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 28, 2015

Back inside

I'm on day three of my second admission to the local inpatient pysch unit. After my outpatient ECT treatment on Wednesday, the doctors decided to admit me. My mood simply hasn't been responding to the decreased number of outpatient ECT treatments, so I am back on a daily regimen of short-pulsed, unilateral, inpatient ECT. In addition to the ECT, my doctors thought I would benefit from the increased structure provided by the inpatient unit. I hate to agree with them, but I agree.

I hate that I'm back here. I'm doing everything in my power to give myself a break and not see this as a personal failure. It's simply depresssion rearing its ugly head and hanging on for dear life. It's not letting up. My mood remains very low. I'm getting worried. I don't like to feel so low for so long.

If the short-pulsed ECT does not work, I worry, then what's next? What else can we do to jolt me out of this relapse? That question has not been answered yet. TMS therapy has been mentioned, but there is a problem with insurance coverage. Changing meds is always an option, but that's not a certainty either. If necessary, I may be faced with going back to the traditional, bi-temporal ECT, which carries with it a lot of negative side effects. That's something I wish to avoid if at all possible. I'm choosing to think positively about the course I'm on instead.

I'm trying not to spend too much time worrying about all the possibilities. I'm working on my mindfulness and attempting to stay in the moment instead. I'm utilizing the education groups here, the support of the staff, and even riding the stationary bike as able. Worrying gets me nowhere fast, and it only adds to my misery. I'm grateful for the support of my family and friends. I'm blessed to have an understanding employer. I'm anxious to feel better, get out of here, and put my life back in order. Until then...Carry on, my friends.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lo Mo Jo

Struggling along here, I am. I've not even been up to writing in this blog. I apologize for that. I wish things were moving along more evenly and briskly, but that's not been the case. I'm still struggling with my energy, my mood, and my motivation. All three remain quite low. And that makes getting through each day quite a challenge. I'm doing my best, but my best doesn't feel very good right now.

I'm continuing my twice-weekly ECT treatments. I'm not sure they're making a difference anymore, but I'm tolerating them very well, and the other option, which would be discontinuing ECT, isn't palatable either. I plan to continue for a few more treatments and hope for an upswing in my mood.

I'm also back at work. I worked two, 4 hour days last week. One day was a bit overwhelming, but the other day went well. I'm scheduled to work a couple of 4 hour shifts later this week, too. It's nice to be back working with patients and my co-workers have all been fabulous to return to. I miss working when I'm stuck at home. I'm looking forward to feeling better and better so I can get back to a regular employment schedule.

I'm looking forward to feeling better so I can exercise more intensely as well. I'm doing my best to eat better and ride my stationary bike. However, the ECT treatments do seem to be taking a physical toll, as I'm less tolerant of exercise than I was previously. But I can ride for 30 minutes at a time, so I've been trying to do that at least once per day regardless of how impossible it seems in the moment.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated with where I'm at. I'd like to have more energy, feel more motivated, and have a much improved mood by now. But that's not reality. When the frustration sets in I'm trying to remind myself this is a temporary situation. I try to reflect on how far I've come in just a few short weeks rather than focus on what I've yet to accomplish. It's difficult. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I don't like feeling low. But I'll continue to push forward to the best of my ability. It may be a struggle, but I'm not giving up yet. Prayers are always appreciated.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Picking up Pieces

Metaphors describing depression are plentiful. The black dog, the black hole, and a heavy leaden cloak are just a few I've heard used. But today I'm going to describe my depression as an exploded bomb which detonated right in the middle of my life a few weeks back. In less than 4 weeks, my life has gone up in smoke as a result of this illness. Today I am here picking up the salvageable pieces left over after that violent explosion.

Four weeks ago I was working regular shifts as often as I wished. I was scheduled out through mid-September. I was financially sound and my obligations were met. Today I am getting ready to return to work. Paying my bills was put on hold as depression ripped me away from gainful employment. It will take awhile before I am able to get back to working a regular schedule and to catch up financially. I am picking up the pieces of my financial life.

Four weeks ago, despite not being able to run, I had the energy and motivation to exercise as much as I wished. I was in fine physical shape. I had muscles, fit into my clothing, and felt good about how I looked. Today I am just getting back onto my bike. I have enough energy for a gentle 20-30 minute ride. Push-ups and sit-ups are exhausting. I've gained 5 pounds and no longer fit nicely into my jeans. I'm picking up the pieces of my physical existence.

Four weeks ago I ran errands and performed my chores without contemplation. Today I debate the pros and cons of every adventure outside my front door. Do I have the energy? Does it need to be done today? Does it need to be done at all? Likewise, I am living with a rising tide of unfulfilled duties inside my house. As my mood declined so too did my standards. It will take awhile to get things back to snuff around here. I am picking up the pieces of my home life.

This depression relapse left carnage in its wake. My job now is to collect and reassemble all of the salvageable pieces. I'm hoping to rebuild my life so that it resembles what stood here before the depression bomb detonated. But that is a tall order, and I truly do not know how long it will take. I have a feeling I'll need to practice my patience, too, during this rebuilding process.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Achilles Update

When I came home from the hospital last week, I celebrated by removing my boot. After 8 weeks immobilized in my boot, my right Achilles tendon is now free. I am doing as my doctor ordered. I'm wearing heel lifts, not exercising, and only walking household distances. Unfortunately, the tendon doesn't appear to have healed. It is still swollen and sore. I cannot walk without a limp. Running, of course, is out of the question. I'm incredibly disappointed.

I don't see my orthopedic doctor until the end of the month, but in communication with him the other day, he intimated surgery may now be required. This was not good news. There is no longer any uncertainty regarding running the New York City Marathon this fall. It is definitely out of the question.

This is the third time I have entered the NYC Marathon, and I have yet to run it. It was cancelled secondary to Hurricane Sandy in 2012. I was in the hospital being treated for a depression relapse in 2013, and now this. Hopefully 2016 will be my year.

The Achilles injury certainly has not helped my mood. I'm back on my bike, but not being able to run is wearing me out. I've continued with ECT treatments this week, and I think my mood has rebounded a bit, but I am not yet where I want to be. I am looking forward to finishing the treatments this Friday, hopefully, and getting back to work next week. I think getting back to work and back into a routine will help me feel better both mentally and physically.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Home, but...

I'm home. I actually left the hospital on Wednesday, 3 days ago, but I've been struggling to do much of anything, including updating this blog, since arriving home. I expected a dip in my mood when I left the hospital. That's pretty normal. Coming home is almost always a little overwhelming. But the dip has turned into a deep ditch, and I'm lying at the bottom drowning in the muck and mud.

It's impossible to breathe amidst the muck and mud. My mood is low again. Despite continuing with outpatient ECT treatments, I have not been able to maintain that initial bump to my mood. I am now at a crossroad. I need to do something to elevate my mood, which means I need to make a decision either to continue with additional short-pulsed, unilateral ECT (which is what I've been doing), or to change to the more cognitively-impairing regular, bilateral ECT. Something has to change.

There's really little choice. I cannot fathom putting myself through regular, bilateral ECT again. The last time we tried it, it did not elevate my mood, and I suffered such severe cognitive impairment I could barely follow a conversation. I can't go there again. That means I will try additional short-pulsed, unilateral ECT treatments, which means further delay in getting back to my life.

I was supposed to be done with my ECT treatments as of yesterday and planned to return to work for a few hours on Monday. Financial stress, a big trigger for my depression, is setting in. I'm not sure how I will pay my bills this month having already missed two weeks worth of paychecks. As an on-call employee, I do not get paid if I am not physically at work. Making ends meet is a constant battle when things are going well and I am working. There's just no way to pay the bills if I don't work.

I pride myself on self-reliance and financial responsibility. To be put in this position by this damn illness really sucks. Today I am feeling resentful. I resent depression for all the challenges it forces upon me and all the changes it forces upon my plans. I know I am fortunate in so many ways, but I hate this illness and the massive upheaval which accompanies it. Eventually I will get back to work, to exercise, to errands, to socializing, and to meetings. Somehow I will figure it all out. I'm just not sure how or when yet.

Monday, August 3, 2015


I'm up early as per usual here on the inpatient psych unit. I'm waiting for my fifth electroconvulsive therapy treatment or ECT. Last week I chose ECT as my treatment option for several reasons. ECT has worked for me in the past, although it didn't work the last time I tried it during my relapse two years ago. The ECT procedure has changed. It's now done in a way that spares one's memory and cognitive abilities, which have been major negative side effects of mine each time I've had ECT treatments. And finally, the only other option seemed to be a major medication change. I like the meds I'm taking, changing them and assessing whether new meds were working would have taken a long time. I was way too miserable. I couldn't comprehend trying anything that would potentially take a "long time." So after careful deliberation, and consultation with just about everyone I knew, I decided to give ECT another shot.

I believe I made the right decision. After just two ECT treatments, I was visibly better. My slow movements and speech pattern had both sped up. It was no longer exhausting just to breathe. After three treatments, I had multiple visitors who couldn't believe the difference in my mood and appearance. I, too, noticed a difference. I was beginning to feel lighter. And so far I'm thrilled to report I've had very little cognitive side effects. My memory seems to be holding. That's been a huge relief. The decision to proceed with ECT seems to be paying off.

As I sit here awaiting my fifth treatment, I'm feeling a glimmer of hope. I've got a long way to go to get back to being me, but this has been a good beginning. The doctors are even considering discharging me and allowing me to complete my treatments (8-10 total) as an outpatient.

Going home is an appealing, albeit worrying, thought. As well as I am taken care of here, I hate being hospitalized. I miss my house, my dog, and my work routine. But facing them all again at this point is a little scary. However, I am feeling hopeful. I'm hopeful I will continue to improve, I'll continue to gain strength, and I'll continue to gain the confidence I need to get back to my life. The cloak of gray is lifting. I pray it continues. Thank you for your prayers, my friends.