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!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Defeating Stigma

With dangerous healthcare bills in the news, which continue to be initiated in Congress and which would be devastating to those of us with mental illness, I've been thinking a lot about stigma lately. Stigmatizing treatment, including getting fired from my healthcare job while receiving inpatient treatment for depression, is one of the main reasons I began this blog. It's the reason I am open and vocal about having a mental illness. I like to think my speaking out and blogging have both educated others and confronted stigma at least a bit.

Some of you may remember this sign, which I created. I wore it at The New York City Marathon and plan to continue wearing it at future marathons.

Well, I found an organization which shares my mission. It works to defeat the stigma associated with mental illness and uses running to do it! How perfect is that? It's called Defeat the Stigma Project. Here's the front and back of my new tank top, which is available on their website, and which I'm happy to report has been showing up on the shoulders of some local runners lately.

If you are a runner, especially a runner with mental illness, consider being out and loud. It's the only way to educate those around us, to improve our treatment, and to keep battling the stigma we face, whether it be from home or the halls of Congress.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A little progress

I'm making some progress both mentally and physically, I think. I just came in from a 3 mile walk with Jet. During our walk, I jogged (I hate the J-word, but that's what it was) a bit to see how my left leg was faring. After walking a little over a mile, I jogged slowly and gently for one tenth of a mile. Later I jogged two tenths of a mile twice. It was slow and tentative, but it was kind of like running.

Because of my weak ankle, I was unable to land on my left heel, so I felt like I was tiptoeing rather than fully running. I also had cramping in my hamstrings and calves, likely as a result of them compensating for my weak hip and quads. Nonetheless, I believe I jogged better today than the last time I tried a few weeks ago. It felt a little easier, and my leg felt a tiny bit stronger.

Unfortunately, any gains I've made have been so small it's hard to tell if my leg is actually stronger or not. That's why I wanted to try running a bit tonight. I'm feeling a little encouraged by the results. But I'm being cautiously hopeful.

I have to be cautious, as nerve injuries are different and difficult. Unlike other injuries which have kept me from running in the past, injuries which I knew would heal with the right treatment, time, and exercises; this injury has no such guarantees. With a nerve injury, my progress can stop at any time regardless of how much work I do or how much time passes. That's the scary reality of having an injured nerve. I'm praying I'm still making some gains. But only time will tell.

Mentally I think I'm also making some progress. I had my fifth Ketamine infusion on Thursday. My mood hadn't been great all week, but I felt better after the infusion. That was a relief. And I'm still feeling lighter today. I'm grateful. I have two more infusions left before my participation in the study will be complete. I'm praying for continued improvement. I'd really like to walk away from my last infusion, just under two weeks from now, feeling confident and back to normal. That would be truly wonderful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Possible Plagiarism

This morning I discovered somebody has been copying my blog posts en masse. Actually, I discovered it last week, but it really became clear this morning. I have some tools connected to my blog which tell me when my content is being copied. It also tells me which posts are being copied. A few weeks ago, somebody copied all of January, 2008. Then a few days later, somebody copied all of February, 2008. This morning I discovered they are now working on March, 2008. I assume it is the same person because in each case he or she accessed my content through a server in Indonesia. That's what I know so far.

Those of you who've been reading for awhile know I've been through this in the past. That's why I now have the detection tools in place. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to pinpoint the exact person or site which is doing the copying. But I'm working on it! My concern is the mad-copier, since he or she is likely in Indonesia, may be re-posting my material in another language. There are plagiarism detector tools on the Web, but I'm not sure if any of them have the capability to check for plagiarism in which the language has been changed. And if this person is not re-posting my material on their own blog, what the heck are they doing with it? I'm irritated and concerned.

Why is this person doing this? Obviously, they have some goal in mind, as they are copying every post from the very beginning of my blog. Why are they copying my thoughts, feelings, and words en masse? I don't know yet, but I am working to find out. If any of you have experience with this, or are an internet savant, or know what steps I should take next, please let me know. Maybe together we can find the offender and put a stop to whatever it is he or she is planning to do with my material.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I'm okay

In case you've been wondering, I'm okay. I'm not great. I'm not back to where I'd like to be yet. I wish I wasn't still struggling with periods of low mood and intrusive thoughts. But I'm back to work, exercising more aggressively, and overall feeling better. I really shouldn't be complaining, but I have to admit I was hoping to feel more than okay at this point in time.

Perhaps my expectations are the problem. I'm just back from my third, half-day of work. I expected my return to work would bring with it feelings of purposefulness, hopefulness, and happiness. Instead, I felt, well, okay. In fact, I struggled with a lower mood before and after work each day. I wanted to love my work again. I wanted to feel helpful, and grateful, and have a purpose again. Unfortunately, I experienced that telltale sign of depression, lack of enjoyment, instead.

It's hard not to put too much emphasis on any dip in my mood as I come out of this depression relapse. I still feel like I'm coming out of it, but I find such periods of feeling low frustrating and scary. I have to battle to keep my low feelings from building on themselves. Otherwise, I feel more sad about feelings of sadness and more hopeless about feelings of hopelessness. And that really sucks! I know because I've not always been successful in my battle.

Fortunately, I think the Ketamine treatment is helping me fight. I had my fourth of seven Ketamine infusions yesterday. I felt almost immediate relief following the infusion. Despite getting a migraine headache side effect, the mood relief lasted through the evening. So even though I'm complaining about feeling okay today, overall I'm much improved as compared to when I began treatment a couple of weeks ago. I'm so, so grateful for that. And I expect continued relief with continued treatment. I'm looking forward to that.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Good news and...

The good news is I'm feeling better, and I'm back home. I got out of the hospital Friday just before noon. And that was as a direct result of the positive reaction I had following my second infusion of Ketamine on Thursday. My mood was much improved after both the second and third, which took place yesterday, Ketamine infusions. I continue to feel better today.

Unfortunately, with good there is, at least on this occasion, bad news as well. I spoke with my back surgeon's nurse just after returning home Friday. Tomorrow marks 12 weeks since my back surgery, 16 weeks since the original injury. I got the clearance to go back to work part time beginning tomorrow. During our discussion, however, I informed the nurse my left leg is still weak. Her reaction was not positive.

I could tell by the immediate pause and change in voice tone the nurse, my surgeon's right hand woman, was concerned I continued to have significant leg weakness. I listened intently as she informed me of the typical progression of recovery. Basically, very few patients, in their experience, continue to see improvement after 12 weeks. Most of the strength gains that will be made are made within the first 12 weeks following surgery. I was devastated.

I tried to maintain my composure after this news, but it was futile. I ended up in tears. It's still hard for me to think about, but there is a very real possibility I won't be able to run again. I know, because I've tried. My leg is too weak. I couldn't run yesterday. I can't run today. And if my leg strength does not improve beyond where I'm at today, there will be no tomorrow. I will not be able to run in the future.

It's hard to imagine not running again. It's so hard I can't even type those words without hopelessness creeping in and tears welling up. I don't know what I would do. I should know one way or the other, whether I will run again or not, by Christmas, which will be six months post op. I was hoping to run a marathon by Christmas.

I'm choosing to believe I will be one of the outliers. After all, I was extremely fit prior to the disc rupturing, and perhaps I'm a bit younger than most of their patients. But then I think about how little my strength has progressed over the last month, and it's difficult to hold onto that belief. But I have to keep believing and hope I'm one of the outliers.

So far this news has not had a crushing effect on my mood, but it hasn't helped either. I'm trying to move forward and stay in the moment. I don't want to allow hopelessness to resettle. I can only do so much. I can only control what I can control. I will continue doing my exercises, walking, and riding my ElliptiGo. I'll focus on getting back to work and keep saying my prayers. Those are the best options I have right now. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

No miracle yet

I began participation in the clinical drug trial today. I had my first Ketamine infusion. It took almost 3 hours by the time all was said and done, and I was exhausted afterward. Fortunately, I had very few side effects during the infusion. I got a little spacey feeling, my blood pressure went up a bit, and my lips went numb. All are normal side effects. It could have been much worse. Nausea and even hallucinations are two of the other of a myriad of possibilities. I am grateful I tolerated it with such ho-hum effects, but unfortunately, I didn't have any big, miraculous shifts in my mood either.

I did feel mildly more relaxed and slightly less hopeless immediately following the infusion, but within 90 minutes the tears, hopelessness, and intrusive suicidal thoughts had reemerged. I'm doing my best not to panic, but I am feeling discouraged. That's the unfortunate price of hope.

The study coordinators still believe I am an ideal candidate for a favorable result, and they warned me I may not get relief until after the second or even the third infusion. The second infusion will be done on Thursday. The third is scheduled for next Monday, hopefully as an outpatient. If my symptoms do remit, I will then have one infusion per week for the following four weeks. I do hope I qualify for those four follow-up infusions.

Hope is still difficult though. And scary. I don't want to be disappointed again. I want relief.

I want relief from this illness. I want my life back. I want to return to me. At this point working, running, and living functionally and independently in my home seem a long way away. I want to get back to living with rather than suffering from depression. Suffering is just too painful. If you pray, please keep 'em coming, my friends.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Hospital again

I saw my therapist yesterday. When she offered to drive me directly to the hospital, herself, I knew she meant business. But that's what I needed. Depression had muddled my thinking so completely, there was no way I could have, or would have, made such a decision on my own. And my thoughts were as dark as they'd ever been, so she was right to be concerned. I guess I was concerned on some intellectual level, but mostly I didn't care. I couldn't muster the energy to care what was happening to me anymore, and my thinking was leading me down a very dark road with a very abrupt end. As much as I hate it, I guess I need to be here right now.

Unfortunately, TMS is an outpatient procedure, so I'm unable to continue my TMS treatments while hospitalized. But all is not lost. There is a potential light at the end of the tunnel. Mayo Clinic is in the midst of a research study involving Ketamine. The inpatient doctor recommended it, and I qualified to participate. I signed the consent forms today. I will be getting Ketamine infusions, up to seven of them if the results warrant, beginning next week.

I do have a little hope the Ketamine will work. From what I've read, previous small studies have been promising. And if it works, it's supposed to take effect quickly. That would be a great result! I hope I am one of the people who responds well to it. Any relief will be greatly appreciated at this point.

Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to be here awhile. I already desperately miss Jet and being able to go outside. Of course, I'd much rather be home, but home probably isn't the safest option right now. I'm not looking forward to being an inpatient for the long, holiday weekend ahead. Bad timing. I have to wait until Tuesday to begin the Ketamine treatment. I'll let you know how it goes.