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!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hope...or not

Sometimes I have difficulty writing here. I want so badly to be a voice of hope for all of us who struggle with this damn illness, severe and persistent depression. But sometimes my hope is limited. And sometimes it's nonexistent. Well, we're approaching nonexistence, my friends. Life, right now, is hard.

My mood has continued to decline since I left the hospital 8 days ago. It's getting quite painful, devastatingly painful. The financial stress of my back injury/surgery/recovery is mounting, which has certainly not helped my mood. But my mood... My mood is so low. I'm really struggling.

I'm tearful and slow and hurting. Thoughts of suicide (which I rarely write about here) are ever present. No, I don't think it's a good solution, but the thoughts are relentless, nonetheless. The thoughts don't help my mood either. I'm not finding much to help my mood right now.

Despite the pain, I'm doing what I can. I'm still walking, riding, and doing my exercises. I've kept up with my household chores for the most part. I even worked for just over an hour yesterday. That's not going to pay my mortgage, but it was better than nothing, and it got me out of my house. I'm going to my TMS appointments. Trying to hold onto the slimmest of hope that TMS will work its magic again. But when? When?!! Soon, I hope. I hope...

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Home

I'm back in my house, with Jet, and feeling... well, okay.

I left the hospital Monday morning, and the rest of Monday went well. Jet and I walked through the solar eclipse, which was pretty cool. The moon covered 85% of the sun here. I didn't have any special glasses, but the light coming through the trees along our route made the sidewalks and streets fill with hundreds of various sized crescent moons. It was an unexpected surprise. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, laundering the hospital off myself and my clothing, and buying groceries. (What was I eating prior to hospitalization?? My cupboards were bare.) It felt really good to feel human again.

Unfortunately, those good feelings didn't last. The darkness and heaviness began settling back in early yesterday. It was weird. It seemed I could feel it creeping through my body one part at a time. Slowly I got heavier and slower and lower. I was baffled and discouraged. But I fought.

I fought the creeping depression by writing thank you notes to several people I needed to acknowledge. I walked with Jet. I tried to focus on my posture, the sun, and the air rather than on my frustration with the continued weakness in my left hip, knee and ankle, which made completing the 3-mile walk tiresome. Afterward, I went back to Mayo Clinic to restart Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments.

My first TMS treatment went well. The process wiped me out, so I took a long nap afterward, but I at least felt hopeful that I was actively doing something to combat this debilitating illness. The rest of the day was more encouraging. I actually cooked something for dinner, watched my favorite baseball team (Go Twins!) beat Chicago, and spent some snuggle time with Jet. He's been sticking close to my side since we were reunited yesterday, which is just fine with me. Normalcy. I kind of like it.

I have a few chores on my to-do list today prior to my second TMS treatment this afternoon. I'm hoping to find the energy to get on my ElliptiGo this morning. I miss running so much. I so desire the chance to expand my lungs, challenge myself, and feel that good, totally explainable, physical pain on a regular basis again. I can only get those things on my ElliptiGo right now, so I need to get out there and ride.

One step at a time, one foot in front of the other, I'm hopeful getting back to my normal activities and TMS will bring me back to a purposeful life. That's the plan, anyway. Carry on, my friends.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Improvement

It was so relieving to write the title to this post I may erase it and write it over and over again. I am still in the hospital, but I feel better. The first couple of days here were tough. I spent the first day and a half in tears, barely speaking, and probably moving even less. Prior to my admission I was struggling so hard just to stay semi-functional and safe. Once securely here I think I relaxed, and all the pain came pouring out. Apparently I needed those tears, because things got better from there.

It was probably early yesterday when I first began noticing an uptick in my mood. Now I feel a bit lighter. I'm not so slow, less quiet, and have a little energy again. Today I even laughed. I know this because one of my nurses was so surprised she pointed it out immediately! It's a relief to feel less pain.

The plan is to go home on Monday, which will allow me to begin outpatient Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments Tuesday. After my last experience with TMS, I'm feeling very hopeful TMS will give me my life back. It's a commitment, Monday through Friday for 4-6 weeks, but it's definitely worth it.

I'll be very happy to get out of here and back home. This is a safe place, a healing place, and I certainly needed to come in, but it's not home. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also anxious about going home, but with my improved mood and TMS plan, I think I'll be fine. I miss my freedom and routine, getting outside to exercise, and most importantly, I miss Jet. He's happy as a clam with his dog-sitter, which is great, but I can't wait to be reunited with him.

I want to thank all of you, my readers, over these last 3-4 weeks. You hung in there with me while watching what can only be described as a devastating, slow motion train wreck. Your comments, especially to some of those painful posts, really helped. This is such an isolating illness. I always feel better when someone tells me they can relate to something I've written. I'm lucky to have such a wide net of support, locally, nationally, and perhaps even internationally. Thank you, my friends.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Patient Again

I'm back in the hospital. The plan is to stay here and stabilize, get some of my intrusive thoughts settled, and then go home before I start Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) treatments early next week. I hate being locked up in here again, especially so soon after my last significant depression episode. Intellectually I know I'd be doing well if not for my back injury, surgery, and recovery limitations. But that doesn't seem to help me feel less disappointed to require hospitalization again. Fortunately I have very smart friends to remind me I'm sick. This is an illness, and sometimes I need more intensive help. As she drove me to the front door, my friend Heidi reminded me, if I had a cancer relapse I'd go to the hospital without question or fight. She's right. I need to quit fighting the cure and fight the illness instead. I guess this is my time to do just that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dear YOUniverse

I think you can have no idea what it’s like. How can you? Unless you’ve sat in this chair, early on a Sunday, or Monday, or Tuesday morning, you cannot know what it’s like. To wake up feeling a sliver of hope that today will bring something different. Something new. Coffee, toast, dog fed, but then it settles in. Just that quick. That sliver of hope is now a sharpened knife stabbing you in the chest with heavy, halting, excruciating glory. That sliver was a tease. Those brief moments, they are just a tease.

Already, I can hardly move. Do you have any idea how it feels to actually feel the weight of your own heart? Like a bowling ball settling low in my chest. I’m not sure how long I can support it. These are the times your encouragement rings hollow. Don't get me wrong, I need and want the encouragement, but at these times... And I know what to do. So easy, the suggestions are. So simple. Why can’t I just do one of them? Just do it! One of them, do any one of them! Do something to combat this! But depression is a cruel bully.

Depression is a cruel, taunting bully. “Ha, ha. You thought you were better, but you’re not. Here I am, already, so early in the morning. You haven’t even finished your coffee, and I’ve already got you surrounded. You can feel me closing in, can’t you? I feel best when you find breathing a chore. You think you can read your e-mail? You think that magazine might be an option? Sit outside and take in the morning? No way. I won’t allow it. Who do you think you are? I’ll tell you what, if you can lift the weight from your shoulders, unwrap the heavy layers of that leaden cloak, and somehow still support the sinking heart so low in your chest, go ahead. Give it your best shot. But you don’t deserve the attention span or energy for such things. And if you think I’m letting you go; if you think I’m allowing you to get off the mat… Ha. That’s a good one. Keep dreaming. Oh, sorry, I took your dreams a long time ago, too, didn’t I? I guess that settles it then. I'm here to stay.”

I think you can have no idea what it’s like to feel so dark, and heavy, and so very alone so early on what looks to be a beautiful day. To have hope squashed almost before the sun comes up and face living hours and hours of another day, with constant cruel bullying in my ear and at my side... I just wish you knew what it was like.

I’m not a bad person. I’m not lazy. I’m doing what I can, but right now what I can do is so very little, it seems as if I’m not even trying. And maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m not trying hard enough, but depression steals effort, too. I am trying, but I'm not sure what else to do. And I feel unable to do just about anything. It’s winning. I’m losing. It's here to stay.

Maybe tomorrow... Maybe tomorrow will be different?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Anger

Anger is not a four letter word. But nobody likes it when I'm angry. I've been angry, at times really angry, over these last few weeks. I've been angry at depression; angry at what it takes from me, angry at how much it limits what I can think, feel and do, and yes, angry at the unfairness of it all. Unfairness is not a place I usually go, but what can I say? I'm human.

I'm human but not superhuman. Sometimes I get angry. I want to punch, kick, fight, and scream. I say bad words and call depression unkind names. I think it makes perfect sense to be angry. I don't think it's bad or taboo, yet anger makes many people very uncomfortable. With the exception of my therapist, who usually says something kind like, "I get that," most people change the subject or try to talk me out of my anger. Why?

Doesn't anger make sense to you? Wouldn't you be angry, too, if your life was periodically hijacked by an out of control, physically and mentally life-sucking illness which changes the very nature of who you are? Isn't it unkind to lose, through no fault of your own, that for which you've so diligently worked? Wouldn't it piss you off, just a bit, to suddenly be unable to work, to earn a living, and to watch your finances shrink? All of that time, effort, and education for what? This? This is not what I worked so hard to get, and that angers me.

Wouldn't you find it maddening to have your brain hijacked by unforgiving, dark thoughts, too scary to share, to feel isolated and alone, to have extreme difficulty socializing? Of course I'm angry! And for you to respond to my anger with fear, which is usually followed by suggestions beginning with, "Well, if you just did 'xyz' you'd feel better," is not helpful. That would be nice, but that's not how depression works.

Depression doesn't make sense. Half the time I don't understand it, so I don't expect you to understand it either. That's not what I'm asking. Depression is a frustrating conglomeration of symptoms which often change from one day to the next. It's messy, and ugly, and demanding, and scary. I think it makes perfect sense to be angry.

Sometimes it even feels good to be angry. Anger requires emotional energy, something depression rarely lets me have. Anger is not a four letter word. It's a normal human emotion to having something, in this case life as I knew it, stolen from me.

Don't let my anger frighten you. Please. And don't try to talk me out of it either. Be honest. Try, "I get that," or even, "I don't get it, but you can tell me anyway." I'd rather that than useless, feel good suggestions which may placate you but leave me feeling discounted and alienated. Let me talk about it. It's okay if I'm angry. I wish it didn't distress people so much.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thief

Depression steals.

Moments. Days.
Months. Years.

Joy. Peace.
Serenity.

Energy. Fitness.
Movement.

Motivation. Satisfaction.
Appreciation. Meaning.

Memory.
Intelligence.
Clear thinking.

Sleep. Appetite.
Emotions.

Smiles. Laughter.
Family. Friends.

Color.
Beauty.
Light.
Air.

Spirit.
Gratitude.
Grace.

Goals. Drive.
Competence.

Work. Socialization.

Care. Self care.
Physical well-being.

Confidence.
Self esteem.

Freedom. Choice.

Hope and Purpose.

Purpose.
and.
Hope.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Liar and the Fake

"This is hard." Those were three of the very few words I was able to utter to my psychiatrist a couple of days ago. I saw her first thing in the morning. I was slow, and quiet, and tearful. I felt so heavy it was difficult to move. Literally. It took maximum effort just to look her in the eyes. Depression, right now, is very hard.

Yet, despite the heaviness and tears, and despite the lethargy and hopelessness, I somehow showered, got dressed, drove 30 minutes, and went in to work just a few hours after my appointment. I'm only allowed to complete overdue paperwork, so I was there just a couple of hours and mostly interacted with a computer, but how did I do that? I felt like a liar and a fake.

As if watching myself from across the room, I wondered, "Who is that woman?" It was strange. Who was that woman interacting with coworkers, cordially, certainly not effervescently, but still a world away from how I'd been feeling and functioning otherwise. It was strange but necessary.

There is a time and place for everything, and I don't think work is the appropriate place to fall apart or weep on shoulders. I'm not looking for sympathy. But sometimes I'm able to pull off an outward appearance which is so dichotomous to what's actually going on, it's quite amazing. And I don't know how I pull it off. And is pulling it off a good thing? I don't know.

While I'm glad I was able to work, to defy this illness for a couple of hours, it didn't necessarily feel good. It felt strange. I felt disconnected from myself. I felt like a liar and a fake. And it absolutely zapped my precious energy. When I left, by the time I got from my building into my vehicle, I was tearful and spent. The aftermath of performing above and beyond how I was feeling was exhaustion. I collapsed when I got home.

Today my energy continues to be low, my mood lower. But I did defy depression again today. Somehow I actually got out of my house and rode my ElliptiGo. I figured, "Why not?" With no impact, I was able to strengthen my legs and expand my lungs for the first time in 11 weeks. And you know what? It was hard. It was very hard. And dammit, I didn't care.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Touched

He said, "You need a change of luck," and he reached into his wallet and pulled out this four leaf clover.


I was surprised and touched by my friend Jim's gesture. I was having dinner with Jim and his wife, my friend, Mary. I had never even seen a four leaf clover prior to Jim setting this one on the table in front of me. Apparently, and Mary proved this with a series of photos of his previous finds, Jim has quite a knack for finding four and five leaf clovers. I carefully set the clover in my wallet and thanked him sincerely. I sure hope it changes my current course. I know one thing. It certainly can't hurt.



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