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!

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!



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