Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 18 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, October 29, 2018

Headed downhill

Last night I slept below 15,000 feet for the first time in at least a week, and I felt like I was in an oxygen tent! On the way up I got anxious and could barely breathe above 14,000 feet! What a difference a week makes.

Unfortunately, I also had one of my toughest days yesterday. I woke up with a sore throat and cough. My chest was congested. And the first order of business yesterday was to climb up 17,600 foot Renjo La Pass. It was a climb that just wouldn't end! It took 3 hours and 47 minutes of climbing to reach the top, and I felt so poorly I was actually getting scared. As promised the 360 degree view of the Everest range was spectacular, but I didn't even get a picture. I needed to get lower quickly, so that's what I did.

Picture from top of Renjo La Pass, taken by my guide, of the entire Everest range.
The difficulty was just getting started, however, as we still had 3-4 hours of trekking before we would reach the next village. In total, we went 10.4 miles in close to 8 hours. I felt so poorly, I even let my guide carry my pack when he offered. It was a tough day.

I'm fortunate my doctor prescribed a just-in-case antibiotic for just such an occasion. She had mentioned that more treks are interrupted or discontinued due to respiratory illness rather than anything else. I'm glad she knew that. I began taking the antibiotic last night, and I already feel better.

We only hiked about 3 hours today, and it will be mostly downhill from here. I had my first shower in at least 2 weeks this afternoon, quite a treat even though my host's definition of hot differs quite a bit from mine! And at this point I'm contemplating whether I will wash or simply throw away every garment I've repeatedly worn on this excursion! Trekking is amazing, but it is not at all luxurious!

That's all for now folks. Hopefully the next time you hear from me I won't be sitting inside a mountain guesthouse wearing two down jackets, two layers of thermal pants, and a hat, all the while freezing my one exposed finger, which I needed to type this post!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Basecamp

I made it to Everest Base Camp. In the past 3 days I've also climbed up and over an 18,000 foot mountain pass and summited Mount Kalapthar, around 18,400 feet. I never imagined I'd be able to do any of these things, and each was extremely difficult, to say the least, but I did them.

View on the way up to Kong Ma La Pass

Top of Kong Ma La Pass, 18,016 feet.

The "trail" down from the top of Kong Ma La Pass. You can see it, right, a trail? Me, either. This was fairly typical hiking when going up and over passes, challenging to say the least.
What I came to do! Everest Base Camp, October 22, 2018
Defeat the Stigma of Mental Illness, Everest Base Camp, October 22, 2018
Summit of Mount Kalapatthar, which faces Mount Everest, October 23, 2018

Exhausted at summit of Mount Kalapatthar

Summit of Mount Kalapatthar, with Mount Everest and Nuptse Mountains in background
Basecamp was a dream come true. I cried tears of joy when I arrived. I have two more high passes to conquer and a visit to a beautiful high altitude lake before heading back, but the highest altitudes and climbs have already been accomplished.

Rough day with anxiety and fatigue today, but hope to feel better tomorrow. The anxiety meds have made a huge difference, and I tried to go without this morning. Might have been a mistake. I won't make it again. Onward and upward.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Anxiety

I'm on my bucket list trip to Everest base camp, and I am battling a fight within my brain. My anxiety, something with which I don't often struggle, is almost out of control. It's already harder to breathe up here, but I think that shortness of breath is triggering for me. It's why I can't swim, even though I'm a very good swimmer, in lakes where the water is over my head. That feeling of breathlessness (with no escape route) triggers more breathlessness! And then (now) I get in full panic mode. It's so, so uncomfortable!

So even though I climbed from 14,000 feet to 16,487 feet and back just this morning, I'm now sitting here at only 14,000 feet panicking. I can't breathe.

Don't get me wrong, I panicked on the early part of the climb, too. Even shed a few tears, but I stuck with it, took it slow, got my breathing into a rhythm, and felt great at the summit. I figured that accomplishment would quell the anxiety, but apparently it hasn't.

I do have an as needed anxiety med with me, but I worry about taking that, too. Not sure it's totally okay at high altitude. Unfortunately, I've had to take it, and fortunately it does help after awhile.

I'm frustrated to be feeling this way. I knew this trip would be physically challenging. I guess I never contemplated or expected this mental battle. It's all I can do not to turn around and go home. I'm going to keep forging ahead and hope I can overcome some of this anxiety. If not, I've got a long way to go. Any words of encouragement gladly accepted.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Trekking

I'm on day 5, I think, of my trek. Currently around 14,000 feet. The actual trekking has been challenging but wonderful. I've seen Everest the last 2 days. Still several days away from basecamp, though. I'll try to post some photos, but internet is sketchy at best now. I've had some challenges with anxiety outside of trekking time. Not happy about that but forging ahead. I'll update as I'm able.

Yaks transporting goods along trekking paths

Amazing waterfall. One of many.

Donkeys transporting goods crossing one of the many suspension bridges along the route.

This suspension bridge was at least 1/4 mile above the raging river below. It was amazing!

First view of Mount Everest (on left)

If not on the backs of donkeys or yaks, human porters are the amazing transporters of goods throughout the Himalayas. These guys routinely passed me carrying hundreds of pounds of goods on their backs.

Typical guesthouse room. No heat. Little to no electricity. No running water. I got really good at wearing my next day's clothing to bed, as it was just too damn cold to get dressed in the mornings!

Ama Dablam dominated the landscape early in my trek.

Me. And mountains, go figure...

My first summit. Although even at close to 17,000 feet, this officially is only a HILL in the Himalayas--Nagarjun Hill, to be exact.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Kathmandu

This post may be short and sweet, as I am attempting to type it on my cellphone. Interesting to say the least, but here goes.

I arrived in Kathmandu Thursday in the middle of the night (it's Saturday morning here now-- neat trick, huh? This post published a day before I wrote it. ) My trip here was entirely uneventful, which was pretty amazing considering I took 3 flights over 30 hours. Unfortunately, my ride from the airport failed to show up. An AM/PM mistake I learned later. However, the situation was quickly resolved, and I was on my way.

Kathmandu is about as chaotic a place as I have ever experienced. It's fascinating, a total culture shock as compared to my bucolic life, which I never thought of as bucolic until now! I would not survive such a lifestyle, but it's been interesting to experience.

Drivers and pedestrians approach from every direction. It's amazing nobody gets run over. Honking horns are constant!

Normal electrical pole in Kathmandu. Yikes!
The people here are wonderful; polite, accommodating, and friendly. I met my trekking guide yesterday. He is from the Sherpa culture, and his parents still live in the Himalayan village where he was born. I'm looking forward to learning from him.

My trek was supposed to begin yesterday with a local flight to Lukla, elevation 9500 feet, where we were to begin hiking. Unfortunately, as is routinely the case, after waiting thru 7+ hours of delays--in an obscenely packed and chaotic domestic terminal--our flight was canceled due to poor weather in Lukla. The process will be repeated today.  I'm praying our flight takes off as planned.

Chaos at Kathmandu domestic terminal with everyone awaiting flights to Lukla
These days in Kathmandu have left me quite anxious, to the point where it's been a struggle to soothe myself. I'm really hoping/expecting getting my boots on the ground will bring about more of the physical and spiritual experience for which I planned.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Ready or not

Nepal is on the horizon. I'm excited, anxious, and ready to go. I'm not looking forward to the actual travel there and back, but I'm prepared to take it in stride and roll with whatever comes my way. Eventually, I will get there. I'll do my best to embrace the journey.

Preparation for this bucket list trip has been a bit complex and challenging. Trekking through the Himalayas followed by riding an elephant in the jungle meant I needed a lot of different gear, so packing required maximum thought and planning. In fact, the first time I packed last Sunday, it took me 6.5 hours! I'm now almost completely packed. In addition, the house sitters, dog sitter, lawn care guy, and transportation friends have all been set up. Everything is taken care of. Finally.

I'm not sure what to expect once I land in Kathmandu. I mean, I know the schedule of each day, but I've never traveled to this part of the world before. I've been to several foreign countries, but Nepal will be the least westernized among them. I'm really looking forward to soaking in the various cultures, Kathmandu city versus Sherpa villages versus jungle inhabitants, which I will experience.

I'm not sure how often I will have a chance to post here once I'm trekking, but I will do my best to keep you updated. At the very least, know there will be a boat load of pictures on the way. Until then, carry on, my friends.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Best(?) Blog... Wow.

Heartfelt gratitude and appreciation today to Dan Brown of My Therapy App. He wrote to me earlier this week to inform me My Therapy App has selected my little blog as the "Best Depression Blog for Life." I was shocked and completely humbled. He posted his top ten blogs in ten different categories on his site today. I am grateful for the recognition, glad to know some people find solace and hope in my words, and I admit, surprised to be noticed.

I've been writing this blog for over a decade. Sometimes, especially when I'm doing well, I wonder if I'm making a difference, if anything I write is helpful. This honor won't totally take those worries from me, but it inspires me to keep writing despite my intermittent reservations. Thanks, Dan. Thanks for letting me know I've made a difference in at least one person's life.



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