I'm grateful for my doctor and my friends. I'm grateful for sobriety and what seems to be a depression remission. Feeling satisfied is a nice way to head off to bed. Good night.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Expensive emotions

I don't know about you, but I cannot afford strong emotions. I've been cranky lately. Particularly at work, I've been impatient, frustrated and cranky. My patients have been spared, of course, but my coworkers have really been on my nerves! Reasons which justify my crankiness are valid, but that's not the point. I cannot afford impatience, frustration or crankiness.

Strong emotions, especially strong negative emotions, sap my energy like little else. When I let people get under my skin, I suffer. When I let situations irritate me, I pay for it. When I allow my frustration to build, I deteriorate. Cajoling negative emotions serves no useful purpose.

Negative emotions cost rather than pay. Allowing myself to remain frustrated, angry or irritated leads inevitably to negative behavior, which is then followed by more negative emotions, both within and around me. I do myself no favor by remaining discontent.

So today, while away from work, I am trying to clear my brain and body of negativity. I am working to rid myself of restlessness, irritability and discontent. I want to free my psyche and lighten my load, see people and situations in a different light, and quash rationalization in favor of acceptance. It's not necessarily easy, but it's vital for my mental health.

My mental health is valuable, and expensive negative emotions do nothing to enhance it's worth. These emotions take, take, take without ever giving a penny back. I cannot afford them. The cost is too high. If I want to change the course of the next few days, and I do, I have to let the negativity go. I've got to instead work for the cold, hard cash of acceptance. Ultimately, it is acceptance which will change my course and bring me peace.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Different roles

I had an interesting experience at work yesterday. I was working with a patient who had not progressed through her initial rehab from orthopedic surgery as expected. The patient was a long way behind where she should have been for the type of surgery she had. She had been in the hospital at least twice as long as is typical for her diagnosis. It seemed she had some anxiety and behavioral issues which were holding her back and keeping her from progressing.

Fortunately, we have a team of specialized clinicians at the hospital. This team can assist staff with patients who have anxiety and behavioral issues. Before I arrived, the patient's nurse called for a team member to be present during physical therapy. When I arrived to see the patient, I realized I knew the summoned team member, a nurse, quite well. I said hello, and we went about treating the patient.

But the story here is not about my patient. The story is about the nurse and I. You see, this nurse had been my caregiver several times during the past 12+ years. This nurse previously worked in one of the inpatient psychiatric units I frequented during my battles with depression. It's been several years since I've been in that particular inpatient unit. The last time I saw this nurse, I was actually one of her patients.

I don't have any particular affinity or antagonism for this nurse. She was one of the nurses on the psychiatric unit, and she was my primary nurse the last time I was there. I didn't always like her approach or agree with her opinions, but I could say that about many of the doctors and nurses I came in contact with during my multiple inpatient stays. She was a decent professional.

This nurse, however, had never seen me as a professional. She'd only seen me at my absolute lowest and worst. She knew me as a very sick, non-functional, suicidal, mentally ill person. She experienced my scariest thoughts, my most dysfunctional behaviors, and my darkest hours. I was a "frequent flier" on her unit, and I always came back looking and feeling the same. Who knows what she thought had happened to me.

So it was strange, and kind of rewarding, to work with this nurse professionally yesterday.  I think we did a good job with our mutual patient. The patient made greater progress yesterday than she had in the previous week, and that was the goal of the collaboration. I appreciated that we worked together as professionals, each performing our role, for the benefit of the patient.

Afterward, the nurse and I had a brief moment to chat. She told me about leaving the psychiatric unit and joining the specialized team. I told her about my current employment. We talked about our patients and how much we enjoyed working with them. I was touched that she remembered and asked about Puck. I told her how he passed and described my goofy, Jet. She seemed interested in how I was doing, but she didn't ask. I don't know why, but I appreciated that, too. I began to tell her anyway; I wanted her to know, but our patient needed her then, and we didn't get a chance to chat again.

I'm glad I got the opportunity to collaborate with this nurse. There was something satisfying about our interaction. I got to operate as the person I am, the person beyond the illness. Previous to yesterday, she had never seen that person. She'd only seen the very ill me. That's all she knew. And that's not me.

At this moment, I am a person living with, not suffering from depression. I guess there was something very satisfying about showing that off.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Officially training again

I'm back on the road preparing for my next marathon, The Twin Cities Marathon, in early October. It was nice to run for fun over the past couple of weeks, but there's something about training that feels right and good. I think the structure of training gives my life direction, meaning, and order. I actually don't do well with too much free time, so having a schedule keeps me on track and helps me get things done. And as a lifelong athlete, the physical and mental challenges of hitting paces, conquering hills, and logging long miles are all quite gratifying.

Yes, marathon preparation is under way. Despite thinking, perhaps out loud, that I would never, ever go for a marathon personal record again, which was my thought at mile 25 of Grandmas Marathon a few weeks ago, I have begun to think about the possibility. Of course I have! After all, I was sick at Grandmas, and I still ran a personal best! You all knew this was going to happen, didn't you? Well, I also function better when I have a specific goal.

I haven't set that goal yet. I had a great 14-mile run in the warm rain at 5 AM this morning. I am going to wait a few more weeks, see how my overall training goes, before I make a decision as to whether I will aim for a fast time at Twin Cities or not. I am excited by the prospect of running well. That excitement fuels my desire to follow my schedule and keep training hard. It's nice to be "officially" back at it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Have you seen this?

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to post a link instead of a post. The speaker in the video addresses the stigma surrounding depression. It will take 11 minutes out of your day. If you watch it, I'd be interested to hear what you think.;search%3Akevin%20breel

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Nature Heals All

I am now back in my living room after 5 days in northern Wisconsin at the lake with my boyfriend, D. You'll have to forgive me for being out of touch. I quite enjoyed being out of contact, actually. My cell phone didn't even ring or vibrate once while I was gone! My friends and family knew I was away, and they apparently decided to let me be away. So it was me, D, Jet, and D's adult son for most of the past 5 days. And it was beautiful!

D has a lovely home on a lake. While there, we introduced Jet to woods, water, and deer. We went boating. Jet wasn't sure he approved of that, but he relaxed a bit the second time we took him out. We water skied. My forearms are sore today from hanging onto the tow rope! We ran and walked on the trails. D planned and cooked all of our meals, which were delicious. We played games. We tried to sit around the fire, but the mosquitoes got the best of us, so that didn't last long. We watched movies, read, talked and relaxed.

My relationship with D is going very well. We are more and more comfortable with each other. It's so nice when we are together. This is only the second time in the past 2+ years that we've been together for more than a weekend. It seems we are both willing to put in the time and effort required to make this relationship work, especially considering how little time we get to spend together. I'm so grateful for D and for our relationship. Plus, having this healthy relationship is another example of sticking a middle finger in the face of my depression!

I tried to post some pictures in this post, but they keep coming out sideways, even though I've saved them to my computer in an upright position. Oh well, you'll just have to trust me. I had a wonderful, beautiful, relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, I must get back to life now, and that includes doing my household chores and getting my body and soul ready to go back to work tomorrow. Returning to my routine is always tough, and since procrastinating won't help, I guess I better get started.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

V is for Vacation!

It's early morning, and I am getting ready for work. I work 6 hours today prior to taking off for D's lake home in Wisconsin. I can't wait to get going. Although packing is not my favorite thing to do, and doing so kept me up late last night, tired, I am nonetheless ready to go. My vehicle is stuffed with dog kennel, dog food, dog beds, dog towels, dog treats, dog toys, dog tie-out, and even a doggy life vest. I've got a medium-sized SUV, and there's barely a spot left for my suitcase! I'll try to post while away. Unless I totally collapse in the sunshine, I may even share some pictures. Although I won't object if I do collapse under the sun. Until we meet again, have a great day, friends!