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!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Vampires in the night

As I have the past several nights, I spent much of last night awake. I think my mood has recovered a little bit, but part of my brain is apparently unaware. It's on overdrive. Worry thoughts, negative thoughts, future concerns; they are all crowded in there and wanting to be heard. Unfortunately, they've recently chosen the middle of the night or very early morning as the time to clamor out. Don't you hate that? It's not like there's anything I can do about anything, no matter how much the thoughts clamor, in the middle of the night. Yet clamor on they do.

Last night was no different. Thought after thought took its turn, each one making a racket, one louder than the last. I covered my head with the pillow. I rolled from side to side and flipped from front to back. I turned on the television. I turned off the television. Bathroom trips were routine. But sleep was elusive, and it didn't last. Daylight was the only thing which successfully sent the thoughts away. But I know they're still there. Like vampires they're hidden now in the dark recesses of my mind, waiting, it seems, for the moon to shine before making their boisterous rounds again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Post Marathon Dip

I'm having a little dip in my mood. I think it has to do with the marathon I just completed. I've experienced this kind of low before, after a marathon, but it's been a rare occurrence. Of course, I'm getting anxious about it. I'm anxious about the fact I don't find anything intriguing or interesting. Anxious about feeling lethargic. Anxious about feeling easily distracted and stressed. Anxious about feeling low. I'm anxious, and a little scared, that this little slide could lead to an avalanche.

Since returning from the race, I've gone to work, but I haven't been out of the house much otherwise. I skipped a social event last night, but at least I went for a walk instead. Other than that walk, I haven't done anything active. No weight lifting, no running, no swimming and no biking. About the only thing I have done a lot of is sleep. I'm not so much tired as I am bored and lethargic. Sleeping is the easiest thing to do. It's not the best, though, and I know that.

I'm going to try to do something better today. I'm planning to go for a nice, slow run this afternoon. Right now that goal feels far away, but I know I can do it. I'll at least take a walk. No matter how difficult it is to get started, I know I'll feel better after I go. I've got to go. It's beautiful outside. If I don't move, my slide may eventually turn into an avalanche. I cannot take that risk.

This too shall pass. Like the rough patches during the marathon, I have to remember that. They passed. This too shall pass.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Happy 3:43

Yesterday dawned drizzly, cold and gray. It was a perfect day for a long run. Rather than worry about overheating, as was the case in my last two marathons, there was actually a risk of hypothermia at Grandmas Marathon yesterday. The fog was so heavy and thick, it was hard to see the mile markers (huge, tethered, yellow balloons) as we approached each of them. And I don't think the temperature ever rose beyond the mid-50's. Like I said, it was a perfect day for a long run.

I took advantage of the conditions. Wearing shorts, two shirts, a hat, and a pair of gloves, I raced my way to a 3:43:59 Boston-Qualifying time. I definitely run better in cooler weather!

I actually surprised myself yesterday. Despite the cool conditions, I didn't feel all that great for quite awhile. I ran the first three miles with my friend, Therese, but then I asked her to go ahead without me. I could tell I needed to slow down, or I was going to crash later, and I certainly didn't want that. She went ahead, and I slowed my pace just a bit. Still things were iffy. I wasn't at all confident. It wasn't until after a pit stop at mile eight, which cost me 40 seconds, that I began to improve mentally and physically.

Concerned about the lost 40 seconds, which I know is silly, I picked up the pace and surprisingly felt okay. I went from running 8:30's per mile to running 8:20's for most of the middle miles. Rather than thinking too far ahead, I focused on each successive mile. I thought only of making it to the next mile marker, literally running one mile at a time, rather than worrying about what was going to happen miles down the road. I also smiled a lot.

The smiling started, innocently, around mile 12 or 13 when I began to gain confidence. With each successful mile completed, I got more and more confident that I was going to finish, and perhaps even finish well. The smiling seemed to help my running, so then I began smiling on purpose, especially during rough patches. It worked. Each time I felt tired or worn out, I smiled, and each rough patch eventually passed. And that led to more smiling!

Before I knew it, I was at mile 22, then 23 and 24. I knew I was going to finish. I let it go. I couldn't wait to cross that line. Miles 24 and 25 were the two fastest miles I ran in the entire race. I slowed again during mile 26, as my legs tightened up, but I crossed the finish line tall and proud.

Unlike the recent Boston and Med-City Marathons, there was no walking yesterday. I ran the entire distance, and I was proud of that. I also ran a negative split, meaning I ran the second half of the race faster than the first, and I was proud of that. For the most part, I didn't even think about my overall time. I was at mile 25 before I noted I was likely going to finish well under the Boston Qualifying standard. And I did. I qualified by more than 10 minutes.

Qualifying was a bonus, however. I'm really happy to have run well and to have felt well while doing it. I'm really proud I didn't let myself down. I didn't let negativity creep in. Instead I felt almost giddy at times. I had fun. Even though I initially didn't feel great, I kept going until I felt better. The training, which hadn't had me feeling very confident lately, did pay off. I challenged myself, and I met the challenge. It was a good day.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dear Kathy

I don't know if you remember me, but I certainly haven't forgotten you. I tend not to forget people who have made a huge, positive impact on my life. You were one of the first. You tended to my psychological needs for years, from the time we first met, which was after my first suicide attempt landed me in the your inpatient, adolescent, mental health unit, through the end of my college years, when I picked up and moved away. Even after that time, I returned when I could and stopped in to say hello. I always wanted you to know, needed you to know, I was doing well.

Kathy, you were such a big part of my earliest healing from this nasty illness of depression. When I needed a steady, loving presence, you were there. You were patient, and kind, and caring. You were generous with your time and spirit. As I grew, and the depression resolved, I kept in touch because I wanted to show you what all your work had done for me. Despite my challenges throughout childhood and adolescence, I was well. Depression hadn't beaten me, and much of the credit for that goes to you.

Thirteen years ago, the depression returned, and I lost touch. My journey changed direction more than once. Life got complicated. For awhile, I got lost in a bottle. Job loss, hospitalizations, financial strain...mental illness reigned supreme. I struggled, alternating periods of wellness with stretches of devastation. I love rollercoasters, but this one was no fun.

During those difficult years, I'd return to Duluth, wander past your hospital or drive by your home and think, "I should stop in," but I didn't. For some reason, I didn't want you to know things were tough. I can't explain why. But I missed keeping in touch. I never forgot your impact on my life. I continue to want to thank you, over and over again.

And it's been too long, Kathy, since I've checked in, and I hope it's not too late. With great trepidation, I tried to call, but a thirteen year old number only rang without end. I was almost relieved. After all, what would I say? Too many years have passed. You may not even know who I am.

Yet I want you to know, Kathy, that when I'm here in Duluth, as I am practically every year at marathon time, I always think of you. And I think of you with tremendous gratitude in my heart, for you saved me when I wanted to jump. Again and again and again, you were there. Today I am sober and living with, rather than suffering from, depression. Many impactful people have passed through my life, and my gratitude extends to all of them. But I wouldn't be here today without you, Kathy. Thank you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tapering yet Tired

I had my last long run prior to next Saturday's Grandmas Marathon this morning. It was only 8 miles, but you could have fooled me! I had totally dead legs. Every step was work, and I just wanted to quit. I didn't, of course, but I didn't have any fun despite almost ideal running weather. I'm really concerned now. Grandmas is only one week away, and I can't seem to shake this fatigue. I don't want to have another difficult race. I like Grandmas, and I want to enjoy it.

I almost always have some level of fatigue, but this feels different. I feel heavy. My muscles are sore. And my legs just don't seem to be responding to training. Despite tapering for the marathon, running many fewer miles than usual, and running them with less intensity, I'm tired. Running is difficult. And that's not fun.

As I mentioned here previously, I've decided to take a couple of weeks off and get away from training after Grandmas. I'll run less and only for fun. Maybe I won't even wear my watch! That would be an amazing development for me. I'm hoping to run some shorter races later this summer. I'd like to mix it up a bit. My next marathon isn't until the Chicago Marathon in October, so I have some time to play before I have to get back to serious training. At this point I need the mental break as much as the physical one.

I'm taking a break this weekend, too. Besides an easy (I hope) 4-miler tomorrow, I don't have anything planned for the rest of the weekend. I took advantage of the rainy afternoon and napped today. Tonight and tomorrow I will just be puttering around the house, relaxing, and getting a few chores done. With the exception of running, I don't even need to leave the house. And I may not.

Before long, I'll be in Duluth, Minnesota, preparing to run Grandmas. Until then, I'm going to try to take one day at a time and not spend too much time worrying about the race. Whatever happens will be okay. I need to keep reminding myself of that. It's the journey, not the destination. Right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Feeling Apologetic

I must confess. I feel bad. I feel like I need to apologize to my regular readers. I'm sorry I haven't been writing here as frequently as usual. Things have been going so well lately, I feel like I have little to say. I don't think another report about my past few days is all that interesting.

That being said, I'm somewhat grateful I have little to say. Things have been pretty simple and straight forward lately. There is no drama, and I'm so, so thankful for that. Work is going well, running is running, and Jet still makes me laugh out loud every day. What else is there to say?

So I apologize. I don't have much to say. Day by day, my life is moving forward. I've been putting one foot in front of the other, meeting my responsibilities, tapering for Grandmas Marathon, loving Jet, getting out with friends once in awhile, and taking care of my physical and mental being. It may sound boring, but sometimes boring is good.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

10 Mile Trail Race

I ran another race this morning. It was a 10 mile trail race at a local park. Most of the race was in the woods. The footing was tricky and the trail had many, many hills, as most trails do. My legs were already tired from my 5 AM weight lifting class yesterday, and as expected the hills really challenged those tired muscles. But I held my own, I'm happy to say.

I've done this race several times, and I always wonder what the hell I'm doing in the middle of it. It is as mentally challenging as it is physically. There are hills interspersed throughout, some very steep, including one just before mile five, at the top of which I couldn't imagine running another one while realizing I still had five more miles to go. Before long I dreaded running down the steep descents as much as the ascents because my thighs were jelly by mile eight. It takes a lot of muscle control to run downhill. I'm happy I didn't fall on my face.

I didn't stick around for the final results, so I don't know if I received an age group award, but I finished just under 1:27:00. That's about an 8 minute, 40 second average per mile. It's not the 8:15 average I ran a couple years ago, but I was quite happy with it.

Based on my last two slow performances at the Boston and Med-City Marathons, I had no idea what to expect of myself today. To run 8:40 pace on this difficult trail was a pleasant surprise. My legs held up better than I thought they would. That gives me a bit of confidence going into Grandmas Marathon, which is now just two weeks from today.

I start tapering for Grandmas in earnest now. I've decided I'm going to take a short break from training after Grandmas. I'll still run, but I won't train. I'll just run some short distances a few days per week, for fun, for a couple of weeks. I think I need the break, mentally and physically, and I'm looking forward to running for the pure joy of it for a bit. After all, I do enjoy and appreciate running, and I don't want it to ever become a chore. While not a chore, today was hard work, but I'm glad I made the effort. It was a good race.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hello June!

I thought summer would never arrive, and I'm welcoming the warm weather and sunshine with open arms. I ran 8 miles in the middle of the day today and just soaked it all in. I was sweating up a storm but enjoyed every minute.

I spent this past weekend with D. He came to visit from Milwaukee. We ran together, spent a day with my brother, had a nice dinner out, and had brunch with my best friend, Wendy. D hasn't met any of my brothers, so it was nice for him to meet at least one of them. They seemed to enjoy each other. We spent the day walking around, eating, and shopping in my brother's historic small town. The weather was gorgeous. My brother was funny, as usual. And we had a really fine day.

Wendy also had not met D. She's been teasing me, saying he's just a figment of my imagination. Well they finally got to meet when we had brunch together on Sunday. We had a great time and laughed a lot. Wendy gave D her seal of approval afterward. It's always good when your friends like your boyfriend. It was a very nice weekend.

D left Sunday afternoon, and as usual I was exhausted. I think I slept for two hours after he left. I love when he's here, but I always feel tired after he's gone. I think it's just the result of being out of my routine. I'm busier than when I'm alone on the weekends, and I don't get to nap.

I don't think I've yet recovered from the weekend because my parents arrived yesterday right after work. They spent the night and left this morning. So again, no nap yesterday. I worked 6 hours, went for my run, and then spent the evening with my parents. They helped me pick out a new lawn mower, and we went out to eat. By the time we got home, put the lawn mower together and tested it out, it was time for bed.

Thankfully, I didn't work today. I napped after my parents left, ran, and mowed my lawn. I got back into my routine, but I am still tired! I'll be back at work for another 6 hours tomorrow. It's frustrating to be so tired. I feel like I should be able to handle the slight uptick in activity without so much fatigue, but apparently I can't. And I guess there is no use to be frustrated by it. It is what it is. I'll hopefully sleep well tonight and catch up. I'm looking forward to that.