Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Fight it

"Fight it," my friend exclaimed. I had just told her how I was feeling. Nobody, especially my close friends, wants to see me slide into the abyss once again. It's too dark. The road back is too steep and so distant. Certainly I'm not at all interested in visiting that space again, but I fear it's on the way. "Fight it," I scream to myself! Fight it! Simple. But is that all there is to it?

Those of us who know, know. It's certainly not as simple as that. In the best of times, it's not as simple as that. That's the myth. Fight and depression will relent. Peace, serenity and happiness will reign. That's the cruel, believable myth. And that's in the best of times. But that's not depression.

In depression's advantageous times, times like this, of injury or illness, when everything I typically use to cope, everything which brings me joy, and meaning, and purpose; battling depression is definitely not as simple as, "Fight it!" When removed from my joyful, meaningful, and purposeful activities, fighting is an uphill battle on a peg leg with one arm tied behind my back. It doesn't work. I flail, and fall flat, and suffocate in the mud.

Yesterday was rough. In my analysis, I realized this injury has disconnected me from everything I hold dear. My coping mechanisms, my life, are so distant they feel lost. I'm spending many, many hours alone. I've been disconnected from the very things which not only allow me to battle depression, but also allow me to be me. Working. Running. Biking. Hiking. Playing. Traveling. And taking care of my responsibilities. I'm on my own, which normally would be fine, but there's only so much (or in this case so little) I can do on my own right now. It's no wonder I've been sinking.

My friend's words keep ringing in my ears. "Fight it!" No, it's not that simple, but maybe I can do more than I've been doing. Maybe I've been too willing to wallow in what I can't do rather than what I can. I'm not a fan of self-pity. If depression is going to take me down, and I'm not saying it will, I at least need to battle. No matter my infirmities. I've got to fight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

4 Weeks Post-op

It's been 4 weeks since my surgery to remove the extruded portion of my L4 disc, 8 weeks since the original injury, and I'm trying my best to deal with a very slow recovery. Yesterday was a really tough day. After attempting to increase my level of activity just a bit, I again ended up in fairly significant pain. I saw my surgeon's physician assistant, and she assured me I'm doing as expected. She kept saying, "It takes time." Patience is not one of my virtues, I guess. I really expected to be further along the road to recovery by now, and I certainly didn't expect to continue having so much pain.

Pain is discouraging and frustrating, but I did get some good news yesterday. The physician assistant cleared me to begin walking for exercise, as my pain allows. She also cleared me to begin gentle physical therapy strengthening exercises. I still can't work, as I continue to have significant lifting restrictions, but I'm happy to be cleared for increased activity. I just hope my pain will decrease and allow me to do what she's now granted permission to do.

On another front, my date went well. It was fun. Beautiful evening, great stadium, and our team won with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. We'll see where things go from here. We may just continue to be friends, I think, but one can never have too many friends. I'm proud of myself for pushing through my fears and going out at all. Fear gets me nowhere. Courage, on the other hand, can lead to great things. And I think we all deserve great things.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Confidence

It's a big day. I have a date. A what, you ask? Yes, I have a date. Believe me, I'm just as surprised as anyone. An acquaintance I've known for years called me out of the blue a few days ago. He asked me out. We're going to dinner and a baseball game tonight. I'm excited, and flattered, and scared to death!

My crisis of confidence began as soon as I hung up the phone with Mister (obviously, not his real name). His call pushed so many fraidy-cat buttons for me. To name a few: I'm not a girly, girl. I have short hair. I don't wear make-up. I don't polish my nails. I don't even own a dress. I had a hard time even finding something sort of appealing to wear. If I'm not in my work clothes, I'm in running gear or sweats. Which begs the question, what does he see in me? Don't men like all of those things?

I know some men don't necessarily care about girly-ness, but the bigger fear dating brings out in me is one in which you all may identify. Depression. I've been thinking about it a lot over these last three days. I feel defective. Depression makes me feel defective. On some level I know I'm not, but that isn't necessarily going to be the opinion of everyone. Deep down, I guess I still struggle with feeling defective because of my mental illness.

I've been battling the defective thoughts and trying to convince myself I'm actually okay for 3 days now. I've been reminding myself Mister wouldn't have asked me out if he didn't want to spend time with me. And he's certainly seen me in running clothes and a baseball hat more than once over these last several years. But that deep feeling persists. It's discouraging. And somehow I feel like I, of all people, a blogger and speaker attempting to wipe out the stigma of depression, I shouldn't feel this way. And that thought does nothing to quell my fears, no matter how rational or irrational they may be.

So my worry thoughts continue, but I'm trudging through and going on a date tonight despite myself. It's my first date since D and I broke up over 2 years ago. I'm going to say a prayer before I leave, do my best to stay in the moment while I'm out, and above all enjoy myself. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Healing?

I feel better. No, I don't. I'm healing. I'm not healing. My pain is improved. I'm in more pain. I'm moving better. No, moving hurts. And so it goes. Over the last 7 days I've yo-yo'd back and forth from feeling like I'm on the path to recovery to feeling like recovery from my back surgery is yet a long way off. It's been a bit frustrating to say the least.

One step forward, two steps back. That's how I began the week. On the heels of feeling better, I had a pretty big setback in my level of back pain. I began taking my pain pill again, and things slowly improved. As things improved I increased my level of activity. As I got more active my pain increased. By midweek I was really discouraged. Discouragement is not good for me.

Increased discouragement caused my mood to crumble. For a few days I had two things to battle, a painful back and a poor mood. I'm happy to report I got out of my house and socialized at least once each of the past three days, and that has helped my mood. I'm so grateful I have friends who sensed I needed to get out and offered me opportunities to do so. I do feel better.

I feel better mentally, and as I sit here right now my back pain is also improved. It's tolerable. It's not gone, but I'm again weaning off the pain pills without ill effect. That's encouraging. I'm trying to be a good patient. I'm trying to be patient. I've increased my activity but not a lot. I'm taking it more slowly than I did previously. It's still tough, mentally and physically, to have so little to do, but this too shall pass, right? This is temporary, I have to remember that.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Boredom

I confess. I'm not being a good patient. I'm so damn bored, I can't help it! It's just me, and Jet, and four walls for 90% of every day. It feels like my house is closing in on me. I try to find reasons to go out, but when you're not allowed to do anything and have no money to spend there aren't a lot of places to go. I'm really having a difficult time with all of this excess time. So I confess, I've been a bad girl.

I've been a bad girl, and unfortunately I think I'm paying for it. I began doing exercises for my weak left leg last week. Those went well, no ill effects, so I added some gentle peddling on my stationary recumbent bike. Just 10 minutes, gently, and that went well, too. I was walking half a block several times per day, as instructed, so I added a few sessions on the Alter-G, anti-gravity treadmill. I walked at only 40-45% of my body weight, not too strenuous, and that felt really good. I was actually able to walk, to stretch my legs, for 20 whole minutes! I think that was fine, but the back strengthening exercises I added a couple of days ago, I think those were ill advised. That's where I might have overdone it.

Don't tell my surgeon, but I think those back exercises have caused an increase in my left low back pain. I wasn't having any back pain, just left leg and foot pain, prior to the exercises. Now my back hurts again. I think I overdid it. I spoke with the surgeon's nurse today regarding another issue, and she reiterated my movement restrictions. She said something like, "The doctor doesn't want you to do anything more than short walks.Your back muscles, the area around your spine, and the nerve all need time to heal." Oops. Bad patient.

I guess the surgeon does know best. It seems I've set myself back a bit. So despite being bored out of my mind, I guess I'll sit on my duff for 95% of the next few days. Ugh! At least The Tour de France is on television, and I love to watch Le Tour, but that only covers me for a few hours. I should try to read a book, but I'm just not into it. It's strange, I know. I love to write, but I'm not a big book reader. Short attention span, I guess. Tomorrow I've got vacuuming and picking up dog doo to look forward to, and truthfully, I'm probably not allowed to do either of those activities either. But some things have to be done. I promise, doc, I won't do anything else! Really. I don't want to set myself back any further. Boredom, I guess, is here to stay.



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