Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Ten freakin' years!

It's a big, amazing, unbelievable day today. Double digits. It's been ten years since I took my last drink of alcohol. Ten years since I lived in the self-centered, manipulative, miserable world of an active alcoholic. Today, thanks to my higher power, my adoption of the tools of my recovery program, and my work with others, I am a recovered alcoholic. One day at a time, 3,650 days, I am sober, and that truly is amazing.

I'm amazed because ten years ago I could not have imagined a life without alcohol. It was my medication, my social lubricant, my muscle relaxant, and my solution to life. But, and I must remember this, alcohol also isolated me, filled me with despondency, and left me a suicidal mess incapable of coping with life. Sobriety is a gift. It is a gift of life.

The tools I've been so freely given in my recovery have allowed me to live life on life's terms. I no longer try to control the uncontrollable--that is, the people, places, and things outside of myself. That is truly a gift. Drama has been removed from my life. I now have the internal resources to deal with that which is in front of me, whether it be a crumbling relationship, a debilitating injury, a job decision, or major depression.

Of course it's not all sunshine and roses. Life never is. I struggle. I hurt. I feel. But the gift of my life today is I don't have to get drunk over any of it. Even in the depths of my mental illness, the darkness that is depression, I know it would only get worse if I took a drink. I'm so fortunate to understand that. And I'm so grateful I do.

I have no great understanding of why I got this gift. Why me and not my fellow sufferer? I cannot explain it. I am not special or unique. I certainly did not approach sobriety with a stellar attitude. I saw no similarities between myself and my fellow sufferers, only differences. Of course I had no desire to be like any of them! Alcoholic was not a diagnosis I yearned to acquire.

Yet despite my attitude and arrogance, I got the gift anyway. I stuck around. I became willing. I kept coming back. And ten years later I'm still here, still listening, still soaking it all in. Today I live in the solution rather than the problem.

With the deck seemingly stacked against me, I got sober anyway. And I'm sober today. I'm a participant in my life, doing the best I can, and not looking back. Thank God! Ten years. More grateful, I could not be.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

I'm just back from a crisp, seven mile, Christmas morning walk with my boy, Jet. We usually spend time running, or as was the case this year, walking on Christmas day. I like the quiet, practically solitary time together in the city. In our 1 hour, 44 minute walk, we only passed two other people and very few cars. We had the city to ourselves. It was very peaceful.

It's just me and Jet this Christmas, as it has been for many Christmases previously. I'm okay with that. My parents are in Florida for the winter, and my brothers all share the day with their own children and extended families. I will go to dinner at a friend's house later this afternoon, but until then I am enjoying the freedom to do what I want, without expectations, and the quiet.

After work yesterday, I spent some time with a few friends. The topic of discussion eventually turned to mental illness, and specifically depression, as several of my friends are fellow sufferers. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for those of us with mental illness for many reasons. Dysfunctional or distant families, difficult family memories, friends occupied with their own families, or time away from work and out of one's normal routine leave many feeling isolated and alone during the holidays. I get that.

I feel very grateful to be feeling well, and at peace, during this Christmas season. I like the path I am currently on, and I'm feeling hopeful for the future. I wish all of you peace and serenity today. Remember to take care of yourself first, especially if you find this season difficult or challenging. Take time for yourself, manage expectations, and find gratitude wherever possible. Create your own traditions. And most importantly have a safe, healthy, happy day. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Birthday

So today is my birthday. I was born in 1967. You do the math. I'm not thrilled with getting older, especially this old! Having had depression for 15, sometimes tumultuous, years, I don't feel like I've lived as many years as the number suggests. I feel like I've missed a lot. Career, relationship, financial status... none of it is necessarily where I'd like it to be. But it is what it is, right? All I can do is focus on making the most of the day in front of me. I certainly don't want to miss anymore.

I didn't do anything special today. I worked. Some of my co-workers remembered it was a big day, some didn't. That's okay. But can I just say I hate Facebook? I drove home feeling a little sorry for myself. The combination of coming home to an empty house and Facebook kind of had me down. Facebook! Of all things!

Here's the thing, only one Facebook friend wished me a happy birthday all day. Now I'm not a big Facebook user, but I seem to get notified everyday of some friend's birthday. Most of the time I respond to the notification with a little birthday wish on that friend's timeline. So when only one friend posted a little blurb wishing me a happy birthday today, I was, well, I'm embarrassed to say, a little sad.

Thankfully, before I got too deep into my pity pot, I got on Facebook and tried to figure out what was going on. I mean, I couldn't be that unpopular, could I? After much research and a few tutorials, as I said I'm not a regular Facebook-er, I figured out my birthday was not visible on my profile. Apparently, that meant nobody was actually notified of the big event. I changed the setting, my birthday is now visible, and I've already received a few happy birthday wishes from friends. Whew! I don't think my ego could have handled a Facebook shutout!

Now that that's settled, I'm going to spend the evening playing and snuggling with my dog. Unconditional love, there is nothing better. Earlier, I took myself out for dinner, and I'm sure my mom will call soon. I can always count on that. And there's my phone now. It's my brother. All is good in etta's world. And tomorrow will be another day, the first of another year. Life moves on. I'll keep moving on with it. Carry on, my friends!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Job news

A few weeks ago I wrote about my difficulty making a decision about a job offer. The company I'm working for as an on-call employee wants to make me a full time (30 hours per week) employee. The hourly salary is less, but I'd get all the benefits I currently lack like health insurance, retirement savings, and paid time off. And I'd have a stable, regular income.

If I don't take the position offered, someone else will be hired, and I'll have to hustle for hours at a different facility. Getting enough hours usually isn't too difficult, but it's not guaranteed. If patient census falls and facilities slow down, they may not have any need for extra help from me. That's the risk I take for the benefit of being able to control my own schedule.

My fear with having a set schedule, which will be four 8-hour days, is I won't be able to handle it. Physically and mentally I'm doing well now working about 20-25 hours per week, but I never work more than 3 days per week. I generally work 7-8 hour shifts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I use Tuesday and Thursday for appointments, exercise, and rest. Since my depression began I've needed that time.

I haven't worked full time in 15 years. In the past I've struggled when working more than 20-25 hours per week, or when I've worked more than a couple days in a row. For those reasons, I told my employer last week I couldn't take the position. It was a decision based on worry and fear. Within 24 hours I had changed my mind.

Well, I didn't totally change my mind, and I didn't totally lose my worry and fear. But I made a decision to try. I negotiated with my boss to allow me to continue as an on-call employee while I take a stab at working 30 hours per week. She agreed.

Beginning right after Christmas, I will be working four 8-hour shifts per week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. I'll try the schedule for at least two weeks, and if it goes well I will take the position. If I find it's too much, mentally or physically, I'll remain an on-call employee, and my employer will continue looking for a permanent physical therapist.

It's a perfect solution. I get to trial the very job I've been offered without committing to the offer. I'm still apprehensive. I'm still afraid it's going to be too much. I'm still worried about being tied to a regular schedule. But I'm going to try it. And I really do hope I handle it well. It would be nice to have the income stability and benefits I've lacked for several years.

I'm also very pleased my employer knows about my depression. They know I was recently hospitalized, and they know I missed a ton of work because of it. And they still want me to work for them. For someone who has been fired in the past, because I was missing too much work while being treated for depression, that's very refreshing. It will be easy to give them my best. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Working and feeling well

It's been a good week. I just returned home from work. It was my third full day of work this week, and I'm not collapsed on the sofa yet! I'm not out running, either, but my energy has not been totally sapped. I still have a little left. Enough to sit here and write at least. I'm pleased with how things are going.

My mood has been very good and holding steady for at least a month now. I'm thrilled to have more energy. I've gradually been building up my hours at work. It's going well. I've been working 6-8 hour shifts, 3-4 days per week. We're busy, so I'm seeing one patient after another, and like I said, I haven't crashed. It's really rather remarkable. I feel so "normal."

Better yet, I've been able to keep up with some sort of exercise 5-6 days of the week. Exercise is key to my mental health. In balance with working, socializing, and my recovery, I need exercise to continue to feel well. I've lost some of the weight I gained during my depression relapse, and I feel physically stronger and healthier today than I have for months.

Unfortunately, my running comeback took a bit of a hit two weeks ago when my right Achilles acted up in the middle of a run. I was worried. I took a week off, focused on cycling and lifting instead, and I seem to be back on track. I'm now up to running for 4 minutes interspersed with 2 minutes of walking. I'm hoping to increase the running time to 5 minutes and decrease the walking time to one minute within the next week. It's slow, but it's progress.

I like progress. I'm happy with my progress. I'm hoping to continue on this trajectory. Life is so much simpler when my mood is good. And I'm very grateful for that.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

R.I.P. my friend

I've had many people come and go in my life. It's fair to say that, good or bad, I've learned something from each and every relationship. Yesterday was a particularly difficult parting. My friend, KMC, who I wrote about recently, succumbed to a brain tumor last week. Her memorial service was yesterday. It was a difficult goodbye.

KMC and I spent many, many hours together throughout the early and middle years of my sobriety. She was my sponsor and friend. She took me through the steps of our recovery program. She taught me how to live life on life's terms. She gave me the tools to live in this world without fear, anger and resentment. Instead she imparted faith, gratitude and serenity. Somehow I missed those lessons growing up, and if it wasn't for KMC, I might still be miserable, or worse, dead.

The church was filled to the rafters yesterday. Women, especially, were well represented. That made perfect sense to me, as KMC had a tremendous impact on countless women in this community. In working her program, she was a role model. She had her share of struggles, as have we all, but she eventually came through them, standing tall, and in the process gave us all more to contemplate and to emulate. The representation of grateful, sober women at KMC's service yesterday was a testament to a life well lived.

I will miss my sponsor, my mentor, my teacher, my friend. I have no doubt I wouldn't have the life I have today had KMC not spent those countless hours teaching me. I will never forget her. She is with me every time I speak up in a meeting, every time I sit down with a newly sober woman, every time I share my experience, strength and hope. She is part of my journey. In passing on her teachings, KMC will never be far from my heart. Rest in peace, my friend.



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