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, November 26, 2017


I was confronted with infuriating ignorance during a meeting yesterday. This was a meeting of sober people. The person leading the meeting announced that one of our regular attendees was in the local mental health hospital. It's the same announcement I know was made when I was in the same hospital just a few short months ago. The announcement was made so others might pray for, visit, or send a card to the patient. These type of announcements are made whenever one of our members is sick or needs assistance. It was meant to inform.

Unfortunately, rather than stopping, the leader of the meeting went on to make several stupid "jokes" about the local mental health facility. For example, "I talked to the staff there, and they still let me out." Everybody laughed. Well, everybody except me.

I wasn't laughing, and the more he "joked" the angrier I got. He wouldn't have said any of the things he said if our friend was in the cancer unit. Nobody would have laughed if he had just announced our friend was sick with any illness other than mental illness. Why is it okay to laugh about a person being in a mental health inpatient unit? Why is an inpatient mental health unit funny? What's funny about it? Why didn't the others in the room, several of whom have co-occurring mental illnesses themselves, find the "jokes" at least distasteful? Was I overreacting?

Maybe I did overreact, but I'm so sick and tired of mental illness being the butt of jokes rather than a real health concern! How about some empathy, rather than chuckles, for our friend. A room full of people who have battled addiction should have known better!

I contemplated talking to the leader after the meeting, but I didn't. I think my feelings were too strong, and I'm not sure anything I said would have made any difference to this particular individual. I did talk to a close friend, who encouraged me to let it go, and to another individual, an individual who has also been hospitalized for mental illness. He was also offended but, like me, didn't say anything.

I tried to accept the leader's comments as pure ignorance and let go. Obviously, I've not been too successful at the letting go part of that equation. With time I'm sure I will let it go, but I'm curious what others, i.e. you, think. Am I being too sensitive? Should I have said something? And how do we combat this stigma and ignorance? Right now it feels overwhelming to me.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Shortening the Road

My long road back from an extruded L4 disc, 6 months ago, and back surgery, 5 months ago, got just a bit shorter today. I can hardly believe it myself, but I ran today! On an absolutely gorgeous, crisp, sunny morning, I ran. Fully weight bearing on my own two feet, for just over 25 minutes, I ran 2.5 miles. It was slow and steady and unbelievable. My left leg has gotten stronger. My hard work has paid off. I'm not back, but I'm on the road. A finish line finally appears to be within sight.

After returning from my run, I texted and e-mailed everyone I knew. Then I sat at my kitchen table, and I cried. I can't begin to express how relieved and grateful I felt. Maybe it was fitting this occurred on Thanksgiving Day, as I've rarely experienced such gratitude. My cautious optimism has developed into a true sense of hope. I now feel my return to running is less a matter of if and more a matter of when. The missing chunk of my identity will eventually be replaced. I feel so fortunate. I'm very happy!

The taste of freedom, of running through crisp morning air with Jet at my side, leaves me more motivated than ever to continue working hard and pushing my limits. I'm satisfied the work I've already done appears to have paid off. I was questioning whether that was true as recently as last week. The road has been long, difficult, and frustrating, but perhaps payment of the dividends has begun. I'm so, so grateful. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chance encounter

Something cool happened today. I was out shopping when I ran into a nurse from my local inpatient mental health unit. Even though I had just come from the gym and was wearing sweats and a baseball hat, she could hardly believe her eyes. Over and over again she said things like, "You look so good! Wow, you look really good!" I laughed. That was really nice to hear.

It was great to see someone, in my normal everyday life, who has never seen me outside an inpatient mental health unit. I told her I just look like my normal self, but she, of course, has never seen me in my "normal" state. She's only seen me in the depths of despair. And even though I'm always a little better when I leave an inpatient stint, I'm never back to normal. So it was really satisfying to see her today. It reinforced how well I'm feeling and doing.

Other than that, I don't have anything new to report. I'm continuing to feel well and continuing to move forward. My life has been free of drama and distress. That's always a good thing. I really am just putting one foot in front of the other, working, exercising, and taking care of my daily routine. Life is good. Living with, rather than suffering from depression is a very nice place to be.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Living the life

Not much to report from here. I'm living life on life's terms at the moment. Fortunately, life's terms aren't too dramatic or difficult to deal with right now. I've continued to work 4-5 days per week, rather than my usual 3, in an effort to recoup some of the funds lost to my 4 month hiatus from work. It's tiring, and I've fallen behind on some household chores, but so far I've been able to keep up with my exercise, which is most important for my mental health.

Speaking of exercise, I tried to run again a few days ago. It was maybe a little better than the last time I tried, but my left leg still won't fully support me or cooperate. It's still weaker and less stable than my right leg. I'm a little more hopeful it will recover fully, but the progress is so, so slow, and the improvement so, so minuscule, it's hard to hang onto that hope. The road back is going to be very long. I'm trying to be patient.

Despite my patience being tested, my mood remains good. I'm so grateful. I worked with someone today who was very negative. Every other thought, even thoughts which began positively, somehow ended up blatantly negative. It was tiring. And sad. I'm so thankful I have a different perspective. It's easy to find the negative. But why focus on it? Life is so short. Energy is so precious. I can't imagine wasting it like that. So I don't. I know negative. I've lived negative. I'm grateful I don't find it necessary to stay there. Life on life's terms takes energy enough. Seek the positive, my friends.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feeling nostalgic

Sipping my coffee, sitting in my sweats, wiping sleep from my eyes, I'm awaiting the televised start of today's New York City Marathon. I'll watch the entire broadcast, amazed at the grace, skill, and prowess of the elite runners, but more so intrigued by the effort, will, and stories of those, like me, in the middle of the pack. I'm feeling nostalgic... and a little sad.

One year ago, I was there. In the dark morning hours I boarded the bus from New York's Central Library to Staten Island with 50-60 other excited souls. I milled around the Athletes Village, with 50,000 other runners, alternately waiting in line for a portable toilet, fetching myself something to eat and drink, chatting with other anxious runners, and resting on the ground. And finally, I was there, in my starting corral with 20,000 hopping, stretching, whooping runners, waiting for the starting line to come into view. And when it did, tears streamed down my face. I had made it.

It was one year ago when I streamed across that iconic starting line in Staten Island. Three hours, 51 minutes later, I joyously raced across the even more iconic finish line in Central Park, tired, spent, and oh, so proud. I couldn't contain my wide smile and tears.

Last year on this day, I made that triumphant return to marathoning. It was my first marathon in over 2 years, a lifetime in my annals of running. The Achilles tear that took a year and a half to heal was behind me, and I was so, so happy. I saw nothing but more triumphant running, which I no longer took for granted, in front of me. It was a good day.

As I sit here today, despite the scary possibility I won't, I am feeling a bit more hopeful that I will one day repeat this experience. And if possible, it may be even more emotionally charged. I will go back to New York. Somehow, some way, some day, I will again stream across that starting line, whooping with joy, and race across that finish line with my fists in the air. It will be the culmination of a long, long road. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

17 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I was feeling a little off. Before I knew it I was suffering with low energy, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty motivating. Things that mattered didn't matter as much anymore. I was sad, and empty, and low.

There was no reason for my feelings. My life, after all, was quite good. I was in a long-term relationship. We were doing well, each with a full time, financially secure job. We had just purchased a new home and had two cars and two motorcycles in the garage. We enjoyed traveling, running, and socializing with friends. And I was happily training my new puppy. Life was good. Why didn't I feel good?

Well, as we all now know, November, 2000, was the beginning of this odyssey with depression. I recognized it quickly, as I had had depression as a teenager, but I remember feeling incredulous and confused. I had been fine for so many years! First I tried to rationalize it away. Life was so good there was no reason to feel bad. When that didn't work I tried to wish it away. Please God, no, no, no! And when that didn't work, I sought help.

It sounds so cliche, but these last 17 years truly have been a journey. I spent many of the early years angry and resentful. After all, this illness cost me my spouse, my job, my financial security, my house, and my friends. Despite treatment, my life as I knew it no longer existed. I further lost myself by drinking to excess and quickly became an alcoholic. That didn't help.

Almost 12 years ago, I got sober. That did help. Slowly I changed. I created a new life. I still had horrible depression, but maybe I began to accept it more and fight it less. My attitude shifted.  I worked my recovery program and found a spiritual life I hadn't known or trusted before. I finally became a more active participant in my own healthcare.

I'm so fortunate to have been referred, early on, to the psychiatrist I still see today. I don't think I'd have survived without her. Over the years I've also been connected with many other skilled, compassionate, treatment professionals, including a wonderful social worker, who assisted me with everything for at least 10 years, and the nurses of my local mental health inpatient unit, who are simply amazing. I've participated in multiple mental health treatment programs, volunteered as a speaker for my local NAMI organization, and done my best to be open and honest about living with depression.

It hasn't been easy. I don't think living with any chronic condition is. Mine is not a journey I'd wish on anyone else, and I wouldn't volunteer to do it all over again. However, I truly believe I am a better person today due to my experience with depression and alcoholism.

I feel humble and grateful today. Those are two fulfilling emotions I never comprehended before. I am a kinder, gentler, more compassionate person. I feel good about that. For whatever reason, I move through this world today with an ease I never had prior to life with depression.

Perhaps my expectations are less. Life, and the people in it, owe me nothing. I understand that today. I am responsible. To myself and those around me, I am responsible to be the best me I can be. I work hard for what I have, physically, spiritually, and materially. And I'm totally okay with that.

I pray everyday to be relieved of depression. Life certainly would be simpler without it. But would it be better? I don't know. I think it might be, but I'm not sure I would be. Hang in there, my friends.