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, December 28, 2016


On December 28, 2005, my youngest brother had his first child. I have 8 nieces and nephews, and with the exception of the aforementioned nephew, I don't know any of their birth dates. Truthfully, I don't even know exactly how old most of them are. But I'll never forget Evan's first day, because December 28, 2005, was also the first day of the rest of my life. Today Evan turned 11, and today I celebrated 11 years of sobriety.

There is no relation between Evan's birth and my last drink. In fact, it took me a few years to even realize we shared this special day. Nonetheless, we both turned 11 today. It is a special day.

To say I'm amazed I'm sober today is a huge understatement. My first years of sobriety were rocky. I was stubborn and self-centered. I didn't want to be an alcoholic, and I sure didn't want to listen to anyone who thought they might have a solution! I was sure I was different. I didn't need any help. After all, I was a professional. I had a car, and a home, and food on my table. I'd never been arrested for drunk driving. I hadn't lost family and friends because of my drinking. How could I be an alcoholic?

Despite my severe case of terminal uniqueness, I somehow made it through those early years. I stuck around the people with the solution long enough, even though I didn't want nor think I needed to be there, that some of the solution actually began to sink in. I shut my mouth and opened my ears. I became willing.

These sober people had lives I wanted to live. They were people of character, compassion and love. And most of them had recovered from more difficult circumstances than my drinking had ever imposed upon me. I was, I figured out, lucky to have arrived when I did. If I had continued drinking 11 years ago I would not have been able to avoid a much darker fate.

Actually, if I had continued drinking I'm certain I wouldn't be alive today. The combination of depression and alcoholism would likely have taken my life years ago. I am so grateful I hung around, opened my ears, and eventually took the suggestions offered to me. I didn't just stop drinking. I changed. I became a kinder, more gentle human being. I learned to live life on life's terms. I am the person I am today because I am sober.

It is a special day. Today. 11 years. Sober. More grateful I could not be.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas

I was contemplating being alone on Christmas Eve while Jet and I were out on a lovely, warm, 7-mile late afternoon run earlier. There was a ton of traffic. Between the early service Christmas Eve church goers and the last minute shoppers, the roads were bustling. But Jet and I had the paved bike trails, some of which parallel those busy roads, all to ourselves.

I found myself wondering what those drivers thought about a lone, female (and her dog) running on Christmas Eve. I wondered if some of them, assuming correctly I was spending the day alone, felt sad for me. That was, after all, the common reaction among my coworkers and patients earlier this week. But I wasn't sad then, and I'm not sad now.

I really enjoyed my solo run this afternoon. Unlike the travelers bustling around me, I didn't have any church commitment or last minute gifts to buy tonight. I didn't have to be anywhere except right where I was on that uncluttered bike path with my dog. I felt peaceful and serene.

This morning I volunteered to work some extra hours at the hospital, and I really enjoyed my patients and coworkers. My patients seemed extra grateful for treatment received today, a holiday weekend, even though we always treat patients on holidays. And my coworkers were quite appreciative. They were extremely busy and way under-staffed. I felt glad to be able to help. I left there feeling fulfilled.

I took a long nap after work and before my run, which was also lovely. I just got out of a long, hot shower. And now I'm sitting here, geeking out with my feet up, a football game muted on the television while I listen to a public radio Christmas variety show and blog. Being alone isn't so bad.

I like the peacefulness I feel today. I'm not sure what it's all about. I guess I'm just a loner at heart. I'm sure if I was with family or friends, I'd be enjoying that time, too, but this has been a good day. It's been a day of my choosing. Except for work this morning, I had nowhere to be, no expectations to meet, nobody to please. I did what I did when I wanted to do it. It's been nice.

I have been invited to two Christmas dinners tomorrow. I appreciate the invites. It will be nice to spend some time with friends. I'll go to one dinner, but other than those couple hours, I'll spend tomorrow alone with Jet, too. And that's okay. I'm grateful to feel at peace this Christmas. I wish all of you peace, joy, and serenity, too. Merry Christmas, my friends.

Monday, December 19, 2016


On the last day of my 48th year, December 17, 2016, I ran The 3 Bridges Marathon in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was my gift to myself, and it proved to be a tough gift. It was 72 degrees. Yes, 72 degrees Fahrenheit. When I left home in Minnesota on Thursday it was -9 F. It was only in the 30's in Little Rock on Friday, but it was 72 degrees with about 85% humidity on Saturday! Go figure.

Despite the heat, I actually had a decent race. I ran 14 seconds slower than I did in New York 6 weeks ago, but in New York I ran the second half of the race 3 minutes faster than the first half. In Little Rock, I ran the second half 3 minutes slower. The last 5 miles were my slowest miles of the day. It was a true test of perseverance. I refused to walk, but I could not lift my feet any higher or will my legs to go any faster. I was proud to finish without giving in to my fatigue and walking. It was my little victory.

I actually had another bigger, unexpected victory shortly after crossing the finish line. My 3:51:44 was good enough for first in my (old) age division. I received a very nice, 3 dimensional plaque for my efforts. It wasn't a big race. There were about 400 runners, I believe. I finished 27th overall and 10th among women. Overall it was a good day.

I arrived home from Little Rock yesterday, my 49th birthday. (I can't believe I'm 49 years old!) If you've been paying attention to the weather, you know my corner of the world has been extremely cold. I think it was -24 degrees, that's without wind chill, on Saturday night. It was 10 below when I got home yesterday afternoon. And I came home to two more unexpected surprises.

Despite arranging for a friend to clear my driveway while I was gone, it was packed with 6-8 inches of new snow. My friend chose not to clear the snow secondary to the dangerously cold conditions. Okay. Unfortunately, it was so cold my snowblower wouldn't start! I stayed out long enough to shovel the sidewalks and stairs, but the driveway went undone. Frustrating, but not that big a deal, really.

Later last night I had a much bigger, stressful surprise. When I attempted to take a shower I discovered one of my water lines had frozen while I was gone. Instant stress! I worked feverishly for almost 3 hours trying to get the line to thaw, all the while hoping it hadn't split and wouldn't burst, but nothing worked. Finally I gave up and went to bed. I was exhausted. I said a prayer, turned my heat way up, and left the faucet in my bathroom open overnight. At 5:11 AM, the water began to flow. Happy birthday to me.

I wasn't looking forward to paying a plumber to thaw my water line, especially if I was going to have to have my snowblower repaired, too. And did I mention my root canal will be completed tomorrow? As generous as the endodontist has been thus far, I will need to pay her a chunk of cash, too. Financial stress...not my favorite thing.

Thankfully, I was able to start my snowblower tonight after warming it with a space heater for an hour. So two potentially expensive, stressful situations were resolved without too much pain. I'm thankful for that. I was feeling a little snake-bitten last night. Now I just have to get through my root canal. Hopefully it will be smooth sailing after that.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Perhaps some of you noticed. My profile underwent its yearly edit. Instead of 15, it now says 16 years. I recently passed the 16 year mark on my journey with depression. After having depression as a teenager, I was mental-illness-free until I was in my early 30's. It was November, 2000, to be exact, when I first noticed the familiar, unwanted symptoms creeping back into my life. Depression descended upon me.

Sixteen years. If you'd asked me early in this journey, perhaps anytime in the first 5 or 6 years, I'd have told you this was the worst thing that ever happened to me. In the early years, my depression was severe and uncontrolled. I lost everything, including my spouse, my job, my house, and even my friends. I was drinking too much and bopping in and out of the hospital on a regular basis. I was unstable and miserable. Life wasn't fair, or so I thought, and I wanted to die.

Something changed in the midst of this journey. It didn't happen overnight, but something changed. I changed. I stopped drinking. More importantly, I got sober. There is a difference. I began to collaborate with my doctors and providers, rather than expecting them to "fix it." Perhaps that's how we found some medications which worked. Or perhaps removing alcohol from my system just allowed them to work. I regained a sense of control. I stopped being a victim and began taking responsibility for my mental health.

The last several years have been more good than bad. The hospital hasn't disappeared from my journey, but it's now a rarity rather than a regularity. Of course I wish I didn't have this illness. I don't wish depression on anyone. But I now feel like I live with depression rather than suffer from it. I can't totally control it, but I can certainly make choices which limit its impact on my life. If I do what I can do, continue to take the next right action, and seek help when I need help; living life, rather than dealing with depression, is where I get to focus my energy.

I no longer feel like depression is the worst thing that ever happened to me. As a result of living with depression, I've learned a lot, taken advantage of many opportunities, and grown a ton over the past 16 years. This illness has forced humility and gratitude and kindness upon me. I am truly a kinder, more gentle human being because of my experience living with depression. But I'm also a tougher, more resilient human being, too. Skills learned through the difficulty of depression actually simplify and enrich my life today. I never would have guessed that 16 years ago.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Stacked Deck?

It's easy to be grateful when everything is going well. But when the deck feels like it's stacked against me, I have to make a conscious choice to look for the positive, to practice gratitude rather than disgust, despair, or angst. Unfortunately, I've had too much opportunity over the past 3 days to practice making that conscious choice over and over again.

Today I'm grateful the bottom, right molar, which has been increasingly sensitive to cold and pressure for 10 days, and which I thought had a simple cavity, wasn't fractured so severely it couldn't be saved. I'm grateful my dentist, who felt so horrible for all the dental drama I've been through, didn't charge me a dime for the x-rays and exam she performed before referring me to an endodontist for further diagnosis.

I'm grateful the endodontist was willing to squeeze me in the very next day and that my employer was willing to let me leave mid-day despite our extremely busy schedule. I'm so grateful my endodontist was then willing to begin the process of a root canal, despite her busy schedule, immediately following her assessment of my tooth. To top it off the endodontist offered her services at a discount, again as a result of her dismay at all I've been through with my teeth over the past 3 years. I'm grateful for that.

My endodontist, who could not get my tooth numb even after 5 injections with two different medications, and who was getting further and further behind in her busy schedule, was willing to try one more injection with a third medication directly into my jaw bone. I'm grateful she took that last step. It worked, and it meant I avoided at least another week of continued pain and fistfuls of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

I'm grateful my orthodontist was willing to see me today to assist with the process of hopefully saving this critical tooth. I'm grateful he was willing to make me a night guard, a complex process when one has braces, in order to protect this fractured tooth and all my other teeth from eventual fracture, as a result of my nightly teeth grinding. And I'm grateful he is willing to work with my endodontist to find a way to protect this tooth 24 hours per day until I can get a crown, which can't occur until I get my braces off.

It's been a very trying three days. I felt an intense sense of doom when first told this tooth was fractured. I felt despair. Another expensive tooth setback, I really couldn't believe it. For a time, it sucked the life out of me. But I kept taking the next right action. I did what I could do. The outcome was going to be what it was, and it could have been a lot worse. I'm grateful it wasn't worse.

The kindness, generosity and care with which I've been treated over the past 3 days has been amazing. I sent thank you cards to everyone involved this morning. Not one of them had to offer the services they did when they did. Yet they each did what they could, as soon as they could, and they did it with great compassion. I'm very fortunate. And very grateful.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Restoring the energy

I was going to call this post rejuvenated, but that wasn't entirely true. I'm not quite there yet. But I do feel a bit restored. As planned, I only worked my regularly scheduled 3 days this week. That made a big difference. I was able to get back to my preferred training intensity, and I caught up on some much needed napping. I love naps! I'm feeling better, physically and mentally.

I'm training for my next marathon, which comes up in just a couple of weeks. I'll be running the 3 Bridges Marathon in Arkansas for my 49th (ugh!) birthday. I had a great, quick paced 10-mile run today. It felt good to go fast. Tomorrow I'll run a 12-15 mile long run and then start tapering again. I'm looking forward to experiencing another new marathon. It will be my next adventure.

Hmm... I don't know what else to tell you today. I'm relieved to be feeling less tired and worn out. My mood eventually suffers, and sometimes suffers mightily, if I stay tired too long. I have a little busier week ahead, but I think I now have the energy to tackle it. And I only have to tackle it one day at a time. Keep moving forward, and carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tired and Frustrated

I've written about this before, but it's what's happening right now, so bear with me. I've been working more often lately, more days and more hours, and I'm wiped out. This frustrates me because I don't think I should feel so worn out when I'm not even working full time hours. I know that may be a bit harsh, but I can't help it. That's how I feel.

Before this illness struck I worked full time. Since I've had depression, however, part time is my max. That's frustrating. My life would certainly be easier if I was able to work more hours than I do now. I'd be less financially challenged and probably have less stress. But even with that incentive sitting out there tantalizing me, I don't do well when I work more.

I don't regularly work more than 3-4 days per week. My typical weekly schedule is Monday, Wednesday and Friday plus an additional one or two Saturdays per month. It's not a lot. I know. I'm embarrassed to even admit that meager schedule. But when I work more hours or more often, my brain can't keep up. I get really tired.

I'm tired now. Tired is not good for my mood. I could have worked today, but I had to turn down the opportunity. I worked 5 days two weeks ago followed by 4 days last week, and they were long days. By yesterday afternoon I was physically and mentally exhausted. That led to an evening vegging on the sofa rather than exercising. I ran today, because that's a priority in my life, but my training suffers when I feel so wiped out. That's not good for my mood, either.

So far, thankfully, my mood is holding steady. I'm hoping to stick to my 3-day schedule this week in order to regain some energy. But dammit, why can't I work more? Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to be working. I love what I do. And I'm grateful I can survive and even play a little on the income I earn. I'm very fortunate in that regard. My life is good. I just wish working more than usual didn't exhaust me. That would be nice.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude Season

If you're not a fan of gratitude, you may not enjoy my blog for the next month or so. I can't help it. Recognizing the blessings of my life and expressing gratitude for what I have is a huge part of maintaining my mental health. In fact, I'm grateful for the ability to feel grateful. That wasn't always the case. Gratitude was something I had to learn.

Gratitude season has begun for me. Of course, today is Thanksgiving, and the focus of the day is gratitude. I'm grateful for my friend, Wendy, and her large, extended family for including me once again in their very festive holiday. We ate a lot of really good food, watched a lot of football, and laughed a ton. It's so nice to feel so welcome and included in her clan.

My gratitude season continues in a few weeks when I celebrate another birthday. For the past several years my birthday has been a time of reflection and thankfulness. I need a lot of support and assistance to get through each year, and I'm grateful to all in my life who play a role, no matter how big or small. In fact, I usually begin my birthday by sending a thank you note to those role players, and this year will be no different.

Christmas follows closely on the heals of my birthday, and just a few days after that I will celebrate another year of sobriety. If there's ever a time for me to be grateful, celebrating the day I took my last drink is the time. Nothing in my life today would be possible if I was still drinking. Nothing. In fact, I'd likely be dead. So my sobriety anniversary is a very special day filled with gratitude. All these years later, I'm still amazed I'm sober. I'm more amazed I've learned to live life on life's terms. And I'm incredibly thankful for the opportunities gifted to me as a result.

Living with a chronic illness like depression doesn't stop me, can't stop me, from recognizing the gifts in my life. Depression sucks, and I wish I hadn't had to face it, but then again would I be the same person I am today without the challenge of persistent depression? Probably not. And I kind of like who I am today. Guess what? I'm grateful for that, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


I received a nice message a few days ago. Apparently is promoting a contest to find the best health blog, and my little blog has been nominated. How cool is that? There's even prize money! I'm humbled and honored.

I'm honored, but I have no expectation I will finish in the money. I'm a little gal in a big world of bloggers. I don't Twitter. I don't Facebook. I'm not even very knowledgeable about the ways of the internet. I'm a little fish in what has become a very big pond, and I'm okay with that.

When I created this blog in 2008, there wasn't a lot of first person information about depression on the internet. I couldn't find what I needed, so I began this blog. A lot of people turned up their noses when I told them I was going to blog about depression. Despite their misgivings, I began to write anyway.

I wanted to educate people about mental illness and stigma. I also wanted to share my experience, strength and hope. Quality of life is possible despite having depression. I hope those who happen upon Depression Marathon find something of value. I hope sharing my experience is helpful to others, but the secret is I actually help myself every time I sit here and type.

I'm as surprised as anyone that I'm still typing after all these years. I don't know what I expected when I began, but I'm pretty sure I never imagined I'd still be writing almost 9 years later. I never imagined many people would read anything I wrote either.

That being said, if you're reading this, feel free to vote here! Voting begins November 21st and runs through December 12th. And if you feel strongly, you may even vote once per day! Regardless of the outcome, I appreciate the recognition by you, my readers, and by Thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Saying Thank You

One of my supervisors left me a note yesterday. We've been really busy, and I worked later than usual yesterday. I was actually the last one in the office. When I returned to my desk from my patient's room there was a handwritten note thanking me for "all you do." It was a simple note on plain paper, likely scribbled on her way out the door, but it made a difference in my day. It changed my attitude about being there later than usual and made my drive home a little more serene.

I appreciated her note so much I folded it up and took it home. I'm looking at it right now. Why throw it away? Every time I look at it, the note reminds me of her kind gesture. It reminds me someone appreciates what I do. It acknowledges I'm making a difference. That's pretty cool. I like the reminders. I'm glad I didn't toss it out.

Saying thank you. It's such a simple thing to do. My supervisor's note reminds me I need to pay it forward. I need to make sure I'm thanking others for their kindness, hard work, or friendship. I think I do an okay job of saying thanks, but there's always room for improvement. And when I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed, which I may be on the verge of feeling right now, it's probably even more important for me to remember what others are doing for me rather than concerning myself only with what I am doing for others. Just a thought.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Settling in again

I just came in from a gloriously sunny, cool, 10-mile run. I felt great. It was my second run since finishing the New York City Marathon last Sunday. It was nice to be out on my local, familiar trails running with Jet again. I missed him a lot while I was gone. I loved New York, but it's nice to be home. I'm slowly settling back into my routine. 

The finish line in Central Park
I've been home from New York for a few days. Jet and I reunited Wednesday evening. I returned to work Thursday and Friday. I attended my usual Saturday meeting this morning. I've got some leaves to rake and some errands to run, but I'm kind of enjoying simply sitting on my butt right now. Jet's napping. I may join him soon.

I enjoyed New York City in the days immediately following the marathon. I spent all day Monday and Tuesday touring the city. I'm a huge Seinfeld fan, so I checked out some of the familiar television show sites, including Tom's Restaurant (aka Monk's Cafe) and The Original Soupman (aka The Soup Nazi). I toured St. Paul's Chapel near Ground Zero and the 9/11 Museum. I was in the museum 2.5 hours when I realized I couldn't absorb another minute. I left despite there being much more to see. It was an amazing museum. I will go back.

I also traveled over to Brooklyn where I ate at Grimaldi's Pizza, which has been honored as "the best pizza in New York City." It's located right under the Brooklyn Bridge, so I took advantage and walked to the top of the bridge, which was pretty cool. Then I spent much of the day walking along the Brooklyn waterfront, where there was a lot of green space and amazing views of the Manhattan skyline. I took in the sites and sounds of Greenwich Village late into the night.

Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge
I'm already thinking about my next marathon. I've got a few tentatively penciled into my schedule, including one in December and one in January. Unfortunately New York was so spendy, I may not be able to afford the time off or expense of another race for awhile. I'm looking at races within driving, albeit long driving, distance. I've definitely got the marathon bug again. I don't want to wait until Spring to experience another one. 

Thank you, my friends, for your support over these past few years of illness and injury. Your comments have carried me through some difficult times. I am grateful for my New York City experience, and I am so grateful to be back running again. I feel I've reclaimed a huge piece of what makes me, me. That's pretty cool.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Great Day in New York

I had a great day in New York today! I cried, actually cried, when the starting line came into view for the first time. After the start I kept my head up and my eyes open. I looked around, paid special attention to each neighborhood we ran through, enjoyed every moment, and ran well to boot! I finished in 3:51:30.

It was tough to run with a consistent or quick pace through the first 15 miles, as the streets were quite crowded. As a result, I ran a massive negative split, meaning I ran the second half faster than the first. I ran 1:57:15 through 13.1 miles, which equates to a 3:54:30 finish time for the full 26.2. It's every marathoner's goal to run a negative split, but I didn't have such expectations today, which made the surprise negative split even more fun!

At mile 16, after coming off the very long, very uphill, Queensboro Bridge; my slowest mile of the entire day, I realized I was feeling good so I went for it. I felt good and ran well through mile 23, at which point I was certain I was going to finish (and shed a few more tears). From that point forward I hung on for the ride. The last 3 miles were tough but powerful, I maintained my pace, passed a lot of runners, and shed more than a few tears at the finish line.

I don't remember if I've ever before cried at a marathon. I was truly overcome with emotion today, and that was totally okay. I deserved it. It's been a long haul getting back here. So I cried. But I also smiled more, waved more, said thank you more (to volunteers, military and police officers), and generally enjoyed myself more today than I have at previous marathons. It was a good day.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Start spreading the news...

I'm here. I made it. But if I ever do this again, remind me not to land at a NYC airport during rush hour on a Friday afternoon! I landed at Laguardia at 5:35 PM. Despite my incredibly talented, shuttle van, Ninja driver, I didn't get to my hotel until 8:05 PM. No big deal, except I was starving and too exhausted to update my blog last night as planned. All part of the experience.

It's a gorgeous day in New York City today! I've already been out for my 2-mile, shake out run, which is my routine the day before a marathon. I've picked up my race packet, bought my groceries, and begun to lay out my clothing. I'm excited. I can't wait to get going.

In spite of my excitement, I'll have to practice patience tomorrow morning. I'm planning to be up before 5:00 AM, a full 5+ hours before my starting time. After a subway ride, I'll board my bus to Staten Island at 6:00. I heard the bus takes 90 minutes to get to the start, although Staten Island doesn't seem that far away. I hope I don't have to pee! I begin the procession into my starting corral, along with 10-15,000 others, at 9:00. My race officially begins at 10:15 AM Eastern Standard Time.

I feel happy. I feel grateful. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. My legs might feel heavy and slow. They might feel light and quick. I really don't know what to expect from my body, but I do expect to have fun. That's my plan. Take it all in and have fun. I'm already on my way.

Number goes on the front. My customized sign, Beating Depression One Step at a Time, on the back. I'm running for all of us!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Consumer is offensive

An Open Letter to Mental Health Organizations:

I am writing regarding the use of the term Consumer when referring to a person with mental illness. As a person who has battled depression for 16 years, I find this term baffling and offensive. I ask you to discontinue using it when referring to people with mental illness. I am not a consumer.

According to Merriam-Webster a consumer is: a) a person who buys goods and services, or b) an organism requiring complex organic compounds for food which it obtains by preying on other organisms or by eating particles of organic matter. How does a person with mental illness fit into either of those definitions?

Why are we hijacking a term typically used for Wal-Mart shoppers to label people with mental illness? When did patient become a four-letter word? Why is referring to me as a person with mental illness pejorative? I am not a consumer. I am a person with mental illness.

My mental illness is a biological, treatable brain disease. It is no different than a biological, treatable pancreatic disease like diabetes, or a biological, treatable heart disease like congestive heart failure. Yet while it is acceptable to refer to a diabetic as a person with diabetes, and it is normal to refer to a person with heart disease as a patient, it is somehow unacceptable to refer to me, a person with depression, as a person with mental illness or as a patient? That doesn’t make any sense.

Consumer, used in an attempt to destigmatize mental illness, actually increases the stigma by separating persons with mental illness from those with any other type of biological, treatable illness. It highlights difference. I am not different.

When I am hospitalized, I am not there to choose between a green gown and 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. Each is an illness that may lead to death if I do not allow myself to be treated, to be a patient.

I ask you again to discontinue using the term consumer. It is inaccurate, stigmatizing and offensive. Concocting a term to classify people with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder rather than speaking directly about mental illness only furthers the stigma we already face.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taper has begun

Two weeks from today I will hopefully be waking up stiff, sore and smiling in a hotel room in New York City. A shiny new finisher's medal will be on the bedside table. If I don't wear it to bed, that is.

I don't usually think about the day after finishing a marathon because the marathon guarantees nothing, especially a finish. But this has been a four year odyssey of hurricanes, hospitals, and injury, each of which prevented me from getting to the starting line in New York City. If I make it to the starting line this year I can't imagine anything keeping me from crossing the finish line. Hopefully the fourth time will be the charm and two weeks from today will be a very happy day.

My training should have me prepared to get to that finish line. I completed my last long run yesterday. Jet and I ran 15 good, sunny miles. I felt great. It was a nice confidence building run, which is just what I needed out of my final long run. Now it's time to taper.

And my taper has officially begun. I'm taking today off. The rest of the week I will be running about 40% fewer miles than usual. I generally enjoy the first week of my taper, but by next week, when I'll be running even less, I'll be itching to move more than I should. Instead I'll have to trust in my training and relax. Easier said than done.

Once I board my plane to New York City my focus will be on staying present and having fun. I doubt I'll ever run the New York City Marathon again, so I want to make sure I take it all in. I plan to enjoy the marathon. I'm not going to race it. It's too crowded for that anyway. Instead I'm going to try to keep my head up and enjoy the show. Of course, I'll enjoy it more if I run well, but like I said, I'm really going to try to keep my focus on the whole experience.

I plan to romp around and experience New York, too. Since I'll be alone in the city, I can do whatever I want without concern for someone else. I guess that's one advantage of going alone. Besides the 9/11 museum, I haven't decided what I'm going to do in the days following the marathon yet. I've already been to most of the tourist places, so I'd really like to get off the beaten path (if that's possible in New York City). I'm open to suggestions!

I'm doing well. My mouth is healing. My Achilles is holding up. Work is going smoothly. Life is good right now. I'm trying to relax and enjoy that, too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I'm frustrated. I'm going to New York City in a few weeks, alone. My Minnesota Lynx are playing in game 5, the final game, of the WNBA Championship in a couple of days, and I want to go. But if I go, I'll go alone. There's a fabulous concert coming up I'd like to attend. I'm not going. I decided not to go because I don't want to go alone.

I have nothing against being alone. I spend most of my time alone, and that's actually how I prefer it. I choose to run alone 99% of the time. I frequently travel alone. I go out to eat alone. I've even gone to movies alone. But sometimes it is nice to share experiences with others.

The problem is I'm not all that social. I really only have a few, okay 3, close friends. And while I love and value my friends, having so few friends is not conducive to finding a companion for outings. At least that's what I've discovered recently. It doesn't help that I'm single and all of my friends are married with children. They've already got busy schedules and in-house companions. Even if they'd like to socialize, it's often difficult for them to find time.

So despite asking various friends to accompany me on outings lately, it hasn't worked out. I'm frustrated. It would be fun to share New York with a friend, to attend the WNBA Championship, to go to the concert with someone, but I've not been able to find anyone free to join me. I'm not frustrated with my friends. I'm more frustrated with myself for having such a small circle.

My frustration has led me to question my current path. The self-analysis has not been kind. I must need more friends, I think, but that seems like a really tall order. Why is it a tall order? Why don't I have more friends? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have trust issues? On and on I go. It's not pretty.

I don't know the answers to the questions, and I'm trying not to spend a lot of time contemplating them. While I wish I had companions to accompany me at my whim, that's obviously not reality. I love and value my friends. I love and value them regardless of if they can attend a basketball game or not. And while I'm frustrated with my lack of playmates, I'm apparently not frustrated enough to change it (i.e. develop more close relationships) yet. So I guess I should stop complaining now...

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I must have been 16. I stood on that cliff high above Lake Superior, right there in that park just down the street from my high school, for what seemed like hours...and maybe it was. I was so, so miserable. I had been struggling alone against the depression for at least a year.

Home was chaotic, dismissive and abusive. My father was a self-centered ass in an on-again, off-again, move in, get kicked out, physically and psychologically abusive relationship with my wicked step-mother. She hated me, especially after my step-sister was killed. My dad had been beating me since my earliest days, but I didn't know any different. When I sought out respite from a teacher after one particular beating the police took me to emergency foster care. I was forced into therapy with my father. Angry, confused and dismissed, I barely said a word. My father had no trouble speaking up. He was a model patient. I, however, was a "moody, angry, rebellious" teenager.

The depression was so severe, but I still got straight A's and starred on my sports teams. Uncharacteristically, I also wore all black, over-sized clothes, struggled to maintain relationships, and began binge drinking. A suicidal gesture, an overdose of Contact, was ignored. I slept it off at a friend's house. Her concerned mother phoned my dad and step mother to tell them what happened. They never mentioned it to me. I was so miserable. My world didn't make any sense.

I stood on that cliff high above Lake Superior. I loved that park, those cliffs, the crashing waves below. It was a place that gave me respite and peace. I went there often. But on that day, I knew I wouldn't come back. I couldn't leave that park and go back to my nonsensical world. I was done. Just as I shifted my weight forward, a small group of young boys appeared, out of nowhere, off to my right, far below. They were climbing on the rocks, playing. I stopped and stepped away from the edge.

Many years later my youngest brother, who would have been 11 or 12 at the time, told me he was one of those boys. They had noticed me, he said, and thought I was about to jump. I don't remember if I admitted he was right.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Healing and Restless

I'm getting a little restless. I'm waiting for my mouth to heal enough so I may resume running. You'd think this little 4 day break would be nothing for me. After all, I sat out 15 months for my Achilles. I think that long break is making this little break feel more indeterminate than it actually is. I'm anxious to get back to my training.

I've had to be very quiet since my surgery. Any jostling to my mouth could slow or even stop the healing process. I actually tried to run today, but I began to feel soreness at my surgery site so I stopped after one mile. I went to the gym and rode an elliptical for awhile instead. I don't want to do anything that may jeopardize my mouth healing and healing well.

My mood has remained good throughout this little break. I was concerned the surgical pain, the days off of work, the inability to run, and the extended downtime would negatively impact my mood, but so far so good. I'm relieved. Relieved, but a bit restless.

I'm anxious to get back to training because my training for the New York City Marathon has been going very well. My Achilles seems to be holding up well, and I'm feeling like a runner again. I had 3 great runs in the days before my surgery. My second 20-miler is scheduled for next Sunday. It's all downhill until marathon day after that. I've purchased my plane ticket and reserved my hotel. I'm ready to go.

Yes, I'm ready to go. Now I just have to hurry up and heal.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bone Regeneration

This morning I sat in a Mayo Clinic dental specialty chair for 2 hours and 15 minutes while two doctors cut, drilled, scraped, hammered (yes, hammered), and sewed a high tech new bone slurry into place. It was the first step in what will hopefully turn into new, supportive bone in my jaw in order to allow placement of a canine implant at a later date. Now it's up to my body, and all I can do is wait. Prayers please that solid new bone forms within the next 5 months.

If new bone does not form, I will have to undergo another procedure and wait another 5 months. I'm hoping to avoid that result, but ultimately I have no control. What will happen will happen. I'm hopeful my decent physical condition and overall good health will be of benefit right now. Like I said, if you've got a direct line to a higher power, feel free to use it and use it often. Thanks.

The surgery itself was uncomfortable and long, but it wasn't terrible. They had to re-numb various parts of my mouth at least 3 times. At one point I could feel the stitches being stitched into the roof of my mouth. That wasn't so fun. I tried to tune out and listen to some music, but my phone died about halfway through the procedure. Oh well. The doctors were wonderful and did their best to keep me comfortable.

I've been home for several hours now, and I'm doing better than I expected. I'm taking antibiotics to keep away infection, steroid pills to control the swelling, and of course, pain pills. I have stitches in my gums, my palate, and in between my teeth which run from canine tooth to canine tooth. It's a large area. But so far the pain and swelling aren't too bad. I'm surprised and grateful for that.

It's going to be a long weekend. I can't do any physical activity or eat anything that requires chewing for 4 days. I bought some protein powder for smoothies and some potatoes for mashing. And since the doctors say rest, that's exactly what I'm going to do. It's a good thing I have 3 new movies to watch and a host of football games to keep me occupied this weekend. I certainly don't want to do anything that may jeopardize my healing. I'll practice being a good patient. This too shall pass.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

20 Miles

It was kind of a big week around here. Seven days ago I ran my first race in 23 months, 7 days, and it went well. I was thrilled to be back racing. I was happy with the result. And I was grateful to do it without re-injuring my Achilles. It was a long, long time coming. I'm so glad I was able to persevere.

On Thursday, I jumped out of an airplane from 13,000 feet, and fell through the air at 125 miles per hour for 60 seconds, before floating back to earth. The experience was more amazing than I can put into words. It was everything I had hoped for and so much more!

I've wanted to skydive since I was 7 years old. It was a bucket list item, but I can honestly say I haven't completely crossed it off the list. I will definitely do it again! And if I can swing it, I plan to go through the training to jump on my own. I did add a link to the video of my jump at the end of my previous post. I've watched it, and re-lived the experience, about 50 times myself. I rarely give advice here, but if you've ever considered jumping, just do it! You won't regret it.

My seven day stretch of big events ended today with a 20 mile training run. It was my first 20-miler in 2 years. It wasn't one of my best. It was, actually, really hard. I even considered cutting it short at 10.5 miles. I worked a lot of hours this week, including almost 9 yesterday, and I think my legs were tired. Nevertheless, I pulled out my perseverance card and played it. I kept going.

It took me almost 3 hours and 40 minutes to get back home, including about 8 pit stops or water stops for both Jet and I, but my actual running time was only 3 hours, which is 9 minutes per mile, so I'm satisfied. I'm glad I continued running even though it wasn't easy.

Life, like running, isn't always easy. Don't we all know that? As simplistic as that sounds, I do think my experiences hanging tough in training help me hang tough when faced with life's challenges, too, whether the challenges come from my work, my health, my finances or my illness.

Speaking of my illness, my mood has improved significantly. The med changes we made a couple of weeks ago have certainly made a difference. Racing, jumping out of an airplane, and running 20 miles probably helped a bit, too. It was kind of a big, successful week around here. And I had fun. How cool is that? Carry on, my friends.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

What did I do today??


Watch it as it happened HERE!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

23 Months, 7 Days

October 19, 2014, was the last time I lined up at the starting line. Twenty three months and seven days ago was the last time I ran and finished a race. Until today. Today I ran a race. I crossed the starting line at 8:01 AM. One hour and forty eight minutes later, after 13.1 wet miles (it rained lightly throughout), I crossed the finish line of the 2016 Med City Fall Half Marathon. My friend, Heidi, took a picture of me at the finish line. I am smiling a huge, joyful, relieved smile. I'm still smiling right now. I am so, so happy and grateful. I'm back. And it feels really good to be back!

Mile 13 Happiness

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lifting a bit

Just a short post to say thank you to all who commented on my previous post. Your feedback helped. After reading what you had to say, I no longer felt so alone. I realized my experience was not unique. That helped. It really helped. My psychiatrist and I also made some changes to my medications last week, and I think those changes have been helpful, too. I am feeling better. My mood has lifted a bit. It's not stellar. It's not anywhere I'd like it to be yet, but I have some hope I'm on the mend. I'm still isolating. I'm still having some trouble sleeping. But my energy, thinking and mood are all improved. I'm so grateful for that. I hope that last post gave some of you the same comfort your comments ended up giving me. Carry on, my friends. We are not alone.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

That sense of desperation

I've been doing this awhile. Since my depression began in November, 2000, I've been through the whole gamut of symptoms and treatments, medications and therapies, and as you know, multiple hospitalizations. I've been through dips, and lulls, and catastrophic crashes in my mood. I've lost time, friends, jobs, and financial stability. Yet I've gained perspective, humility, trusted relationships, and educational opportunities. It's been quite a ride. And while it's not what I envisioned, it is my reality, and I try my best to live through it all with honesty, compassion and integrity.

Despite all these experiences, and especially despite all the depression relapses I've endured, I find myself amazed at the sense of desperation I feel. This is not a new feeling. It's very familiar. I don't always recognize it, but I'm pretty sure it almost always accompanies an extended drop in my mood. I'm noting it today because it's been quite prevalent over the past several days. I don't know any other way to describe it. It's a sense of desperation.

You'd think, with years of this illness under my belt, I'd be better able to ride out the intermittent storms without the sense of panic and doom I currently feel. After all, I've made it this far. History reveals that even my most severe depression episodes have passed 100% of the time. One hundred percent of the time! I've felt hopeless and suicidal. I've been isolated and incapacitated. I've been knocked so low, nobody would have blinked if I hadn't managed to get back up. But I've always gotten back up. So why do I feel so desperate?

I feel scared, alarmed, and surprised by my current symptoms, even though my current symptoms are nowhere near the worst I've ever experienced. I am questioning my ability to function and persevere. I feel hopeless, alone, and lonely, yet I find it impossible to reach out. It's physically painful to be out in public, something I've experienced many times before, but today it's freaking me out. And worst of all, despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself convinced this episode is not going to pass.

It will pass. It will. I do know that. As uncomfortable as it is in the moment, I know it won't last forever. So why do I feel so desperate? Does anyone else experience this?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

More difficult

It's been a tough week. My mood continues to decline. Monster fatigue has set in. Everything I do is more difficult. Everything. Big things, obvious things, like work, take more energy, mental fortitude, and patience than I have right now. Running is also more difficult. I'm so tired I need to nap before I go for a run. My legs feel like lead during my run so even a slow pace feels like a sprint. And then I'm exhausted afterward and practically fall asleep standing up. So my 4 mile run tonight, in total, took 3 hours rather then 36 minutes. Everything requires more time and effort when my mood is low.

But it's not just the big, obvious things which are more challenging. Small, less obvious things are difficult, too, when I don't feel well. I have routines which make my life more simple. When I feel low, I get out of those routines. For example, last night I didn't set out my breakfast food, or make my lunch, or even pick out which clothes I was going to wear today. I do each of those things nightly in order to make my mornings go more smoothly and simply. Well, guess what? This morning was more difficult. It wasn't simple. And it wasn't simple because I was unable to find the energy last night to do what I typically do. Seems like a little thing, but it's another example of how everything gets more difficult when my mood is low.

Depression manifests in so many ways. Making life more difficult is the manifestation I'm noticing today. Despite the heaviness, the brain fog, and the fatigue, I at least made it to work and continued to run this week. But that's about it. Meetings, socializing, errands, and chores...not in the cards right now. I know getting out, socializing, and getting stuff done would probably help my mood, but I just can't right now. I can only do what I can do, and I'm at that limit. I'm hoping for a reprieve soon.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


As I laid awake, exhausted but awake, in bed last night, I had a revelation of sorts. Lying awake for 3 hours lends itself to lots of frivolous brain activity. I wondered how it was this illness, depression, could cause such dichotomous symptoms? For example, my depression often causes me to feel sleepy, unable to keep my eyes open, yet in the next moment, within the same day sometimes, depression might cause me to feel wired and unable to sleep. Isn't that strange?

I thought of more examples. For instance, last night I was sad and tearful, which actually rarely happens. Most of the time, my depression symptoms leave me feeling detached and unable to cry. Yet both instances indicate depression is upon me, my depression.

My depression symptoms may include lethargy and restlessness, carbohydrate cravings and loss of appetite, a need to stay close to home and a need to escape. Sometimes I can't concentrate on anything, but sometimes my ability to concentrate is unaffected. One day I might feel better after socializing, while just being seen in public may be painful the very next day. No wonder this illness is so confounding to so many.

Sometimes my depression doesn't even feel like depression, initially, at least not what most people think of as depression. Several times I've had depressive episodes which began with or were preceded by disorganized, scary, or intrusive thoughts. When I start obsessing about bad things happening to people (or animals) I love, it usually means my mood is on the decline. I've learned this, unfortunately, through experience.

This is a strange illness. There is wide variability of symptoms between individuals, and I think that's one of the things that makes diagnosis difficult and uncertain. What signals clinical depression for one person may mean little to another. But as I understood last night, there's also wide variation in my own symptoms, both between depressive episodes and even within a single episode.

Fortunately(?), 15 years of experience with this illness has taught me a lot. I've learned when I need to be concerned and when I don't. If I recognize symptoms early, sometimes I can make changes, medication, behavioral, or otherwise, and cut off an impending decline. Sometimes the decline happens anyway, but at least I'm not caught off guard. Perhaps knowledge gives me a greater sense of control over this difficult illness.

And maybe that's the point of this post. More knowledge. My symptoms, as dichotomous as they can be, have been charging to the fore lately. I'm still doing what I need to do, but day to day activities have gotten more and more difficult. But I'm still moving forward. I'm dealing as best I can with each symptom as it presents itself, trying to keep them from stacking up and weighing me down. I made it through the day despite very little sleep last night, but hopefully I won't have any more 3-hour-long, middle of the night revelations tonight.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Plugging along

I'm surprised it's been nearly a week since I last wrote. Maybe it's because my last post is still relevant today. I've had a decent week. At least there have been no big dramas with regards to work, or my teeth, or running this week. It's been a decent week. I'm plugging along.

As happened last week, some things have gone okay, some things not so much. My mood has been in the latter category. I barely got out of my house at least a couple of mornings this week. I so, so wanted to call in sick, but I wasn't sick. I was heavy, and empty, and hopeless, but I wasn't sick. I didn't want to go, but I knew if I stayed home I would only feel worse. Letting depression control my actions always has that effect, and I didn't want to allow that. Besides, patients and co-workers were counting on me to show up, and that's important to me. So I went to work.

I knew getting to work would likely help me feel better, and it did. Work went well despite my mood. I may have been a little less patient, and was probably a little irritable at times, but I always felt better at the end of the day than I did when I arrived. Working with others, helping others, forced me to shift my focus outside myself. If I had stayed home, I would have had my focus all to myself. That certainly wouldn't have helped. I'm glad I made it to work.

I'm also glad I was able to run this week, again despite my mood. I had to take a nap before every run in order to summon the energy to go, but go I did. I ran Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. And then today, I ran long. In fact, Jet and I ran 15.7 miles today. I was really tired when I finished, but I'm so glad I was able to get it done.

I did have a scare in my 13th mile, as my right Achilles began to hurt. It happened suddenly. I took a step, and it hurt. Concerned, well scared, I slowed down to a walk immediately. I prayed, out loud, to God. "Please give me a break!" I was 3 miles from home, so after a minute I began slowly jogging again. It hurt for another minute or so, and then it stopped. I was okay for the rest of my run. I've iced it and rested it, and it's still okay. I'm so grateful. I'll be back on the ElliptiGo tomorrow.

Or maybe I'll be back in the woods tomorrow. I feel like I may need to do something different, like maybe that will help my mood, so I may go for a long hike in the woods tomorrow rather than ride my ElliptiGo. It's supposed to be a beautiful day. Maybe I'll go to a nearby state park and explore some of the trails Jet and I didn't get to on our last hike. The woods usually help my mood, and spending time with Jet is always good.

After that, and a good nap, I'll keep plugging along into next week. I wish I was feeling better, but I'm grateful my mood hasn't gotten worse. Despite feeling low, very low at times, I've been able to get done what I've needed to get done. I'm also grateful for that. Depression has beaten me down a bit this week, but I'm still standing. I take some comfort in and strength from that. Carry on, my friends.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Less stress, please

I finished up my mentally challenging, and therefore physically exhausting, week with a nice, sunny ride this morning on my ElliptiGo. I was supposed to run 10 miles today, but I've been having some lingering soreness in my right Achilles tendon, so I fought my urge to run and went for a ride instead.

I needed a challenging effort, one without worry about my Achilles, to clear my head. I got one. I rode an out and back 20.6 mile course on a smooth, wide, country road with beautiful views of local farms and greenery. It was also a hilly road, so I got a really good workout. It took me just over 90 minutes, which is about the same time it would have taken to run 10 miles, so I'm satisfied.

I'm hoping for a less challenging week this week. I'm working my usual schedule, nothing extra. I have one more dental consultation Tuesday morning, and I'm praying that soothes some of my anxiety and worry. I'm also going to dial back the intensity of my marathon training in order to decrease the stress on my Achilles. I have to remember the goal is simply to get to the starting line in New York and to let go of my high performance expectations. If I re-injure myself, there will be no performance at all. Keep it simple, etta. Keep it simple.

Still feeling frazzled, stressed and worried, I'm hoping to get back into some sort of comforting rhythm and routine this week, I've been feeling so close to breaking, worrying about the potential doom lurking around the next corner, that day-to-day functioning has been challenging. I'd like to shed that feeling this week. That will be my goal. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Bad and The Good

I spent 3 hours in the chairs of 2 different dental specialists yesterday afternoon. It was the horrible culmination to what otherwise was a lovely weekend away. Today I find myself overwhelmed and afraid. The drama with my teeth has taken another turn for the worse, but I can't say anymore about it without breaking down into tears, so that's all I have to tell you for now. I have another dental appointment tomorrow. I'm trying to hold it together, keep my fears in check, and put one foot in front of the other until then.

As far as my weekend, otherwise, it was really nice. I spent Saturday morning running 7 miles around some remote lakes near my parent's place. It was beautiful, and I felt great. The rest of Saturday morning was spent helping my mother organize her delayed wedding reception, which took place Saturday afternoon.

After at least 15 years together, my mom and stepfather were finally married in a small ceremony in Florida this past Spring. Since their local families and friends couldn't attend the wedding, they had a small reception in Duluth Saturday afternoon. It went really well, and I think my mom thoroughly enjoyed it.

The reception was the only time in the past 12 months that all of my brothers and I were in the same place at the same time. It was really nice spending time with my brothers, their spouses, and almost all of my nieces and nephews. Like many families, I suppose, we have some interesting, sometimes touchy family dynamics, but everyone was on their best, most loving behavior, and it was quite nice.

Actually, the reception was fun. It was so fun, we continued the party after the party. We all spent the evening together at my brother's house eating pizza and watching the Olympics. We haven't had that much fun family time together in a long, long time.

On Sunday, I spent another beautiful Duluth morning running 14 miles on a bike path through the woods. It was great to be outside, in the woods, feeling good, running again. My mom and I then watched the Olympic marathon together while I recovered after my run. I enjoyed that. The afternoon included more family time, as we attended the Duluth Tall Ships festival on the Lake Superior waterfront. I even splurged for some fabulous, greasy, sugary, mini donuts! Why not? I ran 14 miles.

On Monday, I got some cherished one-on-one time with my youngest brother. I rarely get one-on-one time with him, as he has two very active young boys. We played golf together, on another gorgeous day, for 3 hours. My brother is an incredible athlete, so it was fun to watch him hit the ball. I'm a beginner, so he gave me some good tips. We talked and laughed and simply enjoyed each other's company. Like I said, it was a cherished opportunity.

Finally, I spent Monday evening having dinner with my good friend, Mary. It's always great to spend time with her. We go way back and have a special bond. She's one of those friends I can go without seeing for long stretches of time, and yet we pick up right where we left off when we do get together. I have very few of those people in my life. I value her friendship.

Good times had with family and friends in a place I love, that's what I'm trying to keep in mind today. The stress of the continued drama with my teeth is going to play out however it's going to play out. I can't, unfortunately, control that. It sucks. It's unfortunate. It's not fair. But it is what it is. I'm very grateful to have had such a pleasant weekend away with my family. Those are the moments I need to remember and focus on today.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

One foot, another foot

I'm getting ready tonight to get away. I'm going to visit family this weekend, which may or may not be a good thing. Isn't that the way with families? I'm hoping for a nice, not too stressful weekend. I'll be in one of my favorite places on the planet, Duluth, Minnesota, so that should help.

It's been a long week. I'm still not quite right with all the recent stresses in my life. I'm still not sure I'm coping the best. On top of that, the antibiotics I'm taking for my tooth infection have made me so nauseous it's been difficult to eat, and unfortunately, just as difficult not to eat. I'm uncomfortable either way. It's exhausting.

I'm tired, and I've not been able to rest. I worked everyday this week, as I'm covering for my assistant who is on vacation. So besides working 5 days, rather than my usual 3, I've also treated almost twice as many patients as I normally do. Feeling mentally stressed and physically under the weather has made staying focused and patient at work challenging.

I'm thankful tomorrow is my fifth and final work day. And while I'm not looking forward to traveling tomorrow, I am padding my weekend with an extra day off. So if the weekend turns out to be less than restful, I know I'll be coming home to a quiet, totally unscheduled day. I'm almost looking forward to that day off more than the weekend. Until then, I'll keep putting one foot in front of the other and do my best to get through.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Coping...or not

I haven't had much motivation to update this blog or do much of anything else lately. I don't think I'm coping too well with the new drama with my teeth. My mood has definitely taken a hit. I've been struggling to move some days. I missed work on Friday because I had a migraine headache and just couldn't get out of bed. And since beginning the antibiotics for my tooth infection, I've been consistently and constantly nauseous.

Physical and mental discomfort has been the norm since Tuesday, which is when the tooth infection was diagnosed. Life hasn't been much fun. I'm not happy with how I've been coping. I'm discouraged. I'm not feeling hopeful. And I'm fearing the worst. It's no wonder I have little motivation or energy.

Fear, I think, is really weighing me down. I've been struggling to stay in the moment. I'm projecting my fears way out into the future. I don't usually do that. But now I find myself fearing the worst possible outcomes, especially where my teeth are concerned. It's mentally exhausting.

I'm not doing myself any favors by focusing my energy on my fears. But I can't seem to stop. I've had so much bad luck with my teeth over the past couple of years, it's hard not to feel cursed. Of course, I know I'm not cursed, but I am feeling incredibly unfortunate. That's the problem.

I need to stop feeling unfortunate, i.e. sorry for myself. It's certainly not beneficial. If I can't cope with today, tomorrow is not going to get any better. I've already proven that this week. Migraines, low motivation, low energy, irritability...not fun. Somehow I've got to get a grip, focus on today and move forward.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Careful what you wish for...

I believe it was just 2 or 3 posts ago that I was complaining about feeling cooped up and wishing for some excitement in my life. I wonder if I can retract that wish? The wish actually came true, but it's been the wrong kind of excitement infiltrating my life lately.

The morning after the post, I had the pleasure (sarcasm) of being reamed out for 20 minutes by a patient's angry spouse. That stressful situation went unresolved for a week, and it continues to cause me grief. I've not yet recovered from her tongue lashing, or my resentment, but I'm working on it.

Unfortunately, today I was blessed (sarcasm) with another obstacle to battle. I'm in the midst of more very stressful drama with my teeth. Long story short, I may lose another molar. I'm being treated for an infection of another old root canal. You may recall I lost a molar less than a year ago for the same reason. If the high doses of two different antibiotics don't cure the infection, this molar, on the other side of my mouth, will have to be pulled, too.

I really don't know if I can handle the removal of another tooth. This 2.5 year process, which was only supposed to last 18 months, of getting braces in order to pull down my right canine tooth, which after 14 months of pulling turned out to be ankylosed and had to be removed, and the loss due to infection of an upper left molar, and the long process of bone grafting, which may or may not be successful, and then hopefully surgical implants to replace the canine and molar, has already been exhausting, exasperating, and painful. This was all supposed to turn out so, so differently. I'm not sure I can go through anymore drama with my teeth.

Of course, I am sure I don't have a choice in the matter. Drama or no drama, I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue to take the next right action. That's all I can control.

If this molar, on the lower right side, has to be removed, it will have to be removed. I'm praying hard for the pain to subside and for the infection to clear. And I'm praying really hard that the infection never returns so I can keep the tooth, and for the braces to do their job so I can begin bone grafting, and for the bone grafting to be successful so I can get the implants, and for one day to have a normal mouth again! That's all.

Is that too much to wish for?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Freedom from Resentment

In my program of recovery we learn, " which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness," and that, "...this business of resentment is infinitely is fatal." I have found this to be incredibly accurate and true in my life. One of the greatest gifts of my sobriety has been freedom from resentments.

I use the word freedom purposefully, because that is exactly what it is. Freedom. I never imagined I'd be able to get through the trials and tribulations, the inevitable slights and inherent unfairness, of this thing called life without feeling resentful. It's like magic.

Of course, I'm not perfect. In fact, I'm writing this post because I've been extremely imperfect over the last week. One week ago I was reamed for 20 minutes by the spouse of one of my patients. She disagreed with my plan of care. It was ugly.

Despite my rising frustration and anger, I was professional and calm throughout our interaction. I tried to offer compromises and solutions, but it eventually became clear she was only interested in her solution. Toward the end of our interaction she got personal and nasty. I wanted to tear her head off. I didn't. The interaction ended. I don't even remember how, but neither of us went away happy.

Unfortunately, the situation went unresolved until yesterday. My boss, who needed to step in and educate the spouse about the realities of treatment and about appropriately interacting with therapy staff, was on vacation until yesterday. In the interim, the patient, and his spouse, had returned for his regularly scheduled appointments multiple times. The atmosphere was less than ideal.

I guess the situation is now resolved, but I'm still not happy. In reviewing the heated conversation, I feel good about how I interacted with the spouse and the patient. There was more than enough provocation for me to lose my cool, but I didn't. I'm satisfied with that. But internally, it's been a different story. I haven't been feeling quite so satisfied.

Rather than satisfied, I've been steaming. I've tried and tried and tried to let it go. I've tried to put out of my mind the nasty, unfair things the spouse said. Unfortunately, I haven't been very successful. Throughout this last week my feelings of resentment, and all the things I wish I could have said, were never far from my consciousness. My resentment impacted my mood, my energy, and my sleep. That really frustrated me.

Last night I spoke about my feelings with a woman wiser than I. She has 25+ years of sobriety. She reminded me of one of the tenets of our program of recovery. It's on page 67 in our book. It describes the path from resentment to freedom. It says, in part, "We realized that the people who wronged us were spiritually sick." "We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend." "When a person offended we said to ourselves, 'This is a sick person. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.'"

I moaned, loudly, as she reminded me of this prayer. Over the past week it never even crossed my mind. I protested. Pray for this woman who had been so mean and unfair? That's the last thing I wanted to do! But I knew, from my own experience, it would work. Dammit. I knew what I needed to do.

So my task now is to say this prayer daily, for two weeks, in order to free myself from my resentment. I can't afford to continue allowing this woman to occupy free space in my brain. If past results are any indication, and I have no reason to expect otherwise, as long as I do what I need to do I know I will again feel free. It's like magic.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


If I do nothing else today, and I just may not based on how I'm feeling right now, I've already had what I hope will be a momentous day. I ran this morning. Yes, that's right, I ran.

It's been just over 15 months since I originally suffered a partial tear to my right Achilles tendon. I haven't raced in nearly 2 years. If you had told me after the Mankato Half Marathon in mid-October, 2014, that I wouldn't race again until, hopefully, the Fall of 2016, I'd have told you to shut up. I knew when I tore my Achilles in April, 2015, that I was in for a long recovery, but I never expected this. Fifteen months is a long, long time.

And yet here I am, alive and fairly well, despite not being able to run for over a year. That's why my 51 minute run this morning was a momentous occasion. I was more than a little nervous when I stepped outside. I was scared. What if I couldn't do it? What if I suddenly felt pain again? I knew I'd be totally demoralized if that happened. Thankfully, it didn't.

Jet and I walked for a block and then slowly picked up the pace. I was so worried. I had run for 25 minutes at 100% of my body weight on the Alter-G Treadmill, at 7:45 pace, on Thursday, and it went well, but I knew running on the street would be different. It was. I felt very heavy and very slow initially. I looked down at my watch after a few blocks. I was running around 10:30 pace, and I could barely breathe! I decided not to look at my watch again.

After a few miles, I was still breathing heavily, but I was more relaxed and moving quicker than I had initially, and most importantly, I wasn't having any pain. I was hyper-vigilantly monitoring every right foot landing and propulsion. I stayed close to home in case I needed to stop suddenly, but I reveled in the sunshine and warmth. I smiled and said hello to every runner I passed, and I cherished being among them. I loved the feeling of running again.

I'm now sitting here satisfied and grateful, but I'm still a little nervous. What if I have pain later? What if it just doesn't hurt yet? I'm trying to push these thoughts out, however, and have faith that all will be okay. I've already iced my ankle, and I'll foam roll my calves later. I have to keep my focus on the actions I can control while leaving the results to God.

I ended up running over 5 miles at 9 minute pace. I actually stopped more out of concern for my dog, Jet, than for my Achilles. He was looking hot and tired, but he was smiling, too. It's been a long time for both of us. A momentous day? I certainly hope so. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cooped up

I think I need to get away. I'm feeling cooped up and restless. Before major depression cleaned out my bank accounts and limited my future earning potential, I used to travel whenever I could. I enjoyed getting away.

I love to travel. Nothing extravagant, I actually prefer to wander off the beaten path. Even if I find myself in a major tourist destination, I like to learn from the locals and see the things they find interesting or important. I like to eat at local diners rather than tourist-filled restaurants. I don't think I've ever hailed a cab. If I don't rent my own vehicle, I prefer to walk or use public transportation. Again, it brings me closer to the local daily life. I like to learn.

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I need to learn something new. I don't know though. Suddenly, that sounds overwhelming. I think I just need to get away, to see something new and different, to do something new and different. I've been focused on daily tasks lately. Since I'm feeling like my mood may be on shaky ground, I've been concentrating on taking the next right action, and then the next, and the next. I've been staying on top of things and getting things done.

I'm getting through my days, but I'm flat. I'm working when I need to work. I'm exercising when I need to exercise. I'm completing chores when they need to be done. I'm even socializing more than usual. But I'm restless. I'm lacking excitement. I'm usually totally happy with my pleasantly boring life, but today I guess I need a bit more.

I better start making some plans. I've been spending a lot of time online researching some pretty fantastic far away places, but those, out of necessity, are long range tentative plans. I think I need to find something more immediate than that. Maybe Jet and I should go for a hike this weekend. I'm sure I can find a Minnesota State Park I have yet to visit. Will that be enough? I don't know, but it's worth a shot. At least I'll be away.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another Achilles Update

My official 16-week New York City Marathon training schedule began Monday, July 18th. I'm not yet back on the road, but I'm getting closer. Today I ran on the Alter-G Treadmill for 37 minutes at 85-90% of my body weight. I ran at 85% of my body weight for 10 minutes and then increased the percentage to 90 for the final 27 minutes. It was the first time I ran at 90%. And it went well.

I saw my orthopedic doctor right after my run, and he's pleased with my progress. More importantly, I'm pleased with my progress. My Achilles responded well to the increased demand. I have a couple more 90% treadmill runs scheduled. If things continue to go okay, I'm hoping to be back on the road for my first run by late next week.

My first run... As I wrote that sentence, the anxiety rose up within me. I'm cautiously optimistic I will be back to running soon, but I'm also worried. Actually, I'm scared. I've come so far. I've got so much emotional baggage attached to this now 15-month injury/healing process. Fifteen months. Whew... It's been a long, long road.

I'm hoping the road is about to come to an end. I have faith I will handle whatever next comes my way, whether I like it or not. Of course, I really hope I like what's on the horizon.

The thing is, at this point it really is out of my hands. As my doctor said today, we did the best we could in our treatment and rehabilitation. There is nothing else we could have done to increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. I've taken it slow. I've followed recommendations. I've patiently worked toward what comes next, a return to my running life. But it's no longer about me. It's up to something bigger than me now. I pray my Higher Power will take good care of me in the weeks to come.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Feeling punky

According to something called The Urban Dictionary, punky means feeling run down, tired, worn out, dragging... I guess that's somewhat accurate. But it's more than that. My brain is also feeling run down, tired, worn out, and dragging. My mood is feeling run down, tired, worn out...well, you get the idea. I'm feeling punky.

It's been a long week. My motivation is still lacking, and my mood is, well, a bit off. I don't think I'm low. I don't feel my usual depression symptoms, necessarily. I'm just a bit off. I'm feeling restless, irritable, and discontented. Spiritually unfit is the phrase I used earlier this week. Things I usually brush off are getting under my skin. Resentments are cropping up. Frustration is common. And because of that, it's been a long week.

It's been a long week in this world of ours, too. I think that's also weighing on me. There's so much hate, and divisiveness, and pain in our world right now. It's hard to feel safe. It's difficult to even have a conversation sometimes. It seems everybody thinks they're right. Discourse seems impossible. Name calling, bad behavior, and murder have apparently become the only option to deal with our disagreements and discontent. That bothers and discourages me.

I'm paying attention to my own discontent. I'm talking to friends. I'm keeping my treatment team up to date. We're all on guard. It's been just about one year since the beginning of my last, and possibly most severe, depression relapse. So I'm paying attention. I have no desire to go there again.

Monday, July 11, 2016


It's the day after the weekend of my 30th high school reunion. I didn't go. From the looks of it, via Facebook, I missed a lot of fun. Does Facebook ever make anyone feel good? Anyway, today I am feeling a bit of regret.

To go or not to go was a really tough decision. It was complicated. As I wrote in an earlier post, I was worried about all of my lost memories from those days. That worry was confirmed when I didn't recognize 90% of the people in the photos on Facebook. Yes, part of the reason was everyone looked different at age 48 than they did at 18, but I didn't recognize most of the names either! I figured at least their names would be familiar, but most of them weren't. That was strange and disconcerting.

My other consideration regarding going or not going was the fact that I actually didn't graduate with my class. After my suicide attempt 3/4 of the way into my junior year, I went to live in a foster home in another town. I missed my senior year with the classmates I had been with since junior high school. And although I was included in the class reunion Facebook group, I wasn't sure how I'd be accepted. Seems silly to be worried about fitting in 30 years later, but it was a factor in my decision not to attend.

Another factor which I weighed heavily was what I perceived to be a large focus on alcohol. In the lead up to the weekend, many Facebook posts focused on drinking, partying, and getting drunk. I'm sober, but my concern was not at all that I'd be tempted to drink. I was, however, concerned I might be bored, uncomfortable, or just not have much fun.

Since getting sober, I haven't found attending parties where people are doing a lot of celebratory drinking very interesting for very long. I'm not a prude, but sometimes it is challenging to be the only one not uninhibited in a room full of uninhibited people. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. It's just not interesting or even fun after awhile.

Despite all these reservations, I was still contemplating attending right up until last Friday, which was the first day of the reunion. I considered driving up late Friday night or early Saturday morning in order to attend the Saturday activities, of which there were many. And perhaps if the reunion hadn't been at least 4 hours away, I would have gone. In the end, I decided the time and effort of getting there and back, on a congested, construction-zone-riddled highway, in combination with all my other reservations about attending; it just wasn't worth it.

Of course I then spent the last three days looking at continually updated Facebook posts. Their pictures conveyed loads of fun and a fair amount of alcohol. Their words confirmed they not only had a blast, they were grateful for the time together. The words of my classmates, more than their pictures, made me think twice about the decision I made not to attend.

I'll never know if I would have had fun and felt included, or if I would have been disinterested and felt uncomfortable. The right decision? Who knows... But I am feeling a bit of regret.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Motivation lacking

I'm in a weird space. My mood is fine, but I don't feel like doing anything. Nothing. And this has been going on for 4-5 days now. In fact, I'd been planning to write in this blog for 3 straight days, and I've got several ideas swirling about my head, but each time I sat down to write, I quickly quit. No mojo. Just didn't feel like it.

This feeling of not wanting to do anything has begun each day at sun up and lasted until sun down. I've had tremendous difficulty getting out of bed for the last 4 days. I've had trouble waking up. That's not typical. I even contemplated calling in late to work once or twice just so I could stay in bed. That's not like me.

I've worked my scheduled shifts, but even there, I've wanted to cut corners. I haven't cut corners, but it concerns me that I wanted to. Unusual. I've forced myself to exercise most days, but I totally skipped it a couple of days ago. Didn't feel like it. I knew I should go, but I couldn't overcome the inertia, so I didn't go.

I skipped one of my regular meetings earlier this week. Didn't want to bother. Instead, I snoozed in my chair. I never fall asleep sitting up! Weird. And don't get me started on all of the chores I'm letting slide. My neighbors may call the authorities if I don't mow my yard soon. Oh well.

I'm not used to feeling so consistently unmotivated. Not when I'm otherwise feeling well, that is. It's fairly normal to have low motivation when my mood is suffering, but it's not typical when I'm feeling okay. I'm not sure what's going on. I'm not thrilled with it either. I don't like feeling unproductive. I don't like leaving things for tomorrow, and tomorrow, and then tomorrow again. It's frustrating and strange.

I don't know why I'm feeling like this, but I also know I don't need to figure it out. Thank God, because I don't have the motivation to do that either! This too shall pass, I hope.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Temper, temper

I blew up the other day. It was short and sweet, but for one brief moment, I lost my temper.

This was news because I don't remember the last time I even raised my voice. I live alone. I keep things simple in my life and my relationships. I try my hardest to live according to the principals of my recovery program, which is basically live and let live. And I attempt to live a life in which I don't have to apologize, especially for my behavior. I don't generally get into situations where raising my voice in anger is at all appropriate.

They say mothers know how to push our buttons because they installed them. Well, a couple of days ago, my mom pushed my buttons. Then she pushed them again, and again, and again. Finally, I felt myself blow. Like I said, I don't remember the last time I felt such strong anger rise up within me. Fortunately, I didn't say or do anything inappropriate, but I definitely raised my voice. Boy, I was angry!

Long story short, my mom and I have since patched things up, but that anger really messed me up for awhile. I found myself surprised by the intensity of the emotion, and I worried. Almost immediately I questioned myself. I got down on myself for getting angry. "What's wrong with me, I wondered?" "Oh no, I must not be working a good recovery program!" "I must not be spiritually fit, I thought." In a nutshell, I questioned my integrity and worth as a human being. Just because I got angry!

Fortunately, I have people to talk to. I quickly consulted another recovering alcoholic. She assured me I was okay but warned me to let go, of my anger and my negative thinking, so as not to annihilate my serenity. I tried, but it took a good 24 hours to accomplish that. In the meantime, I tortured myself.

I also consulted a very close friend. After she listened to my story and to the events leading up to my eruption, she validated my anger. Then she said exactly what I needed to hear. "It's okay," She told me it was okay to have felt angry. What a revelation!

Actually, I knew that. But when I was all jumbled up in my emotional mind, I forgot. Anger is just a feeling. It's a normal human emotion. It's not good or bad. It's just a feeling. It only became bad when I attached all of my worries and judgments to it. And did that help me at all? Nope. It only made me feel worse. It kept me all jumbled up and emotional. It made an entire day much more difficult than it needed to be.

The good news is I'm un-jumbled now. I feel better. ( And I am trying hard not to get down on myself for getting down on myself!) It was an uncomfortable situation, with uncomfortable emotions, which complicated my life for 24 hours, but I've come out the other side unscathed. I am constantly learning how to live this life on life's terms. I'm not real fond of this latest lesson, but I learned from it, nonetheless.

Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Training Partner

It's a bird. It's a plane. No, it's an ElliptiGo! I am excited. After years of yearning, and months of searching, I am now the proud owner of an ElliptiGo. It's my new training tool.

An ElliptiGo is basically an elliptical bike. As you can see in the photos, I stand on the pedals and "pedal" in an elliptical motion that closely resembles running but without the impact. I heard about the ElliptiGo several years ago and immediately wanted one. Unfortunately, they were way out of my price range. As a result of my ongoing Achilles injury, I decided several months ago I wanted to pursue purchasing a used ElliptiGo. Unfortunately, there are very, very few used ElliptiGos on the market and most were still out of my price range. Finally, after months of searching across the country, I found one in Colorado. The woman selling it was very generous. We negotiated a fair price, and she agreed to have it disassembled and shipped to me. Now I'm the happy owner.

I'm still getting used to my new training partner, but I've already ridden it several times. I get very strange looks from everyone I pass while riding it. Not sure I like that, but it's to be expected. It's not something one sees every day.

Riding the ElliptiGo is fun, and it's a great workout! It works my legs like running, but I also get a good core and even arm workout while riding it. I generally average just under 5 minutes per mile on my rides. I only wish I could run that fast, even for a mile! I'll keep dreaming.

Once I'm back to training, I'm really hopeful riding the ElliptiGo will allow me to log more weekly miles than I'd otherwise be able to safely log on my recovering Achilles. I may use it on my easy days instead of running. We'll see how it all works out, but I'm excited to add it to my training routine. I feel like I'm taking another step in the process of getting back on the roads, and I'm really grateful for that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Only 25% to go

I'm happy to report I ran for 35 minutes today, on the Alter G Treadmill, at 75% of my body weight. I ran 8 minute miles without pain. I'm cautiously optimistic I've turned a corner in my recovery from my right Achilles tendon tear. This is the first time I've been able to increase the body weight percentage, from 70% to 75%, without my Achilles revolting at least a bit. And at 75% of my body weight, I finally felt like I was actually running more than floating.

Like I said, I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm now beginning my 15th month of no running. If you had suggested at any time in my past that I'd be able to survive 15 months without running, I'd have called you crazy. I wouldn't have believed it. I'm actually quite amazed with myself. That may sound silly, but it's true. In fact, perhaps all the cross training, biking, and weight lifting will actually help once I'm back on the road. At least that's what I'm telling myself. That being said, I can't wait to get back on the road!

I'm doing well, otherwise. My mood is better than it was over the weekend. I'm not in a funk anymore. I'm busy. Between work, exercising, and taking care of Jet, I've got little time for much else. Work especially has been busy with some challenging patients. They're keeping me on my toes.

I am taking some time to go to a play on Sunday with the young man I mentored several years ago. He's in his mid-twenties now. It's cool to spend time with him all grown up. I'm proud of the person he's become, and I'm really happy he's still in my life all these years later. It will be nice to spend some time together.

That's all that's happening around here. Things are good. My life is pleasantly boring again, just the way I like it. Hope everything is pleasantly boring in your lives, too. Carry on, my friends.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Weekend away

I'm back from my weekend in Duluth where, if I wasn't still injured, I would have run Grandma's Marathon. I had a nice time, but not great. I felt conflicted most of the weekend and kind of wished I hadn't gone. But at other times I was glad I was there. I spent most of the time with my mom and stepfather. I saw my friends a bit. And I spent some time alone down by the lake and on the golf course. It was warm and sunny, no good for running a marathon, but fine for visiting.

The weekend got off to a rough start when I saw a dog get hit on the highway within 30 minutes of leaving home. The dog was severely injured and likely died. I cursed the owners for letting their dog run loose so close to a busy highway. But I couldn't get the image of that poor dog out of my head for the rest of my 3.5 hour drive. It sickened me, and the repeated imagery was quite distressing.

I spent a couple hours Thursday afternoon at the marathon expo, where I picked up my race packet anyway, and then had dinner with my friends and a large group of their friends and colleagues. That was fun, and the distraction finally relieved me of the dog images, an extra bonus. My stepfather and I spent a few hours golfing together Friday. We're both beginners, so it was at times frustrating and at others comical. We had a good time, though. My parents and I finished off the afternoon with a late lunch, some ice cream, and a walk down by Lake Superior.

I planned to watch the marathon Saturday morning, but for the second year in a row, I didn't. By the end of the evening Friday, I was feeling mounting disappointment about missing the 40th anniversary edition of my hometown, and favorite, marathon. I woke up in a funk Saturday morning, so I went out for what turned out to be a bad breakfast with my parents instead of venturing down to the race.

The funk continued after breakfast. I couldn't even lift myself from my mom's couch despite the beautiful Duluth day. Finally, after dozing on and off most of the day, I dragged myself out to a little golf course nearby. I planned to just hit some practice balls, but there was hardly a soul on the course, so I played a relaxed nine holes instead. That was a good decision. The time alone, the exercise, and focusing on something besides missing the marathon was good for me.

After taking my stepfather out for Father's Day breakfast early this morning, I drove home. I wanted to get home. I'm still not sure how I feel about the weekend overall. I guess it was okay. I'm happy to be back in my home, though. I picked up Jet from the dog sitter, gave him a hug, got some exercise, and after finishing this post, I'll likely be ready for a nap. I like my house. It's not much, but it's my space, and I'm comfortable in it. After my weekend away, filled with mixed emotions, I needed to get back here. I'm looking forward to resuming my regular routine.