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!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Connections

Something strange has happened. Being away, it seems, increased my sense of connection, especially to the people in my life. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude in the wee hours of yesterday morning (my sleep is still not back to normal) I wrote a letter about it. I posted the letter to the private Facebook group I created prior to my trip, which allowed 25 coworkers, friends and family members to follow my progress.

Posting the letter to the group was a little scary, as I laid my emotions out there in a very personal way. I'm used to writing about these things here, somewhat anonymously, and posting my feelings to the black hole of the Internet. Even if my friends or family read what I write here, I rarely know about it. There's some safety in that. But yesterday, I felt the need to let those people closest to me know exactly what I was feeling. So far, I'm glad I did.

And now I'd like to let you in on it, too. If it inspires you to take a risk, to be open to adventure, to go after a dream, or simply to open yourself up to those in your life, to be honest and vulnerable, then publishing my thoughts and feelings here will be worth it, too. Here you go:

I know sometimes we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone. It’s human nature, right? I try to live each day with gratitude in my heart; to recognize the little things, the people, and the opportunities I have which make my life what it is, a pretty good life. No matter the challenges, the hardships, or the illness, I have a pretty good life.

As I sit here this morning, 5 days after returning home from a 27-day bucket list trip to Nepal and The Himalayas, I am feeling overwhelming gratitude. I am so lucky, and primarily I am lucky because of you. All of you…

My brothers. Despite our trials and tribulations, despite disparity and distance between us, I have siblings that care today. I have three brothers with wonderful families of their own. I have nieces and nephews I don’t often get to see, but cherish nonetheless. As a lot, we are healthy, prospering, successful contributors to society.

Though sometimes I feel distant from your nuclear family lives, being away made me feel more connected to you, my brothers, and your families. From your hilarious comments and “likes” to the thoughts and observations of my sisters-in-law in response to my Facebook posts, I knew you were each paying attention and interested, despite the business of your own family lives. That was comforting and reassuring.

Mom, you have often been a source of comfort and reassurance. It was no different while I was away. I could tell you were anxious and slightly fearful of the challenge I was undertaking, but you were wholeheartedly supportive, nonetheless. Among other things, you were crucial in assisting with changing my airline ticket when it became evident to me I needed to return early or risk my mental health. I haven’t always been the easiest daughter to raise, or even observe from a distance, of that I am sure, but you’ve always had my back. Thanks, Mom. I’m lucky. And grateful.

Speaking of gratitude, I will never, ever be able to express the depth of my gratitude to my psychiatrist, Dr. L. You were not only interested in and willing to follow my progress while I was away, you were a lifeline. When the altitude began wreaking havoc on my brain, heightening my anxiety to levels I’ve rarely, if ever, experienced, you were there. You were willing to participate in a dialogue with me, guide me, make suggestions, and reassure me. All the while I was halfway around the world! As usual, you went above and beyond what would be expected of any doctor. You were a touchstone, a presence, a voice to fall back on when I was tired, unsure, struggling, or frightened. I am certain this trip would not have been as successful if I hadn’t been allowed the selfless connection and support you granted me, Dr. L. Thank you.

As far as granting support, it is a rare opportunity to be able to take off for a month and still be allowed back to work with open arms. It was so reassuring to be connected to each of you, my coworkers, while I was away. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my experience with you. My connection to you, my colleagues, with whom I have always had the utmost respect, was only strengthened by my time across the globe. To feel your sense of excitement and joy in each of my accomplishments and milestones was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I felt valued, appreciated, and respected. Where you could have been resentful and envious, left to pick up my slack while I traipsed around the world, you instead celebrated with me and relished in my adventure. I’ve never been so happy to return to work. I am truly grateful to work with so many amazing, supportive, selfless people. We are a good team.

Another team I appreciate now more than ever are the friends with whom I shared this adventure. Being a bit of a loner, I guess I wasn’t expecting the excitement and encouragement I received from each of you. I don’t do a lot of socializing. My world tends to be on the small side. But while I was out trekking alone, I felt nothing but support and camaraderie from the friends I allowed to follow me. I admit, I was surprised. And rather than saying anything special about me, it is instead a reflection of the kind, generous people I have in my life. Even if I see many of you only rarely, and even though I tend to think of myself as a unit of one, this trip made me realize I actually do have many caring, supportive friends. I only need to let you in to feel the love you so willingly shared with me this past month. Thank you, each of you. Thank you.

I am a lucky woman. I took an adventure to an area I had dreamed about for years. I expected to be challenged and thrilled, and I was. I’m proud of myself for taking the opportunity to make a dream reality. I expected I would learn a bit about the world, a different culture, and myself on this trip. And I did. What I didn’t expect, however, turned out to be the true gift. Love, support, connection… on so many levels. I’m still reeling a bit processing all of it.

I guess I just wanted to say thank you, to all of you, many of whom, like me, I’m sure never expected this outpouring of heartfelt gratitude. Perhaps you never imagined your singular place in my life could make such a huge impact. Perhaps that’s the lesson for all of us. We make a difference. Even when we think we are just doing what’s expected in our particular roles, we are making a difference in somebody’s life.

I want to thank each of you, today, for making a difference in mine. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Home again

I arrived home from Nepal around 9:00 PM, US Central Time, on Sunday, November 4, 2018. I had traveled well over 30 hours by the time I walked in my door. I was tired and relieved.

Jet was here waiting for me. My assistant, Michelle, who took care of Jet while I was gone, dropped him at home a few hours before I arrived. Perhaps it was a function of traveler's fatigue, or perhaps it was simply that I really missed Jet, but I basically bawled my eyes out on and off for several hours after arriving home. It was strange. I was overwhelmed, sad, relieved, happy, and who knows what else! I was out of sorts, to say the least.

There was so much to do after getting home. It would have been easy to collapse on the sofa and leave the bags in the middle of the floor. Fortunately, I resisted the urge to do just that. Instead, I've kept busy resettling. I've unpacked, done all of my laundry, gone grocery shopping, completed paperwork for my health insurance, and updated this blog with photos from my trip. So if you're looking for some pictures, I went back and added several to each post I wrote while away. Check them out and let me know what you think.

I plan to return to work tomorrow. I still have my high altitude cough, developed about 10 days ago, so I will also check in with my doctor tomorrow, too. I'd like to get rid of that. On Thursday, I'm looking forward to checking in with my psychiatrist. She was very helpful while I was away, allowing me to stay in contact as needed (like when my anxiety rose off the charts). She followed my progress on Facebook, as well. I am very lucky to have such a skilled, caring doctor. I'll always be grateful for her assistance.

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to Everest Base Camp, but I'm looking forward to getting back into my regular routine. Right now I have no desire to begin exercising again, but I'm going to force myself to get back out there soon. I did lose 10 pounds while away, so I'd like to put some muscle back on my frame. And I'd like to become a runner again. I'm going to take it slow, see if I can avoid injury, maybe run a Turkey Trot in a few weeks, and eventually, I hope, race the marathon again. Now that I've put Everest Base Camp behind me, that will be my focus. Just run...

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Back in Kathmandu

Sunset in Lukla
Sunset in Lukla
Sunset in Lukla
It took another stressful 2 days of waiting and negotiating at the Lukla airport to finally get on a flight yesterday, which brought me back to Kathmandu, after finishing my trek.  That makes 4.5 wasted, incredibly anxiety-filled days on the front and back ends of my trek spent at airports with seemingly no ability to transport the vast numbers of trekkers awaiting flights. It tarnished an otherwise incredible experience.

The past two days were full of anxious tears and major frustration, as I was bumping up against my international flight home, which begins later tonight. I was so relieved to actually get on a flight yesterday, that that too brought me to tears. I'm really tired of crying now.

After arriving at the hotel yesterday, I took my first real, hot shower in almost a month. What a gratifying thrill! I also got my first look at myself. Weird. I literally had not seen my face or most of my body for a month.

There are no mirrors in the Himalayas, and even if there were, it wouldn't matter, as I was covered from head to toe 99% of time! I discovered I badly need a haircut, and I've lost at least 10 pounds! I've been working hard on the desserts since getting back to the city.

Last night was also the first night I slept on a mattress in a warm bed since early October. It was wonderful! Toilets, toilet paper I don't have to supply myself, hot and cold running water... these are a few of the things I will never take for granted again.

And clean air! While the air was pristine in the mountains, it is thick with exhaust, dust, and who knows what else here in Kathmandu! I have been using my asthma inhaler every four hours like clockwork, and it's still difficult to breathe. I'm really looking forward to getting out of the city and on my way home.

I go to the airport in 6 hours for a middle of the night flight to begin my journey home. I'm actually really surprised at how incredibly home sick I am. I can't wait to get back to Jet and my normal, boring little routine.

This was a difficult trip, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The trekking itself was, of course, challenging. It required that I dig to a deep, rarely visited level more often than not. The lack of infrastructure made every detail, like securing a guesthouse room each night or a timely flight when needed, impossible to count on or even predict. And the physical conditions; 24-hour cold, high altitude, lack of running water, no toilets, did I mention the cold(?) wore on me. Regardless, I accomplished my goal.

I'm so thrilled to have set foot on the soil of Everest Basecamp. That's been a dream for more years than I can count. And I'm proud of myself for overcoming all of the challenges and obstacles this trek laid in my path. I stepped over, around, and through each one of them, accomplishing some things I never imagined myself  accomplishing.

Everest Base Camp, October 21, 2018
This was a more difficult experience than that which I had expected, but I've come out the other side a better human being, hopefully, because of it. That sounds cliche, but in this case, I believe it's true.



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