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, May 28, 2015

Tough news

I had a rough afternoon and evening yesterday. At 4:00 PM I saw my orthopedic doctor to get my MRI results. My worst fears were realized. I have a partially torn right Achilles tendon. Unfortunately, in order for my Achilles to heal I will need to be immobilized with my toes pointing downward in a cast for four weeks. I will be able to walk with the cast, but with the toes in a downward position, it will be an awkward gait. Of course I won't be able to run while I am immobilized or for an undetermined time afterward. But I have a bigger issue. I am also restricted from doing any right lower extremity exercise. My doctor wants me to totally rest so as not to interfere with the healing at all. Ouch.

As you all know, exercise is a vital piece of my depression relapse prevention. I'm very concerned about losing it. Suffice it to say I will be doing a lot of sit-ups and push-ups over the next several weeks. My doctor knew he was asking a lot of me, but he also impressed upon me how important it is to rest and heal. I still plan to run the New York City Marathon on November 1st, so I will listen and rest. The sooner I heal the better. But I am nervous about the exercise restrictions.

The other scary issue with being in a cast is work. I'm a physical therapist. I lift and twist and balance and walk all day. I am responsible for my patients' health and safety. I cannot work with patients if I am unbalanced myself. I already know I will not be allowed to work at my hospital job. I'm waiting to hear from my skilled nursing facility. Even if the skilled facility is able to accommodate my temporary disability, and they allow me to work, I am not currently scheduled to work enough hours next month to make ends meet. Financial insecurity is a big trigger for me, so again I am worried about my mood.

Speaking of my mood, I am fairly low today. Besides the Achilles issues, I also have some tough news about my relationship. After a long discussion last evening, my boyfriend and I decided to discontinue our relationship. It was a mutual decision, and it may be the right decision, but that doesn't make it any less difficult. I am very sad. We've been dating for 4 years, and although we didn't get to see each other often, it will be strange adjusting to life without him. I really thought this relationship might lead to a lifetime commitment. We both did. I'm not sure I have the energy to begin again.

Begin again, I will, however. There is no other choice. I will keep moving forward. I am placing my faith in my doctor's recommendations and my body's ability to heal. I am praying for acceptance; to accept the things I cannot change. I am willing to take the next right action. And I am praying for the strength to handle these life challenges as they present themselves. One moment at a time. One moment at a time.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Is there a bigger waste of mental energy than worrying? I don't think so. And I know I'm wasting a ton of energy these days. My relationship, my injury, and a potential surgery are the primary issues causing me concern. I've got worries.

I'm sorry to report my boyfriend and I are struggling a bit. We've been long distance dating for four years. Living four hours apart from each other has been challenging, but we've made it work. Recently, however, making it work has been a little more difficult. Out of respect for my boyfriend's privacy, I don't want to say more that that. We're talking, and that's important, but I don't yet know what the future entails for us. It's a stressful time, and I'm worried.

My Achilles tendon continues to cause me anxiety. The pain is a constant reminder something is wrong. It's improved ever so slightly, but there is still no way I can run. I had my MRI last Tuesday, but I don't yet know the results. That's frustrating. I'm scheduled to see my doctor for the results this Wednesday. Not knowing what's wrong has been tough. I want to know what's up so I can make a plan and move forward. And so I can get the worries out of my brain!

Battling for space in my brain is indecision and worry regarding a big decision I have to make. I've told you in the past about my sleep apnea. Apparently, I've got a lot of extra tissue, including my tonsils, hanging around in my throat. There is a surgery called UPPP which can remove the excess tissue and potentially solve my sleep apnea. That would be thrilling! No more C-PAP, which I hate!
Seems like an easy decision, right? Nope.

There are potential complications which leave me questioning what to do. In addition to the normal complications, which can result from any surgery, there are two big variables to be considered. UPPP surgery is only successful around 40-50% of the time, and UPPP surgery is extremely painful. The pain lasts a solid two weeks, during which time I would be unable to exercise or work. That fact adds mental health and financial concerns to the decision making process.

After a long, frank discussion with the ear, nose and throat surgeon, I'm leaning toward doing the surgery, but I'm having trouble actually making the decision. I'm not a fan of throat pain, so that scares me. I'm worried about not being able to do anything for two weeks. That could be tough on my mental health. I'm not sure if I can afford to take two full weeks off of work. When I don't work, I don't get paid. That worries me. And finally, even if I do get through all of that, there's a 50% chance I'll still have sleep apnea! I really don't know what to do.

Decisions, decisions... I dislike indecision. I dislike worrying. They both sap my energy. I'm trying to combat the worry, and make some decisions, with pros and cons lists, chats with friends and professionals, and writing. I'm spending a lot of time refocusing my mind, trying to come back to the present moment, every time I find myself stuck with one of these concerns spinning in my head. It's difficult but necessary. I know the sooner I take some steps and make some decisions, the sooner I'll be able to quit worrying and start moving forward once again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

depressed is a feeling

Recently someone left a social media comment on a post I made about depression which began with, "We've all been depressed... " The person who left the comment went on to explain that she/he was currently dealing with this and that and therefore depressed. While the commenter was trying to empathize, and I realized that, the statement, "We've all been depressed..." really irked me.

My post was about depression, an illness, which everyone has not, in fact, experienced. The writer was referring to feeling depressed, not an illness, which most people have likely experienced. Feeling depressed is not the same as depression, and others mistaking the feeling for the illness is one of the many difficulties of living with depression. Depression is an illness. Depressed is a feeling.

When I speak publicly about my illness, I always talk about the difference between depression and depressed. The problem is everyone has felt depressed. Therefore some feel they know what depression is and what needs to be done to cure it. After all, they were depressed once.

This confusion is the root, I believe, of the unhelpful advice we sometimes receive. Advice to "just smile more," or "think happy thoughts," or "just get out of the house and you'll feel better," is not helpful because those of us with depression know there's more to it than that. We have more than an unpleasant feeling to deal with. We have symptoms to manage.

You'll never hear me say, "I'm depressed." When I speak about my illness, I always refer to my symptoms. I say things like, "When my depression symptoms are more prevalent..." Just as cancer patients do not say, "I am cancer," and people with MS do not say, "I am MS," I very purposefully do not say "I am depressed." After all, I am not depressed today, but I still have my illness, and that illness is depression.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Combating the Black Dog

Things have been a little tough lately. While I've had some good things happening, like the publishing of one of my blog posts on the website, The Mighty, I'm still down with my right Achilles injury. My mood has definitely taken a blow as a result. I have not yet been able to run. In fact, I haven't trained since injuring it April 25th. I've crossed The Med City Marathon, which will be run May 24th, off my list. And I'm not even sure at this point whether I will be able to run my favorite marathon, Grandma's Marathon, in mid-June. I'm so frustrated and disappointed. Being injured is tough, but feeling low again has been even tougher.

I'm trying hard not to worry about my mood, and I'm doing everything I can to keep the downward slide to a minimum. I'm doing the exercise I'm able to do in an effort to stay in shape and stave off depression. I'm throwing myself into my patients at work. Focusing all my attention on each of them relieves my worries and almost always improves my mood. I'm trying to eat well, although this is more difficult for me when my mood is low, but I'm trying. I'm also getting the sleep I need while not giving in to the urge to snooze too much or too often. It's taking a concerted effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other, but it's worth it. I don't want to slide into the abyss.

Getting more information about my injury will certainly help my mood and my anxiety. Knowing what's wrong will at least give me some direction. I saw my orthopedic doctor last week. He took x-rays and did an exam. He's worried about a few things he felt and saw, so I'm having an MRI on Tuesday. He's concerned I have partially torn the Achilles tendon. Hopefully the MRI will give us the information we need to proceed mindfully forward.

Until that time, I will do my best to focus forward, attend to my responsibilities, and keep this dip to a situational low. So far I think I've been successful. I'm satisfied with that. I'm not chipper, but I've been able to keep the black dog from moving in. And I know I will feel better. This is a temporary situation, and it will pass. It will pass. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Getting Around

Getting around, etta is. I find myself humbled and honored once again today. The website, The Mighty, is featuring one of my recent posts on their site. The post titled, Dear Friends and Family, published in January, caught their eye, and they generously offered to post it on their site. I'm always surprised when my little blog is discovered or recognized by a much larger entity, but I am proud to have this post out there where it might be seen by a larger audience. I'm hopeful it makes a difference in the life of someone. And I'm very grateful The Mighty gave me the opportunity.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Don't Call Me a Consumer

I rarely do this, but this is a post I originally published in 2008. The subject came up again the other day in my therapy group, so I thought it was time to run it again. I'd love to know what you think.

Consumer. Whose idea was that? When did patient become a four-letter word? And why is it only a four-letter word for me, a person with depression, but not for my neighbor with cancer? Please do not call me a consumer. When I am in line at Starbucks, I am a consumer. Shopping at Wal-mart I am a consumer. But while conversing with my doctor, I am a patient.

Who came up with this idea that we were not patients, not people with an illness, but consumers? While I stand in front of classrooms enlightening the charges that mental illness is no different than cancer, MS, or any other illness, someone somewhere decided that it would be too stigmatizing(?) to call us patients? In an effort to make us less different, we just rocketed ourselves into another plane of difference. How can we say we are the same, but please don’t call us the same? We have a biological, treatable illness, but the word patient is pejorative? Cancer patient, woman with MS, guy with heart disease; no problem, it is okay for them. But we are different. We, those of us with depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders, have an illness just like they do, but please don’t refer to us in the same way. We are not patients. We are consumers. Huh?

Consumer? Talk about stigmatizing. I have a biological brain disease. When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown or a blue gown. I am there because my symptoms have gotten worse, and I need specialized medical care to manage my illness. This is true whether I have appendicitis, diabetes, or depression. All are illnesses that may lead to death if we do not allow ourselves to be treated, to be patients.

I am a person with a mental illness. While visiting my psychiatrist, I am her patient. While visiting my psychologist, I am her patient. While getting my blood drawn, having an MRI or getting an EKG, I am a patient. Regardless of my diagnosis, when getting treatment, I am a patient. Why, if the diagnosis is depression, undergoing the same tests and treatment, must I be a consumer?

We can’t have it both ways. If our premise and platform is that we have biological, treatable illnesses, just like everybody else, how can we define “patient” as a stigmatizing word? We can’t fight for research dollars. We can’t educate the school children. We can’t demand equal insurance coverage. We can’t reduce stigma. We can’t align ourselves with other biological, treatable illnesses if we continue to separate ourselves by denying our status as patients. We can't have it both ways.

Choosing between Ajax and Comet? Consumer.
Choosing between Prozac and Paxil? Patient.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Injury Update

I'm unhappy to report my mood has taken a bit of a hit this week. The primary reason for the downturn is my injury. I injured my right Achilles tendon toward the end of a 17.5 mile run while on vacation about 10 days ago. I have not been able to run since. In fact, walking has even been challenging at times. I think things are very slowly improving, but the lack of major improvement worries me. I'm worried I might have more than just some tendinitis. I could possibly have a partial tear, and that would require a lot of healing time.

Right now I don't have that time if I want to keep my training on track. I was not able to run my half marathon two days ago. My 20-miler, scheduled for this weekend, looks doubtful. I was hoping to run The Med City Marathon on May 24th and of course, Grandma's Marathon in mid-June. Those dates are fast approaching, while my injury is too slowly healing.

I'm also frustrated by this injury because I was just getting back to the point where running was feeling easy and joyful again. Coming back from hip surgery required work, and that's what running felt like for several months, hard work. Over the last few weeks, I felt the flow returning. Now I'm faced with possibly having to begin all over again. That is, if this ever heals!

Of course, I know the tendon will eventually heal. It's just not going to be on my timetable, which would have been yesterday! Patience may be a virtue, but it's not necessarily one of my virtuous characteristics when it comes to running. I'm so anxious to get back to training, it's difficult to see others out running around the neighborhood. Kind of silly, but that's where I'm at.

Interrupted training is not my only concern. My mood has definitely been knocked down by this injury. When I can't run my mood is not well protected. I'm susceptible to emergence of depression symptoms. I know this. And I'm doing my best to combat it. But my mood has taken a hit. I feel it slowly creeping downward. I need to keep working hard to stay afloat.

And that's what I've been doing, working hard. Even though I've yet to find a suitable substitute for running, I have been exercising vigorously daily. I need to keep the endorphins flowing, or I know I'll soon be dealing with more than just an Achilles injury.

Since I injured myself, I've biked for at least an hour several times. I swam a few days ago. And today I ordered some inline skates. I'm hoping I can achieve similar cardiovascular and emotional benefits by substituting skating for running. Hopefully I won't break my neck in the meantime. I'll let you know how the story continues.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


depression best blogs badge  

I was contacted this morning by the website and informed that my humble little blog here has been chosen as one of their best for 2015. I'm humbled and honored to be thought of as a resource for others suffering with depression. A huge thanks to Healthline for the recognition and the award.