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!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

That time of year

I'm just back from what very likely may be my last ElliptiGo ride of this year. I hope not, but it's that time of year here. The cold weather swooped in, and we had our first taste of snow on Friday. It's been cold and windy and gray since then, including today, but I just had to get outside for some good, old fashioned, lung searing exercise anyway. So I did.

It was 30 degrees, gray and windy when I set out. Dressed in multiple layers, including a hat, mittens and neck gaiter, I did okay, except for my toes. Should have thought more about my toes. One layer of wool socks and airy running shoes just didn't do the trick. After an hour and forty minutes, 21.1 miles, I couldn't feel my toes. They were red and icy. Oops. I recovered just fine, but if I do get to ride again, I'll remember my toes.

That's about the biggest drama I've had recently, my icy toes, and I hope it stays that way. I'm still feeling well. I must look and sound well, too, as I keep getting unsolicited, excited comments from friends and acquaintances. "You look great!" "You sound great!" "You must be feeling well!" As I've mentioned here in the past, I think I need a video of myself when I'm in the midst of a depression relapse. Clearly, there is a huge difference in how I present myself. It would be interesting to see.

I have a fairly busy week ahead. I'll be working 5 of the next 7 days. I'll need to work hard to get my exercise in, get to at least one meeting, and maybe even socialize a bit. Busy is okay. I just need to be hyper-vigilant about keeping my life in balance, which is ultra important if I want to keep those unsolicited comments coming my way. Carry on, my friends.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Life is good

I'm happy to report things are going well here. As a result, I don't have much to report. Work has been a bit stressful, as we have some challenging patients right now, but I've been managing. I'm still paying for the extra hours, and extra stress, with increased fatigue, but I feel like I'm managing that fairly well, too.

I'm working hard to fit in my exercise. I now have a routine of a few exercises, focused on increasing my core and leg strength, which I do daily. They only take about 5-10 minutes to do, but it's still difficult to motivate myself to begin them after a long day at work. So far, I've been able to motivate, and I know that's going to help me in the long run.

I'm still running on the Alter-G treadmill. I'm up to running for 40 minutes, but I'm a little frustrated I've not been able to decrease the level of assistance I get from the treadmill. I'm running at 55% of my body weight. If I try to increase that percentage, which decreases the buoyancy provided by the treadmill, my left leg doesn't tolerate it. That's frustrating.

The left leg weakness is still there, but I think maybe, just maybe, my leg is getting stronger. It's hard to tell, but I think I'm seeing a few signs that my strength is improving. It's going to be long, long road back. But as long as I keep moving in the direction of getting all the way back, I'm hopeful.

Hope is a good thing. I like hope. When I'm suffering with low mood, my hope disappears. That's a horrible place to be. I'm so happy to report I'm not there now. I still feel well. Life is good.

Friday, October 20, 2017

As expected

Phew! Just as expected, I'm really tired. I just woke up from a well deserved nap following a long week at work. As I delineated in my last post, working a full-time schedule, five consecutive days, is tough for me. Unfortunately, things were made tougher this week because we were very busy. We had many more patients than usual, and some of them were quite difficult. I'm exhausted.

Despite the extra hours and days, I tried to keep up with my other routines this week, but regular exercise, good sleep, and decent nutrition were a struggle. I guess I did okay, not stellar, but okay. I would have liked a bit more sleep, and my household chores suffered, but I did get in some exercise.

I attempted to run again on Tuesday. It was frustrating and disappointing. I again tried to run for three minutes and take one minute walk breaks. My left leg just wouldn't cooperate. My gait was sloppy and slow. I didn't have enough muscular strength to fully stabilize my hip, knee or ankle when weight bearing on my left leg. My left foot eventually went numb. I wished so sincerely for a different outcome, but it wasn't to be. I arrived home forlorn.

I'm trying to fight it, but my desperation with not being able to run is growing. With each passing non-running week, I feel it more and more. Right now I can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is still so far to go, and I can't tell anymore if I'm making even a bit of progress. My poor run on Tuesday stole a lot of hope. The possibility of never being able to run again is more and more real. I don't like that.

I think it will be quite awhile before I attempt to run outside again. I'll stick to the Alter-G treadmill for now. I'm looking forward to getting back into a more normal routine, a full weekend off, and more free time next week. I'll still look to work extra hours and earn some extra money, but I think I'll avoid working five consecutive days for awhile. And now, I think I'll curl up with a warm blanket and watch TV until slumber settles in. Carry on, my friends.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Necessarily busy

"Be careful," my friend said, "that's a lot of work." I had just relayed to her how incredibly busy I'd been this week. I worked 5 of the last 7 days, and I'm working tomorrow, too. I usually work 3 days per week. My friend, Wendy, knows I don't tolerate working more than part time for very long. In the past, lots of hours have led to depression relapses. It sucks, but working part time is one of the compromises I've had to make as a result of this illness.

I appreciated my friend's quick concern. She cares. That's nice. But I hate that I have to be so vigilant when I work what, for most people, is just a normal work week. After having this Sunday off, I'll be working Monday through Friday next week, too. And I need to do that. I need to work. As of October 1st, I was only one month away from exhausting every spare penny I had just to pay my bills. I won't feel comfortable or safe unless I replenish that money as soon as possible.

Fortunately, we're very busy, so I've got plenty of opportunity to work. I'm doing what I need to do to take care of myself, at least financially. Yes, I'm tired. No, I'm not getting as much exercise as I'd like. Yes, I'm spending more time solo. No, I'm not eating as well as I'd like. Those are all very important pieces to maintaining my mental health. I know. But feeling financially secure is just as important. I know that, too.

So I'll keep being vigilant about how I'm tolerating my increased work load. I'm not going to put myself in jeopardy of creating a depression relapse. I am paying attention. Actually, right now I'm celebrating, just a bit, that I'm able to do what I'm currently doing. I'll keep working on fitting in the other important pieces, and I'll back off the work hours when needed. I'm willing to do what's needed to find that balance.

Balance. It's vital to my mental health stability. I'm hoping I can figure out a way to work as much as I can, while I have the opportunity to do so, while still finding time for the socialization, exercise, healthy food, and sleep I need. I suppose that's the goal of everyone, chronic illness or not.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Ketamine Success

I am officially finished with my Ketamine clinical trial. I had my seventh and final infusion on Thursday. I'm extremely pleased to report the Ketamine worked. I feel almost back to normal. I'm working, exercising, smiling, laughing, and have some energy again. I'm so relieved to be past another severe depression episode.

This makes me two for two in alternative depression treatments. This Spring successful treatment with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation led to resolution of one of the worst, if not the worst, depression relapses I've ever experienced. Now I've had success with Ketamine, too. I'm really lucky to have had access to both of these cutting edge treatments. And isn't it too bad they aren't readily available to more people suffering with severe depression. Hopefully, my participation in this Ketamine trial will lead to more widespread use.

There may be some movement for me on the running front as well. Over the last week, I ran a couple of times on the Alter-G (gravity eliminating) treadmill at 50% of my body weight. Eliminating 50% of my body weight allowed me to run for 10-15 minutes at a time with fairly decent form despite continued leg weakness and foot drop. That was kind of exciting.

Not one to settle, or practice patience, I took it one step further tonight. I ran a few minutes at a time outside. It wasn't terribly pretty, but I just had to try once again. My stride is significantly altered secondary to the foot drop, and it wasn't easy. I do think I'm getting a little stronger. That's hopeful. Unfortunately there is still an awful long way to go if I'm ever to run again as I used to run. I'm trying to stay hopeful, nonetheless.

That's all I've got today. Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stigma on my mind

I'm not sure what to say. I was going to update you regarding the jerk who is still copying every word of my blog, but in light of the recent events, I'm not sure that's worthy of complaint. Las Vegas. I'm at a loss for words. There is no way to explain or excuse one person savagely mowing down hundreds of innocent people with an automatic weapon. No way.

Unfortunately, the spotlight has turned to the he-must-have-been-crazy argument. I cringed when I listened to the radio on my way to work yesterday morning, as they discussed the "likelihood" that this individual was mentally ill. So far there is no evidence he was, but mental illness is easily speculated and blamed. It makes me uncomfortable. The reality is the vast majority of people with mental illness are not at all violent. That's a fact, but that fact seems to get lost after tragic, senseless, otherwise inexplicable events.

I understand the need to explain the unexplainable. Perhaps this person did have an undiagnosed mental illness, but the spite and venom with which mental illness is discussed disturbs me. Rather than spurring on a call to action, such as better, more accessible treatment for people with mental illness, these events seem to further the stigmatization instead. That sucks.

Having said all of that, I admit, I don't have any answers to this dilemma. None of us can control what others do. I'm glad I'm open about my own battle with mental illness. I believe my coworkers, running buddies, and friends now have a better picture of what a person with mental illness looks like. And maybe that changes the conversations in their homes and offices just a bit. I don't know. What I do know is in instances such as this, my behavior is the only thing I can control.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this senseless tragedy.