Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 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!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Choosing where to focus


Approximately one mile into my commute this morning a mid-20's, white dude, in a black SUV smashed into the back of my vehicle, also an SUV. There was little damage, but I was enraged! When I profanely confronted him, he was sitting with his phone still in his hand on his lap. He apologized and admitted he was fiddling with his phone when he hit me. I told him to pull over and call the police, and then I followed him to the curb. That's when I noticed he had a "Whiskey plate."

In Minnesota, when someone has a serious DUI history, and he's allowed to drive (often after losing his license for a time) his vehicle gets a special license plate. It's plain black and white, and the first letter is a 'W'. It allows law enforcement to pay extra close attention to the driver. As I exited my vehicle to express my dismay at the fact he would risk his license by fiddling with his phone, I thought to myself, "I should take a picture of his plate." I didn't.

After more discussion, laced with profanity, I must admit, and after he assured me he was on hold with the non-emergency police line, I went to check on Jet in the back of my vehicle. I opened my hatchback, checked in with Jet, who was quivering, and reassured him we were all right. When I looked up, the apologetic drunk, who likely didn't have insurance, and may even have been under the influence, was gone! I couldn't believe it!

I dialed 911 and gave the dispatcher all of the particulars. I remembered the first two letters of his plate, WY, and what I thought I remembered of the other four numbers, some combination of 2's, 3's and 6's. Twenty minutes later the police officer arrived. He informed me the plate number I thought I remembered came back to a gold car in another city, so I clearly didn't get the last four numbers in the correct order. By the time he finished the accident report I was barely down to a simmer from my initial boiling rage.

I still can't believe it, and I'm still angry with myself for being so stupid--should've taken a picture, should've parked in front of him, should've immediately gotten his driver's license, etc, etc, etc. Next time I'll know better.

By now you're probably wondering what's up with the photo at the top of this post? What does it have to do with a hit and run car accident? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. And that's the point.

The picture shows what I came home to today. My mom, as she usually does before moving back to Florida for the Winter, spent all afternoon, a portion of the night, and much of today making me spaghetti sauce and split pea with ham soup. My freezer is full of 5 containers of each. To top it off, my kitchen was spotless, like nobody was even here! It was so nice to arrive home to such comfort.

So tonight I'm choosing to focus my energy on the love and kindness of my mother. She deserves more space in my brain, anyway. I'm so grateful to her. I have a tiny kitchen, my mom is getting older and less mobile, and yet she expended the time and energy to take care of me. I'm lucky. Plus, my mom makes awesome spaghetti sauce and split pea soup! I'll remember this part of this day every time I have a delicious, warm, home cooked meal this Winter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Voice from the Other Side

A few years back I wrote a post which contained a letter to our friends and family members. It is a post which apparently resonated with a lot of people, as it has been viewed a lot. A few days ago I read a post which resonated with me, and I think it pairs with my friends and family post quite well. So, if you'd like, check out my post, entitled Dear Friends and Family. Then check out this very well written post. It is a voice from the other side of the fence, not a perspective often heard, and I loved it. I'd love to hear what you think as well.

Friday, September 7, 2018

May I vent?

Whew...it's been a hell of a week. First of all, I have a migraine. I've had it all day, but I worked through it, took Jet to the vet with it, and mowed my lawn despite it. I hate migraines. Mine sometimes last for days. I have to work tomorrow, and I'm going to see Hamilton (yes, I got tickets) on Sunday. I don't have the time or patience for a migraine.

Perhaps the reason I have a migraine is because I've been overwhelmed with fear this week. At least that's what my sponsor tells me. Fear of economic insecurity, fear of the unknown...fear upon fear upon fear. No wonder my head hurts and I feel anxious.

Here's the scoop. Late last week I found out my vehicle needs 4 new tires. The old ones only have 37,000 miles on them. That was frustrating news, but I've been saving my money, so I thought I could handle it.

Unfortunately, soon after the tire news, Jet injured his left elbow. If you want to see me maximally worried and anxious, watch me when my dog is sick or hurting. He was so uncomfortable I made an urgent trip to the vet last Friday. That was expensive, but worse, I didn't get a definitive answer. I've had to keep him quiet all week, which has been very, very stressful.

Like I said, the vet wasn't sure what was going on, but there was a good possibility it might be more than a sprain. My mind, of course, went to the worst scenario, which would involve surgery and potential expenditure of more than $2000! Did I mention I'm leaving for Nepal in a month?

Speaking of Nepal, early this week I discovered I need a new passport, even though mine will not expire for 3 months, in order to enter Nepal a month from now. I had to apply for an expedited passport. That wasn't money, almost $200, I was planning on spending. And the discovery, application process, and photo fetching were just a bit stressful!

After that surprise, I decided I better get busy and see what else I need for my rapidly approaching trip. I've spent hours every night on my computer. One thing seems to lead to another, and another, and another. I bought my travel insurance, which I knew I was going to need, so that wasn't a surprise, just another expenditure.

Another planned expenditure, however, did end up surprisingly. I ordered my new Garmin GPS watch, which I was supposed to get for $400, but someone I've never heard of already used my $100 gift card, so right now it's a $500 watch. How does that happen? No one seems to know. The company assures me they'll make it right, but we'll see. That was not a nice surprise.

I got a recommended equipment list from my travel company, and there were a few surprises there, too. More research and purchases on the horizon. I also researched recommended vaccines and medications. As a result, I made appointments for Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations. And I made an appointment to get prescriptions for antibiotics and altitude sickness meds. It seems the more I research, the less I want to know!

In the midst of all of this my dehumidifier quit and my toilet broke. Oh, and I'm still waiting for my new storm door to be installed. Each of these, singularly, is not a big deal. But when they all happen at once, as I'm preparing to go on a bucket list trip, well, I'm a little stressed! The timing has been impeccable! No wonder I have a migraine.

Thank you for letting me vent. I'm going to bed.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

My State Fair



I took a coworker to the Minnesota State Fair yesterday. It was her first time, so it was fun to experience it again with a rookie. We took the ride above about 10 minutes after we walked through the gates. It was awesome! It spun at 70 miles per hour, forward and backwards, while the chairs in which we sat tumbled around and around. Sometimes we were facing directly at the ground as we came around. Other times we were tumbling upside down and backwards. I sent a note to my doctor joking that I think my mood got better after this rush of a ride!


We did a bit of shopping. I especially liked this shirt. Ain't that the truth?





We joined about 1000 other people (not kidding) in the "Miracle of Life" building, where we saw baby goats (kids), piglets, calves and this newborn lamb! In fact, we were there as it happened! I've spent some time on farms in my day, but I had never seen anything give birth before. It was pretty cool!




But the main reason millions of Minnesotans attend the state fair each year is to EAT! You can buy just about anything on a stick at the fair. Really, anything! Between the two of us, my coworker and I consumed two pronto pups (basically a corn dog made with pancake batter rather than cornmeal--a Minnesota creation, I believe), fresh squeezed lemonade, fresh squeezed strawberry lemonade, double chocolate strawberry shortcake, deep fried apple pie with ice cream, and 8 dozen Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies! Okay, we didn't eat all 8 dozen cookies, but that's how many you get in your bucket. Take it from a chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, they are amazing! The owners of Sweet Martha's make so many millions of dollars during the Minnesota State Fair, they don't have to work the rest of the year! Nice. Looking forward to enjoying them for, hopefully, at least a couple more days.

It was a good day at the fair. We went early and left by early afternoon. There's no way to see or do it all, and there are so many people, it's hard to move around by noon. But it was fun, and I'm glad I went. And I really do think it helped my mood. Bonus!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Comments Disappeared!

I am so, so sorry to all of you who have been commenting since, apparently, sometime in March! I have not been notified of any comments, and therefore I have not posted any of them. Blogger is supposed to email me every time someone leaves a comment. That way I can read it, decide if it's not spam, and post it! I just figured people were reading less and less, but in fact, I had many, many comments awaiting moderation that I never knew of! I've now read and posted them.

I'm so sorry! And angry! Dammit! I hope I haven't offended or lost some of you because of this major snafu! Again, I apologize. Please keep commenting, and I will be more vigilant about looking for your comments. I'm so upset Blogger has failed to keep up its end of the deal! I will try to get this fixed.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

cranky

Sometimes, for whatever reason, patients feel they are the only ones in the facility requiring care at that particular time. And when that happens they tend to be not-so-nice. Today, at the end of a long week, the first two patients I encountered had this attitude and freely unloaded their displeasure upon me. In one case, I had barely entered the room to introduce myself.

This doesn't happen all that often, so it was certainly unusual to have it happen twice in a row, and before the clock hit 8:30 AM, no less! All I could do was stand and listen to the complaints. There's little use interrupting or correcting the errors in the conspiratorial assumptions. Although I did finally point out to one patient that her nurse just might be in another room assisting another patient at that time. It's frustrating to be in the position of defending myself prior to even making an introduction.

Maybe I've been on the helper side too long, but I really don't understand where patients get the idea that their nurses, or therapists, or doctors are out to get them. That the nurse is 15 minutes late with pills, for example, because she is inept, doesn't care, or doesn't like the patient. I know there are a few bad apples out there, but those of us in these helping professions generally do care about the people we are trying to help. Sheesh...

And so began my work day today. It was tough. I'm already (still) feeling a little off, a little cranky myself, and worried about my mood. I had to take a few quiet breaks, once in the chapel, to make sure I approached each patient with compassion and respect, as they deserve, despite my inner turmoil or their outward behavior. I'm glad I was able to do so successfully. And the added patient at the end of my day was quite grateful for my assistance. I felt like I made a difference. That's what it's all about, even if I do have to get through a little muck to get there.

Be nice, my friends. Be nice.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Concerned about tired

I don't have much to say tonight. I'm tired. I'm just plain tired, and I'm getting a bit concerned about that. I'm sure you don't want to read a post about how tired I am, but fatigue which doesn't seem to abate despite extra sleep concerns me. It's usually a symptom when I'm not doing so hot. And it's sometimes one of the first symptoms that shows up, even before my mood dips, hence my concern.

When I'm tired, everything feels more difficult. Work is busy, but it's not crazy, and still it seems tough to keep up. I want to stay home just about every day. Taking care of my house might be a little busier, as I just painted my shutters and front door, but again, it maybe shouldn't feel as daunting as it does. So far I'm keeping up, but the energy expenditure seems out of line with the chores. It takes more effort to get things done. Even packing tomorrow's lunch tonight felt like a really big task. I don't like that.

I'm feeling uneasy with feeling so tired. My history of rapid descents is the reason for my dis-ease. I've let my doctor know. We're keeping in touch. In the meantime I'm trying not to panic. Maybe I'm too concerned. After all, I'm just tired. Yet I don't like feeling this kind of tired. This kind of tired scares me, and I don't like being scared either. Hoping I'll feel energized soon.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Another chance encounter

It's been about one year since I was first hospitalized for my most recent depression relapse. Turns out I would be hospitalized again within a couple weeks of the end of that first hospitalization. Things have gone pretty well since then, at least where my depression is concerned. And I'm certainly grateful for that.

It was during one of those hospitalizations that I was able to work with a new-to-me psychiatrist for a short time. She also saw me once or twice during my Ketamine trial last Fall. She was great, and I appreciated her care.

I ran into that psychiatrist the other day. I was out on my ElliptiGo, taking a water break, when she approached. She was out for a run. I couldn't remember her name, of course, but I said hello, nonetheless. It took her a minute, but after I reminded her where we met, she remembered me. I thought that was kind of cool.

Really cool, however, was when she stopped to chat. She was amazed at how I looked. Beaming, she said, "It's so nice to see you out!" I laughed, because I'm out all the time, but of course she doesn't know that. The last time she saw me, I wasn't functional. I was lethargic, hopeless, and likely barely making eye contact. She never knew me as a "normal" person, only as a desperate patient.

We talked for a few minutes about running and how things were going. She was interested in my ElliptiGo and even took me up on my offer to take it for a spin. I was impressed. I guess I don't know her as a "normal" person either, only as a buttoned up professional.

It's always fun to run into doctors, social workers, or nurses who only know me as my hospitalizable self. When I'm not deep in a depressive state, I'm obviously a much different looking and acting person. I like that. I'm happy that's the case. It reinforces I have an illness--an illness of my mind, body, and soul. It's not who I am. Actually, depression steals who I am.

I'm not depressed. I have depression.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Blip

Taking my medications is a huge piece of my recipe for successfully combating depression. Nevertheless, I always want to take the lowest number and dosages of medication. I need my medications, but I don't want to take more than I require to maintain stability. And boy have I been stable! I've been feeling well for months. It's been really nice and a total relief.

I've been feeling so well for so long I asked my doctor to decrease one of my antidepressants, which we did about a month ago. We decreased another medication a few weeks ago. I was satisfied, pleased to be feeling consistently well. Hooray for me!

Unfortunately I had a little blip in my thinking and mood this week. My brain was getting a little noisy. Too many thoughts, too little space to process them. I was more irritable and had a harder time letting go of little annoyances. I was impatient. People in public spaces, drivers, and even some of my patients irked me. The occurrence of one of these "symptoms" wouldn't concern me. That's life. But simultaneous occurrence of crappy thinking, impatience, and irritability is always concerning.

It took a few days before I realized what was happening, but once I did I got concerned. I contacted my doctor. She was concerned. My history of sliding into full blown depression faster than a speeding bullet caused both of us to take notice. Actually, I got downright scared. I don't want to go anywhere near a full blown depression relapse again! We readjusted one of my medications. Bummer.

I have to be careful not to treat the med increase as a failure, but sometimes I go there. Instead I have to remember I have an illness, and clearly my medications are very important. I'm lucky and grateful they are such an effective piece of maintaining my stability. I hope this increase will quickly stymie the noise, impatience and irritability. I enjoy feeling well. I'd like to keep it up.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cancer

Cancer. It's not a word that's been associated with anyone in my immediate or extended family ever, which is remarkable. Never. How lucky is that?

My 19-year-old nephew has cancer. We found out yesterday. The mass behind his right eye is cancerous. He has a very rare type of cancer called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. It generally strikes children or young people. It is treatable. In addition to the surgery he has already endured (which they did through his right eye!), he will have to have chemotherapy and radiation. I don't know how long the process will take, but his plans, his life, as well as the lives of those around him, will dramatically change for the foreseeable future.

Prior to yesterday, we all knew cancer was the probable outcome. It was just a matter of figuring out what kind of cancer it was. Despite that knowledge, the definitive cancer diagnosis hit me like a ton of bricks. I was immediately terrified and overwhelmingly sad. I guess I was holding onto some remote hope that this would actually turn out to be nothing to worry about. Maybe that's human nature, but my reaction still surprised me.

I'm not very close to my brother, my nephew's father, but I love my brother's kids. Like his sisters, my nephew is a talented, humble, generous, loving soul. He's a division one college athlete, now faced with missing his sophomore soccer season, and an intelligent young man. He's got a full life ahead.

My brother and his family live out West, and I've never been to their home, but now I want to go visit. I want to hang out with my nephew. Love him, support him, and be there for whatever he may need. It's not necessary. He has a large, loving support system, so I'd likely be superfluous. Perhaps my need is more for me than for him... I don't know. I've never experienced any of this before.

No knowing what to do is uncomfortable. Fear is uncomfortable. I guess I'll stay home, for now, wait for tidbits of news, and hope and pray for progress. I have a feeling I'm going to be uncomfortable and scared for quite awhile, but my feelings are nothing compared to what my nephew must be feeling. If I could take away some of his uncertainty and fear, I'd do it in a heartbeat! More than anything, I wish he didn't have to go through this.

Unfortunately, I am powerless to change my nephew's course. All I can do now is pray. So that's what I'm going to do.

Monday, July 30, 2018

A new goal

On a lark, I entered a lottery. Tens of thousands of people enter this lottery for one of approximately 11,000 spots. I had no intention of entering, but my other plan for that weekend didn't look likely to materialize. So when I received an e-mail from Twin Cities in Motion, the group which organizes The Twin Cities Marathon and 10 Mile, I thought, "What the heck?" I entered the lottery.

That's how I got a new goal. My name was drawn for one of the coveted spots, and I am now registered to run The TC 10 Mile race on October 7, 2018. I had hoped to run the marathon that day, but wisely I didn't register. I was waiting to see how my knee would heal. It's become clear over the past several weeks there's no way I'll be in marathon shape by October. At the rate I'm currently going, I likely won't even be in half marathon shape. But 10 miles? I think that may be doable.

So I have a new goal. I like goals, especially running goals. I need something to shoot for. I need a reason to train hard, and I like to train hard. But I likely won't be doing a lot of hard training for this race. Getting to the starting line healthy and able to run will be the primary goal. If all goes well, I'm hoping this race will be the first of many comeback races.

I'm excited. This race starts at the same time as the Twin Cities Marathon and finishes at the same finish line. I get to experience the marathon atmosphere, which I love, without the marathon mileage! It's the best of both worlds.

With this race as a carrot, I've already felt more energized and focused when out on the road. I have a reason, besides just "getting back to running" for being out there now. I've been frustrated with my slow, slogging run/walks, and I think part of the frustration has been the aimlessness of it all. With nothing on the horizon, I had no particular plan to guide me. And I guess "just getting back to running" wasn't cutting it. Now I have somewhere to go.

I'm looking forward to using this unexpected carrot to keep me moving forward. And I'm really looking forward to experiencing the marathon atmosphere and racing again. I like my new goal. I feel hopeful again; hopeful I'll be a runner again, and maybe, just maybe, a marathoner again. That will be a great day!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sometimes reality sucks

I'm sitting here in fear. Within the last 24 hours, my 19 year old nephew, a Division 1 college athlete, told his mom "something isn't right," and thought she should make him a doctor's appointment. The doctor took an MRI of his head. Unfortunately, the results necessitated my nephew being flown from his home in Nevada to Stanford University Medical Center where right now they are preparing him for surgery. He has a large mass behind his right eye.

The mass has apparently been there awhile, as it has destroyed some of the nearby bone. At first the doctors hoped it was a brain bleed from a recent concussion. Then they hoped it was some sort of strange infection, but as of right now, the specialists examining him believe it is a tumor. They are currently considering exactly how to proceed, but surgery is now the primary option. They hope to remove the entire mass.

Meanwhile, I am hoping beyond hope the mass will be just that, a mass, a benign tumor, not cancer. Unfortunately, as a medical professional, I know it is more likely the mass will be cancerous. I am so scared. I had a very close friend die from a brain tumor, and I have a coworker currently fighting for her life who has metastatic brain tumors. Brain tumors are scary, destructive, unpredictable beasts.

So I'm sitting here in fear, waiting to read the latest text update from my brother, and praying for the best possible news. It's difficult to wait, so far away, for news I'm not sure I want to hear. Prayers for my nephew appreciated.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A little chaos

I've been thinking. It's easy to do well, play well with others, and take care of myself when things are going my way. Unfortunately, this week not much went my way. I saw it as a test. Could I continue to do what I needed to do despite a bit of chaos.

Some of the chaos involved others. For example, I've been fighting with a shady online retailer for several weeks, and every day which passed made my blood boil just that little bit more. I had never used this retailer before, but they had a great price on a new Garmin GPS watch, so I ordered it. I do most of my shopping online so after perusing all of their policies, I went ahead with my purchase.

Long story short, the unit was defective. I wanted to return it for a full refund, as is their policy. First they tried to convince me I should just get it fixed. Then they agreed to take it back, and even paid for my shipping, but 10 days passed without a refund. I contacted them on an almost daily basis, and they always had a reason for the delay. It was "getting processed," and then it was "getting processed in the warehouse," and then it was "intercepted by their warranty team to determine fault..." Meanwhile nearly 3 weeks had passed and they still owed me $365! That's when I got really angry.

I saw the writing on the wall. I wasn't going to wait for them to tell me they determined the defect was my fault, which would of course allow them to just offer me credit. There's no way I wanted to order anything from this company ever again!

I contacted PayPal. Thank God I paid with PayPal. I sent PayPal every piece of correspondence between the company and I, and despite giving me a timeline of 10 days to resolve the issue, PayPal resolved it within two days. They refunded my money. One headache over.

While in the midst of that daily headache, things at work got a little chaotic, too. We're still busy, but the bigger issue was with a fill-in occupational therapist. I saw him alone in a room with a patient, a patient who had a history of making false accusations. I informed him of this history and suggested he may want to treat the patient in a more visible location. He thanked me and moved. Sounds pretty innocuous, right?

Wrong. Immediately after I spoke with him, he went to the facility director and told her I said something horrible about the patient. The facility director caught me in the hallway, and she was angry! I had no idea what was going on! After the facility director spoke to me, I went to the occupational therapist and asked him why he spoke to the director and what exactly did he say? He repeated the totally bogus words he was certain I had uttered. He informed me he documented the bogus statement in his patient note as well. I was incredulous!

Another long story short, after exchanging heated words with the OT, I re-approached the director to clear my name. Thankfully, she believed I didn't say what I was accused of saying and all was well, but I was still so angry! I couldn't believe what had happened. Here I was trying to protect this employee, and he turns around and sullies my reputation, with an outright lie, in my building! I'm thankful my director knows me well and supported me, but I'm having trouble letting go of my anger.

I'll keep working on that anger. Hopefully that will end the relationship chaos. Unfortunately, I also have chaos at home. I'm sitting among that chaos right now. I had to clear a spot for my computer just to write this post. There's stuff everywhere, and nothing is in its place.

I began a project this week. I'm painting trim and doors and shutters. It was just supposed to be shutters and the front door, but then I added the bathroom door, and then the bathroom trim, and now I've got new knobs and towel hangers, and I'm patching holes... You get the idea. My house is torn apart. Fortunately, I know this is temporary, and it motivates me to continue working, which is what I need to do right now.

I'm not enjoying the chaos, but I'm managing, and so far I'm still feeling well. I'd like things to calm down a bit, but it's good to know I can step up to the challenge if needed. Hope your lives are chaos free! Carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The review

Helpful. Competent. Always a pleasure to work with. Skilled. Great team player. These are a few of the comments made in reference to me by my coworkers, other physical therapists, which I learned of during my recent yearly employee review. One of my employers includes comments from coworkers in each review. I like it. It's nice to know what the people I work with directly think. And boy have I grown!

I'm not sharing these comments in order to brag. I'm sharing them because even after many years of sobriety, these comments still amaze me. You see, before I was humbled by horrendous depression, and before I was brought to my knees by alcoholism, I was basically an ass.

Twelve to fifteen years ago coworker comments, had I had the opportunity to read them, likely would have been along the lines of thinks she knows everything, selfish, and/or a very negative person to be around. I would have been shocked and dismayed then, but now I'm keenly aware of how accurate those comments would have been at that time.

There's something to be said for adversity. Apparently I benefited from being knocked down a notch. I especially benefited from getting sober, which included learning to live life on life's terms, not mine. Among other things, I learned I wasn't the center of the universe, everyone did not need to hear my opinion, I wasn't always right, and by giving of myself I would receive much more in return.

Whereas I always thought I had to take the lead (i.e. be in control), because of course I knew better than anyone (no matter the subject), I now take great pride in being a team player. I'm glad my coworkers think I'm competent and skilled, but being "helpful" and "a pleasure to work with," means more to me than anything else. That's what makes me puff my chest out these days. Yes, it would have been nice to learn these lessons without so much pain, but that wasn't my journey. I'm just glad I learned them, nonetheless.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Suicide and the ER

Suicide has been in the news and on my mind lately. On the heels of the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, another suicide hit close to home last week. The niece of one of my best friends killed herself. She was young, beautiful, and seemed to have a life very much worth living. She left behind a husband and two young children. There is nothing to say to ease the pain and confusion of her extended family and friends.

Fortunately for those of us who struggle, or have family and friends who struggle, with suicidal thoughts, there was some hopeful news today. I read about a recent study focusing on "a simple emergency room intervention" which cut the risk of suicide in half. And the intervention used was truly simple; a safety plan and phone calls.

The study coordinators trained emergency room staff to create a safety plan with each patient prior to discharge. And here's the key, I think, the staff followed up with phone calls to the patient after discharge. The first phone call was made within 72 hours, and the staff continued calling until the patient followed up at least twice with a mental health professional.

I have experience creating a safety plan. The inpatient hospital unit in which I've been a patient requires one be developed prior to discharge. While the staff there do not follow up with phone calls, I have found the safety plan an effective coping tool. The friend whose niece just died is actually an integral piece of my safety plan. I've found it helpful to have a written plan when I've felt low, alone and desperate, especially in the days immediately following hospital discharge.

Unfortunately my emergency room experiences, at the same hospital as this healing inpatient unit, have not always been helpful. And as the comments on my recently republished post prove, I'm not alone in having negative emergency room experiences. That's why I find this study so hopeful. It's focused on teaching ER staff to assist patients in need, mental health patients, who don't always get the most unbiased, compassionate treatment otherwise.

Suicide is a desperate act committed by a desperate person. Unfortunately, I understand the desperation. I've experienced the pain, the isolation, the utter hopelessness which leads a person to consider that end. If ER staff, or any mental health provider, can cut the risk of suicide in half just by taking the time to create a safety plan with their patient, I'm all for it. I hope emergency rooms around the country will get on board. A little compassion, and a simple plan, goes a long way.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Go Play

Playing is so important to my mental health. I may be 50, but I still like to be silly when given the chance. And truthfully, any time of day is a chance to be silly, have fun, or laugh as far as I'm concerned. Fortunately, I had an unexpected opportunity to play July 4th and 5th. I thought I had to work. I found out I didn't, so I took an impromptu trip to see my family and friends in Duluth. And while I don't have any pictures of the beautiful fireworks display, I do have these.


This is my baby brother. He hosted me at his house for two days. We had a wonderful family barbecue on July 4th, went to the beach with my nephews and the dogs, watched the fireworks, took in a few big ships coming into port, and played in Duluth's Canal Park.




This is one of the ships coming off Lake Superior into port, under the Aerial Lift Bridge, in Duluth on July 5th. I grew up seeing these ships out on the lake and coming into the harbor, but I've never tired of the experience. This ship was 1000 feet long. It's fun to see and hear the tourists' excitement, too. For many of them, this will be a once in a lifetime experience. I don't take my ability to repeatedly see this sight for granted.





These four pictures are of my nephew, Connor, age 9, and I, age 50(!), as we climb a few walls. I was a bit of a rock climber in college (actual rocks, as they didn't have climbing walls way back then), but I don't remember it being quite so challenging! My legs were fine, but my poor arms and hands are still sore 2 days later! What fun, though! I wish I hadn't gotten so tired after only 4 climbs. I would liked to have climbed all afternoon. If you're ever looking for a very mindful, challenging activity to take your mind away for a bit, climbing is it! I had forgotten that. You can't focus on anything other than your hands, feet, and trembling muscles while hanging onto a wall 50 feet off the ground. This may be my new go-to activity next time I'm struggling with my mood. I'm going to check out the local climbing gym as soon as I can lift my arms again!

There you have it, folks. Two days of playful fun. It was a spur of the moment trip, and I wanted to take full advantage. Mission accomplished. I think those of us who struggle with depression have to make an extra effort to get outside of ourselves and look for opportunities for enjoyable distraction whenever possible. I know it makes a huge difference for me. Depression, even when we're not stuck in the darkest hole, likes to steal joy, and laughter, and fun. I refuse to allow it. It is because I have depression that I must make the effort to find joy in everyday life, and when I have the chance, to seek out extra adventures to feed my soul. Go play, my friends!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Little things

A couple of days ago, I found myself grinning from ear to ear and happier than could be. And then I found myself giggling, at myself, for being so giddy. You see, it was all about a hat. That's it. Just a hat.


I have several baseball hats, all different colors, with many different logos, but this hat is my favorite. I've had it for years and wear it more than any other I own. So when a snap on the adjustable strap broke a few weeks ago I was really disappointed. On Thursday, I found someone who could fix it, and he did so in 5 minutes! Hence my giddiness as I walked out his door.

I experienced a similar giddiness just a couple of weeks ago. That time it was about a chair; a 28-year-old, black, leather reclining chair with matching ottoman. It was the only chair I ever sat in. It was the chair in which I watched television, read magazines, took naps, and wrote many blog posts. I sat in it a couple of weeks ago, and it broke. I was so sad!

For days I regaled my coworkers with semi-faux trauma over the loss of my chair, and we all had a good laugh. I put the chair outside to be thrown out with the trash, and I began my search for a new one. Well, I discovered they just don't make things like they used to. Rather than real leather, steel, and a fully reclining seat, I found all sorts of junk for all kinds of money. I was disgusted.

I decided maybe I didn't have to throw away my beloved chair after all. I couldn't believe it, but I found someone to fix it. I drove the 30 minutes to her farmhouse and sheepishly presented her with my well-worn, broken chair. No problem, she said! Her husband would fix the mechanics, and she would take care of the rest. Giddiness! I should be in possession of my brand new, old and beloved, chair in just a few days!

It's the little things. I'm glad I have the capacity to appreciate little things like this. I think that's important. I also think it speaks to how well I've been feeling lately. If I wasn't feeling well I'm sure I would not have giggled with joy over a silly, fixed hat or at the prospect of reupholstering a really old chair. But I am smiling, giggling, and satisfied. Sometimes little things mean a lot.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Part time worker and runner

A few weeks ago I posted about possibly switching from part time hours to full time hours, with added benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, and a 401K. I haven't worked full time in at least 15 years, but after some contemplation, I decided to give it a try.

It was then that the area supervisor informed me my salary would be decreased since I was "going to get benefits." Okay. I get that. It would have been nice to have been informed of that when she asked me to consider full time employment, but I get it.

Strangely, the area supervisor didn't have a number for me. In fact, it took 3 weeks for my employer to get back to me with a salary offer. Fortunately, they made my decision simple. No way. The offer was so far below my current salary, I didn't have to think twice about it. I need to pay my bills. And as much as I would appreciate paid time off, paid time off doesn't pay my bills.

So I will continue to work part time, pay for my own health insurance, and hope not to require large chunks of time off secondary to sickness or injury. It's a risk I'm willing to take, as financial instability is a big trigger for me, and I'm enjoying paying my bills right now.

In other news, I just received my fourth of five Hyaluronic Acid injections into my right knee. I think they are helping, although not nearly to the level I would like. I'm continuing to run on the Alter-G treadmill, now at 68% of my body weight, without difficulty. However, running on the road, or trying to do any quad strengthening still hurts. It's tricky. I need to strengthen my quads in order to avoid further injury, but I can't strengthen my quads because my knee hurts when I try. Frustrating.

Despite my frustration, I do have some hope. After all, the injections have helped. Perhaps the fifth and final injection next week will put me over the top. I miss running so much. I can't wait to get back to it. I'm hanging onto the hope I eventually will have the opportunity to train again.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Vacation photos

I just returned from a long weekend in Duluth. It was Grandmas Marathon weekend, and though it was difficult, as I wanted to be running rather than standing on the sideline, I did enjoy watching the race on Saturday. I also spent a lot of time with my mom and step-dad, my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, and my friends, Mary and Jim. I hiked a lot, ate a lot, and generally had a really nice, relaxing four days. As usual it was tough to leave today, but it is always nice to be home, too. Enjoy the photo diary below.

This is Elisha Barno from Kenya. He raced by me so fast I was only able to capture his back! He won by well over two minutes in a time of 2:10:06, the third fastest time in race history, and his fourth Grandmas victory in a row.

This is Kellyn Taylor, a Wisconsin native, totally dialed in as she ran past me at the 23.5 mile mark. She won by over 6 minutes, shattered the course record by over two minutes, and won her first marathon in a personal best time of 2:24:28. She looked awesome!

 On Sunday Jet and I went on a 4.2 mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail with my good friend, Mary. Here we are next to a rushing Keene Creek. Jet wasn't too thrilled with the hug. He just wanted to get going.

 This is a photo of the Aerial Lift Bridge, at the opening of the Duluth Harbor, from a ridge along our trail high above the city. The Duluth Harbor is the innermost sea port in the world. Ocean vessels travel 2342 miles (or 3700 kilometers), across the fresh water Great Lakes, from the Atlantic Ocean to pick up and deliver cargo in Duluth.

 Jet and I rambling down another section of the trail through the trees. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful and interesting trail.

This morning, Jet and I hiked around Enger Tower, which sits on another ridge high above Duluth. The land on which this tower, adjacent park, golf course, and hiking trails are located was donated to the City of Duluth by a cool dude named Bert Enger upon his death in 1931. The tower was originally built in 1939. It offers panoramic views of the city, which were particularly gorgeous on a clear blue day today.

 A view of a ship leaving the harbor from Enger Tower. The Aerial Lift Bridge is an iconic symbol of Duluth, Minnesota. The bridge span elevates 180 feet to let ships enter and leave the harbor. It is one of only two lift bridges in the world. The other one is in France. I grew up here, and I never tire of watching the ships come and go. If you'd like to see it for yourself, go to the Duluth Harbor Cam website and check it out. 

 My beautiful boy, Jet, hanging out on a bench at the top of Enger Tower. He's impossible when I try to photograph him, as he refuses to look at the camera! This is 1 of about 20 photos I took of him while he sat on this bench, and this was as close as he got to looking directly at me!

 After our hike at Enger Tower, Jet and I drove over the Aerial Lift Bridge to Park Point and took a long walk on the beach. Here's Jet running back to me after romping in the surf. I don't usually let him off leash, so he was really enjoying his freedom.
The end.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Suicide and Facebook

Last week, something very strange happened. While out walking with Jet, I found a turtle in the middle of a long, wooden bridge, 40 feet above the creek. It was hot and the turtle seemed a bit lethargic. After all three of us stared at each other for awhile, I decided to relocate the turtle to the creek's edge. He quickly dove in and was off. I posted my experience, with a couple of humorous quips, to Facebook.

Yesterday, I shared a post on Facebook, something I very rarely do. It was a post by a woman named Claudia Herrera, and it was about Kate Spade's suicide. Ms. Herrera lamented the fact that, despite owning multiple Kate Spade designed accessories, she had no idea Ms. Spade suffered from depression. She goes on to highlight all of the celebrities whose health struggles she had heard about, Swayze, Letterman, and Nixon among them. My favorite quote, "...somehow society has made it more acceptable to talk about breasts and testicles than about the mind..." Her point, very well made, is that depression is an illness, and it deserves the same compassionate treatment as other illnesses. Perhaps then, those of us who suffer will not feel the need to hide our condition until the bitter, tragic end.

My Facebook post about a turtle received multiple comments and 45 Likes. My shared post about suicide received 0 comments and 2 Likes. We've got a long way to go, Ms. Herrera, a long, long way. Rest in peace Kate Spade. Rest in peace Anthony Bourdain. I'm sorry both of you silently suffered.

***If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

No drama

I'm not a fan of drama.

No drama means I'm playing well with others--friends, family, and coworkers.
No drama means I'm taking care of my patients and performing the expected duties of my job.
No drama means I'm feeling well and staving off depression symptoms.
No drama means I'm exercising, eating what I should, and taking my medications.
No drama means I'm taking care of my home and paying my bills.
No drama means I'm generally taking care of myself physically, mentally and spiritually.
No drama means I'm staying in the moment and living one day at a time.
No drama means I'm not rehashing the past or dreading the future.
No drama means I'm controlling what I can and letting go of the rest.
No drama means I'm maintaining an attitude of gratitude, noticing the small stuff, and acknowledging others.
No drama is a very good thing.

I'm happy to report my life is drama free at the moment, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Full time?

I have a decision to make. It's been suggested I consider taking a full-time position at my place of employment. While I'm glad my employer and coworkers appreciate me enough to want me around more frequently, I'm also worried about working more hours every week. It's a big decision, but I'm considering it.

There certainly would be benefits to increasing my hours. My company doesn't provide benefits for any employee working under 30 hours per week. No insurance, no paid time off, no 401K, etc... So while working part-time allows me a lot of flexibility with my schedule, it also costs me a lot of money for health insurance, almost $700 per month, or for any days I take off. So there are some compelling reasons to consider increasing my hours.

However, I also have concerns about increasing my hours. I've had a difficult time working more than 30 hours per week for years. Ever since my depression began, I've had to carefully control my energy expenditure at work. Too many days in a row, or too many long days, and I'm shot. Putting it simply, my brain gets tired. When my brain gets tired, my overall functioning, not just my work functioning, suffers. And when my functioning suffers, I am at much higher risk of a depression relapse. I certainly don't want to do anything which may lead to a depression relapse.

On the other hand, I have been working between 25-30 hours per week for a several months now. Would I risk a relapse by working just a few more? I guess that's the big question. Of course, I won't know the answer unless I experiment. I don't want to let fear of relapse determine my decision, but I don't want to sink into depression again, either. So this is a big decision.

I'm ever so slightly leaning toward giving it a try. I would have to increase from 3.5 days per week to 4 days per week, and each day would likely be a bit longer than I currently work. But I would still have one full day off per week. I absolutely need that. My brain just can't handle 5 consecutive days. I'm worried. I'm apprehensive. But it seems like something I should try.

Perhaps I'll ask for a trial, and if it doesn't work, I'll make sure I'd be allowed to return to part-time. If my employer is willing to do that, I almost have to give it a shot. Right?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Quite a year

I passed a milestone of sorts the other day. On May 21, 2017, I woke up coughing just after midnight and my L4 disc exploded. It's been quite a year. Surgery, depression relapse and hospitalization, ongoing left leg weakness, a brief return to running, and then arthroscopic knee surgery from which I have yet to recover, followed. Yup. It's been quite a year.

I feel like I've had one battle after another over the past year. Sometimes I look back and think I handled things well. Sometimes I look back with discouragement. Certainly I'd like to be in a different spot right now. Ideally I'd like to be preparing to run the Med-City Marathon right here in Rochester on Sunday. Instead, I'll be on the Alter-G treadmill. I guess that's better than nothing.

I had my third Hyaluronic Acid injection in my right knee today. I think it's improving a bit. I have a little less pain when descending stairs, so that's hopeful. I'm trying to remain optimistic and patient, but it's difficult. I'm not sure I'm being totally successful.

I'll keep doing what I can do physically. Hopefully I'll soon be writing about my return to the road, rather than rehashing a not-so-hot past year. That will be a great day.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Worried

I'm worried. Maybe that's a good thing? Things are going so well I have time and energy to worry? Perhaps. I'm not usually much of a worrier, so I'm a bit uncomfortable and trying my best to knock it off, but I'm worried nonetheless.

Like I said, things are going well at home, at work, and everywhere in between. My mood is good. My energy is good. I'm working, planning, taking care of my business. My house is even clean! But my knee... oh, my damn knee.

It's not just about running anymore. Yes, I hoped I would be well on my way to another marathon by now, well on my way, but there's more to it than that. I have a bucket list trip planned for October. I will be hiking to the base camp of Mount Everest. During a 20 day hike in the Himalayas, I will be ascending over three mountain passes between 17,600 and 18,200 feet. It will be quite challenging, but I never doubted I could do it. Until now.

My biggest concern up until now has been the possibility of altitude sickness, which would end my trip in a heartbeat. But with my knee continuing to pain me, even on a simple set of stairs, I am now more worried about the actual hiking than anything else.

I have been preparing for this trip for years. I have been saving money, researching trekking companies, learning about the culture of Nepal, and pouring over trekking blogs for information. I'm ready to go. Except for my knee. And because of my knee, except for my legs.

My legs are weaker today than they've been in my entire adult life. Where I used to have muscles, I only have flab. It's impossible to keep the quads strong with a painful knee. I'm getting frustrated and anxious, worried... I'm trying to hold out hope that I have enough time to prepare, but I can't begin to prepare until my knee doesn't hurt. And my knee still hurts.

This is not good. I need some encouragement, or better yet an encouraging sign that I'll one day have a knee I can count on. Until that day comes, I'm having a difficult time not worrying.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Injection

Despite my fervent prayers and abundant wishes, my right knee is still not right. It has gotten more sore again. Last week, attempting to run was again painful. I was crushed. I am now putting all of my hopes and prayers into the series of 3-5 Hyaluronic Acid injections, which I began Thursday. The injection was a little uncomfortable, but that's it. I survived just fine. My next injection is this Thursday.

Initially I felt a bit better, but within a day or two I again felt pain with any climbing or descending. I'm not panicking yet, though, as the injections may take up to 6 weeks to have full effect. Instead, I took my run indoors today. I began running, again, on the Alter-G, anti-gravity treadmill. Thank God I have access to such a high tech piece of equipment.

I am happy to report I was able to run without pain today. Granted, I was only running at 40% of my body weight, but it felt so good to stretch my legs once again. No limping, or cringing, or careful tiptoeing involved. I haven't felt that good running since January! In fact, I felt so free I didn't want to stop. But I did. Sometimes, I do the sensible thing despite myself.

Other than dream about running, I haven't been doing much. I'm feeling well. And besides work, I don't have a lot on my plate these days. Usually my free time would be consumed by training at this time of year. I already have missed, or am about to miss, several marathons I have penciled into my calendar. Sometimes it's tough to look at Facebook, as posts are filled with pictures of my satisfied friends and their latest marathon conquests. I'm happy for them but can't help but wish I was included. Hopefully soon. I'll keep dreaming.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

In an instant

I just returned home from work. My route home includes 20 miles on a very busy commuter highway, and that's the problem. It's a highway, not a freeway, with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour, though most of us, including me, travel a bit over 70. And since it's a highway there are numerous county roads which intersect with it. It's dangerous, as the vehicles entering from the side roads do not do so at 70 miles per hour. Unfortunately, I witnessed the aftermath of the danger first hand tonight.

I knew from the number of emergency vehicles something terrible must have happened. As I approached the accident scene I saw two incredibly mangled cars in the median. It appeared one vehicle had t-boned the other at a very high rate of speed. The t-boned vehicle was without a roof. It appeared it had been removed by the emergency responders. Thankfully, I arrived after the occupants had been removed, but my heart sank.

Before I made it home I learned at least one person was killed and another was flown via helicopter to Mayo Clinic. I've had a difficult time getting the image of those two cars out of my head. I can almost see the accident in my head. But what's most on my mind is the families of these two people. This accident scene reminded me life can change in an instant. An instant...

When we were teenagers, my step sister left the house and never returned. I can still hear her chirp goodbye as she bounced down the back steps. Within 20 minutes, she was hit and killed by a truck.  I'm sure the victim in this accident did not leave their house thinking they would never return. I'm certain their loved ones didn't have such a thought either. But for at least one family, life forever changed today. I feel sad about that.

Though you may think it cliche, I'm going to say it anyway. Seeing this accident scene reminded me I need to tell those around me I care, and I need to do it in the moment. I have a lot to be grateful for, and there are a lot of people who make my life worth living. (Feel free to remind me of this the next time I sink into the depths of despair.) Nobody's time here is guaranteed. I need to remember that.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Running again!

Although my right knee is not perfect, with my doctor's blessing I have returned to running. Today was day two. On Tuesday I walked and ran 3.5 miles, which included running three tenths of a mile five times. My right knee was a bit sore, but it did not interfere with running. For that I am extremely grateful. I was so worried I would not be able to run, but so far so good. I walked and ran again today. I felt pretty good, and it was a beautiful day. I'm starting from ground zero, but at least I've started.

Next week I begin a series of three weekly knee injections of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid, according to my doctor, forms the matrix for cartilage. It lubricates the joint and makes cartilage more resilient. I'm missing a lot of cartilage between my patella and femur, essentially I have arthritis, so hopefully these injections will help. I'm encouraged to be tolerating running well so far. I'm hoping these injections take me the rest of the way.

I continue to feel well. My weekend in Duluth was wonderful. I hiked more than a total of 12 miles on Saturday and Sunday, most of it with my friend, which was really nice. We spent more time together chatting over coffee and good food. I also got to spend plenty of time on the shores of my old friend, Lake Superior, and I returned home feeling energized. I'm already planning my next trip.

That's all I have to report today. Grateful to be feeling well and running again. Praying both continue.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Honored again

Just returned from a beautiful weekend in Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior, where I walked miles with my friend, soaked in the sunshine, ate some really good food, enjoyed my coffee, and decompressed by the water. Lake Superior is my favorite place on the planet. It brings me such a sense of peace and serenity. It's even where I plan to spend eternity, as all of my friends and family know, when my ashes are left to the waves. I love it. It's always difficult to leave.

My arrival home brought a pleasant surprise, however, as Healthline.com again honored me with a Best Blog Award. It is truly humbling to be included in their list of best depression blogs. I don't know how many blogs they review, but there must be hundreds of depression blogs out there, so I appreciate the acknowledgement. Thank you, Healthline.

I also appreciated what the reviewer said. In her blurb about my blog, she mentioned I post about my good days as well as my bad. I'm glad that's appreciated, because it's often more difficult to write when I feel well. I always want to offer something of value when I write, but I struggle with that when I feel well. I find my "feeling well" posts rather boring. I'm certainly more verbose when I feel like crap. Nevertheless, I hope writing about the good days gives at least one person hope that good days are possible, even when dealing with severe and persistent depression.

I certainly had a series of good days this weekend. I already miss Duluth, but it's always nice to get back to my little house, too. Time to ready myself for a busy week. I'll be working 5 of the next 6 days, and we're still swamped with patients. I'll need to take it one day at a time.

Tomorrow is the last day of April, and thus my final day of daily walks. I'm proud of myself. I stuck to my commitment, and I feel stronger for it. It's back to running (and walking) on Tuesday. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Feeling well

Hello, my friends. I apologize in advance, as I'm without many words these days. Things are going well. I'm feeling well. Life is good right now. I'm not sure I have much to offer today, but I'll fill you in on the minutia anyway.

It's finally turning to Spring here. It's actually been warm enough to open the windows the last couple of days. There are still piles of snow here and there, but the grass and the trees are beginning to turn green. The days are long, which has been really nice for Jet and I during our early morning walks. The evenings are long, too, so I get to enjoy a little light after work as well. I'm feeling energized.

Jet and I have walked for 24 straight days, mostly as the sun comes up. I feel good about sticking with my commitment to walk. I've noticed an improvement in my leg strength already. I'm getting anxious to begin running, but I'm going to wait until the calendar turns over to May. There's nothing magical about May, but I committed to walking every day in April before making my return to running. So I'm again just sticking to that commitment.

Unfortunately, my right knee is still pretty creaky. I see my orthopedic surgeon tomorrow for a follow-up. I'm not sure what he's going to be able to offer. I think my knee is either going to get to a point of being pain free, or it's not. It's certainly better than it was, but I can definitely feel the loss of cartilage in that joint. And unless my surgeon has discovered how to regrow cartilage, I think I'm going to have to learn to work with what I've got.

I'll certainly know more about my future once I begin running next week. Hopefully my knee will allow it. Nonetheless, despite my physical worries, I'm glad to feel well. I hope all of you are the same.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Doing well

More snow here in the Northland. It's crazy. We got about 8 inches yesterday. It's certainly made my daily morning walks more interesting and challenging. But I'm continuing to walk every day, nonetheless. Unfortunately, my left foot slipped out from under me a couple of days ago, ice. I caught myself before I fell, but my right knee ended up in a flexed position with a jolt. Since then my right knee has been more sore, and I've been able to do less. Another set back. I'm hoping it's a brief one.

While my knee may not be as okay as I'd like, my mood has been good. It's nice to feel better again. Everything is so much easier when I don't have to battle my brain. Work is still crazy busy, but I'm handling it. I'm sticking to my routines, taking care of my house, and keeping up with my errands. I could be socializing more, but that's nothing new. Basically, I'm taking care of myself, like, dare I say it, a normal person. I like feeling "normal." It will be nice when the weather normalizes, too! Carry on, my friends.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Sick

Last time I wrote I told you about my intermittent nausea, annoying but not tremendously interfering with my day to day life. Well, that changed a few nights ago. The nausea finally amounted to an all out sprint for the bathroom. Vomiting...not my favorite thing. That was Thursday night. I ate very little yesterday, slept a lot, and I felt better overnight. But the nausea returned this morning. Silly me, I ate some toast for breakfast. I'm not sure what's going on, but I really don't care for this new turn of events.

We do have the Rotavirus going around one of the facilities in which I work, so perhaps I picked up the bug and have been fighting it off for the last few weeks. I'm going to lay low over the weekend, as I don't want to miss any more work. I missed yesterday. We're so busy, I felt really bad, but there was no way I could have worked. I also don't get paid when I don't work, so missing time for any reason is never a good thing. And I really hate just sitting around. I'd like to feel better now.

Despite feeling under the weather, I did keep up with my commitment to walk daily over the last couple of days. By mid-day yesterday I was feeling well enough, and bored enough, to slowly mosey for 15 minutes, so that was good. I think it will be another short day today based on how I'm currently feeling, but I hope to get it done. I miss running so much, but my right knee just isn't ready yet. I'm worried it will never be ready, and I can't imagine life without running, but I'm trying not to go there. One day at a time. One day at a time.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Quiet

With the exception of being insanely busy at work, all is quiet here on the Northern front. I'm doing okay. My mood is back to nearly normal, whatever that is. I'm not low. I'm not ecstatic. I'm just moving through life one day at a time. The only blip I've been experiencing is with my physical health, but again, it's nothing major.

I've had several days of low grade headaches, body aches, and nausea. It feels like I'm about to get sick, but it never advances to that point. I actually left work early yesterday because I was sure I was about to get nailed with major illness, but after a few hours it passed. Unfortunately, it returned today. I'm just nauseated enough to be annoyed. Napping helps, but the nausea keeps coming back. It's weird, but I think I'll survive.

Work, as I mentioned, has been insanely busy. I don't know where all these patients are coming from! I'm feeling a bit stretched, and I think I let it show a bit more than I'd like a few days ago. I was a bit more impatient and felt like I needed to rush throughout my day, which I didn't like. I generally try to enjoy my patients and coworkers. I like to have fun. I don't think I was much fun on Friday. I'll do better tomorrow. I have to remember I can only do what I can do. I'm human.

I have been getting up early to walk every day. I'm proud of myself. It hasn't been easy, as we've had unseasonably cold and snowy weather, but I've stuck to my commitment. I really dislike walking. It's so slow. Also, my left foot, which still slaps when I walk as a result of continued leg weakness from my back injury, goes numb after about one mile. It's quite uncomfortable, but I'm pushing through. It would be easier to run, but my right knee isn't quite ready for that yet, either. It's frustrating.

It's hard not to give up. I feel like my body is failing me. It's been an awful long year. I'm coming up on one year since my back injury. I'm heavy, the heaviest I've ever been. I've lost muscles I never worried about before. My clothes don't fit. There are so many reasons to throw in the towel, but that won't make me happy, either. I'm determined to get back on the road. I just wish the process wasn't quite so long. Forward, I go.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

No foolin'

It may be April Fools Day, and I did get fooled once today, but all kidding aside, I'm happy to report I'm feeling better, really. My days of severe fatigue seem to have passed. I only took a one hour nap today, as opposed to the 3-4 hour naps I took most of this past week. With all that sleeping, I didn't have time or energy to exercise most of last week either. I exercised today. I took a 4 mile walk with Jet. It was a crisp, sunny day, so it was especially nice to be back out in the world. And that's what it felt like. I was out.

When I feel poorly, my world gets very small. My world isn't large to begin with, but when I don't feel well it gets tiny. For the past two weeks it's been me, my house, and my job. Besides work, I didn't go out. I didn't get to the gym. I didn't run any errands. Very small... But today, I got out. I walked, and I bought groceries, and it wasn't even painful to be in the store. It seems I've regained some of my energy and relieved some of my isolation. How nice.

During and after my walk I was pleasantly surprised to discover my knee tolerated the activity fairly well. I developed a plan to get back to running, but it's going to begin with daily walking. I'm going to attempt to walk daily, even if it's just 15 minutes, in order to begin re-strengthening my legs. I want to establish the habit and get stronger before I begin running again. The past two weeks have wreaked havoc on my exercise behavior, and I've lost a ton of fitness since my knee surgery 7 weeks ago. I need to get my running life back, but I'm so far removed from it, I need to go slow.

That's the scoop, my friends. I've got a busy work week ahead, but I'm going to try to take it one day at a time. I'm praying I'll continue to feel more and more back to normal over the next several days. If I don't, I guess I'll deal with that one moment at a time, too. But I hope I do. Life is so much easier when my mood isn't dragging me down.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Reflecting

I've been traveling a bumpy road the last several days. Every time I think I'm feeling better, my mood dives into the pit, and then I feel better again, maybe even normal, before it dives back downward. It's been frustrating, but overall I think things are looking up. My mood is better than it was last week at this time when I couldn't finish my work day. I worked more than a full day today, so things are improving. I think.

I'm feeling reflective today. It turns out, 15 years ago today I was fired from my physical therapy job. I worked in a hospital outpatient clinic. I loved my job, and I was good at what I did, but I had depression. I was in an inpatient treatment program for my illness when I was "let go."

I learned of my firing via a letter I received 15 years ago today. At the time, I had missed approximately 2 months of work, and the hospital could "no longer hold my position." I pointed out to the hospital human resources staffer that one of our doctors was, at that moment, out for more than 2 months due to illness, and her position was being held. Of course, she had cancer. Enough said.

I didn't realize it at the time, but being fired spurred me to become an open, willing advocate for people with mental illness. I fought to get my job back, and when I didn't, I sued. I won. But I never did get that job back. Instead, I took on a bigger fight.

I began publicly speaking about my illness and about the stigma surrounding it. I've spoken to several church groups, to countless college and high school students, and at many public educational forums. Over the years I've done a radio broadcast, a newspaper interview, and a feature on my local television news. I had the tremendous opportunity to do the Healthination educational videos, and of course, I began this blog. I became something I never planned to be, an advocate, of sorts. It was all done in an effort to educate, reduce stigma, and bring about change. I hope I've made a dent.

So I'm feeling reflective today, 15 years after receiving a shocking, devastating, cowardly letter. It was a letter which began a journey; a journey which is yet to conclude. It's been difficult, and surprising, and exhausting, and rewarding. And if my journey has kept at least one person, receiving treatment for mental illness, from losing their beloved job, it's been worth it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Moods and Migraines

If you've been following along, you know I've not been feeling well. Yesterday I didn't feel well, and I got a migraine. Fun times. My mood has been a little low, a little agitated, and a little impatient with a bit of distracted thrown in. I'm not sure people realize there is more to depression than just feeling low. Before my mood hits rock bottom, I actually go through a range of other emotions.

Before my mood tanks, I often feel like I'm feeling now, distracted and irritable. You can understand why I'm a bit concerned. Anger, frustration, muddled thinking, and severe fatigue are all signs I'm not doing so hot. Lack of motivation, isolation, and resentment often add to the debilitating mix. Depression is so much more than a low mood.

I've definitely been isolating lately. It's hard to go out. When I feel really poor it's actually painful to be seen. It's weird, but if you've been there, you probably know what I mean. I've been doing my best to force myself out the door, with varying degrees of success, lately.

I did make it to a meeting on Saturday, which was a huge accomplishment. I've had to work really hard to get out and exercise. Most days I've done something, though not much. My arthroscopically repaired right knee has been more, rather than less, sore, which is adding to my frustration and lack of motivation. If I were able to run right now, I think I'd be coping and feeling much better.

I am concerned about my right knee. I saw my orthopedic doctor a few days ago. He wants me to be patient, told me he had to do "a lot more in there" than we planned, and then said it could take up to three months to get back to running. So much for a simple procedure and getting back on the road quickly. That was the plan. Apparently my surgeon had to scrape more damaged cartilage than he originally anticipated in order to rid my knee of the bone spur. I'm in for a lot longer recovery, and I'm not happy about that.

Worries about not being able to run again, or run the way I'd like to run, are now crowding my brain. Like I said, I know I'd be coping with my current struggles better if I could hit the road. Maybe I wouldn't be having the struggles at all. Who knows...

One thing I do know, I'm not feeling well. But, hey, at least I don't have a migraine today. I guess that's one positive change.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

4 by 3 Metaphor

Five. That's how many times the cycle instructor had us ride for 4 very hard minutes followed by 3 minutes of recovery last night. That I made it to the class was a monumental effort. But I got there. Then I found out what Mr. Instructor had in store. You'd think I would have hopped off the bike and headed to the door, but I chose to stay. Challenged. I've been feeling so heavy and slow and low lately, what did I have to lose? Even if I just sat there and spun the peddles around, it would have been more than I had done in days.

So I stayed and peddled, and when Mr. Instructor said, "Go," I peddled really hard for 4 minutes. After the first interval I was certain I could maybe do one more, but that would be it. But during that first 3 minute recovery period, I regained my strength, and pondered the potential of finishing up to three. Each successive interval was beyond difficult. Each 3 minute recovery period less and less restorative. I had to recommit myself to start each time my 3 minutes were up. Intervals 4 and 5 stretched my legs and lungs beyond what I thought possible. I took the last interval one minute at a time. Just like I do in a marathon, I thought to myself, I can do anything for 2 more minutes, and then one more minute, and then 30 seconds, and then I finished.

I finished, wrung out and totally whipped, but totally satisfied. I could barely catch my breath, which by that point was quite audible (thank God for loud studio music), but I didn't implode. I knew I'd feel better soon. I'd recover. And recover I did. I accomplished something I doubted I could do.

Overcoming pain, discomfort, and doubt seems like an exceptional metaphor for my depression. Like every 4 minute interval, each one more challenging than the last, I'm reminded my depression symptoms are temporary, too. I don't have a nice little console counting down the minutes of each depression episode like I did on the bike, but in the past my depression symptoms have always passed.

I don't feel good right now. I'm tired, distracted, low and slow. I doubt my ability to make it through. But then again, I made it through those incredibly difficult intervals last night, so maybe, just maybe I'll be able to hang on through this.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Invisible

Perhaps this post is related to my last post. I wrote about two professional athletes who revealed their struggles with mental illness. Unlike their cases, however, all of my coworkers and friends know I have depression. I feel it's important to put my illness out there alongside other stigma-free, socially acceptable illnesses. I appreciate coworkers questions and support when depression relapses take me out of work or put me in the hospital. Unfortunately, for my occasional day to day struggles, I'm still invisible. This became painfully obvious to me over the past couple of days.

I didn't want to go to work yesterday or today. Not only did I not want to go, getting there felt nearly impossible. For 3 days, getting anywhere has been impossible. But I showed up and worked. I struggled through minute by minute. I was distracted and inefficient and distant, but I did my job. It sucked. And nobody knew.

Unlike the occasional cold, or flu, or squabble with a spouse, moments where commiseration with coworkers is expected, feeling low, distracted, or cranky due to depression doesn't feel the same. I don't think my coworkers want to know those nitty-gritty details. What's more, I don't think I want them to know how often I feel very, very off. Once a week or once a month, it's too much. And what are they supposed to say? Everyone can relate to feeling crappy due to a cold, but feeling detached due to depression...not so much.

So I guess it is my choice to remain invisible during these short, difficult stints, but that doesn't make it any easier. Besides feeling distracted and detached, which made my interactions with my patients quite challenging and paperwork nearly impossible, I felt heavy and tired and weak yesterday. I wasn't creative. I wasn't lighthearted. I wasn't patient. These are qualities on which I pride myself. The day was a slow slog which lasted forever, and I didn't feel good about my performance.

Perhaps it would have been nice if my coworkers had known I wasn't feeling well, but then again maybe I would have felt too vulnerable. It's hard to say. I guess I chose acting stoic and professional over feeling vulnerable, but that wasn't simple. It was hard. And I felt invisible. And invisible hurts.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Overwhelmingly postive

In recent weeks, two professional basketball players opened up about their struggles with mental illness. One player revealed he suffers from an anxiety disorder, one which led to a panic attack which hospitalized him in the midst of a game. The other player detailed some of the gory details of his depression, details like struggling to get out of bed and/or spending most of the day in bed without energy to face the day.

While I don't have an anxiety disorder, I certainly related to the player with depression. And like many across the sports world, I applaud these players for letting this piece of their overall health come to light. Each player, after all, stated the response he's gotten to his revelation has been overwhelmingly positive. How nice for them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm very pleased these two players have come out of the proverbial closet. Shedding any light on mental illness is extremely important, especially when the light is revealed by men of tremendous privilege, adoration, skill and wealth. Maybe these two instances will wake people up to the fact that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, can get sick.

Wouldn't it be nice if those of us without multi-million dollar contracts got the same loving, hero-worshiping treatment when we revealed our own mental struggles? Wouldn't it be great if us working stiffs also had access to on demand services, top notch medication management, and employer accommodations? Twitter feeds filled with congratulations for our bravery, rather than avoidance of our weakness, would also be welcome. Wouldn't that be nice?

One day... Maybe one day when each of us reveals we, too, have a mental illness, our revelation won't require anxious hand wringing, carefully worded downplaying of the seriousness of our condition, loss of financial security, and uncomfortable social isolation. Wouldn't that be nice? I pray the recent professional player revelations will push the door open to such "overwhelmingly positive" acceptance just a bit further. Every little bit helps.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Fear inducing thoughts

I've written about this here in the past, and I don't really want to write about it again, but it's happening so here I go. I've been having negative, scary thoughts again. This happens to me from time to time. I've asked my psychiatrist about it, and she tells me it's just one of the symptoms of my depression. That doesn't really appease me, but I guess it's one more thing I'll have to accept.

Acceptance doesn't mean I have to like them, though, does it? I don't like them at all. Random thoughts of horrible things happening to Jet (my dog), or my friends, or even my doctor? I don't understand it. They are scary, and detailed, and sometimes quite vivid. At times I am able to recognize the thought immediately and distract myself. But sometimes I find myself immersed in one before I realize what's going on. Before I can extract myself and the scary feelings the thought provokes. That's when I get a bit distressed.

What concerns me most is I'm feeling well right now. My mood is generally good. I can understand struggling with negative thoughts when my mood sucks, but that's not the case right now. So I don't get it. It doesn't make sense. Why do these thoughts crop up, and why now? They make me feel off kilter and scared. Does anyone else experience thoughts like this? If so, I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Be patient

I'd need more than ten fingers to count the number of times I've been told to be patient over the past week. Which means I'd need more than ten fingers to count the number of times I've expressed concern that I'm not yet able to run on my recently operated knee, too. I tried again today. No dice. My knee hurt. I'm hoping my right knee is coming along, but if it is, it's doing so at a much slower pace than I would like. I'm concerned.

I was hoping to be running again, at least a little bit, by now. I'm not. I could force it. I could probably do it if I didn't mind some patellofemoral knee pain with every step, but that defeats the purpose of having the surgery in the first place. I'm trying to be smart. I'm trying to be patient. Unfortunately when it comes to running, patience is very tough for me.

With Spring approaching I'm anxious to get outside. It's been 9 months since I was able to run as I wished. The long recovery from back surgery, interrupted now by recovery from knee surgery, is really starting to wear on me. I don't like how I look. I've gained 10 pounds since my back injury. I don't like the way I feel. I'm restless and irritable and lazy and slow. I want to run again!

Despite not being able to run or exercise as I wish, my mood is okay. Work has been very busy. I worked 36 hours last week. That's monumental for me. I'm actually surprised I've been able to handle the increased load as well as I have. Perhaps focusing on my trip to Nepal this Fall, for which I need to save more money, has helped me cope. Knowing the extra money I'm earning will be going toward a bucket list trip probably does help. (Have I mentioned Nepal yet? More on that in another post.)

So that's where I'm at today. I apologize for the long span between posts. All the extra work hours left me dead tired at home each night. I had to fight to stay awake until 8:00! I'm getting old, I guess. If my knee didn't hurt, though, I'd like to think I could have found the energy to run. Moot point. It did, so I didn't. Perhaps this week will bring improvement, and I'll be running again soon. I hope so. I don't like living without running as an option.

I know. I know. Be patient, etta. Be patient.



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